This autumn has been very difficult in terms of training. The past 1-2 months has been crap weather wise. First we had lots of snow, but the four wheeler managed to become a three wheeler before we managed to get the snow off the arena. So by the time it was fixed the snow had frozen and it was impossible to do anything with the arena. The weather has been cold, but warm during the day so the snow has melted, but not warm enough to get some softness to the ground. So the past few weeks it has been like asphalt everywhere, and the paddock just looks like the landscape of the moon. This means that our training conditions has been less than perfect, to say the least.
Last time Andrew was here I had to miss my lesson due to heavy snowfall. Cars going off the roads everywhere and complete chaos, so I did not dare to go anywhere with my trailer. The past clinic with Arne was quite good, but we had a joined lesson so we worked in doing stuff with the other horse, and there is still quite a bit I do not have in its place yet. So I was looking forward to this lesson, only work on stuff we struggle with and most of all, me.
I started by explaining how our past months of training had been like, before walking around in the arena. First thing was to get my ankles in a better position. After the past clinic with Arne I realised where I had to keep my knee to get my hips to function properly, that has gotten much better, but I still lack the flexibility in the ankle. My hamstrings are very tight, the other muscles in my legs are as well, but to get my hip-knee-ankle properly placed, my hamstrings needs a bit of attention. Anyway. We started walking and doing transitions to a two-point-seat on the centre lines. Then straight leg yields, from A or C, and out to the wall again. In both short and long diagonal lines. Riding in a full seat, as we rode out to the centre line, into a two point seat with a deep heal for a few strides, then full seat again, leg yield out, then two point seat as we reached the track. It was quite obvious to me that I had just forgotten about the ankle and with the two point seat I was reminded on my heel and ankle being flexible and a part of the whole leg.
We continued on the centre circle, working on the different influences of the seat, leaning back into the seat bones to really massage the back with them, to the straight seat, to a two point seat. Getting the horse to engage his core and lift his back properly, solving all problems in head/neck/mouth/hind legs with the seat alone. Just creating a frame with the outside aids, outside leg and outside rein keeping his bend and creating a barrier to the outside. We also worked on changing the rein through reverse turns, first from a “straight” horse on the circle, then we rode travere on the circle transition to renvere on the new circle, back to straight horse, then canter. We didn’t really manage the canter from these exercises as there was not much energy left in him. So we changed it and rode shoulder out – shoulder in transitions on the circle, and when we got to the straight in between the exercises and there was a moment of driving forward, strike the canter. We got a few very nice canter transitions, and some pretty good canter on the circle.
A problem we have been dealing with the past few weeks, is that he wants to just throw himself forward and stretch down to the ground. I don’t mind him stretching, I mind him falling head first on to the forehand and doing it when ever he feels like it. So I was going to sit up straight, in a nice properly grounded seat and just sit against if he tried to do this. When I managed to sit properly he kind of hit himself once he tried to plunge forward, and after a few tries he didn’t try as hard again. The important thing is to also while deciding that “we are not going to stretch forward just now, now we do this”, is also seeing that the horse does have some need to stretch down. So he should be able to, just on my terms.
So the main thing I got from this lesson was how to ground myself in my seat, relax my legs and get flexion back in the ankles. Sort myself out before doing anything with the horse, and use my body to mold the horse. I struggled to get him to move forward without pinching with my legs, making my hips, knees and ankles quite tense. So Andrew just said “less is more” and I tried to relax my legs, not pinching to get him to move better forwards, and suddenly my seat was so much more independent. He was still quite slow, but making progress and something changed before the lesson was over and he was moving more freely and with more self carriage.
That is what I need to do in my own training. Get my seat where it should be, using the two point and lean back to engage him properly without fussing too much. Keep using the side movements and transitions, and straightening out in between. I hope I will be able to keep training in the indoor arena at a place just 8 minutes drive from my stable. That will help us to get into proper shape through the winter.
After the lesson we went for a walk