Thursday 17 September 2015

Pretzel Pony

Last night's lesson was another dressage one. My lesson mate is prepping for her final training level event of the season and wanted to practice her test.
"Hey, let's go do something!"

We had a great warm up - W/T/C both reins and she was forward and enthusiastic.

To start with the real work, Bridget and I were sent back out to pick up where we left off on Monday's lesson, shoulder in on the the long sides focusing on straightness, really getting her inside hind more active and playing with a baby level of collection. After straightening out, ask for a big trot through the short sides. That went pretty well, so we tried for some travers. Pony said bringing her haunches in is no big deal, but keeping the bend through to her front end is hard for more than a few strides at a time. I honestly wouldn't expect otherwise - this is all new to her and she's not the world's most athletic baby pony. She knew what I wanted and tried her best and that made me quite happy.

Next up, put the pieces together and ask for a (correct) canter depart out of a hint of a travers position. Here's where things went (literally and figuratively) totally sideways. She really didn't want to pick up her right lead from that position and did everything in her power to run through my aids and pop into the left lead. I feel like I got a great lesson in being firm and proactive in my corrections, but Bridget was in full meltdown mode and not much progress was made. She was getting to the point where a canter/forward in general just wasn't going to happen and control of the outside shoulder was getting optional - her two favorite evasions when she is confused or frustrated.
B mentally goes to this happy place instead and ignores all rider input

So, back to basics we went, big trot circles on a loose-ish rein, just asking her to be honest about being off my leg aids and ended on a good note. I feel like Ms B tried so hard to understand what I wanted with the travers stuff and then was just mentally done/gave up after getting the canter transition 'wrong' a couple of times. There's that grey area where they are testing the boundaries and need a correction so it doesn't become habit, and where are really and truly done for the day. I think I went about 10 minutes past the wrong side of that last night which is unfortunate - it is up to me to speak up and no one there would have judged me for it!

EC's input: Bridget started out with the canter work being very naughty and evasive, and maybe a trainer ride or two would be a good thing. Sounds like a plan. Also, not a big deal as far as setbacks go, we taught her something new and she's got herself in a bit of a muddle. I haven't been asking for 'proper' canter transitions before now, either. The 'bad' stuff last night was more of a reflection of pushing too far, and her being green rather than Bridget just being Bridget.

Homework: Longeing canter with side reins. I know there are people out there who aren't fans of side reins, and I'm admittedly not a huge one myself. In this case though, it's a very temporary thing and I can see her logic. It will be easier for me to make it happen from the ground, since Bridget will have to learn to find her own balance and deal with a little contact through the transition and in the canter. (Not sure if I mentioned, but it's a bit of a sticking point - I was so "go forward now!" before that I would essentially drop contact into the canter. I still cheat by giving my outside rein if she pushes back and that's obviously not helping.) Also, for ridden work, start with canter so that we are taking advantage of her having more energy and motivation. Play with shoulder in in canter as well - teach her she can adjust stride/move her body and stay in canter.

Tonight, I think I might set up some small jumps and just let her canter around and have fun. Likely not what EC had in mind, but I feel like a reminder to Ms B that it isn't always all hard work might be in order. I can play with balancing her up in the corners and get a bit of homework in that way ;)


  1. i *hate* the feeling of having pushed a smidgen too far... ugh. bridget seems like a pretty forgiving pony, so hopefully she'll remember and maybe even better understand next time you ask. i think canter transitions are like that tho - we spend so much time being satisfied with their plain old existence that the wheels totally fall off when we go back to try and make them more 'correct.' ah well.... in the meantime a 'fun' ride sounds like a great plan!

    1. I beat myself up so badly for it and would like to think it's something I am normally very conscious of and a rare occurrence. You're right though, horses are nothing if not forgiving!

  2. Replies
    1. If left to my own devices that's about all I will do :)

  3. We're all pushed a little too far! It happens. I did that more than I'd like to admit when working on leading/ground manners with my young horses. I would be focused on a goal and that was all I could see.

    I bet a trainer ride with help make things easier for you :)

    1. I think it's more common than anyone would like to admit! It's hard, particularly as each horse is such an individual and every day can be so different in regards to what we bring to the table. I liked that I mentioned I felt like I had made things worse to EC and she totally encouraged me to speak up any time I feel like that has happened/is happening. I know some coaches that just keep pushing you and to be honest I wasn't sure if she might be one.