Saturday, January 18, 2014

Lesson recap

I love my trainer.  I'm lucky she likes me and is willing to drive an hour or two for me on occasion!

She rode Fetti while I rode Fetti's mom on a 4.5-mile trail ride in slightly under an hour.  Pushed Fetti's brain a few times, but generally the pony displayed her usual behaviors.  Excellent.

I was happy to find that many of her behaviors appear to be consistent between riders, and are not specifically caused by something I'm doing, although I'm likely to attribute their root cause to something I've done - the joy of being the horse's primary-and-almost-only rider.

After the hour on the trail, we spent probably another 20 minutes in the back woods pushing a few more buttons (no pony, you don't get to turn for home yet! yep, that's the hissy fit I usually get), and then headed to the arena where we switched horses for another 45 minutes or so and focused more on my position.  I know my posture is flawed in various ways, but rarely know enough to fix it.  Some days I wish for mirrors by the arena.  Trainer worked with me previously, knows some of my flaws, and is absolutely amazing at not only pinpointing what's wrong, but giving me a way to fix it that works for me.

Various notes and points of interest:
- Fetti is behind the leg headed away from the barn.  Probably not going to get that fixed anytime soon.  Still should keep working on it.
- Trainer rode with slightly shorter reins than I usually do.  Result: pony was rounder and somewhat less strung out.
- Saddle tips the rider slightly forwards.  I'll be having a friend help me re-evaluate saddle fit and consider shims this weekend.
- Her Really Big Trot is just a single gear down from her canter.  I don't think it's really an extended trot; it's just really powerful and she actually uses her hind end properly.
- I am all sorts of discombobulated at the canter.  Exercise: reins in one hand, other arm behind back, reminds lower back to not curl out and instead to stay straight and engage core.
- I lean back too much at walk/trot; think sit straighter, tip pelvis, really feel seatbones.  Mental image: you have ten pennies. How many are under each seatbone?  Especially careful to recheck my side-to-side balance through corners and turns.
- Shorter reins.  Shorter reins.  Shorter reins.  If I give her lots of rein, she's not going to balance back; she'll balance up to the very-forwards rein.
- Excessive forwards? Ask for lateral work.  Not allowed to go forwards or up, so give her somewhere to go with it - sideways.  Trainer rode out several hissy fits when I trotted on a ways ahead and Fetti was not permitted to keep up/instantly catch up.  I found it comforting that there was no bucking involved.
- Only bucking in the whole ride, in fact, was more likely a 'yay I can go!' playful buck when asked for a canter in the back woods.
- Keep the contact in the canter.  Balance her back; don't let her get strung out.
- Think collarbones forwards, keep hands low
- For arena work, if she starts falling forwards with her balance, use leg rather than hand to correct.  (Hauling her nose up on trail is acceptable when concerned she might take advantage and buck.)
- Keep unlearning the habit of using the indirect rein all the time.
- Try to do a trail ride and then work in the arena, so I can keep some of that forwards energy from the trail and still have a productive schooling ride.  Extra bonus Fig-thought: maybe this will help convince her she doesn't need to rush home?

On a side note.. it is incredibly, incredibly awesome to have a trainer finally understand that her mediocre arena trot is really quite unacceptable.  It's not a horrible trot, if considered by itself, but there is so much more trot that she could offer.

One post-lesson trail ride later, I need to find a balance between 'shorter reins' and 'hauling on her face'.  I do think part of the problem today was that the entire ride was slower than we usually care to go and I never let to get her move out.  We'll see how that goes tomorrow, where she can move out at a trot and I want shorter (than usual) reins with minimal contact needed to slow her down.  Lateral work was very successful in stalling the hissy fits when I let the other horses get slightly ahead; I think, again, she was upset about not getting to move out *at all* so I didn't push the issue too much.  Today I was also much more conscious of where my balance and seat were.  The challenge is going to be maintaining that consciousness the next month or two!


  1. Woohoo, sounds like a really useful and encouraging exercise! Also just realized I totally bailed on our Facebook chat. I'm sorry! I tend to read on my phone and then plan to reply when I get back to a real keyboard and then I get distracted...:(

    FWIW, when I run into the shorter reins vs pulling conundrum, it usually means that I need to put my hands forward. Mileage may of course vary!

    1. No worries, I do the same thing!

      Things have felt somewhat better when I can let her move out in between asking for her to slow down (sometimes by hauling on her face, because she does not always want to listen). She gets cranky when I'm constantly on her case, and I can't blame her for that. She (and I) both need to figure out that there's a difference between my hands asking her to slow down, and my hands asking her for contact, and hopefully keep the cranky applying only to the former!