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Wizard Rides 467, 468, & 469: The Bends

April 21, 2013

Wheeeeee!

Friday, 4/19/13

On Friday, I had my first riding lesson in almost two years– it was also my first-ever dressage lesson. It was a great experience. Lisa worked with me and Wizard on establishing tempo, loosening Wizard’s topline, and creating the building blocks for a better relationship with the bit. We started out the lesson with some warmup exercises, including working on a marching walk. While we were still on a loose rein, Lisa had me ask Wizard for more step in his walk and encourage him to stretch his muscles. We then picked up contact and worked on a large circle, establishing a good conversation from my inside leg to my outside rein. I kept my inside rein soft, only using enough hand pressure to equate to the amount used to scratch an itchy horse, and used my calf only, carefully avoiding the bad habit of bumping him with my heel. To the right, things were easier, partially because I’m a better rider to the right, and partly because Wizard has more strength to the right.

My biggest piece of homework is to work on my ELBOWS. I have short arms, and I tend to ride with straight, braced arms, and then feed the reins through my fingers. I did not realize how bad this habit had become, and I had to make a concerted effort to keep my elbows bent throughout the ride. At the trot, we continued our work on a soft, connected circle. For a few steps at a time, I felt what we were looking for. Wizard is a very responsive horse, so it does not usually take a lot to get him to listen to hand or leg. Toward the end of our ride, I felt a nice connection for more and more strides. And, wouldntcha know it… the softer and more bent my elbows were, the softer and more supple the connection to the bit became!

For all my neurotic worrying about every little thing on Wizard, it was extremely helpful to have a professional watch our ride and evaluate some of the things I thought might be a problem, from Wizard’s mouthiness on the bit to his sporadic clumsiness. Lisa felt that the mouthiness on the bit is part of his learning process, and that I need to try to keep the connection instead of throwing the reins away (another habit I have). The clumsiness that I feel with his sometimes tripping was not in any particular leg, and did not look like anything out of the ordinary. It’s funny, because every equine professional, from trainers to chiropractors, always says he does not look as funky as I think he does, and that work is the best cure for his particular issues. And with the great team of vets, farriers, etc, I’m certainly not going to argue!

It was really great to with with a trainer again, and I look forward to more lessons.

Saturday, 4/20/13

Kris and I took Sunny and Wizard out on the trails for about 45 minutes, chasing daylight, and arriving back at the barn just before twilight. We did two short trot sets down two flat paths, and rode up and down a few hills at a walk. Wizard was a little excited from the trot work and from being held back at the walk, but he still felt good. I’d give him an A- for the day.

Sunday, 4/21/13

I did some ring work with Wizard, again with Kris and Sunny. I set up two sets of trot poles, as well as a gymnastic line from two trot poles to a cross rail to one stride to a second cross rail. We warmed up with some practice exercises from Friday’s lesson, and did some trot patterns, focusing on changes of direction and keeping my elbows bent.

BEND THOSE ELBOWS.

The warmup went well, with Wizard only bobbling once when I asked for a trot lengthening that turned into a clumsy canter, which turned into a little bit of leaping around. The next time down the center line, though, he was fine.

We did the gymnastic line twice (pictured above). The first time, Wizard excitedly rushed through the end of it, and threw in some celebratory hops after the second jump. When we approached the line the second time, I could feel him begging to bounce excitedly, so I asked him to circle and settle before our next attempt. Next time through, he was better, thinking a little more as he went through the grid. We ended the ride with a stretchy trot on a loose rein.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2013 11:08 am

    my horse really lifts his head up while trotting (i ride english) he also looks kind of sloppy while he trots, his legs fly all over the place! how can i get him to neaten up his trot and then also lower his head!? will poles help the trot?

  2. April 30, 2013 1:36 am

    I’m a hunter and equitaion person but our Tues lessons are always flat and cavaletti and can sometimes be more challenging than jumping. One of my favorite excerises my trainer has us do is doing a big figurre 8 (20m circles) with 4-5 walk poles in the middle where you change direction. Walk through the poles, pick up trot and trot circle back to poles, walk through poles, pick up trot and circle the other way, etc. I found it really helped green horses with downward transitions as they pay attention to the poles and back themselves up a bit to carefully walk through without using too much hand and pulling. Elevating the poles a bit helps too and that way they can’t kick them all over the place. For more advanced horses we would do walk/canter and try to get the transitions closer to the poles. And of course my trainer has us do it without stirrups so we keep our upper bodies quiet and don’t lean toward the poles. The cool thing is that I saw an improvement in all horses I did this with, green, made, young and old. For canter work, we will just canter a 3 yr old over a single pole just to work on going to the center, strait and keeping the stride the same to and away from the pole. Eventually we add a second pole and have a little line so they start to get the idea that there is more than one “jump” in a row. I really enjoy poles as you can practice a lot of stuff and it really helps with accuracy.

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