Tuesday, March 21, 2017

3/12/2017 Day 2: Adding to the Struggle Bus

Penn came into lesson two of our weekend not really wanting to play 100%. It was cold, 8am, and he worked hard the day before. I get it. But we're there to learn and we had to go to work!

It was kind of nice for GP Trainer to see him on an "off" day. He's been quite good every time I've seen her, and I've had that problem with Trainer and Dressage Trainer- I'm having a specific issue that does not surface in lesson so we don't get to really address it.

Right off the bat, he did not want to be fully on the bit, particularly on the right right. He developed a bit of a head and neck twist as we worked though some spiral in and out. GP Trainer stressed less inside flexion to the left (reminiscent of one of our lessons last year), and I have to keep my right hand moving and active to the right (no stale holding hand).

When he's not really into connecting to the bridle, especially not connecting to the right rein, he puts himself on the right underneck muscle and tilts his head left. GP Trainer warned me it might be the left next time, but I doubt it. It became apparent to me in the last few weeks that something is going on because his right underneck muscle is bigger than his left. I would guess that the twist is very consistent and I am blind to it.

She had me do SI while keeping him rounder, then do SI to renvers to SI... annnnnd Penn hates his trot life now because of it, lol. I started by giving renvers way too much angle ("Your renvers is on like, 18 tracks. Less angle!"), and he'd lose his balance and rhythm and struggle a bit too much. She also had me keep after him with the outside leg a bit more in both SI and renvers.

It really helped get his head on straighter though, and in rides since then, the exercise has gotten much easier and I do. I ride it right off the bat as part of our immediate warm up and whenever I feel him starting to lock on the right rein or head tilt. It really creates a much straighter, more laterally pliable horse, that is in turn more pliable all-around. I did that a ton the other day on my own, came around the next turn and asked for a medium and got a much bigger medium trot than I was expecting. Straightness FTW. I wish we could do it in canter because he's developed the same tilt and desire to connect to just one rein... I suppose that would mean he'd have to have a solid flying change though, which is kind of what we're trying to build to... so now what?

And we have video of Penn's very first renvers! So exciting. To be honest, I was going to avoid 3-2 because it has that very difficult lateral change in it and I knew Penn would really struggle with it... so maybe I should have worked on it instead of avoiding it? Lol. GP Trainer assigned it to us for homework for next time.

A good medium trot for us- but it still needs more I think.

I started the left lead canter first and Penn was very anticipatory, so GP Trainer had me toss in some halts, where she quickly found he is just as squiggly in them too, haha. As we progressed through the struggles, the halts became squarer, the walk slowed and the steps became halfway purposeful, the upward transitions were very up, the canter itself still leaves something to be desired but we are almost making it the full way around her indoor, so win? She reminded me to make sure I can take my leg off and he stays where I put him so then I can put it on and promptly canter off (I quickly found my brain current isn't processing fast enough to time that right, haha).

We got rolling to the right, and Penn was starting to get tired and resting legs in the halts instead of standing square, then he got downright sassy in his frustration that I was going to make him wait and sit and threatened to rear (unfortunately the next horse came in and was right in between Penn and the camera so it's hard to see- you can kind of see it in the mirrors). I worked a bit of shoulder fore in the canter to the right and he didn't quit on me and it actually helped, so yay! His steps are longer and slower to the right than the left, which makes it much more pleasant to ride, haha.

I'm really excited for how far he's come in such a short time, especially in the canter to walks. Even though they weren't great on this particular lesson day, they are still a million times better than they were even 3 or 4 weeks ago. Other things I'm super excited about: How about that inside hind in the walk to canter? It's got some major hops in that moment! Same with all four legs in walk as we try to put him together for the canter- every now and then he takes a big, purposeful, slow, very active step. He quickly falls apart after, but one step every now and then in a single ride is much more than we were getting before!

A little inverted, but up and prompt!

GP Trainer wants us to really work those walk/halts as we canter, and said we should see a significant difference after even just two rides of incorporating those. They will help teach him to place his feet more consciously than just throwing them around. To quote her: "Anybody who thinks building upper level skills in a horse is about half passes and shoulder in and canter pirouettes is mistaken. It's mostly about stupid stuff like this." I am going to preach the hell out of this so I don't die of boredom working on it, haha.

