Endurance Horse Skillz
|August 20, 2014||Posted by Melinda under Uncategorized|
I’m sure every affectionado of a particular horse sport has their pet peeves when it comes to how their horse’s training is perceived by people in other horse sports. Dressage is more than being able to have 3 gaits and go in a circle, and jumping potential is measured in ways other than the frequency a horse jumps out of it’s paddock, and endurance horses are not badly behaved trail horses that never learned how to stop.
I have tried my hand at all 3 of these sports, and while all 3 demand a performance horse – the skill set of each is vastly different.
Oh yes. Endurance horses have skillz.
Something that seems to escape not only the wack-a-do putting “endurance horse potential” ads up on Craigs list, but also some people I consider experienced horseman.
Most of the time I laugh and shake my head, recognizing the inherent bias we all have when viewing something from the outside.
But once in a while, it really bugs me.
Not-so-recently I was reading something on well behaved trail horses and the general gist was that unless you are planning on doing something endurance-like with your horse, there is no reason to let your horse eat under saddle, and doing so will create a dangerous habit where the horse will learn it can rip your reins out of your hands and eat whatever choice morsel it sees on the trail.
Ummm….no. Just no.
This post is now available in “Go Ride Far.”
“Go Ride Far” is a collection of revised and updated posts, as well as new content that focuses on what I wish I had known prior to my first endurance ride. (original release details here)
For the price of the fru-fru coffee ($3.99) the ebook covers:
- How to easily and intuitively back a trailer
- Take control of your conditioning and training
- Recognize and fix a “bonk”
- The never before told story of Dr. Mel’s first endurance ride
…and more from the running, riding, writing veterinarian and Singletrack Press!
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PS – here’s the pictures as well as an off topic horse update from the original post that I was not able to include in the book. Enjoy!
I’m feeding at the barn and this morning and she spent a good 10 minutes GALLOPING up and down her paddock bucking and kicking. If I had any doubts whether the horses can move in their long but rather narrow paddocks, all doubts were laid to rest this morning.
I fed my girls last (they get grass twice a day which is different from most of the other ponies) and whether MerryLegs was telling me she resented it she just felt really good this morning I’m not sure. (Farley’s response to a delayed breakfast was….to eat. Predictably).
Watching her fly around this morning I was struck by how differently ML and Farley move, even though they are incredibly similar.
Both horses are very athletic and have good body awareness including where their center of gravity is and how to use it.
The difference I was struck by this morning watching ML’s impressive show of atheletism was while Farley is quite “catty” under saddle, in small spaces at liberty (and on a lunge) she is just a little “stiff”. It’s hard to describe. It’s like she moves like her body has a lot of mass and it’s made of iron instead of aluminum and prefers to lean than bend or flex. Even though she will blast straightaways at top speed and then do a hard stop.
I wonder how much of it is age…versus conformation versus training. Farley has always been a stiff horse from the ground, although under saddle she’s learned to bend and flex, but I don’t know how she looked before she was ~7 or 8.
Farley has a really long, rough stride with a bigger shoulder and a weaker hind end and loin (and shorter legs).
ML is still filling out and Farley is a wide little barrel.
Farley interacts with the ground as if it’s working FOR HER and it BETTER WELL DAMN BE THERE when she puts that foot down.
ML move across the same ground as if it’s a trampoline, working with it.
Should be interesting when it’s time to saddle up the youngster!
I think part of the problem is that grazing isn’t usually *cued*, just *permitted.* The rider lets the horse eat a few times, then gets mad when the horse slams on the brakes to snag a bite, and the rider decides that eating is bad. It’s not a vice if you remember to cue it instead of letting the horse decide when to nosh. Like you said, it’s exactly like walk to canter – horrible if you’re not expecting it, great if you’re asking and receive it.
