Thursday 10 November 2016

Measurable Progress

So, last year at this time, my coach set up the following "simple" exercise:

Circle of Death.

And it kicked our butts. Even just as poles on the ground, even at a trot. As X poles, the difficulty was multiplied exponentially. Cantering it was obviously not a thing, and we were doing good to stay on a sort of circle and stay in canter for one jump, maybe every second one at our very best.

This year, we again started in trot, again just with poles on the ground. Alarmingly, B decided she simply could not bend right and the poles were far too exciting, and it got a little weird pretty fast. I really got on her case about bending around my leg and staying out on the circle, and things started to smooth out. Up to canter. Much inside leg required as she loves to fall into the right, and this exercise serves to highlight any issues like that.  But, we did it. Easily, with no issues.

Next, repeat to the left. This is B's more challenging direction as she tends to pop her shoulder and fall out if I'm not super on it. She was being a bit rude and running through my outside aids, so EC suggested riding her counterbent and really, really sending the message that she needs to keep that shoulder where I ask. And it worked! (Also with noting, later on in the ride EC commented on how well B was going now that I was using my outside rein so well, so "counterbent" to me might actually mean "straight and between the aids" to the rest of the world.)

Next progression: raise the poles into cross rails. Instructions: choose your path on the circle and set a pace, sit lightly and quietly out of the way, pony needs to figure the rest out herself. Unlike last year, this was pretty much no big deal. We cantered around on 4 strides and B kept a nice regular pace with zero difficulty.
Re - using part of our course diagram from last weekend

Final challenge: 2 turns on the circle, then out across the diagonal, over a large vertical, loop back and come back to our circle for two turns in the opposite direction. I thought for sure this one would catch us out since the vertical was right where B loves to accelerate downhill towards the barn. Ideally you'd like to keep your "circle of death" canter the entire way, or at least be handy enough to find it again on the long side coming back into it. But, although I let her speed up a stride or two before and after, I had zero issues bringing her back.

So, I'm feeling pretty good today about how maneuverable and adjustable our canter is becoming. Of course there is always room for much improvement  (stopping the whole falling in/out thing requires a little too much rider "help" for my tastes)


  1. Definitely an exercise I want to try!! Sounds like you guys are improving heaps.

  2. this makes me happy. Is this an exercise that can be set up with cavalettis? I might try it with Carmen.

    1. Of course it could! I'm finding setting it up even as poles on the ground is really helpful for making sure your horse is between the aids and on a consistent rhythym.

  3. It's SO exciting to come back to something that gave you trouble in the past and totally nail it!

  4. Ha I tried this with just ground poles on Charlie at the trot and it was hilariously bad. So awesome to hear Bridget can totally own it now!!

  5. Well done! That sounds super tough haha

  6. Look at you rocking the circle of death!