Friday, October 2, 2015

landing the lead

Oh man we got DRENCHED in our lesson this week. This imminent hurricane stuff is reeeeeeally harshing my vibe, man. Even Dan was unsure whether we really wanted to bother with a lesson. But I was adamant: if we'd show in it (like at Fair Hill), then we best ought to school in it too.

Plus.... hidden agenda: Kaitlyn was stuck late at work again but the Miseventer somehow had the evening off and would be joining the lesson on Tillie. Meaning: less expensive group rate!! Woo hooo - no way am I missing an opportunity to take a lesson for two thirds the cost haha.

isabel was less convinced about the soundness of my logic
So our warm up was a little less hands-on than usual (since we usually have private lessons) but it was good. I'm starting to figure out how Dan teaches. Every week he focuses on something different in the flat work, but gives little to no explanation or reasoning why. And then half way through jumping, I realize, "Oh yea this is exactly why we did that while warming up. Duh." 

(in his defense, he's gotten pretty good about tying things together in a post-ride lecture. and also sometimes I'm just a little slow lol)

just cantering in the rain. nbd
So, two big concepts in this lesson:

1. Landing the lead

Warming up, we continued last week's theme of 'left bend' by adding leg yields at trot. Regardless of direction, we focused more on yielding from my left leg (tho we did it from the right leg too for the sake of symmetry). Results were... mixed haha. I just need to keep working at it.

At canter we worked on canter-trot-canter transitions. Initially I thought back to a couple weeks ago when he accused us of 'flopping' into the transition but his point this week was a little different. He still wanted balanced and correct transitions, but he wanted them PROMPT. As in, very quickly go from canter to trot, then only a step of trot, then back into canter. That step of trot was still supposed to be slow and balanced ('supposed to be' does not equal 'actually happened' in this case lol), but really we were supposed to step very quickly and cleanly back into canter.

After we started jumping I finally understood the point: we are starting to focus on getting the canter lead. That practice allows for crisper simple changes, but also simultaneously tunes us both in to the correct canter aids. And Dan apparently prefers landing the lead over a fence to trying for the change (unless the horse already has solid/auto changes).

this.... this is probably not how you're supposed to do it haha. but it worked on this particular occasion! 
Warming up we circled over a single, starting tracking right. Izzy lands right every time so it was just a matter of repeating that feeling of 'dramatic re-balance' through the turns then moving forward to the fence. 

Circling left meant I had to actually cue for the left lead over the fence if we wanted to land it. Dan said that asking for the lead over a fence is the same as asking for shoulder fore: inside leg at girth, outside leg back, and open inside rein. It took a little while, but eventually we started consistently landing on the left lead (rather than cross cantering, ugh).

Course work was more of the same. The fences in our arena are mostly set up the same as they have been, tho the outside 4 stride turned into a tight 1 to forward 2 stride grid. And we added in a 2-stride line on the other long side. I kinda wasn't super excited about that 2-stride since it was set at a short 30' (tho I have nobody to blame but myself since I'm the one that measured it). But hey, we didn't flail through that 1-1 grid last weekend for nothing, right? Compress the canter, Emma, it works!

tracking right? easy peasy. tracking left? ehhhhhhhh
We again started tracking right with the triple grid, bending in 4 to the coop, then around to the 2-stride. Twas delightful. Turned it around to track left, starting with the 2-stride? Well... we made it through a couple times nicely - but didn't land the leads. Dan wanted us to land left after the 2-stride, after the coop, and after the triple grid. 

I could manage the landing well enough out of the 2-stride, but consistently cross cantered after the coop and landed right after the grid. Part of that was just trying to survive through the tight 1 stride at the end of a course (not easy!), but part of it is that I really honest-to-god struggle holding two different concepts in my mind simultaneously. 

For instance, the more I focused on getting the lead, the likelier I became to screw up our canter and biff the distance (like when I almost ate it over the coop again ugh). 


2. Taking the canter to the next level

The other focus was on improving the canter (as always). I'm finally getting the timing right on approach to the fence of dramatically half halting through the turn so that we can move forward to the fence (finally!). So now Dan wants to see improvement everywhere else in the arena - not just on approach.

He said that if we just focus on the last couple strides everything gets 'stale.' So now as we move around the course we should go back and forth from bringing her 'through' (as in, the half halt to rebalance, which naturally slows her down) to riding forward.

You can hear it a little bit in the video, but he essentially repeated over and over 'bring her through, then ride forward. bring her through, and ride forward' again and again.

The concept makes a lot of sense, and I can see how it protects against getting 'stuck' or 'stale' in the canter. Also seems easy enough to put into practice, tho I'll have to be careful not to focus too much on the 'riding forward' bit so much so that I forget about the 'pushing her through' part (arguably more important).

poor soggy long suffering mare
So we struggled with the leads and never quite mastered it. But it's probably just one of those things that will need to marinate. Add in the fact that Isabel has never been asked to land left consistently, so I'll have to break through her barriers too even as I sort out my own self.

At this point I don't feel confident enough in my ability to try for the leads at shows. The risk is too high for me to forget more important things - like the canter!! - plus I'm so noisy with the aids that we'd probably have rails anyway. But it's a good goal to work towards!

