Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ooh I'm Sore...

I hauled McKinna to take a lesson with a local trainer last night. She gives lessons for Pony Club once a week. Surprisingly I was the only one there last night, but hey, one-on-one instruction is cool! I'm pretty sore today (an hour and a half of riding is a LOT when you've only been back in the saddle for a couple weeks) but it was an awesome lesson.

Poor McKinna was pretty tired by the end, too. Trainer worked us hard!

I took home a lot of things to work on, though. We had a lot of dialogue going on during the whole lesson (thank goodness I can talk and ride at the same time!) and she just gave me a lot of information, which was awesome.

So, my things to work on at home:

1. Asking her to give me more in terms of contact and self-carriage. We are at a bit of a plateau right now where she will relax forward and move in a steady, calm rhythm, but I haven't pushed for that next step. I need to ask when things are going well, work on it for a little while, then move on to something else.

2. Cantering. A lot! It sure was illustrated how weak our canter work was last night. She had us cantering big circles and gradually smaller ones, which I knew I should work on, but I had no idea how much that could help. It really forces her to get her butt under herself, and she was having an awfully hard time holding her canter on those smaller circles. With a few weeks of work on that, I'd bet money that her canter will be astronomically different.

3. Possibly try tiny little spurs. As we jumped a small course at the end of the lesson, the trainer noticed that McKinna way dropped her shoulder to the outside when we came around a corner. She said using little spurs just might help her pick herself up. Once she locks on to the fence she's fine, but she tends to lose it before then. This one I may try, but I think that the canter-strengthening work will help, so we'll see how that works first.

The jumping part went very well. McKinna was steady, smooth, and found her own distances every time. We definitely turned a corner in that regard.

All in all it was a great lesson. It definitely made me realize that I don't work my horses hard enough. I work until we get going well, do a little work at that level, and then call it good. As the trainer pointed out, that's better than the alternative, which is to work and work and work until the horse is fried.

So I've decided to start asking for a little more in my schooling sessions. When it's going well, push for the next step before I back off. When I'm doing canter work with McKinna, do it longer and ask her to work harder before I let her take a break.

Today is a schooling ride on Pandora, but I will try the cantering circles with McKinna tomorrow.


Londoner said...

I understand you, I think..I've reached a plateau now with my horse, where he can perform a half-decent dressage test (flying changes etc) and I can get him round a showjump/XC course, but unless we get some lessons we're never going to really progress.
It's hard to summon up the enthusiasm though, when you know the more you advance, the more walls you are going to hit and have to fight through.
I've just read through your entire back catalogue (stuck at home ill)and thats terrible about Bailey, I'm really sorry. Still, sounds as though McKinna and you have a great partnership.

manymisadventures said...

Yep. Most of the time, though, I just keep on truckin' -- I want to get better and it's worth it.

Our band director in jazz band used to talk to us about something similar. When you're working on the basics, improvement comes pretty easily. You put in 100% and get 50% improvement. But once you are doing well, you're focusing on small details that make the whole thing - in this case, matching articulations, everyone listening across the band, whatever. She always used to say that to get from 90% to 100% would take more effort than it took to get there in the first place. It's that last 10% that gets you!

I was sad to hear Bailey go, but as I mentioned, we made a difference in each others' lives and that's all I can ask for. And yes, McKinna and I have a good partnership, on the good days ;)

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