Sunday, January 11, 2009

Squares

Today was a riding lesson that really turned into more of a "joining up" refresher lesson. After tacking up, I was planning to warm up in the arena then move out to the big pasture to do some trotting work (more space out there). Well, Louie had a different plan in mind for today. I did as I usually do, brought him into the arena and let him loose with his saddle and bridle on to run around and get any excess "spunk" out. Well he thought it was kindof fun that Stoli, one of the barn dogs, was running around the outside of the ring playing with him (as seen on his most recent video)- and didn't come into the middle to me and stop, waiting for me to hop on, like usual. When he did stop, he stopped with his butt to the middle of the ring, totally disregarding my presence. So, being the "alpha horse," I moved him off with my whip and continued this process of chasing him off until he stopped and turned towards me. This didn't take long, as he hadn't forgotten this basic lesson that was one of his first with me. He stopped and looked at me, and waited patiently for me to approach. Often he walks up to me, but he was feeling a little bummed that he didn't get to continue chasing the dog, so he just waited. When I got up to him, after praising him for doing the right thing, I tested what he had learned and took a couple steps sideways toward his haunches, maintaining my posture towards his head. As expected, he moved his haunches away to face me. Good boy. So now it's time to ride.

Louie had expended a fair amount of energy chasing the dog around the arena and the sun was setting, so we had just a short lesson under saddle today, mostly consisting of leg yielding and lateral flexion. We worked on a pattern I call "squares." This is an easy exercise to do to improve transitions and precision as well as lateral movements, and can be modified to suit your needs. Make an imaginary square in the dirt- about 10-20 feet on each side. Start at one corner and walk to the next. Stop at the next corner and pivot on the forehand 90 degrees until you are facing the next corner. Pause, then walk to the next corner and pivot on the haunches 90 degrees until you are facing the next corner. You can see how this works. Just ride the straight parts, stop, pivot of choice, stop, and continue on to the next. Then repeat in the other direction. You can do the straight parts at any gait and in any length, and utilize which ever types of leg yielding turns you please- and no need to limit it to 90 degrees, you could do 270, or ride triangles or other shapes if you like. Remember though, to stay on the proper square, that when you will be pivoting on the forehand, stop with the forehand equal to the "corner." And when you will be pivoting on the haunches, stop with the hindquarters equal to the "corner"- thus you must ride a little beyond the boudary of your square. So this is a good exercise to mix in once in a while in between rail work. It improves a horse's attention, suppleness, precision, and patience. Louie tends to be a little dull on his right side, so this is a good way to work on listening to my right leg. Anyhow, after we finished with our squares, my fingers were starting to get really cold (it was 16 degrees out), so we did a little bit of trotting- speeding up and slowing down- and then a little bit of walking, working on our inside bend. Louie, being rather dull to my right leg, tends to drift off the rail during this exercise when tracking to the right, but today he did quite nicely and listened to my aids pretty equally. So there we ended our lesson and headed back to the barn for the night.

6 comments:

  1. Is Louie also going to be your trial horse? He looks awesome!

    Tree

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  2. Is he really dull to your right leg? I've found that my left leg is my dominant leg. Afterall, that is the one we use to get on and off with every time, so no wonder it is stronger. I've found through concentrating on my position and studying up on those dressage articles, that it is my leg and seatbone that are dull, not my horse. Although, over time, the horse will develop strength and flexibilty in the direction I am stronger and more flexible in. Pilates for me in 2009!

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  3. Hi Tree! Yes- well, I'm hoping he might do okay at the trials- I suppose I'll give it a try. The worst that can happen is that he'll be like another horse I had in the past ;) Perhaps we'll bring him to WI this spring! I didn't get him specifically for that purpose, but if he does that too, that would be fabulous! Field trialing is kindof a rough life for my spoiled show horse. ;)

    Smartalex- yes you are correct, I am definately left leg dominant. But, being that it is more natural to handle a horse from its left from the ground, they do tend to become a little more sensitive to cues from that side as well. Thus my horses have always been able to pivot on the haunches better to the right than to the left, as that is the way it is practiced more for showmanship patterns and whatnot. So it is probably a combination of weakness and sensitivity. I guess I should be doing right leg exercises at the gym ;)

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  4. You are SO right about the being more sensitive on the left due to being handled from the left. I've been trying to teach some tricks from the off side just for the stretching benefits... ha ha... have you ever heard the theory that their brains are so divided that if they haven't seen something through the right eye, then half their brain has never seen it before? SO true.

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  5. Oh definately. I'm really trying to handle him more from his right than his left, just because I suspect up till now it's been mainly from the left and I really want him to be as balanced as possible- doing my showmanship from both sides, usually lead him on his right, etc. Why is it that the first way of the ring is most horses' better way??? ;) I've never heard that theory, but I believe it- for example going past a scary thing- when you change directions and try to pass it from the other side, it's like they've never seen it. When I was working with Louie on bowing, he actually did it a lot better from the right than the left.

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  6. OK, It's Offishul. Grey is way stiff to the right. When I first started working on the right today, he would back up to try to steal a treat instead of wrapping his neck around me. I put him back in the cross te are so he couldn't abck up, and we loosened up that ole neck. So, that is our current project. Getting limber to the right.

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