Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lesson 8: Gas and Brakes in Every Step

Today we warmed up with some half-passing across the diagonal, then halting at X and doing a 360 turn on the forehand, then continuing the half pass along the diagonal.  We did this several times rather well at the walk, though we could use a little bit more bend in the direction of the movement (hey- it's renvers at an angle!) and a relaxed, lower neck. 

After this, we worked extensively on half halts.  We started with halting from the walk after just a few steps (using leg and seat only).  We then progressed to eventually walking one step, then halt, then take one step then halt.  This required a TON of ab strength to keep him from walking further than one step.  What Julie says is that we need to have gas and brakes in each step- you need to be engaged and able to go faster and slow down with instant responsiveness at all times.  Once we got this single-step gas-brakes-gas-brakes (feels like being in a traffic jam) down pretty well, we walked along continuously, but it was noticeable how much each step was purposeful and individual after doing this exercise.

Then we tried it at the trot.  Our halt was not as good through the trot as Julie doesn't want me to sit for the transition as Louie drops his back when I do that. We needed to learn the "pulley rope" and how to really stop with using the legs. Using the legs to ask the horse to stop is really counter intuitive- until you understand that the rider's legs are asking the horse's hind legs to go forward, and the rider's seat/core is asking the horse's front legs to stop, which, if done properly, should result in a horse who stops with his legs up under his body. 

Well, horses aren't born (or in Louie's case, aren't initially trained) to stop when they feel the legs being applied.  So, we use the "pulley rope" to teach it.  The legs are applied while the seat says "whoa," and the inside hand acts as an anchor for the rein, planted on the neck while the outside hand gently (read: as lightly as possible) pulls the rein back/up through the pulley (ie the bit) until the horse slows or stops.  I was surprised using this method, that he actually did stop, and didn't need a ton of rein for this.  Our plan is to only use the pulley rein concept as needed until Louie understands the concept of stopping/half halting off of the leg and seat alone (well, pretty much alone- but the point is to not crank on his face), as this does cause his neck to shrink up instead of lowering so nicely like we've been seeing lately. 

At the end we worked on trotting down the center line and halting at X, using the legs, the seat (stilling the seat, almost staying in 2 point until we were stopped), and the pulley rein to halt. 

By the end of the lesson, we had a pretty decent half halt, which is pretty much exactly what we worked on throughout the lesson.  Though sometimes it was actual halting, many times we used it to almost transition from the trot to the walk, then keep trotting.  Stopping with my legs and the pulley rein, and working on our half halting is my homework for the week. 

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