Faeryn was a little star yesterday – in more ways than one.
Her trot has gotten super fancy. I have finally learned to use my seat to influence not only the length of her strides, but the amount of suspension within each stride. I can see now how you train passage – although it takes a HUGE amount of core strength and perfect timing to achieve that. And we are light years away from that yet. I learned that from the brief time I rode one of Marta’s Andalusian stallions at passage once. Debbie Bowman told me once I really needed to SHORTEN her stride for her to be more balanced. She said she moved too big to balance herself. At the time I thought that was a very strange statement, since she certainly did not feel like a big mover – nothing at all like Faxx. But I now understand what she meant – every horse can only move as big as their self carriage/innate sense of balance will allow. And Faeryn was moving ‘out of her balance zone’ so to speak.Which prevented her from being truly in self carriage because she was always sort of scrambling forward, always slightly out of balance. I am also asking her to do ‘half steps.’ – although I do not think they are truly piaffe half steps at this point – but she is learning to sit, and to shorten her stride but maintain activity of her hind legs – all of the ‘building blocks’ you need to have in place before they can truly do a piaffe. You achieve this in two ways – by teaching them to REALLY burst forward from walk/halt to trot transitions — and by repeated transitions within the trot – small, small, small, then medium, medium, medium….repeated many. many times. The “small” needs to be as small as possible, and the medium really does not have to be a big booming medium – just a definite bigger gait than the ‘small.’
The most progress has been made in her half pass lately. Her right half pass has been fairly good for a few weeks now – but I kept ‘losing’ the left half pass – mainly because of that nagging slight head tilt that she still has off and on. It is still not completely gone, and I still have not diagnosed what I think is the ‘end all be all’ solution – but a large part of it has to do with a combination of me not riding her enough with my right seatbone and not using enough outside rein. Yesterday it was magic. NOT ONLY was the quality of the left half pass as good as the right half pass – but I was able to do some decent half pass ‘change of hand,’ or ‘zigzag’ as it is sometimes called. I dare say she will be better than Fling at this some day. I also for the first time asked her for a canter half pass to the right, and got a quite nice one!! GOOD GIRL!
And even more astounding perhaps than all of the above, is that I can FINALLY pull Faeryn’s hedge of a mane without drugging her, threatening her or being in danger of getting body slammed by a crazed 1,000 drama queen! I started working on her mane after I’d ridden her because I had read that the pores open up and that makes it easier and less painful to pull the hair. I also learned not to ‘yank’ the hair out – but to apply steady pressure to pull it out. I have read that when you do that, it gives the follicles a chance to ‘let go’ of the hair. Seems it is an evolutionary self-preservation mechanism designed to allow a horse to escape being tangled in something by their mane or tail. I don’t know if that is truth or just a bit of hooey, but I do know that managing it that way has made all the difference with her. She tolerated it fairly well – and actually got better and quieter about it the longer I worked. First, I think she finally had a chance to process the information and realized it really did NOT HURT as much as she thought. Secondly, I think she really likes the part where she gets her mane combed. And third, I learned that pulling fewer hairs was actually more irritating to her, and started pulling larger sections of hair at a time. Her mane has been neglected for so long, it is going to take quite a few sessions to get it ‘tamed’ but at least it now is not a huge ordeal and I can do a bit at a time, and hopefully within a few weeks Faeryn will look like a properly groomed elegant show horse and not a ragamuffin!