Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 2: Cross Country Gymnastics

Today we went out to the XC course, but with a twist; Rainey had her “slaves” (those who rode in the PM) place standards around several XC elements so that they could be added to make the horse and rider “think” about what’s coming before, during, and after the element. It’s also a great way to get riders/horses used to more complex combinations before actually attempting them with solid obstacles!

We first did some XC jumps like the banks, ditches, and water, and then we added a pole, then an X, and later a vertical before and after, sometimes at an angle, making us think “turn” as we were landing.

PC was great, but as usual, he was a bit “looky” at the first couple of jumps. Rainey noted that he’s just like that, and I have to be prepared. She also said, just like Jimmy, Kathleen, and others, that moving my upper body or flapping my elbows will NOT help the horse have more power. WHY can’t I learn that?!! How often must I be told before I “get” it?

I used to be better about “heels down”…for some reason, my heels are creeping up. Gulp. Another thing I’ve been told over and over. Rainey suggested I think “toes up”. That might help….

Another thing to remember: don’t “freeze my seat” and tug on the reins. Use my half-halt—which means tense and RELEASE. Also: the half-halt is only effective when your butt’s in the saddle. Dang.

Some horses (uh, like PC) had some trouble making those tight turns. We did it, but it wasn’t fluid and pretty like Winston or Ronan, who are also big horses. Rainey said that you need to teach a horse to bend through his body. Push with the inside leg, giving the horse something to “fill up” the outside rein with; PUSH him into it. Better to kick/push, THEN to take contact. I think that, once again, I’m starting with the reins, and then adding leg….and that simply doesn’t work. I wonder if I should simply take away my reins?? Great quote from Rainey: “Put your brains in your legs!”

If the horse gets behind your leg, you need to recognize this and PUSH into the contact. Try to keep the contact steady (don’t “take” more until you have some energy). Keep the outside hand steady; without control of the outside rein, there’s no control of the outside shoulder, and horses will turn off balance and NOT be ready to jump/be balanced (which was, I think, our problem).

Several riders were told they needed to have “softer hands”….and I recalled the Law clinic! Rainey noted that “soft hands” didn’t really have to do with the hands at all; instead, we get soft hands by being flexible in our elbows and shoulders. GOOD to remember; I think I tend to freeze both. Soft, quiet, flexible rider = soft, quiet, flexible horse.

When we were working in the water, Rainey reminded us that horses lose perspective of pace and distance in water—so WE need to be especially good at establishing AND MAINTAINING a quality canter. The pace before, during, and after the water should be the same…but that probably means we’ll need to help the horse in the water, as well as balance them afterwards. Horses tend to leave early coming out of water. Know that, and prepare accordingly as well.

Something for me to remember over ditches and banks esp: KEEP MY HANDS LOW! Yesterday I was told to raise my hands (in the gymnastics), but that was over flat terrain. When we add challenges like hills and banks, I need to be more supple with my elbows and lower with my hands, because the horse needs his neck to balance with more.

The added gymnastic elements helped us maintain a more organized canter (and let us know clearly when we didn’t have one!!!).

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