dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Lesson Recap- It's all About Straightness

look at us trucking along like we know what we're doing! 

While Cynthia was finishing her lesson I spent some time lunging Carmen and then go on. Her behaviour on the ground alerted me that Troll Corner was the spot today. I walked around doing my best to stay out of the way and keep her marching forward into contact. I did manage to have a looser rein then I had previously been comfortable with. And I didn't avoid the potential spooky spots but instead walked her foward.

When it was our turn Shenea had us start on a circle at S (halfway between the safe zone and troll corner). The idea was to walk her forward and ask her to stretch into contact. When she bent away to gawk and spook at the corner I would bend her around my inside leg and ask her to march into even contact. 

The overall focus of the lesson was on straightness and evenness. I had to be even in my contact and be able to help her be even in her body. I've gotten too good at bending her to the inside and I'm losing the straightness. At times it felt like I was counter bending her and I think thtat was true at times; but mostly I've just gotten used to her being crooked and so straight feels wrong. 

Argh- why is good riding so hard? 

When Carmen is feeling resisitant (because she doesn't want to go to a certain area and/or move forward) she will immediately go crooked. This makes controlling her directiong a lot harder and increases the chance of a big spook/escape. A few times I really really really wanted to cross my inside hand across her whither but I managed to overcome my rogue hand. I learned to make sure that my outside rein kept the shoulder straight and sometimes I even had to move my inside leg back to stop her flinging her haunches around avoiding the contact. 
starting out- could we be more tight?

Shanea is vey patient and as we worked away at the walk and trot I gradually got the feel of the her being straight and then how to correct crookedness and, finally, how to prevent it happening. Mostly because there are very specific spots in the ring where she's more likely to go crooked- the corners and at S (specific right? She doesn't like that letter of the alphabet!). 

I am getting much better in keeping even contact and not grabbing. Carmen spent a lot more time this lesson stretching over her back and into contact. And once she figured this out it became easier and easier to get/correct. We went from multiple strides of stiffness to just a couple in the spooky spots. 

The other focus was on me using my 'upper core' to half-halt. Thank god for Zumba because I now actually have some semblance of a core. I have a tendency to collapse my middle when I'm trying to sit deep -I guess I'm working off the theory that it will lower my center of gravity if I look like a sack of potatoes! But I could definitely feel the difference in Carmen when I sat up and used my core. I guess it's fair that both of us have to use our cores...... 

When Carmen was a bit resistant I was to make my point and then relax so that she learns to seek the relaxation. It really worked well for her (and me) once we got our rhythm.

If I'm recalling this correctly, Shanea is fine with the 'smaller' trot and prefers it to be slower and then build as she warms up and pushes from behind. She calls it a 'baby' trot. As Carmen relaxed and focussed on the work I could feel her stretch over the back and reach. The trick is sustaining- if she goes too low she loses her balance and falls on her forehand. If she lifts her head too high she gets tight in the back. So it's all about finding the sweet spot so she can find her balance and learn to carry herself.
stretching more and I'm trying to give with my hands- she's just about to take it too far but this is not bad
early trot workI like her reach here. Still a bit tight but that's troll corner
behind us and she's trying swing away from it
Keeping her straight at the trot was a struggle- between getting her forward to the 'scary spots' and keeping her straight it was not easy. I had to straighten her then give her room. That's not easy with a horse that can drop and spin on a dime. However, Shanea pointed out that if she was straight and even in contact then it was hard for her to duck out. And it turned out she was right. Riding through troll corner- straighten before we go in, give her inside rein to come around and half-halt with my core. Oh, and if she throws her haunches in put them back. SO MANY BITS & PIECES TO MANAGE!  

so much better

We actually managed to spend time on canter. Up to now, almost every lesson I've had on Carmen (barring Royce) we rarely trotted. And if we did it was just a short time. So it was nice to be able to work on that. I asked Shanea if she wanted me to start with the left lead because that's the easier one. Nope. She wanted to start with the harder one. The goal was this: get her straight, ask for the transition, ride it forward and straight.

Easy, right?
First of all, Carmen was beginning to figure that all the forward and straightness stuff was work and really it all should be done by now. Shanea broke it down for us so that we would canter for a few strides and then return to trot. Re-establish straight and ask again. As first Carmen was not so thrilled but as we worked forward and I rewarded her for going and it began to become fun. And we actually cantered all around the ring. When she scooted away from the side I was to keep her straight and not worry about getting her back over.

she really wants to swing her haunches in but hey- we're even in contact. 


We finished the lesson with a cooling out trot getting her stretch (but not too far). It felt amazing and while we would lose it, those times were shorter than when it was good. 

I was very happy with the lesson and all that we seemed to accomplish:
  • working in all parts of the ring
  • moving forward into contact
  • letting go and asking her to move forward and trust that she will (she did, which is when Shanea said 'look at you two trusting each other').
  • Straightness is critical. 
Shanea explained that Carmen has a powerful hind end and will have a powerful reaching shoulder but she hasn't yet really developed the muscle to control it. But with work and keeping it simple she will get there. 

I was definitely feel the work out in my muscles and I'm pretty sure that Carmen did too. When I came out that evening to do the evening feed she was laying down. That's not uncommon- she often is but she's never stayed laying down around me, instead always leaping to her feet. This time she didn't and when I peeked in she was watching me calmly and peacefully. 

I have no idea how often we'll be able to work but I'm happy with where we are and I'm working on my plans for 2017. 


  1. That really sounds like a terrific lesson! It's so rewarding when it all comes together. She really sounds like a great trainer.

    Have a great holiday!

  2. Oh sounds like real progress is happening. And I'm with you why is riding so hard???

  3. We also spent a lot of time in the baby trot before we started to add more impulsion and it made such a difference! I think it did more to re-program me than it did for Katai but of course it was food for her as well.

  4. Sounds like a super productive ride, Carmen looks fantastic!


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