My last two lessons since the horse show have taken the wondermare to a whole new level. In our lesson last week following the horse show, we did a lot of work on the flat to improve some of the things Renee and I noticed in the flat class.
We started with the walk, continuing some of the exercises we had been working on for the walk and adding to it with a different foot position when using the spur. After we got that where we wanted it we moved on to the trot. She started a bit pokey so Renee had me stop and start over bringing her into a tighter frame to push her up then letting her stretch her head down into the position we want for showing.
After that we did a lot of work on the canter. We wanted to improve the headset, as well as, get her to use her hindquarters just a bit more. We started with using the new spur application method, while also using a subtle half halt where I move the hands almost in a circle going with the motion of her shoulders. This helped us achieve the goal of getting the hindquarters and resulted in a lovely canter. We did make some progress with the headset with this, but not enough.
The next exercise we did, we worked on getting her to stretch her head all the way down, past where we would even want it at the show. Renee says you should get the poll to flex 5 or 6 inches in either direction from neutral, which is about where we would want it at the horse show. I would half halt for 5 strides, then let out the reins an inch and leave her alone for at least ten strides, then repeat. Renee wanted us to eventually get to the point where I was just about parallel with her neck in position and had my hands down to about my knees. We did this a few times each direction until I was able to get her head nice and low. By the end she was about 6 inches below where we would put her at the horse show which is just what Renee wanted.
We also did another exercise where I brought her nose in as far I could until she dropped it and curled her neck. I would hold this for about ten strides then let her stretch back out. Renee said this exercise if repeated daily would cause her to build neck muscles and that I would see an improvement in just a couple of weeks. Well in the lesson that day it took quite a few times around the ring before she would do what I call the seahorse neck, but the next day she would do it within 4 to 5 strides and hold it longer.
We hadn't had an intense flat lesson like that in a while, but we sure needed it. In today's lesson we had a great walk right from the start. She was bit funny at the trot though, but it ended up being stiffness in her hocks which is typical. After trotting a little each way, we cantered once each way to wake her up and stretch her out. After that we did the trot again and did a lot of bending to help with the hocks. Then we did our canter exercises from last week. Renee was impressed with how quickly she took to what I deemed the seahorse exercise. She thought her head position had improved a lot and she was now beginning to naturally put herself in the headset we wanted.
We did a short course for the last half of the lesson, which included the bending line that I sometimes have problems with. Not today though! I kept my focus dead on and she went over it perfectly. The first time over the course we had our usual rough patches that result from my mistakes. We soon got into the groove and went through the course smoothly though it was a bit quick. We worked on my hands which often get in my way, doing an exercise where I put my hands out in front of me going to and then over the jump. This also made it easier for her to stretch her neck down while jumping and use her back more. We had a few mishaps with my changing position or losing focus causing her to get out after the first few times we did this. Then I got it together and we did the course a couple more times.
By the time she was doing the course quite nicely. The only issue was the final bending line, which she rushing a bit and taking the bigger distance. Renee said the issue here was I was changing my back just before the jump. We did the line a few times by itself to fix that and ended up with what Renee called a perfect line.