Rising 4 year old. Beautiful little grey pony. 15 hours or so under saddle so far. This was about balance. Now this was interesting to me because I also have a rising 4 year old with very few miles on the clock. My RI has said 'leave the front end alone' - work on balance, rhythm, working through from behind etc. Head will sort itself out over time. So Thyme is very poky-nosy.
However Mark focuses on acceptance of the bit from day 1. He said the mouth is crucial for balance - balance starts in the mouth, then back through the whole body. SO a horse above, in front of or behind the bit, or leaning on the bit cannot be balanced. So he teaches a horse to flex at the poll and soften his mouth and jaw to softly accept the bit. He is not afraid of using some pressure to do this - the aim being to lessen that as much as possible. His view is the amount of pressure needed is set by the horse. So if a horse is balancing by leaning on the bit, and you increase the pressure to - say- a 2 or 2.5 on a 5 point scale and there is no change in the horse then the horse is telling you that e is ok with this amount of pressure. So you will continue to have a heavy horse. As long as you start light and increase incrementally the horse will let you know - via a change - how much he needs. When horse first decides to try and release the pressure he may experiment with different things- backing up etc. Ignore all that. Don't worry about it. Horse will offer a variety of responses and ignoring them is telling the horse 'no that is not what I am after'. When the horse softens THEN release. But keep the contact. Timing is very important.He will do this in halt, then walk, then trot. Mark expects this bit acceptance even in a very young horse. As far as he is concerned if a horse is not ready to carry himself plus rider in balance then he should not be being ridden. He tarts this process on the ground prior to backing.
So the little grey pony was encouraged to soften to the bit for 3 paces in walk then allowed to relax/ stretch down. Then 5 paces, then 7 paces etc. Once it was good in walk, he did the same in trot. When the pony softened the pressure was automatically released as the horse found 'self-release'. This needed very soft, flexible hands so you could follow the movement of the horse and not throw the contact away when the horse softened. He did a lot of work with this rider on making sure the movement came from the hands in a smooth, flowing way, not in a jerky way. Hard to get this across as it involved Mark being the 'reins' and feeling what the rider was doing and demonstrating how it should feel. Whatever he did, worked and the pony was moving beautifully.
This, incidentally, was not about being in an outline or 'frame' as he called it. Although actually he was clearly moving in that direction. But it was about a softening and a flexing in the mouth, jaw and poll so he was balanced.
This was another reason he doesn't like styles of riding that don't use reins. Bits aren't essential though he prefers them as he feels they allow for more subtle communication. But contact is important - (in his view!)- so you can communicate.
Last edited by Thyme & Me; 17th May 2012 at 07:37 AM.