That Right Shoulder Tho

One of the biggest keys to getting Connor in self-carriage/balanced/OTB is catching the right shoulder, in both directions.  In both directions, he naturally moves the leg laterally away from his body, so that to the left, it manifests itself as a popped outside shoulder, and to the right, he steps into the ring to avoid bringing the outside of his body around and bending properly.

And I managed to get a perfect picture of that phenomenon when FBR was cooling him out on Tuesday:

Study this picture.  Study that right leg placement.  This is my entire Dressage life with this horse summed up in a single photo.

He can't get into self carriage, come on the bit, lift his back, or do any of other fun things he's capable of as long as he's traveling like that (read: crooked), so fixing it is a daily occurrence for me right now.

What are we doing to fix it?
To the right:
- Encourage him to take more time through every turn rather than whipping around it.  When he whips around turns (as shown in that photo), the inside fore almost cuts the corner on a diagonal even if his body technically isn't cutting the corner.  When he's taking more time to do the turn, the outside fore stays roughly same distance from the rail throughout the corner.

- Constantly have a dialogue in which I ask him to step into the outside (left) rein and soften on the right rein

- Right thigh asking for bend/blocking his sideways movement/narrowing the window in which his pony body is allowed to exist.

To the left:
- Initially, we had to make a big change here compared to what we did with the right, because he was very set in his ways with the left.  So we started with things like that exercise from February, in which we did a square on the left rein, counterbent, and encouraged him to initiate the turn from the inside (left) hind.

- Now, I spend my entire warmup catching that outside shoulder constantly.  He'll go around a turn leading with that shoulder and end up appearing to travel straight but actually traveling sideways.  So I block it hard with my outside (right) thigh (see a pattern here?) and many half halts on the outside rein.

Interestingly, once I have both, usually by the end of the warmup, once he's traveling in a balanced way, he no longer defaults to leaning on the right like that, and he'll stay straight the rest of the lesson, with minimal work on my part.  It gives me hope that maybe eventually he'll default to straight?  One can only hope.

Because life is pretty great when all four of his legs travel in the same direction. (April 2015)

17 comments:

  1. Training is interesting. I am dealing with a similar crooked issue with the left shoulder (mostly happening due to a still weak right hind), but am having to fix it a totally different way. I CAN hold him straight and pick him up and put him where I want him, but now he needs to learn to hold his own straightness. Which is a whole new ballgame.

    Grrr.

    Straightness sucks. Basically. This is my comment.

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  2. Yeah. I'm a step behind you. He won't hold it himself unless I show him what it means to travel straight and he no longer feels threatened by me changing his way of going. Once we have that regularly, it's up to him to keep it.

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    1. Just looking back from where I am now, I'd highly suggest keeping a hyper awareness of when you're holding him straight, and starting the process of weaning him off your support way earlier than I did. Learn from my mistakes. Haha!

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  3. Awesome timing! This concept came up in a lesson yesterday. The horse gets way over his right shoulder too and that causes him to lean on the rein with his neck so he doesn't have to connect or hold himself. Poor rider was struggling because I had her riding straight on the circle and told her to look at the neck and get there to be an equal amount of space between neck and rein on both sides. But then not drift way in/out on the circle.

    It definitely gets better/easier as they get stronger. When this horse is fit and strong, he defaults to straight after you remind him once or twice. He's coming due for hock injections so the crookedness is back with a vengeance. I don't mind it so much because it teaches his rider a lot :)

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    1. I'm so glad you validated what I posted, seriously, sometimes I feel like a crazy person. I am intimately familiar with what you are describing! In addition to your cue about equal amounts of space, usually I get told "keep equal amounts of his shoulders in front of you". I AM learning a lot from it, I have to pay such close attention to these little details I never noticed before. That said, I can't wait until he makes it into the "remind for one or two strides" camp.

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  4. Ugh, I battle with Roscoe and Rosemary on straight every ride. Rosemary is easier to remind and move on. Roscoe pops that left shoulder creating the unequal space Megan mentioned in the reins. We are still finding our way through that issue. At least you can recognize and address Connor's.

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    1. It's an ongoing battle for sure. They all choose one foreleg over the other, I've been told. Roscoe is going to feel like a gumby horse for a long time if Connor is any indication!

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  5. Ha! Well I'm just over here like "somedays we can turn right now" and that's pretty exciting...

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    1. You'll get there! Remember I've been at these annoying minutiae with this horse for five years now and this is all the farther we've gotten. Haha.

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  6. Wow, great catch with that picture - I see exactly what you mean! Maybe as he gets stronger, the faster you'll work through this each ride. He's certainly capable, so I'm sure he'll get it eventually! It's just a matter of retraining both muscle and brain I think.

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    1. Thanks! I saw that and I was like "Oh man, that's a blog post." It's definitely retraining muscle and brain for sure, for both of us.

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  7. Mollie is the polar opposite on this. Lately her right leg feels like she's stepping down in a hole, and she places it to the inside of where it belongs. It takes a small act of congress to get her to step OUT with that RF and place it (what feels like) to the middle of the ring. Dressage man.

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    1. I'm familiar with the hole too! Connor used to do that to me. Working through that issue set me on the course to find this issue.

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  8. Katai does this with her left shoulder. Great post! This made me think about it a different way since I've never conceptualized it this way before.

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    1. I feel lately like you and I are at a very similar stage of riding and learning.

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  9. Just a friendly reminder (and mood booster for you maybe?!) that we ALL struggle with a stiffer side. There is not one day that I get on my horse and don't have to really work on his suppleness and thoroughness, especially to the right. Then once I 'get' him and move on to something hard he defaults to getting crooked again because its hard!

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    1. Oh gosh, I hope I didn't come across as feeling down! I'm thrilled to finally have the type of feel that lets me recognize and fix stuff like that. But thanks, it does help to hear that from someone who has moved up the levels!

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