I was scheduled to work second shift at work today (2:30 to 11pm) so I headed out to the barn this morning to enjoy a quiet hack. The weather in DFW was gorgeous this morning, mid 70’s, overcast, and a light breeze.
Rio was less then thrilled to see me. As I pulled in, I saw him frolicking with his new buddies, 2 Czech imports of my trainers. Do you think horsey language is the same all over the world? Lol jk (sort of). He usually comes up to me expecting treats, but no such luck today, he was having too much fun with his buds. I will give him some credit though- he didn’t run away!
I planned on a light ride because Trainer is riding him tomorrow and I would like her to have a horse with a little bit of energy. I was excited to see how he was after having two days to percolate on the collected canter work we schooled on Sunday. (See my theory on letting it percolate here).
We warmed up with some lateral work in the trot. My inner DQ wants the lateral work to be perfect, but the logical part of my brain is trying to come to terms with using lateral work to improve Rio’s straightness, throughness, and strength, and not be so obsessed with the perfection of the actual movement. It is actually going pretty well!
For example, on left-handed turns/circles I can sometimes feel him locking his inside jaw against my hand, and instead of stepping under with his inside hind and pushing, he tries to slide out my outside rein and make a really large turn/circle instead of the tidy one I had asked for. I played with 2 different “fixes” today to try and improve our left turns. I started with doing 4-6 steps of shoulder in with the the goal of getting him to really step under with his inside hind, soften to my inside rein, and accept the contact of my outside rein. The idea was that I could then straighten him, maintain the softness of the inside jaw and the engagement of the hind end, and have him truly through on my outside rein through the turn, with support from my outside leg. Does any of that word vomit make sense? LOL. Well, it sort of worked but sort of not really. I felt like as soon as I straightened him he went back to bracing against my inside rein, which says to me that our shoulder in wasn’t REALLY there- he must have still been bracing somewhere because he wasn’t really connected and he wasn’t really accepting of my outside side rein contact.
After that didn’t quite go as planned I asked for some counter bend as I approached the turn, and really used my outside leg to control his shoulders around the turn. Next time around, I didn’t counter bend, and kept him straight, and again a lot of outside leg. Then I again attempted it with slight inside bend, but mostly focusing on turning off the outside leg. This seemed to help, so I moved on to other work, not wanting to drill the left handed turn. I plan to continue incorporating more lateral work, especially in our weak areas.
After our focused trot work I asked for the canter. He immediately jumped into a lovely, collected (for him, not like dressage collected) canter!!! What a smart boy! He definitely remembered what I was asking him during our Sunday lesson and was trying sooo hard. All I had to do was sit up, take a hair more feel, and add a hair more leg. The canter felt SO adjustable and SO light! I was thrilled, to say the least. I played with going from collected canter to a lengthen canter and back to collected. It was definitely hard for him, but it was also obvious that he understood, and was trying to do it. A few times each direction and I let him be done. He got rewarded with lots of praise and carrots, as usual.
After carrots I forced Rio into a post ride selfie sesh. I think his expressions says all you need to know about how much he enjoys taking selfies.
What Rio does love after a good ride is to have his face curried. Out post ride ritual involved me taking off his bridle, and currying his face before I put the halter on. He LURVES it. Like a lot. Here he is, and all his majestic glory:
So do you guys incorporate lateral work into your flat days? Does it always go smoothly or do you ever end up trying something else? What is your most helpful tip when riding the shoulder in?