L Program: Feedback and Thoughts

Yep, we're back to this.
Hopefully you guys remember the last post on the L Program about the riding portion. If not, go back and read it. I'll wait... For a recap of the riding, check out these videos of the walk, trot, and canter portions.

The second part of the clinic involved feedback from the mass of people watching us critically. As I've mentioned before, accepting this criticism is difficult. However, I feel very comfortable with Bast's training and all of his and my faults. This made listening to the feedback much easier to take. In fact, nothing said to me was unexpected.
Not mad about this downward transition. Not gonna lie.
The feedback started with comments about Bast's tendency to curl and come behind. There was also mention of tension in his gaits. The changing rhythm within the trot was negatively commented on, as well as his tension and fluctuating tempo in the canter. When pressed, the participants commented they liked his walk best. Suggestions included riding his back very softly, so that it will come up.
His tendency to come up against the hand was also pointed out.
Having ridden for Lois Yukins in the past, I expected a lot of criticism about my connection. I was not disappointed. Yukins suggested I "leave him alone" and simply post slowly and allow him to slow himself without my "manipulating". She asked me to ride around to put these suggestions to the test, with the suggestion "When you feel like fussing, just give a little."
Giving, giving, so much giving.
What I found funny about this section was the insistence that Bast's relaxation came completely from my give on the reins. By this point in the program, we had been trotting and cantering around for 50 minutes, and the audience had stopped moving so much. He had begun to finally relax a bit on his own, helping him respond to the released rein.

This led me to a bit of snark, when on a large circle. Bast kept bulging out towards the door, ignoring my outside leg trying to keep his shoulder in line. I was pretty much trotting around holding on to the buckle by this point, and he was taking advantage of my long rein. Yukins suggested I give again, and I couldn't help myself. "If I give any more, he's going to end up in the audience." She suggested I change directions.
Yukins explained Bast looked as if he was running from my contact, and that he needed to become more comfortable with his body to slow down. This makes sense. She didn't want to see me pulling him to slow, something I am already trying to pay close attention to in our rides. I think her suggestions weren't wrong, but maybe aren't the right approach for this horse every day. When I rewatch the commentary portion, I begin to think she wasn't pleased that giving didn't seem to lessen his noisy mouth. That's kind of funny, because you know what? That hasn't pleased me either, Lois.

Finally she suggested I pick up the reins a little and feel him come into a more relaxed contact. I have to admit the trot we got at this point was lovely and relaxed over the topline. Again, I don't think this is a good technique for managing Bast in his tension, but it is something to continue to bring into our daily training sessions. I have to say that this horse does find comfort in the contact.
Nice relaxed topline makes me happy.
Another comment I found very interesting was Yukin's observation that the canter strides "don't finish." I hadn't thought of his canter in quite that way before, but I get it. The end of his canter strides are short, maybe due to my hands restricting him. I am more inclined to think it's because he's still finding his more uphill balance. My hands are there to keep him from getting to flat only, but he's still figuring out the difference in balance from racing to dressage. This is something for me to mull over and figure out how to address.
That uphill balance is in there, though!
Overall, I did think the whole program was very helpful for my horse. It taught him these big new experiences aren't going to kill him. I also found it very interesting from a "how judges are trained" standpoint. The way the participants were pushed to put substance behind their commentary heartened me. They couldn't just say something and be done, they had to explain the how and why of their comment.

Yukins explained at one point that the whole reason she had the riders try out the suggestions was to show the judges that their commentary must be something the rider can take home and use. They have to think about what they are putting down on paper as being something appropriate to the pair.
Such a good boy.
I still want to actually participate in the L Program, and I think this only made me more interested in signing up in the future!


  1. It’s interesting to me that she assumed the contact issues were your fault and didn’t suspect a physical cause. But then I have the advantage. I also think that you are freaking brave to have the audience feedback. I’ve signed up to audit a judging/ show clinic by Libby McMullen. I’m not brave enough to ride in it!

    1. I love auditing and highly recommend it! Can't wait to hear what you learn. :)

      In her defense, most contact issues are from the rider. Honestly, Bast's are probably a combo of both him and me. I tend to hold, he is ... busy.

  2. Dude takes major guts to ride in the L program! But overall it looks to me as if you are right. I know that feeling you have, when you KNOW that if you give it's not going to result in relaxation. Yes, eventually it will but there are stages where you need to keep the contact.

    1. Haha yes! The start of this ride was not exactly the time to throw my reins at him and "let jesus take the wheel"

  3. I just had a TTouch session with my mare, who struggles with busy brain and slowing down - I could see how the exercises were really challenging for her, and helping her with a sense of body awareness, using her noggin and finding her balance.

    1. So funny how they forget they have body parts sometimes. (Says the girl who just ran into the table..)

  4. You've got some serious mental cajones to be able to ride so confidently through this kind of experience! I think I'd be a puddle on the floor lol.

    I had a good giggle over your snarky reply. Glad you didn't let Bast sit in the auidence's lap!

    1. I was trying to hard not to be snarky! I knew she didn't mean badly, but he really was about to bulge into the crowd! Haha

  5. I honestly find it funny when Trainers double down or even triple down on something that isn't working, I've definitely gotten to the point where I was like "fine I'll do exactly what you are saying, its 100% wrong but now you'll see the consequence" re: running people over lol


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