I think Cinny and I had an "A-Ha" day today..opinions please
I really wish I had video but alas, I don't always have my camera and there was nobody to help film anyway. I will describe what happened as best I can. I think this might be headed towards what I want???? Would like opinions.
I don't have my new saddle yet (It hasn't even shipped) but I decided to hop on bareback again today (after a nice back massage and carrot stretches). I have been working out at the gym on the ab/core machines and shoulder blades, etc and I think that has helped but I digress... this is how it went.
After a little warm up I started walking around and giving him squeezes and working on "closing the door" without fully restraining him. I found a place where I could easily squeeze and feel him move forward and there would be a moment of added tension to the bridle and then a sudden lightness and his head would drop...yet I had enough contact that I could still feel him licking the bit through the reins. At the same time his back would spread out and he felt like he blew himself up like a balloon...I imagine it would be the same feeling as if you were on a pilates ball and it suddenly was blown up about 5 times bigger than at should...his sides met my calves and it was easy to rest my calves on him.
Of course it was hit or miss, there were a few times that he would lunge forward, then try to rip the reins from my hands but after a while I found the balance of what was too much rein and not enough.
So I tried it at a trot. Well, all I got was lunging forward, fighting to canter. I just couldn't find the same balance as at the walk. So I quit and moved on to an activity he likes...leg yields. Well, he likes them once he realizes that is what you are asking...before he realizes you are giving different aids he tries to lunge forward. I got a few sloppy ones, he was acting fresh. The coach had left a line of cones up the center of the arena so I started leg yielding him back and forth through these and THAT is when it happened again. After 2 paces, when I turned him around for the third, it was as if he took a deep breath, relaxed his body, relaxed his jaw...and blew himself up like that balloon again. He trotted strongly however not rushy, not pushing or fighting the bit but allowing the super light contact with my hands as we went toward the cones and then became very responsive to the aids to leg yield.
It went three strides left, three strides right, three strides left, three strides right with barely a twitch of rein and a slight strengthening of pressure from my leg pushing him over. He licked his bit, flapped his jaw and was the lightest in my hands that he has ever been. It allowed me to sit up taller, concentrate on my posture and then he got even better with his rhythm, length of stride between cones, timing and his full attention was on me just waiting for that subtle hint that it was time to switch direction. At the ends he would give me a well balanced 10m circle with the same cadence an pricked his ears to those cones again.
Does this sound even remotely like what he should feel like when he is working properly? And if so, where do we go from here. Any ideas or suggestions on exercises to transfer this into trots without leg yields or cones? Once I leave the cones, after a few times around the arena he decides to revert back so we have to go back to leg yielding through cones...
Thank you for your suggestions...or for telling me something doesn't' sound right, if that is how you feel.
That sounds lovely! I wish I could ride as confidently bareback as you obviously can.
It sounds like Cinny gets tense and "bracey" when he is asked into movements that have no lateral component. Maybe if when you are working with him you remind yourself to think of moving forward as actually having him in "shoulder fore" that there would be enough of a lateral feel to keep him from bracing and barging.
Leg yields are an excellent way to teach a horse about the "leg to hand" contact, as are turn on the forehands.
To transfer what you have been feeling through the leg yields to eventually be "how you ride" try first getting the feeling through the cones (or even leg yields without the cones), then come onto a 20 meter circle and ride inwards to about the 15m mark, and spiral out using a leg yield. Repeat this and add some walk trot transitions within the leg yield to really get him understanding what you want. Eventually simply the application of your inside leg, and even just yielding for one step, or only thinking about yielding will be enough to refresh his "back to front" contact. If anything ever goes awry, go back to where you know you can do it, and go back to the drawing board if the exercises you have chosen are really not working. Nothing is set in stone.
ETA on this note and in seeing tiny's post - it is absolutely the "norm" (as much as it can be in horses) for them to only "get" a connection in the leg yields, or has tiny has put it "where there is a component of lateral movement". At this stage it is totally acceptable for the horse to need a leg yield to get into the contact. I would not however recommend shoulder fore at this point as on a horse who does not have an understanding of true lateral aids (that is - sideways with bend) this will only result in crookedness later in the game. Sideways is OK, but bend is not really the goal right now. That's too many holes to close in the colander at one time.
A few things to watch out for:
Make sure first of all that you are maintaining a straight line from nose to tail in the leg yields with the forehand slightly leading. Any crookedness indicates that the horse is not using his body correctly.
Make sure your hands are together, side by side, at the same height and no more than 4-6" apart at any time, regardless of everything. At this same token it is going to be beneficial for you to press your hands into his withers to keep them absolutely steady. The steadiness of you hands is what is going to build the foundation for Cinny's willingness to accept contact and the more they move around the more cracks will be in the foundation. Lots of people like to say that hands are "too low" or need to be wide apart to create a contact and both of these statements for the most part are incorrect in situations where the rider and horse are just learning about contact. Keep your hands together, infront of you and low down enough that they have something to touch or press into that they will be totally stable.
