Nov 2017 - Piaffe/passage/counted walk and case study
Tallulah and Sultan
Sultan had a lot of training in a short time in Spain, only 6 months as is common to get horses sold for a good price. Luckily Sultan had a kind trainer so it was not forced, as is often the case, but his training was a long way from established. He has a rather flat croup, which doesn’t make it very easy for him to tuck the pelvis and ‘sit’ in collection. Although his piaffe from the side appeared to show that he did sit, when viewed from the front, he swung the shoulders and forelimbs from side to side, due to lack of strength behind. Due to this, we have brought him back to doing half steps and counted walk. There are several ideas about the counted walk and what it comprises but, for me, it is a diagonalised or near diagonal walk and whilst his is still a little quick, he is getting the idea of it. He point blank refused to do it to start with, and would only do his ‘swingy piaffe’ but I hope that over time he will strength and be able to step under better, with the hindlegs folding from lowered haunches. This is very much work in progress, even experimental to a degree, so don’t expect perfection!
Kay and Monty
Monty although an ex-racer, actually has hind end conformation that enables him to ‘sit’ rather better than Sultan! Monty’s front conformation is not so good, his neck not ideally set on to permit him to stretch over his whole topline, and he has never been strong in the loin area. That said, at 17 yrs of age, he is still improving in both work and strength and is building up the piaffe now what will be a very correct one with no backward sloping forelimbs so often seen – known as ‘triangulation’. He needs still to lower his head more but he is always an anxious horse when learning things, so we reassure with treats and praise, gradually building up confidence. Despite having a correct trot with good spring and flexibility in the joints, he had never found the idea of passage steps easy. So we are building him up to a ‘soft passage’ only a few steps at a time at present, to get more upward elevation in the stride. It may take another year before he gets something resembling a true passage, but these things take a lot of time to build strength to be able to hold such sustained suspension. So we will still follow his journey over the next few months to show improvement as and when it happens.
Laura and Heidi - Case study
Heidi has been very challenging. Her rapid early improvement led to her then deciding that she had learned enough, with Heidi started to find ways to avoid work, now that we had her under a lot more control than with her head in the air, hollow and able to brace the underneck mucscle, giving her the excuse to scoot off with her lightweight owner. Laura hadn’t the experience to deal with it to school her out of it, so we have done our best to help her these last extra weeks, to find ways to outwit Heidi. Firstly we had her back checked and our osteopath, Freddy Bunting, found some soreness in the lumbar region. Two treatments later, she is now straight, whereas before she would curl in badly to the right. Depending on her mood, she will still do it occasionally, but as it is now intermittent, I am sure it isn’t pain based, but that she remembers it is a good idea to be able to avoid work! With this all in mind, we are trying to vary her work as much as possible. One day she'll be going out for a hack with Kay on Faiel, on another day, we did pole work as she appeared to have got out of bed the wrong side and started to plant and behave as she did pre-treatment. As soon as we got Heidi's attention with the poles, she became straight and interested, so we plan on doing more cavaletti-type work with her, as it will also improve her canter. She is never going to be an easy horse for Laura, as Heidi is 16.1hh and very strong-minded as well as strong in build. Laura loves her despite all and would be worried about selling her, in case she ended up in the wrong hands. I admire her greatly as a smaller, lighter horse with an attitude like Tivo would be so much more fun for her!
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