Thursday, June 18, 2015

gallop!! (yes, on purpose)

This week's lesson with Dan was another private for various reasons that make my checkbook weep bitterly... but since we're counting down for Tranquility (omg 3 days!) it had to happen. I REALLY want to pull our shit back together for this event, and showed up with my game face. Alas, no photographic evidence. 

Not much has changed in our flat work from last week's lesson or Waredaca, but I'm learning how to cope and draw the ride out of Isabel. We talked about what C covered over the weekend: going FORWARD, riding the shoulders square in front of me, and keeping that outside elbow stable and the inside hand up and open. Dan added that my hands can go up and down, but shouldn't come backward.


kinda backwards here, among other things
He said that when Isabel goes too deep it means I'm using too much hand and not enough leg (le sigh) but that with a horse as short-coupled as her it is a tricky balance (yay at least it's not just bc i suck!). 

We worked on collecting the walk (meaning get that damn horse in front of your leg emma!), then into sitting collected trot, back to collected walk, back to collected trot, again and again - no hands please. All seat and leg. Tho I was to raise my hands when Izzy raised her head through all transitions and gaits. But raised hands do not equal backwards hands... 

Our walk-trot transitions (up and down) have regressed quite a bit, and I'm not entirely sure why. And we're misfiring with our leads, another regression. Boo hiss. Dan said to take more feel of the outside rein for canter transitions and bump her with the inside leg in preparation. These are things I already do, but perhaps not enough? Idk... We transitioned back and forth from trot to canter through seat and leg, rather than hands, and Dan wanted us organized in the trot asap after the canter. 

Nothing super groundbreaking... but this is where we are right now. I really REALLY wish Isabel would blast the wattage back up again for this weekend... but... well, I have contingency plans if that doesn't happen (including carrying a dressage whip in our test). 


more of this please
The jumping was surprisingly messy too. We hadn't jumped in a week, following my silly little theory that Isabel needed time off. That theory really fucking sucked, what was I thinking? Mare needs regular work... not drilling and not wet saddle blanket treatment, but steady consistent routine. She has always needed this... why did I think otherwise? Ugh. 

So anyway she was ready to GO as soon as I pointed her to the first warm up line - but was simultaneously miles behind my leg. Pulling accomplished nothing - I needed leg leg leg (emma use your legs. more leg emma), ignoring the reactive fussiness and squeezing her like a tube of toothpaste up into my hands. 

Dan reminded me not to be afraid of actually using my hands/reins while jumping. This was not the same as the flat work exercises that we just worked on - rein aids are acceptable and necessary tools for jumping (...duh emma). But again - he wanted my hands going up and down, no backwards riding! 


this was also backwards riding... thus the major chip
The focus was coursework - very different from his usual compress/collect exercises, and it actually took me a moment to realize he wanted an open stride. Plus Isabel was STILL behind my leg. So he recommended I transition to canter from a walk. 

For the typical compress/collect exercises we start with a tiny walk, then get a teeny trot, to transition into an itsy bitsy canter. This lesson? Nope. None of that noise. He wanted us to GO. GALLOP. RUNNN ISABEL RUNNNNNN!

And actually, when I still wasn't getting it (think sucked back and missing distances left and right - nearly leaving out a stride in one line, adding heinously in another), he had me halt at the start of a long side, then go straight into canter. And not a pretty little dressage worthy transition - he wanted me clucking and yelling and revving that mare up and BLASTING into canter. Then back to walk at the end of the long side. Rinse repeat. 


he kinda wanted it to look like this - but from a halt. sass optional
The first two or three times, Isabel dug in with her head way curled under and misfiring too.. Essentially, she was sticky. Which was strange for me to recognize bc she wants to go. She loves running. But yet simultaneously she's sticky to the aids. Weird, right? 

But finally we got what he was looking for: She exploded into a hand gallop in an UPHILL frame - with 3/4 of her body solidly in front of my leg, and Dan said to start my course. But now that I had the horse in front of my leg, I could reel it in to organize, maintaining that feeling of lifted shoulders by squeeeeezing and holding with my legs. I was to soften about 4 strides out from the jump, and have my organized canter reestablished within 4 strides after the jump.


dan recycled the jumps set up from last weekend's CT. i got to jump my lattice!!!! (isabel didn't even blink, natch)

We cantered right lead down the diagonal in 4, left turn up the outside in 3, left turn around to the coop on the other diagonal (cross cantering but who cares), short right turn to the skinny on the outside, even shorter right turn to the lattice. Boom. Done and done, and not too sloppily either. 

