YES DID YOU SAY ROAD TRIP? OF COURSE I WILL BE YOUR ASSISTANT.
Say hello to Pretty! Pretty is a registered Irish Draught Sport Horse. TrainerK originally started this mare under saddle as a five year old, but has only had her back in training since February. She’s talented over fences and on the flat, so when TrainerK was given the opportunity to ride with USDF gold medalist Lindsey O’Keefe, Pretty was obviously the horse to take along for the ride.
Lindsey quickly picked out that Pretty is a hot horse and that TrainerK’s personal horse, LJ, has taught her to have a hot seat (bless his beautiful lazy soul). She wanted TrainerK to post slower, almost to the point where it felt sloppy, in order to keep the tempo of a much quieter trot.
During their warmup, Lindsey had TrainerK put Pretty into a leg yield. The leg yield naturally slows the horse down. Lindsey wanted TrainerK to slow the mare down almost to a walk during their leg yield. The slower the horse, the more steepness it adds to the leg yield.
Lindsey’s main exercise for Pretty and TrainerK centered around the 10m trot circle. Smaller circles help the horse collect and encourage relaxation. Hot horses need to be decompressed and calmed. Collection comes from relaxation, which means its important to do gymnastics that are designed to put the horse together and naturally create a half halt. Ideally the horse will associate the half halt with the exercise, and from there you can cultivate a sense of relaxation in the horse.
During the 10m circle, the inside of the horse’s body should be shorter than the outside. Lindsey was looking for a combination of “slow and stretch” that signaled Pretty was relaxing into the circle.
Once Pretty was relaxed, she had TrainerK strike off into the canter. They cantered for half of a 20m circle, then came back to their 10m trot circles until Pretty was relaxed enough to canter again. The goal was to use the trot circle to collect and relax her whenever she started to build up too much energy. If she got strung out and tried to run her way into the canter, TrainerK brought her back down into the same 10m circle and tried the transition again from that more organized trot. She was required to carry herself through the transition.
“She’ll try to bait you into fighting her into the canter. She’s not green anymore, she has to do it like a trained horse. Sophisticate the transition!”
Lindsey wanted TrainerK to “do what comes unnaturally” to Pretty by refusing to feed into the anxiety that Pretty had built up around the bit. She could pump the brakes, but when Pretty really got hard against TrainerK’s hand she wanted her to give and bring her into a smaller circle instead of hanging onto her.
“Train the horse you want, don’t ride the horse you have.”
A lot of the things that Lindsey was saying to TrainerK resonated with me. Once Raglan and I are back in the swing of things I want to try the 10m trot circle to canter transition exercise that they were working on!