Friday, April 11, 2014

Attack Mode!

As I was warming up, I saw Coach setting up a grid…
I was giddy!!

…I’ve mentioned before how much I truly love grids, right?

Pony was giving me relaxed trot and canter work, but our transitions were a little rough…  Just a little.  Minor things, like tipping her head or sticking her nose out…

You see, I changed my riding slightly this past week.  When Fancy Pony gets all wonky and bent out of shape, I used to give with my hands, saying, “OMG!  What’s wrong??  How am I hurting you??”
Well, this week, I started leaving everything in my body right where it is (like side reins, right?) and saying, “Package yourself, Pony.  I’m not going anywhere.”  And wouldn’t you know?  She stopped doing most of the weird craziness in her neck.  Instead, her shoulders popped out left, then right, and then left again…  Once I gathered them into the middle (or just juggled them between my thighs) then the haunches started popping out one side or the other.  So, I tried to juggle those with my calves.

Let’s review:
 - steady hands, back, and core
 - juggle the shoulders between thighs
 - juggle the haunches between calves
 - and establish the gait with the butt!

I made sure that the parameters were established before we attempted to take any fences.  We took the grid both directions with ease.  It was a 1-stride – bounce – 1-stride.  Coach had us come again, but I didn’t realize that she had raised the last x-rail to a vertical.  Not that it mattered!
You see, as we approached the grid, Fancy Pony said, “I’ve got this! Let me go!”
…no, wait…
“I want to go!”
“I’m going!”
…I *KNEW* you were going to do that!!

Coach thought I said that to her about the rail when, in fact, I was talking to the Fancy Pony.
Then, Coach set up something else…  A lone barrel sat on its side… Then, it grew guide poles from each side…  THEN, it acquired standards!!  I was excited!  This was going to be fun!!

“OK.  Go trot the skinny!”
I established my trot.  I sent her forward to establish the go.  I balanced for the turn, and then asked for a more collected trot on the approach.  She compressed.  Good Pony!!
She locked onto the jump, and pushed into my hand a little while maintaining the collection.
And 2 strides out, she cantered!  Now, the last thing I want to do is ask her to stop in front of a potentially scary or problematic jump… And, she did continue in the same level of compression in the canter!  So, I let her take it at a canter.

“Umm, that wasn’t a trot!” Coach said.
Yeah, I noticed that… On the upside, she didn’t see any major flaws with on-the-fly determinations.  OK, do it again.  This time, I just assumed the canter from the start, and she was BEAUTIFUL! She compressed the entire way to the jump, and when I said ‘go’, she jumped straight over the middle in a quiet, businesslike manner.
obviously not a skinny!
I’m sure guide poles and standards help with that, but I’m not complaining!!

Then, the game changed again…
Go through the line, and if it’s nice, go to the skinny.

SO.  We head through the line, and she charges the last half of the grid (full of excitement, she has transformed into a fire-breathing dragon)!  So, we came through again, and she waited better for me, so we took the skinny.  She was ready to eat up more jumps!

We had firmly established “ATTACK MODE!”
I don’t know how many times we approached the grid and aborted because she tried to take over.  At one point, (after she had acquiesced to my guidance) we approached in THE. MOST. BEAUTIFUL. CANTER. EVER.
In the last stride, she ignored my half-halt.  She towed me over the first fence and I refused to be taken along for the ride – no matter how handy she was – no matter how easily she could still clear the grid!!  No way!

Against ALL of my prior brainwashing, I hauled her sassy butt to a halt at the second fence in the grid.  That processed started out as, “If you don’t stop, I will kill you.”  But it ended up as, “If you don’t stop, WE ARE BOTH GOING TO DIE!!!”
All of this in a single stride…
And she stopped.
And I took a deep breath.
And we thought about what just happened.
Right there in front of the second fence.
Then we approached it again.

The canter never changed!
She accepted my half-halts all the way through!
She had the easiest and most comfortable trip through the grid that she had had all night!

So, we had to do it one more time, just to make sure it wasn’t an accident! (and to fix that slight right drift)
We quit on perfect tempo, light contact, relaxation, and balance.

What an adventure!!


  1. Your change in riding is almost exactly what my instructor told me to do last night. Great minds? hehe

    1. Exactly!
      You know, there comes a time in a green horse's progress when they have to stop being green horses. We have ruked out the physical issues, now, so it is time to insist in the training department! =D



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