This weekend was the first clinic I’ve ridden in this spring. I rode with Todd Flettrich a couple of times last fall up at GoodNess Ridge Farm up in Maryland and felt I got a good amount from the lessons, so I signed up for this session.
My friend took some pictures with her iPhone, but they are a bit too impressionistic for posting.
I went in and Bali was fairly forward. She is truly getting better at coming forward and using herself. I’m still struggling with finding that line between holding too much and becoming rigid and giving away too much and losing the energy. My habit is to give it away. So, now, in my quest to not give it away, I sometimes end up holding too rigidly. (le sigh).
I was mentally working to keep that bend around the inside leg to the outside rein, and it is getting better, but I’m losing the inside connection. I need to keep connection on both sides. So, there was a lot of shoulder in, renvers, shoulder in, in the walk and trot. It wasn’t even so much moving fully between the two movements, more of the thought and start of it, then back, but using those aids until Bali softened.
We did more transitions. Bali pokes her nose out a couple of inches, particularly in the upward transitions. This one is really tricky for me, because a lot of times, the transition is fluid and feels pretty good, but even if I stared at her ears, I couldn’t see that, and I try to not stare at her ears. Then, the hard part is holding so she does not poke her head out, but allowing so she still makes the upward transition.
We used a fair amount of shoulder in and haunches in at the walk, to get her more round, and then make the upward transition. So, it would be trot, walk, shoulder in two or three steps, trot, walk, shoulder in (or shoulder fore) 2 or three steps, halt, reinback, halt, trot.
I need to smooth out the sharp edges. I am a bit too abrupt coming in and out of shoulder in/haunches in, too many sharp edges in her changing bend, it needs to be smooth and supple.
In the canter, she is a bit flat, not enough jump, so on a 20m circle, we did haunches in, shoulder in, haunches in, and worked on getting her engaged, without me throwing it all away. But, I actually ended up being less rigid in the outside rein, although I continually let it slip, just a little and need to shorten the reins.
After I rode, I had the rare treat of having the rest of the day up there, so I was able to watch several rides. This one lady, Wendy, had the most beautiful horses. She had two of them, both upper level dressage horses and they are both gorgeous. I really enjoyed watching her, because she was a lovely rider, and had lovely horses, and it was really good to see what I’m striving for with Bali. Particularly the canter work, but it was all really nice.
We spent the night up at my friend’s Never Blue Farm, and in the morning, Ky asked if I wanted to go for a trail ride with a neighbor, who had a new horse. It was all walking, and since Bali had been in all night, I figured that would be good for her to get out and moving. So we had a nice trail ride in the Watershed. Bali had her big walk going, and led most of the way out, until Shadow hit the “heading home” part and he outwalked her…and was in a really big hurry. Bali is truly my horse. Her reaction to mud is “eew, I don’t want to step in that”. But, sometimes we have to suck it up and squish through, even if we are saying “groooossssss” the entire time. After our ride, I untacked, cleaned the mud off the girth and loaded up to go to the clinic.
I had time to watch a bit of the ride before me, but then headed to tack up and not be late. Good thing, they wrapped up about 10 minutes early, as I was just finishing. I went ahead and used my new spurs. They are the smooth rowels and Bali seems to like them, but I don’t use them all the time. I’d used the roller ball spurs the day before, and sometimes at home, I’ll use none or the rounded end plain ones. I hopped on, and since we’d had that nice trail ride, I didn’t have my usual feeling that I should let the horse walk around, completely on a loose rein. I went ahead and walked with contact and trying to get that same walk we’d had yesterday, when we were working on transitions.
Todd liked the warm up today, and thought she was going better. Was it the trail ride? The 10 minute trailer ride instead of an hour plus? Was I riding that much better? Am I finally learning the correct amount? Wouldn’t that be nice?!!
We did a warm up canter, and I was working on keeping the rhythm and slowing the steps, but not shortening the frame length. When I use my aids, I need to use a half halts in the 2nd beat, before the third beat. Also, I was to add/support the outside rein with outside leg. Which as the outside hind is the strike off, this makes sense and was getting Bali to lift more. As I could feel this working, I did it more in later cantering, and I hope I can remember the feel and timing.
In the trot work, we did shoulder in, and to come out of shoulder in, I rode haunches in to get straight, and it worked really well, Instead of trying to move the shoulder back over to the wall, doing it from back seemed to be very nice. Then, the opposite from haunches in, ride some shoulder in to straight. In haunches in he really wanted me to come out of the corner in haunches in, and stay there. My habit is to ride out of the corner straight, then go to haunches in, so that too me a few times to get right.
I’m not to confuse a longer neck with a longer stride, and I need to work on getting the longer strides without throwing away the neck and letting her poke her nose out.
At lunch, Todd said that this was the first time he felt like I was “into it”. Which was an interesting observation. I often am not sure exactly when I’ve got the right amount, and as a result I’m often tentative. I worry that I’m going to be unfair to my horse if I ask too much or too hard, but I’m finally starting to feel like I understand what I want, and I’m therefore able to be clearer. I think watching Wendy’s two lessons on those FEI horses helped too. Watching a lesson with the same instructor was very good, and definitely more useful for learning than watching tests at shows…at least this time.
Tomorrow I think Bali gets off, but I’ll practice on Sparkle.