I had another great clinic this weekend. Saturday we worked on not tensing up and asking Licorice to move off my leg. Brooke pointed out that as a hunter school horse, Licorice probably was taught that when a leg is put on it means go forward. For him, forward meant either walk, trot or canter. The end. So now, we're asking him to go forward but then we're also asking him to move off the leg laterally. The poor guy is kind of clueless.
We did some leg yields at the walk, or attempted to. Licorice freaked out and would try to trot off. Then he would fling his head in the air. Then he would stop and back up. Finally, he started to get it.
Brooke reminded me that I'm his teacher through this process of learning about lateral movement and then different speeds within each gait. Poor Licorice. Sorry you're stuck with me for a teacher. On the other hand, though I may not be the best in terms of timing, I am always willing to give my pony the benefit of the doubt and I'm not prone to over punishing.
Which leads us to Sunday's ride. We worked some on his shoulder bulging issue and I was reminded that you MUST correct it EVERY time or it will remain a habit. Ride forward and push his shoulder away from me. Most of Sunday we were working on that. I was a little frustrated that the thing I wanted to work on (our crazy freight train trot when I try to canter) didn't seem to be showing up. Saturday our canter transitions were magical rainbow transitions, which was fun but not productive for teaching me how to work with what usually shows up when I'm practicing.
The last fifteen minutes of Sunday, all hell broke loose. In other words, a trailer showed up and unloaded a giant mare and Licorice COULD NOT FOCUS BECAUSE THERE'S A GIANT MARE OUTSIDE THE ARENA!!!! Finally, his spastic trot showed up complete with giraffe neck and dropping shoulder. When I asked for canter, he went into his grab the bit and trot the fastest circle ever. When I tried to move him off the leg, he just got faster.
Believe it or not, I was excited that we finally fell apart. THIS is what I wanted help with. Brooke had me halt him, no matter what it looked like. It was one of those moments where she had to yell "There is a cliff in front of you. DO NOT LET YOUR HORSE GO OVER THAT CLIFF!!!" I ended up having to really sit deep and pull hard, but we did halt. Then we trotted. Then HALT RIGHT NOW!!! RIGHT NOW!!!! Another ugly halt.
I was reminded that even though I needed to halt exactly at that moment, that I should try not to tense up my entire body when I did it. That just created tension for Licorice to pull against. So the next time, I tried to halt immediately but without tension. No surprise, Licorice reacted by halting without throwing a tantrum.
From there, she would tell me to think halt and if Licorice didn't immediately react by slowing down she would have me halt. By the second circle, we were half halting and having a decent time of it. By the third circle, we got a lovely canter depart.
In the end, the big reminders for me are these:
1. - Correct and half halt without tension. When you get tense, so does Licorice. Relax your body while still staying firm in the aids.
2. - Half halt MUST mean something. If it doesn't mean something, HALT. Licorice needs to learn what a half halt is and if you don't get an IMMEDIATE reaction you must get stronger right away. Halt means stop RIGHT NOW.
3. - Do not wait until everything completely falls apart before you start to do something. I am so guilty of this. I wait until it's a complete shit storm before I decide maybe I should half halt.
I was way less exhausted this time and my sitting trot is getting better which is nice to know. And Licorice is just so honest about where he's at; I really appreciate it.