Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thewifedoesntknow Training Blog: Week 5

Trainer Carole Davison and Thewifedoesntknow share a sweet and relaxing moment together before she is bridled for the day's ride
Part 6 in a weekly series of training blogs about Thewifedoesntknow, a Thoroughbred mare made famous by a viral YouTube video and who is now in training to be a show hunter with New Jersey-based trainer Carole Davison.

Summertime fun is not without its occasional minor perils. Thewifedoesntknow, aka The Wife, aka Ally-Gator, earned herself a mini-vacation from training when she got bitten behind her withers by some sort of giant New Jersey bug. A protective fly sheet, some soothing ointment, and a few days off from riding were just what the doctor ordered, and Ally's training is back on track.

Liz Davison, Carole's 16-year-old daughter, rode Ally for this week's photo session. In addition to assisting in Ally's training, Liz currently competes in jumper classes with Suzie (Dance All Nite Jess), another talented chestnut Thoroughbred mare in Carole's barn. Riding jumpers requires catlike reflexes and the ability to maintain a horse's impulsion and balance throughout an entire course of jumps. When I watched Liz ride, it was clear that the time she spends in the jumper classes also helps her to work with green horses like Ally.
With soft hands and a steady, textbook leg, Liz rode Ally in a slightly looser frame than her mother Carole does. When they trotted and cantered, I saw the results of the past few weeks of Carole's hard work: Ally is learning how to relax her topline and engage her hind end. For the first few weeks, Carole encouraged Ally to stretch her neck down and out and learn how to reach for the bit. Contact was sometimes inconsistent as Ally learned how to stretch and trot. Now that she has built up more muscle in her engine, she is capable of more self-carriage and she is quite comfortable in a slightly more advanced frame. She is still asked to stretch frequently during rides, but she is also capable of seeking contact and maintaining it for longer stretches of time at both the trot and canter.
Below is a short video clip of Liz's trot work with Ally. I shot the video at the end of the ride, and shows Ally's comfort with her rider, as well as a good example of her current trot work.

During their canter work, Liz rode Ally at a slightly more forward pace than I have seen before. Liz's confidence and light seat allowed Ally to focus and produce a rhythmic, swinging canter. The quality of the mare's gaits improves with each week of training.
Once Ally was warmed up, she and Liz worked on some more advanced schooling. They trotted a line-diagonal-line-diagonal "course" of trot poles, which is excellent prep work for her jumping training. Over the poles, Ally was forward and tidy with her feet.
After their trot pole work, Carole coached Liz through the first few steps of training a turn on the forehand. Carole placed emphasis on asking correctly and slowly, rather than rushing through the exercise. It is better to get a few steps of a correct turn on the forehand than it is to get a dozen sloppy steps. To the right and to the left, the turn on the forehand schooling was a success.

While Liz cooled the mare out, she was all smiles and Ally seemed quite happy with her rider. In this family, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree- like her mother, Liz has the tact, talent, and confidence to train Thoroughbreds off the track and help them blossom in their second careers.

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