Monday, December 14, 2009

Follow up to the trot question

I was very pleased today to get a follow-up email from Christine. You may recall that Christine and her mare, Jessie, were the featured guests in my last blog, writing us all the way from Canada.

Christine originally wrote me because her little mare, a former pacer, would be delighted to keep pacing under saddle. Really fast.
Christine has other ideas and fancies the idea of a nice trot, with the legs moving diagonally, as opposed to laterally, the way a pacer moves.. You can read that post on the ins-and-outs of teaching your Standardbred pacer how to trot by clicking here.

And the good news advice worked! I just love it when that happens!

Here's a bit of what Christine said:

Hi Anastasia,

Here's the update I promised. I started by walking with her on a line and just saying (like you said) walk, walk, and I'd give her a carrot after a few turns. I tried to use praise as a reward but it wasn't enough of a motivator for her. So after a few days of that I was able to take the line off after a few turns around the ring with it on. So she was just walking quietly beside me.

I tried several times on the ground to get her into the trot but wasn't successful. So not one to give up, I tried it in the saddle. I started at a few turns at a walk then said "little faster" and gave just a slight pressure with my legs. She went into "racing" mode so I did what you suggested and rather then pull back on both reins (which just made her fight the bit or stop) I pulled back on just one.

She went into what I think you called an amble. So now I had a work for a slow gait that she understood and was able to work with that command on the ground. We would start at a walk, I'd say "little faster" she would go into the amble. While after a few weeks of this she realized that work meant not a race but an amble. That she wouldn't be punished for not going fast.

So the last few days, both on a line and under saddle, she has learned to work at a calm pace. Yesterday under saddle after several turns at an amble she deiced the trot would be more comfortable, seeing as no one was pushing her to go faster she just slid into it naturally.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!!!!

Today I went and worked her at liberty and I couldn't believe it (yes I had a tear in my eye) I picked up the whip, said walk, off she went a few turns at a walk , I said a"little faster" expecting her to go into an amble and she did it!! She went right into a lovely trot and kept it up for about 4-5 turns around the ring, all are her own.

Thanks again for you help.

Christine and Jessie (because I know she would thank you if she could)

Christine has really demonstrated one of the key components in training your Standardbred to transition from pace to trot. And that component is patience. Patience, combined with consistent work in small chunks, and a whole lot of praise can really help your horse make progress.

Good work, Christine! We are looking forward to seeing a photo of you and Jessie at the trot!

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