Surprise weekend post! I realized that I’ve been soaking up helpful tidbits like a thirsty little sponge lately, and I wanted to get them all in one spot. Without further ado, here’s what I’d like to get in my muscle memory:
- Large circles with a counter-bend to small circles with the correct bend help give a lot of suppleness and softness at the trot. Changing the bend often is a great way to break up stiffness and resistance.
- Long warmups at the walk, both on and off the contact, are great for getting Beastly’s back moving and getting in the right mental state. Show up a little early for rides so we have plenty of time to do big stretchy circles before getting into more strenuous work.
- When the Unicorn tries to lean on my inside hand and get unbalanced around corners, give her a good push with my inside leg to force her into my outside aids.
- However, don’t overdo the bend. Keep a very strong feel on the outside aids around corners.
- Pick my hands up- bracing on her mane does absolutely nothing except ruin my position and take away control. Hands should be at hip height for now until I learn to let them be more independent.
- Sit up straight and sit deep. We may have fun at hunter shows, but a light seat doesn’t help us. Nor does leaning up the neck until I’m lying on my face. As my trainer tells me so often, “Ride like ze Germans!”
- Take deep breaths on the approach to a fence. This has a 100% success rate of getting us to a nice distance. I can still sometimes find a decent takeoff spot if I’m not breathing regularly, but it happens much more naturally if I’m actually taking in oxygen.
- Half-halt with my thighs. This has recently changed my world. Suddenly my half-halts are actually accomplishing something pretty dramatic! Remember to back it up with a lot of leg.
- Leg leg leg leg leg leg leg. It is OK to soften when things are going well. Softening does not equal taking leg off. As soon as the leg comes off, we lose brakes, steering, gas pedal, all sorts of control. Leg must be on at all times.
- As stated, soften when things are going well. Don’t be clinging to her face or half-halting every other stride if we’re balanced and comfortable. Correct her just enough to reach a good place, and then reward her by getting out of her way. Re-correct as necessary.
- Use all the releases in my toolbox. If we have a very tight turn as soon as we land, an 80s style gigantic jumper release probably isn’t the right choice. Our automatic release has proved to be a fantastic choice most of the time, but there is still a place for the familiar crest release.
- Get Drafty McDrafterson to stop trying to pull from her front end like her plow-horse ancestors, and get her instead to push from her hind end by doing tons of extension-collection transitions. Collection needs SO MUCH LEG to encourage her to pick herself up and channel the energy more roundly instead of just forward.
- Give My Little Pony infinite kisses and treats for challenging me and teaching me, all while making sure I stay safe. She has saved my butt countless times as I try to put all the pieces together. She earns all those cookies.