Friday, October 2, 2009

Tangible Progress

I love it when you can feel that you and your horse are making progress.

The other day I was riding - and I didn't feel much like riding for long, which is usually true after a school day - and I got to have one of those rare, "HOLY COW I CAN FEEL THE IMPROVEMENT" moments. (I ended up riding for longer.)

You know all the lateral work I've been doing? Maybe not. I've been working my (and consequently Pandora's) butt off. Slowly but surely, I've refined my control. Lots of turn on the forehand, both still and in motion. Turn on the haunches. A slowly growing understanding that inside leg back behind the girth plus a restraining outside rein/leg means move just the haunches over. Leg yields, back and forth and all over the place. Overbending, counterbending, regular bending. Spiraling in and out on circles. Transitions on a circle holding the correct bend firmly in place.

Lots of work.

But I have been so, so rewarded for it. Maybe I learn to pay more attention as I spend more time training Pandora and recording it in her training log - maybe it's just that it's the first time in a long time I have put in a concentrated dressage effort on one particular issue. Either way, I've been noticing true improvement, and this week I got a big one.

My leg yields have finally started to go through her back.

It doesn't sound big. But I never noticed just how much she was resisting me in her back and hips until she stopped resisting so much. Everything swings freely, or at least more freely than before. Her hind leg is actually crossing over, her body's remaining aligned (no diving on the outside shoulder), and she's not resisting with her neck either. It feels good.

Even at the trot, she is starting to let go. It's harder for her - she wants to speed up when I make her take big enough steps with that inside hind - but she is starting to get it. Give me another week or two and we'll have swingy, relaxed trot leg-yields too.

I know leg-yields are nowhere near the be-all and end-all of lateral work. They're not. But both the psychological and physical progress I can make with them is extremely valuable. She's learning to be more supple through her hips and back. She's learning that there are specific requests coming from my leg - sometimes I want the haunches over, sometimes the whole body, sometimes the shoulders.

I can move her haunches over with a very light cue now - another thing I have never had before.

It's so nice when you can tell, really tell, in an objective, measurable sense, that you're making progress.

To further test this, I'm going to try the "turn on the forehand in motion" exercise I mentioned very briefly in this post that caused the two of us so much frustration the night I tried it. She could not - or would not - do it. At all.

I bet that when I try it tonight, she'll be successful. I bet you that in the one month since we tried the exercise, we've made enough physical and mental progress to change her response.

I'm curious to find out. If she can do it, I will have an even stronger confirmation that we are on the right track.


RuckusButt said...

Wow, sounds really great! Sure, leg-yields might not be the fanciest of movements, but I think they open the door to learning more advanced movements, don't they? The way I see it, if you get that right then you have a good foundation to build on. You've gotta walk before you can run, so to speak. *cough* dressage pics *cough* ;)

Andrea said...

That sounds awesome!! I have to live vicariously through everyone's progress now that my progress is standing stuck in a stall, so keep up the good work and keep the updates coming ;)

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