Training Cobra ~ Stretching

Today I rode Cobra for the first time, he is a mustang that Marsha trained and competed in the Extreme Mustang Makeover competition. Cobra is fairly big for a mustang and quite balanced. He is fun to ride and has three very good gaits, lots of overtrack at the walk, good reach at the trot and easy collection at the canter. I have been working with Marsha on Cobra and she would like him to feel more adjustable and relaxed in his back/neck. My goal was to get him to stretch and reach down in the trot and keep his back lifted in transitions, especially down transitions where he tends to hollow. Since it was my first time on Cobra I did a lot of free walk, testing his reactions to my body and too see what his energy was like. He likes to work and sometimes tries to trot off at the free walk, especially during the middle of the ride once he is warmed up and focused. However, once he is relaxed his walk is excellent. In the trot I let him go fairly forward and worked on encouraging him to stretch long and low. I used my post to encourage his back to lift and never blocked him with the reins. It was always a push of my seat to a releasing rein, just little touches here and there to encourage him to reach down. He did progress to a nice trot stretch and I was able to shorten my reins enough to have him round but still low. I could feel that if he came any shorter or higher in his neck that the impulsion starts to shut down and he gets a negative feeling in his back. At these moments I would cluck and let him stretch back down a little more. We did some canter transitions through the trot to keep him loose and to work on throughness. Walk to canter transitions are usually easier on the rider but trot to canter can really help a horse loosen up his back in the warm-up. The rider has to have precise timing and good balance, otherwise the horse may hollow and brace. Cobra has a wonderful canter and I was able to lift his back from my seat while also letting his neck drop lower and relaxed. He is a lovely little horse and I hope to ride him again soon! He will be competing in an Intercollegiate Dressage Association show next weekend and needs some work for his trot chew-downs for Training Level. Hopefully we can get those consistent before then! Remember that your chew-downs are a coefficient of 2! In an IDA show the horses are ridden by random riders so this tests a horse's ride-ability. It is a great testimonial that Marsha can use her mustang in a competition like this where safety is the main priority.