Monday, July 2, 2012

Spin Fix #14: Eliminate Freeze Up

The problem: Horse stops all lateral movement in a spin.
Why does this problem happen?
1. If a horse in basic spin training quits (freezes up) in schooling sessions, he is being asked too much too soon.
2. If the freeze up occurs with a well-trained horse that has not quit before, he is not accepting increased mental pressure or he is hurting.
3. If a horse freezes up in competition and he is not in the habit of doing that, it is probably rider error.
Note: A true “freeze up” is when a horse simply will not move away from the outside rein but any ceasing of motion in a spin will be designated a “freeze up” even if the horse has made a mental mistake and only stops motion for a second. The first is more of a training problem; the second is probably rider error.
How to correct this problem: If the horse is not sore anywhere, the next thing I check if my horse quits is me, especially in a schooling situation. Does he need more basic training? Did I ask for more speed too soon? Did I change something about the way I am sitting? Did I move my hand too quickly?  Or too much? If none of those things have happened, the only thing to do is re-introduce the spin slowly with close attention to correctness. Heavy pressure on the outside rein can cause a horse to freeze up. E.g. In competition, the horse is not spinning as fast as I would like and I pull harder in an attempt to speed him up. (This does not work at all but under pressure, any rider might pull!)
One of the most important things to keep in mind while spinning is not to make quick movements with either hands or body because the horse may interpret that movement as a request to stop. If he stops and starts again, he will still get a ‘freeze up’ penalty. If I bring my hand in the direction of the spin to start it and want to put it back in the middle for the spin, I can’t “drop” it suddenly in the middle or he will surely stop. After all, he is looking for “whoa”. Penalty time.
A horse can get in the habit of quitting as well if it happens much. With consistent signals he will learn to stop only when I ask him to and that is crucial in the pen. I switch it up lots – sometimes only a spin or two, sometimes six or eight. He must wait for the word.
If my horse does stop spinning and I have not asked him to, I have to correct with my outside leg (a bump or kick) to get him started again. If I’m schooling, I can pick the point I want to stop with no compromises; in competition, it’s not so easy unless I want to turn the run into a schooling run, which is not a bad idea if I’ve already incurred a two-point penalty for a ‘freeze up’. On the other hand, if it wasn’t the horse’s fault but mine…
‘Freezing up’ should not happen if the horse is trained to continue spinning as long as the rider is asking as in the photo below.