11.10.16: Round Two

For helping with the upcoming Epona 'Riding into your Mutual Relationship' clinic with Anne and Shelley, Shelley gave Storm and I a lesson. It worked out that the time that we were both available was Sunday afternoon after Storm and I already had our lesson that morning with Kirsten. Storm looked doubtful when I went to get him out of the pasture for the second time that day. I had to step to the side and lead him off away from the hay to get him moving up the hill. He stood very well for me in the barn while I tacked him up for the second time that day. Thankfully he was not any dirtier and was quite cooperative for round two.
Shelley and I headed down to the arena, and she told me to go ahead and mount up and do whatever I would normally do to warm up. I explained that we don't really 'warm up' that I basically ramp up in my work and get him moving, and that everything is work to me. We walked a couple laps of circles to start with as she and I got acquainted and set up for the lesson. As I worked on the circle Shelley guided me through really feeling where Storm's hind legs were at any given moment, and being able to identify the footfalls of his outside hind leg. She explained that knowing where the outside hind leg is at any time is important for working on the transition to the trot so that the rider is balanced in the best position to allow the horse to make the transition. Shelley helped me get really solid knowing where the outside hind foot was at the walk, and then began to explain that you can use it as the setup for the rising trot. She used the footfalls of the hind feet, outside foot first as the two beat for the up and down of the rise. She began to allow me to get the feel by saying 'rise, up' to the rhythm of his footfalls. I practiced syncing the rhythm with his steps by rising at the walk, which is even more of a challenge than rising to the trot.
I began to work into the trot, and it took me several tries before I was able to time the rise and the change in motion up to the faster gait, but once I got it, it became pretty well locked in. We worked to the right for a while, repeating the process and working to find stability and consistency in the gait. I had to experiment for a while getting him to walk a bit faster so that the rhythm was less of a change to the trot. It finally began connecting smoothly and consistently, and Storm responded by licking and chewing and flowing into the trot. After we got over the 'what the heck are you doing up there?' issues, I was able to find the rhythm each time. Once I was finding the rhythm, Shelley encouraged me to keep him trotting so that I could find some consistency in the gait.
We switched directions and headed off to the left, and Shelley guided me through the same process helping me to find and feel the rhythm. The first thing that struck me was the fact that I "felt" the rhythm in my right side before I could identify it on my left side. Shelley helped me to work through and define the rhythm clearer through my body, and then repeated the same process as before, "rise, up." I was a bit behind in the motion, so she changed it to a bit shorter and used "ass, up" to help cue the right timing, which helped! When I was able to connect the rhythm and hold the gait, Storm began to cut into the circle, which is a common problem that we have to the left. Shelley helped me to think through the process and work on supporting Storm better from the inside. He continued to cut into the circle some, so I asked with the whip that he move outward again, which instead made him speed up and go faster. I was having trouble staying with him, but Shelley encouraged me to stick it out, and find balance again, which I was able to do until he eventually slowed down and we lost the rhythm and he walked again.
Shelley encouraged me to get organized and helped me find his rhythm again before beginning again. She helped me to feel his feet again, and we talked about ways to prepare for him cutting in on the circle. She suggested that instead of using the whip behind him, I could drop it forward and use it against his shoulder instead. I took about a lap to get reorganized and made another attempt, and this time when he began to cut in, I swung the whip forward and laid it against his shoulder and barely touched him and he stepped outward again.
We worked for several more laps getting the rhythm solid and developing more feel before calling it a day. Storm and I both worked hard twice that day!
It wasn't until several days later that I was able to connect the fact that I was feeling the rhythm going to the left from my right side, not my left side, which also meant that when I was rising for the trot I was initiating the movement from my right side, which was driving him into the circle. It was an interesting realization from the biomechanic standpoint and my own bio feedback. I will have to work to see if I can find a better feel from my left side to be able to balance the feel and movements.
Next Page:
11.10.30: AT Lesson: Last Chance