Wednesday, December 28, 2016

In a Boat With Different Paddles

That's what I feel like- I'm in a boat with a kayak paddle and a row boat oar, and I have to use both at the same time.

I had a lesson with Trainer on Friday, and I'm fairly sure she has very mixed feelings about the work GP Trainer had us doing. Trainer is 100% right that we don't want a 4 beat canter and that in trot, Penn is wobbling and having trouble being straight, and when he wobbles, his throat latch isn't open and relaxed (IE short neck). GP Trainer assured me it's a strength thing and will get better in time. Trainer doesn't want to let it go that long. Trainer knows Penn very well and is worrying about the "stuck" tantrums he has (the 4 beat in canter could devolve into that, which has been a worry for me), and he seems to get stuck in our indoor a good bit while cantering (it's 70'ish by 120' vs GP Trainer's 90' by 225' and Penn never felt stuck in there). GP Trainer has brought numerous horses to third, and then on past third and some on to GP that had Penn's same issues. Trainer is a 4* event rider who has brought 3 or 4 horses to third, but never past because that's not her focus.

Suffice it to say, I am completely torn. They are working at the top levels of their respective disciplines and at their respective star levels and both have excellent points.

Let me go over lesson though.

Pretty picture since there isn't new media.

I told Trainer about the walk work- most notably Penn's inability to walk in a straight line once we get moving. I told her about the things GP Trainer changed (me sitting up and tucking my butt under me much more), and we went off to work.

I worked a 4 loop serpentine for her, then she had me push him forward and bring him back within the trot because she didn't like the wobble he was getting. He did need to carry more step in general (also something GP Trainer had us do), but he was also carrying more tension than usual too... something about being bored with the home indoor, you know? I kept him off the track and went around the ring, go forward/come back. She liked the step and frame he carried right before he fell apart in the forward, so I need to figure out how to push him forward, but catch him at a "peak" point in the forward then bring him back before he falls. She also said he needed to go straighter (GP Trainer did the same).

I wanted to move on to canter before we over drilled him in trot, since I've found the canter is so hard, made harder by him wearing out. I did the left first, and she started by asking what I felt- I said it's 4 beating, but GP Trainer had said to let it be while he gains the strength to carry himself there, and that it was like starting over in canter, because Penn can't hold it very long. Trainer hated the 4 beat and said, "This is where I think we'll have to agree to disagree. Based on knowing his tantrums, I don't think letting him 4 beat is the way to go." Basically, she said his canter was very mechanical (I think his first canter is always that way, but I don't think it was by the end of our lessons with GP Trainer) and was concerned that we were shutting all the doors and he would eventually have a tantrum. That is a legit concern for me too- we went through that exact thing over the summer when we asked for an increased sit and he retaliated by hopping in the canter and in general getting stuck. She wants to leave the front door more open so he knows the way out, especially in a small indoor arena like ours where he may not feel as free to go anyway. Very valid points!

I don't like outbursts.

She had me pick up the canter again on a circle, uphill and sitting like we were, but then let him stretch his topline down a bit/let him go forward a hair to the point where the canter became a clear 3 beat, then bring him back up, where it in general held its 3 beats (yay!). The stretch and forward is very fractional, and I can lift him back up with my seat and thigh almost to where he was with GP Trainer. He relaxed a bit too, which is good! She nailed me for stiff elbows as I did this... ugh, I always need that reminder! This will be good practice for remembering how to collect from medium canter because I enjoy blocking with my elbows there too.

This is where we talked about his bulging left side in the walk. The wheels have fallen off at the walk since Penn anticipates the walk-canter transition so much now. She didn't think it was a horrible thing, "He's very in tune with what you want now, but isn't giving you a chance to ask him for something." She had me push him forward in the walk, then collect him to an almost halt, then push forward again, then collect again. Repeat until he stops jigging and bulging. She had me ask for halt from that very slow collected walk, but had me pick the foot I wanted to stop first. That's really interesting because that slowly progresses to timing the correct foot after the right number of prep steps at the letter to cue for walk-canter in a test (aka better accuracy than, "His shoulder is at the letter NOW."). That's one of the things I love about Trainer- she is huge on that kind of accuracy. Anyway, within a few minutes I could ask Penn for whatever I wanted and he waited for the question, which was awesome. I didn't have to mess with shoving the left side back in place, correcting the walk tempo, then trying to get the canter. Plus it's something I can work on after Penn is a bit tired and we have more time left.

We did similar work to the right lead canter. I really liked the relaxation Penn gave me- I felt he settled more into the work by changing frames. She got after me to let my right leg, most notably my upper calf, hang around Penn's side in canter. In working on my own, I've noticed that leg trying to creep up in a fetal position in canter. She said it hangs well in trot, but not in canter.

From Championships

I like both things Trainer and GP Trainer has us working on. GP Trainer said there would be days that Penn just couldn't handle the work, and I think those are the days I need to do changing frame work. I can't just stretch him on those days, that will set him back I think. Then other days we'll do the more collected sitting work (hell, both days will have more collection than we had in October haha). I really value both trainers' instruction, so I need to make them mesh well with each other.

