Winter is a time when I often revisit areas of training. I should probably be more methodical in this approach but more often than not it is something that goes wrong that leads me to the first job in hand.
One of the biggest jobs, and one I am revisiting for the umpteenth time right now, is the stop and start cue. Stop and start underpin everything we ever do, they are the basic cues for everything from regular handling around the yard through to riding; they need to be solid.
I noticed my stop cue had got a little fuzzy when riding exercises to help the canter come through from behind and have that bit extra energy and verve. To be certain that I had no unintended control via the sidepull I took up the cordeo and rode from that alone. A few canter departs later and he was starting to get the hang of offering a little more jump in the transition but he was less keen to hear my stop cue.
Usually a light lift of the cordeo timed with a breathing off with the legs and he is waiting for the close of the seat and STOP. What I was getting was a slowing of the canter, more containment but no stop (until I used the voice which is why it is so handy to have depth in terms of cues). My first question was ‘what has changed?’. Well that’s easy, we have moved on! More depth in terms of transitions, some being directly between paces, some being more like half halts and so many shades within those as well.
Second question ‘How do I put it right?’. As always it’s back to basics and then re-build. Next session I took my clicker and underlined the stop/start in-hand – of course you don’t need a clicker if that’s not your thing but Chapiro is a dedicated clicker fan. Then we took it to the ridden work in very simple terms and just broke everything down into simple yes/no choices. Halt to walk, walk to halt. Then on to walk to trot and trot to walk all with major rewarding and ending on a good note.
This is just the beginning of reinforcing the stop/go cues in all their forms and it is so hard it sometimes makes my brain ache because I am trying to be so clear and make each nuance count.Trust me there are many nuances and the further you train the more there are;
I am still at the beginning but there are already so many. Your horse maybe expected to decipher a walk cue from a trot cue, a slowing of the trot but not to the point of walk cue from a trot/walk cue, a natural trot cue from a working trot cue…the list is endless.
None of the nuances can be sensed by horse or rider if the hand is tight on the rein and the horse is tight into the rein; let go and test your cues, you might be surprised!