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Making a Finished Dressage Horse Part 2 Video Teach In

There was a hiatus over the summer with the training of our young mare,  Gambol's Middernacht aka Midi due to various issues such as busy times with haymaking and giving clinics, plus Paul's shoulder injury which sidelined lots of plans. However, on a good note, hubbie's shoulder is on the mend after a few injections. Last week we were able to enter Midi into our full training schedule and she has had six sessions in eight days.

If you would like to follow along with our video training program please subscribe to our You Tube channel to receive updates as they are posted.

There are six sessions to view and the progress Midi has made has been awesome. Please note you need to click on the You Tube link to view.

Session 1 on 11/13 was actually filmed as we were showcasing Midi to a prospective purchaser. Midi was very tense about the 'intruders' especially as the gentleman was a very tall person who she seemed a bit amazed to see in the barn at the outset. She was longed just with the longe on a coupler to the bit, with no other equipment. We longe with the line attached to the bit as we believe that sooner or later, and probably sooner when side reins are attached or the rider is on board, a horse is likely to 'hit the bit' and panic. If this is done on the longe line, the horse will learn that it is no big deal. That they can run, bring their head down, regain their balance and relax. It was also the days of the supermoon, and full moons we have always found significantly affect the mood and focus of horses. Midi did not take to the visitors at all. She is funny that way. She either loves the person, or they make her nervous and anxious.I think horses just know when you like them.

Session 2 was on 11/15. A day off between due to the moon issue and to give her a chance to digest her lesson above. Nothing new was added as this was a lesson to build back confidence. You will see her canter is still very green and to make downward transitions she needs to be brought in on the circle. Her upward transitions are rushed into the canter, but on the left rein she stays in the gait quite well gradually finding her balance. She listens to me even though I am standing outside of the circle. When we want a downward transition I exhale. Loudly. And her ears twitch and she comes down a gait.

Her attention to me will be useful later when Paul is riding her. I will be her calming influence. Hopefully! She will seek me out when she is nervous and I will be able to help the rider from the ground during the lesson by using breathing techniques and body language and gradually transfer it 99% to the rider.

I also began moving around the arena as a test of her focus but also to have her adjust to things moving around in her environment while she is at work. Midi was quite fascinated by my antics. I also will do more standing above her, on the mounting block for example. This will help her become used to having people higher than her back, in readiness for mounting.

Session 3 on 11/16 we added one new tack item. In this case the surcingle. We are very careful when adding a girth of any sort to put it on very loosely in the barn. Just tight enough that it won't move. The girth is moved up a few holes just before we leave the barn and as there is a walk to the indoor and it is slightly uphill the horse has a good opportunity to become used to the pressure. Whenever you are saddling a horse this is the fairest and best way to avoid girthing issues. Unless the horse has ulcers or other physical soreness in his body caused by ill fitting tack or soundness issues, he should not mind being girthed.

As Midi does not understand the walk/halt transition the lesson begins with just leading her on a circle and asking her to halt and walk on. The surcingle is then tightened up a bit before sending her out on the longe. While I am taking the video I am moving around. Standing on the mounting block step two, then up to step 3, moving around the arena and coming both close to Midi and going farther away. She can look at me but she must stay on her circle and not stop or try to follow me. In this video you can see she starts out tense again because of the surcingle and gradually settles down nicely.

Paul also works Midi in migrating circles, past the big open door and at the other end of the arena past the scary equipment. Midi is free to explode, back off or do whatever she chooses. You'll see she is given every opportunity to explore and allowed to trot away. After a few turns she walks calmly past. Again we are teaching her to think for herself and to trust us.

At the conclusion of the session Paul walks Midi past me while I am standing on the mounting block. To start with at a distance gradually coming closer and then halting her by the block and walking on. At the beginning I won't startle her by touching her back. I just want her to hear my voice from above and look at me when she is ready to investigate further. 

Session 4 on 11/17 we added the side reins to the surcingle. To begin with they were not attached to the bridle. If the session went well, which it did, we would add them later in the lesson. If not we would hold off attaching them until the next session. Midi went through her walk, trot and canter work. The reins banged on her side in the canter and startled her but she soon become used to them. We worked her on both reins before returning her to the left rein. We then attached the side reins. 

When you attach the side reins it is important that the horse's head is kept straight and that you attach them loosely to start off. The outside rein should be added first. The aid of a second person is the safest way. I began by walking up to Midi at the halt and while Paul held her I tugged gently on one side of the bit and then the other. I then added the outside rein while Paul added the inside rein. It is very important that the horse walk off and be sent out into the longing 'triangle' and be kept forward with the longe whip behind, longe person looking at her hocks to send her forward and not her eye. Midi was a superstar and trotted off. As the reins were not tight she was able to feel their weight without any panic. They were very long which at the trot was fine. However, when we added a short canter they skipped around and around like a skipping rope on the bit. This was good for her as she could feel their weight and movement and know she could move forward but there was no pressure on her mouth and she could not 'hit' them. As she was tense at the canter we only did this briefly on the left rein. 

