I have to start this with my most hilarious story of the week. I had a really crappy ride with L on Wednesday. I have the worst habit of drilling, and on L, that’s just not possible with him.
It just was not a pretty ride and I take full responsibility of that ride because it was all on me and I got too in my head. Plus it was the day after a day off, so he was a little extra and I just over thought it. Full blame, my fault.
Thursday JM rode L to make sure it was me not him, and shocker it was me.
Friday was my lesson with GJM, and originally I had plans to ask about half halts after Wednesday’s debacle, but last minute asked to work on straight lines. I’ve been doing so many loops and curves and lateral work that our straight lines weren’t very straight. I’d go on a straight line, and L would immediately anticipate lateral work and start sliding left and right.
GJM had me ride quarter line to quarter line, and keep him straight between my seat and my hands first at the walk, then move up to the trot. We quickly discovered tracking right, my inside rein liked to take over and I’d grab with the inside rein while turning. Problems of being a righty, plus I was anticipating not being able to turn, so I’d grab and over bend.
We spent a bit working on the turns, and when I was thinking about it, I was able to shift to using my outside rein more. After a walk break, L was ignoring my half halts, so we did a lot of walk halt walks first, trying to get a soft transition where he would not hollow or back up to try and avoid a collected halt.
It was super hard from the walk. L first started to wiggle in the transitions and drift either left or right. I had to really remember to use my outside rein in those transitions. We fixed that, and then L would lift slightly against my hands in the halt, and I wasn’t totally aware so I’d unintentionally let him. He would take the literal inch I gave, hollow and back up.
GJM said “if he hollows, don’t follow it, keep your hands low and wide”. After thinking really hard about my hands, we got some really nice walk halts. Then we bumped it up to trot-walk-trot’s, which I struggled with him wiggling in the transition again. At first, L was trotting, going to a halt and immediately hollowing, but then we got a few really nice ones where he stayed through in the transition down and up, so GJM had me do the same exercise in the canter.
Holy hell it was hard. With L, he goes better if my hands are a bit higher in the canter, so I had to keep my hands high in the canter, drop them wide and low for the downward transition, and in the upward bring them back up and my brain was melting. Getting that transition within a few strides was hard too, it took me the whole long side a few times to get the canter back.
We had some really nice canter-trot-canters, and at one point, I got a wrong lead. It gave GJM an idea, and she decided with the last 15 mins of my lesson we’d try counter canter. Add something new into the mix, and it was a good thing to learn where I was at in my riding.
Guys it broke my brain. Like completely broke my brain. It took a few tries to realize I had to completely swap my aids from right to left, and that was throwing me off big time. Poor L was a good sport, and I think he pitied me a bit because what he did next I definitely did not expect.
GJM suggested cantering across the diagonal to get it instead of trying to ask in reverse, so we did. And L did a partial flying change, just changed up front. We brought it back, and tried again. One perfect clean flying change across the diagonal. Did a second time, and got another clean change. I took a break, and GJM tried to reexplain where my body needed to be.
At this point, JM was coming in with H for her lesson, and GJM casually mentioned I was getting flying changes instead of counter canter. JM said she had to watch, so we did it one more time. And L executed another clean change as I crossed the diagonal.
JM was cracking up, and in her words, “I’ve been training this horse for 14 freaking years and it took me three just to get semi clean changes and you just got three clean ones in 15 minutes without trying?!” I was laughing the rest of the afternoon.
L has been retired from third level work since 2018, and pre third level work, he was the counter canter king. I guess he wants to be the flying changes king now.
It definitely boosted my mood and helped me feel a lot better about my riding after a rough ride on Wednesday. If I can get flying lead changes on a horse who hasn’t done them in 2 years by accident and do them clean, everything else has to come easy right?
Lush had a pretty decent week. I don’t know if I mentioned it last week, but on Sunday we did the whole track by ourselves with no balking or stressing out. Monday I think I got on a plopped around aimlessly and then hopped off. Tuesday one of the barn rats rode her. I decided not to get on Wednesday because the L ride was not pretty and I wasn’t ready to pick a fight with Lush if my brain wasn’t in it.
Thursday we had our lesson with JM, which was nice to make up. She was a bit feisty to start, and we warmed up both directions before we began, but we had some awesome moments. JM has been drilling me about contact and keeping her on the bit. There’s no reason for the giraffe neck at this point in our working relationship of 7 months (I cannot even fathom I’ve been working with this mare for 7 months?!). We worked on getting me to relax, because once I was relaxed, she would reach for the bit and come round herself. It was a lot of “soft hands soft arms, no angry arms” muttered to myself as I went around.
