The day after Drifter’s shower we were booked to have a rider analysis session with Russell Guire of Centaur Biomechanics. He comes to our yard a few times a year, and I had one session with him last year on a school horse, so I had some idea of what to expect.
Our session was at 9 in the morning (a Sunday) and I turned up just after 8 to groom and tack up. Unfortunately the stable was bare. He’d been turned out. Usually, even for horses who are only used by their owners, if it’s on the system that a horse is needed imminently for a lesson then they’re not turned out. But on this occasion they’d all been turned out just before 8. So I got him in from the field, although he’d only been out a few minutes. It’s actually the first time I’ve bought him in from the field myself as I usually avoid doing anything with him in his limited turnout time. I knew he was reasonably good to catch but even so I didn’t wave the headcollar around or walk directly at him, just in case he felt like messing around. I was utterly charmed when he chose to approach me. I held the headcollar out and he put his nose in. It was a really nice moment and I could not have been more touched by my lovely horse.
After grooming and tacking up we headed into the indoor school to begin the session. We began with me introducing Drifter and saying how long I’d had him and where I felt we were with riding. Drifter was fidgety and called to his friends in the field outside. I mounted and began walking round as we continued to talk and Russell got his computer and camera ready. Suddenly Drifter bucked. And bucked again. And again. I told him off and stayed on, explaining to Russell that this was the first time this had happened and he bucked a couple more times. Eventually Drifter consented to walking forward again. This was not the start to the session that I had envisaged! I’m not sure if it was fortunate or unfortunate that Russell didn’t have the video on me at that point, but I was very glad for his calm support during the incident. I was also glad I hadn’t pulled Drifter’s mane too short to have anything to hold on to! This was the first real bucking I’d had on any horse, so I was very glad I hadn’t been alone when it happened.
The session got much better as we went on. Drifter got the message that he wasn’t going to get out of work and eventually started concentrating. Russell is a very talented teacher and the videoing is a wonderful tool. We ended up spending a while working on the canter. I’d been struggling to canter round corners. Drifter is very unbalanced and I’d not been sure if it was that he breaks back to trot for corners because he doesn’t feel he can go round them safely in canter or just because he doesn’t want to. Russell was clear that it was “won’t”, not “can’t” which gave me more confidence in pushing him to stay in canter. We’ve still got a lot of progress to make here but it was really useful and built my canter-confidence a lot. The main message that came out of the session was that I need to use (a lot) more leg, especially in canter but that my position is quite good now. This was particularly pleasing because I used to have so much difficulty in sitting straight and central on the horse. Later in the day I watched my videos from this session and compared them to the one last year on the school horse. The difference in my straightness was quite marked – no more leaning to the left!
I think (hope?) the bucking was probably triggered by his having been turned out and brought in so quickly and so he was naughtily saying no to working. The day before he’d not been ridden but had been turned out and then showered, so it’s not like he’d stood in all day or hadn’t been ridden for days. I’m very pleased that I stayed on him and so he didn’t “win” the encounter. I’ve ridden him three times since then with no issues so I hope it is not going to be repeated. If it is repeated I’ll look into checking back, saddle & teeth in case it is a pain issue, but to me and my admittedly limited experience it felt like naughtiness. The morning was a micro version of the rollercoaster of horse-owning: the beautiful moment when he came to me in the field, the bucking, and by the end of the session, some of the best cantering we’d ever done. Exhausting!
The videos are a valuable training tool, but beyond that they’re just beautiful (well I think so!). I’ve not put a video on my blog before, so getting this to work (assuming I’ve actually managed it!) was a challenge. (Credit also to Mr Sparrowgrass who helped with file formats when I’d got to the limit of my
will to live patience.)
Extract from a video made by Russell Guire of Centaur Biomechanics.