Friday, June 27, 2008

Slowing Down

Sometimes I get the best results when I do a lot of thinking about my ride before I actually get on.

Surprise, surprise.

Last night was my weekly flat lesson. First I rode Chaucer, who I am fairly convinced had a (small, low-watted) lightbulb go on in his head at the schooling show last weekend. Now all of a sudden when I school on the flat with him, he's reaching into the contact, bringing his back up, and swinging in a nice, powered-from-the-butt trot. I can literally see the base of his neck getting fatter as he lifts it up instead of poking his nose straight out. Of course this doesn't happen all the time, and I was laughing sometimes because it's so hard to coordinate the forward leg, the bending-into-the-corners leg, the bend-to-the-inside squeeze and release with the inside rein, and the gentle half-halt squeeze with reins and body. Not all at once, of course, but it's a challenge to hold it all together. I keep getting glimpses of it though, and I'm practically drooling.

On McKinna I was talking to my trainer and wanted to try something new regarding her annoyingly persistent canter issue -- she just has a really hard time relaxing and going smoothly, from the transition onwards and even in the trot after. Anyway, the other day I spent a good 20 minutes in nice, relaxed walk warmup, doing gentle bending and a lot of listening to leg, relaxing down into the bit. I then did some trotting to reinforce the same lessons, always emphasizing relaxation. Then I asked her to pick up the canter. Once. It was a beautiful transition and a fairly good canter.
We cantered around the arena once, brought it back to a relaxed trot, brought it back to a relaxed walk, schooled the walk for a bit, and called it good.
Awhile back we tried to muscle through her canter anxiety by just doing it. Warm up, get a nice trot, pick up the canter, back to a trot, get her mostly relaxed, back up to canter, and just keep doing it. Lots of figure-8s and circles and short diagonals.
Well, that worked for getting her the cantering experience, comfortable with leads, and so on. But she was still just anxious about the canter.
So now it's time to take it slow. I realized this because I've been thinking a lot about how much of a sensitive, thinking horse she is, and how much she wants to get things right, so that she only gets more and more anxious about the canter when we keep doing it. I was not setting her up for success by doing it that way, though she did gain some valuable experience. Now I'm going to be showing her that it's not a big deal, and when she does it right, we'll leave it alone.

My lesson on her was fantastic, by the way. I got some of the most beautiful walking I have ever gotten from her and some damn nice trot too. I really feel like we're getting somewhere.


ezra_pandora said...

I think I just realized this with my mare too. When she lopes, she goes full force and then heaven forbid you should want her to WALK afterwards!! lol. She's getting better with work, and I actually did just what you talked about yesterday. I just got on her and instead of work work work the whole time, we actually just took a day and did a nice slow relaxed walk the whole time. I just worked on steering and getting her to move off of my leg and also with neck reining. I think she was confused, like what? no jogging? No loping? what's going on here? But she was liking it at the end, that's for sure. And she did extremely well. She didn't try to take off after we stopped and backed. Nothing. It was really really nice.

manymisadventures said...

That's great! I love that feeling when you change things up a little, and you can feel them perk up and wonder what's going on. I like that reaction -- that attitude of "Hmm, this is interesting, what are we going to do next?" instead of "OMG ARE WE GOING TO CANTER??"

I've spent the last several lessons working on relaxation at the walk and trot, and it has paid off in a major way. She's giving me way more focus and contact at the walk than she ever has, her trot is getting better and better, and we don't spend the whole ride fighting each other. I am reintroducing the canter bit by bit, and so far it's really working to keep her calm.

I'd encourage you to go with what you're doing and see where it takes you. Do you ever do trails with her? Keep me updated on how it's going!

ezra_pandora said...

Unfortunately I was going to spend this whole holiday weekend riding and our whole barn got flooded :(( We spent all friday morning trying to help clear some of the water out. The outdoor arena may dry up in a day or two (wishful thinking) but the indoor was about 1/3 flooded with no sign of much of it going down yesterday afternoon :(. So my mare is going to have at least 5 days of down time. This is not going to be good.

That aside, my trainer had advised not letting her go too long without being ridden (not much I can do about that now though) and to try to make sure to lope her each time I ride or she won't continue to learn or will start forgetting because she hasn't done it that much. So, I'm trying my best, but really, I've only loped her about 3 or 4 times in the month and 1/2 that I've had her on my own :( but shhh, don't tell the trainer. lol. The last time he came out, he said he could see a difference in her from the last time he was out, so I must be doing something right :) I keep thinking of doing a blog too, but mine would so not be anywhere as interesting as yours, mugwumps or VLC's. I love reading all of everyone's blogs and hoping someday I will be where you all are :)

I havn't done trails yet. I'm kind of a little scared to. lol. I actually havn't even ridden her outside of the indoor or outdoor arenas. My girl is really spooky still, but at the strangest things. My husband and I walked her and our other mare (22 year old been there done that type) out in the paths cut in the hayfields and boy was she super energized just in that walk. My trainer said the best time to do it would be one day when it's kind of hot and humid and after I've already worked her. He said I might have better luck ON her than trying to just walk her because I'll have some control. She's already shown me she won't try to stomp me or run away if I do fall off (we took a little roll/spill about 2 months ago. She just stood up and looked at me until I caught my breath and got up :). I'm just still a little nervous. She's really my first horse and although I've had her for 4 1/2 years now (she's 7), we just trained her and she's only been ridden for about 4 months now. lol

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