M had a great lesson later- I wish I could video for her and grab some video on my phone at the same time! GP Trainer went over following with the arms in walk and canter with her and how if you're trying to follow by tensing your biceps, you've already lost because your range of motion is significantly less as soon as your tighten your upper arm. GP Trainer had M think about tightening her forearms instead (hello isolating body parts, haha). It's a similar descriptor to sinking your elbows way down (which works for me), but it worked really well for M because all of a sudden her arms could move at the shoulder and elbow and her mare simply stopped plowing on her since she wasn't giving her anything to plow on. Her wrists straightened out, her elbows could move, and she got her elbows tucked in to her sides instead of having "chicken wings". It was such an immediate difference and the mare happily floated along, carrying herself, and M was amazed that it took almost zero effort from her to maintain.

GP Trainer had her ride the shallow canter loops from 1-3 next, with her newly following arms. She kind of ripped the mare through the first one, mostly overdoing it because she was concerned about lead flip flopping, so GP Trainer told her to tone it down on the next one... and then the mare promptly did a beautiful flying change, then two strides later another one as M corrected it before X, then a couple more on the way back to the rail. All beautifully through, connected, and quiet. Super jealous, haha. She rode a few more loops keeping her outside leg back to make it clear to the mare that she shouldn't change, and the mare happily shallow looped her way around the ring. Very stunning. They are going to clean up at Training level this year as M gets some more show experience under her belt before flying up the levels to get her bronze in no time. I believe GP Trainer's exact words were, "Training level huh? *chuckle*"

We got to watch another few lessons (that I'm pretty sure were Sunday and not Saturday):
  • Another student schooling GP who has a mare who wants to be very up in the neck (in addition to being very high energy), so they focus on bringing the base of her neck down so that she has a quieter power so that she can ooze into and out of the piaffe/passage instead of making very abrupt transitions. Very neat.
  • A 2nd/3rd level schooling student who was using the same canter/walk/counter canter/walk/canter 25m circle to work on flying changes that I used to teach them to Penn originally. Her horse was a bit naughty, reactive, and had opinions (bucking and bouncing) and they worked on making him patient and to wait for his rider's cue, and making sure his rider didn't take the bait he was offering. He often bucked through the flying change, but as soon as they got a good one, it was pat the horse and rest, change directions, get a good one, pat and be done.
We had a great time down in VA, but had to leave after watching a few lessons since it's such a long drive home. We did stop at Panda Express on the way though, so that was super awesome.

My fortune... hmm, lol! I immediately texted a pic to Husband and was like, "Are you up to something?"


  1. I kinda hate when I'm dealing with problems in my solo rides that don't show up in front of the trainers... That's been a persistent issue with Charlie: not forward enough in lessons, but too forward at home. Finally my trainer got to see it tho - such a relief to get insights on those things, esp when we don't see our trainers every day!

    1. It happened all the time with Penn and Trainer last year. I'd say, "I'm having x problem." She'd go, "Let's see." And Penn would be fine. *facepalm*

      I mean, we've brought enough issues with us to these lessons, but they're much bigger scale problems than the random days where he doesn't want to connect. I'm very excited to use SI/renvers/SI at the next show. Their warm up ring is where I get the biggest head tilt and I have a lot of trouble working him out of it.

  2. That horse working on changes we watched was SO like Pig it made me giggle so much. What a dick. Behind the leg AND hot is so freaking hard!

    If Penn keeps that first step of his canter (from walk into canter) his canter will be amazing. His ass will also be the size of a house with solid muscle, though. Hahaha. Little boy's gotta build some serious muscle ahead!

    1. I remember now! Yes, he was on Saturday. I wonder if I wrote about him in my other post...? See, losing my mind over here.

      I KNOWWWWWW, I need to find that hop into canter as his regular canter. I can find it for a few strides before we do something, but it's not consistent, and I am not good at developing it so I often miss it entirely or time it wrong and it's early and he's like "HELLO I CAN'T HOLD THIS, CAN WE DO THE NEXT THING PLEASE" lol