Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Hmm, Think on it Ride

I had an intriguing ride Monday morning.

Mikey was having none of this, as poor bend as it is.

I was warming up in walk, doing transitions within the gait and asking for my usual connection, shoulder in, renvers, and half pass. Mikey just wasn't listening to my seat the way I wanted, so I opted to reach down and cross my reins. It's been a while since I've done that and it always makes me use my seat properly.

Trainer had commented in my last lesson that Mikey doesn't connect to the left rein in left half pass. I force the contact (since it's no longer connection by that point), by taking back on the rein and locking my elbow, and off we go. The cube forced me to not do that, so the contact was lost and obviously a problem.

I got the connection I wanted within a few minutes, and then decided to just ride my whole ride like that. I should be able to walk/trot/canter and do my lateral work with crossed reins. In fact, crossing the reins should make me pay extra attention to the proper amount of bend in the lateral work, or it just won't work.

To the right, things were sticky but they progressed and I was ok with where they were. It's not the easiest thing to do lateral work with crossed reins when the work is a little bit of an issue to begin with, so I was happy to settle for the work I got (slightly inverted, but bend and tempo were there).

I changed to the left and got a very different result. Mikey utterly refused to bend left. Sure, I got neck flexion galore, but that's not bend. I was going to town on him with my inside seat bone and leg and was barely getting an answer. I turned my whip around so I could bop him on the side with the big round whip handle so it was dull thuds instead of sharp whip.

Now this is the opposite problem we had when we started swapping the reins (right hand = go left, left hand = go left when tracking right). Now tracking right was cool, but tracking left, both hands now meant go right.


So I started over to the left the way my trainer had started us to the right several weeks ago. Inside aids to the outside rein, kick on with the outside leg into the outside rein half halts. Drawing out the process into 5-8 steps instead of our usual 2, he fought me tooth and nail. He stopped trying to overbend his neck left and instead was shoving his shoulders around and looking right.

I eventually got him to bend left, but had to keep correcting it because he started throwing his butt around into haunches in, then when I'd correct that, he'd shift to counter bent and we'd start all over.

I put some lateral work back in, and he wasn't pleased, but he did it. I tried more inside seatbone and leg (maybe I'm not using enough?), I tired less inside seatbone (maybe I'm squashing him). It came out as a draw.

He'd started putting out some mini threats, but I'm tactful and gave him a tiny inch of space to chill and then ask again. Those threats escalated quickly though as soon as I asked for half pass.

I figured in half pass, like shoulder in and haunches in, rein use should ideally be very little. It should be held from the seat and leg, with some rein reminders. I held onto my outside rein a little more than I normally would have, only because it was connected to the left side of the bit and I thought we might need all the help we can get with bend and looking left.

I got about two steps into it before he melted down on me and started threatening me with rearing: stop dead, head high, several very light steps up front when I'd prod him to move his feet again. I'd kick the bejeezus out of him to get the feet moving in any direction, abort the movement, get left bend back and ask again (we'd spin onto a circle by that point, so I asked for the half pass as a bent inward spiral in on the circle).

I took him away from the movement to trot on and around the arena, because up until this point, we'd just been walking. He stretched down, happy as a clam, for several laps of the arena before we went back to the work in walk.

The fights cycled on after, and eventually he gave in and agreed to attempt to half pass. Funny though, he refused to move his shoulders enough to keep up, or bend left. Straight was about all I could get, and he'd throw his butt to the left and lead very heavily with that. I finally got one that had some semblance of left bend (haunches still leading a good amount). I called it good enough, cantered on, and then let him walk and be done.

Part of the magic of crossing the reins is exposing holes. Well, I found a big one. I'm sure it has to do with controlling the shoulder and him wanting to give me left neck flexion instead of true left bend, but I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, or is it just actually that hard. This left half pass was better than the right at the last show!

I'm thinking on it, and I'll see my trainer tonight for a long lining lesson. I should do a ridden lesson to address this issue, but it can also be addressed from the ground and we talked about working on his canter from the lines to really force him to carry himself. I'm sure it will rear it's ugly head though! Either way, I'm thinking and I'll ask my trainer anyway.


  1. What a fascinating result. Courage and I aren't really ready to try this yet... except maybe in the indoor on a quiet day... hm.

    1. Yea, I'm not upset by it, and holes and issues move around of course, but it really just exploded the issue. I'm thinking it's just hard to work correctly (who knew!) and it's one of his I don't want to tantrums. Which of course means we have to!

      I would have liked to have a solid indoor arena wall to run him into, but I did spend a lot of my time stopping him from hooking a leg in our plastic chain dressage arena. That's what really tipped me off that I was squashing him, he kept moving out, but I'm confused since there was zero bend to it and I'm going to town on him.