Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Compass - A Versatile Obstacle

At Raising The Baar Farm, we are dedicated to approaching the horse's training in ways that help the horses to become Smarter, Calmer, Braver and More Athletic. The vision is to help the horses advance in the most natural way possible by making the most of each session, environment and through daily stimulation. This often means setting up a natural environment where the horses learn to physically balance while traveling on hills, interacting with and without other horses, traveling on differing terrain and through altering schedules. With this as a daily part of the routine the horses grow not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. They become more balanced individuals, better able to cope and learn in the environments they are put into. Part of the development of each horse includes learning obstacles to advance their mental, emotional and physical being. An obstacle that has been getting a lot of attention recently is our "Compass". It was designed to help horses and riders at multiple levels with varying degrees of challenges available to the leader. It has since become a staple in the training program with most horses and students playing 1-3x/week at The Compass.

Here are some but not all of the ways to use The Compass:

Circling On Line:
The human stands in the middle (on or in a tire), this helps the human keep their feet still while the horse figures out the puzzle being asked. The human then picks the puzzle to be solved:
Walking logs
Trotting poles
Canter Cavaletti
10 meter circle
15 meter circle
20 meter circle
Sideways away or towards, over or on front of
And then the gait:

Next the human adjusts the length of rope accordingly and carries on with the session, rewarding when the horse makes an improvement towards the goal. The goal can be whatever you choose that is applicable for your horse and their stage of development, examples of goals I usually pick:
Horse new to The Compass - Rhythm at walk, then trot
After 2-5x at the Compass - Seeking the walk poles
After 2-5x at the Compass - Seeking the 10 meter circle at walk
After 2-5x at The Compass - Seeking 15 meter circle as walk and trot
5-7x - Rhythm at canter at 20 meter circle

Advanced Horses - Seeking the trot poles, seeking the canter bounce
- Canter on 15 meter circle
- Canter on 10 meter circle

Circling while riding:
The Compass is also a great obstacle for riding advancement. Again, the rider has the choice of riding a 10 meter, a 15 meter or a 20 meter circle. With any of these options the visual line of the circle is clearly defined by the spaces between the poles, which helps ad clarity to horse and rider. It is an excellent way to get horses and riders accustomed to riding in larger spaces with a clear and specific focus.
An advanced rider can take advantage of the walk, trot and canter poles to test their steering while negotiating obstacles. This is also an opportunity to help your horse physically become stronger and more balanced. 
For variety the poles can also be ridden in a reverse turning cloverleaf, offering straight lines and turning in addition to precision.

In addition to circles, squeeze, and friendly games, the Compass can also be used for yo-yo and sideways.
Yo-Yo On Line:
Use the 'pie slice" (the space between two sets of close poles) as a guide for the straightness and ending point of your yo-yo game. It also works as a great confidence building squeeze game. If the logs you have arranged are not too large you can change your angle and ask your horse backwards over the logs.
Sideways On Line:
Use the front of the logs as a guide while sending your horse sideways, this is ideally achieved with you staying in the center so that you can work on your distance from your horse. For the advanced horse you can also add sideways towards.
In addition you can ask your horse sideways over the logs.

Riding Yo-yo and Sideways:
Of course these above exercises can also be completed while riding.

In short those are just a few of the things that you can do with a horse and The Compass, it is proving to be one of the most versatile obstacles for horses and humans, of all levels, on the farm. If you decide to add one to your facility, I hope you enjoy the endless possibilities, as we have!
-Kathy Baar