I got lucky this week and a barn-mate (Y) offered to trailer me to a nearby barn (like, less than a 10 minute drive! yahoo!) for a lesson with a local Olympian trainer. Like I was going to say no! It also helps that I happened to watch this particular trainer with another friend of mine (Q!) and liked her style. Since I’m always trying to get more opinions and ideas about working with my supah needy princess horse, I was very happy for the offer. Plus, Q came along and took video of me so not only do I have new VIDEO I also have NEW CRAPPY VIDEO STILLS!
Q was particularly excited to hear me give my “this is my horse!” schpiel to Local Olympian. I mean, his history is always so colourful, and that colour is bound to show itself at some point during the lesson and it’s always at least somewhat entertaining to hear other people’s feelings on Murray’s feelings. Anyway, I elected to give LO the short version of Murray’s history and just said that I
had struggled struggle to get him to relax and accept the contact — especially away from home so I want to go to lots of schooling shows to get his and my behavior under control — and that I would like to get my first level scores for my Bronze medal some time this year. This was basically clear during my warm up, as I struggled to get Murray to move forward into the bridle and not back off any time I asked him to give and stretch a little.
LO wanted to see Murray push from behind a little more, but her experience with thoroughbreds is that they can be simultaneously sensitive and resistant to going forward. To do this she had me wiggle my legs and just jiggle the whip a little, but not squeeze or kick with my legs or actually touch Murray with the whip. When I got anything forward from him — either relaxing into the bridle or pushing more from behind — she had me pat and praise Murray a lot. The idea is to make moving forward his idea, so that I don’t have to work so hard! Something I can get behind. We did this on a 20 meter circle for a while in both directions, and LO really called me on my dependence on the inside rein. She pointed out that if I want to go first this year I can’t be riding him off that inside rein, and Murray will really need to accept the outside rein contact (which is easier for him on the right rein than the left). Furthermore, I can’t keep letting him get away with ignoring the outside rein, otherwise I will always have contact problem.
After getting Murray pushing a bit more in both directions we worked on some shoulder-in and leg yields. I have too much inside bend in my lateral work, so I have to think about getting Murray straighter and on the outside aids for both of these movements. LO wanted me to use my outside rein to bring Murray’s shoulders over to my inside leg on the leg yield, instead of using my inside leg and rein to bend him. At first Murray was pretty confused, especially going right where he wants to avoid putting that RH underneath his body at all costs, but we got it. In the leg yields, LO had me use my outside rein to encourage Murray to come over into it. Moving to the right I didn’t have to push my legs at all, Murray wants to go sideways soooo badly that I just needed to open the right rein and he was right there filling it. All I needed was a little balancing inside rein and some half halts with the outside rein to stop his shoulders from running away without us. Going to the left we needed a more tactful ride, with the opened and beckoning left rein and some right leg to encourage him to step under and go that direction.
We did have one super leg yield, and the video evidence I provide to you below.
Yeah, I could just watch that on repeat all day.
In the canter the idea was the same, but here LO really emphasized the use of timing the elastic-following of my hands to the beat of Murray’s front legs to encourage him to take the contact and give. In her words, this gives a more playful and active feel in the horse’s mouth, and can help you time your half halts better. The theme was the same in the canter work: get Murray responsible for moving himself forward, and don’t depend on that inside rein. Murray took it pretty well, and we added in some shoulder-fore and leg yields at the canter. Same idea here — just ask for the shoulders to come to you using the outside rein instead of beckoning with the inside rein.
Right was much harder, as it tends to be, but when I really rode the left rein and left leg for my turns we got some much straighter turns and I could feel him weighting that right hind, so that was good. LO told me to think about keeping my shoulders over my seat bones to keep my body straight, which would be a better analogy if I ever knew where my shoulders and seat bones were in general. No, my horse and I totally do not have in common our noodly inability to keep our bodies aligned and straight. Not at all.
General lesson takeaways
– timing of the half-halts and the elasticity of the hands with the movement of the front legs
– keep the outside rein contact and let Murray fill the rein, no more inside-rein dependence
– align shoulders over seat bones
– legs shouldn’t slip too far back
– wiggle the legs for more activity, avoid creating resentment or resistance with too much squeezing or kicking
– make moving forward/pushing from behind Murray’s idea, so I don’t have to work so hard
– stretchy/long-low work can be productive, but ask Murray to stretch and then come back up for the best stretching over his back
Overall, a super productive lesson and a lot of fun. Other highlights of the trip include my horse stepping happily into the trailer and backing out like a professional, not breaking away from the trailer while our buddy was having her lesson and I watched, and not throwing any tantrums in front of an Olympian! I have so much hope for when Hawley Bennett visits!