Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I want to try this with Joey

Excerpt from “Ooh La La" by Karen of Bakersfield Dressage.

“…I planted my knuckles near my knees as Dr. Schacht had instructed me to do with Speedy G. At the time, I didn't quite understand the purpose. JL later explained that by planting my hands, I was forced to use only my seat and legs (eliminating that whole over-use of the inside rein thing). There was an added benefit, however. Planting my hands also created a sort of low side reins. Sydney responded so well to the exercise that I almost laughed out loud.

As we warm up, he almost always goes through a head bouncing routine which is very difficult to resist. It makes it very hard to establish steady contact because I just can't keep my hands quiet enough as he's bouncing against them. Eventually, I just shorten the reins and push him forward which usually results in a very heavy horse.

Planting my knuckles into my thighs changed all of that. As Sydney "bounced" his head and neck, all he found was an ungiving bit. It took him all of about 2 minutes to find the release. Once he figured it out, he was long and low and clearly happier. JL has had me focus on keeping my hands low and very quiet. Sydney perceives everything as yelling so I am working very hard to make everything be a whisper. Instead of visibly rocking the rein to get him off my hands or to soften his neck, I am just squeezing my fingers to make a request or a correction. Sometimes this takes longer, but there's less drama involved. Planting my knuckles lowered the volume and forced my hands to remain low. Win, win.

Once Sydney was long and low at the walk, I shortened my reins just a bit but kept my knuckles firmly planted into my thighs. We started on a 20-meter circle, but after just a few times around, I took another page from CS's playbook and asked him to lengthen down the long side and then did a change of direction across the diagonal. We repeated this circle, circle, go big routine for a few minutes with my knuckles still pressed into my thighs.

Once I could really feel some activity from behind, I quietly picked up the reins and shortened them as I asked for a canter. Oh my! It was really nice. We did some spiral in and I was shocked at how small of a circle he was able to do. We spiraled back out and returned to the trot work and again went down the long side. I asked for a small half halt at the corner and laughed out loud when I felt him shift his weight back and collect ever so slightly.

Both days that I rode with these exercises, I was able to get him light in my hand while still moving forward in less than 10 minutes…”

And this-

“…I really focused on using my inside leg to outside hand. I had just read one of Courtney King-Dye's articles about over using the inside rein. She said, Keep the inside leg honest. A clue that tells you you're not using your inside leg enough happens when you feel like you want to pull your inside rein to the outside. In essence, the inside rein is trying to do the job of the inside leg.

When I asked for some more work, he got very resistant and we lost all of the swing from earlier. He was so naughty that I had to go back to planting my inside hand on my thigh so that I could send him out, out, out with the inside leg while slowing him down with the outside rein.

…So as I rode around with a stiff, unbending horse, I heard Christian softly telling me to give him the inside rein. Yes, give it. Give him the rein. Inside rein, give it to him ... And with that, I realized that by changing my understanding of the purpose of the aid, I was giving my horse a chance to soften and bend and carry himself.

It wasn't about taking anything. By rocking the rein and then releasing it, which was giving him the inside rein, I was allowing Sydney the opportunity to find his own balance and bend*.

As we continued working, I rocked the inside rein softly, but as I did it, I could feel myself encouraging Sydney to let go and swing. And then I discovered that I was more effectively working both reins: the inside one was giving Sydney the opportunity to soften while the outside rein was saying not any faster…”

And this -

"...In order for the half halt to be effective, the inside rein had to be steady. OOOOHHHHHH!

With a giving inside rein, my half halt was simply wagging his head from side to side. I stiffened my inside rein, and said HALT with the outside. Oh, hallelujah, I got a halt!..."

*emphasis mine
In some ways Sydney sounds a lot like Joey to me – scared of contact, likes to bounce his head around to avoid contact, goes heavy on the forehand when asked to move from behind, etc. 

So I am very interested to see how these techniques would work in Joey’s training.  Inconsistency with contact, and falling on the forehand are very common in Joey’s flatwork at the moment, which does not surprise me in the least bit. 

However, the fact that Sydney and Joey share a similar trait in disliking/fearing contact means that this method Karen’s using of helping Sydney to find his own soft spot and balance maybe the very thing I need to use on Joey to help him find his own soft spot and balance. 

While I would love to try this out asap, I have actually had to give up riding for the time being as at 32 weeks pregnant my center of gravity had shifted too much for my liking and my balance was off to the point where I didn’t feel that it was safe to ride anymore.   T_T  *sadface* 

Hopefully this baby will come soon and I can get back into it!   

See ya,

P.S. – Just in case anyone was wondering I did have my obstetrician's approval to ride, but as each pregnancy is as individual as each person, I would suggest checking with your doctor before riding whilst pregnant.

P.S. 2 - Excerpts from Give Him the Inside ReinMaking More Connections also included.  : )

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