March 21, 2011

Saturday Lesson: It's an attitude thing

Rose has progressed a lot in the past few months, and I've very proud of her/us for that. However, she has reached a point where she's decided that somethings are hard and that she doesn't want to do them. Now, the Super Full Moon we had this week might of had something to do with the increased stubbornness...but, I doubt it. She's just testing the water like any teenage girl would (in my mind she's right around 18/19 in people years), and well, she didn't like the result.

On Saturday we had our lesson with Tracie. I've been having difficulties with her canter transition specifically, but as Tracie noticed, I am having difficulty with all of her transitions. So we decided to work on that. So, what's my difficulty with all the transitions? She's not listening to a light and polite aid, and aside from her attitude I figure that the rest is my fault for letting her get away with it.

The Problem
  • Trot: I hadn't noticed that I was having to ask 3-4 time for her to pick up the trot and that in doing so my legs had become vice like, resulting in me having to work way too hard.
  • Canter: About a month ago she started running into the canter transition, occasionally picking up the wrong lead.

The remedy
Starting with the walk - trot transition, I would ask her once, very lightly to trot. If she didn't she got a good whack with the whip. I started out with nice dainty taps with the whip, which she thoroughly ignored. Eventually I found a level of smack, rather than tap, that she paid attention to. Solving the walk-trot transition was swift and easy, and I was delighted how easy it was to comfortably sit the trot when I could relax my legs and not have to impersonate a vice.

Next was the trot-canter transition. This took a lot more time. First we worked making it clear that she doesn't run into the canter. Every time that I lightly asked for the canter and then she started rushing, I gave her a smack with the whip and pulled her back to the trot. Then, I asked again. After a few repetitions she got the idea that she had to just pick up the canter right away, and not run into it. After a few smacks with the whip, she was very energetically lurching into the canter. Once we got that down, we asked her to keep contact on the bit through the transition, and to maintain a bend to the inside (this was to solve her wrong lead issues, mostly going to the right - her bad side). This required a bit of manhandling on my part, insisting that she maintain contact and the inside bend. Although it required a lot of work on my part, resulting in very sore biceps the next day, it worked. Once she did maintain a light contact and the bend I softened my hand and gave her lots of praise. After that we'd have a nice downward trot transition and then she'd get a walk break.

Simple stuff, and very effective. A lot of this I should have been able to realize on my own, but it is so much harder to see the solution when you are working with your own horse. That is why I love lessoning with a trainer. It is so helpful to have someone on the ground with an outsider's perspective telling you what they see. The fact that Tracie is an amazing trainer/rider certainly doesn't hurt either! I'm looking forward to my next ride so that I can reinforce the lessons learned.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!

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