Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just let go

Tonight was fabulous.

Jessica was running late so we spent a while warming up walking. Just doing lots of turns and walk-halt-walk transitions. When she got there, we were going to do trot poles but then Kieran, as we were moving off, put his head down. And not in the "I want grass!" sort of way, but in the "hmm, I might stretch my neck out and reach for the bit" kind of way. And Jessica was like OMG HE'S DOING IT.

Thus went a several-minute segue into why that was amazing and there needs to be more of it and somehow that got us onto sidepassing (so we used the poles instead as markers for me to sidepass from the middle of one to the middle of the other, looked like this:



That was a slightly frustrating exercise so we broke it down to doing a turn on the forehand a step at a time so I could feel him move his hindquarters (since we're focusing on my leaving the front end alone and pushing his butt around where it needs to be). Still was a bit difficult and after a bunch of repetitions, we could tell Kieran was getting bored and no longer really even trying to pay attention so we moved on to other things.

Thus we went back to last week's exercise of trotting around the triangle, but this time Jessica wanted me to put my reins pretty much on the buckle and use mostly my leg and seat for the turns (I could lift the inside rein to encourage him to turn, but I was supposed to more or less stay off his face).

Something magic happened and Kieran's movement became freer, his head went down, and he really relaxed. Whereas, when I'd take up contact, he'd tense a bit, his movement wasn't as nice, and his nose would poke up and out a bit. Looks like I've got some work to do on how to hold rein contact, eh? Of course first I have to get it back, I suppose, since Jessica wants me to ride most of the time now with as little contact as I can get away with.

For instance, he was fine just sort of trotting around (relaxed, nice rhythm) on a loose rein, but when we started the "extend, shorten" exercise we did last wee, I had to take up more rein because pushing him to extend without it just leads to a very wiggly horse going all over the place and not sure what to do. He actually did better with the shortening bit with me using more seat than hand (probably because he knows "stop" so well and so asking him to shorten is an excuse in his mind to stop).

After we got some decent within-gait transitions going either direction (plus he was doing very well trotting around the turns, yay), Jessica had us canter. Again, more on the rail (but not completely) and same idea, canter around, and at a certain point, push him forward (which mean push with seat, push with legs, and even lower my hands and push them forward a bit), then ask him to come back and around the next turn, easy easy easy\ to get a smaller canter.

We decided he likes doing the bigger cantering, LOL. He was totally down with that. And of course, after he was all, "yay!" we went back to more trotting. Same exercise as before and this time it was much better because he was so perky all of a sudden. And then we asked for that one final "shorten trot, plz" and he gave me (and I totally get what people mean by when they say their horse gives them something because he really did tonight) this lovely little jog that was still forward and just...perfect. On a loose rein, relaxed. There was half a moment where he thought about stopping and I just pushed a little and instead of how he usually jolts forward then, he just kept the same little jog gait. :) Such a nice note to end the lesson on!

Actually, I didn't push him forward so much as do something magical with my body that I can't even verbalize or figure out yet that told him to stay right there. I wish I could because it totally worked and was amazing!

So takeaways:

Just let go of the reins. We really do have to spend a lot of time just going around letting him put his head down to his knees if he wants. Not only is it helping him relax, it should help him build his topline more too.

We'll probably start doing warmups where we do a bit of walking and circles, a couple of trot circles, then do the cantering/handgallpy bit to get him keyed up, then go into the work. Since that's something he finds fun, we'll give him a bit of fun at the beginning of the lesson so he's not having to slog through all the stuff he finds boring to get to the good stuff. Especially since he tends to go so much better after. Jessica also said in general we looked better. Not just him, but me too, and how we were communicating with each other.

I can't explain how it works that way, but it does. I guess we just both relax a bit more after having a fun canter around the ring. :)

So yeah. I'm supposed to work on turns on the forehand, that trotting exercise, and cantering/handgalloping him. Woo. And keeping my reins as loose as I can let them go.

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