Sunday, February 17, 2013

A successful lesson

Last week I blogged about V.'s difficult lesson on Panama, and our efforts the next day to get her to ride confidently and control her anxiety.  I am happy to say that it worked beautifully, and her lesson (which was yesterday instead of Thursday, since she was sick mid-week) went off without a hitch -- even despite them riding outside in really windy weather (which sometimes gets Panama riled up).

It probably helped a little that I got a really good, long ride in on Friday, as I think he was still a little tired from that.  Certainly we didn't have to worry about him being hyper from inactivity.  But he'd had 24 hours to recuperate, and it wasn't that hard a ride -- although we did do a lot of cantering, I'm not even sure it was an hour, even counting the cooling down.

V. stayed pretty relaxed the entire time, and reported later that she did use my tricks to keep him from speeding up when heading towards home -- I had showed her how to do a little "check," a little squeeze of the reins but not quite a half-halt, when turning to go down the long side of the arena toward home, just as a little reminder not to speed up.  She said she also played with the reins lightly down the entire side, just to keep him paying attention, and it worked like a charm -- but it was indeed so light that I didn't even see she was doing it.  She never looked like she was in his mouth, and she said she was able to stop doing it later o in the lesson, so I'd say it worked like a charm!

There was only one hiccup, when he crow hopped just a little doing a lead change.  He has done that a few times lately -- he never had to worry about lead changes until recently, since he almost always picks up the correct lead in flat work; but going over jumps, he is sometimes picking up the wrong lead, or changing his lead over the jump if he canters up to it.  Sometimes he changes his lead effortlessly, but sometimes he speeds up into the lead change (as if he thinks he needs to go really fast in order to do it), and a few times he has crow hopped a little.  (That's probably what caused me to fall off last week -- him putting his head down to crow hop.)

I think what is happening is that he is not comfortable yet with those lead changes, and finds it especially difficult when his rider is in the two-point and leaning too heavily on his front end, since he has to really lift up in order to get that flying change.  I've been working on them a bit this past week, and although I didn't have anyone to spot me Tuesday evening, I would have sworn we were getting them almost every time.  Friday, on the other hand, we absolutely were not (and that was why we rode so long and did so much cantering -- eventually I had to settle for a few good simple lead changes, trotting first and then going back into the canter with the changed lead).  My trainer says that until horses figure out how to do flying lead changes with a rider, it is often like that: Some days are great, and others, not so much.

In any case, I was practicing them at the sitting canter, and we never had any crow hopping -- partly why I really think the crow hopping is frustration because he isn't comfortable with them yet, and finds them difficult when we are putting too much weight on his front end.  V., on the other hand, was in her two-point, but she handled it great -- at first she was pulled forward, but she immediately sat back up, anchored in her legs, and rode it out.  But it did renew my resolve to keep working on our lead changes and to get him comfortable with them -- since he seems to be less cranky about it when I'm sitting, we'll get it that way first, and then work on it in the two-point.

Other than that, though, he was excellent, and V. had a wonderful ride, and I attribute it at least partly to our practice.  V. was so very happy afterward, and as I told her, it was a positive experience that will stick with both of them the next time they ride!

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