This is a post from my horseforum.com thread that I started when I got Max. I’m so lucky the forum is still around and I was able to go back and add it to Lipizzan Life.
I gave Max the best ride of my life today. I tried to focus completely on helping him to be successful.
I started with my obligatory two carrots, one to catch him in the field, one after he is in the cross ties I gave him a peppermint with his bit, since he has been kind of sour about being bitted lately. We had gone through a phase where I wasn’t treating him because I thought it was making him a brat, but I really really really don’t get the feeling that he is trying to be a brat in any way. He has been much more loving with the new carrot ration, too. He walks up to the gate when I go to catch him. He’s always nuzzling and making eyes at me. I know it’s a lot of him just acting cute to get treats, but it’s better than sideways glares.
I hand walked him with his quarter sheet on to warm him up. By the time I got on him, he was ready to trot. I wanted to take it slow, though, and work on our focus. I focused on half halts to make him focus on me. It worked wonderfully, and it made me more aware of how all his “bratty” moves are simply reactions to my mistakes.
Mistake 1: Not half halting enough. I have to half halt to prepare him for any change, from transitions, to bending, anything and everything. I have to half halt him every few strides to re organize us. I KNEW that before, but I wasn’t doing it . When he decides he wants to randomly change direction or walk through my leg, it’s always after I’ve gone too long without a half halt!
Mistake 2: Not staying connected between my hand and legs. It does go along with the half halt mistake, but I noticed that sometimes I would focus on a part of my body, and he would veer off in an undesired direction as a result of me loosing contact on a rein, or on a leg. If a part of me disappears from his radar, he gets thrown off and reacts accordingly.
Mistake 3: Not staying with him in transitions. This goes along with the hand and leg. I have to focus painfully hard (because it’s new) to stay connected with him through transitions. I can’t mentally jump ahead into the trot, because one or all of my contact points could disappear from him, and there’s no pretty way to get that back. If I stay connected with him through our transition, I keep control of every aspect of his movement. He wants to stay connected to me, he wants to know what he should do.
Mistake 4: I can not react to him. The second I react to him, I lose my connection with him. If he is trotting too fast, I can’t react by pulling on the reins. It’s not going to get our connection back. He trotted too fast as a result of me losing connection in the first place. I CAN regain our connection with half halts and feeling our connection again so I can get back on top of it. It’s easier to just keep connected in the first place.
Our connection is everything, hands, seat, legs.
So the reason our ride was so wonderful is because he started the whole thing with a completely wintery attitude. Skittering, walking through aids, dragging me to the gate, all of it. As I felt out the right buttons to push, he transformed into a quiet, focused, relaxed mount.
He wants to be good! He wants me to be connected and be the driver.
We did a lot of trotting, bending, and walk – trot – walk transitions. We rode a long time, at least an hour and a half. I gave him a lot of free walk breaks during our ride. Nearly everyone was at the barn riding together in the outdoor arena, and our riding instructor was playing dressage music for us all to play with. I laid claim to one of the songs for my freestyle.
What ended the ride was this amazing walk-trot transition, followed through with a dreamy trot. I put every ounce of what I had learned into staying connected with him through the transition, and my body mystically followed through with a perfect sitting trot with my core absorbing all the movement, and Max responded by being completely attuned to me and giving me this light, prancy, breathtaking trot… (this sentence is so grammatically incorrect, sorry) … and arching his neck into a heavenly position, with his mouth soooo lightly following my hands. Oh my god it was like … just… amazing. My riding instructor was all over it!!!
We also almost cantered today. We did kind of for a few “CAN I CANTER PLEASE?” steps, but I said “no no, not now”, and he said “oh ok”
I scheduled a lesson for next week. I’m going to keep working him with these principles until lesson day. I’m hoping to get the canter out of the way next week in my lesson. The challenge is staying as focused and connected as I need to be during the canter to keep him with me.
LASTLY I have to squee about my birthday!!! Everyone gave me money for horse stuff! I ordered a new bit (to replace the one we are borrowing, that’s a little too big) and a micklem bridle, and sport boots for Max, and my dressage show jacket. WHEW. I am GOOD on horse stuff for awhile. Now I can just save up for my verhan saddle that I want custom made, when Max is developed enough.