The rider who leaves a horse on his own in the name of lightness is not working but is just strolling with his horse. The one who pushes and pulls is a wild person.
This is not a new thing, but it is one that I have been trying to really focus on in my riding. Remember when you first started riding and the aids seem to be pretty binary- simply on or off? And then as you learn more you realize that it's more complicated then you thought. And then, with more learning is becomes very nuanced and complex.
Add in a sensitive and complex horse like Carmen and you can end up wanting to bang your head against the wall. I have found myself in a pattern of either not giving any aids in case she spooked to riding very heavy handed, again in case she spooked. It is easy to say that both of those things are 'wrong' but I'm learning that the answer is a little more gray than that.
What I've been playing with is the concept of figuring out the minimum amount of aid I need to accomplish what I want. In the past I would take that to mean that I need to be really quiet and soft. Now I have that as the goal and I am playing with how much pressure do I need to accomplish the task.
I am finding it to be a very nuanced game. For example, I have playing with the 20 metre circle and how much I need to do to keep her on the circle. This means that I have to give her room to make a mistake. It's easy (well easier) to micro manage her around the circle but that makes me responsible for everything. And I would like her to take some ownership.
I usually start at the walk and put her on the circle. I have contact and my legs lightly on but let her alone as she travels. If she bulges I put on more outside aids, if counter flexes to look at the outside I put on the inside. The pressure goes up until she responds and then goes back down. It's her job to stay on the circle, I only let her know when it's off.
|my mental image|
Playing with this has helped me to realize how much I try to micro manage Carmen and how much I don't need to. This is, of course, the approach of 'make the wrong thing hard and the right thing easy' made famous (to me at least) by Warwick Schiller.
Thinking of this way has made me feel more confident of adding aids when needed. If I'm going through troll corner and she begins to shorten her stride and retract her neck I might shorten my reins (but not too much, mostly I don't) but I definitely sit up and add leg to get her to go forward. When she does it all goes back down. The trick is, of course, to always start light. How quickly I go up will depend on the circumstance but I try to keep it within a short time frame ( no more than a few strides).
What is interesting is that Carmen is really responding to this. She appears to understand that I will be there if she needs me but mostly she can carry on. We have been getting in fewer 'fights' about things and it's not because I'm avoiding them but because I am being more nuanced. If we need to have a strong discussion about something we do but I'm trying to show her that we don't have to. At least for now. I know that things can change again. But I'm less fearful about those 'discussions' then I have been in the past. Nor do I view them as a failure if/when they occur.
The other thing that I've started doing with Carmen is hacking at the start of our rides not the end. Right now that is only with Julia is riding too. We go to the ring, hop on and then walk out and head to the woods. Carmen has been leading these rides. I generally keep the rein loose- after all it's a stroll for relaxation. If she wants to stop and look at something I let her. Then when I ask her to step forward she does. Yesterday there was a tree across the path (it blew down in the hurricane). We both assessed the situation and I said 'I think we we walk over it on this side'. And with no hesitation she did. If she's tighter or more up (like yesterday) I keep the rein a bit shorter but it's still loose. So is my seat and leg. If she does spook I can get her back easier and with much less drama.
|I do love this view. Back when Irish had to lead.|
He's now learning to follow (it's good for him)
Starting the rides this way seems to make her much more amenable to the ring work. She is far less looky and spooky in the ring (not completely but whatever, it is Carmen after all). I think that this breaks the pattern for her of resenting/resisting ring work and lets her warm up her body and mind more gradually. I am going to be brave and see if it works when we're on our own.
