Lessons from September

At the start of the month I texted my trainer asking her to put me down for two lessons a month from here on out. I need the eyes on me, badly. With Bast at a critical stage in training, not to mention being the most experienced rider at the facility (without mirrors!), having good feedback is going to be key to putting good basics on Bast.
I'd like him to develop with as few training holes as possible, thank you very much! (Though I know he'll have some!)
At the moment, he's going great. While not as accepting of the bit as I would like (Close your lips on the damn thing, horse! Mama wants some dressage slobbers!), he's learning to accept pressure and aids without reacting. Every ride, I see his little mental wheels turning as he thinks through the situation. I love watching him get more confident and smart within the game we call dressage.

I love the way my trainer approaches our lessons. She and I both love how hot and responsive Bast can be. However we would like him to learn to not only think before he reacts but be able to accept minor mistakes. Let's face it, I'm not the world's best rider. I can and will make mistakes ... often. He can't lose his cool just because I lose my balance for a second. Our focus has been on slowly building up Bast's mind to broaden his definition of aid responses, and to tolerate a bit more "noise" from his rider. At the same time, she's on me to ensure I'm being very clear and correct with my body. We both have to be more accountable.
By accountable you mean don't completely collapse in my right ribcage? No way.
Specifically we started working on canter transitions. As you guys saw in the write up from our last show, they've been a little bit wild. This is due to some significant contributing factors: anticipation on Bast's part, my wild positioning in the aiding, Bast's lack of balance, an overall lack of suspension in the trot, and Bast's tendencies to try to squirm out of my closing aids.
Wiggle and squirm, my lovely little weasel.
To address all of this, my trainer suggested I try to sit the trot into the depart. When I explained Bast has been interpreting any loss of balance or sitting to mean "OMG CANTER NAO", she clarified.

"No, how about you sit the trot, like until he listens." ... oh Jesus.
Sitting the trot be like... 😂
I plopped down into the sitting trot, and we immediately experienced some initial canter attempts and wiggling issues.

"You need to sit on him more. Sit him like an FEI horse. You need to feel your seat bones more, and he needs to feel your weight. He's ready and old enough. He can start to learn how to deal with it."

Yeah. Okay. Sit him like an FEI horse. Sure. Do you know how long it's been since I sat the trot of an "FEI" horse?
Years, okay. It's been years. And his trot was never as nice as Bast's will be. (Plus he never made it FEI, shhh.)
Needless to say I was huffing and puffing in no time. Nothing but sitting the trot in this way can work the those sets of abs. I mean nothing. Mine are woefully out of shape, and I was so sore after this lesson. It worked, though. Bast actually picked up his back and found his balance under me much easier. He also stopped randomly leaping in the canter without an aid.

Now we moved to suppling the horse. As he has a tendency to brace and wiggle against the aids, we worked on a lot of counter bend. Horse wants to fall on his outside shoulder? Bend to the outside and ask him to step inside with his shoulder.
Example of wiggling/bullying with his shoulder. An extreme example, but the more subtle ones are harder to see in photos.
In our first lesson of the month, our corrections were more obvious uses of counter bend. In our lesson at the end of the month, we worked on more subtle corrections. Instead of fully counter bending, we tried catching him more with my outside leg. I would press my thigh and knee into him when he bulged, moving to my lower leg if he ignored. Further disobedience resulted in counter bend.

It's amazing how much this has not only suppled Bast, but also made him much more responsive to the aids. It's as if he now is beginning to understand the complexity of leg/hand.
You mean leg and hand work together to communicate with the horse? NO WAY!
Once we had him straight, I would give the aid for canter. By this point he was soft and thinking and the departs were getting so much better, if still slightly disorganized and lacking strength. Even now, they've improved so much but I would not call them "good." Basically my goal is just to get something not explosive for now. From there move on to into the contact and straight. From there add more uphill tendency and suppleness.
So much improvement, though.
When we started on this the depart would get less leap-y (technical term), but the resulting few strides after were still weasel-level wiggly. After more work at the sitting trot and with counter bend in the canter to teach him he could move straighter in the gait, the depart could actually begin to strike off with more quality in the gait itself.
Getting there. One tiny step at a time.
My main homework is going to be to practice canter departs like this in every single ride. That's the only way these are going to get better. I also need to make sure I hold myself accountable.

