Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lesson one on Dixie!

Trailered Dixie to the main barn for a lesson on her today! It sleeted on me for a while and I felt particularly hardcore. (Stop laughing, yall, canceling my lesson would've been a perfectly normal response.) Hardy is German so of course he can't understand why we shiver and whine like we do.

Anyway. He just watched us work together for most of the time, which seemed like the perfectly correct thing to do. He did pinpoint a few things for me to work on right away.

First, he had me move my double reins to different fingers - I swear, I've read or heard every possible way to hold four reins in two hands! I'd been holding the snaffle rein the normal way, with the curb rein coming from below my little finger up through my hand on top of the snaffle. I was also riding with the curb fairly loose and floppy, which made sense to me (I want her to get used to responding to the snaffle action) but was actually counterproductive. Hardy pointed out that with the curb reins so loose, I had to fumble around and tighten them in order to activate them if I needed to. So he had me hold the reins with snaffle between my middle and ring fingers and curb between my ring and pinkie fingers - same as I was doing before, just moved up one finger. And I tightened up the curb rein a bit, til I had light contact on the snaffle and very light contact on the curb. That way when I needed the curb action I could just rotate my thumbs forward toward Dixie's head.

Next, he said I was tensing up whenever she sped up. It's sadly true. I've been working on not leaning forward and becoming a little monkey clinging to her back, but I'm still not truly relaxed at a rack. There's a little fear there, but not much. Mainly it's kind of HARD to truly sit a rack relaxed. It's completely different from sitting the trot, but it's hard in the same way - fast and jouncy is just hard to follow with your seat.

He also pointed out that I was staring at her ears. In my defense, they're gorgeous ears, but that's a big "duh."

She was amazingly well behaved yet again. We got one truly lovely circle - a whole circle, nicely bent! A couple of times she relaxed and stretched down into the bit contact, which was really exciting. And I got a couple strides of RW out of her, when she was racking and I managed to relax into the motion. Yay.

Things I want to work on:

How should I warm her up? She's not really stiff when I get on her, not like a horse that's been stalled overnight, but I'm not sure if I should let her walk around on a loose rein for a couple minutes or start right into asking for some contact and some bending.

Eek, I need to put some "speed up" leg cues on her. She only goes faster for a kiss or a cluck or a thump in the ribs (intentional or accidental!) She does bend correctly to leg aids while turning, which is a vast improvement - when I first got her, any leg at all meant "GO FASTER OR DIE" so I did a lot of desensitizing.

Once I get a clear leg cue for "gait fast please" I can teach a different clear leg cue for "canter please." I think she'll be ready to learn to canter under saddle pretty soon, but I need clear cues.


  1. I love hearing about your lessons. :)

    Leeandra teaches all of her horses a double kick for moving up into a trot (or a gait), and cantering involves moving the inside leg forward, outside leg back, and raising the inside rein a smidge. She doesn't use a single sqeeze for anything more than getting a horse into a walk from a halt.

  2. I warm my horses up by bending like I commented in that one post, and a little of long and low at the walk and then move into trot work. When they're not stalled, I work at one of those 'forward, we are GOING somewhere!' kind of walks, because it makes everything move and work.
    For the trot... I know when you want a horse to lengthen the trot, you don't really 'ask' him to go faster, and your legs are really just that little bit extra. In the sitting trot there are 'waves', and you just ask the horse, using your seat, to increase the wave--which increases the stride--which increases the speed. I'm not sure if there's such a motion for a gaited horse (... I've never sat on one. SHUT UP.), but if so I would imagine it's quite the same. The seat and body ask the horse to lengthen and increase the stride, and the legs squeeze just veeeery lightly to encourage the motion. Well, that's the classical way, anyway. If you want to watch people kick their horses into lengthened trot, just go watch some GP dressage. ;)


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