Up’ing the Stakes

My last lesson with Roz, and also in my last lesson with Pam, I was told repeatedly to increase the level of difficulty on Ava — greatly. That we need to be working at a much higher level than we are. So lately I’ve been trying to abide by that. It’s hard. I get stuck in ruts, or I can feel Ava is crooked but can’t fix it and end up stuck on 20m circles the entire ride. I know that isn’t the answer, but sometimes I just get sucked back into the same pattern I’ve been stuck in for the past couple of years.

This week I have a new focus on changing up the exercises, working at a higher level, and focusing on keeping the horse energetically forward through the movements. Monday, after the warm-up, I worked on haunches in and shoulder in down the long side.   They were setting up jumps in the arena, so I used those as points for 10m circles. And on the last quarter, or half, of each 10m circle I made sure I asked for more forward into the haunches-in or shoulder-in.

After I had good forward on those exercises, I worked on half-pass across a short diagonal (trying to avoid jumps). I’m not sure if I had quite the bend I needed for those. During my lessons both Roz and Pam said I didn’t have enough bend in the half-pass. It felt okay to me, but I’m not sure if it was correct or not. The problem I did have is that I should’ve used more half-halt on the outside to help her stand up better. We had some balance issues and I think that would’ve helped. I didn’t think of that at the time though.

They weren’t the best half-passes I’d ever done, but I was happy they were pretty forward. At least they were much more forward then the one’s I had been getting previously. And from everything I’m learning, the entire exercise has to incorporate enough forward in order for the gymnastic benefits to really be seen.

Also during the last lesson with Roz, she had me focus on the quality of our canter/walk transitions. Right now they are on the forehand and floppy. We’re focusing on encouraging more engagement in the downward transition. She also had me ask Ava to back up  until I felt her hips tuck and back lift. I’ve had to be careful about it so Ava doesn’t associate it with some kind of punishment, but I think it’s helping. We had two really good canter/walk transitions, but also her trot started out more engaged after the few back-ups we did.

Ava’s really been improving drastically since June. The middle of this summer we couldn’t even do a few steps of half-pass at anything close to a working trot. We snail crawled across the arena.

I have my last lesson with Roz November 1st, and then she won’t be back in Michigan until sometime in spring. So I better make the most of October as I can.

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