I only ended up riding for about five minutes in last night's lesson, but Connor ended up getting more accomplished without me than he could have with me.
Let me explain.
|The windswept look he gave me when I pulled up.|
My trainer saw this and said we should try something related, but very different from what we've been doing lately. It was another Jean Luc Cornille exercise, this time a lunging exercise.
She ran the line through the inside bit ring, and instead of running it over his head, she ran it back to the saddle where she had attached a grab strap to the D rings. She ran it under the strap, then back over, down the other side and clipped it on the outside bit ring.
She explained that this mimicked the feel of the riders hands more closely, and that this exercise is all about letting him find his balance.
Instead of the usual 20m circle, she made a square using half of the large outdoor arena, with approximately a 12-15m circle in each corner of the square. In the beginning, there were also circles in the middle of the "long" side so that he didn't lose his balance when he didn't really have it yet. Toward the end, we could actually get four circles instead of 6.
(To the right) She held the line exactly like you'd hold the reins in your right hand, with a loop in the line, and held the lunge whip in her left hand. Because his prerogative was racing forward as fast as possible at the moment, she actually crossed her arms with the lunge whip under the line and the whip in front of him.
"I like this exercise because it gets them thinking and engaged, and doesn't just wear them out. It's not lunging for the sake of lunging."
It was so interesting. In the beginning, Connor looked like a scale, with the platform on the front of his body lower than the platform on the back. He was going fast and somewhat braced and looking.
|What Connor looked like to the right in the beginning (lower platform is his forelegs).|
Gradually, (she really waited him out) he began working over his back and the scale became more even, back to front. When that happened, his forefeet also took slower steps, and he licked and chewed the bit down. Because I was on the ground, I could see this all very clearly.
Some things I noticed:
- Even on the lunge, he bends better to the right than the left.
- Even on the lunge, he would get it for a few steps, then throw his head up or move his body in some other intentional way in order to move differently.
- But after about 30 minutes of this (walk and trot), he started staying in the balanced/back lifted position and not losing it. So maybe I need to wait that out too.
She turned him over to me 3/4 of the way through so she could guide me through learning how to do the exercise. I really had to walk fast in between the circles to move down the straight side of the square, but not so fast as to startle him. He did offer canter for both her and me a couple of times, which she did not intend to do with him today, but it was so lovely and balanced she let him go.
By the end, he'd trotted and cantered in self-carriage in a very consistent cadence for a long time with no signs of being taxed physically. "He's really in better shape than I give him credit for," she said. "Or he's playing me under saddle..." We laughed.
I'm interested to see where this takes us.