Monday, May 3, 2010

training vs. conditioning: my take on it

Love the Boots and Saddles blog. Today she has a great discussion of training vs. conditioning. I've been thinking about this a lot as well. I read all these blogs and people are sooo far beyond me, I think it's hopeless, but remember that they were once where I am (maybe?). I think I have this discussion with Major all the time. I want him to be independent, bold, think though scenarios, take care of himself. Some time he does: he slows down through bad footing, approaches scary things to take a look before reacting, will always eat. Many times he doesn't: rushing down hills, crowding other horses, hating the water trough on trail. Sometimes it is a combination of the two: he shouldn't have gone so fast and started sliding in the rain, but he caught himself, balanced with a rider and managed to get us to level ground safely.  

I think all our rides are training rides at this point. I'd certainly like them to be conditioning rides, but he needs so much help right now to make some of the decisions (not needing to trot 12mph all the time, find some consistency). Sometimes this is not fun. I occasionally miss the rides with well-trained horses where we trotted and cantered whenever I wanted, only thinking about where we were going, when we'd be back. It is so hard to see the progress when it is right in front of you, but 6 months ago we could barely go on the trail alone, now we go 10 miles and have established a (small) partnership.

I'm trying to be consistent, but there are so many options. When he starts getting rushed, I can circle, back up, more work (like sidepassing), turn around the other direction, go home to the arena and work. But at the trot, I want him to be trotting, not those other things. So he speeds up, takes a canter step, and I pull him back to a trot: allowing him to trot since that is what I've asked for. But then when to get different speeds out of the trot? Is that the next step, or work on it now?

When does he get to make decisions, and then when is my turn? I give him his head to pick through rocks, but on the smooth ground after that he isn't allowed to canter like he wants. He can trot toward home, until we get to the upper pasture, then all walking only. I'm probably confusing my horse, but luckily, with the best of intentions and we're somehow muddling through.

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