Finally had a Lesson. Woo Hoo!

I can’t remember now, but I think this is my fourth lesson with Roz Kinstler. I hadn’t had a lesson since September of last year and was expecting a lot of criticism about my position. Other than adjusting the bend in my elbows, and a couple of reminders to sit back during the canter, she said my position was pretty good. (Yay!)  I didn’t capture it on the video below, but when I was warming up I had my hands too far out in front of me which left very little bend in my elbows. Once I added more bend, Ava seemed so much happier about connection.

One disclaimer: I couldn’t get Ava to load to get to the lesson. I lunged her for an hour until she grudgingly decided she’d get on. By that point she was blowing hard and sweat was dripping down her legs (it was 47 degrees out). Then she had a two hour haul to the lesson, and because it took so long to load we only had about 15 minutes before the lesson started. I know that’s not very fair to Ava, but I can’t cancel a lesson a couple hours prior without paying out the nose. Anyway, to say she was tired by the time we started the lesson is an understatement, but she gave her all when I asked for it. This is the most infuriating and yet awe inspiring horse I’ve ever owned.

Overview of Lesson:

The canter work was sub-par. We do a lot better in our daily riding. Whenever she’s tired that left lead canter just goes to shot. I could barely keep her in it, and she kept breaking whenever I had the tiniest imbalance in my seat. The right lead canter was better, but I’ve seen her go much better than this on a normal day.

Our shoulder-in’s started out rough. I’m not good at them. Shoulder-in to the left has always been hit or miss, mostly miss. We did a few of them, and then Roz told me to touch my thumbs together as that would help me use the outside rein more effectively. It was like light and day with how well Ava performed the shoulder-in. You can see it at 5:43 in the video. As soon as I touched my thumbs together it was like Ava went “Thank GOD, lady!”  At 5:40ish in the video she’s kind of flat, 5:43-5:44 I touch my thumbs together and suddenly she was bouncy with oomphf. It was really neat to feel.

Then at 6:30 you can see Ava finally can use herself correctly in the shoulder-in and her gait and movement really got fancy at that point.

Let me say though… for some reason the thumbs together is really hard for me. Maybe because I actually have to ride with my seat at that point. Haha.

At one point in the lesson Roz calls out to use my right knee to turn. “I have a right knee?” Low and behold, Ava turned better once I started using it.

Oh, also, I think the thumbs together and right knee will help with the left lead canter too. In hindsight, I think part of the problem I was having with her during the left lead canter was that I wasn’t supporting her enough with the outside aids and she has a tendency to blow through the right shoulder anyway.

At 6:46 in the video Roz had me try shoulder-in to Renver, which is part of the Second Level Test 3 movements. I thought I understood what that was, but I’m glad she thought to go over it with me. She had to explain it to me like three times AND have the other girl riding demonstrate it for me (after which I was still confused). My original idea was that it was shoulder-in, and then you shove the butt over. Which caused all kinds of issues. Reality (in hindsight this is really simple) was I just changed bend to the opposite direction without touching the butt. I’m pretty sure I can over think this until I mess it up.

My best attempt was at 7:05 (shoulder-in), and then 7:14 Renver, and back to shoulder-in (7:18). I was trying to take 4-5 steps between each to set her up and allow her to make the change in bend.

Other side: 8:07 shoulder-in and then 8:13 renver. You can see the bend better from this angle.

The great thing about this exercise is it really made Ava more conscious of the outside aids. Turning the outside aids into the inside aids, and then back really helped Ava understand how to use her body better to stay balanced and between both aids. I think this is really going to be a great exercise for Ava this year. Normally when I do shoulder in she tends to knuckle down on the outside shoulder. This exercise is a good way to get her off it while still getting the benefits of the shoulder-in.

After 8:28 is just video of me trying to sit the trot and showing how much Ava tosses me around. This is why I wanted to buy that thinline pad for her. As much air as I catch between strides… it was really making me feel guilty about how her back was feeling.

Roz Kinstler Clinic

I participated in the Roz Kinstler clinic today.  My brain is overloaded! Next time I’m bringing a note book and writing this stuff down. Just listening to Roz teach the other riders was fantastic.The back story on Ava and my start to the day: Ava refused to load. Tried everything. Last November Ava was walking onto the trailer without batting an eyelash. Not today. Today, she didn’t want to. My ride time was at 9:00 am, and I’m almost an hour away from where the clinic was at. At 8:39, Ava finally loaded. I was very lucky that my trainer offered to switch ride times with me so that I could still participate in the clinic today (Thank you so much, Bern!).

