October 21, 2016

Lesson Wrap-Up: Two New Exercises

My trainer had another JLC clinic at the barn last weekend.  I didn't audit, although I was around.  I was happy to see fellow Welsh Cob owner and blog reader S out there, riding in the clinic with her mare Eve.

After a Connor training ride on Wednesday in order to try out some new things she learned at the clinic, my trainer was ready to go for my lesson on Thursday.

First, in the warmup, she had me trot in a forward seat position in the warmup, no faster than Connor's balance will allow, with my hands forward and quiet.  I gotta be honest, this felt incredibly awkward.  But, she pointed out that right now, I really struggle with his trot in the beginning of the ride.  I know I need to do it, but it's not straight or balanced or rideable until later in the ride, and I get frustrated.  And I tend to give and take too much with my hands.  This takes all of that out of the equation and allows him to move and relax into a steady contact without my brain going "This sucks!" and trying and failing to fix it.

Second.  The canter.
Also, this tail.  WTF do you even do with this much mud.

We discussed recently how unbalanced his canter is, and why that held us back showing this year.  A big focus of hers is encouraging him to lift in his withers in the canter right now instead of push straight forward into a flat canter, and to balance him in general.

On Thursday, she had us do this crazy exercise that accomplished a whole lot toward both of those goals in a very short amount of time.  She had done it the day before with him, so he knew it slightly better than I did.

She had me doing a really small "bad" figure 8 in the center of the ring, where the center of the figure 8 is a diagonal instead of the convergence of two circles like in a proper figure 8.  We would pick up the canter from the walk, think canter pirouette (in effect a really small circle with emphasis on the inside hind.  Lord knows we ain't doing actual pirouettes yet.), transition to walk once straight on the diagonal between the two "pirouette" circles, change bend and flexion, and immediately pick up the other lead and repeat on the other end of the figure 8.  The idea was to make the walk transition occur in the same place both directions and with the same amount of steps.

It is so cute.  And also body clipped. Eyyyyyy.

A couple of interesting things happened here.  Within a few transitions, the way he picked up the canter changed from forward and flat to up first and then forward.  I did have to get after him about picking it up quicker.  He tends to pick it up in slow motion, which wasn't helping.

Also, she really nailed me on keeping my reins short and not pulling in the canter-walk transition.  This was really hard, but steadily improved as he got more on my aids.  It got more prompt and less difficult as we went along.

Finally, his lateral balance improved throughout.  He started to feel less like a motorcycle and more like a controllable horse.
Husband had almond crusted chicken strips and a chickpea/cucumber/carrot/queso fresco salad waiting for me after this lesson.  Oh and a Gin & Tonic.

Things I had to focus on:
- Staying upright in the canter transition (easier once he stopped doing them in slow motion)
- Keeping my torso straight, square and level
- Keeping my reins really short
- Keeping my legs down and around him
- Getting good bend and flexion in the walk transition

Because this was such a physically intense exercise for him, we did it for a few minutes, gave him a big break, did it for another few minutes and called it a night.


  1. Ooooh I want to try this one! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Neat exercise! And your dinner looks delish.

  3. Oooh, good exercise! I need to try this myself!

  4. I definitely struggle in the canter work too, adding this to my list of exercises!

  5. Super cool exercise! Right now, it would just fry my horse, but I can definitely see why it works and it sounds really challenging to ride.

  6. Oooh I like that exercise and want to try it on.... all the horses?!? Also that meal looks amazing.

  7. First of all your husband is a gem.
    Second thank you for sharing this lesson- I got a lot out of it. It's hard to not fall forward when the motion isn't from behind. I struggle with that a lot.

  8. I'm totally stealing this exercise! Thank you as always for the breakdown! :)

  9. Ooh, definitely want to try this once we get back to cantering!