TrainerA on Rags for the first time, finding 8,000 things for us to work on!
I’m going to be honest, TrainerA can be intimidating. In the time I’ve been with Ready to Ride, I’ve never lessoned with her. Sure, I’ve ridden in her clinics, but in a private lesson you don’t have eight other people to hide behind! TrainerM typically takes the new/intermediate students, while Trainer’s schedule is booked solid with a core group of students that are Serious About Showing.
(Am I Serious About Showing? Not sure, but TrainerA makes it out to KW far more often than TrainerM, and I’m not about to turn down a lesson from either of them!)
While their training program definitely has a focus on producing performance horses (you go where the market is, you know?) TrainerA does have dressage experience, which makes her a great fit for putting training rides on my green bean/teaching me the Tao of the Dressage Diva. I was super excited to have her teach me a lesson so that I could teach Raglan a lesson.
Last week Rags and I had been working on the basics (stop, go, and steer), but I knew there was probably something more advanced we should be working on, so on Monday/Tuesday I started focusing more on using leg/rein to put him down in the bridle. It seemed like the next logical step, and TrainerA agreed! 😁
She had me put Rags in a big circle and focus on keeping a consistent amount of pressure on the bit while putting leg on to drive him into the connection. We started at the walk, but quickly moved to the posting trot, where I found out just how much ground my new horse can cover with one stride (spoiler: it’s a lot, especially compared to my western pleasure Paint).
Keeping a consistent contact meant really focusing on my hands and widening them to keep the pressure the same whenever his head shot up (while putting on so. much. leg.). On the other side of the spectrum, Rags also has a bit of a rooting problem, so TrainerA had to coach me to really open my chest, keep my elbows bent, and “activate my shoulders” to prevent him from pulling me right over his head, while at the same time not punishing him for reaching for the contact. If he started to root I could bump him off of the bit with gentle flexion, but in general we wanted to encourage him to stretch his neck out and down, towards the bit.
Under no circumstances was I to pull him backwards into frame with my reins (guilty of this bad habit) or release the contact (darn my performance training that says to release when a horse gives!). Praise came from my voice and from walk breaks, not from dropping the contact.
Speaking of walk breaks, Rags is the laziest. He’d get a walk break and then when we tried to get back to work he’d just stop and refuse to move. At one point I goosed him with my spurs and he even gave a little kick out, the brat! Flexing him side to side a couple of times seems to unglue his feet from the arena floor, but we’ll see how that progresses as he gets stronger and is in more consistent work.
I have video from the lesson (including TrainerA commentary), but they’re from the middle and I still hadn’t figured out that once we found our golden spot I needed to keep the contact/leg and hold him there (we’re in the “rider works hard now so that she doesn’t have to later” stage, UGH), so it’s not really a good representation of how we ended the lesson.
TrainerA put another ride on him yesterday and said he felt great, so I call that a success. She’s in Hawaii next week (lucky duck), so we’ll keep working on this while she’s gone and then go from there when she gets back. Our main goal is to teach him that forward is good and that there’s nowhere he can go that the contact won’t follow, because we can fix any heaviness later but it’s not easy to retrain a horse that retracts his neck, curls behind the vertical, and sucks back behind your leg.
Rags also got to go out into the turnout for the first time since he got to KW (I wanted to be around to supervise in case he decided electric fences are for pansies), so I leave you with this cute video: