Debbie Bowman was in town this weekend. I took Fling and Faeryn on Saturday, and just Fling on Sunday.I was especially anxious to ‘show off’ Faeryn’s much-improved (in my opinion anyway! lol!) canter, and see if Debbie agreed – and also to get confirmation that Fling’s canter is also improving. And I really hoped Fling’s canter would be deemed ‘good enough’ at this point to do some work on flying changes. I have not had any lessons dedicated mostly to working on her flying changes in a long time now -probably more than a year. She’s gotten quite good at most of the third level work, with the exception of the changes.
Fling’s canter is definitely better – and I am almost ‘cured’ of my bad habit of ‘pumping.’ We’ve determined that this is how the canter problem started: First, I started riding with my reins a little long – and because of that, I started leaning back a bit when I had to half halt her. When I lean back, I press DOWN on her back when I half halt, which pretty much drives her onto her forehand. I also was half halting on the outside rein only, which let her ‘escape’ the bend, and allowed her to pretty much quit using her inside hind. All of this happened over a period of months when I rode on my own. And it happened so gradually I did not link all the causes when I finally woke up and realized her canter had fallen apart.
We always do a lot of lateral work as part of her warm up – shoulder in, renvers and travers. She’s gotten very good at it all -one thing Debbie told me to do tha was a very good mental image is to think about pushing her inside legs ‘closer’ to her outside legs during shoulder-in. And to always think ‘more impusion’ in addition to the bend/angle to get the best quality SI possible.
Another thing I need to work on is visualize riding her TOWARD the bit – and not ‘pull’ her to the bit. And, to avoid ‘rocking’ at the canter, I need to think about my seat influencing her more and being ‘glued’ to her back, and staying vertical in my upper body.In addition to ‘opening up my chest’ and sitting up straight, I need to keep my reins short (even if I have to move my hands forward) and think about keeping my center of gravity more toward her withers.
On Sunday we worked on half passes in trot and canter. She did great! I had not worked on HP in canter for awhile – she tends to want to get strong and ‘take over’ when we do HP in canter. Debbie had me do ‘semi half pass’ in canter circles first to get her listening – I’d put her in half pass bend, but just stay on the circle. Debbie had me ‘scissor’ my legs to get my seatbones in the right place. You really want the inside hip leading in the half pass and that helps. I need to work on getting my outside leg further back from the hip socket and not just from the knee. In the HP I also need to remember to just let my inside leg hang loose and not ‘clamp’ it into her. The right HP at canter was much better – we had to work on the one to the left at the canter a few times to get it right. But at the end, Debbie was very impressed with the quality of her HP – she pronounced them a “solid 7 – maybe even an 8.” And then, finally, she was prepped to school some flying changes. Because she also tends to get strong still when schooling flying changes, Debbie had me do a great exercise. I put her in counter canter on a 20m circle, and then when I crossed the center line, I asked for a flying change. It worked great! She was late behind sometimes, and Debbie suggested that she needs to be more ‘back on her haunches’ to fix that. Its a great exercise I can use at home to school flying changes, yet maintain ‘control’ at the canter.
Faeryn brought her “A” game. With almost no warmup she was doing a powerful trot. I was a bit surprised when Debbie referred to it as ‘collected trot’ during our session, because I guess in my mind she’s still a training level horse – even though she’s schooling a lot of the second level work. Her shoulder-in has gotten better, and so has her renvers and travers. It’s hard to believe was only about a month ago that she pitched a huge teenage girl whiny fit when I first asked her to do a renvers. She can do it easily now. Debbie reminded me to put her in a slight renvers position in the canter when she pops her outside shoulder out. It made a tremendous difference. She’s ‘standing up’ at the canter better and maintaining good self-carriage and responds to half halts. Her shoulder-in needs to get a little more consistent – she drifts off the rail sometimes. We also did a bit of trot and canter lengthenings. I commented that it was hard for me to imagine her having enough power to do mediums, but Debbie assured me I had plenty of horse. She told me she’s shown much improvement, and should have no trouble being ready to show second level by the end of the year. Our biggest challenge will be the mediums and possibly the canter/walk/canter transitions. She’s doing very connected downwards with just one or two trot steps before walk – she’s not ready to take that extra step to transition directly to walk yet. At the end of the session we worked on turn on the haunches. I’ve been doing it at home, but was having trouble with going to the right – she wants to fall in instead of stay on a larger TOH. Here, too, Debbie had me do a bit of renvers to fix the problem – and then she easily did a fairly small, correct TOH.
When I rode her this evening, I decided it was time to ride her like she WAS a second level horse – meaning, she has to stay connected, and I have to RIDE her through all the transitions, and no more just accepting what she gives me. Time to raise the bar.
I had a few friends watching the clinic, and they all said Faeryn looked (to quote) Freaking Fabulous. She has a fan club. Don’t tell Fling – don’t want any sibling rivalry!
In the meantime, I’ve been riding Faxx in the pasture and he’s been a very good boy. His main issue – as always, is connection. I had super connection at the trot yesterday – but at the walk, he starts fussing and chomping on the bit. I switched his bit from the baucher to the Sprenger KK Aurigan so next time I ride, I’ll be curious to see if that makes a difference. Faxx is learning shoulder-in and is a pretty quick study. He is, however, convinced he cannot carry his haunches on a different track than his body. 😉