Thursday, May 24, 2018

Centered Riding Lesson #2

Another great lesson with loads of improvement and progress - despite me only practicing things maybe twice in the two week period between lessons. D'oh!

Right from the start, the lesson began building on the former one. As a part of warmup, C had me work on the circles we'd done two weeks prior. The concept on inside leg to outside rein and getting Grif's inside leg to reach up and under his body was one my brain and body were a lot more comfortable with this go around. C had (surprisingly to me) nothing but praise for us.

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Warm-up circle trotting
Most surprisingly awesome thing about this photo and every other image in this post excepting the final one? They aren't cherry-picked screenshots! They're incredibly zoomed in, but they're all photos Lauren's mom nabbed with my phone. I can't believe this is a horse I trained and that I'm the one riding.

We quickly moved from repeated circles in one direction to working on a figure-8, changing our bend from one direction to the other. They felt good and C praised us accordingly, then had us perform the same exercise in the trot where we continued to find success. I was a bit surprised we'd done so well with so little practice between lessons, but I chalked it up to my frequent mental review of the work we'd done and a much better comfort through my body as I asked Griffin for things. I'm a firm believer that our horses are capable of anything - the trick is asking and guiding them correctly. Griffin has proved my point for me countless times through our years together, constantly excelling in all of our endeavors.

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Satisfied with our level of work, C had me use her as the center and asked me to spiral inward on a circle at the trot using the same concepts we'd just done. I'm quite familiar with this exercise, as it's one I've been practicing for years at home. We began on a ~10 meter circle traveling to the right and spiraled in to C as small as we could be while keeping balance and a steady forward rhythm. To me, it felt like Griffin's haunches were drifting out and away from his body, much like a drifting racecar on a dirt track. C laughed at my comparison and comment and told me that no, he was actually bending beautifully and reaching with his inside hind. Photographic evidence supports her claim more than mine (and this is why I'm pursuing lessons with knowledgeable eyes on the ground)!

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Yeah, that hind end isn't drifting away like my mind thought it was. Guess I'm just not used to what things are supposed to feel like, haha

I have to admit, riding him through the exercise did feel very nice to the right. While initially my brain wanted to categorize his hind end as drifting, I realized once I worked the exercise to the left that it really, truly wasn't. Because to the left, we've got issues. It's most definitely Griffin's weak side. To combat the difficulties on his weak side, Grif threw his shoulder out, hollowed his back and sped up, or tried to slow down to a walk. And because two (or more) wrongs clearly make a right (that's how it works, right? lol), I combated his issues by developing a rogue right hand and throwing away my outside rein. I could feel myself doing it, but it was like someone else took control of my body for a bit as my elbow straightened and my hand reached toward Griffin's ears.

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C repeatedly reminded me to keep my elbow at my side and make my outside rein a "wall" to prevent Griffin throwing or popping his shoulder out. As I resolved one of Griffin's attempts to escape working on his weak side, he then began to curl behind the bit. To counter, C had me all but drop my inside rein, riding completely on inside leg to outside rein. We got some good moments from this, but I definitely need to practice more and help Griffin build strength and muscle memory on this side.

Far from perfect, but hey, it's a start!

From the spiraling exercise, we moved into the leg yielding exercise with the three cones in a line. C instructed us to ride straight toward the cones and yield left and right to go around them as needed, always focusing on staying straight. As we began the exercise at the walk, Grif was moving off my leg, but just walking, not crossing and reaching with his legs. I shortened my reins a little and really pushed him forward into the contact before asking again. Griffin crossed in front but not behind. So C recommended that I really exaggerate how far back my leg was to better encourage him to use his hind end. Boom. We had it.

A few lovely steps at the trot. Wish I had more footage of our other passes to compare.

We received much praise once we put things together. We then moved the exercise into a trot, and focused on making it the slowest trot we could. Shockingly, we did even better at the trot! But only when I focused on keeping the trot nice and slow. If I let it become faster, Griffin would throw his shoulder out and hollow his back (inevitably because I was throwing my aids away). Slow right now is good while we piece this together. Big takeaway was that I could really FEEL his hind end working correctly in this exercise; knowing what that feeling is is huge.

