Friday, September 25, 2015

left bend: still not a thing we do

I'm beginning to doubt my ability to assess my riding lol. Ask me which lead is better, and I'll tell you the left lead. I'll tell you that the transition is more balanced and that we jump better off that lead.

But then look at my handy analysis and discover that the data say otherwise - that the right lead is stronger (even if I still think the transition is worse). And consider this week's lesson with Dan wherein we couldn't actually jump well from the left lead (and most certainly not with left bend).... and.... yea. Maybe I actually don't have a clue.

left bend waaaaaat?
(pics are from an earlier ride where we schooled over the same obstacles with less fuckery but still no left bend)
It was a frustrating lesson primarily because it started off really well and steadily devolved. And unlike last week, I wasn't able to put the wheels back on the bus in time to finish strong. Ugh.

The Miseventer showed up to ride Tillie (Kaitlyn was stuck at work) just as we finished and asked how the lesson went. It took me a few moments to formulate an answer, and Dan sure as hell wasn't gonna blurt out 'wow, yea she really sucks' with me standing right there so... finally I settled on "educational" as the appropriate adjective for the ride. Ughhhh.

But back to starting off well: we revisited that tiny collected canter from last week's lesson and ran a figure 8 around two low jumps. Last week's video wasn't particularly exciting, but there are clearly moments where we got the right rhythm and pace so that we 'moved forward' to the jump without speeding up. And then there are other moments where we kinda splatted over it. Dan prefers the 'splat' to the 'gap' but would rather see neither.

simple figure 8 repeated until directed otherwise
So I was quite pleased to demonstrate this week that I had taken the lesson seriously and done my homework, and we pretty much nailed this exercise. Every. Single. Jump. It felt goooooood. Haha too bad that wouldn't last.

One of his big focuses on our flat work this week was inside bend. He wanted my inside leg *down* and at the girth (no curling!) and my outside leg *back* to keep the haunches from swinging out. Specifically he told me to think 'shoulder fore' while jumping, particularly when approaching a diagonal jump from which we'd be changing directions.

Somehow, though, achieving that bend while tracking left is just... not a thing I can do. At all. And my only recourse was to just start pulling....

First we went through a course that I can't for the life of me remember, but it involved mostly right turns and we handled it well enough. It was when we switched to the final course that things just completely fell apart.

third and final course. we, uh, struggled. 
I just.... kept messing up. Not getting the bend, or getting fast to the jumps, or not reorganizing early enough upon landing, or adding too many strides down the final coop-blue-green line (should have been a short 4 to 4 and I kept doing 5-5). It was also pointed out that jumping up my horse's neck with my upper body was not conducive to maintaining the balance/pace upon landing.

Finally Dan told me to stop thinking about the 'collected' canter and ask for 'medium.' He did *not* mean go faster - he just wanted to see a bigger step, covering more ground. And he also wanted to see me using a lot less hand - all legs and seat and inside bend to achieve the canter.

So obviously we took off at a gallop down the long straight approach to the orange and proceeded to knock over a whooooole bunch of stuff. Next time through, I jumped ahead at the natural oxer then made a terrible turn to the coop, garnering a refusal. I said something along the lines of "I deserved that" and, well, he more or less tacitly agreed. Sorry Isabel!

i don't always pull on her over fences... just, like, 87-93% of the time
By that point things were getting worse with each repetition, I was getting dangerously close to losing patience (something that rarely happens in lessons), and Isabel started seeing monsters in the darkness beyond the arena's flood lights (which are finally fixed!!!!!!). So... we got through the line and called it a day.

My homework is to make that left bend happen, make it a thing we can solidly do. And that doesn't mean one step of bend and then straight again. We should be able to hold that bend, and without a ton of rein aids. Walk trot canter, whatever. Bennnnnnnnnnnd.

izzy is used to getting things done despite my shenanigans
So yea, a frustrating lesson. Not to be confused with bad, per se (tho you certainly couldn't call it good!). I'm reminding myself that Dan designs his lessons to expose training weaknesses in the horse or rider, which then allows us to work on them and improve.

As the Miseventer pointed out afterwards (while I downloaded/vented a bit), Dan might be intentionally revisiting the habits most likely to interfere with moving up. Some habits were easily ignored/overlooked at lower levels, but become increasingly unacceptable as the jumps get higher and questions more challenging.

I already know this at heart (and wrote about it here) - but maybe didn't realize how frustrating the process of filling in those training holes could be. As always, just gotta keep workin at it!


  1. Knowing what you need to work on and having the tools to fix it is a success in and of itself! You'll get it!

  2. Sigh. The theme of my lesson last night was bend. Know what we don't have??? Right bend :( If I had a dollar for every time she said "MORE! Ask for more" I could order us both custom saddles.

    1. haha now wouldn't THAT be a nice trade off?!?

  3. Ack what a frustrating lesson! It always makes me feel dumb when some simple concept (like left bend) eludes me! You'll get it. :)

  4. I always felt like left was Paloma's better direction, then I started riding a friend's gelding on top of riding Paloma. I bobbled and tensed on the gelding. Then when I would ride Paloma, suddenly right felt better.

    I gave big kudos to the gelding for training out my stiffness to help me become a straighter rider. Now, I can truly feel when I have stiffness or the wiggles.... most of the time. Ha

    1. interesting!! the gelding i started working with will hopefully have similar results for me (fingers crossed!!) as i'm sure so much of these issues originate with my own mistakes....

  5. Left bend wasn't a thing for us last night either. I feel like it is one of those things I will be revisiting often if I don't stay strict about it every ride. Im terrible for accepting less than good efforts :)

    1. le sigh. some of these struggles are just.... constant things, i guess. if you're terrible for accepting less than good efforts, idk what that makes me for not even *recognizing* the issues without being told lol

  6. Replies
    1. thanks!!! we're gonna give it our best shot haha

  7. I was just editing the video of my dressage test from last weekend's show and I started thinking about this post because all my scores tracking left (both trot and canter) are higher than those tracking right - which is totally backwards of how I would have guessed they'd be because I perceive the left lead as weaker. But then again, I've been doing a lot work to the left lately and kind of neglecting the right, so maybe that's helped me improve our scores in that direction, even though I feel like it's the weaker direction (and maybe it's not the weaker side anymore?!)

    1. Haha I think that's sorta what happened to us too - I maybe focused so hard on fixing one side that the other deteriorated? Tho I'm also now wondering if I've actually been wrong all along? It's just so strange - izzy is different about her leads depending on if we are working on flat work or jumping. Doesn't make a ton of sense!

  8. Don't get discouraged. Things always seem to get worse before they get better. I have totally destroyed Pongo's ability to pick up the correct lead in order to teach him to bend. When I started riding him he was correct 99% of the time, but he was braced and it was ugly. Now, he is correct 30-40% of the time (mostly my fault, I forget to counter bend him then over do it), but he has bend and they are more uphill. I always remind myself that things usually get ugly before they get pretty.

    1. yup i'm a firm believer that progress is not comfortable, and as such you really won't see me get discouraged. just gotta document the process anyway!


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