Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Light Bulb Lesson

If only I could be writing as I ride. During each ride I have I compose little blogs in my head, noting everything my trainer tells me, everything my horse does, every aid I give..and then I dismount and promptly forget to write it all down. By the time I remember, it’s a day later and seems irrelevant in light of the latest ride…and the cycle repeats. So today as I was composing a blog during my flat lesson, I decided I WOULD remember to write it down…so here goes.

On my solo rides I’ve been having trouble getting Pop to soften and let go of the right rein. This is something we’ve worked on extensively, as he has a tendency to go with his hips to the right, thus not activating his right hind, which equals a horse who leans on the bridle. Riding him has really helped me to see that the hind end MUST be doing its job in order for the front end to accept contact. If he’s not going forward and using himself, he’s heavy in my hands. If he’s activated behind and really letting go in his back, he’s beautifully light and balanced. So we’ve practiced hundreds (no, thousands) of canter/halt transitions, trot/halt transitions, walk/trot transitions, and lots of rein-back too…to make him more responsive to my leg and letting go in his jaw. We’ve done leg yields, we’ve done shoulder-ins, we’ve counterbended, we’ve practicing moving the haunches out on a circle….and yet I was still having issues with that right rein. Complaining to C about it yesterday, I explained that he just felt like he wouldn’t let go, no matter what I did, how much I moved the haunches, how much I felt like I was flexible in my elbows. So he agreed to ride him (he usually does get on him once a week) and of course Pop was fabulous. Ever want to be humbled? Ride with someone who was short listed for the Olympics.

So today I started by trying a different saddle. As I explained in my last post, my Kieffer wasn’t doing my already preciously-huntery position any favors, and I slide around in it a lot. So I opted for C’s beautiful brown Devocoux monoflap dressage saddle, with a big more thigh block (but not much) and a slightly deeper seat. Then I mounted and headed for the arena, asking for a good walk right off the bat. I asked him to move his haunches right, then left, all the while keeping him forward and soft in my hands. C came out and we picked up a trot, and he stayed soft to the left with a slight counterbend to the right (to contradict the fact he likes to put his haunches right), but when we changed direction and started baby leg yields he got stiff in his jaw and hanging on that right rein. Then the light bulbs started coming on…


Ohh…you mean I’m part of the problem? Go figure *blushes*. With that in mind, remembering to not hold the rein longer than a second and to keep his haunches completely straight, as well as practicing transitions and even transitions within the trot and canter, we ended up having a super lesson. By the end our halt/canter transitions were dead on and he stayed soft in my hands. We still had some issues with haunches going right, especially in medium canter down the longside, but on the whole it was much better. I feel like this was a big issue we’ve been having, especially at shows…when I go in the ring, he gets tough and resistant in my hands, and I spend the whole time arguing with his mouth instead of riding my test. Now that I realize what *I* have to do to help the problem, and have lots of tools (transitions, changes of pace, rein back, shoulder in, haunches in, leg yield), I feel a little better about tackling our next test.

I also have to remember to SIT UP. My shoulders love to curl. As soon as I tip forward, so does Pop, and he’s on his forehand hanging on my hands again. I have to remember to always ride his shoulders UP which will also help him have a longer stride. I’ve learned that if a horse is on their forehand, their stride cannot come out of the shoulders and forward. You have to open up their shoulders and bring them up in front of you to achieve full length of stride. And on a horse who has a smaller stride, like Pop, this is very important; especially in the stadium ring, with lots of related distances.

It looks like we will be attempting another Training CT next weekend at the Horse Park, which will be great practice before Pine Top the following weekend. I can’t WAIT to go cross-country again! I was watching some of the Novice XC video on Eventing Nation last night and I am ready to rock on!

Hope you all are having a wonderful Hump Day! God Bless!

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