Ep. 7: Office Hours
Q&A with Doug Payne
Recap from 10.05.21
By Victoria Clayton
Jump to training topics: purposeful walk, Kissing Spine, downhill horses, foam flocked saddles, saddle brands, head wagging, managing pressure, non-horse related education, kids and horses, rides that go haywire, common amateur issues, dropping rails, selecting a young horse, horse conditioning, indoor arena fitness
Start at the walk itself.
You can only communicate with the horse through pressure, right? That means adding or taking away pressure.
You want to keep the pressure here by keeping the leg on because taking the leg off would be rewarding the behavior. If they are going to start to jig, think about pushing them laterally and getting them in a big open walk first.
Close your thigh, and the moment you can feel the horse is committed to stepping into the walk then apply your lower leg to press them forward.
Q: Do you have experience with horses in your program with Kissing Spine? If so, do you do anything different with those horses?
I think is far more prevalent than we give credit for. Frankly, in our barn we don’t generally x-ray backs when we are buying horses.
If it is something that bothers them or if it’s a horse that is tight in their back, I have found that going into the canter early in the warmup is more helpful than starting at the trot. Also, a lot of counter-canter is super helpful—anything that can get them to really loosen their back and stretch. Canter to trot transitions is probably your best bet because they really can’t stay super tight during those transitions.
Try some lengthening and shortening, too. When you lengthen, think long and low stretching in that process.
In the end, the same fundamentals must happen regardless of his confirmation.
He is going to need to stretch over his back and reach for the contact. From there, he can start to sit more and lift his front end properly.
The one thing we do a lot to get horses strong is do dressage and jump work on a mild slope. Think about a lengthen up the hill and a little collection down the hill—when they collect down the hill, they will shorten themselves more under their body because the ground is falling away. That is a helpful way to teach them a more efficient way to balance themselves.
That can be very annoying! In the end, he is going to need be more stable and stronger.
The temptation is to think, “Well, I am using too much hand and need to go softer and softer,” but I wouldn’t be afraid to add a fraction more contact. Then, do a lot of lateral work so you are actively pushing him from one side to another. Even on a straight line—say you’re going down centerline—you want to be thinking a mild shoulder-fore, so you are pushing him into one rein.
Also, make sure the bit is the right fit. Some horses might need a thinner or thicker bit depending on their mouth. You want them to be comfortable, and that can sometimes be a contributing factor to the head wagging.
Great question! I am lucky enough to compete a lot. I think the more you can get in the ring, the better it will be.
There are two main tools or thoughts that go through my head right now:
The first is a visualization technique. Imagine the most nerve-wracking venue you can think of. So, at one time I was using walking down the tunnel into the Kentucky stadium. Imagine that scenario for you and have a routine at home and walk yourself through every aspect of that nerve wracking scenario. Do that when you get to the actual event!
The second thing is for when you’re at your most pressure packed situation. Mine most recently was the Tokyo Olympics where the world was watching. I try to think: I trained the horse to this point on this stage, and I tell myself that if I can do it once, then I can do it again and again and again. In some ways I remove the importance of the situation and I devalue it. It helps me a ton!
Not even close! My degree is in mechanical engineering, and I wouldn’t trade that in the slightest bit.
I will say that the hard thing is that you see a lot of kids in high school wondering if they should go to college or go ride. I was very lucky growing up because my parents were deeply involved in horses. My sister ended up riding professionally and my mom judged at two Olympics – Rio and Hong Kong. We were able to have one horse growing up that we were able to train and compete. When we turned 18, we had to sell everything we had–anything beyond that was 100% on us, and we were to go to school.
I think education is key. I think it’s helpful for relationships with partners and people with an academic background.
Abby is a 1 ½ , and Hudson is 3 ½ .
Abby is going to be in it for sure, she is obsessed! She will sit by the window, point at the horses, and even walk up and down the aisles to feed the horses hay.
Hudson is totally on the fence, but frankly so was I at the time.
Growing up, we had no pressure to ride, and we want to take the same approach. If they really want it and show they want to work hard for it, then we will of course support them in any way.
We couldn’t care less either way, we just want them to be happy, productive members of society.
For sure! I think that is life with horses. There are going to be times where that happens.
I try to have a plan the day before of what I want to work the next day with the horse. But there are going to be days those things go haywire. Say it starts to go sideways and the horse isn’t doing what was planned for the day. I always try to pick a point where I got through or got past what they wanted to do, so I can still come out ahead.
I would say canter quality in general is probably the biggest thing I see across the board.
I like to do a warmup with small oxer about 18″ high and 18″ wide with placing rails 7′ from the front and back of the fence. I start at the trot and then move into the canter on a figure-8, which helps with the canter quality.
Equipment-wise I recommend open front boots only. My thought is that if they are hitting the jump you really want them to feel it for both of your safety.
At home, use super heavy wood, preferably 4x4s. The key is to make them feel it, because it will make them more inclined to not keep hitting it, which is going to be huge on the safety aspect of things.
For the most part, we look for weanlings and we gravitate towards Holsteiner x TB crosses. I tend to look for elastic, free flowing horses. I love babies that are a little bit of a punk and go out and play in the pasture. The tiny bit of edge is super helpful!
Our horses do a lot of walking – long hacks with different types of terrain.
Exposing them to different types of terrain can help them with their long-term soundness. If you are only working on a perfect surface all the time, then they are more likely to get hurt on an imperfect surface.