And the difference was pretty evident - everything felt WAY better. Dan says it's not so much about riding the rhythm and letting the horse find a distance as it is about creating the canter such that you can jump from any distance. A subtle but important distinction. And it's also not about having Isabel round for jumping - bc if her poll gets too low I can't see a distance for shit. 


everything is better out of a forward, uphill canter
Plus, he said if I have Isabel in this uphill frame solidly in front of my leg, bobbles like we had at the Waredaca lattice can't happen - bc I'll already be right there prepared to squeeze the mare over the fence. Tho he also added that if there's a jump I'm worried about on xc, use the crop behind my leg during takeoff one jump *prior.* Interesting insight, no?

So my biggest takeaway from this lesson, combined with C's dressage lesson over the weekend:

  • Install forward FIRST AND FOREMOST. Get that hind end activated and moving, such that 3/4 of the horse is in front of me. Then, and ONLY then, can I start reeling it in to package the energy into the rhythm I want. 

(and yes, i'm sure this sounds as much like a broken record to you reading as it does for me writing... but one day i *will* learn this lesson and it will stick. hopefully that day comes soon - like maybe in time for tranquility?? please?!?)

18 comments:

  1. Riding is hard, yo. I'm at such a similar place right now, feeling like I used to know how to do these simple things like ride my pony on the bit and now our relationship/conversation/partnership has changed because we've been progressing together, but it feels so backwards! You'll get it, just keep plugging away and try not to beat yourself up for making mistakes... easier said than done though.

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    1. yea we're hard at work plugging away, that's for sure lol. sometimes i think it would be easier if horses were automatons that never changed except to get better... but then again i've been learning a TON just trying to help bring isabel along in the last couple weeks whereas previously i was only trying to keep up with her. the pieces WILL come together again - hopefully in time for our show!

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  2. Dan is SO right! Both of the clinicians I had over Memorial Day Weekend kept saying that jumping is all about the canter, and how the jump should feel like part of the canter, not JUMP and CANTER...if that makes sense. You'll get there though, if riding was easy everyone would do it :)

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    1. thanks - that pesky canter... it's so much work haha!

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  3. Mind=blown on that tidbit of using a stick behind the leg one jump prior😮 That's pure genius!!! I must try it!!! Usually I just power growl (too much)

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    1. i thought it was really interesting too! i'm usually just a cluck monster haha (which makes for great pics bc it looks like i'm grimacing) but the stick is an important and useful motivating tool haha

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  4. You and I are working on very similar issues! The quality of the canter is so, so important, but really hard to achieve for me rn

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    1. somehow i suspect we all might be working on canter issues and the quality of the canter for all our riding careers haha - like you say, it really is that important. when it's right tho, wow what a difference!

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  5. Oh good! My trainer is not the only one who makes me GALLOP the long side and then walk the short side! Like seriously. His exact words were, "Listen, if you're not crying, she's not going fast enough." I nearly died, but it worked.

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    1. haha it was actually a pretty cool exercise. for our purposes it wasn't so much about speed as it was about how she got there - dan wanted her bursting up and forward in a VERY uphill manner, everything else was secondary. it worked tho!

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  6. I need a Dan lesson - working on much the same things. Thanks for your great recap, lots of tips I will borrow!

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    1. glad it's useful for you! i am getting SO MUCH from his lessons - and i think isabel is too. they are challenging but super educational for both of us!

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  7. I love Isabel's sassy faces!!! I might have to try to crop behind the leg one jump prior on Gina and see if it works for her!

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    1. lol she is certainly very expressive ;) and do try the crop thing and lmk how it works out! of course, it's no real help if the problem fence was one you didn't see coming (like our lattice refusal)... but a good trick all the same!

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  8. I struggle so hard with getting Ries infront of my leg all the time! We will conquer this together!

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    1. it's definitely tough... esp when i didn't even realize it was happening...

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