Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Lesson 11/1/16

We went back to Trainer L's yesterday for a second lesson (and, most certainly, the second of what will be many many many lessons in the future). One of the things I am really liking about L is the fact that has the ability to hone right into what needs to be done, and pull out a specific exercise for that problem. She herself has a Spanish stallion, and she understands that riding these horses is just different from riding warmbloods. When up on big huge bouncy warmbloods, you tend to have to stack yourself and create some energy. The hotheaded Spanish horses are all about riding quietly, really really quietly. L at one point said, "He can hear everything going on inside your head, so you need to have a secret compartment in your brain for XYZ transitions and whatnot that you're about to do." As in, don't let him hear your brain shrieking about the fact that you're about to canter at C. To a horse like Dylan especially, who is hyper aware of his rider and also to literally everything going on around him all at the same time, being quiet is really really important. You think it, and he does it. 

Wearing the Halloween devil horns, and seriously contemplating bucking me off and leaving for the border

I warmed up walking and trotting around by myself for a few minutes before L came to the arena - complete with a very elderly loose horse who was wandering through the arena by myself. His pasture gate was open and he was just casually meandering through, stopping to look in the mirror at himself for awhile. Dylan was not sure what to think about that, but I think it's good for them to have to deal with those kinds of situations. Should a horse ever get loose for real, it's nice to know that he won't go all Hi Yo Silver on me and lose his brain completely. He was fully aware that this one was loose, not attached to a human and not separated from him by a fence, so he was especially attentive. 

I was really unhappy to find out that posting, something I don't seem to do very much of, caused my bad leg to cramp up worse than it has been in a long time. It's not usually like that, but then again I am two weeks out from a massage and do need another one, so that could have something to do with it. Usually I warm Dylan up in the walk and canter, and when we get to trotwork his back is loose and ready to accept a sitting rider, so I sit. I don't post much if at all, unless we are stretching or doing the occasional trot warmup. Apparently this motion is really bad news for my calf - I wonder now if part of the reason I've been going so pain-free is because I haven't been posting enough to cause it major aggravation. My calf was stiff and painful for the rest of the entire ride, locked up and useless. It was disheartening - I really thought maybe the worst of it was behind me. I guess I was wrong.

Despite the leg being terrible, the rest of the lesson was great. I think the leg must no longer look obviously problematic, because L asked if my right leg is the one with the problem (it isn't, it's the left). I tend to collapse on one side and have a harder time keeping my right seatbone engaged and my right leg working properly. We started off doing some walk work, and then went into trotwork, with an emphasis on quiet and relaxation. Dylan likes to do things with almost explosive enthusiasm - OKAY CANTER GO! SCREECHING HALT! ZOOMING AWAY INTO MEDIUM! - so we worked on slowing everything down, focusing on relaxation. We spent a bit of time doing lateral work - 10m circles to shoulder in, 10m circles to haunches in - but his lateral work is really quite good, so we moved on to something needing more attention. His mediums are also really good, but he does tend to be so enthusiastic and abrupt in everything that he does, so down the long time we specifically focused on moving in and out of his trot mediums gradually, taking 4-6 strides to max him out, and 4-6 strides to bring him back. After a little walk break, we switched directions (at my request, because my leg was really cramped up and I felt I needed to canter to the left first to give it a rest) and started a really excellent canter exercise that I will absolutely use at home. First, we would turn down the centerline and leg yield to the rail at the canter, mostly just letting him drift back to the rail without a real definite lateral aid (but, he knows what to do). The emphasis was to let his shoulders lead the way, and bend him his neck a little more than would normally be acceptable. The idea was to gymnasticize him a bit, to get him to loosen up in his neck and work outside of what he expects is going to happen. As L put it, he tends to think inside his little box - he knows all of these things and he does them exactly the way he thinks they need to be done, so sometimes we need to encourage him to color outside the lines. By expanding his mind a little, it keeps him on his toes waiting for a cue from the rider instead of just assuming he knows what is going to happen, and going ahead and just doing it himself. From there, after a few of those gymnasticizing canter leg yields, we would come up the quarterline instead of the centerline, leg yield back to the rail about halfway down the arena (approx E or B depending on which side we were on), and then half pass back to the quarterline. The first few of these, Dylan wanted to lead a bit with his haunches, so L had me think about going across the diagonal to the opposite side of the arena when initiating my half pass. This profoundly changed the entire thing to me, and right away there was a massive improvement in the exercise. He really moved with power through his half passes - so much easier than before. When we switched directions, we had to focus again on my right side, and how I tend to spiral and collapse in one direction. L told me to think about my seatbones almost being pulled forward up into my ribcase, so I was REALLY paying attention to using the right one. She told me to also bring my right shoulder back, think about opening my chest, and let my shoulderblades settle back. This also had a profound effect on the exercise, and I did the thing so much better once I was really thinking about using and securing that rouge right seatbone. It does tend to float away by itself sometimes, which is not useful to anybody. 

At the end of the lesson, I told her my goals for this horse. I said that I have him for an extended period of time and therefore there is no rush, but I do want to go out at 4th level and I do want to get my silver medal on him. I asked her if she honestly thinks it is doable and she responded with an enthusiastic yes, and that we really aren't that far away from that. The main thing we tend to lack is relaxation, which is definitely true, but that we have all the other components in place. She asked if I wanted to finish out my bronze medal too, and I thought about it. I have scores through first, but that's it, so I would need to go back and do 2nd and 3rd. I'm less interested in that because I probably can do that on a different horse in the future, but I almost certainly will never have the chance to get my silver scores on an already made upper level horse again. I have to prioritize. But, she is right - and I should think about it. 

On a totally unrelated note, look how ADORABLE this guy is in his new harness.... even though the breastcollar is too small! I'll have to have them send me a bigger one! I'll be writing a full baby update in my next post, just because I never really got a chance to cover them at all last month!

All dressed up and nowhere to go


  1. That sounds like a great lesson! I feel like my pony is very similar to Dylan on the sensitivity front. I have to be careful about how much energy I bring and even what I'm thinking about as I'm riding.

    She's my little mini Spanish paint horse haha

  2. This trainer sounds like a fantastic match for you!

  3. Sounds like an awesome lesson! And zomg that harness picture 😍

  4. That is an epic stink eye he's giving you in the devil horns picture!