Sunday, February 14, 2010

Flat lesson

I had a great flat lesson tonight.  I've been having trouble keeping him straight so I wanted a flat lesson to work on that.  Man did I work my little tail off...

I got on a little before Alicia came into the ring and worked on walking in straight lines.  I'd ask him to stay between both hands and legs straight down the quarter line for half the long side, then ask him to leg yield just 3-4 steps, alternating left-to-right and right-to-left.  I tried to do the leg yields toward the mirrors so I could be sure that his haunches and shoulders stayed in line. 

Then we started off the lesson walking big circles.  To really get the correct bend and have him reach under himself with the inside hind, I had to ask him to bend through his middle with my inside leg at the girth, keep him straight on the outside rein so he didn't just bulge through his shoulder, keep my outside leg back and on his side to keep his haunches from swinging out, and open my inside hand. 

We moved on to the trot, and worked a lot on the same bending and reaching under through the inside hind, as well as getting him to soften into a steady contact on my outside rein, bringing my outside rein open and back.  Lots of transitioning from sitting trot to rising trot, while maintaining the same forward rhythm and active engagement, which required tons of work with my seat and leg.  Alicia told me to think about using my whole leg, not just my calf or my spur, both for the bend and to keep him between both hands and legs down the long sides -- which really helped -- but man am I sore right now!  By the time we were done with the trot work though, I had a really great trot:  light and forward, soft and bending, elevated in front and engaged behind. 

The canter was tough but it did steadily improve.  We started off the left.  My trouble with his left lead canter all stems from my right hand.  It's another chicken-or-the-egg scenario.  As to various bad habits that we've developed, I constantly find myself wondering whether Tucker started it or I did.  Probably me, maybe a little of both, but I always wonder. Tucker doesn't really like to accept the contact on the right rein, so he resists it.  As I'm trying to hold the right rein, and not let him pull it out of my hand, I end up burying my right hand against his neck, with the old "piano hands" and my elbow ends up sticking out instead of resting at my side.  Of course, this creates a very resistant feel on the right side, which Tucker doesn't want to give to, and then since he's braced and stiff on the right I end up trying to soften left, which is exactly what he wants because he'd much rather take the left rein than the right. 

So we worked a lot on getting me to lift my right hand and bend my elbow, so my elbows are softly following but I have a consistent feel on his mouth and he has nothing to brace against (no buried right hand).  Interestingly, when we started cantering a cavaletti, which was set in the middle of the ring on the center line, the first three circles he'd dive to the inside (left) to try to avoid the contact on the right side.  So I had to really work at pushing him out with my left leg, carrying my right hand, and feeling the right rein -- a little open and back toward my hip.  I have to remember when he falls in to the left to correct it with my left leg, not my left hand.  By the end of the left lead canter he was accepting my outside right rein, so then I just had to keep the canter forward and connected with my seat, keep him bending around my inside left leg, and keep my right leg back in the turns to keep his haunches from swinging out.  (Oh, is that all?)

Since it was such a good canter, I was able to keep the forward and the softness through the downward transition and he really reached through with his hind end into the walk.  We've been working on that downward transition for months, so I was really happy that he did it right.  I think he's finally understanding what we want.  He couldn't seem to figure it out at first.  He was walking when we asked, so what was the problem?  Now he understands that he has to walk and keep coming forward from behind, not balance against my hand or fall forward through the transition.

Then we moved on to the right lead canter.  Big thing here is that I actually have to push my left shoulder forward in order to follow him around the turns.  Since I always want to be taking the left rein, that necessarily brings my left shoulder back.  So even though my hips turn toward the inside to follow him, my upper body is actually twisting and I end up resisting him not just through my shoulder but also the small of my back.  But when I forced myself to push my left shoulder forward, all of a sudden he was softly accepting both reins, not hanging on the left rein or trying to bulge through his left shoulder, and holding the right bend without over-bending.  So... in other words... once I finally was sitting straight... he started going correctly.  Amazing:  (1) how simple this solution is; and (2) how incredibly awkward and unnatural the "correct" position feels. 

The right lead downward transition was tougher but after several attempts we finally got a good one.  It's funny, tracking right we actually got two good downward transitions but he only trotted for a step and then stepped right back up to his canter.  Doesn't seem to fully understand that when I'm sending him forward into the downward transition, I don't mean "keep cantering."  I think that might mean that my contact is less consistent to the right.  I might be letting go of the contact at the last minute instead of keeping a feel of his mouth.  I'll have to pay close attention to this during my next ride.

So, overall, a very technical ride but an excellent lesson.  I love a good solid flatwork session.  Always makes me feel so productive. 

Update on the stitches:  I took them out yesterday and it looks great.  Should heal really nicely and hopefully won't leave much of a scar.  Man was he glad to get those out -- they were definitely starting to itch!

Coming soon:  Pictures of Tucker free jumping... I promise, you will be amazed.  I'm beyond impressed with him.  My horse is a rock star, plain and simple.

1 comment:

  1. GooooooOOOOOOOO TUCKER!!!!!! (Imagine that being shouted out with pom poms and star jumps!!!) Well done with your lesson and glad to hear the super star finally had his stitches out!

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