When you stop your horse to turn it to the other rein it is very important that you keep the horse's head straight while you move to the other side. Some people teach the horse to flip inside the circle while moving and switch reins. I do not like this method as the risks for entanglement and rearing or other such negative actions can occur. The halt to turn, while the horse stays out on the circle, is a great opportunity to bond and settle the horse and to offer a treat.

There is some controversy about whether treats should be used when training horses. We use sugar cubes and we find them very useful. Before bridling we offer a cube so the horse's mouth is salivating and then we put on the bridle and offer a second cube. The horse learns to drop his head to accept the bit and bridle gladly. Just before we mount or begin work the horse is offered another cube. This keeps his mouth frothy and softens the feel of the bit in his mouth. During a work session a horse may become tense and exhibit a dry mouth. If I see this I will halt and offer a cube. 

Unlike other horse treats sugar has no risk of becoming stuck in the throat or muddled with the bit. 

When the lesson is concluded the side reins are removed in the same order as they were placed. The inside one released first, then the outside rein.

The length of the side reins should always be the same. There is zero benefit to longing a horse with the inside rein shorter in an effort to bring the horse's head to the inside. When you ride you want the horse to accept the outside rein as the control speed rein and for the horse to seek it out. The inside rein you want to use as lightly as possible. To begin with your horse will not have the balance to take his head to the inside. As the balance improves on the longe with the benefit of no weight from the rider to interfere in the process, the horse will naturally figure out to come to the inside with a little direction from the handler. This will be added later. Always seek maximum relaxation and cadence from your horse. If he is not relaxed he cannot learn.

In this video I love how Midi shows she can rock back in the canter and use her big engine. We will begin adding transitions within the trot gait shortly. I can already see she has the electrical harnessing required to 'sit' and clean balanced diagonal action in her trot. She will have an awesome piaffe. You will see when the side reins are added that after several circles being asked to walk she half halts herself almost to a walk and then trots forward feeling unsure of what she should do. This is a transition within the trot gait that we will use to train the piaffe. More on that much later! Patience is key here. She will learn to think for herself with patient direction.

At the end of this session Midi is presented at the mounting block again. This time on her inside ( we begin outside then work inside). She is asked to look at me this time and I must look very odd with the large one eye of the video camera as a face. I even jump up and down a bit on the mounting block to make a noise and add movement and she is fine with that. So Paul touches her back and sides and then walks her off. 

Session 5 on 11/18 begins and we've added boots all around. The side reins are being gradually shortened and have gone from the longest setting, hole by hole up to the fourth. Midi is becoming more relaxed but we can see she is also a little backed off the bridle. Nothing major but it tells us we need to address it by not shortening anymore holes on the reins for now. She has had five sessions this week and is a little tired. It is important to be flexible in your work with horses. Come out with a plan and be ready to adjust it if necessary to accommodate how the horse is feeling on that particular day. We agree to do one more session tomorrow to consolidate the work of today and then to give her a day or two off to refresh. I had also noticed she had outgrown her earlier bit and it did not allow the 'pinkie finger' gap at the side required for her comfort in the a loose ring, so we swapped the Herm Sprenger French snaffle for one 1/2 inch bigger.

Session 6 on 11/19 we begin where we left off yesterday. It is extremely warm today but tomorrow the temperature will drop 30 degrees and snow is expected. Midi gets very warm during this session but works very hard and you can see she is trying to be diligent. As she is a little tired it is a great opportunity to work on the walk transition. You will see she is staying out better on the circle and not wandering into the center of the circle for security during her downward transitions. Midi still picks up on my breathing even though I am further away. Paul is also asking Midi to bring her head to the inside during the transitions. Sometimes you will see her look to her outside as if trying to figure out where the pressure on the outside of her bit is coming from - this is great. She is doing the math. We always seek to give the horse time to arrive in happiness and contentment with our demands on their own schedule.

Tomorrow we expect a snow storm so this will be a perfect hiatus for her to refresh mentally and physically from the demands of this week.

Don't forget to subscribe to this channel if you want to be notified of new postings and follow along.

Coming next time will be consolidating work on the side reins and asking Midi to move more forward into their connection. Once she has mastered this we will switch the surcingle for a saddle without stirrups, so she can become used to the weight. We will also begin laying over her back at the mounting block in readiness for mounting.


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