Monthly Archives: July 2012

Fling’s on a roll!

I think I have found the secret to improving Fling’s canter AND her flying changes. It’s called STRAIGHTNESS. Over time, little by little, in an effort to avoid carrying weight on her weaker right hind, she started swinging her left leg, and sometimes her entire haunches, to the left when going to the right. And vice versa going left. I had gotten so used to it, I really didn’t notice it – except in flying changes, when she often would be terribly crooked – mostly swinging her haunches to the left.

So I started working on breaking this habit. I really did not think it meant she was sore, or off, or had any issue with the right hind except that she’d been doing it for so long to avoid the work, her right hind had gotten even weaker. So in addition to working on keeping her straighter – canter departs on a straight line, really THINKING about where her haunches were at all times and immediately correcting her when I felt the LEAST bit of crookedness, I also went back to my right hind strengthening exercises. Those included doing extreme leg yields (head to the wall along the long side and almost parallel leg yields), turns on the haunches, haunches in and half pass. She has gotten so good at the head to the wall leg yields and she feels like a million bucks while doing them – completely in self carriage and super through. I want to get that feeling in all of our work.

In about two weeks I really started feeling a difference in her canter. The “throughness” that I just couldn’t seem to find again was starting to come back bit by bit. So, last night I thought maybe we were ready to revisit the flying changes.They started out straighter, but the more ‘excited’ and jazzed up she got, the more crooked they became. So, instead of accepting it like I always had in the past – I – gasp! – corrected her. That elicited more excitement and back up, head down ‘bouncing’ up and down for a few strides after each correction. Finally she got the message, and the changes actually GOT STRAIGHTER and cleaner. By golly, I think we’re onto something here!!

Now if it would just stop raining for a bit. I am not complaining – really – after the horrendous drought of last year, I swore I would not complain about rain ever again. But I am reenergized about my riding and really wanting to get back on track with all my horses. It’s been raining for almost two weeks now – not every day – but enough to be disruptive.  I also a in the middle of moving my parents from their home to an assisted living facility and that’s taken up the last three weekends, and I have about two more to go before they’re moved in, the estate sale has taken place, and I’ve gotten the house cleaned out and ready for closing. I need a vacation!

Super lesson on Fling

In the last few weeks I feel like Fling has really improved. The changes I’ve made in my riding – lengthening my stirrups, and trying to sit deeper, help her less, and stay relaxed in my seat – seems to be helping. Also, the strengthening exercises I’ve been doing to help her right hind, and constantly reminding her she cannot avoid carrying weight on her right hind by swinging her haunches out also seem to be working.  She feels much more through, especially at the canter, and her trot feels like it has more impulsion . So I took her to Marie’s for a lesson for a ‘reality check’ to see if my impressions are correct.

It is really gratifying when what I feel and what knowledgeable eyes on the ground see are in sync.Marie said her trot just keeps getting better and better. We had a great lesson and worked really hard – there’s always room for improvement! Marie says she still needs to be stronger, so we continue to work on haunches in at all gaits, but especially the canter. it’s reallly  hard for her and she continually tries to throw me on my outside seatbone so I can’t infuence her inside hind so much. We also worked on getting her to listen better to my aids, especially at the canter, with little forward and back exercises. With everything going on in my life,  I haven’t even thought about showing her this year – but if things keep going like this, I may try to show her in October at Great SW Equestrian Center.

Learning to train Faxx

The mosquitoes are awful and between helping my parents pack to move on Saturday, running errands and rain on Sunday, Faxx did not get ridden over the weekend.

So I rode him last night for probably the first time in a week.  His challenge, like Fling and Faeryn’s, is to get stronger behind, particularly the right hind, and also become more supple, especially to the right. Marie’s prescription is much bending and change of direction work for his suppleness, plus a lot of head-to-the-wall leg yields, (which Faxx really hates), turns on the haunches and haunches in to help strengthen his right hind.