Finally, and this is a point in general about contact. A good contact feels like a nice strong pull from the horse. Think of it like a hand shake, you don't want the horse to break your hand, but he shouldn't hand you a limp fish either. As he gets more used to going back to front, don't be surprised if he starts putting more into the contact - this is correct and is going to be the goal. Eventually he will be able to give you a firm feel through the rein at all times while your hand is steady by the withers. If you need to, to help him to get this feel, shorten your reins slightly, that his nose is not behind the vertical, but that the rein length is how long it needs to be for him to be putting in a good contact, while maintaining the nose on or in front of the vertical. It is only once he is at this point and accepting your contact that you should start worrying about stretchy circles, or long and low. First you need to establish the "handshake" in normal working conditions, and the stretching is only to test that handshake.
Both of you make great sense.
@Anabel...I like what you said about straightness. I did notice today that on our yields Cinny's head would be facing perfectly forward however, he seem to be leading with his shoulder somewhat...I think. This is what would happen...we would yield to the right and his head would stay forward facing but his body would somewhat curve to the right so that while I was giving him left leg pressure, HE was giving my right leg pressure or leaning on it...like I was holding him up with that leg and could control how drastically he went sideways with it. When I asked him to change to the left his head would basically stay the same, however he would curve his body to the left and as I gave him pressure with my right leg, he was pressing against my left. His back legs stayed directly behind the front as if he were going straight, only his rib cage or HIS core (if that is what you would call it) his middle area were changed and moving. If his hind trailed behind he would easily fix it if I readjusted leg pressures.
But I felt like the part of his body controlling the movement was the shoulder (right shoulder when yielding right, left when yielding left).
Dang, I really need to get someone to video this :(
You are sitting on the hindlegs and steering with the shoulders. The hindlegs are where the power comes from, but they still have to follow in the foot prints of the forelegs. I think from your description that what you are feeling is correct. It is nice that he is so even on both sides.
Great post! I wish I could have a lesson on this as it is something I really don't know how to do correctly. It does lead to crookedness when done incorrectly and I am aware that I do not know how to get a correct leg yield except kind of by "accident", not by design.
Lol, he isn't always, sometimes his shoulders seem ahead of the movement but not with the cones. When we just do a leg yield the length of the arena is when the shoulders get ahead but if I give a little half halt and readjust leg pressure he seems to pause for a second and correct himself between strides.
Leg yields have always been his absolute favorite movement besides the canter. And depending on his laziness factor, some days it is his favorite because he is feeling to lazy to canter.
He will do turns on the for relatively well, but we haven't worked on them for a while. and he will do turns on the hind. He also likes another thing I do with him when I think he is haven't an ADD moment ...It's similar to the leg yields with cones...only it's without cones and not exactly a leg yield. It's just moveing his shoulders...three strides tot he right, three to the left, back and forth. He likes that one two. Basically is butt stays on the same line but his shoulders either are to the right or the left on it and go back and forth. Like a pendulum where his but is the base and his shoulders swing back and forth. He only gives a "little" of that curve I talked about above but not much. Anyway, I can do this a couple times the length of the arena and then his full attention is back on me.
He likes anything that is lateral or moveing shoulders and it seems to relax him. He does not however like turns on the fore where he has to only move his hind...they make him really really mad. I can get 1 or 2 full 360's each direction but if I ask more than that he gets made and will start tossing his head, trying to back up and rearing. And writing about it makes me think I should address that with his chiro...There could be something going on in his hind again.
There was a lot of work with circles leading to those hind spins etc... but the basics just seemed like dressage in slow motion and he even told the other riders you can't go fast until you can do it perfectly at slow speeds...then you gradually ask the horse to do it faster and faster but never moving to a faster speed until the current one is perfected or you risk your horse stumbling and injuring itself.
I don't think I would know how to keep him straight either if it wasn't for that 5 hour reining clinic! I guess I got very lucky and a big reward for thinking outside the box.
Hubby is home today and says he will video. I'm going to eat lunch and then head out to attempt to replicate yesterday's activities for the camera.....wish me luck. If I succeed you will have video to look at.
*Sigh* My horse is STILL leg yeilding by moving the shoulders, now move the haunches, now move the shoulders...... It's been several months, but as he is no longer a competition horse, I guess it doesn't really matter if he can do leg yields. From your description, it sounds like Cinny was using his back which is something I strive for with my horses. My gelding has horrible confirmation which prevents him from easily using his back and hind end to collect. My mare gets too distracted to use her back.
I'd say keep working on it and praise a TON when he gets it right. You might be able to get it more consistently. I find riding bareback 10x better for dressage movements than with a saddle. I can often be heard saying "Do you have to wear a saddle for dressage?" lol.
Just curious- was the weather really nice? My gelding get more supple and willing if it's nice outside. I'm wondering if I have a wierd horse or if it's like that for other people :)
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