Wednesday, June 11, 2014

All the Words!!

All the words in the world will never demonstrate something the way that **actually feeling it** will!

Step One:
Teach Cricket that "forward" is always the answer.

Step Two:
Teach Cricket's Girl that "forward" is always the answer.
I admire CG's determination to ride her horse as well as she can, and this week, she pushed herself to her limits and beyond!

I strung together some exercises to set the pair up for success.  They looked something like this:

1)  Walk.
All the walking.  CG tends to get "tired" in her arms and lets them rest on the pommel of her western saddle.  Of course, there is no pommel like that on her english saddles, so the jusy kind of get stuck in her lap...
So, I asked her to "carry her hands" at the walk.  Cricket responded by walking more freely.  CG said to me, "I can feel her back legs really pushing me!"
I got pretty excited about that!!

2) Bend a Little
I asked CG to practice bending Cricket through her body without leaving the rail.  I actually found that she picked the idea up faster when we practiced the bend on the straight line before asking in the corner.  We talked through how much leg and how much rein and how to evaluate if Cricket just moved her neck or involved her ribcage...  And, suddenly, they were doing it!  They flexed for a couple strides, then went to neutral.  Then, they could do it on command!!

3) Pivot Squares
There are 2 ways to pivot, right?
I started with the easier aids for the rider - 90 degree pivot on the forehand in each corner.
CG really had to focus on how much hand to use, when to release it, and how to REALLY push her mare off when they were done pivoting.  They even managed on for 180 degrees!
She struggled with the pivots on the haunches.  It requires a little more "go" without actually going anywhere.  After many, many attempts, they got a real one, and you could see CG recognize it as the right feeling as they walked off to the next corner!  We tried not to drill it too hard.  The point was to show CG how to influence just the front end or hind end and start to develop some of that muscle memory.

It was, indeed, a very long ride, but much of it was at the walk.  Finally, things started getting exciting!
I laid out a hunter course of ground poles...

4) Hunter Course of Ground Poles
The pair trotted around on the rail as they explored the different trots that Cricket has to offer.  (Previously, we were lucky to get ANY trot from Cricket, so there was only 1 option.)  CG found a trot she was comfortable with where Cricket was moving free and relaxed, and away they went to trot the course.  There were some small bobble, as you would expect for your very first course ever.  Ground poles or jumps makes no difference when it comes to remembering where you are going...
They tried the course the other way with smashing success!
A girl and her horse...
5)  Put Your Hands Forward!
We've all been guilty of this right?  Going along, you suddenly realize you need more go...  So, you hang on to the reins and kick with all your might!  Aaaaaand... nothing happens...

So, I repeated - a million times - "Put your hands forward!"
Now, each time I said this, her hands went straight in front of her as if she were riding saddle seat.  I'm ok with this, for now, because it gives Cricket the room she needs to go forward!  We can refine it later!
They cantered round and round, and I noticed a trend...  When CG needs to steer or slow the canter, she brings her hands down...  Then forgets to put them forward again, so she just kind of gets stuck pulling...  So, Cricket obligingly stops.
I made a new association.  I said, "If I hear you clucking, I want to see your hands half-way to her ears!"
You see, it's hard to train "don't".  If you want to quit a habit, you will be much more successful if you replace it with a different one.  I try really hard to tell myself "Instead of , do this !"
Next thing I know, I look across the arena, and I watched CG bring her hands down to rate the canter and bend around the turn, then she put her hands forward again all on her own!  Wahoo!!
You could see both of the girls relaxing into the free, swinging motion!
I only saw one instance where Cricket swapped leads behind, and when CG pushed her forward, Cricket swapped back on her own!  BONUS!!

6)  Introductory Level Dressage Test A (and B, just for fun)
We worked out a great system for learning how to ride a dressage test!  CG's mom read the test while I coached between the movements!  It worked great, and CG really started thinking ahead.  At one point, her mom forgot to tell her the next movement (20 meter trot circle at E), and CG just did the circle all on her own!

I saw confidence.  I saw freedom.  I saw relaxation.
I popped Cricket over the 2' jump just so they could see how cute she does it (CG needs a little more stability before we send them over jumps), then handed the mare back to her girl for more unstructured playtime.

I guarantee Cricket was tired.  That girl rode the hair off of her, and Cricket (who is known for balking at halt-walk transitions) happily moved off and continued cantering round and round and round as long as her little girl wanted her to!

Fancy Pony was bored because we only did flat work, and it was only later that I realized... While FP jumped that 2' jump several times with other barn girls last night, she never did it with me!  Oops!

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