Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Garrocha

I got an email the other day from my dressage instructor . She is trying to coordinate a few lessons for her students in this area (she travels here from another area once a month). I really need to get with her as it’s been a while since I have had a lesson but in addition to the scheduling, she was asking about my goals for the year and what I have been focusing on. It was perfect timing because for the last week or more, I have stayed close to home with JB, working primarily in our outdoor arena or in our pasture. In the course of doing some initial refresher work in the arena a few weeks back (in the snow) JB ever so kindly reminded me that we have much work to do on a few key things that he didn’t think he had quite down yet. I had to agree with him, he did need a little more work on some things, as did I. If I ever have any hope of doing flying lead changes with JB, I guess I better nip this in the bud and continue to work on getting the lateral work more concrete. If I can get conditioning in alongside of the classroom time, so much the better but we may have to forego the May ride. We’ll see how he progresses. To me it’s more important at this point that JB gets better about suppleness and engagement of the hindquarters = a better ride on the trail later. That I can live with, a horse traveling around on his forehand? Not so much….
Since I find that arena work can become painfully boring I wanted to spice it up a bit. You might have noticed on the sidebar that I have Garrocha listed under JB’s 2009 conditioning schedule. I have decided begin to implement the use of the Garrocha with JB. I was introduced to this last year at Alice Trindle’s clinic when she did a quick demo for us, using Tom’s horse Cassidy, of her newly found skills in the Doma Vaquero traditions and the Garrocha. Being partial to Spanish horses myself, and the traditions that go along with them, I found the Garrocha quite fascinating. In Spain, the Doma Vaquero uses the Garrocha, a 13 ft wooden pole to work the Spanish bulls, but there is a lot more than meets the eye. Leg-yields, half passes, counter canter, rollbacks, stops, flying leads changes , canter pirouette, etc are all elements that are required to master the working the bulls. Hmm, sounds like all the same stuff we are all trying to accomplish with our horses doesn’t it? There are several YouTube videos out there that have some great footage of the “Garrachista” performing in competition if your curious. You will see that they do this with no reins and the horse is cued with only seat, leg and the communication that is required between horse and rider is a wonderful display of horsemanship.
While I don’t think I would ever get to the level of those performing, I found that the Garrocha work offered some key things that would be really helpful in the training with JB and any other horse for that matter. One of the first things that jump out at me is Rhythm, as you work around the garrocha, you can see that the rider and the horse are performing a dance , leg yields become effortless in time; Bending; the pole gives horse and rider something visual to bend around; Timing, you have to be in sync with your horse with your cues as you work around the pole and your horse has to be paying attention to your cues as you turn around and under the pole, the rider even comes into better balance and better posture and lastly but maybe most important is Purpose. The pole suddenly tied the bending exercises to an actual job, something I find really helps keep JB’s mind with me. All of these things are right in line with getting a horse lighter and more responsive.It also seems to force the rider to properly apply seat and leg aids instead of relying on your reins. As a secondary gain, the cues much more clear. It seems to keep the lesson much more interesting than just using barrels or standing objects to turn around. Besides when first learning, it offers a great entertainment source to any bystanders as I fumbled and dropped the pole.
I could see the first thing I had to do before I could teach JB was to teach my self and become somewhat comfortable with managing a 13 foot pole, and at the same time directing my horse and trying not to drop the pole or hit myself or the horse with it.. I am not the most coordinated individual so Tom had a few good laughs as I fumbled around with it. He was kind enough to offer Cassidy to me to start on, since good ol Cass already knew the ropes. I could focus less on my horse and more on me. He was very patient. Tom was nice enough to even snap some photos of our fumbling…

Then I moved on to Rebel. I felt like I was starting to get it….maybe.. There were glimmers of moments where I found myself and my horse in the correct place and balance together. Here we were kind of falling out of sync but when we had it right...What a thrill to feel lightness, willingness and harmony. For glimmers of moments it all came together just right.. Guess we will keep practicing!

This photo was our first attempt at turning back under the pole and change direction.

So, now that I sort of have a sense of what I am doing... JB, may I have this dance?


Stephanie - Siouxzeegirl Designs said...

Hi! I checked out some of the videos on you tube and that is fascinating. I have never seen this before. I can imagine that it would be such a great way to break up the boredom and mix up the routine and get some hi quality work done!! What are you using for your pole? I am always up to learning something new... very intriguing!

Jonna said...

I just went to Home Depot and got a closet pole. Glad you enjoyed the videos. Good luck and let me know how your progress goes.