However I also know the approach is a bit different in h/j land, where lead changes are schooled much more vigorously and leads actually, ya know, MATTER for more than just balance if you want to be competitive. So for those of you in that world (or really anyone with experience here) feel free to chime in with ideas or tips/tricks that have worked for you. 

26 comments:

  1. Poor wet Isabel! Ah.. lead changes.. and leads.. there are so many different ways to do it! I like an opening inside rein like Dan was having you use, but have also been told to have my inside hand 'left behind' a bit instead of releasing forward, or ride the horse slightly bent to the inside on the approach. I'm sure as you play around with it more you'll figure out what works best for you!

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    1. i think that inside bend thing will help us .... but too bad we really struggle with left bend haha (methinks this is all interrelated lol)

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    2. Just be careful not to overbend and lose your track/distance or have rails because you're fussing. Sometimes this can even cause you to lose their shoulder and land on the wrong lead. Subtlety is key. :)

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    3. point taken. at present i don't think we're in danger of being over bent tho - the mare is *much* too straight through her body when tracking left. we'll see tho!

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  2. I am terrible at cueing for the canter over the jump, much less asking for a specific lead. Good luck and don't float away this weekend.

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    1. ugh i would be so happy if all this rain just left us alone!

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  3. I always found looking the direction of your next jump while going over the current jump to help your horse land on the correct lead to be the best. Remember to turn your shoulders slightly too in the direction of the next jump. Best wishes

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    1. thanks! unfortunately i think it's gonna take a little more than that with izzy - i'm pretty good already with looking where i want to go, but she's super handy and is comfortable jumping from whatever lead (or both simultaneously!) so it's gonna take something a little less subtle to convince her to land left

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  4. Poor soaking wet pony! You look great, I love watching you guys jump! I have no advice except IMO flying changes are easier than asking for leads over jumps and your quality of canter is looking pretty excellent :)

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    1. aw thanks! i'm really so pleased with how much her canter has developed - that gear is just *right there* now, so easy! and idk about flying changes being easier - you might be right. i know izzy has changes too, but i'm so super uncoordinated i never even try asking

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  5. Dan explained the cue quite nicely actually. Make sure that when you ask you don't throw your weight on the same side as the lead you are asking for (not that you did. But a reminder) because it becomes MUCH harder for them to land on that lead. But it looks like you are doing things basically correct. It's mostly a matter of practice and getting the horse to really understand what is being asked. Even if you can canter around on a wrong lead and find your jumps ok, your track will be much improved by being on the correct lead, and you will be less likely to have rails, especially off of a tighter turn because your horse is balanced, and you aren't trying to deal with a counter canter along with balancing for the turn. This applies even to bending lines. I think with a lot of practice y'all will figure it out though and get more automatic. It's tricky to make this a habit.

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    1. glad to hear we're on the right track! good point about throwing my weight around tho - i definitely started to get a bit too twisty and busy in the saddle in trying to figure it all out haha. and yea dan wants us working on it bc isabel swings her haunches pretty dramatically and it kinda interferes in the tight spaces while on courses. hopefully you're right about it eventually becoming automatic!

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  6. I'm awful at leads too - I forget to look the way I want to go when going over the jump. :P

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    1. i'm maybe a bit *too* exaggerated in looking where i wanna go next lol

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  7. I am no help! I have been unsuccessfully attempting to get Moe to land on his leads for YEARS. At this point, I have kind of given up, because he manages to get around on whatever lead he wants without any problems. :P Gina came with auto changes that are really nice, except when I'm trying to practice the counter canter.

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    1. lol that's kinda how i've been about isabel - she can get it done from pretty much whatever canter she's in, and her simple changes are typically easy enough that i just haven't bothered... hopefully she will figure this out tho! i've always been kinda jealous about horses like Gina with nice auto changes tho haha

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  8. Isabel is not impressed. Not impressed at all. But still super cute wet!

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    1. haha nope she is one sodden and unimpressed mare!

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  9. I lessoned on an Arab gelding who you just could not unbalance for a lead change, he had a beautifully perfect balanced canter on both leads. I found it utterly frustrating, but he was a lovely creature. Maybe its an arab thing? :D maybe its the one less vertebrate in spine and tail. Other than that I echo the earlier commenter who said looking where you go helps a lot!

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    1. you might be right about it being maybe an arab thing - my trainer frequently says arabs are notorious for jumping from a cross canter, and points out WFP's Tamarillo as an example {sad side note: i just googled for verification and learned that horse died this july :( }

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  10. We tots don't have lead changes. But our simple changes are getting much better. Im also better at riding the cross canter she loves to do and I agree- ugh

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    1. glad to hear i'm not the only one!! sometimes it seems like every horse i see has this nice little autochange and i'm like, 'well she swapped up front, that sorta counts right?' lol

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  11. I also have struggled with developing quality canter. It seems like the standards for "quality canter" keep changing as Murray and I progress -- what once would have been just fine is no longer fine. Which I understand, we are getting better and we should be able to get our canter bouncier and more energetic BUT ITS HARD OKAY. Murray and I struggle.

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    1. omg so hard. the struggle is real. but yea i think you're right - the standards are definitely changing as we progress too. it's crazy what a difference it makes tho

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