Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Lesson 11/17

This week's beautiful weather has been great for riding!

Monday 11/16/15
I had a 2 hour early out from work that I needed to use by the end of the year, so I used it Monday to ride.

Had an OK ride, Penn wasn't on task as much as he's been. Most stand out part of the ride? When we were standing around with Trainer, two other horses, and two moms and across the road something went crashing through the Christmas Tree farm. It sounded like a tank. I'm thinking bear. We all decided it was best to get back to the barn.

Walking down from the hill where he's turned out. 

Tuesday 11/17/2015
I used a half day Tuesday to ride and have a lesson.

Trainer asked what's been going on and I had the following comments:
- Some days Penn is heavy in the bridle, other days he's not. Some days we're zooming, some days he's very attentive and listening. It's hit or miss.
- We are still keeping the canter to a large circle. The right lead canter is right on track. The left lead leaves something to be desired. It can be runny, heavy, leaning in.
- I touched on leg yield on Monday with Penn, and he just zoomed off. He mistook my outside leg for a strange canter cue, so that lead me to reevaluate how I ask for leg yield (which I had unceremoniously dumped for half pass and hadn't really touched in a couple years).

The first thing we did was work leg yield in walk. We both agreed that doing it across the diagonal would be better instead of going from quarterline to wall. Penn came to us with a tendency to ooze out the outside shoulder when doing anything, so we felt while it would encourage him to go sideways, it wasn't going to be productive as he would probably just drop a shoulder and lurch sideways.

I next confirmed the cues for leg yield. I know, super dumb of me. I've been riding half pass instead for the last 2 years. I haven't ridden leg yield since I last rode First level. I had to remember I'm not "leaning into it" like I do for half pass (no weighting the inside seatbone). I need to sit square and not encourage bending in the direction of the leg yield... because it's not half pass! Basically my confusion came from what I was supposed to do with my seat and hand and shoulders, not leg.

Everything needs to be straight and square. There is no bend to leg yield. The horse should stay straight, or very slightly counter bent, away from the direction of the leg yield. Ideally, his nose stays in front of his chest. His hind legs should not trail behind. Not even to learn, or you're learning wrong and teaching him it's ok to be crooked.

For some reason, the details of the leg yield in walk work is escaping me. It was tough for Penn, and tough for me while I was working out what to do with myself. But something that stood out was slowing it all down. He can go sideways without any crossover because he's Gumby. As soon as I slowed him down with a half halt and got after his outside hind so it didn't trail, he would cross over very nicely, and didn't have much trouble staying nice and straight.

Keeping with the "wall to centerline" leg yield, we went on to trot. Trotting it was much better. At least it was when I finally softened my inside hand and allowed him to have a tiny counter bend (note to self: you can't use your inside hand to hold him straight. It has to come from the leg and seat).

We did a couple laps of trot around the arena to get it moving, and Trainer told me that he had plenty of throughness at a point where I would have pushed for more. Must. Learn. Appropriate. Throughness. I also need to start carrying just a hair more step in the trot. Not a lot more, but he's allowed to move up a half gear for some more float. However, he can't go up any more than that because he'll fall on his face.

I set up the trot leg yield by doing a 10m circle in the corner before the leg yield (not for bend, just to confirm I had the proper trot). Something else to consider in that circle (and any circle): pay attention to my inside hand (it happens more to the left that right), because in the last quarter of the circle I tend to drop it down and in and then drop Penn and never finish the circle nicely. I need to keep that hand up and thinking almost against the neck so it doesn't wander.

Leg yielding left I tend to collapse my left rib cage and hang on my left rein (hello crooked rider in half pass tendencies!) and Penn trails a bit more behind that direction. Once again, half halt and making his hind end catch up with the front end with the outside leg got him nice and straight and crossing over. Leg yielding left is a bit tougher for Penn- he wants to get quick and trail his hind end. Trainer wanted me to think about keeping his feet on the ground a hair longer because he has a tendency to get flicking with his feet and then the rhythm is disturbed and he gets quick.

Leg yielding right was a bit better. I had to forcibly relax my right hand. As soon as I did that and let him have a tiny bit of counter bend, he floated into leg yield.

Throughout all the leg yield work, Penn was nice and round! No giraffe moments. When I decided to ride properly, it was loose and relaxed and stretching too. We finished each direction with a stretchy trot circle.

Trainer asked to see the canter, and had me describe what I'm feeling. I did the left first. "Runny, not as heavy as yesterday but not as light as I'd like, motorcycling and leaning a bit, and I think if I asked for trot I wouldn't get it and then when it did happen it would be rough and he'd fall on his face."

