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)|