Friday, May 11, 2012

So much to do, so little time...

A lot has been happening. Doug and I went to Mane Event in Red Deere (across the country from us), to research products for the horse facility we're building. While we were there we went to visit Spruce Meadows to see how it was laid out and managed - not that we're building anything like that :) - but you can learn a lot from seeing a well run facility at any scale. If I ever get the pictures downloaded off of my phone I'll post some. While at Mane Event we watched a Cindy Ishoy clinic (who I've clinic ed with this winter) and various western clinics. It was fun!
Back home, I'm riding four or five times a week, which is pretty much a commitment of a whole day if driving from home, and if I stay down I work on my computer from my trailer. When I'm not staying in my trailer, Doug often stays in another trailer at the building site (one of us has to be home to look after the horses, dogs and cats at home), so it was nice to get away together. I work on the site when not riding, so it's all out nose to the grindstone but crazily enjoyable.
Back to riding - we've been working on improving all of our basics, but the canter has been a bit of a thorn in the side. When he does it, he does it beautifully, so balance isn't an issue. After my week away he tried running off in the canter again, refusing to canter (for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, backing up, whirling, etc.), constantly taking the wrong lead, and generally making things difficult. Irritatingly (to put it mildly), I know I could resolve this more quickly and even greatly reduce it if I had more finesse in setting up the canter and riding him into it with balanced hands once going (I still tend to hold the inside too much if not vigilant). I'm writing this because I want to remember it and how I dealt with it. At my teachers instruction, when he refuses to canter and backs up, etc. I just keep asking. Kicking and a few whacks with the whip come into play too. If he gets heavy and tries to run off, pull him up hard. Pull him up if he even tries to get strong. We have to get him past the running off concept.
Anyway, we got back on track and the last two lessons he went really, really well.
Two lessons ago we did trot / canter / trot on a circle and although it needs a lot of work it was a very good exercise. I was pleased with Rogo. We did some walk / canter / walk too, and he seems to find this easier oddly enough. Maybe my aids get too muddled at the trot? We finished by focusing on me not throwing him away at the end of a lesson - falling to of our last canter and then slouching into a walk where he snatches the reins and I give them. Sounds very sloppy as I write it, but I slide into that very easily. So we did several practices for ending the ride - nice, engaged transition to trot from canter, staying on the circle, same with trot to walk, and then slowly feed him the reins after he's walked forward in a balanced manner.
I want to recount yesterday's lesson in some detail, as I learned some new things and got great responses from Rogo. It may sound like things I've written about before, but they came together in a much improved way.
Jane was teaching us and she had us do lots of trot / walk and trot lengthen and shorten. She is really good at picking a key element you need to work on and working through it in the lesson. In this lesson I began learning to give much lighter aids to Rogo. I'd ridden Savanah a lot more lightly than Rogo, and I noticed when I could manage to ride him with light aids he went much better, but I wasn't able to get him there most of the time. Jane reminded me to keep my knees off of him in the down transition from trot to walk and to LIGHTLY resist, increasing hand resistance and using my back as needed. He's so forward and strong that I had often had to really grab and pull to get a down transition and as you know, that is wrong. I'm learning a new style of riding, so bear with me if this sounds very elementary. I'd been told to half halt the outside to bring him into a down transition, but Jane had me use both elbows (not hands) as lightly as possible and only increasing the pressure if I need to . This seems much more natural to me than trying to bring him down with a strong outside rein. It only took two or three repetitions and Rogo was coming back to a lovely engaged walk as light as a feather. He'd already mastered the walk trot from a quick light aid in our last lesson with Jane. Once Rogo was responding quickly, in a relaxed manner in the trot walk transition, Jane had me prepare for the light walk aid, then instead of walking to very lightly and with the same relaxed leg / knees (no gripping)  put my outside leg back and ask for canter. It worked every time - transition into a nice canter on the correct lead with no fuss. All of this is stuff most people know - light aids and half halt to prepare (in this case thinking about preparing the walk aid worked very well for our canter half halt). The way it was explained and executed yesterday really brought it together for us though. Rogo had begun to anticipate badly once the canter work started. After fighting with him to canter, he'd canter nicely, but then wouldn't do his other gaits. One canter and that's all he'd want to do. Any attempt to trot or walk was a series of hitching hops as he continually asked "should we canter now". I know he was trying to be helpful and I didn't get mad at him about it. I just couldn't fix it. I did try mixing in a lot of other things, doing trot walk a lot between canter, walking on a long rein after the canter, but it didn't seem to help. Yesterday there wasn't any anticipation. He'd walk, trot and canter when asked, without trying to figure out what was coming next. I loved it. He probably did too - no gripping legs muddling the messages and lighter hands on his mouth. Horses are very forgiving!
After this Jane generously spent time teaching me feel in the contact. I can keep Rogo round most of the time now, but she coached me in doing it more lightly. I need to keep my hands still and push him into them. I had been doing a lot of outside half halts to get him into contact. I'm still somewhat confused by this and what to do when, but it will come. She and Sue tell me we're transitioning to a stage in Rogo's raining where the aids can be lighter and it's a learning curve for me to keep up with the changing feel. So many things to learn, so little time...

8 comments:

Grey Horse Matters said...

Your last exercise with lighter aids sounds great. Seems Rogo likes it too. I think your lessons are really helping you and Rogo communicate and come together. Keep up the good work!

Kate said...

Red and Dawn are both working with me on getting my aids softer - almost nothing or maybe eventually nothing plus thinking the new thing in my head and body and then exhaling. They say I'm a slow learner, but I'm getting there!

Kelly said...

I want your trainer for me! Sounds like very clear concise teaching and that you are finding exactly what works for you with Rogo.
I like the reference to using your elbows instead of your hands.

Val said...

I enjoyed your very detailed description of what you learned. You are making so much progress with Rogo.

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