Friday, October 14, 2016

10/11 Lesson - Half Pass Help

Alright, I'm falling off the train here. I have a bunch of draft posts in my folder (because we have been up to stuff, I promise!), and I just need to dump in the media and some words. Hell, one of them is just media dump. Ughhh, but I can't bring myself to do it, I don't know why... though it could be that I've been working 5-8 hours of OT at work every week for the last couple weeks and have no desire to sit at a computer for even more time...

Trainer was out last Tuesday for lessons, so I'll just do a brief recap.

Our issues/comments from between lessons:

  • The flying changes are going well on my own, however I can't seem to do them on a straight line. I don't set Penn up properly and I miss "the moment" and end up kicking him forward instead. Circle to circle, counter canter to true canter on the circle exercise, all good.
  • Counter canter is going well too. I've been switching up what we do- yes, figure 8, flying change, ok now no change and do the figure 8 on the same lead, etc. He keeps asking if I want a flying change, I say no thank you, he says OK, then about two strides later he asks again if I want a change.
  • Half pass strugglebus. Big time. I've been doing shoulder in to half pass since I struggle with bend and haunches leading, but I'm losing all bend. The half pass left is OK, but the half pass right... not only does is lack bend, but he's quitting after a couple steps.

We ended up spending the entire lesson working on half pass in walk and trot, without ever making it to canter or looking at the changes. That's fine, that's not the struggle right now.

Half pass: a steeper angle Travers on the diagonal?

Trainer had me warm up in walk and trot doing leg yields and serpentines etc. We moved on to half pass work in walk where things were confirmed: Penn is short backed, and I continuously push him to too steep an angle. Plus, Penn is hitting his legs with his other legs. He has to figure out the footwork.

Trainer had me do the following exercise across the diagonal:

  • Wall to quarterline, let the shoulders lead excessively.
  • Quarterline to centerline, push the haunches to lead excessively.
  • Centerline to quarterline, let the shoulders lead excessively.
  • Quarterline to wall, ask for normal half pass.
By the time we'd get to step 4, Penn would be like, "OH THANK GOODNESS! This is much easier than that other stuff."

However, he started shutting down in step 2, especially to the right, and even went to far as to stop and lift his front feet off the ground. Little taps with the whip reminded him to keep going, but he wasn't happy.

Once in trot, we worked the same pattern. Trainer had me post on the right handed diagonal for both half passes, but instead of half passing on both diagonals, she had me half pass across one (or most of the way across, I usually ran out of ring length), and then on the next she had me lengthen, collect over x, and lengthen again to the wall.

Penn got the idea in trot, but it's all still such a struggle. The half pass right is even more of a struggle- but after doing the lengthen work across that diagonal repeatedly, Trainer had me do half pass instead, and he was very forward thinking in that half pass instead of shutting down (repetition for the win). He's still hitting himself with his legs, so obviously he needs more time just practicing the footwork. I did make an attempt to do it in canter before this lesson, and it was surprisingly smooth, but I have no idea how correct it was.

Things got better towards the end, but I'm still feeling discouraged. I know I'm too heavy handed with the rein during it (as found by my ride Thursday night when I made a huge attempt to do nothing with the reins and ask for it...), and so that probably means I need to spend more time doing haunches in properly on the wall, because how I originally read about half pass was this:

Half pass is just haunches in on the diagonal. It's not shoving the hind end around on the diagonal. (see graphic above)

With that logic, Mikey always led with the haunches because I couldn't work out the line I needed to ride to make it more similar to haunches in, yet the shoulders still led when viewed from A/C.

Penn struggles big time with haunches in right (right hind doesn't like stepping up to the plate), but seems agreeable to haunches in left. I changed my thinking a bit, and I started with the first step of shoulder in to get on the diagonal, then asked for gentle haunches in on a diagonal line... Penn's half pass seemed to get a lot better after I changed my thinking.

I should also say that our connection has hit a huge snag - as I ask for all these new things, the connection gets thrown out the window... which leads me to believe I need to work on making it truer in general. (side note, connection Thursday night was really great, then as I started some canter work, Penn's brain fell out of his head and he became a spooky bastard that would not connect, especially in trot... or track straight either). Same goes for bend because I put my inside leg on and sometimes I get ignored, but I always assume I'm doing something else that prevents him from reacting properly.

Taken from Google.
I know Penn's half pass won't look like this!

Alright blog land, how do you think about riding half pass? Was it bad and then all of a sudden magic and butterflies as it clicked? How much bend should you have? (I guess the answer to that is 10m bend) How do you help create bend? Maintain bend? These are stupid questions I'm sure, but I'm really just struggling to grasp the concept. I wish I had mirrors that I could check myself!

I found this article by Janet Foy, from Dressage Today about riding half pass and travers. I really like it. I think Trainer's exercise is on the right path since Janet describes a similar "test" at the end of the article and I was just approaching it wrong (I'm shoving the haunches instead of riding travers on the diagonal).


  1. I think about it in my dreams... I'm curious to see what other people say tho. Sorry I can't help considering the closest thing we do to a half pass is unintentional and undesirable. :)

  2. Lol I don't know anything about half pass but I do want to say that reading about what you're working on with Penn now is so cool - it's like he's evolved to his next bigger more advanced self and can do all these awesome movements now!! And now you get to work on polishing and refining - very cool!!

  3. When my MIL was teaching me to half pass (less as a test movement and more as an exercise), she had me start with shoulders in on the quarterline and then open my inside rein and let the body move over in the direction of the bend. I have a tendency to overdo it with the hindquarters for all movements so they are always leading, so I think this approach was a bit of a response to that.

    Otherwise, I'm in no way qualified to help you. BUT, I am interested to learn about your process so I can improve upon myself!