We’ve been working on adding the crop to my rides, just as an extra back up to my leg. Lush knows what leg means, but still doesn’t entirely understand leg doesn’t always mean run forward. And because I’ve had to use my legs more, she’s starting to ignore them. So JM suggested we continue to ride with a crop and use it more not just in the canter but the trot work too. + 1 crop.
She was, and still is, highly offended whenever I’d have to use it not in the canter. I almost want to try spurs with her, but one step at a time. We had some beautiful moments, and worked on keeping her straight. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes her shoulders and her pelvis tip in completely opposite directions when she doesn’t want to do something, and I end up riding a pretzel instead of a horse.
The canter came faster this week, and we focused on getting her to come round in the canter as well as avoid the tiny circle of doom. She likes to fly on one shoulder in the indoor on this tiny barely 20 meter circle, so we worked on pushing her out off the tiny donut. The canter is coming a lot faster to the right, it takes one canter with just the crop and then after that I can get it with just my leg, no kissing necessary. We worked on the upward and downward transitions too, and the downward ones were nicer than our average transitions.
I hopped on her Friday afternoon as well, just quickly. I worked her enough that she dried herself after standing in the rain all day, but not so badly that she sweat. We played with WTC, and I wasn’t fussing too much with everything, I just wanted to canter a few times and call it a day.
Saturday I just rode L. It was wasn’t our hallelujah amazing ride like the day before, but I wasn’t really caring. It was a hard ride, especially because someone wanted to be fancy and chuck in some flying changes, so we just chilled. I’d been planning on just light wtc, but changed my mind mid ride, and just settled fro some nice trot and did a stroll up and down the driveway before hopping off. I need more fun rides with L, and less stress.
I skipped Lush with plans to ride her Sunday. We ended up having leave early, JM had a few mirrors to pick up on the way home and I went with her to get them, so I had no time for poor Miss Lush.
Sunday I did chores, helped pick paddocks, and then, we finally clipped L. I’ve been mentioning we’ve been planning to go Au Natural this winter, but after JM rode him on Thursday, she decided it was time.
And oh boy we were glad we did it. He started sweating on the cross ties before we even started, so we were both glad we went with it. JM did most of it, she knows him best and has been doing it for the past 14 years, so I was happy to let her do it. I did part of his neck when she needed a break, but minus 1 or 2 patchy spots we couldn’t get because of how sweaty he got mid clip, it turned out pretty good.
We left his legs mostly, just clipped the feathers off the lower legs and left his uppers. JM thinks we may have to take the legs, but we’re going to see how he does this week in terms of cooling out and decide from there. It took longer then we planned, he does have a double coat, so it was stupid annoying to have to make two passes in each spot, but it worked out well.
He is now his pretty mouse grey again and I love it. Lush got sidelined that afternoon because who wants to ride a horse after clipping a literal yak? I had hair everywhere, and ended up going home and taking a shower.
We had an awesome lesson however on Monday evening. JM ended up riding L, so that left all the time in the world for me to ride Lush.
JM was really happy with our upward and downward transitions at the canter. They were coming a lot quicker, and I was able to almost entirely fade out using the crop to get the upward transition. I am really debating getting some no turn bell boots for riding. Lush takes a giant first step into the canter, and her bell boots make a shit load of noise, we actually spooked someone on our first depart.
JM also had me bringing my hands low and wide in the trot work, and it was really hard for me to figure out how to get my hands low, practically to my knees, and still bend my elbows and keep my shoulder back. JM said it was time I stopped sacrificing my equitation for Lush to come round, so now it is a goal to it up straighter and stop leaning. Leaning is a killer for me, I don’t lean on a few horses, like L and Reba, but I lean a lot on Lush.
Overall, I was ridiculously happy with where we were with our canter work despite not having a lot of consistent work over the past few weeks.
Aaaand that was my week. This week I have another GJM lesson on Friday, and JM has a clinic on Saturday with H. I am backup if someone backs out with L, but at this point in time I’m happy just to go watch and take photos for JM.
I chatted with JM after my lesson about planning an adventure day to take Lush off property. Lush was a big show horse when she was young, so it probably isn’t a huge deal for her, but she hasn’t left the farm since she arrived last September. Lush is still technically bubbled a bit, and JB has plans to start swapping stalls around come spring to get her used to the idea she won’t always be in her stall, and moving her around the paddocks as well.
There is another school horse JM wants to take off property and see how he does, so hopefully that might happen in the next few months. It’s all up in the air right now, (plus we need permission from JB to take both horses), and I just wanted to plant the idea for the future.