When the sun briefly popped out today, G suggested a barn trip. Going to the barn is rarely his idea, so I have a feeling it was his quiet way of doing a horsey intervention and getting me back at it.
|This might have to be a blog banner or something|
I didn't really have a plan for today's ride, I just knew we all needed to have fun. With that in mind, I set up a small cross rail against the wall on each long side, and some trot poles up the center. It's a set up I might repeat in our little ring, since it provided a nice visual 'wall' across the center of the ring and kept the pony from bulging through the shoulder on her 20m circles on either end (and me arguing with her over it). Mostly though, after the awful canter exercises we did in the clinic that ended in her basically shutting down and offering zero forward, I wanted to give her a fun exercise to encourage her to move out and enjoy herself. In previous lessons, she's got the idea of taking me to the jumps and through poles at the trot. I hoped the same set up would also prove effective with the canter and give her a visual goal to keep her forward and motivated.
|Going through a pole at trot first|
It totally worked! She actually caught me a little off guard by happily cantering her first baby fence with zero hesitation. Go Midget! A couple of more goes on the left rein and she was picking up the canter immediately when asked and maintaining it with very little nagging. I was so pleased! Greg was so surprised and excited by Bridget's mad skills he forgot to take pictures, instead opting to bump up the jumps a bit. (Spoiler alert - he never did manage to take a picture of us actually jumping anything beyond an awkward landing shot the world doesn't need to see) He was so excited it was a bit motivating, and we cantered the 'big' (about 24" lol) vertical without issue as well. Come time for right rein (her harder direction, we literally got two strides of right lead canter last weekend in an hour of trying) and I asked him to put everything back down to ground poles to keep it easy for her. Our first transition sucked and we needed to go back to a trot, but surprise, surprise she picked it up immediately after that and off we went and cantered some ground poles. It wasn't a fluke either, because she picked up the right lead consistently a few more times for me. It's certainly her harder side, but I think I'm starting to get a handle on how I need to set her up for it and I think she's getting the idea of what I'm asking. I'm pleased there are no lasting effects from last week's meltdowns. She still can't canter an entire circle on the right lead, but we're getting there. I need to be more aware of using the right lead when we are out on the road and trails too so she can build up strength- if I don't think about it I will always ask for the left one since we ride on the left hand side of the road and I seem to feel more comfortable with pony slightly bent to the road center rather than leading leg towards the ditch! I suspect with me being left sided/handed as well I'm the biggest part of the problem.
|She looks so fierce all locked on to the jump :)|
|Right lead canter proof|
All in all, exactly the ride I was looking for - short and sweet, and almost entirely fun. I didn't ask her to come on the bit or even bend overly properly - I just wanted a happy, forward pony and that's exactly what I had. Something to think about as well - without me attempting to keep an even contact and balance her up, our departs were still immediate, pretty balanced, and way less argumentative or sucked back. Maybe that's where we need to be at the moment, just letting her figure out where her feet need to be and saving my input for a little later down the training process. It's the exact opposite to the 'ride every stride' concept I was encouraged to embrace last weekend, but it's working so I might have to rebel for now. We'll see what S thinks.
|No clue what I'm doing once again but pony is adorably trotting around on her loose rein so it's a keeper.|
Tomorrow is lesson day with S. She came to watch my rides at the clinic so I'm interested to hear what her take aways were and whether she changes our plans a bit moving forward.