Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May clicker clinic

It's been an interesting time over here and I've been falling behind on posts. First Blogger went down, then my home computer kicked the bucket, and then I went to a clicker training clinic with Alexandra Kurland last weekend. So I've been away a bit, but now I'm back.

I can't quite explain how lucky I feel that I found clicker training which led me to Alex who just happens to come to my backyard three times a year. Last weekend was my third clinic with her and it most definitely won't be my last (someday I may even find a way to get Coriander to one, that would be fun). It's not just that she's such a wealth of information (because she is), it's also the community that you become a part of by going to her clinics, plus it's just plain neat to see how people's horses develop from clinic to clinic.

There was one horse that the owner was trying to help achieve balance and self carriage, through using simple rein mechanics she picked his inside shoulder up and produced some of the most amazing trot I've ever seen in person. There is something to be said for straightness!

There was another horse there that was absolutely lovely on the ground but once his owner got on his back he didn't know how to stop.After spending two days trying to find the stop, Alex helped the owner to discover that the whole issue stemmed from the horse being sticky about disengaging his hips and backing up smoothly. So interesting.

There was an adorable morgan mare that I totally tried to steal and the sweetest arabian mare in existence who really showed her owner that she needed to be aware of what her body was doing.

There was also a giant rescued saddlebred who came to his new owner with aggression and fear issues who showed us all the power of consistent, patient work.

And then there was Kate G., who's been helping me quite a bit, who brought her own horse that drags himself around on the forehand. It was amazing that through simple turning exercises combined with single steps forward and back she was able to get him to rock back, free up his shoulders, and raise the base of his neck.

One of the best things about these clinics is that I always leave them with a plan and an arsenal of new tools. I went into the clinic looking for ways to help Coriander build muscle in his topline and help him be more balanced with better body carriage. With Gwen my goal was to find more techniques to help her become a safe riding horse. I got what I was looking for and more, here's my updated plan for the Quarters:

Plan for Coriander:
  • pose
  • lateral work via Why Would You Leave Me? and 3 Flip 3
  • backing
  • jaw flexions via single rein
  • picking up the shoulder via single rein
Plan for Gwen
  • matwork
  • lateral work via Why Would You Leave Me? and 3 Flip 3
  • pose
  • hip/shoulder/shoulder
  • left and right/ color game
I'm not going to go into detail about what all these things are, those will be the subjects of later posts once I really start integrating the exercises, but I did want to give you a visual on why I'm introducing a pose. Take a gander at the video below:

This mare is posing: Notice that she's raising the base of her neck, engaging her abdominals, raising her back, and tucking her pelvis. This is collection in a nutshell and it was made by free-shaping her posture. I started Coriander with this yesterday  by waving my hand under his nose- thinking that there was something in my hand he arched his neck by raising it at the base and shifted his weight backwards, click/treat. It didn't take long before I could see out of the corner of my eye that he'd started engaging his abs too. That was pretty exciting, it's like pilates for equines. I'll have to see if I can get some video of my guy doing these, it'd be cool to compare the beginning steps with how he'll look in a few months.

I'm very excited and ready to get to work!


  1. Very exciting. I am looking forward to your posts especially about Coriander. Both Pie and Foggy could use the topline muscle. Pilates for Pie and Foggy would be the very thing!

  2. I'll see if I can get my husband to get some video for me this weekend. I'd like to have comparison footage too. It's pretty easy to get them started on this, your boys will pick it up lightning quick.

  3. Love this! Pilates horsey style!
    Totally great that you need not travel far, to get such good instruction.
    Will be neat to see the changes in them.

    I've a sad note a bout the "Cavallos". I'm working on a computer is so tired that it was going to take me too long today. Had my Equine specialist out, with her thermography camera. We are going to do a case study on the sports medicine horseshoes " Easy Walkers". What we found yesterday broke my heart! We were just getting a base line and found trama heat.

    In the 3 times I've used the Cavallos, Wa's hind pasterns sustained trauma/damage+ the soft tissue muscle on one hind , in front that lifts the toe too. She (while wearing the boots) acted as if she had string halt!
    So, I'm going to write to the co. its a design flaw. So be carefull, I know you use those too. I'll get the photos up soon.

  4. Oh no, that's awful!!! I'm so sorry for your mare. My guy hasn't worn boots since December but I'm always wary that he's going to need them again, especially since its been so wet this spring.

    I'm very interested in learning what you found out about these boots. Did you know the new Easyboot Trail design is very similar to the Cavallos?

  5. One of the things I like about clinics is that I see that I am not alone in my challenges. :-) Glad that you left the clinic pumped!

  6. This is very interesting stuff. It'll be interesting to see how Coriander progresses.

  7. I think it's great that the clinic was so close. The thing for me is when you're working out of a book it's kind of hard to know if you're doing it right(clicker training). We haven't progressed too far because I haven't had the time. Hoping for a break in the action here soon.

    Anyway, I like the idea of the pose. Blue and Dusty could benefit from that alone. Blue is always heavy on his forehand and I have to ride him with only one rein at a time so I'll be interested to see your work with that too.

    By the way I love your new header. How cute are those two!

  8. Wolfie- pumped is exactly how I felt. Unfortunately I didn't get to stay that way for long :( Next post coming soon...

    MiKael- I'm going to make an effort to get some video of him. I really want to mark how he progresses.

    GHM- Ooh, I want to hear more about you riding Blue one rein at a time. Single rein riding is something that I'm struggling to wrap my head around but I've seen the results so I know it'll be worth it.

    Aren't they adorable? Siblings...

  9. Well, the Cavallo people have contracted me..we are to talk on Tuesday. Yea, the Easy boots are too similar for me to try.
    We've ben talking to the"Renegade"boot people. Hope I can find those to fit my mare. They don't touch the heal, pasterns or fetlock.
    They look slick to me, but guess some studs may be applied.