Tuesday, July 19, 2011 |

7-19-2011: Getting clearer about riding turns

Riding was the most interesting, though. She was just all over and it was not working right -- she was pounding along at this stressed loud walk and I had to go back to the lifting inside rein again and again and was having to drill. So Karen got on and found a lot of interesting things.

1. I forget to turn obviously with my shoulders and my nose and LOOK UP!!! WAY UP!!!! and when I do, Maia turns a lot better. :)

2. I’ve had my releasing of my reins and legs a little mixed up. I thought you were supposed to do it each stride, so it’s turned into a little jerky drilling thing versus a release. However, what I should do instead is release my inside leg, and slide and keep on sliding that outside rein down while asking for softening with inside rein and waiting for her to give the turn, then letting her know that that was the job. I don’t have to lift the inside rein too high like I was doing—she should be able to soften from a more horizontal feel on the rein as well.

3. A turn is reach inside with inside front, reach outside with inside hind, reach inside with outside fore. Maia totally did not have the “reach inside with inside fore.” Instead, she pushes that fore to the outside, making her outside shoulder pop out and her inside one get in the way and her inside hind unable to come under. Ie, it is backing in an arc while going forward.

4. Karen found that out partly through that Maia would/could not step under with her inside hind at all for the turn. She didn’t want to get in there and kick her, so she did some fast releases, like “it’s an emergency you get this hind foot under!!!!” but even that didn’t quite do it (as we found out after that her inside fore was in the way).

5. Next, she braces on the inside rein. It’s not as bad as it used to be where she’d feel that inside rein and take her head 6” to the outside—now it’s just a stiffening of her jaw on it. However, this has a strong detrimental effect on the turn, as her shoulders pop out to the outside and her neck stiffens and straightens and doesn’t allow that inside hind to come under.

It's not much, but you can see her bracing on the inside rein in this picture from the spring, before I've even made contact with her mouth!

6. If you slide the outside rein down at the halt, she doesn’t do lateral flexion to the other side; in fact, sometimes she walks forward. This means she’s got it all mixed up, if she thinks that slide is forward!

7. To fix all this up, do a certain exercise: Stand at the halt with your life down. Take up a soft feel on one rein and turn your head that way, asking for a very soft and giving lateral flexion (this fixes up the brace on the inside rein), then get life in your core and slide the outside rein (fixing up the confusion about both lateral flexion on that slide and needing to move the shoulders away from the slide) while releasing the inside leg, then she starts walking a teeny circle (almost disengagement but with the front end moving) and as soon as you feel the inside fore step over, you stop and relax. Let her think and do it again on a fresh start. Karen did this multiple times then I got on and did it, and it was amazing how braced she was on that rein, but how good it felt when she released to it—at the end, she really released the root of her neck up and over and felt so beautiful. I stopped right away and she immediately began to yawn—such a good release!

What was fascinating is how upset Maia was to begin with when she couldn’t understand the turn. Karen was working on the turns in general and every time they stopped Maia would start frantically chewing on her slobber straps (something she does when stressed) like an obsession. It actually seemed to get worse until Karen realized what was happening with her inside fore, then went to that exercise that I described. After a few times of that, Maia got this stunning expression, completely quiet mouth, not even a thought of chewing on the slobber straps, lowered her head, and got this nearly drugged, “endorphin-state” look of total and complete happiness. It was so cute, but also such a good reminder of how incredibly stressful it is for her when she isn’t clear on how to do something—she loves to work with and for us, she just wants to know how!