I have never really embraced gadgetry in riding. I mean, other than the gadgets that I already put on my horse — you know, those metal and leather and wooden things I sit in and steer with. But I always hope to work through any problems that I have in riding with better riding instead of some kind of contraption, be it leather or metal.
Ellie finds weekends exhausting
But lately, there’s just something Murray isn’t getting about cantering left. We can canter right quite nicely, but to the left he doesn’t seem to understand what the canter is. And yes, I know it has to do with weakness and imbalance, but I must also admit that there’s basically nothing I can do to convince him how he needs to rebalance. When I try to encourage him to stretch over his back he goes from no contact to inverted pretzel at a seemingly arbitrarily determined point. And since I know that his right hind is a little weaker, I try to encourage him to step that right hind under a little more and weight it, it’s like “oh, do you mean you want me to do anything else?!” He’s just not having it.
Certainly I can make him do it, for extremely brief periods of time. But then it stops being about cantering using one’s body or with a nice bend or using his topline, and starts being all about the fight. And somehow, I feel like that pretty much defeats the purpose of the exercise — you know, instead of being relaxed and through and using himself, he’s tense and angry and fighting with me.
So last week I popped on some side reins for a little canter work. And suddenly, there was no fight. There was just beautiful, round, using-the-topline canter. It was a bit addictive, actually. Murray’s canter improved in quality by at least 100% (it went from 3.5 beats to a proper 3), he was using his whole body, and I didn’t have to yell at him about it.
I’m glad I went to the draw reins, because my mind was going to this super irritated and rather unfair place where I was angry at Murray for not doing what I was asking. But I paused for a second and considered that, rather than not doing what I wanted, maybe Murray thought that he just couldn’t do what I was asking. And honestly? I think this is kinda the case. Murray just really didn’t think he could do what I was asking (or didn’t understand, but considering that he can do it right that seems a little odd), and his mental block meant that he really, physically couldn’t do it. And somehow, the draw reins took that psychological element out of it.
So I’m going to resort to some gadgetry for a little while. Murray can’t build up the strength he needs to really carry himself going left when he’s fighting with me or pretending that he can’t do it, and strength is what we need here. I don’t love it, but I accept that it’s a schooling tool and suits our needs for now. Ideally, this will allow him to benefit from the exercises we’re doing more than he typically would, since he’s usually not using himself properly. And once he’s strong enough, and understands the exercises well enough, that we don’t need them, off they will go.