Wednesday, February 17, 2016

follow the leader!!

You know what I hadn't done in forever? Follow the Leader type exercises. Like, forever ever. And I don't necessarily mean things like: Leader has outstretched hand so you must do the same. I mean ground pole / cavalleti / jumping exercises executed single file where you aren't allowed to leave the line and must maintain your spot.

post-ride, horses look like they got their running in haha. also note the jump in the pic, that was the top height for the exercises. so they stayed quite small.
The barn where I learned to ride would have us do that all the time - it was another small indoor and we would all circle around jumping fences on the rail simultaneously. I'd kinda forgotten all about it... or maybe really never thought of it? But when we did it again in this week's jump lesson at OF, I remembered how FUN it is!

awwww tired mare is tired!
It was another small group - just four of us again. So we had plenty of room to go about our flat work business in warming up. And actually, just like my recent dressage lesson, we planned to arrive good and early to let the horses walk out around the indoor on the buckle to start. Frankly it isn't always practical or realistic to have an extra 20min for just walking around... but for right now when we're not working much, it's definitely worth making that time.

OF doesn't have the same rules as TM about touching the mirrors. as evidenced by all the names scribbled into the dust
Our flat work felt pretty good too, not surprisingly, given our dressage lesson the day prior. We started with lots and LOTS of stretching at the trot, then reeled it in to work on leg yields, some counter canter loops, and a little stirrup-less sitting trot practice. I'm not totally convinced dropping my stirrups is helping tho, since I found myself gripping even more with my calves. We'll see.

loooooooooose hooooooooorse! lol
Anyway, then it was on to the Follow the Leader fun stuff. It started as trot poles up each long side, and we four lesson riders dutifully trit trotted around and around. And trainer P snuck in to slowly start setting the poles into 12" speed bumps. Which every single horse just HAD to jump. No trotting fences for these guys, nope, no way. Isabel pretty much insisted on jumping each one and cantering away (probably to our immediate doom by getting our poor faces kicked in by little mare pony Magic haha).

breathing fire? 
So there was a 30' line on each long side, and a 30' line down the MXK diagonal. We trotted through single file again and again for a little while, and then started cantering through. The jumps all eventually got bumped up slightly to the height you see above - nothing crazy by any measure, but absolutely perfect for getting to the whole point: pace and rhythm.

most stylish horse award winner? why stop at one ill-fitting cooler when you can layer a second ill-fitting cooler on top?!? bonus points for clashing color schemes!!
And your placement in the line depended on your specific needs. For instance, I got scolded for trying to sneak into line leader position - since Isabel and I need to work on maintaining a smaller balanced canter. Putting us behind potentially slower horses really forced the issue - I had to actually participate and ride lest we start running people over.

It actually made me to think back to lessons with Dan, where he insisted that the horse be soft to your hand such that you can "push" your hand forward and the horse doesn't get faster. I had kinda been faking it with Isabel - holding her to these teeny tiny strides while approaching the lines, but then she'd ZOOM forward over the first jump when I released and eat up the 30' distance much too quickly, such that we'd fit in two very uneven strides.

"i would take extreme offense to this outfit if it weren't for this double stuffed bag of alfalfa goodness" - isabel
Once I focused on getting her truly into the bridle and balancing a bit better, things improved such that we would land in the same canter we jumped from. Good stuff folks. Never mind that technically that's a lesson I've already learned (a few times ugh lol)... it's always good to get reminders!

So let's chalk that up to another benefit of group lessons haha: Getting to use your lesson mates as actual physical barriers that force you to actually ride the damn horse lol. Have you ever done a lesson like that? I've seen all kinds of youtube videos of riders moving single file through cavalleti exercises, but really had never thought much of it... But now I want to try again!

28 comments:

  1. I used to do that as a kid! But sadly, not sense. I hadn't thought about it before, but that would be a great exercise for controlling speed. Hmmmm, interesting!

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    1. it works both ways too - we put the horses that needed more forward in front, and those that needed more whoa in back (ahem, isabel, ahem)

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  2. I miss follow the leader lessons, they were always more fun to me.

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    1. it was definitely fun - simultaneously just a super low pressure way to enjoy riding with friends while also making sure you're actually staying on top of rhythm/pace

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  3. I haven't ever done these but I think they would be fun.

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    1. i bet Pongo would like it ;)

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    2. Only at the canter...he is super adjustable there, but from the trot not so much. He pretty much flips you the bird and says all jumps/poles need to be cantered. :D

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    3. eh that's pretty much exactly how all our horses did in the lesson too - they all each jumped every single cavalleti and landed cantering. which is fine - but they still must maintain their space in the line. so that canter better be tiny, and reeled back in quickly. really that was a super valuable part of the exercise. pony wanna jump and canter a trot pole? pony better be prepared to get stuffed into a super tiny package.

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  4. You know I never thought about going through the exercises this way as an exercise in and of itself - I just figured it was a necessity of riding either in a too small ring or with too many people. I can't definitely see how it would be great for regulating pace!

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    1. that's kinda what i thought too - that we just did it growing up bc it was an easier way to manage lots of kids in a small arena. but it worked well in this lesson too - esp since one or two members of the lesson were a little greener about heights, it meant we could all work on something together without anyone feeling over-faced

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  5. Foxhunting is basically playing follow the leader! With alcohol.

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    1. haha awesome - yet another reason i need to gooooo hunting!!

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  6. when i was in college i LOVED my group lessons. We always took turns with the jumping but our flat lessons were so fun. my trainer basically had us do a quadrille (there were four of us) every single flat lesson. She even started to have fun with it by giving us matching horses (e.g.; two bays and two greys, two ponies and two big horses). it was fun because we all had to stay evenly spaced and work on the size of the horse's stride so there wasn't any crashing, even when one of us was on a pony and the other on the biggest (18hh!) horse in the barn!!

    it was sooo fun. back when flat lessons were fun ;)

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    1. aw we did drills too!!! usually only once a year for the closed-farm shows, but i remember *loving* the lessons where we would practice them... so much more challenging than i would have expected, but really oddly satisfying to create all those patterns.. ha now you've got me wanting to get my friends to practice again with me :)

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  7. At our old barn we would have drill team like lessons in the winter because our covered arena was small and sometimes we'd have 10-14 riders and horses partaking in 1 group lesson. Those days were pretty cool

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    1. that definitely sounds fun to me - and great way to manage so many riders haha

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  8. I did a follow the leader lesson a few weeks ago! It was awesome. I also played "around the world" with a little kid. She kicked my ass. I also fell off hahaha XD

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    1. aww haha, oops! i kinda hate it when kids show me up at that kind of thing... but then again they're really practically nimble little monkeys who can climb all over everything, whereas i'm a little less... um, coordinated, shall we say lol

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  9. That's a really cool lessons idea.

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  10. Iz doesn't look like she is going anywhere fast there lol. Cute.

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    1. ha she got so excited to run around that she forgot she's out of shape lol

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  11. These lessons are a blast, and I haven't done one since I was a kid! Now I want to!

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    1. you should! definitely a fun way to work on the basics :D

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  12. That sounds so fun! That would boost a rider's confidence too because the horse has to go over the fence!

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    1. exactly! plus you can keep the fences to whatever heights are most comfortable - the purpose isn't about jumping big, it's just about getting that rhythm rhythm rhythm !

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  13. We do exercises like that periodically too!

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    1. i think there's a lot of value in the practice for sure

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