Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tango's first AH lesson

I hauled Tango out to Anne’s yesterday, and I had so much fun! It was really nice to see that Tango doesn’t totally lose his brain in a new location, and I learned a lot of exercises to help gain better control over those silly footsies of his. He was also easy to trailer (what a nice change from some horses I’ve owned... I’m looking at you, Stork.)

The first thing that Anne really emphasized for me was that I have got to stop throwing him away from me with my hands. I’m riding well through my seat, but then I have this tendency to say ‘reins? what reins?’ and then let six inches slip through my fingers and all of a sudden Tango’s leaning on absolutely nothing and trailing his butt around like a goober. So HOLD THOSE REINS! She also encouraged me to become more comfortable with him when he leans on me because if I hold on, he’ll start to lift his back and then soften the contact. If I drop the contact (my go-to) he’ll just stick his nose out and camel around. 

Oh hai guys.
Yes. To camel is totally a verb. Especially in dressage.

She was encouraging about training level, skeptical about first, and chortled when I said I wanted to ride 2.1. Ahh well, I knew she wouldn’t necessarily approve but I’m going to forge ahead with my silly plan anyhow. 

She introduced something that she refers to as “the twister” to help him stretch into my outside rein, particularly traveling to the left. Open your inside rein, apply leg, and ask him to kick his hindquarters out for a stride or so, then straighten him back out and allow him to stretch through the outside rein WITHOUT LETTING GO. Good god that was hard for me. Then I started pulling on the outside rein (what? I’m left-handed, that right-hand does what it wants?) 

Then we worked on what she calls “the creep”, but resonated pretty strongly with the idea of a counted walk, as per Jean-Claude Racinet. Basically she wanted me to walk as slowly as I possibly could without letting him stop. To quote her, “he either has to use his abdomen or fall over.” She wants me to get to the point where I have more gears in the walk, particularly the ability to ride walk-creep-halt-creep-halt-rein back-walk. Tango pretty much said no to the whole ‘halt-creep’ thing. His stride kept getting longer and longer at the walk, but he’d come back to the creep pretty quickly... Argh! Why is riding so hard?

I have to keep checking our bend on circles, and make sure his outside ear is further forward than his outside ear. She also had me go straight from cantering to the twister. Lo and behold, the horse DOES go straight from cantering to trotting like a gentleman... except that when we execute that movement smoothly I feel like he’s going to wrench my arms out of my shoulders. She reminded me to just hang on and ask for more compression and he’d lighten up. 

I'll break up the text with my dog.
Anne wants me to improve our 3/4ths halt, as she called it. I’m pretty crummy about my half-halt usage to begin with. We’ll trot aimlessly about and then I’ll decide we’re going too fast and we’ll slow down.... and I’ll go right back to ignoring him. I need to have an ongoing conversation with him through the reins, and eventually that conversation will stop resulting in this cattywompus wiggling nonsense that felt impossible to control. 

I was also reminded that if I cannot shape him at the walk (creep, walk, sideways, please do not camel) there’s no point in moving to the trot or the canter. Bah. Trotting is so much easier to manage for me, but she’s absolutely right. I commit to spending more time at the walk. I can’t remember who instilled such a fear of messing with the walk in me, but Tango’s walk is very pure, strongly 4-beats, and messy as all get out because his neck is as long as a giraffe’s. Yes. Yes. I know. 

Today I rode Tango for like... 20 minutes. I was short on time (oops.) I got pretty much everything except for our cool-out on video: 


But there’s no need to watch all 16 minutes of work. I’ve cut out my favorite moments to highlight them here: 

I’d like to note the “I refuse to trot, but I will give you a very little canter” the “I’m a real horse!” trot, and the “look at my creep!” moments. 

I also rode Camou! I hoped for better video of this as well, but... well... you’ll see:

I had two barrels laid down with poles on either side to try to work on his fear of abnormal looking jumps, and as suspected the first time I brought him around to it he slammed on the brakes with a good old fashioned “hell no.” I socked him in the ribs and he popped over it. I kept better leg on the next time around and he took it. 

This horse represents a huge challenge to me because of how weird he is to ride. He has this itty bitty neck and weirdly giant gaits, which only encourages my biggest issue of “contact? What contact?” He goes around on a loose rein way too much with both me and his owner. So with the reins newly adjusted, the contact thing went better. 

He’ll start getting some trail time soon so that I can work on fitness in a different environment than the arena. 

He still doesn’t leg yield. 

What if I give up and never teach him how to leg yield?

I’m not sure that’s allowed. Oh well. 

Watching the video now, we have some serious lead+straightness issues. At least he has two leads now instead of our previous one lead. 

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