Friday, June 5, 2015

Add more sideways: JM 5

I'm taking a ton of notes from my now-daily lessons with JM and while a lot of the notes are good for me, I am a trainer at heart and I assimilate information best when I am teaching it. To make the most of this, I will try to give you guys the biggest nuggets from my lessons thus far.

1) The horse can only go as well as you ride. This means:
  • Your balance and eq has to be as good as you possibly can get it - if you feel like you could do better, then you really should be striving for that. If you have a consistent problem (my right hand does... really anything it feels like doing and the moment I focus on my right hand behaving appropriately I lean forward) then come up with as many ways to tackle it as possible and experiment.

    To work on the right hand issue, I've been walking on a long rein and holding my hands where I would like them. Then I move my right hand around deliberately. Then I still it again, all while holding my core and sitting very upright (erring on leaning a hair backwards). Then move the hand around until I start to notice the things that happen in my shoulder, my upper arm, and my forearm when I go to swing my right hand around. Once I've got the feeling of a still, supple hand in my shoulder, it's easier to focus on not-perching and also keeping my hands quiet. Just keep my shoulder in place and that way it's one thing to work on, not two. Just my efforts away from Kat to help her improve.
  • Aids must stay consistent. If opening the right rein and applying right leg means bend your body, not fall in on the circle then you cannot move the right rein against her neck the moment she falls in. Bad riding. Both a release and a confusion of cues. (That one might be a little personal.)
  • Riding is a mental process as well, so be sure at any moment you can answer which criteria you're working to improve. If at any time you've got NOTHING at all you're improving and you're not purposefully giving the horse a mental break... you're probably breaking something down. 
2)  Lateral work is your best friend. This has manifested itself like this so far:
  • Kat rushes upon landing off a jump. I execute a steep leg yield, and she slows down. I pet her and praise her. We jump again, and I ask for a bit of leg yield and she sighs and slows down. The third time, she stays at the same tempo and I don't ask her to yield at all. 
  • Tango decides downward transitions mean he gets to hang out on my wrenched-out shoulder sockets. I put inside leg on and yield until he lightens. I'm making him work against himself. 
  • Indiana picks up the wrong lead. I push him sideways until he trots, then immediately ask for the lead again. 
  • Danny throws his head up through transitions and braces in his chest, so I've been doing almost all his transitions in a shoulder-fore. Magic! He begins to use himself. 
  • JM says when their inside hind leg crosses over the centerline of their body they have to engage their core and cannot use their lower neck anymore - not totally sure of the science there but in practice some great things are happening.
3) Don't get frustrated.
  • If it takes 45 minutes to get a quiet canter-trot transition, so be it. It's not your fault entirely, and it's certainly not the horse's fault. If there's a bit of mild confusion while the horse experiments to find the right answer, that's okay. If everyone's pissed and the horse is having a meltdown, then please do change tactics. 
  • When one thing (let's say bending quietly on a 20-meter circle) falls into place in a beautiful, reliable, breathtaking fashion, the next things (ie balanced and quiet transitions?) do not immediately follow. This is a journey people, let's enjoy it. 
Mostly I just need to sit down in the tack properly and enjoy how much I love Kat's ears and how sproingy her trot gets when she actually stretches into me. I will update you all with new or changed most-important-message as they come.


  1. i'm trying to incorporate more lateral work to fix our rotten trot-canter transitions (consistently our lowest scoring movement)... the trick for me is getting myself quiet enough and getting the timing right. it works tho!

    1. totally does! The other thing I keep being reminded of is that horses can feel a fly land on their body... So why do I allow a horse to pretend they can't feel me when I press into them?