Friday, December 13, 2013

Precision Work

All the fun doddling around and hacking had to come to an end at some point - so today it was back to work and a serious flat lesson.

S announced we were going to work on getting more precise changes, ideally when I asked for them.

Right now our changes just sorta happen.  I do my best to get the mare balanced.  At some point I exaggerate the new bend, then it's a big mish mash of me trying to keep her light up front, my outside leg on and not bracing myself into a weird pretzel shape.

Sometimes we get our change right away (which is nice), but sometimes we careen around for a while looking like a pogo stick as we stumble our way through it.

So, while things are much (much much) better than they used to be, "precision" isn't exactly something I spend a lot of time considering.

I did opt to put my spurs back on.  It's been so hard to get the mare up and active that the thought of trying to execute some decent changes (however precise) was a bit intimidating.  I figured my round roller balls would give a bit more nudge without making things too electric - and I'm glad I got them out.

Prair was certainly much more in front of my leg.  We struggled with impulsion in our warm up (half passes in and out), but eventually we got some nice moments where softness and energy managed to overlap for more than two strides at a time.

Prior to starting on our changes, we warmed up some counter canter (which felt pretty solid) and made sure I could control Prair's big booty.

Then, we would counter canter the long side, hold through the short end and ask for a change at H or M depending on the direction.  We started to the left (so... cantering right lead, changing to the left) and things were surprisingly good.  Prair was very balanced through the short end and I felt like was patient coming out of it and actually waited for me to switch the bend and ask.  The biggest struggle was lengthening her stride through the change and building up steam afterward... which sort of felt like a weakness issue and also me not doing my job.

When we changed directions (going right.. starting on the left lead), things felt totally different.  Whereas to the left, our counter canter through the short end felt pretty even and steady, to the right the turns felt much shaper.

Clearly the arena is is the same shape both ways so that was a little confusing.  It literally felt like I was trying to pirouette her around the turns instead of her just cantering through on an even line... very odd. I tried to sit a bit straighter and just relax which seemed to help, but the difference was still pronounced.

Our change from L to R is usually easier, so I was less obsessed with my "ask" and spent more time trying to half halt the mare back and maintain our stride length both before and after the change which worked nicely.

The change felt smooth, not at all rushed and very balanced.  Very awesome indeed.

Finally we ended with a good 'ol standby exercise.  Two trot poles across the centerline that we pass through (like a tunnel) not over (like normal poles). 
Changes happened as you passed through the poles...
First we started by cantering in, then trotting while we were in the poles, and cantering away on the new lead.  Only room for about 2 trot steps, so lots of collection and control made this much easier.

Then we upgraded to asking for a flying change in the poles.  I focused on an exaggerated bend going in, straightening about a stride before the poles, then exaggerating the new bend and asking for our change.

Our Left to Right change was nails.  Prair stayed light, straightened easily and was precise with her change.  Going from Right to Left.... was... worse.

It might have been made worse by Prairie starting to anticipate, but the first few attempts were marked by collapsing on her new inside shoulder, inverting a bit and really scooting through the change.  We got it - I just wouldn't have wanted anyone to see it.

When I focused more on my right leg (ie, using it) and also riding straight through the poles and not diving to the left too soon, Prair was much much better.  Still more tense than L to R, but better.

At the end we strung both changes together in a figure eight and called it quits.  Prair gave me a change when I asked every time, and even managed to change cleanly almost every time.

I guess this means I need to be more mindful of our changes over fences since when I actually ride and pay attention to my aids the mare is perfectly capable of offering a respectable change.

Super productive lesson for us both, but I hate when the solution is as simple as "ride better."


  1. That pesky riding thing. It's amazing how well they perform if only we ride right!

  2. Yeah. Most of the time when I take lessons, I feel like I should just burn the money and play a tape recorder repeating a few basic phrases. At the very least, it would save me the embarrassment of someone else watching me screw up the same thing every time when I actually do know better.


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