Friday, January 3, 2014

Haunches Out, out, OUT

Had a really productive lesson on Thursday with the Big Mare.  New head trainer "N" (don't you just love the semi-anonymous initials of the web??) is off on family vacation for a couple weeks, and while I was initially worried about whether or not we'd be productive in her absence -Thursday's lesson put those fears to rest.

Asst. to N thoroughly kicked our butts on the flat and as it turns out - I think we'll be just fine till N gets back.

It's always interesting to lesson with someone for the first time, especially when that someone doesn't know too much about you, or your horse or what's worked in the past or what hasn't....  Sometimes it's a pain in the ass because you spend so much time trying to give background, but other times you get that wildly helpful new perspective with fresh eyes and no hazy filter of past experience.

Our lesson fell in the latter category.  Nothing was radically different.  Much like N, we started with lots of lateral work down the longsides and focused on keeping the mare as relaxed and supple as possible. (sidenote: I'm encouraged that both trainers seem so in sync with their process).

The most productive work came in our canter - though the exercise started in the trot, which was to alternate between smallish (10m) circles and going on a larger circle (maybe 20-30m)  with "squared off" corners.

Prair and I have done lots of Square Turns, she's pretty good at them, and I rely on them lots when we are riding courses to keep her stepping up and not too heavy on the forehand.

But when we were riding them today, Asst to N asked me to think about pushing her haunches out to square the turn, rather then pushing her shoulders over and in.
A bit too much on the forehand.  Trying to lift and lighten a bit more
I had a puzzled face, and couldn't quite get the image of what that looked like, but we set off and I kept scooting Prair's haunches out in our corners and wouldn't you know, magic.

Same concept applied for our smaller circles.  I focused on literally pushing her haunches out (though maintaining inside bend) and all the sudden we were much more uphill, soft and balanced.

Worked the same principle in the canter spiraling our circle in and out and really felt our best steps as we spiraled out and her butt was scooting over.

I'm thinking that Prair is normally collapsed in a bit (especially to the left) which is why focusing on "haunches out" creates some really lovely, balanced steps where she seems much more lifted through the shoulder.

When we went on to some small fences we kept pushing her tushie out and found that it really helped her find a steady pace (and also helped keep her in front of my leg through the turns).

Asst. to N made the additional observation that Prairie's canter seems to get a bit underpowered in the last few strides before a fence, which I found fascinating.

On one hand I was thinking "holy hell, that's rad, it used to be all rushy and frantic" but on the other hand "underpowered" makes a lot of sense for what's plaguing us now.

I know I'm much more comfortable dialing Prair's canter down to a lope as we approach a fence, and that works out alright so long as I get a fairly tight distance.  But if we end up leaving long (even just a smidge long) - and she's got no RPM's in the trunk, then we land discombobulated and end up plowing around the corner trying to put the pieces back together.

I need to really make sure I keep the RPM's up so that when we leave long, there's enough impulsion to land organized and immediately re-balance.  I need energy for that.  So while it's nice that Prair has learned to come back to me before a fence and wait.  Now I think I need to adjust my internal monologue and focus on re-energizing those last few strides - without rushing them.

All in all I'm really happy with our first few rides at the new barn.  The lessons are hard, but productive, Prair is working well and I think we're on a good path.  The mare is herdbound as all get out, but hopefully that will subside a bit as she gets more comfy in her new surroundings and keeps settling in.


Back out on Saturday for another torture session!


  1. I'm just distracted by the gorgeous hack photo you posted. If that's her too much on the forehand... I can't wait to see the update when you go to Thermal ;)

  2. Sounds like a great lesson. Glad Asst N is just as spot on as N. Perfect combo!

  3. Sounds like a very productive lesson! Sometimes it can be nice to get fresh perspective!

  4. Woo hoo! Great lesson and sounds like a great fit with the new barn/trainer! :)


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