Starting to ask more of my mare - critique please.
I'll "try" not to write a novel here
I am a partially damaged rider, and after an accident in 2009 I only really got back into riding last year. Our attempts were very stop-start as I have an ongoing issue with my knee in my right leg, along with the damage to it from breaking it. All the same I feel I am improving well. This year I've managed to keep Honey in relatively active work. We need to work on more fitness in the week when I can't ride (I'm a uni student so only get to ride 2-3 times a week) but so far she is getting to the point where I can ask more of her.
I'm NOT trying to make my mare go into a frame. In the past I used to believe the head had to be carried before the back end could effectively fall into place. I know, a bit of a backward thinking. What I am asking from my mare - or attempting to - is for her to accept some form of contact, and work off my leg aids. She is very finicky - she disliked contact on her mouth (she was abused but I have gotten teeth/bits/everything checked to ensure I'm not causing any extra issue) and when I put the leg on and have some contact, sometimes we have some arguments We've however gotten passed the titchy moments over multitasking from both hand and leg aids and I'm pleased to say that Honey is offering herself more.
In the walk I feel we are slowly getting to a point of what is expected of her, she has moments where I really feel her come under herself and she begins to swing from behind and come into my hand. However, I believe Honey thinks I just want her to hold her head and has naturally begun carrying herself (somewhat behind the vertical at points) when I pick up even a slight contact. I'm wondering what I can do to correct this? I have chosen to ride her on a looser rein and use more leg to help with any sucking back in her gait that has come from this work, and it has slowly improved.
As for the trot - I'm attempting to open my chest and look up and use my shoulders - not bracing them but not slumping either - and attempt to keep my hands quiet and steady. However, I feel I cannot seem to get what I'm asking from her in the walk into the trot. We get it and then I can't seem to maintain it and the trot falls back to a faster, less balanced affair. I HAVE noticed improvement in her trot tempo from all this work, so it hasn't all been moot!
I'm not asking for anything in the canter as we are still establishing it (she's a Standardbred) and I'm just happy if she comes down from the transition back into a solid trot - which I've been getting. I hoped if I worked on making her more supple, she would find the canter work more efficient and easier.
My questions for critique are:
- Am I on the right path here, of asking for consistent contact and working off the aids so we can improve our rhythm and work up the pyramid training scale I've learnt from this forum? I feel we are getting more relaxation with our work in asking for more contact, but we have a long way to go yet.
- What can I change/improve on (whilst paying attention to my limitations) to make what we're endeavouring to do more correct? I'm not looking for much critique on my legs - I can't feel one sometimes in the saddle, so I work my butt off trying to make sure I'm even across her back and putting weight into each leg, but they're turned out I know and it's still all very much so a work in progress.
- How do I bring what I have from the walk up into the trot? A friend of mine said she holds her shoulders, and holds her hands until the horse softens into them. I feel like I'm bracing, and effectively asking Honey back in her trot if I try this... and as I said above, have opted to trying to open my chest, straighten my shoulders and try to keep my hands steady. I have also been *finally* able to incorporate my leg and niggle with the inside or outside one asking for more bend or speed - but this is very much so a work in progress given the nature of my legs and how dormant one had become in the saddle.
Before all this work we have extensively done walking and trotting work on a loose rein to ensure she is moving forward, and to help her loose a few kilos. I feel she is ready for this work and she has been meeting my expectations with a fair amount of willingness.
Not one of our best, but to show what is happening at times...
I'm aiming to get a video tomorrow and will post in this thread if I find the courage to - I'm really wanting to improve to help this mare... because lately she's just been offering me so much more and if I can make things easier for her, I want to try. Thanks heaps for getting to the end of this thread, and thanks in advance for any constructive criticism you may have.
And just a friendly observation for some - I'm aware of my own weight and my horse's too. I don't need to be reminded like I have had in the past, thank you :)
Id be the last person to remind you of your weight. Mine is keeping me company 24/7.
Ok, I liked your explanations and think that you are very much on the right track. I can see remarkable differences in the way the horse is moving. Some of those photos are very nice pictures and I can just see the horse stepping forward into your hand. Your leg may turn outward, but your vertical alingment is very good. It's harder to see for us "round" folks, but if you focus on the skeleton of the person, you can see good alignment for sure.
