Ride Journal Nov 16-22

So far, this experiment in accountability is going well. I've been thinking a bit more carefully about my rides. And I've been taking a few more photos!

"The Week of Half Halts"

Nov 16: 
This place is seriously beautiful...
I started this ride with a light trail ride. After the rain of last week driving us indoors every day, I figured both Pig and I could use a break in scenery. After hacking out to a nearby field, however; I decided to just do our dressage school in the field.

We worked mostly on half halts. Pig has a bad habit of stiffening to a half halt, rather than taking a bigger step and simply rebalancing. The stiffening puts him behind my leg, and really destroys the usefulness of the half halt. This whole ride I worked on really sitting into a half halt, and not moving my seat when I needed to use my leg. I've gotten a little sloppy in my aids. When we have a good half halt, Pig is very consistent and light in my hand. When I don't, he gets stiff and backs off. I can't give as much as I do in these moments, I need to be firmer with my request to half halt and really drive his hind legs under him.

- When doing turn on haunches to left, let the right shoulder pop a little bit. Controlling it is stifling the forward motion and the bend right now. We can fix the shoulder issue later.
- When half halting, really think "push the hind legs under" with my hips. I have to change the way I'm sitting to get him to give in his back and bend his hip. At the same time, don't stop sitting.
- Flex to break up tension in the neck, but don't be too quick to give. He needs to relax into the bend.

Nov 17:
Morning light is the best light...
Tuesday I wanted to pull the goodness out of Monday's ride and add to it. We started in the field again, just warming up with forwardness and a round back. We did a little stretching and a little bending out there. Then, we moved to the arena.

I kept the focus on half halts during this ride, but I upped the difficulty level by throwing in some of our 3rd Level work. I did some half passes and a little shoulder-in, just to test the throughness of my half halts. Pig tends to rush these movements when he loses his balance, and I wanted to be able to half halt without losing the quality of the movement. Success.

After this we moved to Megan's walk to medium trot exercise, which should be called The Exercise of Ugly. It is so very, very ugly. I was extremely happy I had a forward horse, as that helped me get into a moderately forward trot from the walk. I only did this exercise twice, but it did help me get a lot more push in my mediums and figure out how to ride the forward without losing the connection. I also was happy to realize I still felt the half halt in Pig's back.

Nov 21:
Stand the horse on an uphill to make him look more... uphill?
After three days off, I wasn't sure how Pig would respond. Sometimes he stiffens up with too much time off. While a bit stiffer, he was very willing and lovely! We rode in the ring, and rode pretty much every movement from 3-2, though not intentionally.

After a long walk warm up, in which I focused on a driving half halt and a supple and stepping hind, we moved to trot work. We schooled the half pass, especially to our tough left direction. Pig tends to lose the bend, stiffen and lose the rhythm, or rush horribly in this direction. I focused on keeping a good half halt. When Pig would stiffen or lose bend, I lifted my left hand to keep the flexion and half halted with my seat. During this half halt, I asked him to move straight (with bend). Once he was collected again, I asked him to move over. I tried to be very careful about watching the right shoulder and nagging at the right hind to stay under us. Sometimes he steps wide with the right hind, which makes the half pass feel impossible. With extra attention, we ended the day with a left half pass that was just a nice as the one to the right.

At the canter, we did the same schooling of the half pass to the left (same issues). We also schooled a lot of counter canter. The first time we came off of a half pass, I made the turn at the end of the ring so that we ended in counter canter. The second time, I tried to do the same, but lost my seat and ended up flubbing my cues so that Pig started to change instead. I sat deep, and instead of getting flustered and auto-changing, Pig sat and walked. Good boy! The next two times we came around, I cued properly for the change and got one in each direction. They aren't perfect. The mirror showed he's not really late behind, but was kind of quickly kicking off with both hinds at once, instead of stepping into it more. I'm not sure what to do about that. To the research!

Nov 22:
Dat neck, doh.
For this ride, the focus was half halts, check the suppleness in traver, and no changes. We started with a lot of supple walk work, during which I really had to nag Pig's hind right to stay under us. He seemed to be stepping slightly short in front, too. That worked out by the end of the ride, but I'll be watching it.

The traver was quite stiff to the left. This is the harder direction, but it took more than normal leg and rein to keep the bend. A few 10m circles (which I am realizing I have neglected a bit too much recently!) helped loosen things up. Our next few attempts at traver were much better. I'm going to need to keep at this to be able to maintain a powerful one. It's a bit weak right now.

From traver work, I moved on to work shoulder-in to renver, without losing the connection or stiffening behind. This went super well, and I was very impressed with it. After every ride this week I had been practicing a stretchy trot, sitting. During this, I worked on changing bend and direction off my seat. I think that work is bleeding over into our collected work, as this transition was 90% off my seat and very relaxed.

At the canter, I worked counter canter hard. I asked for a lot of half halts in the counter canter. This caused a few breaks, but no offered changes! The breaks were 100% okay, too. We are starting to tilt the balance point back further at the counter canter, which often feels like living on the line between canter and break. I'm okay with that, because it's making things better. My half halts in the counter canter have often been a little haphazard, so feeling like I can half halt without a change or a break due to stiffness is great!

Next week? Keep up the suppleness work at traver, watch the front legs for issues, do more 10m circles, and do a conditioning hack.


  1. I'm with you on the half halt problems. I think I need to triple my core strength.

    1. Ack! Me too! A month off from sitting the trot was NOT NICE to me.

  2. Yay on getting the half pass in both directions including the harder one!! Sounds like some great rides in there...the stretchy trot sounded nice too!

    1. Stretchy trot has always been our weakness, it's funny that we only now get it after getting through second level.

  3. Oh goodness you are totally right, that exercise should be called the exercise of ugly. So good for the ride but soooo ugly!

    1. It's like an ugly cry. You need to get it out there, but you hope no one takes a picture of it...

  4. I hate that ugly exercise! It makes me feel like I'm 8 years old and learning how to post.

  5. I love the fences in your photos. It makes me want to go for a gallop. I love reading about your exercise.

    1. Meeee tooo! More on that in the next episode!

  6. It always seems like the easiest exercises are the ugliest lol

  7. Your rides sound so productive and it sounds like you and Pig are making some really good progress.

  8. Great write-up, and what beautiful scenery to ride in!


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