Nico listening intently to my energetic whip cue in the half pass.
Rebecca Gilbert ~UK Grade C Straightness Training Instructor
Udo came to join the herd this spring, April 2016. He had been trained to a very high level of Dressage, Prix st Georges. But had been retired due to not being able to perform collected work because he had become too sore, rearing if things became too much. He was having regular steroid sacrum and hock injections to help soothe arthritic pain in these areas and needed the vet to sedate him when he was shod behind. He was on daily Bute anti-inflammatory meds to make him feel more comfortable in his day to day life.
Since coming to us after a few weeks of getting to know the rest of the herd in another field they were introduced and after a week or two of hierarchy struggles, especially with Nico, things have settled very nicely and he is enjoying full turnout 24/7 life.
I removed his back shoes and he can cope no problem being trimmed behind and he is medication free. I took it very slowly with him for the first couple of months spending time on the ground addressing his natural asymmetry and improving his balance, suppleness and shape. So now i'm on board we are progressing nicely through the ST exercises. He has even started to freely offer some steps of collection, passage and piaffe which feel beautiful. The better he is able to find the centre of mass with his hind legs I can gradually shift more weight back towards the hind legs (without contracting and shortening the neck and spine, by developing the tendency that they search towards your hand) the more confident he is in the development of collection. Healthy muscles will protect the joints from further wear and tear and the only way to build muscles in the hind legs is to get them under the body weight so they have to bend. So as we can't give the horse dumb bells to build muscles we can only give them their body weight to do it.
He is a super horse, hugely talented and I feel so happy that ST can help him feel better and in turn he is showing me what he knows which is in turn developing my training skills further.
Nico is a 3 year old PRE. He came to live with us in 2014 as a yearly. A big part of the decision to have him come join our herd, was that already as a yearly he was confident around humans, and a bit pushy and nippy. This is something students often complain of when working closely with their horses on the ground. First it's important to ensure any physical discomfort is ruled out. Then it's important to recognise if the horse is moving you around because the one who moves the others feet is in a kind of leadership position. It's also hugely important to ensure that you release any pressure quickly, often, soon and at all costs avoid constant steady pressure as the risk of this is to cause horses to ignore us or go against us. Using RRRRR - Redirect undesired behaviour, Release ( the slighted try/better) Reward and Relax then Repeat to develop desired behaviour. His pushy, nippy behaviour is mostly exhausted due to being consistent with RRRRR.
I started the Groundwork training with Nico when he was 3 in April 2016. And he now is able to perform the whole walk sequence in Groundwork and Work-in hand too. The Liberty and Lunging is developing nicely also.
By working on the ground you can do a lot to address the horses natural asymmetry so you are less likely to come across big hurdles when you ride and it sets them up for more success to carry the weight of a rider. I shall start some very light ridden work with him in 2017-18 when he is showing he is ready for this next step.