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Wizard Ride 197: These Hands

November 19, 2010

Pulley Rein

Thursday, 11/18/10

Today, I had my first riding lesson with Carole. She is a local trainer/rider/instructor, and she has many years of experience. One of my favorite things about Carole is her skill with Thoroughbreds; as an owner of a beautiful, sensitive, chestnut Thoroughbred mare, Carole knows the breed well and can practically think like one.

Wizard began the lesson with uncharacteristic goofiness… prancing, fussing with the bit, and resisting my pleas to settle and focus. He was not bad per se, but was quite silly. He skittered around and tried to canter when we were trotting and bounced around, swapping leads every few strides at the canter. Part of the problem was all the time off he had, I think- he has only been ridden a few times this month due to my trip to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup.

Carole had a few suggestions about tack: 1) try a thicker bit to help with the fussiness 2) put the saddle a little more forward on Wizard’s back 3) shorten the stirrups by one hole

To put it kindly, my equitation is rusty. Carole (politely!) helped me with my leg, as well as issues with contact. To demonstrate contact points while in the saddle, she placed one riding glove under each calf. I rode at the trot and walk and the gloves fell embarassingly soon after we started the exercise.

We also did some work on our walk-to-trot transitions. I tend to rush him into his trot and he bounces into it. Carole asked me to really focus on a quiet, balanced, smooth transition. It took some concentration, but we eventually got it.

“Combing the reins” was introduced to help with my reluctance to make contact on the reins and also to help with Wizard’s nervous mouthiness on the bit. The reins were held first in my right hand, then my left, with one rein between thumb and index finger and the other rein between my ring finger and pinky. I let the reins slide through the first hand for a few inches and then reached forward with the other hand and took the reins in the same fashion, gently trading hands as I ran them down the reins. It was a wonderful exercise, because it helped me to take consistent contact and it encouraged Wizard to reach into the bit. The contact was neither active or passive, and it was excellent schooling for both of us.

A line of trot poles were set up with one group of three, followed by a second group of three (built up from one)- once we warmed up, we trotted the poles. Wizard bounded over them the first few times, cantering after the first set. Carole asked me to R-E-L-A-X my hands, my arms, and my face and not to rush (Wizard and I both tend to rush through life). She asked us to walk the second series of poles. Wizard was puzzled by this new exercise and it took us a few tries to get it right. We have both gotten pretty bad about hurrying around the arena and over obstacles and this exercise really showed our bad habit in broad daylight.

It was a real treat to work on two things that really improved us: combing the reins and doing trot poles in a downward transition. Wizard and I both got a lot of good from our first lesson.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2010 8:47 am

    I’m glad you posted about ‘combing the reins.’ My trainer hasn’t suggested that but what she is having me do may provide a similar effect in terms of keeping the feel in the bit slightly active. Instead of combing, I’m doing the slightest check for flexion – constantly – by sponging one rein *ever so slightly* and then the other. As I do this, I also am checking to see if the horse is willing to follow the rein. If I sponge the left rein, and the flexion isn’t there, I correct that by bending into a circle.

    I’m not see-sawing the bit – I’m essentially closing the fingers on one hand (outside rein) and slightly squeeeze-squeeze-squeezing with the other fingers. This produces a little vibration which is probably not dissimilar to the action of combing, though obviously combing would produce and effect in both reins.

    My take away from our little conversation here is the importance of keeping an active feel on the bit and the horse’s mouth. If you just hold the reins, the communication is essentially dead. Combing or sponging is kind of like asking the question “Are you listening? Are you with me?” to which the horse either responds “Yep! I’m here!” by picking up contact, or “La la la what?” by not.

    Gorgeous image on this post by the way. The swinging end of the knotted reins is a really interesting against the tension and power in the reins and neck. Nice capture!

  2. December 22, 2010 7:32 am

    Thank you for showing us your fabulous photos in your blog posts. Hopefully you are making good progress with your trainer.

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