Monday, June 18, 2012

Spin Fix #13: Speeding Up the Spin

The problem: Horse will not spin faster when he is asked.
Why does this problem happen? If a horse will not speed up in the spin, he is either not correct enough to feel good about trying to spin faster or he does not “believe” the rider when asked for an increase in speed.
How to correct this problem: A horse must be able to spin correctly BEFORE he is asked to spin fast. If he is not comfortable turning around, he will not be willing to spin faster. If he’s schooled well in the basic spin – body aligned, responding to reins and legs – and he will start the spin quietly and turn almost on his own, then it’s time to ask for more.
Exercise: I “cluck” to ask for more. If I don’t feel an increase in speed, I bump with my leg. As soon as I feel him pick up the pace, I say “whoa” (that’s a reward) and release all body aids, then repeat. I want to instill in him right from the beginning that if he responds to my request for a faster turn around, he is rewarded. After only a few times, he will almost for sure spin faster with only a cluck. In a class, of course, I need four spins but if I have built my horse’s confidence by not asking too much in training and if he believes the voice command, he will be happy to spin until I ask him to shut down.

Exercise: I push my horse up in the bridle in a small circle, keeping him as straight as possible, until I feel him want to ‘find’the spin. Then I lower my hands, take my legs off of him, and ask. Usually he will gladly spin because the spin is more comfortable than the exercise.

Exercise: I let my horse spin a revolution or so, then pick up my reins to hold him straight and push him straight out of the spin – aggressively – stop him, settle him, and ask for spin again. After a few times, he will always try harder.

When I start teaching a horse to speed up his spin, I don’t try to accomplish everything in the first lesson. I push him a little more each day, always rewarding for his success. One thing that happens a lot is when a horse first tries to spin faster is that he might “hop” around. (See Spin With Cadence.) If that happens, I do not stop the spin when he is hopping; instead, I slow it down until he is stepping around again, then stop. It’s important to end the spin with correct movement.

Note: I don’t overdo fast spin schooling. Once my horse complies with my request, that’s all I want. If I concentrate more on schooling correctness, the speed will be easy! A reiner with a great spinning horse once told me his horse loved to spin fast because he had it figured out that the faster he did it, the faster it was over! That's what a good spin training program inspires - a horse that wants to spin.

Walking With Wolves

Monday, June 4, 2012

Spin Fix #12: Improving Front Leg Cross-Over

The problem: Horse hits himself when he spins or crosses behind.

Why does this problem happen?
1. The horse lacks forward motion (Yes, there is forward motion in the spin!) If he is sucking back, there is just no way he can cross over in front.
2. The horse steps directly to the side instead of stepping back.
3. The rider is pulling too much on the reins.

How to correct this problem: If my horse is hitting himself, I concentrate on getting forward motion in the spin which means pushing him out of the spin many, many times. All the basic rules for a turn around apply, of course, but I only turn maybe one turn (sit down, inside leg off, light outside rein contact against neck, wide opening inside rein, outside leg if needed). When he has completed one turn, I push him forward with both legs for a few steps, then ask for a turn around again. As soon as I feel him sucking back I push him out of it again, etc. If he has forward motion but is hitting himself because he is not bringing the inside leg back, I work on that by 'helping' him place that leg. I might have to break the spin down to a very basic level to fix it.

Splint boots are mandatory!

Note: When a horse hits himself in a spin (instead of stepping over the inside leg with the outside leg), he can hurt himself which, in turn, makes him not want to spin – kind of counter-productive! Also, he will never spin fast if he is hitting himself – he can actually get tangled up. A correct spin will begin with a step to the inside and back a bit (out of the way of the outside leg), and the outside leg crossing in front of the inside. I work on this before I worry about locking down on a pivot foot when I train the spin. If I spend time with this part of the spin, my horse is comfortable and the rest will take care of itself with time.

An example of  a horse stepping over his inside leg in a spin.