Thursday, October 8, 2015

long and low trot?

Let's talk about that time my lesson with a 4* rider essentially turned into a rudimentary walk-trot lesson. And how I was actually quite pleased with it. The ride started with me jabbering at Dan about all my general concerns with how Isabel has been going, while he set up the jump exercise (which we ultimately didn't spend much time on).

no action shots so you just get a random compilation. sorry not sorry!
See, I've been a tad worried about Isabel lately. (Not that it takes much to set my hypochondriac tendencies abuzz...). Like at our recent OF lesson that started with Izzy dragging a little bit, was full of those 'fierce' expressions, and ended with whorled up hair suggesting the saddle fit is only getting worse.

Then I had what can only be described as an 'uninspiring' dressage school on Monday, after she had a day off. One of those rides where I promised Isabel as we tacked up that I wouldn't pick any fights with her... and then was unable to keep that promise (while she was simultaneously unable to do.... well, just about anything, really). One of those rides where the horse is pretty honest about wishing it was literally anywhere else.

but everyone loves between-the-ears shots, right? RIGHT?!?
So obviously my mind shoots off in a million directions trying to figure out why the mare might not be feeling it, and what I can do to fix it. And my bank account bitterly weeps bc the answers that pop into my mind are: teeth (getting done tomorrow), saddle fit (appt on Sunday), back soreness / time for the chiro (no appt yet, but will happen sometime in the next 4 wks). (and oh god let's not even talk about hypothesizing on whether mare needs another ulcer treatment....)

And then I unleash all this on Dan when he innocently asks how things have been and I say 'quite poorly, actually.' Apparently I have a flair for the dramatic. Le sigh.

ooooh wait, here's an action shot!! lesson mate Kaitlyn takes her turn while we wait in the wings
Anyway, Dan is decidedly NOT a particularly dramatic individual so he kinda just gave me this look like 'yeaaahhhh you crazy.' But also humored me a little, saying (more or less) 'Let's suppose the mare IS back sore enough to interfere with her work. Giving her time off isn't necessarily going to help. Just like yoga is more beneficial to you when you're sore than just sitting on the couch, asking her to work and stretch correctly will help rather than hinder.'

At which point I had the pleasure of admitting that I don't actually know *how* to get my arab mare stretching under saddle.... womp womp.

this kinda counts as an action shot, right? i mean, she's *actively* eating a lifesaver from my hand. #totallycounts
And so the lesson became: teach Emma this most basic of concepts about stretching long and low at the trot.

This is probably old news for many of you - but it has honest-to-god seemed like the most elusive of unicorns to me, despite reading and hearing tell of the majykal properties of long and low trot work just about everywhere. Therefore I'm writing down as much as I can remember of the lesson in the hopes that it becomes, ya know, a thing I can actually *do*.

that's it for "action" shots tho, so here's cats. everyone likes cats, right? 
As always, it starts at the walk. Isabel naturally has a rangy over-tracking walk so our mission is always to bring her round while slowing down the pace and having her track up rather than over-track. All without bracing against my hand. I'm allowed to use *some* hand to achieve the walk, but it's primarily seat and leg, and as she softens to my hands I should be able to push them forward with her staying round and maybe lengthening her neck. 

Lately there has been a LOT of bracing and resistance tho, and achieving the walk feels like it's taking longer these days rather than getting easier like we might expect. My hope is to see improvement after her teeth get done... We'll see. 

except this horse. this horse definitely does NOT like cats.
Anyway, once we have the walk that stays balanced and soft when I push my hands forward, we half halt and transition up to trot. Per usual, right? The idea is that by establishing this correct walk first, we will have a better transition and find ourselves immediately in a balanced and soft trot. Same concepts as always.

Once in trot, Dan wanted me to really REALLY push Isabel up into the bridle - really round and deep. He suggested sitting the trot for this. Lots of leg, and slow the pace down. I was to push and push until the horse softened and felt like she would follow my hand forward.

cats are noticing the chillier weather and finding anything cozy to snuggle into
Then I could soften (and start posting) and slowly let the reins out - but keep leg ON. I had to keep pushing with my legs even while softening the reins and lowering her frame - that's what it means to 'push' the head lower. And if Isabel popped back up, it was right back to sitting the trot and pushing her super deep and round. Rinse repeat. Back and forth, give and take.

