Sunday, March 30, 2014

First lesson

OK, so our first lesson together was actually LAST weekend, but various projects have meant I wasn't able to write it up until now.

Are you SURE that was the last carrot?
So the instructor at this barn is the daughter of the owner (who also teaches lessons, and helped bring another boarder I've been hacking out with to First Level dressage scores in the 70s...not too shabby!). The daughter is a Pony Club graduate (not so long ago, since I think she is about my age) who has gone Prelim eventing, and she also foxhunts and plays polo (her polo pony is Guacamole/Guacapony if you remember from Byron's interpretation). I told her I was basically looking for help getting Polly fit over the summer and getting her to actually canter in the arena, and I was pleased that in the lesson we mostly worked on stuff I'd already been working on--lots of walk-trot transitions to get her in front of my leg. We also worked on attempting to bend in the corners, with only moderate success (remember, Polly is a draft X who hasn't been asked to do anything but trail ride and hunt in her entire 9-year-old life). At least Polly is very willing about trying to find the right answer.

So the big challenge for Polly is picking up the canter inside the arena (as opposed to just going into a giant carthorse trot). This is something I've encountered a LOT from my days volunteering and teaching at Gentle Giant Draft Horse Rescue--when a big horse is unbalanced and out of shape, they want to run into their gaits rather than picking them up promptly, and since they are so big, by the time they've got their groove going, then there's a corner and it all sort of falls apart.

Prior to the lesson, I had gotten to the point where I could get a canter transition in a corner, and maybe a step or two of canter before we would get disorganized and fall into a trot. That was OK with me, since apparently she just didn't canter inside before that! But in the lesson, the instructor recommended sitting on my outside seat bone when I asked for the canter--something I wouldn't have figured out on my own. Presto--after all that walk-trot work, we got a prompt transition, and we got maybe 5 or 6 strides of canter on the long side!

I like to think of her as a tall pony.
Steering, not so much--so I brought her back to a trot before we careened out of the open end of the arena. That will come later. This week I did try cantering down (most of) the long side, trotting the short side, and then picking up the canter again on the long side. That seemed like a good exercise to keep practicing.

And I imagine transitions outside in the big gallop field would be good too since she would be a little more naturally forward...if it would stop snowing/raining/sleeting! Seriously, what the heck! But other than far, the first month with Polly has been a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to both of us getting super-fit this summer.

She's too big to get all of her in a wash stall shot! It will be interesting to compare photos each month.

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