Monday, May 28, 2012

Spin Fix #11: Correcting 'Jumping' into the Spin

The problem: Horse jumps into spin instead of stepping quietly into the spin.

Why does this problem happen? When a horse jumps or ‘dives’ into a spin, it is almost certainly a training problem. Someone has spurred him to ask him to spin instead of encouraging him to calmly and quietly take a step.

How to correct this problem: It’s never good if the horse is scared and if he dives into a spin, he’s frightened. Our goal, as trainers/riders is to not let that happen but if it does, we have to get on a road back as soon as possible to establish trust and relaxation again. That means, again, going back to basics – right to the beginning of teaching the spin.
Exercise: After I have warmed up my horse – suppling, leg yielding, jogging, trotting and loping – I quietly walk him in a large circle. When he’s relaxed, I ask for a half spin to the inside of the circle – no jerking, no spurring, just asking by sitting down, opening the inside leg, and lifting the outside rein a bit and waiting. Waiting is big. At this point, one of two things might happen:
1. He doesn’t go anywhere. This is probably because his leap into the spin was in response to the spur, not outside rein and body aids. In that case, I help him with a little inside rein to direct him. If he takes one or two steps without leaping into it, I walk him out of it. If he still doesn’t move when I direct his nose with the inside rein, I bump him very softly with my outside foot or leg (not spur). Hopefully, he will take a step but if he jumps to the side, I stop him, walk him forward and try again only using a bump as a back up. It might take time to get his confidence back but it will work. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
2. He dives into the spin, probably with no style as well. As above, I will not let him continue if he jumps into the spin. I stop him, walk him forward and try again until he gets one quiet step, then reward him for that.

It’s important for the horse’s head and neck to be low before being asked for the spin. There will be two strikes against him before he starts if his head is up. So I always ask him to lower his head and neck before I ask for a spin. It may come up in the spin but at least we have started it correctly. He will be calmer with his head and neck low. What I want here is for the horse to be absolutely relaxed before I ask for the spin. Then, in response to a change in my body and a signal with outside rein that a spin is going to happen in a certain direction, I hope my horse will quietly tip his nose in the direction of the spin and quietly take that first step to the side and back. At that point, he is locked into the spin and I can ask for speed.

Note: I had a horse come to me for training once that did this. She obviously had been spurred hard into a turn around and that’s how she thought it was done. It took a few months to get it fixed but I just kept working on the beginning of the spin, not the spin itself until she relaxed and stepped. I did not continue if she didn’t step into the spin quietly. She has a fantastic spin now – starts slowly and correctly and spins a blur!

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