Monday, February 6, 2012

Southern Pines - Part II

Just a side note - I went to the feed store today to get Charlie's food and they are out of his textured feed.  I think okay, no big deal as I have a couple of days left on the current bag.  I ask when they expect to get more in...not until next Monday!  A whole week?!?!  What the heck?  Unfortunately, they are the only game in town so to speak so it's not like I can drive 5 miles the other way and use the other feed store.  I now have to go on a driving odyssey 3 towns over to another feed store to get his food.  Keep your fingers crossed they have it...

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging...

So Tuesday and Wednesday were flat days and I think they were highly successful.  I really wanted a strategy for keeping my arms/hands soft and to demystify the walk.  The first thing Cherie had me do was use 2 fingers to grip the reins (the rein was between my middle finger and ring finger instead of my ring finger and little finger) - this really helped me keep a lighter feel because I couldn't use a "death grip" like I usually do.  At the walk, she had me focus on pushing the base of his neck lower with my seat.  It was really important that I carry my upper body and tilt my hips forward on order for this to work.  I need to use alternating legs to keep him forward and constantly keep the bit moving in his mouth.  To keep his attention, I need to flex him in and out - this will also help loosen his neck up.  A lightbulb definitely went off and I feel like I have a much better handle on the walk - I need to use my seat more; not to make him more forward but to push his neck lower.

As we started working on the trot, Cherie told me to make sure I could see the corner of Charlie's inside eye during the transition so I would know I had enough bend.  In order to keep him round, I need to think of leg yielding him into the new gait.  Then we worked on flexing in and out on the long side ensuring Charlie was flexed in for the corners.  This exercise helps Charlie begin to soften in his neck while I focus on keeping his hind end straight.  As Cherie put it, I need to make sure I "don't live on the circle and learn to love going large."  Between each change of flex, I should have at least 1 or 2 straight strides so he can change his balance.  When I do circle, I need to keep my outside aids solid; 1) so he has something guiding him around the circle and 2) because he loves to swing his haunches out, I need to think haunches in to keep his hind end behind the front end.  As he becomes more bungee, I can add some leg yielding to help supple his rib cage.  The next thing is huge for me: I've been obsessing over his forwardness.  I felt like he was either behind my leg or totally strung out but Cherie told me because he's so long, he needs to be supple both head-to-tail and side-to-side before I can ask for more power.  I could really feel this - as Charlie became more bungee-like, I could ask him to really push off behind, the energy coming up from his hocks, through his back, into his neck, and finally into the bridle.  The key is being soft and steady in hand so I can capture it correctly.

The canter was awesome because he was so supple!  I really need to work on staying strong in my core and keeping my upper body back and hips forward.  I should also use the flex-in/flex-out in the canter, basically I always need to be asking him to stay soft and supple.

Cherie also had me use some smaller circles and leg yield out onto bigger circles and well as some over bending in on circles and in the corners.  The big thing to remember with over bending is to never hold the bend for more than a stride or two before softening.

A few things for me and only me to work on include:
- when going to the right, I need to make sure my inside shoulder is back and my outside shoulder is forward
- my left leg should touch the horse, not my just my left heel
- carry myself in transitions - no collapsing side-to-side or front-to-back

I can tell my plank exercises are going to be even more important than I originally thought!  I'm really looking forward to riding tomorrow so I can practice everything I learned while it's still somewhat fresh in my brain.


  1. Excellent notes. I have a feeling I'll be using them when riding another super long tb gelding. :)

  2. Haha! Hope they come in handy - I feel like a light from above has shined down on us, that's how much of a difference it's made. I think because he's sooooooo long and soooooo tall, if you try to make him forward before he's balanced and supple, his legs just kind of get tangled up. Poor guy.