Sunday, November 1, 2009

Knock it off, and get over it

So we had our lesson this morning and it wasn't all pretty but it was a great learning experience.

We worked on the flatting and it seems, as far as the counterbend goes, when I want to go back to an inside bend and he then wants to get heavy on the inside rein, I need to shoulder-in. We did quite a bit of shoulder-in work today and I was very happy with how that went. Tucker was listening and when I was asking correctly was really responding well. I love when that happens, when the horse acts like a barometer for how correctly you are applying your aids. Ask right, get the right result. It doesn't always happen, sometimes you ask right and they still don't want to cooperate 100%, but in Tucker's best moments he is just like that. I had a lot more control over his hind end both laterally and in terms of staying connected, which I was happy about. Our canter transitions, both upward and downward, still need quite a bit of work. But our flat work within the gaits, including lateral movements, is really coming along.

We did a lot of work with three cavaletti set nine feet from each other on the long side of the arena. He was great through them at the trot. We discovered that tracking left when I was posting on the wrong diagonal, I had more weight on my inside seat bone and the trot improved. Thought that was really interesting. During the left lead canter he wanted to flatten out and rush through the cavaletti, so we worked on me sitting tall, leg long, lifting my hand and eye and keeping him straight with right rein and left leg. He improved as we went, and we added trot work in between, and some shoulder-in, to get him re-focused and listening again.

Then we started jumping. We started trotting in to a short two-stride with a nine-rail in front (a ground pole set nine feet from the first fence). The first time through he didn't listen when I asked him to wait so he was tight jumping out, and then the second time through he was smarter about it, which was great. Then we added a third jump to the line, so it was a short two-stride to a short three-stride. Same thing, the first couple of times through the three-stride he blew me off and didn't wait, then he got smarter about it and started listening. I was really happy with how I was able to hold my position over all three fences, my leg stayed under me, my upper body was good, and to get the collection in the lines I remembered to sit, press forward with my hips and lift the hand. One of the best moments was when he landed on his left lead, cantered one stride and did a full left-to-right lead change. Brilliant. Once he got into the routine, he almost always landed right. Smart boy. So that part was really good.

Then we added two diagonal fences. The first was a wall (it's about 2'6") with no standards. That one went really well. Then there was a 3', pretty airy oxer with fake flowers on the ground in the middle of it. The first time we jumped this, Tucker saw a distance that I didn't see and left the ground well before I thought he was going to. It actually ended up fine, I was in a good position to start with so I just grabbed a little mane and stuck with him. That one made us laugh pretty hard though.

We did the whole thing again, and this time to the oxer I didn't see it and we were really deep, he had a rail and landed all pissed off doing his violent head-swinging, leaping, scooting business around the corner. But, it was kind of my fault that he had the rail so I wasn't really going to fault him. We went back to the wall on the other diagonal, again that went well -- I asked him to add and he politely listened. This time to the oxer he was really naughty. The distance was right there and one stride out he just dragged me past it and jumped up huge, and then threw the same temper tantrum through the corner, and this time it was worse. There was a second where I thought I was coming off straight into the wall but then I managed to hang on. It was so uncalled-for that I yanked him up and slammed him to a halt in the next corner, and growled at him to KNOCK IT OFF. He was so shocked that I got after him so strongly that he actually hopped up into a little mini-rear. But it was well-timed, and deserved. I'm all for being understanding and accepting that he's a horse and he's going to have his moments, but that's up to a point. He also has to learn that he can't get away with being rude or acting out for no reason.

So we made the oxer a big cross-rail and did it a few times from a slow sitting trot, and Alicia reminded me to soften my hand in the slow sitting trot as we approached so that I wasn't stiffing him off the ground or coiling him like a spring (which causes him to land explosively), and then making him halt on a straight line. The first time, even from the slow sitting trot he wanted to drag me around the corner but I made him halt and then patted him once he did. Came around twice more at the slow sitting trot with a halt, and then he landed softly and we cantered quietly around the corner. I was really happy to see how quickly he got over himself and started behaving again.

Then we went back to our wall on the other diagonal, and made him land halting there as well. I actually never got a good halt on a straight line there but decided not to have an argument with him about it because he did quietly come back to a halt just past the corner. Then I picked up my canter again and went back to the oxer. Came off the rail and we just kept drifting right so the distance I saw out of the corner disappeared and we got really tight and he punched out the first rail. This caused yet another temper tantrum around the corner, but I got him back under control and this time didn't pull him up quite so abruptly since he did have the rail and that genuinely upsets him.

Alicia had me turn my right hand upside down. She does this a lot and it really helps -- instead of holding the rein with your thumb on top you turn your hand over the way you'd hold a driving rein. The problem was that I wasn't using my right rein at all as I came out of the turn and he was just drifting all the way to the right of the oxer. So we went back to the single wall, and this time he was more focused. He and I both saw a conservative distance, so all I had to do was stay back with my shoulder and sit very still and he waited nicely. We halted again (slightly past the corner). Then I had a moment of total panic. I walked a small circle and realized I was starting to hyperventilate a little, and I heard Alicia say "You okay?" but I couldn't answer. If I had stopped for a moment to think about whether I was really okay, I probably never would have jumped the oxer again. So I said to myself "Oh, just get over it," picked up my canter again and came to the oxer. This time I remembered my right rein, we stayed straight and the distance worked out nicely. He kind of snapped his knees and jumped it really hard but that's to be expected since he had the rail the time before. On the upside, my leg was anchored solidly underneath me and he didn't jump me loose. The best part was that he cantered quietly around the end of the ring like a gentleman.

So two things about that jump were great. One, it was great to see how quickly his attitude changed. When we got to the jump well, he didn't hang on to what he had done during the times before, but instead just behaved himself like he's supposed to. Two, I was able to get over my fear and anxiety and ride through it. Riding is such a mental game, it's such a huge accomplishment when we can put aside an emotional or mental block and get the job done by good riding.


  1. Sounds like an awesome lesson!!!!!

  2. Good ride. I'm glad you managed to ride through his naughty moments there. Those can be hard on the confidence if you come off, but you handled it well.

  3. Every time you put your foot in the stirrup and ride it's a learning experience. Sometimes it's frustrating and sometimes it works out wonderfully. I guess we just have to take it all as it comes and be thankful we've been given the chance to ride and do what we love to do. Sounds like you had a pretty decent ride and overcame some difficult moments.


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