Transitions on a not so forward mount?
So, I've been struggling through something...
A forward, quick tempo is not my horse's favourite thing to do. He will happily engage and lift his back, but at a slower tempo. I can get him forward with good impulsion now, but I am struggling through something recently.
Sometimes, when I finally have a lovely flowing forward trot, I am loathe to do downward transitions (I'm still mostly doing only trot-walk) because it always kills his forwardness. If I do a lot of them, he will be quite engaged and swinging, but it takes a bit of time to bring back the faster tempo. But each time it is a bit faster than the time before, so...
This last week we've had a lot of general success since my coach finally hopped on him after a long time and got his butt kicked. And I got to really remember what a light horse feels like. (they're not kidding when they say the horse feels like butter!!)
But when on my own, I've been trying to replicate that same feeling. He is waaay more forward now than he was before, and now I even have to take more breaks since he is panting and tiring out much faster now. (well, it's finally hot here, so he's not used to working hard in the heat either)
Is this just a strength thing? I DO notice he picks up the faster tempo faster each time, but it's still not the same if I went, say, down the long side with no transitions.
I'm not even really sure what I'm asking. Am I just being impatient? And if I suck it up and do more, even though it seems to slow things down, I suppose it will make him stronger so he keeps that tempo longer?
On slow horses, often times the rider makes it worse by nagging the horse.
Same with, on hot horses, the rider makes it worse by taking the leg completely off.
When you are riding a horse who tends to be behind the aids, use very few aids, very sparingly. Many slower horses respond well to more training from seat aids. A slow, behind the aids horse is actually (I find) more sensitive than a horse who tends to overreact to the aids or is "hot". On a slower horse a rider tends to try to aid every stride to get more from the horse - which annoys them or makes them a bit angry and then the nice ones simply ignore you, but most of them will stop and rear (eventually, at least). Hot horses, as soon as they accept your leg, are more apt to be totally chill with you having it there and giving aids with it.
So, give the horse a small aid, the one you want him to respond to, then after no reaction, give him a kick, and if that still does not illicit the response you want, make him wish he had responded to the first aid. Then take everything off, force your heels down and legs off and pat him, if he stops then wallop him. Then ask him to come back, and repeat. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, or don't have the timing (the time between the first aid and the kick and the proverbial "beating" is less than a stride), get your coach to hop on to get him tuned in, and then be very diligent to keep your leg off of the horse unless you are specifically asking for something.
It will only take a few rides for this to sink in, but then you must maintain it every day.
Sometimes, it's so hard to not get sucked into a vicious cycle... he ignores me a little, so I ask more, so then it becomes nagging and so he ignores me more...! My coached managed to steer us in the right direction by hopping on a couple times now. What a difference.
My trouble sometimes is when I need to really send the message across, I'm not as strong as I need to be. I spent some time when I first got him to desensitizing him to the dressage whip (he initially freaked quite a bit about it just holding it, now I can tap him between the ears...) but he's maybe too desensitized. But I have an inkling I'm just not being effective with my strong taps. My coach, the last time she rode him, said he was easy to correct since he respected the whip. But I don't get that feeling sometimes!!!
Cues/aids are all about follow through. if he is ignoring your leg and your whip, up and aid until he DOES listen. Maybe try it on his neck, or cluck as you tap him with the whip. Or Jane Savoi has this method of "refreshing" your legs by taking them completely off, moving them back an inch, and dropping them and keeping them on the horse.
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