Monday, June 2, 2014

A Study in Forward 1: Lesson

What can he be the best at today?
Lest you think I am completely insane, here's a better write up of our lesson from Thursday. It wasn't all deer leaps and craziness.

We started out trotting through 6 poles set 2.5' apart. If that sounds really short to you, well, it is. The idea was that the spacing between the poles would teach the horses to compress their strides and the number of poles would make the riders actually have to plan ahead.

I'll be honest. I was really impressed that not one single time did Courage leap the poles. That was his MO last year. Hooray for starting to grow up! It was a really interesting exercise because I had to determine the right balance to bring him in with, then figure out how to maintain it without pulling on him. The first three poles were easy, the last three not so much. We did end up nailing it each direction, but it's an exercise I'd love to set again and play with.

Then we progressed to three canter poles. These were to encourage a longer stride while keeping the balance up and bouncy. Not gonna lie, we pretty much rocked them. I felt like a total badass in the saddle. I was like "Courage, go forward! I'm balanced with my leg on!" and he was all "HELLZ YEAH I AM THE BEST AT CANTER POLES!!!"

Of course, then came the grid. It was nearly identical to the one we did in our last lesson with S, except it was a canter in instead of a trot in.

quack quack
We started out with a simple rail to an X. Courage was completely unimpresed. I focused on riding positively to the line, giving with my hands, and keeping my chest up.

You'd be surprised how hard it is to give your hands and not duck your chest. Maybe it's just me?

Anyways. C-rage was being a little rock star. We were cantering in and making some tight turns going to the line and I was THRILLED with how he was able to handle his balance and stay connected through all that. He couldn't have done it two weeks ago.

Our instructor is really big on horses being adjustable. Any time you go to approach the jump, she wants the horse in a place where you are able to send them forward or bring them back at a moment's notice without breaking gait.

Again, I was really happy with how responsive Courage was. He's not all there, not yet, but we had one moment where I was doing a prep circle before going to the exercise and I closed my leg and he just ZOOMED. Go go baby horse!! Obviously (to anyone who read Friday's post) it's not a confirmed response yet, but it's coming along.

I was really pleased with how Courage was able to use his neck and body over the lower jumps. He definitely understood the exercise and was busy being the best at it.

We moved the second jump up to a good sized (for him) vertical, and the little man was still quite debonair. He was straight and committed to the line and forward and rideable. All good things.

Which brings us to explaining the epic deer leaping shots. Once we added the back rail to the oxer, Courage was trying SO HARD to BE THE BEST at... whatever... that he slowed down to look at the question and didn't erspond when I put my leg on. He deer leaped the first time and kind of scared himself. He deer leaped even harder the second time because if it didn't work once, try even harder next time, right?

I totally sympathize with that mindset. Overachiever problems.

We dropped the back rail and added a placing pole on the far side to make the question easier for him.

Jump inspection! Thanks to horselessinhalifax
Then he tried to stop at the X and run out at the vertical.

He wasn't naughty, he was just worried and not understanding how to use his body to answer the question. We were giving him all the tools, but he isn't quite broke enough on the flat for me to tell him how to do it and he's too green over fences to figure it out on his own.

So we made the question even easier. I brought him back to the vertical at the walk and my trainer dropped it to a ground pole. We hop/walked out.

Then she raised it to half a cross rail.

Courage was still unsure and very wiggly, which is uncharacteristic of him. I let him trot in/canter out a few times until he felt more comfortable and confident.

Finally, he started taking me to the jump again. Bold expression, going forward.

We talked about needing to build his comfort zone by starting with easy things, then doing hard things, then doing easy things. He needs to finish every session feeling like King Kong, but he can't always stay there or it will be hard to progress, basically.

Still. We've made a ton of progress in the past few weeks. The fact that I don't consistently ride him forward and he isn't confirmed moving off my leg yet... was just going to bite us in the ass again. Hard.

To be continued...


  1. It's so easy at this stage to overload their baby brains. What I discovered at the first event with Riley was that he was just not ready for ALL of it. It would have been preferable to do a little CT first, but we went for it anyway. This weekend I jumped him through his first gymnastic with me and second ever and he was brave, forward and focused. He's gaining confidence every ride and it's so important that you make them feel good about themselves. The TBs really thrive on that! You guys are such an inspiration!

  2. Awww, C-rage is the bestest! me some open-fronts :)

  3. He is getting better and better at being the best! Everything takes time and practice and you are doing a great job with it!

  4. Awesome! I'm guilty of ducking... When I don't duck, my hands get stuck... Coach says, "Try to touch your elbows under your boobs!"
    Sure enough, it actually makes a difference! LOL

  5. Courage is the best at being the best! :)

  6. Oh yes, I now hear my jump trainer in my head on the approach to every jump, "shoulders baaaack!" But the hands...and then the shoulders...ahhhh, separating body parts, so hard!

    Sounds like great progress though -- Encore did the same thing when the oxers got bigger. He clobbered one and scared himself, bless his generous heart. We broke it down to ground pole and did the same thing y'all did until he was like, "ohhhhh, ok, I get it now!" Apparently having four legs gets very confusing sometimes, keeping track of them ALL AT ONCE!

  7. Evil, evil to be continued!!!! Evil!!! I'm glad he's figuring out leg = forward. That's the biggest things babies need to learn hehe. Can't wait for the next installment.

  8. Great post and great break down of the lesson :)

  9. Ending a lesson on a good not is a confidence builder for both horse and human!


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