Trying slowly to get back into the swing of things, here.
I have been lessoning pretty regularly, for sanity and chipping slowly away at that idea of trying out a First Level test in the fall.
Yesterday, we had a really terrific, really tough lesson. A trainer once told me years ago that as you progress further and further along in training, the balance shifts from you working hard and the horse not so much, to the horse working hard and you less and less.
I feel like our lesson moved us further down that road, or maybe I’ve been getting stronger because I’ve been riding so much lately, but boy, Tristan was TIRED at the end of it.
We worked on a lot of things, but the one I want to record had to do with straightness & bend on turns – circles, corners, and diagonals. In particular, Tristan falls haunches in going left. He’s stronger and less crooked and more supple going right, but he still needs support.
So we worked on loading the inside hind by “hopping” him over, especially going left. Basically, as I asked for a slight bend, use my inside leg behind the girth to really target and activate his hind end and get it moving over, independent of his front end. As we approach the corner, I kept steady in the outside rein and then used my inside leg to give a quick, sharp aid and really aim for crossover with his hind end.
To the left, we really made this a true HOP – we wanted him to really jump and respond, because he was so crooked to start. The hardest part for me was anticipating and keeping the outside rein steady while I did that – I tended to drop it, and then he moved his whole body over or even got more crooked. To the right, I still had to get some of that feel, but not make it a real jump.
We started with it on a circle, and then (as a huge thunderstorm blew through the area) went down to the indoor and started long diagonal serpentines. Short side straightness, set him up for the corner with a good strong “hop”, then continue that feel around the turn to the diagonal, set him up straight on the diagonal, and open him up for a more extended trot. Then approaching the far corner, take him back, get the other bend, “hop” him into the corner, straight down the short side, and repeat.
I LOVED this exercise. The extension down the diagonal jazzed him up, and the precision of aiming for the diagonal each time really forced me to be clear and quick with my aids. We started to develop – not a true extended trot, but a new trot with more in it. Loading the inside hind also helped him sit more and gave him more lift in the front end as we went across that diagonal.
At the end of it, he was TIRED but after starting off very cranky (and having one spectacular buck/bolt that I grimly hung on through and turned into a VERY deep trot 10m circle; S. said “it’s a good thing you’re really ballsy about riding those”) he was game and willing right through, which was important for me to see because it felt like he was really understanding what we asked of him and he was feeling like he’d succeeded.
Did I mention TIRED?