Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lesson! Summary: good hard work, some boneheaded decisions on my behalf, and ultimately some very productive canter work.

Started off with a lot of walk work, and he was much less stiff than I would have expected thanks to Caitlin hacking him out on Monday. He was still clearly a bit tired, though, and a bit muscle-bound. He was also already a bit sweaty - hot day!

So, walk, walk, walk, bend, stretch, off the inside leg, spiral in and out, little bit of leg yield. We're working on shortening the reins and keeping a steadier, more elastic connection, so I concentrated on that. When we picked up the trot I just let him feel his way into it for a minute or so, making sure he wasn't ouchy anywhere - he felt more or less fine, perhaps a bit shorter in the right hind, but nothing major. When I picked him up we started to work with T. on really getting him into the outside rein, pressing him forward and gathering him up with my right hip bone and right hand. It took a while to get him really steady in that new level of contact, but once he did I was really liking the power I had access too. He's not a "light and springy" kind of horse, he's got a much more drafty and solid feel to him.

After working the trot for a while, I decided to work on my sitting trot, which was....ehhhhhh. Not great. I was hitting his back far too much, couldn't quite settle in the rhythm. He wasn't exactly pleased, and the quality of the trot work took an instant nosedive. We worked it out to get closer to where the rising trot work was, and then I asked for a canter.

His first left canter depart? GLORIOUS. In fact, so wonderful I got all caught up in supporting him with my legs and asking for bend around the canter and...had to haul him back to the walk in order not to slam into another rider. I kicked myself up down and sideways for that one. Poor decision, poor ring management, and I ruined a great canter transition. I took myself to the other end of the ring and tried to get the trot back to where it had been before I asked for the canter again. Took a while.

Anyway: canter work was generally really great. I'm starting to solve the long legs/light seat problem, inch by inch, as I work toward a seat that's deep but not heavy, and legs that are long but not propping. Wouldn't you know, the closer I get to that the more jump he can achieve in the canter as I can really support him. So I could really start to dig in with hips-to-hands, half-halts, and leg support to balance the canter, kick him UP off my inside leg to get him straighter and cleaner and not leaning.

One problem that cropped up last night was that he's really starting to go well on the bit in a canter circle, but asking for that same bend, same reach, and same jump on a straight line was reaaaaaalllllly hard for him, and he dropped into the trot, all flustered, when I didn't give him enough support. So that's something to work on for strength!

Back from the canter to a long walk break, then picked him up again to work on the sitting trot again, and T. got involved - which he had been quite a bit all lesson, actually, I don't know if he saw us go XC on Sunday and thought aha! now we're cooking with gas! and decided we need our asses kicked on a more regular basis? Which is both a good and a bad thing! Anyway - T. really cleaned up my position in the sitting trot, and we had a few strides of loooooovely smooth sit for me and reach for him.

Then we worked canter transitions. I worked on staying back and staying deep, keeping my support in the outside rein and the bend in the inside, and T. said that magic thing that always helps us when I've forgotten it, which is to think of the canter transition as a down transition, not as going faster. I like to picture water flowing downhill; there's more energy there, but it's just a natural forward motion, smooth and easy. A few attempts at that and we started getting consistently nicer transitions, and ergo, nicer canters faster. Some of them REALLY nice.

We finished after a good right canter transition and circle, took a short walk outside, and then he got hosed off quite a bit - VERY sweaty boy who'd worked very hard and was pretty pleased with himself.

So, my homework: shorter more elastic reins, longer leg, better support on the outside, canter transitions as down transitions, and recapturing that smooth sitting trot I had so briefly.

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