During the week after watching a few others at my yard ride and then reading The Dressage Tipster’s post about warming up your horse, I was inspired to try and have a really productive schooling session, so no lazy riding from me!
Scottie had been in since early afternoon Friday, so once I was on we spent a long time just walking on a long rein. We probably walked laps of the school for a good 8+ minutes (or at least it felt that way) before asking for trot and doing more laps on along rein. I do this as I think it is important to allow him to stretch and get the blood flowing before asking him to work ‘properly.’ Especially with a horse like Scottie who is still developing his muscle and naturally carries himself in a higher outline.
Whilst still on a long rein with very little contact I started to ask a bit more from him with some 20m and 10-15m circles in the corners. He actually started to stretch down and seek a contact. Which he has never done before. Normally in our warm ups he trots along with his neck and nose straight out in front of him.
Next I shortened my reins and starting to ask more from him, asking him to accept the contact and come into an outline. I focused on keeping him straight on the long sides and asking for bend on the corners and on 20m circles on both reins. Since he has been having a lot more time in than he is used to, he has more energy which luckily for me he channels into his work, making things much easier fr me!
He was carrying himself nicely, only losing it occasionally to look at things going on around the yard such as his neighbour loading onto the lorry for a clinic or the tractors coming and going. So I asked a bit more, asking for inside bend down the long sides and then leg yielding down the quarter lines back to the track. We haven’t done a huge amount of leg yielding other than to push him out into the corners, so I was impressed at how quickly he picked it up and that he basically kept his outline, rhythm and impulsion during this exercise.
After this I gave him a good few laps of walk on a long rein to give him a breather before getting back to work, picking up a contact and trot. After getting a nice forward trot, we picked up canter on our bad (right) rein and got the correct lead straight away. Our canter is still quite weak and Scottie needs to learn to carry and balance himself. So I need to do more work in canter to help him strengthen.
At first (probably because he still had excess energy) he was fairly big and speedy in the canter. I tried to keep my shoulders back, maintain a steady contact while squeezing my inside rein to encourage him off his forehand and to drop into an outline. And we are getting there. On both reins he is starting to drop his head for a stride or two every now and then, he just isn’t strong enough to keep it going and it isn’t helped by him getting speedy and flat!
After doing a good few laps and circles in canter on both reins he wasn’t steadying up. So I decided to try a different exercise with the aim of steadying his canter and improving how often we strike off on the correct leg. It’s also an exercise many people use to help to teach a horse flying changes!
I picked up canter before riding down the long diagonal, coming back to trot for a few strides across the centre line, asking for inside bend and picking up canter again on the other rein. I would then canter the short side before turning down the next long diagonal, trot, pick up canter on the other leg.
I repeated this for a good 5-10 mins, if not longer. Our canter became much steadier and relaxed, I decreased the trot to just two or three strides and we picked up the correct canter lead nearly every time. Because Scottie was anticipating the transition, but not rushing for it, we actually got a few rather nice transitions. During this exercise I didn’t worry as much about keeping a good contact and focused instead on giving accurate aids for changes of bend and let him put himself where he was comfortable. After a few really good changes in a row, we walked and had a good walk on a long rein to cool off.
I was really pleased with our session today. Our trot work was really good, showing how much stronger he has become to maintain his outline and show bend and lateral work. Although our canter still needs a lot of work, Scottie showed that he now knows what leg he should be on and is willing to strike off on the correct leg with very little input from me. Our upward transitions are still a bit messy in general, but that will come with more practice.
I think I need to spend more time working in walk, not just walking on a long rein. We also need to do more transitions in trot. In the past lots of transitions in and out of canter have been quite stressful for Scottie. But today he showed that he can cope with them now. So I need to make sure I include more canter transitions in our sessions to help improve and strengthen them. Especially now I know an exercise I can revert to which doesn’t worry him too much!
Over all a fantastic session and not at all bad for our second ride at our new yard!