Monday, October 6, 2008

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

...but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

In this case, I needed a bolder, quicker pace to the lines of jumps we were doing. See, Blue has a really short, flat stride...great if you like to sit the trot (he has an awesome trail jog) or the canter but not so much if you like to get the correct distances to jumps. What I wanted was to be able to have that hold on his mouth that makes me feel secure...not a death grip, but enough so that he feels I don't want him to move forward. Combined with my leg, that results in...surprise! Even shorter distances...leading to chips. Yuck.

Lately, I've been trying to compromise between requiring Blue to do what I request and not pissing him off. He's not entirely happy about yielding to a shoulder in or similar lateral movements - it's usually met with tail swishing and neck arching. But if I back off the aids, he cheats and just bends his neck. I've decided to attack this problem twofold. First of all, I need to make sure my aids are clear enough so that I know he understands what I'm asking...if that means taking it step by step, maybe starting a circle and gently "tricking" him into a shoulder in or first just asking for a simple bend and escalating from there. Next, I need to establish the aid I want a response from in the beginning of the ride. If I want to be able to use a feather-light nudge of the heel, I need to be consistent and require that before we start anything. Otherwise he just gets very dull until I have to take my foot out of the stirrup and really thump against him - he's very dead-sided. I might have to pair the spurs with my trusty dressage whip instead of the crop...another problem I've been failing to address is the fact that Blue anticipates the crop and as soon as I remove my hands from the reins, he moves away from that leg and I let him alone, after which he becomes dead-sided again.

So, as you can see, I have quite a few schooling goals I'd like to address. I'm hoping that for a couple of these, if we really improve on one of them the others will begin to fall into place. If not, I've got patience.

Anyway, back to jumping, I learned that I had to release my too-tight hold on his mouth, otherwise he'd never feel comfortable opening up.

Boy, what a difference it made!

Don't get me wrong, I still supported his head and I didn't drop him before the fence, but I did push my hands forward so that there was a LIGHT contact.

The difference was amazing. I felt like I actually had an adjustable horse! We actually hit all the distances I aimed to hit, and doing so put us in good take-off spots. Boy do I love breakthroughs!

Here's a pic from our last lesson. I, regrettably, wasn't completely focused on my position, so I'm gripping with my knee, and because I didn't remember to press my heels down before the fence, my crotch is on top of the pommel and my leg slipped back. Grr. On the other hand, I'm not bracing against my hands nearly so much as I usually do, and my back is arched for once, and I'm closing my hip angle a lot more. I'm also really looking around my cool is that? Best part is, Blue looks happy. That's the most important part. The jump isn't very big, so he's not really using himself as much as he could, but he isn't being lazy either.

I've got show pictures as well (I'm reluctant to post them as at shows I get...well, tense...and my position gets worse) but I'm going to wait until the pictures from the show coming up this Saturday make it to the photographer's website. The lesson pic above was taken by my friend's dad.

1 comment:

rhinestone said...

Looking at the picture (I have it as my desktop so I can study it closely), I know I brace with my arms because my leg slides back, but I think I also jump ahead because of my leg. Usually, what I try to do is push my heels down and slip my hips back right before a fence, and it usually at least brings my leg a couple of inches forward.
Bad habits are hard to break.