Weekend Clinic – Day Two

Sunday Fling was up again.  Her ‘deal’ with the left rein was almost nonexistent today! So we moved to canter quickly and did super collected canter to forward canter – and I was able to ‘get’ the mental imagery of sitting on her hocks and sitting very quiet and still – but with a very deep seat. It is sitting deep and not ‘allowing’ her to canter big that gets the most collected ‘pirouette’ canter. I can half halt a little – but the best effort comes from using my core to keep her under my seat. Very difficult to explain, but when you finally do feel it, you ‘get’ it. When I was showing Fling second level, she was very reliably on my ‘seat’ and when I did canter mediums, I could get her to come back just by using my core and not even having to half halt with the reins. Somewhere along the way I lost that – and now am having to ‘work’ at rediscovering it.

Every once in a while, Debbie would have me send her forward into a bigger canter. Whenever you do really collected canter, it’s always a good idea to send them forward every so often. Steffan Peters emphasized that in a symposium I audited last fall and I agree with that.  We did the super collected canter both directions and we also did more of the shallow loop serpentines where we would do one loop in counter canter to get her straighter. Part of the trouble with our flying changes is that she gets crooked in the change – and all of this canter work is part of the foundation that will eventually make our changes better.

Then we moved to trot work and finished up with half pass work. Debbie had me work on her throughness by doing the shoulder in/circle/haunches in down the long side and then turn onto the center line at either A or C and then  half pass. Her half pass to the right has been her weakest one – with less bend/impulsion than to the left. Happy to say she just hit it out of the ballpark with her half pass work on Sunday. Debbie pronounced both directions ‘solid 8s’ and we finished on that note!

Faeryn was my last ride of the weekend. Like Fling, her canter has been a work in progress and she’s made a LOT of progress, but it turns out we’ve just scratched the surface. In our warmup, her canter was ‘dancy’ and had lots of impulsion. But she still was not working as hard with her right hind as her left – which became evident when we started working on trot lengthenings –  something I told Debbie I wanted to work on. And who knew – I’ve been doing lengthenings and mediums wrong. I always read and was taught (and this is how I did it successfully with Fling – even at second level) that to prepare for a lengthening or medium, you half halt through the corner – ‘winding’ up the spring, to to speak – and then release the energy and pretty much try to stay out of the way and resist the urge to ‘chase’ them in the lengthening/medium across the diagonal. Nope. Debbie says you need to really SIT DOWN on them, and in Faeryn’s case, use a lot of right leg to encourage her right hind to be as active as the left hind. For some reason Debbie thought it was really funny when I told her the deal i had with Fling is that she was to keep going and I’d just sit there and tell her when to stop. 😉  Believe me, that method is a LOT easier!  I found out just how much core strength is really does take to really SIT DOWN on a horse. My tendancy is to pinch my knees together when I am using leg, which pushes my seat right up and off their back. One of my ongoing challenges (and the #1 rider position issue Debbie gets on me about) is to ride with a longer leg, carried a bit further back from the HIP – not the knee. Truly, I’ve lengthened my stirrups about 3 holes on each horse since I first started riding with her.

It was hard for me to really feel when Faeryn was lengthening – I could feel more power in her trot, but it did not necessarily feel like a longer stride, although Debbie assures me it was. We then moved to canter, and here too, Debbie stressed sitting on her and pushing her through with my lower leg  – not spur – to work her right hind. And, like with Fling, to concentrate on lifting my ribcage, sitting on her ‘like a pillar’ and making sure I did not drop my chin. And, to keep her on my seat. It made her canter feel much more ‘together.’

We then worked on my old nemesis – the First Level Test 3 movement that requires you to come around the corner to K, then immediately leg yield to the right from K to X, then circle left 10M, circle right 10M and then leg yield left from X to H. It was giving me fits. You have a very short time to go from bent around the corner one direction, to straightened with slight positioning the other direction and then moving to the right. And to get from K to X ‘in time’ required a pretty steep leg yield. Interestingly enough, keeping her straighter with my OUTSIDE leg made it easier to move her over with my INSIDE leg. Although I kept telling Debbie I was not hitting X in time – we were about 1 horse length late  – until she patiently explained to me that the arena I was riding in was WIDER than a regulation dressage ring. Oh. Never mind. LOL!

Last night I rode Faxx with better results in my shoulder in work – but had a real epiphany with Faeryn. I tried to ride her with a much deeper seat and longer leg and resist her attempts to get me OFF my seat. In the canter, Faeryn has a habit of popping up in the croup – it is largely a conformation issue with her, since, unfortunately, she has the shorter croup that comes from the Arabian side. (Fling has a longer croup and does not ahve this issue.)  It can feel like a’double bump’ at the canter. She is especially good at ‘popping me up’ off her back when she does a downward. Last night I really worked at getting my leg long and back without pinchign at my knees – keeping my seat glued to her back, and thinking sit, sit, sit. At the same time, I used my right leg to encourage her right hind. And I got a completely different feel. Before, I’d been riding Faeryn with reins, seat and legs – all independent of one another. Suddenly I got the feeling that Faeryn was – from nose to tail – completely connected. Hind legs connected to my seat/legs which pushed the energy forward, to be captured in the reins and recycled back to her hindquarters. Really hard to explain. Truly a ‘zen’ moment. LOL!  I also worked on my ‘old enemy’ the leg yield from K to X – and am happy to report that particular demon seems to be slayed – at least for the moment. 😉

In the next month, Faxx needs to really step up to the plate to be ready to show First 3 in a Memorial Day show, which is the only qualifier we plan to attend before the Arab Sporthorse Regionals in July. He’s going to go to a schooling show May 8 and another one May 21 to prep for it. His main issue is dropping contact, but he did MUCH better last night on his shoulder ins and leg yield. We have probably 2,000 feet of fenceline – and I put it to good use last night working on the ‘head to the rail’ leg yielding, and also to serve as a ‘rail’ for shoulder ins. I could actually sit the trot during some shoulder ins. Progress! Now, whether he will be competitive at First level – who knows. Most of it depends on how connected he stays. Last night he was super connected – even at the walk, which is usually the toughest gait to get consistent connection. But, he was quite ‘well warmed up’ for last night’s session, since the hooligan declined to be caught – so I sent him galloping around (the equine version of ‘digging ditches’) until he cried ‘uncle’ and let himself be caught. He was blowing hard and lathered between his legs by then. In comparison, the work I asked him to do was a walk in the park! Hopefully he’ll be smart enough to REMEMBER that next time he thinks about evading capture. 😉

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