Friday was COLD. Apparently, this weekend, Hasslerville was in the Arctic Circle. I’m generally not a wimp, but boy, it was COLD. When I got on Venus, who I rode second, I couldn’t feel my thumbs. Not good. But it takes more than cold to keep me from my education.
Linda came along Friday and Saturday. On the way down, she said, “How much difference can two lessons make?” As I’m warming up, Secret answered her question. As we cantered by I heard Linda’s “WOW.” Yep, the black mare is getting fancy.
Secret’s big goals for the week were improving the swing in her trot, collection in her canter, having a plan for when she gets try-too-hard-150%-every-stride tension, and being able to move her hind legs around without getting more speed.
Secret has embraced the taller, more uphill outline. Her canter in particular has changed pretty dramatically. In her new balance, I can use my outside leg without her rushing forward, so those goals are addressed. The walk-canter transition has really benefited.
Scott encouraged me to make shorter canter sets, even when it feels divine. In her first trot steps, evaluate how she maintains her balance. If she is stellar, then the canter set was productive. If she flattens and runs, then I over-faced her in the canter set, either by making it too strenuous or too long.
In the trot, her try-too-hard can come out as quickness, so Scott had me ride my straight line work a bit more conservatively. On lateral lines, even slight ones, that was the time to ask for more swing and power.
My lateral work homework is to develop lots of smooth, flowing lines that go from one lateral work to the other. Of course, this creates a little tension, so when it does, I have two plans. If she maintains tempo, hold my current lateral work until she relaxes. If she changes tempo, exit that lateral work, settle her, then re-enter it.
Then, on Saturday, we took that even further, and started pushing her collected trot a bit. My homework is to play with that only a little, as Scott says “She doesn’t really need more collection in the trot,” so only 2 or 3 times a week, at the end of the workout, so she doesn’t get it confused with her working trot. When we pushed her collection during a leg yield, I actually felt hints of her piaffe to come.
Since collecting the trot worked so nicely in the leg yield, Scott broke his own rule and had me do some half-pass work next. We kept the lines shallow, but she clearly offered crossing both front and hind without speeding up. That is well on its way.
Friday, since Secret was such a star, we ended our work early, and had Linda hop on. I thought she was going to pee her pants she was so nervous. Secret took good care of her, and I think Linda got a lot out of her mini-lesson.
Venus, I didn’t have enough blankets on her Thursday night, and she told me very clearly in the right lead canter—it felt quite tight in her back. To make herself more comfortable, she wanted to push her hips to the right and get faster.
We worked on trying to solve it in the canter, but alas, she reacted to each correction with more speed. So back to trot-halt-trot transitions. She was brilliant in the upward transition, clearly lifting her shoulders, but took a LOT of strength in the downward. After several (ok, TONS) of these transitions, we’d go back to the canter and evaluate. Bottom line, I couldn’t fix the canter in the canter, I needed to go to the trot to get access to the right hind, then go back to canter.
Ironically, her trot work was unaffected by the cold. She was swingy and smooth. I would have liked for her to be a bit more uphill, but neither Scott nor I was willing to risk it on Friday. So we got her back swinging more freely, and called it a ride.
Friday afternoon I was able to turn her out to do her buck-prance-buck-prance thing she likes to do in turnout, and added an extra blanket. It worked. On Saturday, she came out feeling much softer in her back.
So Saturday we hit her big three–changes, half pass and half steps.
For her changes, as soon as I have adjustability in the canter, I am to go for it. I am a dressage rider, so I want everything absolutely perfect before I do the changes. Problem is, Venus needs energy for clean changes, and my perfectionism is tiring. When we got to the changes earlier in the workout, before she gets fatigued, and earlier in the canter sets, the changes were clean and calm.
For her half pass work, the quality of Venus’ half pass is directly related to the work just before the half pass. If her neck and shoulders are awesome going in, she stays balanced and smooth in the lateral work, especially to the left. When her right shoulder wants to lead, I need to correct it with a circle or shoulder in, instead of trying to muscle the half pass itself. Once again Ange, ride with your brain not your strength. Also, make steeper half passes, she is ready.
Her half steps on Saturday were fabulous. We moved them off of the circle and onto straight lines, asking her to hold them for longer and shorter periods of time, and to keep them more and more in place.
Venus’ additional homework from the week is to keep her rounder and more committed to the contact in her lateral work, use transitions in and out of collection to bring her frame taller.
So now the real work begins, being able to make this happen without Scott’s watchful eye. Doug, the most amazing horse-husband ever, came on Saturday to video, so I have that to refer to. And hopefully we won’t be training in the Arctic Circle much longer. I did order warmer riding gloves though. I like feeling my thumbs.