When Faxx finds something hard to do, his first reaction is to drop the contact entirely and get behind the leg and if that doesn’t work to make me stop making him work hard, he will next resort to ‘bouncing’ up and down. It is not at all like rearing – it is just that his trot gets super uneven. It is frustrating and really difficult to ride, but I’ve finally learned I cannot let him stop – that rewards him for the behavior. I just have to sit and keep insisting that he at least TRY to do what I am asking him to do. It is really hard to do, but last night we really made progress. When he would try and drop contact, I’ve gotten more assertive about pushing him forward. I also have learned to accept a few good steps and give him a break – BUT he only gets a break after he’s made an honest effort. If he backs off of contact or gets uneven, I keep after him – no matter how difficult – until he takes at least a few good steps. Shoulder in has definitely gotten easier, but the half pass to the right is still very difficult beyond the first step or two. Marie pointed out that he really needs to get stronger in the right hind for a truly successful half pass. So I’m concentrating on that, and throwing in just a few steps of half pass to the right occasionally.

Training Faxx is vastly different from training his half siblings, Fling and Faeryn. I think it mostly has to do with the difference between mares and geldings, and less about Faxx’s individual personality. The mares seem to have a much higher tolerance for the ‘pressure’ in training. As in, if they do not understand something, or if something is difficult for them, they will try to do it, and have more tolerance for longer periods of difficult work. With Faxx, I have learned to do shorter ‘bursts’ of the more difficult work, then back off and let him back into his ‘comfort zone’ for awhile before revisiting the more demanding work. For example, with the ‘girls,’ I would start out doing leg yield along the wall and do the entire long side. And they handled that well, even if they struggled occasionally. With Faxx, when I’ve asked him to do that, he is a basket case by the time we get halfway through. It also may have something to do with him being bigger, and maybe that makes it more difficult for him. But I’ve learned to go for a few steps, then let the pressure off, then pick it up again. Over time, he can get to the point where he can do the entire long side, or whatever. But I have to ‘sneak up’ on him with it.

In other news, I am getting very antsy and excited about my new trailer’s arrival – around mid-September. I am NOT excited about having to pay on it for 4 years, but I’ve been saving money as fast as I can before the delivery date and estimate I will have to finance about half of it. And hopefully I can get it paid off in less than 4 years.

Fling is improving

So I’ve ridden Fling a few times in our ‘new regime’ and took her to Marie’s and got some ore helpful tips. Marie gave me some exercises to make her more responsive to my half halts in the canter and to make her canter straighter.

Marie saw improvement from what I’d been doing on my own, but agreed Fling is still ignoring my half halts at the canter. Fling is very strong – as Marie says, that is a positive thing (esp when it comes to canter pirouettes) but she can ‘use it against me’ even if unintentionally. The longer we canter, the more she wants to GO and the less she listens to my aids.

To combat that, Marie first had me go on a 20m circle and go forward four strides, then come back to very collected canter for four strides, lather, rinse, repeat. When she was doing that well, we tried doing it on the long side or across the diagonal, but she again wanted to blow through my aids. So, Marie had me go across the diagonal, do a 10 meter circle at X, then do another 10 meter circle near S and then half pass to the rail.This is a perfect exercise for Fling because it totally defuses her notion that going across the diagonal equals “Off to the races!” Marie said a more advanced version of this exercise would substitute schooling pirouettes for the circles. We then worked on her canter piros and she was much better than before. I got her straighter off my outside rein and sat more evenly on both seatbones. We did some flying changes then, and our major problem is she is throwing her haunches to the left. The fix was to  break down the exercise, so we worked on just picking up the canter on centerline, concentrating on keeping her very straight – because she even wants to swing her haunches there. I did multiple departs down the center line and she got better. My other homework is to continue to ask her to do haunches in to the right, half pass to the right and head-to-the-wall leg yields to get her stronger on that right hind.

So, that was last weekend, and even though I’ve gotten home late from work most days this past week, I’ve worked on the above, and she’s getting straighter in her canter departs. After another week of this, I will see how the changes go again. Her canter in general is already much better than it was a month ago.

Today I rode Faeryn and she also is much better. Marie’s prescription for her is also right hind strengthening, so she is doing the same exercises as Fling. And her canter has also improved a lot.

The mosquitoes are so bad here – even though we’ve hardlly had any rain – it’s like something out of a horror movie. I was able to ride this evening, but only after drenching  Faeryn and myself in bug repellant. I hope tomorrow is better and I also hope I have time to ride all three. I had to help my parents pack in advance of their move most of the day today so only had time to ride one horse.