Fixing the Lengthenings By Not Riding Lengthenings

While I was in Vegas, I left Connor in partial training for a week with the instructions to work on his trot lengthenings.  When I got back, she had this to say (paraphrased bigtime):


"He doesn't push off with his left hind as much because he's constantly barreling through your right leg and onto the right shoulder, and he can only lengthen as much as the weak hind leg allows.  You have to address that first, practicing the lengthenings without fixing that won't improve the lengthenings."

Massively paraphrased. Obviously.

All too happy to plant that right fore under his body.

So on Thursday, we again revisited the counterbent left circle (really more of a square in the beginning), where we try to get him to both carry weight on his left shoulder and carry his haunches to the outside.  He is firmly convinced he can do one or the other, but not both at the same time, and he got really frustrated.  He went really well, but got frustrated.

I had another lesson on Sunday, and in this one, we started out with the same thing, but a couple of things were different:
- I made a point to keep his neck long and my hands quiet.
- I tried to do less with his mouth and more...neck reining? To encourage him to move the weight from his right shoulder to his left shoulder.
- I was quicker with my aids, especially on the right.
- I paid really close attention to the positional faults of mine that led to this in the first place: collapsing the right side of my body, and too much right rein.

I just want to pick my shoulders up and move them.  Anyone else?  I'm embarrassed that I ever wondered why my horse piles his weight on the right side.  This ain't a bodywork thing, it's a bad riding thing.

Long story short: it worked.  REALLY well.  It wasn't easy for either one of us, but we both stayed relaxed and got it, and it really got him on my aids.

And then we tried lengthenings, and we had them. Good ones.  She had me focus on letting his frame lengthen just a bit but not get low, and to let him go across the diagonal out of that counterbent circle, and bam.  My normally stoic trainer got more excited than I've ever heard her, saying he had more foreleg reach than she'd ever seen.

We also got some bangin' left trot shoulder in, because it turns out the left hind leg thing cripples more than just the trot lengthenings.

More thoughts on this later.

13 comments:

  1. Love when you can find ways to improve without schooling the movement. I always love working on counter canter to improve the lead change :D

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    1. We're not to lead changes yet, but counter canter improves other things too! Namely balance and throughness for C.

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  2. I've been trying to memorize this for the next time I ride!

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    1. Now I apologize for not writing it out very clearly! If you have questions, ask me.

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  3. I love these kind of breakthroughs :)
    Also, shoulders are hard to control. I recently got told that my shoulders can't turn right. I felt like Zoolander :(

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  4. He's coming along so well - I love reading about it! Also ugh balance through the shoulders and keeping the withers upright and, you know, not overly weighted side-to-side is hard

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    1. It's REALLY hard. I hope not every horse is this hard, sort of, I mean, I'm not a special snowflake, but damn, I hope it's not this hard for everyone.

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  5. Lengthenings will get much better the more you work on collection, too. Hampton had zero push until he got stronger in collection.

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  6. For a super adorable pony, Connor is an intensely technical ride. Glad you have trainer on the ground/in the saddle to help.

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    1. I don't know this for sure, but I think every horse is this technical. At least I hope so.

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  7. This sounds kind of weird, but I love how specific dressage is with how the horse's body needs to be, and where the rider's body needs to be and what you need to do to ALLOW the horse to go where you want.

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