Last Sunday was the schooling show at the barn around the corner. I showed Clair second-one and second-two, and Wylie training-one and training-two. I didn't ask enough of Clair, and our scores were just mediocre. We got a 60% on second-one and a 63% on second-two. I'd never shown second-two before, so I actually wasn't too disappointed with a 63%. But if I'd had my head in the game better, I think we'd have scored five percent higher on each test. I cringe a little to see how far I'm leaning back!
I shared the videos with clinician Suzanne, and she responded immediately with a boatload of wonderful, specific advice. I thought y'all might be interested in watch the videos above and then reading the two messages and one texted exercise Suzanne sent me:
O.K. I'm going to start with generalities. Clair seemed a little deep and needs to be more forward - more metronome-like, more air time. This all indicates a lack of balance. Half-halts are not making it thru to the hind fetlock. This leads to you leaning back too far in an effort to push her. It results, occasionally, in an "S" shape in your back. You have to sit up straight and bear down (tighten your core) and follow the movement but not try to push her. She just gets more behind the leg.
This got a little better as the test went on. Lateral work (shoulder-in and travers) looked pretty darn good, too. Also, counter-canter. She was very crooked in the rein back, though, stepped out in right turn on haunches and got a little "mouthy" by the end.
Half-halts really, really need to come thru. Everyone says it, everyone's heard it. I don't care if she throws her head up at first as long as she sits. Sometimes many steps of rein back help. Until she carries herself, she doesn't get much of a medium trot. I know she has it in her. We just have to get it consistently so it becomes the norm.
Wish I was there talking in your ear every stride! Hugs, Sue
OK! It's done in one end of the arena. Could think of it as a big circle or square. Trot, do a few steps of shoulder-in along the rail, use the bend to do a nice corner softening the inside rein and straightening with the outside rein. Another corner or part of circle onto the center line. Then lengthen or medium for a half dozen strides on centerline into a half-halt before turn and turn the opposite way. Repeat on that side. Can be done toward the short side or, later, away from the short side. Make sense? I used it with 2 riders with very different horses. One was heavy and strung out, but the other was forward and lighter. Worked for both. I thought about Clair and her tendency to curl and if this would help or hurt. Wish I was there to watch you do this and tweak if necessary.
Exactly! Always ask a little more than she offers! One thing I want to mention because I have been clarifying it with E. Half-halts! Legs on for half-halts. Both hands ask. Keep the neck as straight as possible. We want to stabilize the neck between the shoulders. Remember when Wolf used to say to bend "in spite of" the outside rein? That's what he meant. To pull on the stiff rein over and over, for instance, without the soft rein acting as resistance, does nothing in the softening process or in getting the horse to take more hold on the soft rein. Give rather quickly, even if you don't think she softened much or at all. When you give, stop squeezing with your legs, too. Sit in instead (bear down, use your seat) with soft hands and legs. If it works, you will experience at least a few steps of self-carriage. If it doesn't, repeat!
I think I have been unclear when I say "outside rein along the neck and open inside rein". I just wanted to get across the idea of bend, but the bend is in the body. Anytime there is bend in the neck, the half-halt escapes to the outside of the neck instead of making it all the way through the body of the horse.
I can understand not wanting to do too much rein back. When you do it, make sure your upper body stays back and you block or push with whatever leg you need to keep her straight (she tends to overreact to the stiff rein sending her haunches the opposite direction).
When you do halt, drive her into it by closing both legs and pumping the brakes with the hands. As soon as she halts, drop the reins and soften the legs immediately. Just become a "sack of potatoes". Of course this is at home. At the show it will be the same idea but not as drastic. The halt really isn't as bad as I thought it would be. It's not frantic or gnashing or anything. It'll come around.
Hope this clarifies and helps! Hugs, Sue
P.S. The purpose of the exercise is to be able to change promptly and smoothly. Don't do anything too long or lull her into doing something from repetition or boredom.
I've had three rides after receiving this help, and wowza. Clair is moving big, and I'm staying with her in sitting trot. The biggest clue that something is more correct is that I'm getting a true stretchy trot circle with a connection over her back to the bit -- for the first time since I've owned her. I just sent in my entry for a show in Tyler, Texas, in four weeks, and I'm hopeful that we'll get our first and second level scores for our bronze.
I also showed Wylie, and surprise! We got a 76% on training-one, which was high point for the show. We also got a 67% on training-two. What a wonderful boy Wylie is! I could not be more proud of him going so well for me after just three weeks of riding him.
In other news, we had a little rain on Wednesday. This was the parking lot:
And this was the pasture:
Thankfully, we are already well on our way to drying out.