My guess is that it's just going to take time to have the horse able to accept the contact at the trot, since it took time to do it at the walk. It's a bit of a vicious circle in that the horse worries about the contact , hollows out her back, makes it harder for you to sit her stably, thus your contact might not be as smooth and so she hollows out her back.
One thing you can do is work on the upward transition. I can often sit or post a rough horse for the first few strides pretty darn good if I get a good upward transition to begin with. Then, things can fall apart but at least I got a good few strides.
So work on getting her to walk really nicely coming to the bit. If she is starting to suck back, don't take that time as your time to ask for trot. Find the time when she is lifting a bit and comeing to the bit, and ask for a trot. Make her as put together as possible, and then literall think of scooping her up a bit and think trot. You might even literally start posting a milisecond before she does. Some horses will start to trot as soon as they feel you posting. Allow her to move forward without too much contact, with your focus more on "move into trot NOW> and you want to feel her really step into it. There will be a stride or two where the trot feels awesome! Let her have her head for the first few times.
Once she is taking a trot lightly (is in front of your leg), then ask for a bit more contact during the trot. Hopefully, the first few awesome trot strides wont go back to sucking back/behind the bit ones.
Of course, every time you ask the horse up into a trot, you ahve to go back down again. I am not sure what to say here as to how to improve them. You will know what you need to do .
THEN, here's another thing you can do; once she is better at moving into trot off a light leg, start her into a trot, then ask for a down transition, but just before she breaks to walk, put your leg on and say trot on! Trot, half halt to almost walk, then leg on forward! And if necessary, open the front door a bit with the reins. Once she is forward , bring in more contact and try to "catch' that forward surge from almost walk to trot.
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment Caroline! I was kind of hoping to see you pop in
Your description of moving up into the trot is what I have been doing. I've ensured she is walking out, and really giving me what I'm after and then pushing her forward into the trot. However, due to the other advice I was given, I've been holding a bit with my hands in hopes she'll follow what she had in the walk oops. I find though with a good start, the trot is more balanced and then I can niggle and she starts to offer *a little*. Yesterday's ride at first the trot was rather fast in the warm up but after really setting her up, it felt like we had much more rhythm and she slowly began to lower her head and I was able to ask her to use herself more... it was a moment where I was very pleased!!
Our downwards transition from the trot and walk needs more improvement, so I'll definitely be using that technique to see if I can strengthen that and also work on the trot, what a handy idea! I remember doing something similar with another mare I used to own, but with trot to canter.
Thank you also for mentioning I'm being more correctly aligned. You have followed our progress, so know that I've REALLY been trying to be the best I can be for my little mare. I can only hope all this riding will make things good for Seoul (I'm hopping up on her tomorrow after Honey too) but for now, Honey is really offering so much more, and I'm so thrilled that I'm not letting her down like I originally thought I was!
Hmm I need to stop being so self critical - I thought that wasn't a nice shot hahah, namely because a fellow friend mentioned she was not carrying herself correctly and I needed to stop yanking her into a frame... however, my contact is not short enough to do such a thing currently!
And yes I have lost weight. I'm in that ridiculous stage of being too small for my current pants, but too big for a size smaller. Rather driving me bonkers!!
I'm quite nervous to post this haha... but as promised here's the video. It's only of work on one rein. I had to learn a lesson the hard way yesterday... my jodphurs disappeared so I hastily put on a pair of older jeans - I forgot they are like a size bigger around the waist so when I started trotting, I soon learnt all about it - very annoying!!
I know some of what needs to be fixed - my arms/elbow bend was dreadful and I thought I was looking up more than I clearly was Although it's not the best work on my behalf, this was the part of our ride where Honey really "clicked". And even though I wish to look much better than this, I learnt a lot from watching this clip and the rest of the video. So I'm kind of thankful for this taping haha!
Thanks waresbear! I have always had an issue with my hands... I keep lifting them but then I drop them and I'm forever having to remind myself - just need to make it more consistent. Thank you so much again :)
Well, you guys look good! My answer to everything regarding collection is to lunge/trot them over poles....lol. I am afraid I am not too much help here....and btw, your size and your horse size is absolutely within the range of what she is capable of....so if anyone mentioned it in the past I would disregard them:)