You know those lessons where things aren’t perfect, but you hop off and feel really good about the work you put in?
We had one of those this week. We made some mistakes, my bad habits popped up, but I felt like Frankie was really workmanlike and we were super on the same page about fixing what needed to be fixed.
One highlight was a long approach single vertical on the wall that showed up every course. First try: we got to a decent spot, but for some reason my body totally pretzeled and we took the rail down. Second try: we got to a decent spot, but Frankie thought it was boring and we took the rail down. Third try: Trainer decided to give him something to focus on and raised it to 4’ish, and we left the rail up.
When left to his own devices, Frankie jumps SO much better and cleaner when we amp up the difficulty and engage him mentally. Tighter turns, bigger jumps all are interesting enough to him to get him really firing off the ground and thinking about his job. My job is to create that fire and get him focusing and thinking, even when his job is a little bit easier.
On that note, it’s super cool to see what engages him and what doesn’t and how that changes over time. Things that used to be difficult (and therefore interesting) for him have slowly become easier (and boring), and we’re able to turn up the heat to ask for more. He’s delightfully trainable and not bothered by pressure.
When going through a bending line (bending left, four strides that needed some woah once the jumps went up), Trainer made the rail very uneven with the left side higher. My job was to still jump the center of the jump, with the uneven rail encouraging Frankie to keep his body straight over it instead of leaning to the left through the turn. When I let him jump the low side- yawn, poor form. When I kept my leg on and got him to the middle, we got a great effort. Trainer commented that going to the low side is a green horse move- it gives them more room to fit the stride in, makes the track a little easier, and keeps the question simple. Frankie (and I) both know better, so we need to perform at a higher level.
We used the gag converter in this lesson, and I gotta say- I love it! 90% of the time I don’t need it and that gag rein has some flop in it. But the 10% of the time that he’s kinda tuning me out and bopping around singing LALALA I AM FRANCIS, it’s been just the right amount of “oomph” to get him back under me. I really like that it’s the same plain snaffle too. I felt like he got a little backed off on the slow twist, but with the plain one he feels more comfortable in the mouth. I’m excited to take it for a test run at McDonogh this weekend! We’ll be doing the 1.10m Ch/AA division as a nice soft season opener to get our sea legs before Ohio.
We also have homework from AT! She put her first ride since October on him last week, and gave me the following instructions for my own rides on him:
- Ride him off the rail, and don’t let him fade out through our turns. He’s developed the habit of fading out to the rail and picking his own track, and we want him tuned in. No more just following the outside- lots of figures and working off the rail and CONTROLLING THE DANG HAUNCH THROUGH THE TURNS.
- Amp up the intensity. He’s getting one pro ride from her, one lesson with me, and one day off a week which means four days of flatwork. Those are no longer allowed to be toodling. If we want to build enough fitness and muscle for the bigger tracks, we need to work towards that. It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) high impact work, but tons of transitions between and within the gaits to get him firing harder and develop those muscles. She mentioned that every horse has a weakness, and our job is to make sure that we’re not stressing that weakness. Frankie’s is that he’s a little bit over at the knee, so we want to help make sure he can rock back to use his hind end more, and use his body effectively over the jumps so he lands comfortably.
- More carrot stretches! His left side is stiffer than his right- it’s naturally his weaker side and I’ve only made it worse with my own unevenness. We’re going to incorporate more stretches every day to help him even out and build that suppleness. Along those lines, we’re also going to be incorporating massage/chiro to make sure that as he’s working and getting more flexible, we’re removing any barriers to that and keeping him comfortable.
I feel super super motivated after getting these instructions from her. I absolutely love that she takes the time to explain the “why” of the work and how it will help keep Frankie in top condition. It makes me even more determined to follow through- we’re not just doing this so Frankie can jump big jumps, we’re doing this so that he can be healthy and safe for a long time to come.
PS- Every person to whom I’ve mentioned, “oh yeah, my horse will start getting regular massages this year,” thinks I’m a total nutcase. But I know all y’all are nutcases too. Anything for the ponies, amiright?
Sounds like a really productive week! I think pro rides are a great asset, and so many ammy’s (myself included for a LONG time) feel like resorting to a pro is admitting we can’t do it ourselves. But it’s really not that at all. I think it’s really important for someone else to hop on once in awhile and see what they feel. When we ride the same horse every day, we may not notice things like them drifting to the rail. Or maybe they’ve gotten weaker on one side. Whatever. Little things pop up and can go unnoticed when you’re the only one riding day in and day out. Plus, let’s face it, I’m not a pro for a reason. So it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a pro remind my horses what the right answers are sometimes.
Trainer’s groom does carrot stretches with all the horses before they get tacked up everyday. Badger has learned to expect that, and will actually do them himself when you walk him into the grooming stall. And if you don’t reward that with said carrot, he gets VERY offended!
But I digress… Sounds like you had a great learning week and are well on your way to a great season!
I’m a HUGE fan of pro rides! Of course I love learning with my pony, but having fresh “eyes” on him and reminding him of the right answer is so so so valuable in my eyes. Especially as we try to move up to a height I’m not as experienced at, having my trainer show him the right answer keeps us both safer by making sure at least one of us knows what we’re doing! Then getting specific homework to do is like getting an extra lesson out of it. It’s been such a great program for bringing Francis along ❤
lol that picture exaggerating his over at the knee! He looks so funny! My bay TB growing up was over at the knee too and it never bothered him, his soundness issues were arthritis related as he aged and never had any tendon/ligament issues as long as I knew him. But I also feel ya on the getting all the bodywork done on your horse! I’m a sucker for making sure Chimi is regularly worked on by someone…it really does make a difference in his comfort level!
I feel like it looks so pronounced in that picture, it’s really not that intense!! I’m glad to hear it never bothered your guy- we’re doing everything we can to make sure it’ll never bother Frankie either 🙂
Can’t lie, half the time when I mention all the upkeep I do for my horses to non-horsey people they look at me like I’ve grown a second head. But I can’t lie, I have NO SHAME that my horses get way more chiro adjustments and massages than I do. NO SHAME.
Fiance thinks it’s absolutely hilarious when I say “but he NEEDS a massage,” but like…he NEEDS it
Cosmo gets bored with smaller jumps and boring courses. Tight turns, bigger oxers and he’s all about it. When he’s bored he kind of takes over, “no, we’ll turn here, “nah, don’t need to go straight after that jump,” “I’M HORIZONTAL RUNNING!!!!!!!” or, “Bleh, this is fast enough, cookie lady.” But when they are up, or the arena is tight, he’s game: “where are we going? here comes a big one! where next? Turn now? Knees tight!”
Yes!! Especially the HORIZONTAL RUNNING part. Frankie is never trying to actually go anywhere, he just is like UGH NO IMMA KEEP GOING THIS IS BORING. He and Mo both need some of that mental stimulation it sounds like 😉
If there is no mental stimulation Mo’s mind wanders to whatever threats he can think of hiding in the bushes