Nothing does my type-A heart good like killing two birds with one stone, so I combined a trip to see a sales horse with taking Midgey and Ella for a brief stay at the Hasslers’. I hauled up Sunday night and rode with Scott Monday morning before taking off for New Jersey.
Ella was really, really super—better than at Symposium, even better than she’s been at home. I’ve been working a lot on the pirouette work we did at Symposium, so I told Scott I wanted to work on the piaffe/passage, something we didn’t get to talk about last week, and something that I’m still developing instincts for teaching.
Ella gets a little flat in the back and gets her hind legs out, so I was trying to send her more forward to get her hind legs moving. Instead, Scott had me keep her more on the spot and use my leg only to create energy, not forward motion. INSTANT improvement! And she’s got a lot of talent for piaffe, so the result was some pretty exhilarating work. Yay Ella!
We had a similar approach to the passage—bigger and more buoyant, not more forward thinking, to keep the hind leg active and under. She’s even more oozing with talent for the passage, so it was a really fun lesson.
We talked about the left trot and the right canter lateral work (less titillating than piaffe/passage, but very relevant)—not sure why it’s one way in the trot and the other in the canter that she struggles with, but whatever. Right shoulder-fore to improve the canter, right leg yield to improve the trot, and time, time, time to improve the whole kit and kaboodle. But we’re really in the right way, so hoorah for my Little Red Princess!
My Little Red Ferrari was a good boy, too. Having made as much progress as I know how in his passage, I spent most of last week working on Midge’s canter, focusing in particular on the tempi changes.
Yeah. I kinda broke him.
The sequence changes make him wicked tight and strong, so I tried playing with them 1000 different ways—leg yields in between the changes, voltes, halt transitions, down the quarter-line instead of the diagonal, you name it. It’s better, but the canter is still, ahem, lacking relaxation.
So I told Scott, “Hey, I really want to work on the passage, but you should know that I can’t exactly stop him at the canter right now without laying on the hand break…”
Scott was very empathetic, and we did some canter pirouette work because a) they’re new for him and could use the help, and b) it’s sort of the only movement I have right now in the canter where I have whoa. He was a really good pony about it, and Scott agrees with me that this is just a phase, and that soon he’ll be able to both change and whoa in the same lifetime.
We then went to the passage. I’ve been playing with a Spanish Walk-esque trick, the same way Cleo started the passage, to help him figure out the “wait” part of the movement, where he gets airtime instead of quickness. He’s so talented for piaffe that I’ve struggled to communicate the swing of the passage to Midge. Scott said he understood why I was going there, but why don’t I try a little very slow trot, and then, when he relaxed into it, lightly touch him with the whip behind to see if I could get him to make floaty-trot instead of quick trot? I’ve made this exercise with him before, with no success. Not today!
There’s still miles to go before we sleep, but Midge made a few lovely, swingy, slow, floaty steps of what we’ll affectionately refer to as “trottage,” somewhere between the trot and passage. Yay! I’ll continue to play with both lines of approach, and in time I’m confident he’ll figure it out…and it will be a REAL highlight.
So a GREAT day of lessons. I then had the pleasure of sitting in some of the worst traffic I’d ever seen (and as a lifelong Chicagoan and New Yorker, that’s a Big Statement) on my way up to see the horse, who was very nice. I’m having such fun trying baby horses—with my “baby,” Midge, now 7 and developing towards FEI, I’d forgotten how fun riding squirrels is. Body parts EVERYWHERE!