Strides Toward Straightness with an Off-the-Track Thoroughbred

Blogger Pam Stone shares an update on Gem, a retired OTTB who traded in track life for the hunt field.

So this is way cool: In the month that Gem (a retired OTTB teenager who traded in track life for the hunt field) has been with me, we have made pretty impressive strides (pun very much intended) toward straightness. If you recall my last blog, I took a photo of Gem from behind which illustrated how heavy he was on the right rein because he had been carrying far too much weight on the right side of his body for quite some time. He had a Popeye gaskin and stifle on his right hind compared to very little development on his weaker, left side.

Thanks to our program that divides arena time with cross-training and conditioning, as well as my 36-inch inseam that caught his right shoulder each time it tried to fall in regardless of where we were riding, what an enormous difference we see only four weeks later.

In fact, Gem is now overcompensating and, as sometimes happens in these cases, he’s now carrying a bit too much on the left side of his body and so it is up to Aunty Pam to simply ride this horse as straight as possible in both directions for the second and last month he is in training with me. His canter has improved leaps and bounds, because it really was in leaps and bounds when I asked him for right lead canter without plopping against my right leg on the depart which annoyed him to no end. There was much resistance, much hopping and inverting as Gem insisted that it simply wasn’t possible to give me a right lead depart without diving into the right rein. My approach for this was to ride him in rather a steep leg yield off my right leg prior to the depart, making sure I truly had an honest connection on the outside left rein, and as we went into canter, I simply surrendered the inside, right rein so he had nothing to lean on.

And, by jove, it worked! I sat quietly and deeply, keeping him inside leg to outside rein. It was truly a ‘Eureka’ moment for this kindly bay who, like Helen Keller having words written into her palm under the water pump, he suddenly grasped the concept that he could indeed carry himself, even if in a longer hunter frame. His happy ears and soft eye tells us all we need to know.

It’s been a true pleasure having this horse here. I have loved every ride, especially our long conditioning walks up the driveway and down the lane where I request that he stretch and march during the walk while I add in zig zags of leg yield, shoulder in and haunches in, along with half passes as we climb gradual inclines. He thoroughly enjoys this sort of animated recess and I thoroughly enjoy being on such a trustworthy horse who has zero tendency to spook or buck. Horses like Gem are indeed gems, and also worth their weight in gold.






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