Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boot Camp Day 16

Lurena's lesson today was a real epiphany. Delphi is blossoming at Belle Terre; Lurena believes Delphi has superior gaits than what Delphi has shown heretofore. It's my responsibility to ride to a level of excellence.

To improve the walk, insist that it is light, balanced, but briskly marching. If it's not, do something (anything) sideways such as leg yield or shoulder in. Delphi traditionally responds by slowing or "sticking" in the lateral work at walk so I reinforce the marching walk with a kick or whip tap. Once she is "opened" and marching in the sideways walk work, I allow her to travel straight in the better walk.

To improve the trot we worked on softening the reins with quick (and they can be quite firm) half halts and quick gives. If Delphi attempts to dive down, or run, or alter the balance so the trot gets uncomfortable to sit, I must remain in my own correct balance and dictate the balance in which I want her to stay. It's up to the rider to maintain the correct balance, even when the horse makes a mistake or tries to evade.

To improve the canter, also soften the reins with quick half halts up and quick gives. Lots of counter flexions and true flexions create throughness. Especially in canter, if Delphi dives down, breaks to trot, changes lead or otherwise makes a mistake, I must keep my position up and back with my seat flat on the saddle (don't tilt forward). Partiuclarly when a mistake occurs, I keep my upright balanced position and say "Fine, make a mistake, but it better be balanced and it better be light." Of course it's fine to make a correction, but insist the horse is balanced and remains light throughout.

A trap I've fallen into when Delphi breaks, or runs, or swaps lead in counter canter or whatever, is that I stop the exercise to re-group (or at best lean forward to keep her going) but thereby give her a break or assist her by adjusting to the balance she has dictated. Instead I should just say "Too bad" and maintain my up and back position, giving the upward half halts and keeping her balanced and engaged through the exercise's completion. Of course Delphi thinks this is way too much work and has been complaining about it to Lurena, but with the new expectations placed on her Delphi is becoming more attentive (her ears stayed back in a pleasant, floppy way on me during most of the ride rather than pricked forward spoiling for something else to do) and indeed more capable of showing better gaits and maneuvers.