Seems like you on a good track using more "whispering" aids and then getting stronger as needed but always using the "whisper" as a baseline. Another concept that can be helpful is active neutral. The idea being that the horse should maintain whatever has been started like trot or circle or canter with as few aids as possible until aided to do something else. When the rider starts thinking this way of whispering and active neutral it becomes a lot less push and pull.ReplyDelete
I love the active neutral. That is exactly what I am trying to do but I couldn't think of how to describe it. That is perfect! Thanks!Delete
My trainer pointed out to me that just before Pammon spooks, he pops his shoulder in. So I should feel that and not let it happen. Low and behold, just thinking about riding that inside shoulder at the "scary places" has led to much less actual spooking.ReplyDelete
Sounds like a great plan you're working on. You two are really getting to be a cohesive team!
Ah yes, the inside shoulder. That is definitely part of Carmen's spook but she starts with the retracted neck.Delete
Smart! Yes, horses generally love the trails and it’s such a great way to start out. Carmen seems to blossom there. I love to ride on a loose rein, but if my horse is falling apart, I think of the contact as support. When they relax, I throw them back rein. As far as pressure, I take back as much as needed. I had to take quite a bit back a couple weeks ago when Leah was wanting to run away at the start of a ride. I rode it out, but she was being held very tight. I’d give it back and she’d immediately break into a faster gait. About 20 minutes in, she was on a loose rein and for the following four rides, to various scary locations, loose rein from the start.ReplyDelete
Yes, it is support. I think I can get fixated on 'one way' as being the best not thinking about the range of supports I can use.Delete
omg you won't believe what we saw today in GERMANY. A little kiosk with a huge Canadian flag with a sign "POUTINE." omg I have not even seen that in America. I didn't quite know what it was, and we didn't have time to stop and ask. We did however have great fun, the two of us, trying out ways to say that word, cuz I've never heard it spoken. J decided it's pronounced "Pout" (like to pout) and "tine" (like the tine on a fork). Pow-tyne. *LOL* Have you ever had it? Is it good? I'm so excited to go back there and say, "HEY are any of actual Canadians!?? Show me the accent!"ReplyDelete
OMG you have to try it. It's french fries with cheese curds and gravy. It's so bad for you but in a delicious way. It's pronounced: Poh-tin (long 'o' and short 'i').Delete
The biggest roadblocks to whispering aids is self-awareness and patience. Sounds like you are on the right track!ReplyDelete
As for poutine, it has definitely gone from a little rural town near Victoriaville to a global phenomenon. I also chuckle at all the variations I see around the world. Although Im generally not a fan of soggy french fries.
You are so right about the self-awareness and patience part!Delete
I confess that Poutine is my guilty pleasure.
I think when you're able to take Carmen for a walk in the woods pre-lesson or ring work is a great idea. It's a good way to warm up and get her head in the riding game.ReplyDelete
What you're doing with Carmen with your "whispering" aids is a wonderful way to get her to adjust to the aids and learn to think for herself. It's a tough balancing act but after a while it all becomes second nature and you don't even have to think too much about what you're doing and she will "get it" and know what's expected on her part.
It does seem to be helping us tune into one another.Delete
oh man, i'm CONSTANTLY having to relearn the lesson that "softness" is not the same as "effectiveness." sure, the best riders are both of these things, but all too often i inadvertently sacrifice being effective in the name of being "light" and... yea, it doesn't work lol. also i've been hacking out at the start of every ride lately too and am really loving the effect it has on charlie!! definitely feeling like it's improving our ability to get down to brass tacks once actually in the ring. glad it's working for Carmen too!ReplyDelete
It’s funny how two very different horses and rides can struggle with the same things. 😁 I know that I have had so many lessons telling me to not pull that I translated it into being ineffective.Delete
I have the most riding experience with dressage (although riding is in no way my area of expertise). However, when I took Advanced Horsemanship in college I was introduced to a totally alien set of aids. I found that teaching a horse to maintain a perfectly round circle with no aids from the rider entirely refreshing after half-halts and orange cones and "inside leg to outside rein". That said . . . there has to be a happy middle ground right?ReplyDelete
It does depend on the dressage trainer. I love cantered riding because it's about being effective but not over doing it.Delete