Since I was at home and therefore had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, I decided to warm up in the halter. Weird and out of character move for me, I know. Even Chevy was surprised. I had a great philosophy behind this bold move though: I assumed that by removing the instrument I am causing us to struggle with (the bridle), I could start us on a warm-up that was far more relaxed. We struggled a little bit as far as balance for the majority of our warm-up as when I pushed her forward she didn’t find a place to push herself into (because lacking bit = lacking contact option). Towards the end though she was starting to figure out what I was looking for (which is what I grabbed video from).
I then chose to go gloveless today, which I don’t plan on repeating, to see if the extra sense in my hands was helping me be more aware in my hands. I don’t want to think of my hands issue in terms of being “too heavy handed” as going the polar opposite is incorrect, but I have been using the term “light” when talking about my hands because it helps me with the visual I need. Oh shit, I should just call them soft or idfk QUIET hands. This just clicked. Congratulations me for better terminology. ANYWAY. No gloves actually did cause a little bit of weakness keeping my fingers closed and gave me moments of piano hands. Forearm wise though, things felt a lot better. Was trying to really focus on not pulling her back, but being supportive with the reins.
Went up into posting trot work focusing on aforementioned things with myself. Needed to drive her forward a little bit more today throughout all of my work. Essentially did a second round of warm-up of the gaits with the bridle on. Then pushed into more of the appropriate working trot level for her. Did a lot of focusing on slow, smooth downward transitions today. Those were going well she was a lot more through during them, listening off my seat a lot more. Her canter transitions (ups) are also continuing to improve, of course I grabbed video of probably the ugliest one in there, but that was nice. Was honestly for the most part a very “chill” day of working on transitions and my hand issue with really nice relaxation from the pony.
Decided to again work on some sitting trot because a) I think my hands are generally more correct there and b) I am working on getting the feel for the “fast” that I’ve been uncomfortable with. Honestly need to work on MY muscling there in order to keep pushing her to track under and not bounce off like a weak little idiot.
Also worked on walk to canter transitions! She’s really getting better at these, especially now that I am focusing on cuing off my seat bones & therefore not mixing signals. She was also way calmer during the duration of this work than she has been in the past. She did get a little anticipatory towards the end, but she didn’t get her typically hurried feeling.
Had set up poles so popped through them a few times, again focusing on pushing her forward or just giving her the freedom to fuck them up instead of forcing her down and through. Wasn’t really focusing on them and had them at “easy” lengths to do in passing. Mostly popped through to check her ability to not get concerned over them, which she did well.
Post all work that we chose to focus on, tried out some working trot with driving reins! Which wow, hello correct feeling that I can’t seem to manage on this horse!! Didn’t push her a lot since she was tired at this point (and of course somewhere during canter work the camera ran out of battery so I’ve not got any video) but did a few laps and circles to “play” with it & see how steering works. SURPRISE, it’s easier to make your circles when you’re not trying to pull your horse around with the inside rein unconsciously. Plan on doing the bulk of trot work (for sure, probably other gaits) in driving reins this week!
Seriously if you’re struggling with contact, driving reins can be so helpful.
Overall, my hands/contact was a lot better with her. Watching the video there is so much less head wagging and less severe head wagging than in the past. Slowly getting there and honestly glad I have really awesome supportive friends who are willing to offer me really good free advice.
From Anja Beran’s clinic, « The Classical Dressage as a key to a healthy horse », with Susi Lobenhofer and her haflinger gelding Rudi (trained by Christine Schmiedel). A very difficult horse at first, Rudi was trained through the years with gymnastic exercises to prepare step by step piaffe, passage and flying changes.
« All riders have a responsability to make an effort and train their horse properly. Even a Haflinger can achieve good results and become a relaxed supple horse. […] A Haflinger is perfectly capable of doing a good passage, there is nothing artificial about it and you do not need an expensive dressage horse for this exercise. »
« Relaxed chewing of the horse is important. It used to be said that the chewing of the horse on the bit was the most beautiful sound in a riding arena. That natural clicking sound, when horses have a relaxed lower jaw, chew and play on the bit. »