Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lesson 8/16

I've been making a point to ride outside every ride, as Trainer instructed. Unfortunately, this was bearing down on us on lesson day, so we couldn't lesson outside.

Tuesday was lesson day. We had the usual chat about how things are going. I said his work is hit or miss- he's generally a good boy and doesn't do anything overtly naughty. However, the horse that comes to the ring is either the one who can score 68%+, or the one that is going to be around 62%, and more often it's been the one who scores 62%. He just doesn't have the consistency right now. Previous day's work doesn't seem to factor in, unless I spend too many days in a row drilling him. Previous day's work over time does improve him, or else he wouldn't be making wonderful steps forward, but it could be hit or miss when it really counts.

I told her I've been warming up with leg yields, and that seems to go well, but I'm slowly having more and more trouble meeting centerline on the zig zags, which caused me to lose massive points last time out, and I can't afford to lose those this fall if I want a 68% at Championships.

Where did this lovely leg yield zig zag go?

She suggested we go a little out of order to warm up and work this time- let's hit the canter before the trot and see if that balances out his ring personalities. It's something we tried with Mikey- the canter really loosened him up so we went to that gait after minimal time in the trot, then went back to our trot work.

We started with the leg yields from 1-2, but in walk (centerline to wall), and to basically make them as steep as possible. Penn does not want to step far enough sideways with each of his forward steps. She had me make very clear leg on, leg off cues. This helped A LOT. Now Penn wasn't through and connected, and he had some head tilt, but the goal was to make it clear he needed to take bigger sideways steps. Trainer got after me for a heavy inside hand. We linked them together without changing direction, then changed direction and repeated to the left.

She had me leg yield to the wall, then within the last step of leg yields ask for canter. So I did, and Penn lifted right into canter, didn't invert majorly, but didn't trot at all either. Cool.

Just leaving X in the one loop from May.

She said to just work like I normally would have in canter. Well. Sometimes we just go round and round, or do some circles. So instead, I did the shallow loop from 1-3. Penn promptly bullied right through me and leaned this way and that, but when I said (on the short sides), "Sit the f*** down and GET OFF MY HAND" he promptly obeyed and was wonderful until it was time to go back down the long side, where he laid on me again. Even with all the bouncing around, Trainer loved the jump he carried in the canter. We did a couple loops: Penn leaned hard on my inside rein, and I had to be careful not to get heavy on either rein in my attempts to pull him around. Trainer didn't like the bouncing around and leaning, so she said to make 2 shallow loops fit down the small arena long side. So make the loop about 3-4m in off the rail at it's max, and 14m long. Eek!

The other one loop from May.

It basically amounted to shifting in about two steps, straight for a step, then shifting back out to the wall. It scaled down really well from the 10m wide/48m long one that's done in 1-3. Once that was down, I could slowly smooth it out into actual loops with bend. Penn stopped leaning and anticipating, and finally started balancing himself. Then we did a simple change across the diagonal and repeated the single loop to the right, then the double loops. Simple change across the diagonal again, repeat the double loops until they balance out again. Simple change back to the right, double loops once, simple change to the left. The right is more balanced and doesn't require the amount of attention the left does. I think we switched back and forth a few more times after that. We finished the canter with a stretchy trot and took a walk break.

Starting a one loop in schooling at NC PAHA.

The simple changes were not show quality for sure- he wants to lean very heavily to the left in both changes. This makes the left to right work OK (it could be better), but the right to left is tough and takes much more time to get the balanced trot, then his balance shifted off his left shoulder so he can pick up the left lead. When he got it wrong, Trainer had me circle back in walk and leg yield in without losing the left bend, then ask for canter within the leg yield.

The trot work was similar to the walk- get on centerline, BE STRAIGHT, then leg yield with a purpose. Penn anticipates the leg yield and he wavers and pulls that direction on centerline, then he goes sideways. He wavers just enough that Trainer said it wasn't always clear when I gave him the cue to move over: "Wait, did she cue yet? Was that it? OH there it is!" Just like I need to make sure my working-lengthen-working transitions are clear, I need to make the transitions into and out of leg yield sharp. It's part of the reason my zig zag fails over X- I don't get there in time because the initial transition is late and unclear, which means the transition to straight to the other leg yield isn't prompt either.

Leg yield in schooling at NC PAHA.

Watching the GP Olympics horses work gave me an idea for an exercise for first level leg yield zig zags that I'll have to try this week.

  • Turn up centerline.
  • D- leg yield left to the quarterline between V-L (5m sideways/12m forward)
  • Change and leg yield right across to the next quarterline between I-R (10m sideways/24m forward)
  • Leg yield left back to centerline at G (5m sideways/12m forward)
They would be just as steep as they are in 1-3 (10m sideways/24m forward), but they'd hit all the things we need- steep practice like the 1-3 zig zag, starting and stopping without a wall, and two transitions to the other leg yield, also not on a wall. To be honest, I'd use this in a first level freestyle if I were to do one (and I've been thinking about it more and more- maybe bronze bar?).

Anyway, Trainer suggested getting poles out, lining them up one horse width apart, then traveling down them, doing transitions between and within gaits to get straightness off the wall established better since he wants to lean so much. I suggested putting them in an X pattern over X to aid our simple changes- let the poles hold him off his left shoulder and I can just work on balancing the gaits. Trainer agreed that I should do that too.

She said to repeat our lesson in one of my next rides and see how it goes. I think I'll warm up with a shortened version of our lesson on Saturday, and mix in the poles over X too. Maybe tonight, I donno- Penn was supposed to walk last night but it was raining so I did other fun activities... I'll write about them next!

Penn ripped his fly sheet majorly in two places and I sewed it back together over the weekend. Not perfect or terribly pretty, but effective. There are a couple more places that need to be sewn, but I ran out of white thread in my sewing kit!


  1. Sounds like a really productive lesson! And holy cow, that storm photo!!

    1. It was a good lesson- I never thought to do a ton of tiny loops. If Penn had been wiggly about other things, I would have always started small and worked up. He really got a lot steadier with two small loops. I'll have to mix it up with big loop, two small ones (or more if we're outside because the outdoor is huge), then put one loop back in and see if it works better.

      The storm was wicked intense- it knocked out the power and some trees!

  2. That sounds like a really great lesson. I love reading your descriptions of what you are working on and your exercises give me great ideas for things to do with Katai!

    1. I'm glad you get something out of it! I know I go over other people's lesson posts looking for exercises that I can either check that Penn and I get the concept they worked on, or maybe it's a concept we're struggling with!

  3. love the idea of the zig zag practice and the ground poles. leg yields are basically my nemesis haha - i can't make myself let go of the inside rein!!

    1. Inside rein being the one you're moving away from right? So you never want the head and neck to be super bent, so they need to stay straight. That concept alone should help you let go of the inside rein for the most part. Your inside leg shoves the horse over (and ok, I'm guilty here too because we were asking for so much over that his head and neck were overbent too), but then use your outside rein to catch the overbent head and neck, but you can still work your inside rein to help encourage more over. Keep your fingers active, no stale fingers! A little inside rein, a little outside rein, back and forth as needed. I feel like there isn't a hard and fast rule here- every leg and rein is used, but in different places and as needed.