Monday, April 4, 2016

Bonus Lesson with Amy (In Which I Almost Fell Off)

(I promise I'm going to do better than once-a-week.  At some point soon.  Please don't leave me because I'm so inconsistent.  Needy blogger over here.)

So, since I did a lot of responsible adulting and didn't spend any money last month because I had to get my truck fixed (again WHY are there not merit badges for adulting?), and since the truck ended up costing less than I thought, and since I had Good Friday off of work, I treated myself to a second lesson last month.  

It was a GORGEOUS day out (even though they had predicted rain), so I got to the barn early, body clipped the beast, and had a couple of leisurely hours of tack cleaning and trailer organizing before my lesson.  I just want to note that I am thoroughly and completely a crazy horse person, given that I find tack cleaning and trailer organizing to be leisure activities.  Anyway, Gorgeous Boy looked gorgeous all freshly clipped, and for once I had more than my racing-from-work, stuck-in-traffic, barely-made-my-lesson, let's-hope-no-one-notices-the-random-bits-of-mud kind of preparation for my lesson.

So handsome you must give him all the snacks
I showed Amy the new warm-up I've been doing since our last lesson, which involves the same lateral and bending work, with stretching and opening up the trot mixed in.  I also showed her our new "starter canter," which is intentionally a little flat.  I'm working on our warm-up canter being aimed toward getting him to just loosen up his back, so I'm staying lighter in my seat, not asking for roundness, just trying to keep it connected and forward.  Amy liked the warm-up a lot. 

We worked on the shoulder-in, getting Tucker to bend through his rib cage instead of through his neck (he fakes me out all the time).  She had me go from shoulder-in to renverse, to get him bending in both directions (this is deceptively hard). I threw in some quarter walk-pirouettes, which were good.  I've been adding those in here and there in my rides, whenever I am walking and get to a corner, to try to make them "no big deal."

I told Amy that I wanted to pick up where we left off, so to speak, on our canter-walk and collected canter work.  We started off to the left.  In this direction I have to work on not letting his right shoulder pop to the outside, which is his cheat.  I am also finding that in the collected work to the left I need lots of leg - he wants to get slower instead of more collected.

So much slower in fact that Amy handed me a whip (long time readers may know where this is headed).  He initially thought about just dolphin-flailing off into the sunset, but I ignored him.  So he did a lot of groaning and grunting and calling for his union rep, but eventually we did make some progress.

Then we went right, and he got super tense because you know, today could be the day.  This could be the moment where the next thing he's asked to do is way beyond his skill set and he just can't do it and we decide to beat him into submission.  So, we did some stretchy trot until he decided to just chill, bro.

Once his brain returned to its usual resting place in his skull, Amy actually said she liked our right lead collected canter better than the left.  Which is awesome.  I have been really working on strengthening his right hind and getting the right lead canter more adjustable, and it seems to be paying off.  He was collecting without changing his rhythm and without bracing.  With the exception of the fact that I really need to learn to do upward transitions without standing in my stirrups like it's a hunter under saddle, right lead was really good.

For the canter-walk transition, Amy had me go directly into a walk-pirouette.  So, I'd start cuing the walk-pirouette while we were still cantering in the last moments before the transition, and then immediately upon walking turn to the inside for a few steps of walk-pirouette.  Well, I mean that was the goal.  I can promise you it didn't go as smoothly as that every time.  We still don't exactly have a canter-walk transition, but we are making progress.

We also talked a lot about weighting the inside seat bone, and pulling the inside leg down toward the ground, to get him to turn in.  Amy suggested I watch videos of Lisa Wilcox because she really emphasizes this when she sets up for her canter pirouettes (which I did, and you should too).  So, this is the point where I realized that I have a really hard time using leg without weighting my seat bone on that side.  Applying left leg while weighting right seat is like patting my head and rubbing my stomach at the same time.  I have to think really hard about it and possibly stick my tongue out the corner of the mouth.  

Of course, since the right lead was so much better than the left, we had to go back to the left again. Tucker definitely called shenanigans.  In my effort to get him more collected, all I really ended up doing was over-bending him left.  Which meant his right shoulder was stuck out even more, and probably because I was putting him in this pretzel shape, he was not responding to my right leg. Sorry, nobody home.

