Wednesday 15 April 2015

Best Lesson

Subtitle: Hard work really does pay off!

Our lesson started out on a high because Coach S passed us cantering along the side of road (we were late, oops) and had to look twice because she thought I was riding Ginger. Because "since when does Bridget have a canter like THAT?!" (Insert huge smiles)
Floaty Ginger canter video still from forever ago.

After having a quick chat with S about where we`ve been at this week (so much canter but a wipeout, excited pony loves jumping, but steering and softness a bit lacking. Also, my back hurts and I feel like I'm bracing my shoulder) we agreed flatwork was the order of the day, with some baby jumps to finish as a reward if pony behaved.

We started out with some haunches in at the walk. It`s time to increase the difficulty by asking for her to be straighter through her neck and really step under with her hinds. No issues there, so we moved on to some rollbacks (trot to halt parallel to the long side, then push the shoulders around -aka turn on the haunches towards the fence-, essentially doing a 180, then trotting out again). I know those are more of a western thing, but they`re really excellent for shoulder control, and force you to do accurate transitions in order to set yourself up right (you can`t let  your horse fall on the forehand or stop crooked or your turn will stink!) My old dressage coach used to do a similar `square`exercise, only difference I can see being squares only require 90 degree turns and come dressage approved  ;) S always has us start with exercises to `check in` on how much control we have of our four corners, and then usually builds exercises from there to address whatever she`s seeing.
Pictures are just recent randoms to break up my giant rambly post

 Since today`s `check in`showed some stiffness in Bridget`s neck to the right, we moved on to some trot spirals, in which my feel in the rollback exercise became more apparent. Pony is tipping her nose in and bracing to the right and it just generally feels yucky. S`s opinion is since this is a newish thing she might just be sore herself and/or reacting to my stiff shoulder. Rather than keep doing it `wrong`and teaching her to brace, we came back to a walk, then the halt, and simply asked her to bring her nose around and stretch correctly through her neck without leaning on me. Mission accomplished with much groaning and complaining from pony, so we respected her opinion of it being pretty hard today and left well enough alone.

We moved on to rising trot on the rail, then some leg yields at the trot from centerline to wall. As with the haunches in, I was encouraged to stop treating her like a baby and expect her to be straighter (ie correct angle, lead less with her shoulders) and stay on the bit throughout with a nice tempo. Previously, we`ve been asking properly for a few strides, then giving her a release. She knows what I`m asking, and was surprisingly balanced and game to try playing like the big horses. I was very happy with her. After a couple of lovely efforts, we upped the ante and asked for canter once we leg yielded to the wall. And boom, beautiful canter departs. Asking her to bend or be on the bit at the canter after the first few strides is still very much a work in progress, but S was super happy with the effort given, as was I. We have a canter, at last! The refinements will come. As a side note, S got a good laugh at how our impulsion magically increased as we headed towards my little jumps that were still set up in the middle, then lost enthusiasm as we passed them by. Since the ring is quite small, the effect is pretty funny and apparent, like a giant pony magnet :)

We finished up by doing the same figure eight pattern over crossrails I had set up from my last ride. We just trotted them since Bridget was excited to finally get to go over them and we more wanted to remind her they are no big deal and continue working on keeping her balanced through changes of bend and being a little less heavy in my hand. In  my baiased opinion, I think she rocked it - we had a gorgeous floaty trot and she was really pushing along with her hind end and carrying herself - the earlier stiffness was gone and my shoulder thanked her. 

I know this is a big long detailed lesson recap and you`re probably wondering what exactly gives it best lesson status. I hope you`ll understand when I say it was all in how my ride "felt". It felt like she was totally with me a lot of the time. It felt like it was effortless, now and then. It felt she was carrying herself for minutes at a time. No more being excited about a moment - there were multiple minutes! And best of all, it felt like she was committed to giving me her best, After all our struggles this winter, that's a huge and unexpected treat. I'm sure our readers have read between the lines and figured out just how tough and independent (and frustrating!) this little mare can be, so even the small successes mean a huge amount to me. To have a few breakthroughs all in the same lesson qualifies for 'best ever' status!



  1. There's nothing better than having a great, confidence building, we're really don't suck lesson! Kudos!!

  2. yay - there's so much good stuff here, esp that last paragraph! it must feel so rewarding to have little Ms Midge stepping up her game like this :) also i kinda giggled at the 'pony magnet' imagery, but hey, whatever works right??

  3. These are some great exercises I should practice too! My lack of shoulder control is really becoming apparent these days -- I am a little disappointed in how much I let myself get away with it.

    Sounds like a WONDERFUL lesson and I'm looking forward to seeing THAT canter on the pony! :D

  4. That is so awesome!!! Way to go! :)

  5. Oh how I love a good ride and when their brains come together. Go Bridget!

  6. Woohoo sounds like an awesome lesson, I am so glad you are back to enjoying Miss Bridget and that you are making positive progress in each spin. We ride horses for fun and it sounds like you two are having a blast and will have a fab spring/summer building on the solid foundation laid in the winter ☺