Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Lesson in GA!

Had my first lesson in Georgia tonight. Gosh, it's been since, like...the end of May/very beginning of June since I had a lesson. I totally needed it. As I told Jessica (new instructor), at the end of the lesson: we've been riding, but...I do just sort of get on and ride around for a while and then we're done. It's nice to have someone there with a plan in mind of what she wants to see (and explain how to do it) and to tell me, "no, you can push him to do more than that!" :)

Anyway, today's lesson was a sort of "getting to know you" deal and ran a bit long (expected to). First, she had us start off simply by walking and warming up, then she asked me to do a couple of circles, any size I wanted, and watched what we did and asked me to explain what I was doing to ask for the circle and why. Basically, I was wiggling my inside rein (don't really have to pull, wiggling my ring finger usually works) and nudging with my inside leg. Apparently it wasn't that pretty, LOL.

So she talked about how circles are actually really difficult to do well and you really have to ride them actively and also once you've got a horse that really understands leg and seat aids, the reins can be pretty superfluous. She talked about how I needed to be a more active rider in general but that a good circle you really have to ride actively (not like...moving a lot just... being engaged? Directing the horse? Uh, I'll keep explaining what she said, I wish I had recorded it!). Like, inside shoulder back, inside leg and inside seatbone really on and pushing to encourage that inside hind leg to cross over and that I should use my outside leg back a little to control speed and shape of the circle. Still figuring that one out but I sort of get it. Hands, she said, just really control where the shoulders go but legs control everything behind the girth and everything starts back there with the horse pushing from behind and that's what we need to work on, more leg, less hand.

After that, she had us start trotting and she said she wanted me to sing aloud, "how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood" in the same rhythm that I was posting. The idea being that my posting should dictate Kieran's trot rhythm and not the other way around and the "wood chuck" thing helps keep me focused on the rhythm I want. It was a bit rough at first, because he did want to sort of go slooooow, speed up!, go sloooww....and not really keep a consistent rhythm but we did get some nice trotting done in there. And once we got something consistent, then she had me ask for a turn, remembering the stuff we'd talked about with the circles at the walk and still, you know, keeping rhythm. And there it all fell apart. Hah. So we did it again a couple times until we got it and then started over the other direction.

Oh yeah, she also said for now when trotting, not to really worry what he was doing with his head or directing him too much with the reins, just to focus on getting the rhythm I want with my posting and getting it to be consistent.

We also talked about figuring out what gets him interested because right now she says he looks like he's just kind of going along and not really paying a lot of attention to me or caring about what we're doing. Not sour, just not interested. Also that his issues with picking up his feet properly may stem more from that boredom than anything else, since when we get him engaged and active....a lot of that magically disappears.

Then she had us get back into a nice working trot and told me to pick a spot to ask for the canter. First time was going to the right and he gave me a really great transition and a lovely, uphill sort of canter. It actually felt slow but Jessica said he's got a big stride and was really eating up the ground (didn't feel that way though! Maybe I'm just used to a more rushy canter). Anyway, I was all, "wow! That was great!" and we talked about the difference between that and when he canters more on the forehand and kind of dragging himself along. The difference this time, she said, was that I did have him in a nice forward trot and really pushing with his hind end and ready to go so that when I asked for the canter, she could see him really using his back end and pushing off into a nice canter.

So then she asked if I wanted to end on that note or try cantering the other way. I wanted to go the other way too. Hah.

The left has always been a little more difficult to get a good canter out of him. So this time the first one wasn't that great and I don't remember much about it because I remember the second try more. That one, he kicked out right after the transition (rather like the video down below somewhere) and Jessica growled at him for me, I just pushed him to keep cantering. She said for a minute she wasn't sure I actually felt it since I stayed right in the saddle, hah but that I should have really got after him so he knew it wasn't acceptable, instead of just sitting up there and being like, "it's okay, just keep going".

Anyway, we did it one final time and then we got a decent transition (it was late and I did have to get after him there to Just Canter, dammit! with a smack with the crop) but then a good canter most of the way around the ring and when he started faltering, I was able to just push with my seat and squeeze with my legs and he kept moving till I asked him to stop. He wasn't tired (he wasn't even breathing hard, there were a lot of walk breaks in between stuff since we spent time talking about what we were doing and why and what we'd done before), just lazy, I think.

So, all in all, it was a good, productive lesson. I'm happy with it and we've got some homework: active circles and rhythm (oh yeah, she sang "row row row your boat" for the canter). Next week, Jessica says she'll set up patterns with the ground poles for us (and we'll see if that gets Kieran more interested in what's happening, hah).

Couple more things that were mentioned in the lesson:

Jessica says cantering's easy, once you get a really good walk and trot.

I talked about him really trotting out on the trail on Sunday and how he felt like he was ready to canter if I just asked and she said that's what a really good working trot ought to feel like, with them moving out and ready to do whatever you ask. That's not a feeling I've gotten out of him often. ;) His "working trot" has typically been rather more sedate.

Talked about turning my leg out a bit more so I'm not holding my knees so close to the saddle. (Maybe not really "turning out" since it was more about opening at my hip and getting my calf on but my toes weren't really turned out or anything. Ugh. I think that will require video so I can see what I'm doing.)

Here's hoping I can work in some real riding time between now and next week. I pretty much have either Wednesday or Thursday and that's it. And one of those days I have to clean house since I have a friend flying in late Thursday night and staying until Tuesday afternoon. Doubt she'll want to go out to the farm with me every day and sit around in the sun and watch me ride, LOL.

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