So Amy told me to use my whip on his right shoulder.  I gently pressed the whip on his shoulder. Nope nobody here by that name, so sorry, maybe come back tomorrow.

Given the lack of response, I ever so slightly less gently tapped the whip on his shoulder.  And he reacted like a hysterical teenage girl.


He went broncing and leaping across the diagonal like someone opened the rodeo shoot, which I was not necessarily expecting given how lightly I tapped him.  It was one of those *this close* to falling off moments.  There was enough daylight between me and my saddle that I ended up with a big ugly bruise on my right knee from where it smacked the pommel on my way down.  Somehow I managed to look for my saddle and get myself back in its general hemisphere, while simultaneously pulling the left rein, and somehow he was at a full stop by the time my butt was back in the tack.

Amy very nonchalantly responded with "... okay so just give me your whip and when you're ready let's go back to the renverse exercise."  You've seen this meme right?

In all seriousness though, we did go back to our renverse exercise at the trot, and eventually back to our left lead canter, and we were able to move it in and out of collection without any drama.  I'm pleased to say that after a minute or two of tension he actually let it go and went back to work without having a total nervous breakdown.  So, all in all a good teachable moment for both of us.

Of course, I completely tweaked my right knee and he got his Spring shots this week, so we haven't done much other than walk work.  But I think we are both fully recovered so it's back to full work this week... where I will work on consciously weighting my seat bones as an aid (apparently that's a thing you should do?) and be diligent about not over-bending.  Tucker the Wunderkind, not Tucker the Pretzel.  Got it.

Amy and I also discussed a plan for this show season.  I have been waffling between whether to move up to second level or stay at first for another year.  Amy gave me good advice, that you never really feel "ready" to move up.  So she suggested that I do my first few shows at first level, get qualified for whatever championships I'm aiming for (ESDCTA and ECRDA, and maybe USDF Regionals), and then do some shows at Second to see how it goes.  That way I'll feel more ready to be competitive at Second Level next year.  Which, of course, makes perfect sense.  As does most of what Amy tells me.


  1. That show plan is essentially what I'm doing--we're getting out at training level to do all the show nerves/whatever and get it out of the way at stuff we know we can do.

    Thennnnnn hopefully we move up. If it's terrible, we drop down.

    And yeah. I have NO IDEA what a horse overreacting is like. Nope. None. Never happened here.

  2. Haha. His reaction is great. Well, not great for you, but funny to read about.

  3. Stop abusing Tucker. He's going to call me to steal him back to hunterland if your'e not careful! ;)

  4. Poor Tucker, he totally almost died!

  5. You are a terrible human to abuse such a magical creature :P

  6. The comment about Tucker calling for his union rep made me lol.

  7. Horses! And moving up to second level....fantastic!

  8. That meme never gets old! Glad you saved yourself and stayed on!

  9. "So he did a lot of groaning and grunting and calling for his union rep..." LOLZ

    Glad you stayed on, but how dare you ever-so-slightly tap him with the whip! :P

  10. That's great advice about moving up - definitely worth a shot! Also poor long suffering Tucker and the indignities he must endure as a dressage horse... Lolz

  11. Glad you stayed on! I think that I might be helpful to you in supporting what you are doing with Tucker. Well designed and implemented groundwork, with an emphasis on getting to his emotions would be very useful. When things like this happen, ask yourself "was his reaction fear based, or dominance based?" You've got a 50/50 chance of answering correctly, and coming to the correct answer will then lead you to how to best handle it so that you can progress without him losing it when you use a whip. : )

  12. Amy sounds wonderful! I think I need an Amy. I loved your use of memes in this post - so on point! If we can't have video of Tucker's teenaged drama queen moments, then the meme game is a close second!

  13. Oh my, poor, POOR Tucker. How could you EVEN? I mean. ;)

  14. Riesling also feels whips are ABUSE even if I dare HOLD ONE WHILE RIDING, WHAT KIND OF PERSON AM I?!

  15. Miles has similar feelings about lunge whips. They are very awful things.


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