Above. In this WIH, I put more "ask" on him, call it more pressure, than my last WIH video. So there's less feel of relaxation in this video because I'm asking him more strictly to stay within the outside rein contact and also stay more active and engaged. I did this a lot this summer so he's familiar with this form of strength building WIH. By asking him for more straightness in his shoulder and more engagement, I'm asking him not to lose his hind legs out behind him so much and I do that by tapping him more which ends up helping him to step more under his body and push his back up more. Sometimes I let him take his forward (pushing and stepping more deeply under his body) momentum to a longer frame in his body to see if I can get him to take longer strides and by doing that I feel a bigger swing so after I get that I try to catch that front end by slowing him down a bit and I combine that with more engagement (more tap) again to try to create that longer slower, more swingy engaged stride that is the most ideal stride. At 5:00 for about a minute and a half there are a few moments when Contigo gets stuck in lateral steps that are too sideways for him. My fault. I feel it and try to help him out of it by walking him more forward. He's more tense tracking right but by 12 minutes or so I like how he's starting to loosen up and swing. I can't put as much pressure on him as I do in this WIH in every WIH session because he gets more tense in his pole and jaw (curling) than I'd like. So I always have days where I just have a whole different approach that's more about zen and relaxation and a slower tempo and I watch the front end to help him really poke his nose out. I don't believe in drilling his hind end only. I believe that because of his past with incorrect training and the pressure he was under in a very wrong way, and because of his former right hind suspensory injuries and Kissing Spine, I must always give him days that he's wearing his bridal and it appears we are working but that are much easier physically and that embrace ease of working together, comfort, love, relationship building. This is my approach to restoring Contigo's mind, body and spirit.
Above. Contigo felt really good today! I just knew by how he felt in WIH that he'd go really nice on the lunge and undersaddle and he did! He had a very good feeling of balance vertically and horizontally with a really wonderful amount of energy, light and supple! He worked out his own tensions and I could feel him and support him through that! We did just a few minutes of ComfortTouch & Body Work before we started. His work week looked like this: Thursday before this: lunge and he was fresh but got really engaged and low long and forward; Friday: very short session of Walk and Trot undersaddle and he felt amazing; Saturday: very light lunge after short walk on the lunge and he was super relaxed even in an area of the arena where we never lunge!; Sunday: this is this video; Monday (tomorrow): lots of body work and walk on the trail. Then he will have two days off. This is approximately his work load every week and he continues to get stronger and more supple. He's beautiful in so many ways. Love this sweet boy. After this I lunged so go to September 24 2017 video on the Lunge page.
Above. Contigo felt great here. I continue to work on relaxation, softness in his body and flow through his body while pushing from behind, and vertical balance. He continues to feel better and better and use his body more correctly every day. Love this boy. After this session I lunged so go to lunging page to see that September 9 video, too.
Above. In this session I'm trying to reshape Contigo's experience of the bit by suplying his jaw and helping him see that by opening his mouth he can let his tension drain out. Tension should move through the horse from back to front. When tension drains out the mouth, then there's a softening that can occur in the pole that then descends into the horse's shoulders. This is because the horse's whole body is connected in one way or another so when the jaw and pole are supple then it aides in allowing freedom in the shoulders. I learned this from Leah Taylor of Clever Riding. Keep in mind that Contigo's had trauma to his jaw and pole and shoulders from the way he was ridden incorrectly for many years, so this is an important piece to his recovery. He was ridden inappropriately short in the neck and behind the vertical for most of his life which gravely tightened his shoulders and caused them to drop and become fixed like stones underneath his chest. The only way to achieve horizontal balance (back to front balance) and the ability to actively stretch is by opening up his jaw, pole and shoulders so he can lengthen his body and build strength in his ability to reach deeply under his body but he can't reach deeply under his body unless his back and his shoulders can open up and give his hind leg space to reach under.
Above. I'm continuing to work on pushing power from behind with big active steps that build up strength and suppleness in a deep active stretch and I'm also asking him to step his inside hind into my outside rein with a little bend in his body. I want to feel him fill up the outside rein and as a result I should feel his mouth accept my outside hand contact and then take that contact down. I'm looking for an active deep reaching hind leg stride, lengthening and lowering of his neck, and poking out of his nose. My inside hand should stay very quite and I use my outside hand with my whip to tap his rib cage. I do not want him to fall out the outside shoulder, fall in on his inside shoulder, or swing his haunches in. As long as he is relaxed and he has lifted his back during this active stretch, asking him to step inside hind into outside rein with bend at the rib cage is ideal in helping him find his self carriage.
Above. I received the following feedback on the above video from Karen Loshbaugh of Art2 Ride on this video:
This work has a lovely feel about it…he isn’t pulling you along and you look like partners. Good job getting him to this point, he is looking rhythmical and active in his walk, nice a swingy.
You are definitely ready to ask more.
One of the purposes of the WIH ultimately is to teach the horse to move away from the inside leg (either your whip, hand pressure or just reaction to you increasing your “bubble” energy) to the outside rein. When riding this is one of the harder concepts for the rider and is a process for a horse too since they would be happy for us to hang on the inside rein allowing them to lean on it. Much harder for the horse to balance itself…
It is also the step that teaches the horse to soften to the bit, relax the jaw and poll and keep impulsion behind. It is always impulsion first and Contigo looks like he is very happy to let you determine the pace, as it should be. This is being the leader in the dance.
Time for you to ask for shoulder in more so you see a stepping under and forward with the inside hind leg and feeling him move into the outside rein (which you have to be aware that you have a rein for him to step into, meaning contact) keeping the same impulsion that you have now. It will also show you how it relates to riding, when the horse moves away from the inside leg and your outside leg is back from the hip, and he accepts the contact of the outside rein and there is a nice bend in the body this is what makes the inside rein light. Lunging makes this obvious too if you use side reins. When the horse bends correctly on the lunge he bends into the outside rein and the inside rein is slack.
Important to be doing the work on the ground with WIH and lunging because it gets the horse to become more responsible for the own balance without having to balance with the weight of the rider.
Bottomline: Take the next step and ask for the shoulder-in concentrating on asking him to step over and forward with the inside hind leg creating a bend in his body which fills up the outside rein while the inside rein becomes lighter. While teaching this you will most likely need to soften him on the inside rein but ask and let go, do not hold the inside rein.
Old Video one year ago:
Above. Contigo is very stiff and weak in this video which was taken about nine months ago. Many horses with Kissing Spines, such as Contigo, are very tight and painful over their backs and it takes a lot of time to undo and heal those restrictions.