Posts tagged: bad behavior

Gold Star

Poe and I had a lesson tonight. We’re on a sort-of every-other Thursday schedule (sometimes we go every Thursday, just depends on how things are looking for me and for the girl who I alternate with). We’re working with Laurie, a new-to-us instructor — she’s my third in the last two years, since the first started wintering in Florida and the second is headed to Australia to train for the Polo World Cup.

My experience so far has been fantastic! We’ve only done flatwork; I really feel like we’re on the same page with it. Everything she’s suggested has made sense, and she immediately picked out a few little things for me to change that have made a huge difference. Like, for instance, not chucking my outside rein at him in the canter transitions. THAT was a revealing lesson. She hopped on him — I believe it was my second lesson. I love having my trainer ride every so often, so that they can get a better idea of what’s really going on. Sometimes things feel WAY different under saddle than they look from the ground. Anyway, she hopped on him, and he completely lost the ability to pick up his left-lead canter. I have no idea what crazy thing I’d been doing to get him into it, but he didn’t at all understand the idea of the rider maintaining outside rein connection while he picked up the left lead. I’ve been mostly leaving the canter alone since I started back in serious work. Most times I ride I’ll go a couple times in each directions, but I’ve felt like my time has been better spent concentrating on getting him connected, supple, and balanced at the walk and trot. The canter will come.

Anyway, in my last lesson two weeks ago we worked a lot on maintaining the proper flexion on circles, smooth changes of bend, and leg yielding. It’s amazing what a difference the leg yields can make in his trot (when I can keep them held together properly). So that was my homework over the last two weeks, and that’s pretty much all we did. Lots of working on accepting the contact, changing bend, and leg yielding. I had some really fantastic rides and some really crappy rides, and missed two days I’d planned to work this week because it was just too effing cold. Our indoor arena is heated, but I’m a wuss and I’m iffy about riding when it’s single digits — and Tuesday and Wednesday this week were both below zero when I left work.

Tonight the arena was empty when I went down there, and Poe was kind of a pain in the ass when I first got on him. He wouldn’t stand for love or money (so much for my previous post about having cured this problem). We had a five or ten minute argument about it (probably it was more like five; felt like an hour), where he tried to walk off and I stopped him, and he tried to walk off and I stopped him, and — yeah. He finally — Finally! — gave up, and sighed. I couldn’t completely tell if he was on board with me or just suddenly interested in watching the door, but I snatched the opportunity and got to warming up. Whereupon he informed me that along the north wall? that wall there, the one we’ve been riding by with no trouble for the last, oh, year? Well, along that wall, there is a very – scary – horse-eating – shadow – of a horse.

Like I said. Pain. In. The. Ass.

Sometimes, though, these pain-in-the-ass days make me man up and ride much tougher than I usually would — and, lo and behold, he comes to work for me and we make real progress. That’s what happened tonight. When he finally tuned into me he forgot about his oh-so-scary shadow and tried his ass off. I probably didn’t give Laurie much hope when she asked how he’s been doing since our last lesson and I first told her about all the days I hadn’t been able to ride, and that we’d been, you know, working on stuff, and it had been okay. On days when the leg yields are really not working, we start with turns on the forehand, graduate to the walk, and only then move on to the trot — but tonight I was already trotting, so I blithely said we could try starting there, and always dial it back if need be.

Well, he was awesome. There’s still a lot of work to be done, particularly to the left (moving off the right leg), but she said we obviously really HAD done our homework, and we were so much better than last time, and I refrained from actually doing it but in my head? Total fist-pump of victory.

After that we did a pretty cool weird-figure-8 exercise, where we tracked left, then turned up the center line, changed to right-bend, leg-yielded a few steps to the left, then turned right. Using the center line gave us lots of room and time to establish the new bend and get him moving off the inside leg into the outside rein. We’re trying to teach him to balance and support himself on his inside hind when he turns. Awesome to the left, less awesome to the right. I think it’s going to be really good homework for us over the next week or two.

And then — AND THEN — the canter work. I’ve spent the last few lessons quietly muttering that I don’t do sitting trot, my sitting trot is a disaster, and pretty much just ignoring the idea of doing the sitting trot before canter transitions. I’ve gotten away with it because we haven’t worked much on the canter and when we do there are other, more glaringly obvious problems. Well, Laurie forgot that I don’t do sitting trot, and told me to switch to sitting trot to prepare for the canter transition, and I once again said I Don’t Do sitting trot — but this time I then shut up and tried it. And it was not comfortable and I felt like an uncoordinated monkey but damned if we didn’t have some Nice canter transitions. Way nicer than the ones I get posting in. So, more homework. He got his left canter lead every time tonight, but it was always either late or unbalanced, so we’re also going to work on getting crisp, balanced transitions to the left.

I hopped off him right away after his canter work — he really was trying his guts out — and he was quite sweaty, so I walked him around the arena a while. The horse-eating horse shadow returned and he pretty much jumped out of his skin trying to escape it. Way funnier when you’re not in the saddle.

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