I had my second lesson with Roz Kinstler last Saturday. I’d been having a mini-panic attacks the whole week leading up to it because I felt like we hadn’t made any progress. That and I was so uncoordinated all week. I was really worried I’d get up there and not be able to do what Roz asked.
The trip up was uneventful. Ava loaded with minimal fuss and rode well. She was very patient when we stopped for a bathroom break at a rest area (it’s a two hour haul one way). When I unloaded her she was excited and antsy, which I was thrilled with because I figured it meant she’d have more pep in the lesson. I let her take a good look around, offered her some water, and started tacking up.
I warmed up Ava briefly before the lesson started with some basic trot and canter. I don’t have the issue with the heaviness on the right side like I used to (not since the Goodrich clinic), and she’s much more honest over her back since the last lesson with Roz. Ava felt pretty good, pretty straight, but still a little behind my leg. I didn’t want to push the issue though because I was concerned about using up a bunch of Ava’s energy during the warmup. In hindsight, I probably should’ve addressed it right then. It would’ve reduced some of the issues in the canter that I had. It also showed me that we’re not where we need to be in terms of being honestly forward. But it’s still better then it was.
We started off the lesson with working on haunches-in at the canter (since I said I was having issues with it). A few things off the top of my head:
1. Pick up the canter and immediately take my legs off so that there’s a clearer distinction between leg back for canter depart and leg back for haunches-in. Signal to her that something else is expected from her.
2. Rhythmic squeezes of leg on outside in time to the canter. Again, not just on with non-stop squeeze that will be ignored. Nudge, release, nudge, release. (I am still not remembering to do this, and when I do I get the timing all wrong, or my seat freezes up, or my arms freeze up. I need a lot more work).
3. Reward with walk breaks when she gets it right. Then try again. Reward frequently, but can continue to work on it during the same session. I forget this, and tend to drill it. Then Ava gets frustrated and quits trying. I need to keep this in the back of my mind at all times when working Ava.
From that exercise we worked on something that resembled a reverse rubber band exercise. Instead of lengthen to working canter, we did super collected to working canter.
The main points Roz was trying to convey were how to help enhance the gait through my seat aids. Roz spent some time explaining how to use my seat and thighs to help Ava understand that her shoulders need to elevate, and it also lightened my seat enough to allow Ava to use her back to bring her hind legs further under.
I’ll try to paraphrase her main points:
1. Lift your rib cage briefly like you’re trying to untuck your shirt from your waist band.
2. More weight in your stirrups.
3. Briefly grab the saddle with your thighs and lift it up.
4. Feel like there’s a piece of tape stuck to the middle of the saddle (on the seat). Don’t slide across it. Instead, lift your seat over it. (To give the feeling of lifting).
Do all this in time with the canter beats while also doing everything else you need to do to ride the horse. (She didn’t say that… but gosh darn this is hard to coordinate!)
I marginally accomplished a few strides of very collected, very soft canter. Then promptly lost it. It’s easy when done right, but hard to coordinate everything.
We also worked on enhancing the quality of the trot. I’m really amazed by how much gait Ava can bring out when she wants to. I still feel like it’s like a hope and pray she does it type of thing, rather than and ask and receive type of thing. Mostly, that’s due to Ava’s strength. I’m sure it’ll get better and better the strong Ava gets.
Again, same concept as in collecting the canter. Lighten the seat, use the seat and thighs to momentarily lift the shoulders. Forward and energy comes from the calves (NOT the seat).
I’ll write more later.