Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The state of my training - Kaswyn

It's been awhile since I've written something about how my training is going. So if that stuff bores you, there's nothing to see here. Move along.

Lets start with Kaswyn. I had been riding him bareback and it gave me a great feel for if his back is up and soft or hollow and tense. So I decided to ride him in my saddle with a gel pad. I'm still afraid to hurt his back again so I thought the gel pad would give a little extra cushioning. We had a nice ride, and it was very informative for me. I realized that I usually don't ride my horse over and through his back. I think he has a tendency to get his back tense and work that way, and somehow he's been able to get as far as he has.

What I noticed with my new found ability to feel his back is that regardless of what is going on with Kaswyn's front end - meaning that even if he is on the bit and soft in the neck - that he will keep his back tight and still be able work. I can get him to collect but what I've been lacking with him is engagement of those back legs. I went back and looked at our old tests and there it is, from many judges, in many movements and at the bottom of the tests - "needs better engagement of the hindquarters". Riding him that first time in the saddle and gel pad I had an epiphany - my horse does not push with his hind legs through his back.

If you do dressage you hear some basic things over and over. "Ride your horse from the back to the front." is a big one. Finally, after doing dressage with my horse for 13 years, I understand what that means and how to do it. My horse, because I was learning dressage at the same time I was trying to teach it to him, was trained incorrectly. I gave him bad habits and never developed the things that he needed to develop. One of those major things is pushing power, and the ability to push the energy with his hind legs through a soft swinging back. That's what I mean by being "through his back".

So I've started to retrain Kaswyn. We don't do anything fancy. I put him in a first level frame and make him push for every stride. Suddenly I can feel when he falls out behind, or lets his back get tight, or drops his back. That's when I half halt and push him, thinking about getting energy from the back end. It's very hard on both of us, and I only do 15 minutes three times a week. It's such a different way of riding him that neither one of us are used to it.

I can thank Albert for some of this enlightenment. That little horse is very correct. He is naturally through his back and will engage his hindquarters without a problem. So riding him has given me a feel for what it's supposed to be like. This I can thank my trainer for. I rode Albert when he was just starting dressage, but then my trainer took over and put some solid basics on him. This has been such a boon for me, as it makes him much easier to ride, and it give me the feeling of what correct is supposed to feel like. Now that I know, I want Kaswyn to feel that way. And with hard work I think we can get there.

Because I've been riding Kaswyn for 16 years, I just got used to how he feels, even when that feeling was not correct. But I think I have a handle on it now. What I really need are some lessons to make sure I'm on the right track, but between my schedule and my trainer's schedule I haven't been able to make that happen. Unfortunately for me (but not for her!) she is leaving for Florida for two months, so I'll be on my own. I hope I can get some lessons in before she goes!

I hope I'm doing the right thing, and will be fixing my horse instead of messing him up again. It took me 13 years to identify this problem - a problem that I caused. I don't have another 13 years to fix more foul-ups, so I'd better do this right!


Fiona said...

Great post! This is something that my Training Level NSH and I struggle with often. Even when he's soft with his face and neck, he's not always really using his back and hind end. I've never tried riding him bareback (he's only 4), but maybe I should!

achieve1dream said...

That is fantastic! Congrats on figuring it out!

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