The first thing she had me do was (surprise) relax my left hand a little. Then she said I needed to find Penn's canter rhythm in my right elbow because it was out of rhythm, so I was effectively blocking his motion. Then she said: pick up canter, release both reins, and pony club kick him up and forward. Then half halt and put him back together. He needs more hop and jump in the canter. He's not quite 4 beating, but he's not on a clear 3 beat either (the inconsistent rhythm comments from the last dressage show come to mind). She said his legs looked like pool noodles flailing around. He's so flexible and has big motion in every joint (stifle, hock, fetlock) that he gets his "crazy legs" going and flails.

Funny how forward fixes (almost) everything. After I kicked him up, he sped off, but I found the rhythm with my right (outside) elbow, applied big half halts to the outside rein while thinking I was pushing back a recliner with my shoulder blades, and he got a ton of jump in the canter and became suddenly balanced and easy to ride. Back to trot in a nice balanced transition. Back to walk. A little discussion with Trainer, back to trot and then canter, and release, kick on, half halt. Trot nicely, back to canter. Kick on not so hard, half halt. Repeat a quiet request for forward more often to maintain a good canter. Trot, stretch, walk. Reverse.

We cantered to the right. Trainer had me do small adjustments, but agreed that the right lead was where it should be for his level of training. The only thing that happened to the right was trouble picking up the right lead. He wanted to bend left still, and then fought me a bit when I asked for right bend and for him to bring his hindquarters around. He got very tense and anticipatory. The work we did to the right was mostly waiting for him to just relax and then asking for canter. That's a big reason we don't canter too many times one direction without swapping to the other direction. I think a good use of our time would be to do the canters on a figure 8: trot a 20m circle, canter, get the work I want accomplished done, trot, trot the change into the next 20m circle, set up for the next canter, repeat. That way he's not getting set in his bend and there's not as much to anticipate. Maybe every now and then repeat a canter before changing directions.

-Start the basics of "circle of death". Don't do the full out circle of death, but put 5 poles randomly spaced out on a 40m circle or something (enough room that I can do a 20m in the middle) and work the canter over that large circle with irregular poles. The full circle of death is those 5 poles randomly and awkwardly placed over a 20m circle and the rider's job is to maintain the canter and the horse's job is figure out his feet.
-More road walking to get him legged up a bit better.
-Turn on the haunches and turn on the fore. Especially the latter to single out the left hind and make it move.

Hand grazing while I watch Trainer work one of her baby horses. 


  1. I was telling a friend the other day that one of my favorite things ever is teaching a baby racehorse a leg yield. Why? Because it's one of the first times they learn that an aid can mean different things (leg on does not always = go), and it's so cool to watch them figure that out.

    Also because when a baby OTTB learns leg yield, there's usually a fair bit of flailing and speeding. Ha!

    1. Haha! Penn is so prompt in his transitions, he was genuinely confused at why I was asking for canter so poorly, and to his credit, he certainly tried to pick it up without any prep from me! He has to learn the canter cue comes with a seatbone, not just the leg. I told Trainer "He needs to know that the leg can mean different things, but I don't want to ruin his prompt transitions!" That was a big reason I didn't play with it on my own- I know how hard it was to get Mikey to be prompt and this one already is! The leg yield is going to be very good for him to learn how to match leg and seat cues for different things. He's going to be flustered for a while though.

  2. Leg yield fixes so many things. Mostly for me it means I have to ride enough to actually move my horse's haunches over, instead of constantly asking for more bend and getting nothing. And straightness. So hard. Did you know you can't leg yield while pulling on your inside rein to try to bend your horse? Probably you did, but this was news to me. I have a love affair with my inside rein.

    1. My biggest problem is riding it like leg yield and not half pass. And I ride him so straight that he has trouble moving over- I taught Mikey wrong (he got way too much bend in the neck and counter flexed way too much), so I'm overcompensating by making sure Penn keeps his head and neck perfectly straight instead of allowing him a small amount of counter flexion.

  3. Sounds like a few awesome rides! My left side is the weird side too, I'm working really hard to not have that translate to my young one, but I'm probably failing miserably. I just love hanging on that left rein! I feel like if I just pull on it a little more, it will open a door to Narnia or something. I LOVE that blue cooler! And your navy boots, those are on my Christmas list :)

    1. I vote Hogwarts. Pull the left rein enough and you get your letter to Hogwarts.

      I love my Rambo Newmarket blanket!!! It's a bit big for Penn, but I don't care. I love it. Also goes well with the navy boots, which magically match because I am all about navy!

  4. It sounds like a really good lesson. I hadn't heard of the "pushing a recliner back with your shoulders" analogy, but it's a great visual that I can't wait to try out. Also, leg yield is much harder in the walk to me. It seems much easier when you have the impulsion of the trot. That sounds like a very good lesson!

    1. The recliner thinking is the only way I could bring Mikey back from extended canter to collected in any kind of prompt manner. It's the only way I can get that good solid half halt. I like practicing some stuff in walk, but agreed, the impulsion in trot makes it easier!