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March 7, 2014

Solving The Piaffe To Passage Problem

Weatherbeeta sent WakeUp two new blankets to help keep him warm in the continued freezing temperatures.

Hello March and hello spring? …Or hello record low temperatures? It’s a high of 6 degrees in Kansas today. We’re so ready for spring!

Lilo Fore came this weekend, and I was so happy to have her kick our butts out of the winter doldrums. She really does get the most out of me and my horses.

WakeUp was fantastic—some amazing piaffe and passage, but the transition out of piaffe was still lacking. We get stuck in piaffe and the more I ask him to go out, the harder he tries in the piaffe; then when he finally realizes I want out of the piaffe we sort of lurch out with one huge step before finding the passage again. He tries super hard but just doesn’t quite understand yet.

It was interesting was how Lilo handled the situation. She experimented around with us until she found what the real issue was: I was unable to make the passage small. The piaffe was adjustable but the moment I tried to make the passage smaller he either wanted to piaffe or drop the contact.

So that is our next project: to find a small passage so I can ride a piaffe-small passage-passage transition instead of trying to do a piaffe-passage transition. WakeUp is so willing that it makes the work so much fun. He never throws a fit or says he can’t. I am so appreciative of that!

Lilo was also after me and the other riders to bring the best out in our horses. We were not to simply ride the gaits that the horses gave us but always ask for a little more. This was done in a soft, subtle way with no pressure or stress on the horses, but was accomplished by focused, determined riding.

For example, I was riding a client’s horse who has three nice gaits, but Lilo wanted me to imagine I was riding bigger gaits. I was not supposed to just sit the trot he gave me, but swing my hips more, add more cadence to my seat to draw the horse with me into a more expressive trot. Sure enough, by the end of the ride, “Toric” had more swing and expression.

Finally, Lilo said that for her to give super marks in a pirouette the rider must show that they have control of every step. We worked on my hips staying in the correct alignment, my reins never getting empty and the horse’s hind legs always jumping actively forward to the bit. No small task!

Sunday we had to cancel due to snow, extremely cold temperatures, and wind chills of -25 degrees. Safety first. We will anxiously await spring and our next clinic!

On a final note, I will just say that sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask. Weatherbeeta has sponsored WakeUp with two awesome Freestyle blankets to keep him warm. He will be hard-pressed to destroy these! Med-Vet Pharmaceuticals also gave us a good discount on our spring shots. It is fantastic, but I am learning I have to be brave and ask: I call with my resume in hand, tell them the situation and see if they want to help. It is really scary but people are usually super nice. Again, it never hurts to ask!

Hopefully in my next blog, I will be thrilled about the green grass coming up, but until then stay warm!

Blogger Emily Wagner, 25, shows and trains dressage horses out of her family's farm in LaCygne, Kan. Her WakeUp is one of the rising stars of U.S. dressage, having won the 6-year-old national championship in 2011 and winning the Developing Prix St. Georges national championship in 2013. Read her introductory blog to get to know her better.

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