The Ride:
It started off getting Ava convinced that I could hold the right rein and move her shoulders over when going right. Roz had a great tip/tool of raising the inside hand about 2-3 inches higher than the left hand and then basically holding it in place. Kind of a “I am here, you deal with it” hold. Normally if you try that kind of hold on Ava, she tells you flat out that she’s just not going to tolerate it. But (and I asked Roz why it worked), it appears that raising the hand doesn’t feel as constrictive to the horse, and the horse will more easily accept the holding without fighting it. While doing this though, I had to bump her shoulders over in the corners while keeping the nose ‘peaked’ to the right. I especially had to prepare for the corners, and anticipate the problem and correct it before Ava fell in and lost her balance. So it took a lot more thinking ahead and planning each and every corner, circle, everything. I had to prepare before the corner, and ask for bend with the inside rein while squeezing with the inside leg (at the same time).

To the left, I found out that I lose her shoulders because I bring the outside rein over the shoulders. I actually had to hold my right rein quite far out to the right (felt weird) in order to not cross the withers while doing a ten meter circle. However, by doing this it allowed me to actually use the right rein to half-halt and control the outside shoulder. The other really difficult problem I was having was cooperation between the reins. Squeeze left – give right, squeeze right – don’t pull with the left. and then sometimes squeeze both reins to slow the front end. I could feel it when I was riding, but I am definitely not explaining it well. I’ll play around with it more this week and try to find a better way to describe how it works and why.

After getting Ava more even between the aids, we played with shoulder in for a bit. These were the easiest, smoothest, shoulder-in’s I’ve ever ridden. It was like water flowing. Felt amazing. We would do a Volte (haha, that made me feel so upper crust when she called it that) into a 10 meter circle, using the circle to develop good bend in the horse. Keeping the horse’s nose pointed in the direction you wanted her to go in, then slide into the shoulder-in.

Roz had to throw in some harder stuff (I guess we did pretty darn good up to this point), and she asked me to ride a shoulder in, half-pass to the quarter line, then shoulder-in down the quarter line. To be honest, I frazzled out a bit here. So the first attempt was shoulder-in to a diagnol trot across the arena. HA. Second time, and we nailed it. That was awesome! That was the first time I’ve ridden a half-pass and it just flowed. I always try to force things too much, and the fact is, it’s all about setting the horse up so that they CAN do the movement.

Our canter work was not as wonderful as I would have liked it to be. Ava has a great canter, but she’s a spaz about it. I swear that horse thinks she’s going to slip and fall at any moment in the canter. She gets so tense, and then rushes, and… ugh. It’s gotten a lot better over the past year, but definitely a week area. During the canter, Roz wanted to see more engagement from the horse so she wanted to see a slower canter with good rhythm (the rhythm is very important). We were able to do that, but while executing our 10 meter canter circles, Ava kept quitting on me. Roz suggested that I bring her right back to a walk and then immediately canter off again instead of tapping her with the whip to keep her going. The idea being that Ava tends to rush, and instead we want her to think engaged. Bringing her back to the walk helps get that idea across better. Ava felt it’d be fun to pull me from the saddle during our downward transition (embarrassing) and Roz helped me with that. As a result, our upward transition was more from behind then it had been, and we had a much better quality canter.

Overall the clinic was fantastic. The time flew by, and although I was exhausted (it’s hard to sit Ava’s trot) it was a ton of fun!

Other tidbits from the clinic… I’m paraphrasing:

* Push the horse into the contact, but not past it. – I found this one enlightening because I’ve tried to push Ava into the contact, and ended up without any contact before. Roz went on to explain that there’s a fine line where you can squeeze your horse up into the contact, but past that and the horse will run through the bit. I think the underlying idea is that you can rush the horse too strongly forward, the horse loses balance, and can no longer carry himeslf. So in order to balance, the horse will drop the contact (since he can no longer use his back and hind end to power off of)

* put the nose where the horse is going – ironically, this seems so low level, but even the Second/Third level riders had issues with this. I did learn that unless the nose points where you want the horse to go, then the outside rein to steer with doesn’t work. For instance, I was trotting a ten meter circle, and Ava was aimed straight down the center line. I half-halted the outside rein (thinking to bring the shoulders over) and instead of turning we went straight. For Ava, Roz suggested I place the nose in the direction of travel, and then use the outside rein to straighten her neck (on the long side). That caused Ava to place more weight evenly on the front to legs instead of diving off to the right.

A few of the riders were having problems with their horses trying to pull their arms out. One of the things Roz said (for that rider) was to lock her elbows to her hips while performing the exercise. That way when the horse yanked the rider used her position to solidify her arms without pulling back. The horse tried yanking about 3 times, realized the contact wasn’t going away, and quit. It was really neat to watch.

Oh, and she had one rider ride a medium trot across the diagnol straight into a half-pass at X, and OMG that was the most awesome half-pass I’ve ever seen in real life. What a difference in quality it made.

There were a ton more, but I’m utterly exhausted and I’m going to bed.  I’ll post video soon.