Fat fingering the contact – ugh!

So I have holes in my training.  Fixing them is hard.

I am working on being more consistent in my contact, asking for that bend, I think the common theme for my riding in 2013 is contact, me learning what that feels like, how much is too much, how much is too little, when does allowing becoming throwing the contact away.

Part of the difficulty is that this is not just a mental exercise.  It is a physical exercise.  It is a lot like playing the piano, or another instrument.  You know how to read the music, you know what it is supposed to sound like, but you keep fat fingering the music while you play.  In music, you keep practicing it over and over and over again.  It is the same in riding, but in many ways, more complex, since we are not playing an inanimate object, but a horse.   It is a lot of coordination too, and while some people are gifted athletes, naturals, most of us fall in the more mundane category and we have to work hard and practice a lot to try to master a new skill.

I’m struggling this year.  It is frustrating, it is tempting to throw in the towel and just go trail riding, but eh, I like goals, I like improving, even when it is hard and frustrating, so I trudge along.

My lessons today were good.  Bali’s ride went long, Inga is really working hard to help me fix that hole.  I am trying to really get her bending off my inside leg, all the way through the poll, into the jaw, change and get the neck consistent and smooth to the new way.  I also have gotten lax in allowing Bali to kick out and buck at the whip.  That needs to end, it is rude and unnecessary.  I am not hitting her, but tapping her, and the correct answer is forward, not buck.  There was a small rodeo where I tapped, she bucked, I tapped, she bucked, Inga said to get her head up and keep tapping until she went forward.

Holy smokes, there was a ray of sunshine beaming down when she finally went forward, because it was forward, like…powerful.  That was pretty cool.  We got that nice forward and it was back to the contact and bend.  Lots of walking, leg yield on a circle, walk, bend, don’t throw away the outside rein, bend again, both hands at once, not inside then outside, both.  This using both reins at the same time seemed to help, I overdo the allowing on the outside rein, so for now, I need to focus on holding steady, not pulling, holding steady, not pulling when she gives, but releasing to her give.  It is so easy to be so focused on holding that when the horse gives, you accidentally pull, right before you release.  Another place where fat fingering the music happens in my ride.  Still thinking of my half halts as coming back to me, just a squeeze on my ring finger.

I am going to try to send Bali for a week of training.  I think it will help us both.  It might get us out of our rut.  We’ve trained each other to a nice place, but it can be a much better place.  Bali has me trained to throw away that contact for upward transitions and that I shouldn’t ask her for really forward, I’ve trained her in a lot of good things, but I think that a little bit of help would be good for this.  It isn’t a huge change in terms of what we do, it is small changes, but those are harder in a way.  It is a huge change in overall quality of gait and movement though.

Neuf was awesome, very good ride-ability today, it worked out that he got a shorter lesson due to Bali’s longer one, because he’s three and ending on a good note early is always positive.  I feel like I’m all over the place, it feels like I’m posting about 8″ out of the saddle, but Inga says I am not, it is dynamic and it is his big movement.  Forward for him, don’t let him start the kicking out at the whip habit, looking for the same quality of connection with him, but where a 3 year old needs to be, hopefully we won’t have as many holes as we progress. Riding the corners early, and forward out of them, this means keeping the outside contact.  And, it is time to start looking for a couple of schooling shows for him.  Do some training level tests, get him out so he is civilized in public. I also should get some video.

I wonder if I’m too light with the whip, am I just tickling them, both kick out initially, both quit and move forward when I tap more firmly after they kick out, and perhaps a bit more of an assertive tap is in order.   I’m still not hitting, but I’m wondering if it is like the too light handshake, annoying.

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About Mel

Random musings in a riding journal
This entry was posted in Bali, Lesson Notes, Neuf, Riding and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fat fingering the contact – ugh!

  1. jemgray says:

    Hey Mel!

    From my experience, not every horse appreciates a tap behind the leg – and it can actually be counter-productive (sucking back, kicking out, etc.) With these horses, i will brush or tap the whip on the shoulder – this has the added advantage of keeping the rider’s hands in their already “forward and allowing” position (with whatever degree of contact you have at that moment). I use this with Eli, and get super results – it saves me squeezing too much with my legs and dulling him to them. Once I have the connection and energy I want, I can then usually just get a forward thinking response to minimal seat and leg aids. Perhaps you’ve already tried this, but I thought I’d mention it as it has been quite successful on several horses.

    Take care, Joanna

    • Mel says:

      Joanna,

      Thanks for the suggestion and reminder that I can use the whip on the shoulder. I have done that before. I may give that a try to see if it is more acceptable to them. Since it is both of them, I do wonder if it is something in my technique though.

      I’ll see what Bali thinks of that tomorrow, Neuf this weekend.

      Mel

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