Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Showmanship Practice

My ribs are feeling much better today, but I'm still having trouble sleeping, so I decided not to ride and give them another day of rest. Even though I didn't ride, I still wanted to work with Lilly on something and since she was a bit of a turd in our showmanship class on Saturday, I decided to work on that instead.

I set up the exact same pattern we had at the show and then I set up four cones in a row to practice backing through and around. She nailed it... She performed the pattern perfectly and backed around the cones like she'd been doing it for years. WHY??!!

Okay, fine. So I made up some random patterns and noticed she was giving me grief about setting up for our imaginary inspection. I always ask her to square her back feet first, so I would ask and she'd step too far back, then too far forward, then too far back... over and over and over again. When I finally got the rear hooves square, I'd ask for the fronts and she'd slowly drag them into place, creating a giant mound of sand, occasionally looking off into the other pastures, and generally ignoring me.

Lilly isn't a bad horse, but she does test me every once in a while and she does so by being extremely passive aggressive about certain things. She'll do things just enough to satisfy me, but she isn't really doing it properly or how I ask her to. In this case, "I'll set up my feet, but I'm going to take a really long time doing it, and I think I'll leave this foot a bit too far back and see if you make me fix it." In the past, she's gotten away with this behavior a lot, but it drives me crazy when she does it and I wasn't going to tolerate it today. Clearly she knows how to set up for showmanship... she's been doing it her entire life, so why she chose to push my buttons today, I don't know.

I really had to get after her and we worked on setting up for about 45 minutes because she just would not do it. If she did manage to set up properly, she figured once was enough and she didn't have to do it a second time. Twice in a row... that's all I wanted! Not to be outsmarted by my pony, we worked and worked until she did it twice, and then three times in a row, and at the end of the session, she was finally stopping square in the front and all I had to do was push a hind foot into place.

In between some of our set up practice, we worked on pull turns. Even though I've never had to do a pull turn, I figure it couldn't hurt to learn them just in case. She was a bit confused at first, so I went to the opposite side and asked her to pivot. She did it without hesitation, so I went back to the correct side and pulled her toward me. She pivoted nicely! I did three or four more pull turns and she did them all quite well. Does anyone know which hoof she should pivot on for the pull turn? Is it still the right hoof like we do for a normal pivot?

It really bothers me when I have to get after her like I did, and now I feel like crap. I went to the barn ready to work on backing around cones, and I was going to be super patient and understanding because it's something we haven't really worked on. Backing straight, yes. Backing in a half circle, not so much. It really caught me off guard that the thing we had to work on for nearly the entire session was something super simple and super easy... something she has been doing for 12 years.


  1. I think it's perfectly acceptable for you to get after your mare for doing something incorrect! Don't feel bad!

    Showmanship practice is sometimes a foot/ space respect issue for me too! My mare is great at showmanship and has been doing it her whole life, but she won't set up at home sometimes! It only happens when her brain shuts off while practicing (I think she is trying to say, "I'm done mom, I got this!") so I stop and do something else (poles, bridge, low cross rail in hand) and try to set her up again. If she sets up, I'll quit. If she doesn't set up or is being a stinker about it, I'll reinforce with a dressage whip but not hard, just taps!


    1. I just like it better when she does what I tell her to! Getting after her is no fun, but it had to be done. I still feel bad... hopefully when I work with her tomorrow, she'll be back to setting up like a good pony.

      I don't normally drill showmanship with her because I can always count on her to nail the pattern, but she's been slacking a bit lately. If she keeps this up, though, a dressage whip would be helpful so I could tell her which foot to move. Good idea, thank you!

  2. The hoof to use for the pivot on a pull turn is the left one. Always pivoting on the inside hoof of the turn. :D I don't know if APHA will use the pull turn, but AQHA is getting rid of it as there have been some accidents with children and it really isn't "proper horse handling" to pull the horse on top of you. Though, I liked how it was a little bit of extra to give a pattern another level of difficulty and another thing to teach my horse.

    1. Always the inside hoof... thank you! So with that bit of information, Lilly did not properly execute the pull turn! LOL

      I thought the pull turn was strange when I first started hearing about it, for the same reasons you mentioned. I've never seen it in any of the patterns I've done over the last couple years, and maybe I'll never have to do one.

  3. Sounds like Silly Mare Syndrome. Sucks when you want to work together softly and she does that, but it'll disappear as mysteriously as it appeared. So glad you're feeling better!

    1. I sure hope so! She was being quite defiant today... bad mare! LOL

      And thank you!! It is wonderful to have some relief from that pain.

  4. Amy is correct. Pull turns are going out of style. I've read every showmanship book I can find and it seems they were deemed safe for 90 degrees but not for more. Pulling a horse towards you is not super safe but I taught him to do it and I never did get to do one before they started phasing them out. Seems like they are adding a lot more backing maneuvers and square corners.

    As an owner of a "tester" horse I sympathize and I support reprimands when they are due. It took me a while with JR to figure out how dangerous it was to let him win the little battles. I had a day exactly like yours not too long ago. He simply refused to go square! There were thoughts of glue and dog food. Luckily there were kids around which helped me keep my anger in check. Then the next time he was perfect. He's way too good at mind games.

    Hang in there!

  5. You shouldn't feel bad for getting after Lilly a bit when she wasn't cooperating! Sure, every horse has good days and bad, but it sounds like she was just saying "nah, don't wanna." You wouldn't let her get away with that under saddle, so don't let her do it on the ground either!

    Glad to hear that your ribs are feeling better - hopefully you'll be healed in no time!