Hers and mine!! Focus and calm.............Focus and calm.............
Another couple of good sessions!
Saturday we rode in the outside school as there was lessons in the indoor – there was also a lesson in the outdoor!! But it was a good opportunity to work on Antsje’s focus as we had a double whammy of outdoor school and lots of horses!!!
In fairness, on the whole she worked well. We did similar exercises as I have been working on in hand to get her attention on me and my seat aids. This consisted of balanced and submissive walk / halt transitions then moving onto walk / reinback / walk / halt transitions. She was very ‘sticky’ in reinback on the right rein to start with, but one great thing about reinback I have found is that it really does seem to unblock her and release her back and neck after a few goes. We then moved onto Shoulder-in in walk and really focussed on getting the postioning from my seat. If she started rushing, we were back to the walk / halt / reinback transitions which now we have been using for a few weeks seem to serve as a good cue for her re-focussing on me.
By the time we had done all this, she felt really nice and loose and supple and we moved up to trot. I am still concentrating on walk / trot / walk and then halt / trot / halt transitions. She has NEVER had any problems trotting round and round so I don’t think this work is going to cause any problems with her forward thinking lol!! But what I hope it will achieve is better balance and better focus on my seat aids, which has always been a bugbear of mine. I really do think that downward transitions are a real indication of engagement and balance, moreso than upward transitions! Antsje is actually quite good at soft balanced upward transitions now, but it is interesting for me to realise that she looses this balance quite quickly once in trot, and when I ask her to come back down to walk, she is not sufficiently balanced / engaged / on my aids to make a nice soft transition and often collapses into walk – as do I!! **blush** so I must also be sufficiently balanced / engaged / and ‘with her’ when making a downward transition.
This was very apparent in the work as when we were on a circle and doing lots of quick transitions, my seat was better, and Antsjes balance and engagaemnt was better – but as soon as we came off the circle and rode the long side, I could feel her start to ‘tram’ again and I lost that lovely feeling of ‘togetherness’ as we became out of sync with our tempo. I am almost positive it is mainly a strength issue and that she is just not ‘there’ yet on straight lines and she misses the support of the circle. I do also think she looses ‘focus’ mentally on a straight line too and becomes more ‘gawpy’ and we get moment of the Friesian Full Alert high neck / tense back / pogo steps lol!! Still I do think it is crucial to keep mixing the two together and keep extending the length of ‘straight’ line she can do without loosing the balance / focus.
This morning we did in-hand work in the indoor school and she is really ‘getting’ the focus work now. We only had one ‘walk through me halt’ and it was the first one we did. After a quick reprimand and backing up, she was perfect for the rest of the session. Her reinbacks were also a lot less resistant right from the start although they can still be a bit faltering and not diagonal at times. Im wondering how do I encourage diagonal movement in reinback or will it just improve the stronger and more confident she gets? I will have to do a bit of reading and see what I come up with! So after the same walk /halt / reinback transitions we did some girivolta work and the leg yielding to the long side and then shoulder-in up the long side, into a circle and giravolta again on both reins. She is getting much better at staying with me through all of this now, and I with her. I can now feel the beginnings of the ‘rushing’ before we actually get it and can therefore rebalance before she gets to the point of ‘lala land’ hahahaha!
We then finished with a little bit of lunging work with very short transitions between walk / trot / canter. I was very pleased with this as her reactions on the downward transitions were very good, particularly the trot to walk. After she had cantered a few times I had to get her to re-focus again on trot to walk but it only took a couple of attempts for her to become calm again which was very good considering how exciting she finds canter!!
So I am feeling quite positive about the progress at the moment. Yes, we have a LOT to do, and we are still doing such very basic stuff – but until this is completely confirmed, I know from experience there is little point of doing anything else ;-)
I am now thinking it might be a good idea to do this ‘in – hand’ focussing work in the outdoor school. I wonder how much of it is the indoor school ‘confinement’ and how much of it is her now being mentally in the zone when she works in here. It will be interesting to find out.