Where was that M pic taken? It’s lovely! (There’s probably no water in that reservoir anymore, but it *was* lovely…)
Context cues work, too. I’ve been working on putting “take a couple of bites” under stimulus control with a verbal cue, but Tucker has known for years that he’s allowed to grab a bite at his pleasure while walking on a loose rein as long as his feet keep moving, but never ever ever while trotting/cantering or while on the bit at any gait. (And while he can be a limit-pusher, this is not something he’s ever shown much inclination to question, oddly enough.)
This. My horses do the same thing. Loose rein + slow gait = eat as you wish if you care to.
The CUE to eat: http://youtu.be/C50JZPxzZjU?list=UUhH-2yGgykUeZn0LHx3VGAA
Love your observations in the difference in their movement. I love watching my different equines at liberty. Scrappy strides so wide behind and low kneed it’s pretty particular. Desire is slammy and torquey and stiff sort of like you described Farley. Blaze is lofty and showy (ugh harsh to ride). Sheza is pretty efficient mover from what I see, I don’t let her trot under saddle yet really LOL. Rory kinda too young/not enough time with her to tell.
Pony hoarding is fun! 🙂
Exactly. But what pissed me off was this offhand assumption that there isn’t a good way to let horses eat under saddle and endurance riders are doing something bad that isn’t doable in any other circumstance. Horse running forward? Scary unless cued from the very first time. Letting your horse pull you around (on or off saddle) when distracted? Tolerable until it’s not. And that’s true on almost any ground manners.
So….the picture is taken at the same place as there header too! Livermore del Valle 🙂
Sorry this got out of order. This was a response to Funder’s comment that is near the top!
Yeah. I have one horse with very good grazing manners and one with a bad vice that we are working on! I love the fact we can go out for ‘picnics’ and let the horses graze, yet move off whenever we want. Thank you for explaining that it truly IS a skill.
I really like your descriptions of how they both interact with the ground! That really does perfectly describe it. (Mimi’s like Farley. Trampoline pony, she is not.)
Grazing breaks aren’t exactly gonna happen here in the desert, but we do have certain trees that pass pony muster for snack breaks — I use “eat” as the cue that it’s okay to stop and nibble, but unrequested snatching/grazing is a big pony no-no.
Agreed on all counts. Another one that gets me is the idea that you can’t trot or canter a horse out on trail when you’re on the way home, because they’ll take off. Uh, no, not if you’ve trained them properly!
Thats a good one! When people tell me they cant control their horse at rides and want advice on how to practice at home I will often ask whether they can gallop home in control. Thats a really good test. What I love about endurance is that you cant blindly follow wisdom. You have to examine it and question it and ultimately decide whether it is still applicable in a particular situation.
…Even if you arent doing ensurance.
YES. I come home fast routinely. If the whole ride was t/c/g then why the hell would I suddenly say, NO YOU CANNOT GO FAST ANY MORE just because we’re pointed home? Um. Silly. In fact, I’ve used the knowledge that there will be more pep in their step when we round the halfway point for home to my advantage sometimes as I plan my rides in my head. ‘Cause even 5 miles out, they KNOW that we’ve rounded a bend that means “RETURN”. Galloping across the back field on the way home is ALWAYS more controlled than when we leave, too. They’re happy and content to be returning and even happier to listen to me because returning home from a ride is always a “reward” on some level. Q always spooks less coming home, too. Mission = home, and thus they’re on best behavior through all of my shenanigans and requests lest I *gasp* request that they turn around away from home! And then we’re slow for a hundred feet or so until the pouting is over haha
I have to admit I’m still having trouble with having my horse eat on the trail, although his issue is more that he doesn’t believe me when I tell him he can eat. I often have to get out of the saddle and hand feed him. Because he normally enjoys stuffing his face, I kind of wonder if it’s a mental issue, maybe along the lines of “We’re working, so I’m focused on that and not eating.” When I get out of the saddle, I think it makes him think, “Oh, we’re taking a break, so now I can eat.” I guess it will just take some time for him to learn his new job:)