Since our clinic with Debbie, I have been trying to ‘recreate’ the ‘good’ canter and “all the way to the hind end” half halts I achieved with her coaching – with only marginal success. Fling was still blowing through my half halts. Tuesday I was very discouraged. Dressage is, at best, ‘two steps forward and one step back’ and sometimes it’s “four steps forward, 3.5 steps back.” It’s at these times that I begin to feel like I put way more into it than I get out of it. And that it’s ceasing to be fun for me – and perhaps even for my horse. Usually these periods occur when other areas of my life are also “blowing up” and I just feel overwhelmed in every aspect.
I voiced my concerns to Marie during our lesson Saturday. I also explained that I am having a devil of a time keeping myself from ‘pumping’ at the canter. I can manage to be still when I am doing nothing but a 20m circle, but the minute I start to do lateral work, or anything else, it seems I revert back. Marie’s theory is that I am ‘rocking’ in rhythm with my half halting. And one solution – and something I need to do anyway – is to ‘hold’ the half halts until they go through – and just sit and ‘anchor’ myself until the half halt goes through.
My lesson, by the way, was like riding in a hurricane! It was a bit windy at home before I left, but not remarkably so – but by the time I was halfway to Marie’s, I could really feel my trailer rocking in the wind on the highway! Fortunately Fling is quite focused and the most challenging part of it was the ability to actually hear what Marie was saying! Or actually, I could hear her fine thanks to her sound systm, but she could not hear me.
Per marie’s coaching, I warmed Fling up with lots of shoulder-in, renvers and travers at the trot. It was quickly apparent that she was overbending and throwing her shoulder out when going to the right. Marie had me fix that by using travers. It worked really well to straighten her. I was not overbending her – but she was actually ‘overbending’ herself to the right. It’s not an issue I’ve ever had with her. Marie said she was probably a bit sore and was avoiding using some muscles on that side. We have upped the ante on Fling the last few weeks as far as asking her to bend, and to stretch over her back. When we moved to canter, she got good ‘over her back’ departs and Marie coached me through several half halts – focusing on sitting up straight, keeping the bend, half halting with both reins, and holding for several strides and then releasing once Fling responded. I have been just doing short, frequent half halts and not really holding it until she responded. I finally felt the same good canter I got during our clinic and have more insight and tools into how to achieve it on my own!
Back in January, I made plans to haul one of my horses to my friend Margaret’s barn in Fulshear. It is a large, high end facility with 80 acres. The plan was to ride in the lovely covered arena with full mirrors on the short side. I would help Margaret, a dressage beginner, with some pointers, and then we’d go for a nice ride around the property. Faeryn was the lucky one to go on this adventure. She actually had been there when she was coming three. I took her to a long lining clinic there, where she was a little star. I doubt she remembers the facility from then, though. but she was very good. I really never have to lunge her before ridiing her anywhere now. It was great to get to study our turn on the haunches in the mirrors – she is doing pretty well at it! In a few months she’ll have that movement nailed! I remember when I was showing Fling at Second level, TOH is one thing (along with renvers) that we just sort of ‘faked’ our way through. Faeryn also is working on a good renvers, too! I finally actually UNDERSTAND the renvers, which helps! 😉 After we rode, Faeryn camped out in Margaret’s horse’s stall, and Margaret and I went to the quaint town of Fulshear and had a great lunch (and cheesecake) at a cute local eatery.
Sunday when I got home with Faeryn I rode Fling and followed the same warm up we’d done in our lesson the day before. Right off the bat I had a great, round canter, with really good bend. And lo and behold, the first time I half halted, Fling rocked back on her haunches so abruptly I was stunned! And the quality of her canter finally felt really good. Finally – two steps forward!