One of the changes

From here, the lesson moved to our work on flying changes. These definitely still need work, but we did make progress. C told me to focus on keeping the canter much slower, had me keep my inside leg more forward than I tend to, reminded me to use my body to indicate our direction (with shoulders and hips), and had me note when his front end was coming up. Paying mind to these things helped me piece together how to ask for a change in bend/flying change. Almost immediately, we had two or three really nice flying changes (I'm judging from C's exuberant praise lol) and a couple others where he would change in front but not behind. C thinks he's going to lock onto doing this automatically with just a little more practice.

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Ultimately, right now, Griffin needs one trot stride, or merely me thinking about doing a trot stride and instead half-halting, to have success with changes. This is absolutely not surprising and totally expected. Also, Griffin is definitely weaker on his left lead, more often picking up the wrong lead in that direction. Once again, this certainly isn't surprising considering the issues we had traveling left in our trot circles earlier. More than anything, I'm grateful to understand what we're capable of and what our limitations are for the moment. Even more so, I understand how I need to use my body better and to ask for the change of bend/change of lead which is only going to help us improve.

A simple change

Toward the end of the canter work, Grif was frustrated and I really had to pick my moment to end on carefully. The physical work from the lesson came no where near what he is capable of and he wasn't sweating much at all, so I'm not very convinced he was physically beat so much as just mentally overwhelmed - and that's totally okay! His brain was just DONE with me and the work I'd asked of him. Despite this, he was still a very good boy and I was able to find a lot of humor in his opinionated "this is HARD" moments.

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Shhh, don't tell him this isn't a real buck. #opinions

I'm so pleased with what we're accomplishing so far through these lessons. I'm not quite sure when we'll make it up for another, but I'm hopeful there will be one or two next month when C returns from vacation. She messaged me following our lesson last night to share how much fun she's having teaching Lauren and I - so sweet! We're having an equal amount of time being taught, so it works well.

22 comments:

  1. Grif looks AMAZING! You should be so so proud of yourself! Can't wait to see what you guys do the rest of this year.

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    1. Thank you! Hopefully we will get to some shows before long...

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  2. wow look at you two go!! Very neat. Love all the info you give in your recaps too.....and I am jealous even of your simple changes LOL Remus is all feet trying to do even a simple change!

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    1. Oh Remus! What a good. And yeah - if I dont write down the details immediately I'll forget haha.

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  3. You two look really good. Griff trusts you a lot and you are always fair to him.

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    1. Thanks - I've worked hard to build a big trust bank with him. Really paying off in dividends.

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  4. Look at you guys go! #Goals Great job. . . (now, bring those lessons home sometime? lol)

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  5. love that leg yield / cone exercise!!! you guys look so freakin good, you should be so so so proud of how far Grif has come - he's a pretty special pony!!

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    1. It is so fun! I need to get it set up at home. First to thieve some road cones 😂

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  6. I love these lesson recaps! So many good ways of verbalizing important concepts. You guys look great and sounds like you're having so much fun. One thing that helps me with horses who are reluctant to actually cross over both front and back is to step into your outside stirrup to help encourage the horse to step over to get back under you. Your inside seat bone pushes them over along with your inside leg, and the weight shift will help keep me from collapsing to the inside, which helps keep the horse straight. I LOVE the GIFs of you guys doing your lateral work. Very cool to see the foot fall :)

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    1. Omg yes! You're so right. I forgot to write that down (so much to remember) but that's exactly what I started doing after our first two passes that were subpar. It made a huge difference.

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    2. It was such a break through for me when my old trainer pointed it out and it makes such a difference for my students as well!

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  7. You guys look absolutely fantastic! Love your trainer too, she seems like she's pushing you hard for correct work and it's happening. So awesome!!!

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    1. Thanks! She's pretty great and is having a blast teaching us. Hopefully lots more lessons in our future.

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  8. Lots of progress! You guys look great!!

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  9. Great lesson recap, it is so nice seeing you and Griffin learning so much together. He's got such a good brain <3

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    1. He really does. He's my golden boy.

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  10. Umm wow. You guys look amazing!! Talk about progress. Griffin looks like a bonafide dressage horse these days. I have a love hate relationship with the spiral trot circle- kudos to you guys for rocking it!

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    1. Haha, yeah I have a love-hate relationship with them, too! My abs were not pleased.

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