Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In Which Tucker Does Math

So I've been getting on Tucker's case lately about collection, particularly at the canter.  After we've trotted and cantered and loosened everything up, and I go back to my canter work, I have been working on extension and collection.  And the conversation goes something like this:
Me:  Great canter.  Now let's collect it for a few strides in the middle of this long side.

Tucker:  NO.  THIS IS STUPID.  STOPPIT RIGHT NOW.  STUPID!  STUPID I SAY!

Me:  Wasn't really a question.  More of a command.  Let's try again.  Collect.  Now.  Please.  And no bouncing up and down this time.

Tucker:  FINE.  (This is still stupid.)  What is the point of taking longer to get somewhere?  I could get us there much more efficiently if you'd leave me alone.  Have I mentioned this is stupid?

Me:  You mentioned.  That's all I wanted though, thank you.  Now extend, please.

Tucker:  Well now THIS is more like it.  Now we're talking!  I could get down this long side in even less strides, by the way, if you'd care to tempt me.

Me:  Quite alright.  That'll do for now. 
As I mentioned in my last post, I thought that placing some ground poles might make this conversation a little more... productive.  So for one of my following rides over the weekend, I placed two poles on the center line, without walking the distance between them, so that I'd have to ride it off my eye.

The first time through I did nothing, just to see how it went.  Since Tucker was a bit surprised by the poles, he put six strides between them.  The next time, I gave him some gentle encouragement with my leg and he easily put in five strides.  Then I asked him to collect a little and go back to six.  No problem. 
Me:  So what happened to "this is stupid"?
Tucker:  Well now that we are counting strides, this makes all the sense in the world.  We're judged on how many strides we put in the lines.  So we need to practice this.  Duh.  Everybody knows that.
Back to our line of poles.  The next time through, I wanted to see if we could collect some more.  So I asked for seven.  Once again, no problem.  Not even the slightest objection.  From the same horse that thought the exact same aids were COMPLETELY STUPID the night before. 

Then I wanted to go back to five strides, so I turned up the center line and really sent him forward, thinking he'd be expecting to collect.  And then he got there in four.  Seven, and then, FOUR.  I think I can stop worrying about his ability to extend and collect.

We played around with this for a while because I was having fun and Tucker wasn't the least bit bored or annoyed.  As I'd turn the corner I'd just randomly pick a number between four and seven, and that's what we'd do.  And Tucker nailed it.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Such a good boy.  Incidentally, I walked the line when I was done riding and it was about 60'.  Which means he was adjusting his canter stride from about 8.5' to 15'.  Not too shabby!

When I was in high school, I hated Algebra.  Made no sense to me at all.  Then I took Physics, and I barely even realized I was doing Algebra again, because we were applying it to something practical and interesting.  Tucker apparently agrees.  Collecting for its own sake is simply pointless and boring.  But applying it to something practical (jumping), is something in which Tucker is most definitely interested.

Do you think I could teach him to count strides?  Would be one less thing for me to worry about in the ring...

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