From out last visit with GP Trainer.
It's interesting to compare/contrast this pic with the one from champs- I like my position so much better in this pic, and I think his engagement is a bit better.

All she pretty much had to say was he was certainly more uphill, and he's not shuffling or taking trot steps into the walk-canter transition anymore. I don't know how to gauge that. I guess I was hoping for a better reaction than what she gave me, because I really think both Penn and I have made big progress.

Have any of you had conflicting points from various trainers? How did you weigh what they each told you?


  1. I hate the feeling of being pulled in multiple directions especially by trainers that I trust. I try to remind myself that there are many roads to Rome and either pick one path if they are totally conflicting or try to mesh the two. I have the advantage of Stinker being quite clear in his opinions so I know when things aren't working.

    1. Penn seems pretty stoic about things unless he feels it's unfair or if he feels trapped, but I don't see him upset by either approach, and I think I can mesh the two! I think I was just upset by a lack of recognition of progress.

  2. There comes a point when you need to choose a trainer and trust their program. There is more than one way to skin a cat, yes, but if you try all the ways at once, you're going to ruin the hide.

    Gruesome, but apropos.

    I have no opinion on which trainer is better for your partnership at this time, but you can't dump a bunch of conflicting information on a horse and expect a good result.

    But hey, I'm brain damaged so take everything I say with a giant bag of rock salt.

    1. I agree, but the information isn't so conflicting (because I really don't relish the idea of making every one of Penn's arena rides up up up up over and over, because he will fry out on me, esp in winter when I can only get him outside on weekends). I like the idea of changing him frame around (it really is quite fractional), but I agree, we can't change everything back and forth.

  3. obviously none of my experience is at much lower levels, so the idea of 'setting us back in work' is... closer to non existent. but this is still something i think about since (as you know) i ride with a variety of trainers.

    the concept that seems to help me the most (which i'm not sure will be applicable to the specific work you're doing) is to think of my work with clinicians or less-regularly scheduled trainers as glimpses into the future. i often think that probably i won't achieve the same quality as they get from me when i'm back on my own or in my regular program. but, rather, those lessons serve as an opportunity to show where we are going, and how to get there.

    seems like your regular trainer may be identifying training tactics that she doesn't think are ready for Penn's daily work. but that you can still keep working toward them, but maybe just not at the same intensity as if you had GP trainer on hand every week for troubleshooting when things go awry.

    for my own purposes, it's most important that i really truly believe in my regular week in, week out program, since that's where we spend most of our time. any additional training needs to be reproduceable at least to a certain degree within the parameters of my regular program, even if we end up tackling it a little more slowly.

    1. (we chatted, but I'm still going to respond here!)

      Yes- I think she's picking on things that done over and over, may cause a spark in Penn that causes a mini-meltdown, and she's probably guarded about training because she also is thinking about training the horse for the rider and keeping horse responses within the rider's ability to handle... and well I wrote about the last time Penn scared me because we handled this exact issue and his response was not cool and I got stuck and needed an emergency lesson. GP Trainer's approach I know is "get the horse ready for future work, and if there's a problem, we have training rides."

      I've actually been far more successful reproducing GP Trainer's work than most clinicians I've seen. Right up there with being able to reproduce Trainer's work. What seems like a leap to me is a small step for her I'm sure, but it seems like a small enough bite that I've been fairly successful (and she told me things will look wrong for a while), and I've made a significant amount of progress and she was happy with it. Being able to reflect back on the videos was super important too.

  4. Oh gosh certainly yes. I have gotten many MANY conflicting instructions from different trainers. You know what you need to do - take what works from both and mesh them. It's OK to be "ugly" for a little while, that I do know, and it's actually ok if tantrums happens. It's better than no reaction at all. They eventually figure it out. Personally I LOVE your lesson videos with LS, she is the real deal. Wish I lived closer to her!

    1. I'm good with ugly for a while, we're not walking into any recognized shows! I understand that tantrums are a good thing too, it actually makes me worried that I am having so few. I'm slowly figuring out how to mesh the two. We'll get it- they aren't so different approaches. I'm glad you like her and approve, you've been to my level and beyond!

  5. Trainers are sources of information. When researching a topic of interest, we are always encouraged to seek out multiple sources. Different sources yield different information. It is the job of the researcher to discern what information is most applicable to their topic of interest. The same thing applies here. By sticking to one source of information, you potentially limit your knowledge. By exploring various trainers/clinicians, you greatly broaden your perspective and subject your horse to a wide range of information. Not all information may be compatible, of course, but that is what research is for - sorting through bad information to find the good.

    I agree - I think Lauren is a glimpse into the future and Trainer is the present and by using them both as sources you will be able to get to where you want to go :)

    1. Excellent points! I'll be able to mesh them eventually!