Fling and Faeryn lessons today

It was a perfectly miserable day to be trailering horses back and forth. But, trying to be optimistic – at least it was not freezing cold!  It just drizzled all day long and never stopped for more than 30 minutes at a time.  The worst thing, though was lack of a place to properly warm up before our rides. The weather moved the clinic to the very small covered arena, and there was not much room to warm up with another person taking a lesson. Fling really needs her warm up – scrimping on it pretty much guarantees none of the actual movements will be as good. Each time I get on her, it takes a good 15-20 minutes to ‘find’ the third level horse in there. And, in fact, I often hate ‘wasting’ so much time at the beginning of each ride having to do all the exercises, etc. to GET her through, round, supple, etc. 

I mentioned this to Debbie during our ride (part of which had to include getting her warmed up) and she said a 15-minute was perfectly reasonable and EXPECTED for a horse at this level. As she pointed out – Fling is an athlete and needs the warm up.  The problem is, partially, I think, my PANIC every time I go to ride her and think ‘OMG – where’s my third level horse?” and “What if I can’t FIND her this time???”  The rational part of me KNOWS Fling does not trot and canter around the pasture in collected gaits. Since she spends 23 hours a day NOT being collected, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect it’s going to take some time to ‘transition’ between the “pasture potato” Fling and the “third level and aiming for FEI” Fling. And, really, I’m probably not being fair to her for resenting the time we spend doing that. And, as Debbie said, I cannot panic if it doesn’t happen in 15 minutes. She is a living, breathing being, and she is entitled to her “off” days just as much as I am.

And, so, as part of my warm up, in addition to all the lateral movements that we do at walk, and then at trot – leg yield with head to wall, shoulder-in,  and half pass, she suggested I also add stretching exercises to work on her longitudinal suppleness – which is more a problem than her lateral suppleness. She said I should do some work in a longer frame, but only as long as she stretches down and OUT. Do the ‘stretchy trot’ but sit up and ‘be the pillar’ with my core so she doesn’t just get quicker, or try to dive down.

Once Fling was warmed up, we just sort of ran through some of the third level movements so she could ‘check’ our basic work.

  • In shoulder in, less bend and even less angle than we’ve been doing. Make sure she does not swing her haunches too much to the inside. use more outside rein and inside leg to keep her  haunches in place. Make sure to sit up and use long inside leg and make sure my shoulders are aligned with her shoulders.
  • Half pass – it’s all in the set up. She knows how to do a half pass and does a good half pass – at both trot and canter – as long as I set her up correctly from the start. Ride her deep into the corner to establish bend, and half halt before coming out of the corner since it’s easier to half-halt there than while actually doing the HP.  If the set up is good, the HP takes care of itself, but don’t be afraid to half halt during the HP – just think about doing it on the inside rein too so you don’t lose the bend. She pronounced my trot and canter half pass work ‘good to go.’ — with the caveat of making sure I had Fling properly listening to my canter aids.
  • During canter, to maintain the self-carriage and collection, and to avoid ‘pumping,’ think of sititng up straight and being a pillar’ on her. When doing medium to collected and ext to collected – in the downward, think of ‘dropping’ your weight of your seat on to her to get her to come back with that. she must learn to respond to the seat.
  • Turns on the haunches. Our TOH to the right is actually TOO small for third level (yea, I think!)  She said make it a bit bigger – no need to make it so hard for third level. Our TOH to the left, I am pushing her haunches over too much – just maintain inside bend, SIT to inside, but look to her outside ear, and use outside rein to ‘turn’ her around her haunches – NOT to push haunches over.
  • The flying changes are what they are at this point. No sense in trying to work on them now. She ‘gets’ them when I ask for them, with a varying degree of quality/straightness. Once I get the better canter more confirmed, we’ll tackle the changes. At least I am now at a place with Fling that I actually COULD spend an entire lesson working on nothing but flying changes. It has taken a long time for her to get over being so “excited” about doing them that I could not ask for more than a few each session without her just starting to bounce all over the place whenever we started to canter! My strategy – and both Marie and Debbie agree – is to just continue to make everything else as good as it can be, and the flying changes will be an ongoing project – and hopefully the next time I take a lesson we can work on them exclusively. I think her canter will be good enough by then.

 Faeryn is a much easier ‘warm up’ than Fling because she’s still doing simple work. Her trot work to the right felt fantastic – very energized, with tons of suspension and very fancy, yet soft to the bridle. When I went the opposite direction I could feel that even the trot to the left, while it is _almost_ as good as the trot to the right – was not quite as good. I had talked to Debbie about my continueing problem with Faeryn’s canter – and that for now I thought I had the right lead canter sorted out, but still was not sure why she felt worse to the left.  So I cantered her to the right and got a nice lovely canter and could even do some shallow loop serpentines in the (very) small arena.  Canter to the left still felt odd, but Debbie said I was on the right track by keeping my outside rein soshe could not pop out the shoulder to the outside – and to even see if I could think about slightly counterbending her to the outside when we cantered to the left. I could tell that made the canter better, as it prevented her from ‘cheating’ so much – Debbie says she is not bringing the right hind under as much, and as a result sometimes she gets croup high, which is what makes the canter feel ‘bad’ to me. The same issue is affecting her left trot  — both issues are still related to her weaker right hind. I’ve been doing a lot of  ‘head to the wall’ leg yield, and her ability to do that well has improved a lot in the last month. But a month is not long enough to make up for probably a year of getting away with using her right hind less.  Debbie also prescribed ‘four track’ shoulder in and turns on the haunches in addition to also help strengthen her right hind, and she needs to learn to do those anyway. We worked on large turns on the haunches, because Faeryn was convinced she could NOT do one to the right when I asked. We got that sorted out

Then we worked on getting the half halts to go through. As usual, I am expecting too much from her. Debbie said I have to MAINTAIN the half halt until she responds – and at this stage it may take two or even three strides for her to rebalance her. But if I just do little nagging half halts and don’t maintain them long enough to get a response – nothing is going to change. We worked on that with very good results.

I was proud of Faeryn – it started pouring down rain during out session and she had a momentary fright at the deafening noise on the roof – but immediately regained her composure and just went right back to work!  When we were finished and I led her to the corner to collect her rain sheet and my jacket, she had many admirers from the ‘auditor gallery’ ask me about her, her breeding, her age, etc.  They all said she was so pretty and elegant there was no doubt she was a girl! 

Mike took video of both of my rides, and as soon as I get a chance to watch it and get him to convert some of it so I can upload it, I’ll post it here.




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