Lesson day! Both my trusty photographer and videographer were unavailable this morning, one of them is sunning herself somewhere hot! Therefore you’ll have to do with a dodgy selfie and Raven’s first attempt at a photobomb!
Today we discussed how Saf’s default setting is a rather immobile jaw, poll and neck. This has a knock on effect down her body, giving a general stiff, stilted feel in the walk. I now need to do something about her stiffness and not be afraid to pick up my reins. As with everything riding, it’s a matter of co-ordination and timing. I need to use my outside rein to check her neck is straight, then my inside rein with an ‘opening’ feel to ask her to mobilise her jaw.
This sounds so simple when written down but I can assure that it took the whole lesson for me to combine these two simple tasks. I mustn’t give away the outside rein at the same time that my inside rein is asking for jaw mobility, but then I need to reward her when I feel her relaxing her jaw. Of course, never ever get her into a position and just hold on! 😀 As always the proof is in the pudding, and Saf felt looser and more springy when we achieved this elusive mobile jaw. Remind me again why the fashion is to strap the jaws shut with a tight noseband? I don’t get it 😦
Another fascinating lesson, thanks Max. Can’t wait to get schooling next week and get working on this.
Well if I thought it was hot during my lesson on Saturday, we were in for a shock doing Prelim 7 on Sunday at Codham! Having given ourselves a bench mark last time, I was aiming for more relaxation and less tension from Saf, and for me to keep my hands softer. After a boiling hack there, Saf was on her best behaviour and stood happily tied to a tree eating her haynet. It was amazing for all of us to be ‘hands free’, without one of us having to hold onto her. Simple things! After a half hour rest we headed down to the warm up, which seemed less busy compared to last time.
Saf started out tense and looky, but we had a happy canter on each rein which seemed to get it out of her system. She then worked really rather well. Wanted to keep the warm up to a minimum due to the heat, and we were soon called.
I was so pleased with her, I remembered to relax my hips and kept my hands light rather than the usual ninja grip I develop when I feel like she’s going to run off during the test. She was understandably happier and aside from a bit of nose poking at times and ducking in on a few corners in canter I was really pleased. Came out with a grin which is always good 🙂 61% which I was happy with and felt about right from where I was sitting and particularly pleased since it’s only our second time at this venue.
Scorchio lesson on Saturday morning. Spent today working on keeping my upper legs and hips loose and ‘off’. I need to allow Saf room to lift her back and she can’t do this if I’m squeezing her! I think I got a good feel for this so will try be aware of what’s going on there. We did a bit of work in canter as well, which felt lovely, I’m really learning to love Saf’s canter, which I never thought I’d do. Concentrating on keeping my hips and thighs relaxed is particularly important at this point, especially given that I tend to squeeze her if I feel she’s slowing down as mentioned in yesterday’s post.
I need to just ask Saf to do something, and then let her do the work. I’m too much of a ‘doer’ and end up doing more work than her and stifling her.
Wandered over to Bluegate on Saturday (well, an hour’s wander!) to hire their gorgeous arena. It really is a treat to have a go on it, but the main reason for our visit was to get some nice, relaxed work from Saf away from her home environment. We’ve not been here since September last year but Saf felt at home at once. A little tense at first, but got down to work pretty quickly. Had a quick walk, trot and canter to warm up, concentrating on keeping Saf focused on me. It’s a very quiet place, but Saf used the horses being brought in as an excuse to have a gawp.
Once the tension settled, I felt I could get my leg on her a little more, without the feeling that she would wizz off. Got some lovely work towards the end where we had both lateral and topline flexion, but Saf would respond with the third evasion, namely speed. She insists that she can bend correctly and flex her neck at the same time, but she has to slow down, so I then have to ask for forwardness, which she responds to but shortens her topline, and so it goes on!
The thing is, we could do all this and really knuckle down and got the same kind of work we get at home, so absolutely over the moon with her today!
Another great lesson last weekend! Worked on a few different things, starting with getting my legs more under by centre of gravity. I still have the annoying chair seat which keeps cropping up, so more revision required. You can see how it’s supposed to look in the first photo. I also had a ‘thing’ where my foot and hand on the same side, seem to get attracted to each other, so concentrating on trying to push them apart. This sorted, I got some much needed help with my rising trot.
We’ve done a lot of work sitting, but I have been frustrated by my rising trot for a while. I always had the feeling that my rise was wrong, and when I sat I was unbalanced and behind. As such, I felt like I was constantly fighting to keep up with Saf. Max had me keeping my heels further back, rising from my knees and coming further forward over the pommel. This helped tremendously and I’ve never felt a rising trot like it.
We then went on to canter. I used to get quite hunched forward in the canter, then found my core and sat back. In doing this I went too far the other way and tended to get left behind (you can see this in the first canter photos). So, more adjustment keeping my legs under my centre of gravity again, which puts me in a more balanced position. 20m circles, half trot, half canter, repeat, repeat, repeat 🙂
Finished with a little trot maintaining softness and inside bend. I was shattered! Saf seems totally fine haha! Lots to take in and digest 🙂
Sorry it’s been a bit quiet, just been mainly hacking so not much to report. Had a super session with Saf yesterday. It was very windy so she started off quite tense and fixed in her neck. Worked on 10m circles, so a 10m circle right, then straight away change to 10m circle left then continue up the arena. Seems to be working really well and does help Saf become a bit softer in her neck. By the time we’d done this a few times Saf was really soft, and suddenly seemed like she’d remembered what we’ve been working on the last few weeks.
Did a few walk, trot transitions making sure Saf was soft in her neck and listening before making the transition, she’s getting really good at this! Then did a few canter transitions making sure the trot was relaxed before asking. For some reason I seem to get a mental block with canter every year. It’s all going really well by the autumn, then we have the winter off and I just can’t seem to process what I am supposed to be doing. It’s not exactly Saf’s strongest pace either so between us and my self deprecation it all falls apart. I gave myself a stern pep talk today and am going to do a few 20m canter circles on each rein every session just to work through this mental block. Felt tonnes better today compared to Friday and managed to just relax into it a bit more.
So a great session, really pleased! All the ponies now happily installed in their summer quarters (we cheated, I know it’s not quite June yet!) This does mean that Saf needs to do twice as much work to keep her waistline in check! Penny is doing a grand job blending in, bonus points if you can spot her!
Super lesson with Max on Saturday and look, I think Spring has arrived!
Today we did a few adjustments to my position, working on sitting on my backside a bit more as I’m still a bit prone to tipping forwards (better than before though!) and also need to make sure I don’t stretch my front line and arch my back.
These niggles rectified, we focused today on getting Saf to soften over her topline and become more ‘on the aids’. As you will have seen over the years, Saf tends to fix her neck, poll and jaw. Now is the time to ask her to release, something I must ask from my elbows and shoulders, whilst ensuring my wrists stay soft. As you can see we got there in the end 🙂 Lots of 10m circles with changes of direction up the arena. I need to keep moving myself and not staying still, as Saf gets basically ‘rusty’ so it’s a contant process asking her to stay soft. As ever, the mantra ‘every step you ride is a step you train’ is ringing in my ears! From now on we either have ‘Saf’s rein’ i.e on the buckle, or ‘my rein’ when I pick them up and she needs to be on the aids.
“She doesn’t look like an ‘old lady’ now does she?” Haha, err, no! Must stop worrying about Saf’s age!