Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Standardbred Lightness: The Shift
Wednesday September 19 2018
I committed back in April to the challenge of converting the endurance Standardbred Hillbillie Willie from a high-headed, upright forehand-heavy horse to a head-lowered, rounded, more balanced horse. (Connie got him started in the arena: The Incredible Lightness of Being Standardbred.)
Working up hills out on the trails has definitely helped develop a real horse butt, instead of a sloped flatlander giraffe butt like he had when Steph first got him off the track.
don't have a real picture when we first got him, darn it, but this cartoon is quite accurate!
And with consistent work at it while trail riding/conditioning him, with rare arena work, and with occasional work with the pessoa rig in the round pen (no more than 10-15 minutes at a time a couple days a week), it slowly started to make difference over time.
(video link: https://youtu.be/UhmxpJ02pZc)
Willie in the pessoa today… today it was windy, and the crick was spooky… he’s gone better
I could already tell a difference by the time Willie did his first 50 of the year at City of Rocks in June. He was really moving well, with his head lower, more relaxed, moving lighter; and on the downhill trotting at times he would shift off his front end onto his hind end. (I really work on getting Willie to respond to the shift in my weight/seat.)
And it was last month (August 7 to be exact, because I emailed Aarene Storms-with-a-Standie, at Haiku Farm, all excited about it), I felt a Shift.
It was out on one of our training rides, and this whole ride was almost magic, the lightness of moving, no Clop Clop Clop Clop, the absence of pulling and leaning forward on the bit, the dropping head and rounding up, all on a loose rein. Omg! That's the first time I could really say that I really felt the progress of the work I'm putting into him.
Granted, he doesn't do this the whole time in every training ride (nor do I ask him to, especially at the beginning), but now he does it right at least part of every ride. Now he moves properly more than he doesn't, and I can say that we have really turned a corner. He gets it.
To be sure it's still constant work - and it's harder work if he gets excited, like when the horses in front of him take off - and some rides are just harder than others and he takes more reminding (i.e. much more leg leg leg, less hands hands hands). And it still may take years. (And I am no dressage rider.) And he may never be extremely light and contained, what with his years of being a racehorse.
But we're progressing!
Can you tell a difference in his topline from the two pix? The top picture is from May, this one is from September.
Anyway, I still think he looks pretty magnificent. (So does he. Willie thinks he's hot $h*t.)