Bast is only able to pick up the correct canter lead if I keep both seat bones in contact with the saddle. My right one likes to pop off somewhere into outer space at the moment. Trying to wrangle it back to earth is so hard, but the results are worth it. I'm working on that issue, and the keeping my torso from collapsing issue. Oh, and the carrying my hands issue. Oh, and the letting my legs drape issue. Oh and the ... ugh, you get the idea.
Such a good boy.
The ongoing homework is the fun of this sport, to be honest. I'm so much more motivated with goals and projects to work towards. Plus, it's been so fun to watch Bast bend his brain for good instead of evil.

I signed us up for another little schooling show this weekend. Excited to see if any of this translates to the ring yet. Even if he's just a touch more rideable out there, I'll take it!
He makes me smile so much right now. And that's really all that matters.
Anyone else trying to wrangle a horse-weasel or a wayward seatbone? What trending issues have your lessons dealt with recently?

Comments

  1. Hmmm, my only trending issue is THE NEVER-ENDING MOTHERFUCKING RAIN. If that could go away life would be peachy again! But from conversations with LC last weekend, I've got a start of a game plan to make Q more like Grif with her understanding of the aids and it all begins with getting her to understand and listen to my leg. She's got a lot of walking rides in her future of me nagging her to yield and understand my leg. Once she gets that, the sky is the limit. Slow and steady!

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    1. Yay that's all so exciting!! I can't wait to see what kind of amazing you guys get up to!

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  2. Ohhhh, I feel you on the wiggly canter departs and wayward seat bones. Ellie is at a similar stage in her canter where she is determined that she CANNOT be straight, accept contact at first, or bend in the canter like she can in the trot. It takes a full circle of ugliness before she goes,"Oh, right, I can do the thing and do it correctly."

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    1. Yeah it can be tough. Stick with it and eventually those tough moments will become less and less! Straightness is really hard, especially for some.

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  3. Every now and then I get a wild hair and think about sitting the trot more with chuck. It usually lasts about one long side before I’m like “wow this was a terrible idea!”

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    1. LOL! He looks like a tough horse to sit, but also large enough that you wouldn't worry about falling off. ;)

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  4. In many ways Carmen and Bast are similar. However, where he gets weasely she gets rigid. She's locks her jaw, poll, neck and shoulders. If feels like riding a carousel horse (one that is going far to fast and about to sling shot off the carousel). When she's like this her trot is like a sewing machine and her canter is like 'pepe le pew's bounce (https://gph.is/1S2gAvB). We are doing the counter bend for the same reason though- to get her to loosen and supple.

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    1. Oh he locks his jaw and neck and poll, too! It's like a wrench in the direction he wants. I hate it. I think it comes from him having a rather short and muscular neck. It's very easy for him to lock it. Carmen has a very thick neck, so I imagine it's similar for her. I do think they are quite similar in many ways!

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  5. it's funny/i'm nodding along that she said to sit on him until he listens. I had to do that with both runkle AND indy - just kinda sit the trot until I got some semblance of 'there' and felt like I could actually ask for the canter.

    I do sit the trot a little bit with spicy, even now. I've noticed that they go better for all that it hurts my abs. So much. buuut no time like the present to get used to it!

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    1. Yep! Start building those buff abs now! Haha

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  6. We're finally getting our departs down pretty well but cannot for the love of god come out of the canter without screeching onto his face in the most abrupt way possible. Opie's favorite gait is halt and he will get there as quickly as possible!

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    1. Oh god that's just a totally opposite problem. Ours are abrupt because they're downhill. Sounds like Opie wants to be a bicycle with a sticky front brake! Haha

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  7. Yay lessons! and your guys' matching game is on point!

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  8. Love his teeth showing ;) he is so cute. Glad you are doing lessons with him and yay for another show. Squee...you guys are looking great. My abs hurt just reading your post ;) HAHA

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  9. I love watching him develop!! He looks great! All sounds like normal young horse stuff to me. Keep going!

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  10. I’m constantly trying to wrangle my right leg. Sometimes it just... disappears, which is really, really unhelpful lol

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  11. Great photos of you guys - I am so glad things are chugging along smoothly for you both. It's hilarious your note about continuing to sit until he listens bc I was there with Annie... she'd retract/attempt to fall into the canter/ hollow her back, etc etc and I'd just end up rising the trot instead. During a clinic, the clinician asked me what I expected to teach ANnie if every time I sat on her and she got tense I just rose instead. Lightbulb moment!!

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