Sunday, September 22, 2019

Sitting at the big kids table

I'm very fortunate that the new barn worked out a deal with me that Trainer Z can visit me once a month and teach lessons.  She's also teaching my friend and a few other people have mentioned interest in a dressage tune up once a month.  Today was my monthly dressage butt kicking.

Theo started the day by startling a deer on his way to turn out which resulted in both of them spooking.  Theo, being far less graceful than a deer, flew back fast enough to trip over his own feet and fall down.  A text about that event was what I woke up to.  Seriously, papi?  SERIOUSLY?!  But no worse for wear.  He was stiff on the right hind when he first started out but stretched into it within a couple minutes.  No heat, no swelling, mostly his bruised pride.  And bruised butt from the looks of it.

How dare you discuss my butt on your blog

I did get a bit of a talking to about my very long, no contact warm ups.  He can't warm up his carrying muscles flopping around like that.  If I want to have him carry, he needs to go into a low, training level frame pretty much off the bat.  It did help our warm up go smoothly so I'll have to get better about that.  Some leg yields and transitions within the gait took care of the lingering stiffness from his little tumble and a couple days of shenanigans from being a land porpoise.

Next up was our half pass.  We started in the walk since half pass usually goes by so quickly you can't do much about it once you've started.  Theo is prone to taking over the move and taking me to the wall regardless of my opinion on the matter.  I also wanted to work on my position since I know I'm doing something wrong in my canter half pass.  Rather than go sideways nicely, he gets tense and then tries to change leads.  That's not usually in Theo's list of evades so I knew I was doing something wrong. 

At the walk everything was lovely and correct and nice. We worked on making sure my weight is to the inside and my seat doesn't do anything weird.  We also worked on adjusting my feel so I noticed when the haunches were lagging when I don't have a mirror.  Then I picked up the trot and right off the bat, Trainer Z saw what I was doing wrong.  I was hanging on the inside rein like it was the only thing between me and certain death.  I don't even know why I was doing it!  And my hand wanted to cross over the neck.  She said more outside rein and I couldn't get the feel at all.

I got sent back to the rail to do a shoulder in with a bit too much angle.  Sure, I can do that, and I pick up the outside rein no problem.  Then swap to haunches in.  Oh, sure enough, there's all the weight in my outside rein as I take control of the shoulders and push his haunches in.  Like, you know, a half pass.  We did this a couple times until I had the feel, then down centerline for a half pass to the rail.

Holy crap, that's fun!  I'm pretty sure that's the first time in my life I rode a half pass correctly.  And Theo has a knack for the movement so he was perfectly happy to pick up and start crossing.  Trainer Z started laughing and said I might have gone a bit too much for Third and it was a bit Grand Prix but it was a start.  Just have to be careful since Theo's a bit of an over achiever at this and will try to take over the movement.  Which brings us to the canter.

With the mechanics straightened out, we went to canter and I went rail to just short of centerline to avoid lead changes disrupting the flow.  I have to ride so, so, so carefully.  I set the bend to start the movement but then my inside rein needs to soften so he has somewhere to go.  While showing him the movement, I had to give him the inside rein completely.  My problem was that I was riding it so hard that he couldn't move.  I ride it soft and over he goes.  I need to work on his prompt response to the 'move over' aid.  It takes him a second to respond and at the canter?  I'm a quarter of the way down the rail.  He also is prone to straightening as we go as he takes over.  So it's half pass off the rail but if he tries to take over?  Swap to leg yield and reinforce the bend in the movement.  He can't be allowed to reach the rail in half pass right now because he totally takes over and takes me to the rail with shoulders leading and contact braced.

By this point Theo was a sweat ball but being super chill.  Perfect conditions for flying change!  Off we went in the canter to start actually schooling our changes.  He's done them enough that he's clearly got the idea.  We just need them clean and reliable.  So nothing fancy, just do a 10m circle, develop a good canter, and then ask.

Uh, what?  That's it?  No crazy prep, just ask?  Well, okay then.

He likes to do that fake one still but with a bit of whip tapping to get him really bouncing?  He's got a cute, clean change in him.  He sounds like a dying goose right before he does it, but it's a cute change.  I've never been so proud of a horse making that kind of noise.  I knew it was going to be clean when he did one big, bouncy stride with that grunting honk sound, then changed.  Much petting and cookies and love for that.  He's not the kind of horse to bolt or be dumb afterward, he considers it to be business as usual aside from some bucking due to the whip tapping.  It's in some ways anti-climactic after all of the fussing on the topic.  I asked, he did it (with varying degrees of success), and my homework is to just . . . practice.  Because somehow, someway, he already has a change.  It's just greener than green.

So that's my homework, to improve the quality of my canter half pass, do the shoulder in/haunches in exercise to keep him balanced rather than letting him take over, and practice my changes so they're more reliable.  That . . . sounds suspiciously like schooling Third level.

That's so cool.

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