Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Counter-bending my way to connection

Had another lesson! And I learned a new way to get inside leg to outside rein. Previously I had always just done leg yields or spiral in/spiral out.
  1. Make sure horse is responsive and moving off your leg with a couple transitions.
  2. Take up contact on the circle.
  3. Bend to the OUTSIDE so that you are on three tracks.
  4. Really put on the inside leg, aiming for a circle that is bigger than you really want so that you continue to travel on the actual circle without falling in.
  5. Keep the outside rein low, take up the inside rein (opening rein) with the inside leg and bend to the inside.
And voĆ­la! A new trick!

It took me a while to really get how much it actually takes to bend to the outside. I literally had to move my inside hand to my thigh, and my outside hand to where my inside hand had been just to get it--though of course my instructor said that was just so I could learn and that this was the only time she would allow my hands to look like that.

So I'm happy to be learning, and and happy to have a new tool in my riding toolbox. Not that I think most of my lesson horses are ready for counter-bending or traveling on three tracks. Let's work on straight lines and regular bending first, and then maybe getting consistent at all three gaits. Baby steps here, people.

Going to get some longeing gear this weekend--woohoo!
I think he looks a little too scruffy here, but the sentiment fits. via
I have been thinking about it and I think it is a good investment because even if I have to buy a horse-sized (rather than the oversize I will need for the drafts) cavesson eventually, I will be able to use a surcingle and rubber-donut side reins for many years. There are two candidates for the side reins right now:

Remi: Going to start it reeeeallly easy with this guy. He is forward and relaxed on the longe with no gear (just the longe line going through his bit on one side, over his poll, and clipped to the other bit ring). But put a rider up these days and he is a basket case of nerves. He's sound, and I poked and prodded the heck out of him so it is probably not a back issue. So my next diagnostic is to figure out if it's a rein contact issue (which I think it is) by slowly building it up to light contact with the side reins on the cavesson, and then eventually the bit.

Rurik: I need to work on straightness and lots of circles with this one so he learns how to carry himself in both directions instead of bulging out his shoulder obnoxiously and running (more like barging) through my aids when he doesn't feel like working hard to carry himself on the circle. I think the boundary of the side reins will do him good because I'll be urging him forward, forward, forward into a straight channel of absolutely equal rein pressure.

Of course I'm still going to ride these two to reinforce their longe lessons, but it wrong that part of my motivation for longeing is that I really don't like riding Remi and Rurik at this point? Once they improve it will be fine; I know they are good horses under their accumulated bad habits...but until then I'm perfectly happy to just longe them for 20 minutes at a time (if that) and still feel good about them getting a workout.

I'll probably also throw Patty on the longe without the side reins just so I can get her trotting consistently on the longe. Tried to give a posting trot tutorial to a student and Patty kept ducking in at one end of the "circle" (a generous description) which of course didn't make the student's job any easier. Makes me think she just hasn't been longed much.

So many lesson horses, so little time...but I like having a game plan!

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