Since this our sixth day of work in a row we decided to do a shorter more compact lesson -meaning that we keep the lesson short but get to work quicker. During our lesson today we played a bit more with quickness from behind off of only my leg to get Woo more reactive and snappy behind. When working on collection, half steps, and piaffe sometimes our aids can get a little mixed up in the horse’s mind unless we are very clear with how and what we are asking for. Whether this is bringing the leg back more for the piaffe steps or asking the horse to step underneath himself with the leg for a collected walk there has to be a difference. With working the piaffe and half steps you want the horse, as Lendon says, to think that he is the smartest thing on four legs. Otherwise the horse may not like to do it; they have to think that the work they are doing is fun.
Staying off of the circles today and working on more straight lines we work through a bunch of transitions; first just working on the overall suppleness so that we would have no tension when we upped our game and pushed him more upward. The horse should always be between both hands to one degree or another. Staying mostly in trot, we worked on little half halts within the gait and the movements to accentuate the step and bending of his joints. Lendon would always ask me, “Is this the very best trot you’ve got?” To really work this we would do things such as riding three separate should ins on a long side looking mostly at the beginning of the shoulder in to press the horse into the outside rein off of the inside leg and to step the inside hind leg across and underneath the horse. This also plays with the shoulder control making sure that you can always move the shoulders to wherever you want them to be. This is paramount when riding since the shoulders of the horse is like the front of a car — you cannot turn or go anywhere without the front. After gaining the control of the shoulders we went straight into working the half pass starting with just one taking up a full diagonal to working half pass zig zags at the trot. All we were looking for was being able to extend his reach in the half pass or contract it depending on my seat and leg. This is also related to shoulder control, being able to have the horse overreach with the shoulder and open to get the bigger reach.
Taking this new quickness behind into the canter we worked on the changes and being able to do them whenever and wherever so that the recovery time in between the single changes becomes shorter and shorter until we can do tempi lines without even blinking. We have to be able to do changes in all sorts of weird places and be able to think that the horse will do the change if you ask. Whether that be immediately after you pick up a canter, on the short side of the arena, or 5 changes over the centerline on a serpentine. We worked lines of 4s and 3s, and Lendon imparted some wisdom. She said, “the thing about 4s is that there is a long distance in between the changes to fall apart but not enough time to fix it, whereas in the 3s there is not a lot of time for the horse to fall apart. This is what makes the 3s easier than 4s and the 2s easier than 3s, but that the 1s are a whole different ball game entirely.” After the changes we tried our hand at the PSG half pass zig zag. First we just did single half passes with a change right after it and then we went directly into the zig zag. Having trouble with the second half of the zig zag we worked coming up centerline on the left lead then doing a change and half passing from X to M with a change at M. One of the things that was difficult was getting over with enough time to straighten the horse and ask for the change, however, the thing was you have to straighten and ask for a change at the same time so as not to waste a single stride on the line.