Do you keep a lesson journal? Once in a while I have one of those lessons where SO MUCH happens, and I know that if I don't write about it right afterwards, I'll never remember it all correctly. There's something about the act of putting thoughts down on paper that helps to sort out and solidify everything I learned.
On that note (har-har), I thought I'd share the notes I wrote after a recent two-day clinic with one of my favorite trainers:
- Medium walk: Think "right hip, left him, right hip, left hip" oscillating towards his ears to help move the walk out.
- Walk-canter transitions: From a medium walk, shorten stride for a couple steps right before giving the canter cue. Close the inside rein (slight shoulder-fore) right as you cue with the outside leg.
- Riding corners: Count 3-4 strides of corner (when you’re bending) and then ride straight. Make sure there’s enough impulsion when you’re straight, and compress a little for the corner steps. This helps keep horse in the outside rein and sets you up for a nice straight long-rail. Ride corners this way at the canter as well.
- 10m circles: There should be the same number of steps on the first half of the circle as there are on the second half! Count the steps.
- Counter-canter: School it along the wall by doing a 10m circle in a corner (true canter), walking when you re-join the wall, changing the bend (slight haunches out) and asking for counter-canter along the wall. You can do a serpentine loop from there to change rein. Teaches horse that the direction of travel has nothing to do with their lead/I can ask for either lead at any time.
- Canter serpantines: Think of it as three 20m circle halves. Don’t stay straight in the middle for too long. Don’t ride into the corners when you’re on your “circle”. When doing it at the canter, hold onto (pulse) the “inside” rein and say “wait” when you feel him want to do a change or break.
- At medium walk, sitting trot, and canter, think of your belly button pushing his ears out, to help him reach over his top-line into the contact and stay in front of the leg.
- Use the inside rein against the outside one to get him really in the outside rein. Once he’s there, you can float the inside rein for a second to reward/test that he’ll stay there (I was floating the inside too eagerly and he wasn’t honest in the outside rein yet.) Use the warm-up trot to really get him in that outside rein so we don’t have to keep having that conversation the whole ride.
This was my first lesson in many months, and the first one with this particular trainer in over a year. It felt so great to get feedback on how we're doing and have fresh eyes on us. I love having a bunch of new homework to plug away on too. Our rides were starting to feel a bit uninspired and monotonous (it's always been a challenge for me to feel out when exactly we are ready to leave certain things alone and move on to the next challenge, so hearing "You guys are ready for this" is an important part of any lesson.)
It was super great to see Clay load on the trailer, travel to a nearby barn he hasn't been to in a year, enter the ring and go immediately to work like nbd. What a grown-up dude! I have to say, his no-drama ways are a big part of why I love him so gee-dang much. Horses who put up a whole stink over everything...ain't no body got time for that! The only thing I don't really love is how he comes flying out of the trailer when unloading. This is a bad habit that has formed because I am usually trailering around by myself and have to unclip him from his tie before going around back and opening the door and butt-bar, so there's no one up at his head easing him out and he's free to exit with, ahem, haste and enthusiasm. We'll have to work on that, but he was a perfect gentleman otherwise!
We're lucky enough to have another clinic coming up this weekend, with our regular trainer Gina! Looking forward to it...'tis the season for lessons and shows!