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10Jan 16

Noisy feet

Some horses are naturally more light-footed than others. Occasionally I come across a horse where the amount of noise it makes when the feet hit the ground is created by too much negative energy. More often than not these horses have been jumped before they were able to develop their mouth properly and are literally 'chomping on the bit'. Especially for a smaller horse it can look quite cute for the inexperienced eye, however, it generally goes together with a horse which is eager to please but probably not very happy. Also, often these horses are literally 'blowing bubbles' rather than mouthing up with a nice bit of white froth in both corners of the mouth.

Last week I was introduced to a new arrival in a yard I visit regularly. A seemingly very cheerful Connemara cross with exactly this problem, although not overly salivating. When horse and rider trotted on, it was literally the first thing I picked up on: the sound of its feet on the ground.

It is one of the hardest things about riding: not to anticipate the mistakes our horses make. In this case the rider was happily rising up and down as fast as possible to keep up with her horse, also breathing very fast. I stopped them and suggested for the rider to not think trot, when trotting on, but think jog, in the meantime rising a little behind the rhythm and breathing as slow as possible. Even the patient husband with camera on the side noticed an immediate difference. This is a young horse which responded quickly, one could nearly see the relief on its face. Older horses take longer, but will get it in due course, as life is so much more comfortable for them that way.

Also, they will have to relearn the canter transition and get used to push off more with their hind legs from this slower trot, but once that little issue is conquered as well, the canter will immediately become more balanced and less on the forehand.

The secret is in the word 'jog'. Asking the rider to trot slower does not seem be sufficient information. Asking the rider to rise and breathe slower without the word 'jog' does not have the desired effect. 

It will take time and practice for the horse to learn to track up in this new rhythm, but then, it could never track up going fast either and at least now it stands a chance.

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Picture: The rider is still sitting a little forward as this young horse is a tad tender in the back. The nice little grey is now settled and relaxed.

 

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Dressage Training

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About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.

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