It was also imperative that as I softened and let the reins out, I didn't lose the connection. She was supposed to stay connected and round as she stretched down - not dive/root the reins or get curled under. Focusing on inside bend (with inside leg at girth, outside leg back) also helped significantly.

two-faced fat cat is super cute - i love how she has big white whiskers on one side and small black on the other
A couple times Dan also suggested tapping Isabel with the dressage whip on her inside shoulder - gently but enough to get a reaction - to get her lifting off the shoulder more since she was quite heavy on it.

Ultimately the proper outline requires the horse to continue swinging through her back, pushing from the hind end, and stretching down while maintaining a connection.

the socks (or at least one of them) i won from KateRose!!!! and it's actually a little more purple than navy, which i adore!
Tho pace is also quite important. Isabel's evasion of choice is speed - which Dan attributes to her losing balance. And if she gets too quick in this 'long and low' frame she's just going to get heavier and heavier on the forehand, negating all the benefits.

I'm not sure we ever quite achieved the appropriate pace, but the longer we went the better Isabel seemed to understand what I was asking and the more steps in a row we'd get of a 'correct' outline. Hopefully the pace part will come soon. 

mare remains unconvinced about all this nonsense
So that was pretty much the whole lesson. But just for shits and giggles we hopped through the jump exercise a couple times too, without ever having cantered for the warm up (wasn't necessary, we were trotting FOREVER haha).

The exercise was just a line down the outside - a vertical and oxer - with the fences set at like, seriously one foot. We started left lead and Dan wanted 6 strides. Then back up right lead in 6. I got chided a few times for getting too 'excited' in the last stride to the fence and was reminded that each stride should be even in length.

Then we came down left lead in 5, back up right lead in 6. And Dan pointed out that I get the most handsy and pull-y when I want the mare to open up her stride. Not very effective! Once I planted my hands on her neck and left her alone the 5 was fine. Then we came back up once more in a very lovely 7 (I will always love the add strides haha) and called it a day.

But yea, the meat of this lesson was the stretchy long low trot work. Hopefully I'll be able to continue refining my aids for this so that I can stop throwing money at a chiro whenever I'm particularly paranoid about Isabel's back haha...

35 comments:

  1. Yesss...YESSSSSSS! ;) I find there's a big connection between the inside leg asking for bend and the outside rein guiding the neck down. You guys will get it. It's hard. Don't be afraid to half halt hard to get the mare off the forehand then try again to get her relaxed and swinging.

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    1. she really started to figure it out well but then tried to get dive-y like maybe i wouldn't notice the difference lol. tricksy mare!

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    2. Murray likes to be like "OMG NICOLE I want to stretch SOOO BADLY give me all the reinz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and then when I have been tricked into giving up way too much rein he's like "haha now I will just bring my head back up! plan success!"

      However, having VERY clear rules of "you work or you stretch" at both walk and trot have been extremely helpful. Has also improved our free walk, as now when I pick up rein contact he's like "NOOO PLEASE FREE WALK INSTEAD." Not sure if this is the real definition of free walk but... his nose is practically in the dirt so whatevs.

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    3. lol isabel would love all the reins for always and ever amen too. and actually the 'nose in the dirt' doesn't really work for izzy bc she just learns to dive down onto her forehand (perhaps bc she already has a tendency to duck behind the contact?) so i have to be super careful to make sure she stays connected.... i like the idea of 'clear rules' tho! it matches what grant schneidman said when i clinic'd with him last spring

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  2. What Austin said. Especially about the forehand. So many people let their horses run around on the forehand. You and Iz have got this tho

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    1. isabel says forehand is BEST hand tho! ;)

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  3. Stretchy trot is soooo hard at first but then so awesome once you figure it out! And so awesome for their backs!

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    1. and her back needs all the help it can get, that's for sure!

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  4. You'll get it!! I like to go from a reeeeeally long/low free walk (like let's talk about nose in the dirt) and up into a slow trot and finesse the stretchy trot from there. Sometimes I need a little inside spur as a reminder to lift the belly & back into the stretch, but in free walk you've already got the stretch & swing so you can (hopefully) just carry it over to the trot. Iz will loooove the stretch once she figures it out!

