Friday, September 04, 2009

Thursday's lessons

I had two fantastic lessons on Thursday. Skyy was first. We really made some breakthroughs with the contact. When I first started riding him it was hard for him to make consistent contact with the bit at all. He would come above the bit, dive below, go behind the vertical, take his head left and right, etc. Then we got to the point where he was bearing down really hard on the bit. It was nice that he was making contact but he was doing it on his terms.

Last night my trainer had me push him forward when he would bear down on the bit. He finally got the picture that I would just send him on if he did that, so he started to settle lightly on the bit. Then I would release my hands a little bit as a reward for him. It's finally all coming together in his head and he is understanding when is expected of him.

We also worked on the canter departs. My trainer said that I need to set him up for the canter departs like I would for a second level horse. I should expect that he accepts the half-halt, reaches under, and pushes into the canter. We had some really nice transitions because when I expected it and set him up for it he obliged.

I rode him Friday in hopes that we'd be able to repeat our success, and I was tickled pink because he was fantastic. Until yesterday I was worried that we would not be ready for Nationals, but now I feel like we have just enough time to refine everything. We'll be ready.

For Albert everything at the trot was really quite good, except that I need to remember to slow the tempo so that he does not look like he is rushing. This will also help him relax his back and take longer more reaching strides. Then we worked on his biggest problem - that he carries his haunches to the right when cantering to the right. My trainer had me pick up the right lead canter and then had me do haunches out and put his haunches to the left while also making him look to the left with his head and neck.

The first time I tried his Albert got very nervous and started to pull on me. He was remembering the couple of times that I had tried to work on his flying changes. So since he was cantering and I bent him the other way with my inside leg on he was sure I was going to ask for the flying change, and that scared him.

We worked on this haunches out (renvers) exercise until I had to stop. Now, I rarely ask for a break in my lessons. Usually I will just suck it up and deal with the pain or whatever. But he was pulling on me so hard, and I was unable to loosen him at all, that my left hand went numb. So my trainer and I talked about what we were doing and why. She said "So you understand?" and I said "Yes, I understand, I just can't do it!" We both laughed at that, and when I could feel my hand again we started back up.

Although he was still heavy in my hand, eventually I got to the point where he was doing the exercise properly. Then my trainer wanted to work on the flying change, just to prove to him that it was nothing to be afraid of. She had me pick up the canter, come around the short side, and at the corner head across the short diagonal towards the center of the opposite wall. On the centerline, in the center of the arena, I made a ten meter circle with plenty of bend, and at the completion of the circle I let him be straight for one stride. Then I changed the bend and asked for the flying change while turning him into a circle in the other direction.

The first three or four times he changed in front, panicked, and started to run, then changed behind. My trainer coached me to get a better quality of canter in the circle, and to make the request for the change more fluid and with better timing. Finally, when I set it up correctly, he got a great clean flying change. My trainer said "Ah! He did it! And after he did it he looked right at me with his eyes all big and worried, like he couldn't believe he did it!" It was great!

Then we did it to the other side, and he got it in three tries. Of course he got lots of praise and pats for his great work, and we stopped there. That little horse has tons of talent. He got Friday and today off, and will get schooled on Sunday.

Kaswyn pulled shoe off in the pasture, so he's on walking duty until I get the blacksmith out. Ah well. We've got nowhere to go, so I'm not stressing about it.

I am starting to get nervous about the horse show. A little over two weeks to go. I better memorize those tests - I don't get to have a reader for any of them!

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