Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pony Weekend Wrap Up: Riding in da LESSON!

Cute bay horse. No need to zoom in.
So last week, Redheadlins took a video of C-rage I rocking sucking it up at flatwork. I mean, I knew it wasn't the best ride ever, but I saw the video and HOLY WOW I am not sharing that anywhere y'all might see it. I was riding really badly and so he didn't look great and yeah, best left in the past. I almost cancelled my lesson because I was so embarrassed by how badly I was riding, but that seemed counter-intuitive.

Lesson screen shot!
Instead I ripped out to the barn in record time after dawdling at the tack store, slipped into my new boots, chucked the ecogold pad on Courage, and started our warmup. We already looked about 100% better (I think) by the time our instructor showed up. I explained to her that I was unsatisfied with my level of riding lately.

She watched us for a minute and said, "Well, you look way better than last time I saw you, so whatever you're doing is working."

Of course, she immediately followed that up with an ongoing laundry list for us to work on.

  • I am a long torso-ed person with long arms, so I need to keep my reins really short. I try to cheat and have long reins by dropping my hands and widening my elbows and any number of strange nonsensical habits. 
    • To fix this, she reminded me to ride with my elbows by my sides and slightly in front of my torso. Not only does this help with keeping a solid connection and straight line from elbow to bit, but it also engages the front of my core and helps me sit more correctly, which makes my aids more effective. 
  • We moved on to leg yields on a circle. I can get Courage to wiggle around each direction, but I don't have solid control of his hips and shoulder and he tends to be tight through his body, so the lateral work will definitely help us.
    • To fix us, she had me focus on just moving his hips in and out a few steps at a time. I had to wait until I felt his legs crossing underneath me, then immediately reward him and go straight a few steps. He was already starting to get the idea when we moved on to...
It's an old picture, but he's still cute.
  • Leg yields down the wall.
    • This was a whole new concept for us, but the idea is to let the wall check his forward progress so he is forced to listen to my leg and move sideways. She warned that this is very mentally hard, especially for green horses, so we are supposed to do it every session but only a couple times each direction. 
  • Then we trotted. Trotting is not always the best for us. 
    • She had me focus on holding my hands level, no matter what. As soon as I drop either hand, Courage twists his head and gets fussy. He also is struggling with the concept of bending through his rib cage, which makes serpentines difficult. In her words, we need to "make his sandbox bigger". I need to widen my hands and add a lot of leg to emphasize forward without making him feel trapped. 
  • Cantering was fun too. 
    • We cantered a circle in each end that was as small as he was physically able to deal with, then as we headed down the long side, I pushed my hands forward and let him learn to take me forward on a bigger stride. The idea was just to let him roll along because if I ask him for more forward at this point, he tends to get tense in his underline. 
  • Downward transitions. I know I said we've had a couple ok ones, but they're pretty consistently bad and I still wasn't really getting through to him. 
    • She pointed out that at this point, the little man just doesn't physically know how to use his body in a downward transition. He's not trying to be bad, but he doesn't have the slightest idea of what I'm asking or that it's even possible. We're trying a new strategy--every single downward transition is on a tiny circle right now. It gives me enough leverage to help him and the actual movement should help him start to figure out what it's like to do a transition without tensing his entire underline and sticking his head straight up. 
He's always been a jump jump horse. What is this "race" thing?
Whew!! I know that's a massive info dump, but it's really good information that I wanted to remember and I know some of you are in similar training places, so hey, it might be useful. 

I hopped of Courage, hosed him down, and jetted out of the barn. It was noon, but I was off to the races!!


  1. All I can say is that I'm glad you're blogging about this period of not-feeling-good-but-actually-making-progress, because in probably a few short months you're going to look back and realize how far you've come, and you'll wake up one morning and suddenly realize his downward canter transitions are amazing. You guys are going so well and progressing so fast!

  2. You guys are definitely progressing fast, and not so great rides are just part of the process. He's such a handsome boy!

  3. Thanks for sharing your notes - very helpful - Definitely going to use the downward transition circles.

  4. Love a good lesson like that! Sounds like you got some really good feedback.

  5. Nice! Lots of different exercises to work on during your practice rides. And for me to try too! Vicarious lesson-ing via blogspot...

  6. I have the same problem right now: as my trainer changed my posture I completely lost my feeling for good and bad, wrong or right... It is so helpful to have somebody watching you and telling you that you are doing fine! Even though you don't feel like! Great progress :)

  7. Great notes, I think I can use some of them with Charlie (who also needs to "widen his sandbox")...I also agree with the others that you'll be glad you blogged about the not-so-great times when you can look back in a few months

  8. very useful information, thanks!

  9. Lol I'm the opposite- short little arms! I always end up leaning forward... :\ glad you had a great lesson- I've been following you guys on facebook, he's really coming along great!

  10. Sounds like a great lesson. Using the lateral exercises in your downwards will help too so you don't always need to do a full circle.

  11. It's always nice to get the chance to communicate concerns with your trainer and get great feedback!
    And I agree- love that you're sharing and blogging- a great journal for later!

  12. I love the info dump! Also blogging is our way of keeping track of these things and remembering them so no need at all to apologize. :) I'm glad you had a good lesson and learned things to help you out.

  13. Its very good information right there!! We all have bad rides - try not to let it get you down. You guys are progressing heaps :)


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