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Tales of Taco the Wonder Horse and his ammy rider on their way to a Training Three Day

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ask Taco: Preparing for the New Season and Half Halts

Dear Taco,
Well, I've been on a break for at least the past year, but I've learned a lot and I've been working on new ways to use my many talents in different ways (for instance, I never knew that if I reached forward through the bridle and stepped up under through my hind-end that I had MORE power than if I just pull forward and bulldoze on my forehand!). Now that my mommy and I have worked on better tools for using my body to improve our riding, she is ready to put us back to work and hopefully get out to some competitions this spring. As we start to leg back up in January and February, what types of jumping exercises do you work on to get yourself ready for the upcoming competition season? My mom is really keen on something she calls "gymnastics," but I just think they're a bunch of poles all crammed together, so I get through them as best I can. As long as mommy doesn't fall off, though, I figure I'm ok. But, in order to make mom happy in the long run, what type of jumping work do you all start off with at the beginning of the year? I will try to take your advice and be good, but sometimes I just can't contain myself. I know that will make me sorry when I get in big trouble for launching my mommy, so I probably need some guidance from an eventing professional. Help me, please!!!!
Your buddy,

A. Dear Eddie,
That is great that you are going out to some competitions this coming year.  You will have fun.  I love competitions because I get a lot of attention and fussing over me, and I get to see places that I like and, best of all, jump over things.

It is understandable that you are excited about jumping again.  I have been known to get exuberant myself.  I can jump over much bigger things than what Stacy attempts, but that is OK with me.  I can just jump as high as I want to no matter what the size of the fence is.  She does not mind too much if I only do it a few times here and there.

I have found that I can jump the best when I have been able to build up my stifle muscles, especially if I have not been working so hard for a while.  Walking up hills and trotting in straight lines help my quads grow very strong.  I have had to do the gymnastics and I have to say, I like them because they are like doing puzzles.  Do you like doing puzzles?  If you think of it like a game you might discover that you enjoy gymnastics!

Another thing that helps me with my jumping is... jumping!  If I get to do a little bit fairly frequently, I can concentrate a little better and I am not so tempted to jump very high or do some little bucks.  I am very happy when Stacy just canters over a few smaller jumps here and there between jumping lessons.  If you can convince your mom to do the same, and she lets you jump low things on many of your rides, both of you will get more out of your lessons for sure.

See you at the shows!
Best wishes,

Could you in VERY elementary terms explain the half-halt. Second, how we can tell if our half-halt has been effective?
Thanks, K.B.

A. Dear K.B.,
I know who you are.  You bring apples to Rugie's mom, who does not like me very much.  I like you, however, because you often give me an apple, too.

A half halt is when I shift my balance toward my back legs.  If I want to do that I have to step farther forward with my hind legs, which means that I have to round my back a little and bend the joints in my hind legs a little more.  I have to say that I am very good at this, except when my left hock is bugging me.  Even then, I can still do a pretty good job.  And I look pretty handsome doing it.

I had to learn how to do the half-halt, though.  Actually, to be more precise, I had to learn what the signal was for the half halt.  Now I know that when my rider asks me to go forward, but then keeps me from going faster, I am to do the half-halt.  The way Stacy usually asks me to go forward is with a squeeze or bump from her legs.  The way that she keeps me from going faster is by holding with her core muscles and the outside rein.  If I get stiff or turn my head to the outside, which sometimes happens, she supples me a little with her inside rein.  Then she relaxes all of these pressures.

I can tell if the half halt worked because I will be working harder!  I think the way that Stacy can tell is that it feels like my energy is cycling from her legs through my hind legs and back through the bit and the reins to her.   Also, both of us feel like we could do anything together!  I have to admit, even though it is harder work it feels nice.

Best wishes,

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