Monday, March 28, 2016

Lesson 3/26 - TRAINER IS BACK!!

TRAINER IS BACK!!!! *jumps for joy* I've missed her, haha.

Finding lightness and hop in the canter.

She had me do a quick run through of where we were at, during which Penn tried his best to make me a liar. I had said, "He's doing so well! I can't wait for you to see him!" and then he proceeded to be a distracted, kinda-sorta disconnected little bugger.

She was still happy with him. The first thing she noticed was that it looked like he grew... behind. And is now a bit croup high. Le sigh. As I said before, I measured him a week or two ago, and he is taller behind (by less than an inch). One can only hope that his front end will catch up, but seeing as how he just turned 7 and his grandsire was slightly downhill (and many of his grandsire's characteristics overrode the significant amount of TB in him), I'm not going to hold my breath. I may buy him platform shoes though. No, really. One of the farriers at the barn found these awesome clear plastic type composite shoes that are super thick (and super light) and they have a lot of shock absorption going on (plus some wicked tread!). She's experimenting with them on her own 17.3 horse before suggesting them to clients.

Alla Czar, Penn's grandsire.
He was a top hunter sire and made it to PSG himself. So I'm still hopeful?

Trainer also said that before she left, his front end was quite developed and he was weak behind, and now his hind end has caught up and surpassed his front end. Basically, the hind end motor is big and roaring to go and his front end can't get out of the way fast enough, which is where a lot of my unsteadiness in the bridle is coming from.

We spent most of the lesson using haunches in to give his hind end more to do so his front end can keep up. The weak hind leg is the right hind and the idea is to make it keep up and work harder, especially to the left because he tends to stand wide behind and fishtail out on bending lines (all those notes of "loss of outside hind", I just didn't know a good way to fix it other than to "outside leg him to death"). He understands my leg can mean to move the hind legs over, but he doesn't understand that it can also mean step more forward and under.

First we practiced on a circle- 15-18m in walk and trot: put Penn in haunches in, then "bring his shoulders around" without losing the outside hind, almost like a turn on the haunches but don't really turn on the haunch. Back to haunches in, bring the shoulders around. Lather, rinse, repeat. Do. Not. Lose. The. Outside. Hind.

Once that idea was planted and taking root in my brain, we moved on to the main exercise:
  • 10-12m circle at the start of a long wall.
  • Find haunches in on the circle.
  • Send haunches in down the long wall, just inside of the rail.
  • Bring the shoulders around and into half-pass. Do not lose the outside hind!
  • Half-pass for 3-6 steps.
  • Switch back to haunches in.
  • Do the exercise in walk, then move on to trot.
  • Trouble-shooting: DON'T LOSE THE FORWARD MOTION.
This was hard for Penn to the left. The right hind is on the outside and now it has to step under AND keep up. Poor Penn. He took it well and became very steady in the bridle when he wasn't fidgeting his whole body around in the half pass.

Trainer also got after me to pull drop my elbows down, basically lengthening my arm from shoulder to elbow, to take the tension out of my wrist (and do other things like get me to sink down in the saddle). Guess what? When you feel your collar bones being pulled down by your elbows, you can't break your wrists and interfere with the bit-to-elbow idea AND you have to sit up very straight. It's not the first time she's gotten after me about it, but it does make the biggest difference in my riding (along with the pushing a reluctant recliner back with my shoulder blades for a half halt, that's a good one too). She had to remind me about it as I asked Penn to do things besides trot around. Urghhh.

While the left was hard, and none of the half passes of true quality, it was a hell of a lot better than to the right!

Oh, the right. I got a charlie horse immediately in my left leg (the fail is on video but the video is turned the wrong way and my video software doesn't seem to like the file). Penn was not happy to half pass right or bring his haunches back around after. And I was in pain. So he may have gotten pony club kicked with my left leg because that's all I could manage, haha. He responded and I didn't have to do it again.

Interestingly, going to the right needs more right leg than left to make it all happen. Again, the right hind leg is the "slow" leg and it did not appreciate having to step under. Trainer had me find the motion of the hind legs and nudge each side in rhythm with them. This helped keep the forward motion that I lose when Penn and I both get frustrated. It's still a muddled concept in my brain that I'll probably spend a half hour during my next ride in walk trying to get it right on my own. That's a normal process for me- I spend some quiet time the next ride working it out on my own, then have Trainer check me in our next lesson.

She assigned the trot work to the right as homework, and we moved on to canter to the left on a 18m circle before Penn and I both fizzled out. Same idea: bring the haunches in and create the steady elastic horse (checking self carriage with the inside hand), then canter without losing the haunches in feeling. Once the canter is established, find the self carriage again and work on bringing the shoulders around to "straighten" the canter. This should create a light, connected horse.

Penn is such a good sport- I ask and ask and ask things of him and he just keeps trying. He never says no. I had to think about making the shoulder motion more of a pirouette feeling, but then he really got hoppy and light and connected! Then we stopped before we lost it, haha.

Trainer told me to work on the trot exercises and do my normal canter work while paying extra attention to the outside hind, but absolutely do not drill the canter like we did. Work it that way once this week. Trot builds muscle, canter builds wind, and what we need is muscle, so work it mostly in trot for now.

I got 3 other people to sign up for another lesson next weekend. I wanted another lesson before the final horse show in our winter series (it's big ass ribbon time!), and Trainer needs more than one person to take a lesson to make the trip to our barn worthwhile. I'll spend this week working on destroying me and Penn with the haunches in, and I'll need some help smoothing it all over before the horse show!

Here's a video of the final canter work that we did:

I'm so glad to have Trainer back! She came back and kicked our butt, haha.


  1. Omg. He looks amazing in that clip. Maybe you'll convince his body this work is too hard when you're short in front, and it'll even up. ;)

    I know a lot of QH and TBs that are technically built downhill, but short coupled and athletic enough that it doesn't matter. One of those places where work ethic and training go further. Haha

    1. I know he'll even up soon - he's a fast learner and I'm sure his muscles are retaliating!

      Absolutely on the build thing. He's got such a good brain and work ethic that I don't think it will hold him back too much.

  2. Yay trainer is home! I can't imagine being without my trainer for that long every winter. No fun.

    You guys look AMAZING! There are moments in that video where he's freakishly uphill, I would never have guessed watching the video that he was a little croup high. So excited to hear how the next one goes!

    1. I think this was my 3rd or 4th time without her? She's only gone for 2-3 months, but it's during prime winter training time!

      Thank you! I don't think it comes out in canter as much as it does in trot. But getting after those hind legs certainly got his uphill motor going! I think it'll be something we can mask completely under saddle with more sit. If it's this good at training/first level, second and above should be great!

  3. ooooh what an awesome homecoming for trainer haha! also i LOVE that visual of pulling the elbows down from the collarbone... must go play with that...

    1. Haha, you know you're pulling your elbows down when you feel the stretch across your collar bone. Not just a visual, it's a real feeling!