Thursday, July 12, 2012

Lesson, lesson, lesson!

I was so excited for our lesson today. I don't think I've ever been so excited for a lesson before, but we haven't had one in forever and I've been pretty frustrated with Jetta. I absolutely love TS and as always, I had a great ride and learned a lot.

First I watched my neighbor LC go. She has an adorable gray gelding named Wes. His problem is that he gets really tight and short in his neck (similar to what Jetta does), a result of being constantly schooled on the collected gaits by a previous owner at third level. I love watching lessons because I like giving lessons too, so it helps me see how a "real" trainer would address certain problems. For LC, she's a good rider but I don't think she's as effective as she could be. She's always a little stiff but I couldn't really pinpoint how to fix the problem. TS narrowed in on it almost immediately. For one, she's trying too hard to drive with her seat, almost making Wes brace in his back a little, and her hands are too stiff. She needs to bend her elbows more and keep them at her side, keep her hands down a little lower and have a constant "conversation with the horse's mouth" as TS put it. Instantly Wes responded by rounding a little more and stretching his neck.

It is always awesome to watch the change that happens throughout a lesson. A good instructor will almost always make that change. By the end, Wes was round and stretching down. He looked awesome. LC worked on flexing him both to the inside and outside, testing his flexibility and by flexing him, got that stretch she was looking for. They also used leg yields to ask him to bring that inside hind forward, helping to get him rounder over the back.

One topic of discussion was LC's regular trainer. I don't really like her because I see her clients all the time with poor habits and easily fixable problems that never seem to get corrected. I've ridden with this trainer once a long time ago (I was probably 13) and even at that age I thought I could do a much better job on my own. So while LC was gone she had this trainer ride Wes and when LC got home, she was disappointed to find that her horse was lame and the trainer had nothing to report other than "he was crazy". LC was understandably a little ticked. TS does not like this trainer either obviously and mentioned that LC would be better off if I rode Wes while his owner was gone, which I took as quite the nice compliment! I would love to ride Wes. Throughout the ride LC would mention "but my trainer tells me to do this" and TS would counter with the fact that either he's not ready for that, he doesn't need that, or if you do this first, then the second part will easily follow, always explaining the why behind it. That made a lot of sense to me and I hope LC continues to ride more with TS and less with this other trainer...

I really love the fact that TS is a vet (well, retired vet). Her and LC discussed vaccines and musculature of the horse among other things, so I definitely learned some new stuff! She poked and prods the horses making sure they're not out of whack any where, and if so she will adjust them.

Next up was Jetta's turn. I felt like we had a bit of a breakthrough last night. It was so, so hot out yesterday, even after the sun set that I couldn't bring myself to ride. So I lunged Jetta with the side reins and finally something clicked in my brain. Here I've been driving Jetta forward whenever she drops her head (like she's supposed to) because she slows whenever she stretches down. But wait a second, isn't that what I want her to do when I ride? She gets so fast when I ride her. So I spent the session driving her forward whenever she raised her head and letting her go as slow as she wanted when her head was down. It was awesome. By the end she was finally taking long sweeping strides with her neck stretched and no rushing, both cantering and trotting. After a hose off (we were both dripping sweat despite the fact that we were doing this in the dark) she got dinner and went back in the pasture.

Today she was calm and from the first moment I started riding her she was so much better. TS had me work on much the same that I had been doing, with a few tweaks that made it much more effective and we had a great ride. The theme for our ride was submission, submission. Jetta is a hot, opinionated mare so it is vital for every single step of her training that I have her submission. This meant that we started out at the walk with her bent to the inside. She kept wanting to change the bend or drop her shoulder to the inside so we really worked on getting her off my inside leg. If she didn't move off it with a light squeeze, she got a kick until she moved off my leg. For some reason she was just really dead to my left leg. When I got a nice inside bend she would reach down and stretch perfectly so we moved to the trot and worked on the same thing. She was much better at the trot so we just worked on slowing her down, using half halts and then releasing her to let her learn to carry herself and she offered a lovely trot. From there we worked on leg yields and she was awesome. I haven't done a lot of lateral work since I've just been concentrating on getting Jetta to listen and not gallop away with me, but she had some awesome leg yields, which were all about slowing her down, getting her to lower her head a bit and submit to my inside leg.

The canter was our hardest gait. She tends to get tight and go fast so she had us really get a nice inside bend, then release with our outer rein so she had to hold herself up for the most part. If she got quick, I would give her a strong half halt and then release, really asking her to slow down. It was helped along by TS making me really sit up and lean back so that Jetta could lift her shoulders better.

We did everything both directions and then went back to work on the canter. We had been working on a 20m circle so TS had us use the whole arena, using the short ends to collect the canter, really bending her and half halting through the corners and using the inside bend to keep her slower and stretching over her back. It was awesome! I love getting lessons :)

Homework includes continuing to work on that inside bend and submission. Slowing her trot and canter. Transitions today both up and down were perfect, I just need to make sure she is listening to my inside leg. I realized during this lesson that I had gotten so fed up I was no longer analyzing why and how Jetta was misbehaving. Even though I was keeping my cool and doing a million and one stretchy trot circles and using the inside bend, where I went wrong was not recognizing that she was blowing off my inside leg and that I wasn't using my half halts and bending to get her to keep from pulling on the reins. She's allowed to stretch but not pull. So overall, it was very worth it and I can't wait till the next one!

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