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    1. yep she's a-figuring!!! i'm happy to add it to my toolbox (finally lol)

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  5. What a great lesson! I love working on things like that. Sounds like you're both starting to figure it out. Keep at it. You'll get it more consistent. It's so worth it.

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    1. it was definitely a cool lesson - i'm chippin away at this dressage thing one ride at a time haha

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  6. You read my blog post about the sugar cubes right? I am also trying to figure out how to do long and low correctly (and not just throw the reins away). I have had at least two walk-trot lessons recently and they are really hard -- but super helpful!

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    1. lol sugar cubes are our everything always. and yea i really had no idea how difficult a pure walk-trot lesson could be. honestly i didn't even feel like we had to jump and would have been satisfied with just the trot work, it was THAT good

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  7. Yay!!!! I can't tell you how many times I've scolded people for just dropping their reins to the buckle, then complain that their horse won't stretch! I tell them, you have to make him meet the bit and get the idea he needs to be continually searching out the bit, wherever you put it, and you need to guide him down into the stretch, not drop the contact and have him do an easter egg hunt that he doesn't know he should be doing! Congrats on getting it started! I have to get my baby started on it... he has zero concept of stretch!

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    1. yea my mare is definitely way too dignified for "easter egg hunts" , and we've only ever really gotten decent free walks when our tests are in grass rings (and therefore izzy maybe tries to grab bites as we go haha). so i'm glad to actually school this a little!

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  8. Stretchy trot is a magical elusive unicorn for me as well. Sometimes Bobby is just very, very good at it, and sometimes he is very, very bad. I don't seem to be able to control when it's one or the other. Bad magical unicorn.

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    1. ugh i hate it when they just don't feel like playing along!!

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  9. you two were starting to get it!!! Will you be out there today? Ill be working on the things from that lesson!

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    1. yes i will be - want to get both of 'em ridden so i'll be around all evening :)

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  10. Omg that horse/cat gif is terrifying! Stretching down at the trot is super hard for us too. I feel your pain.

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    1. that poor horse... he must have thought the sky was falling or something :( and yea stretching... it's harder than it looks!

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  11. Give this a few weeks/months and you're going to love the difference you'll see in her top line. And I bet you'll see a big difference in her willingness to work on the flat once she gets better about this.

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    1. i hope you're right - esp about an improvement in her top line! the thing is she's incredibly willing already - like she can be such a superstar with phenomenal work ethic. so they days when she's a little duller really stand out as unusual and get me all freaked out (even tho dull days happen to everyone)

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  12. Thanks for the breakdown, going to try that with my pony! Long and long trot kind of eludes us as well. Yay for sockies!!! :D

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    1. i LOVE THE SOCKS!!!! haha but yea the idea of 'pushing their head down' has always seemed kinda crazy to me but it definitely got easier once she started figuring it out

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  13. I think once Courage and I get stretching down pat, we can do anything.

    But yeah, not there yet.

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    1. somehow i suspect you might be right. figuring out this one single aspect of connection, wherein the horse follows the bit wherever you put it, does seem like it could potentially be a game changer. good luck!

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  14. You're making me want to do dressage! I liked Dan's view on the backsoreness. I frequently think Knight is experiencing a major health catastrophe, so I relate to your hypochondriac tendencies.

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  15. You're making me want to do dressage! I liked Dan's view on the backsoreness. I frequently think Knight is experiencing a major health catastrophe, so I relate to your hypochondriac tendencies.

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    1. haha oh man i'm SO QUICK to think the sky is falling and my poor mare is broken (she really isn't, she's fine)... but yea anything i can do to help her out makes for a happier calmer me lol

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  16. You do the best training notes, I feel like I'm there at your lessons vicariously haha I'm going to try giving this a shot with Quest on the weekend methinks (:

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    1. lol glad you find the notes helpful!!! i try to write down as much as i can possibly remember so that i don't have to keep paying for the same lessons over and over again ;)

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  17. Love this. Thank you for the recap. I need to return to yoga for myself and my horses STAT.

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    1. yea i should probably do yoga too.... but where is the time?!? anyway hope this recap is useful!

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