Below is an excerpt from my Hope Horsemanship August Clinic update. This portion focuses on what Khaleesi & I worked on that I believe will make our endurance riding more successful over time.
Currently Iva & I are planning to head to Big South Fork the weekend of September 10 for a 55 mile ride for K and a road trip, camping practice and a practice ride on our recovery from travel day. Hope is still not ready to compete but she continues to improve all the time.
The biggest highlight of the clinic for me came in working on balance and bend with Khaleesi which is leading to more self-carriage and strength. She is beginning to use her hind end more powerfully which is really fun to engage in. I am learning how to always get better at supporting her. I’m starting to notice when her hind end and front end aren’t matching in speed or energy, and slow down the front to match the hind. My feel for minute body changes in both of us is becoming more refined each time Emily comes and the changes made in almost imperceptible ways sent her into a deep processing pattern as she began to make changes along with my higher ability to feel us balance together. Super cool to do, probably pretty boring to watch.
My take away concept is broader, it’s the idea of: And Go! I have been riding K through my energy for years now with increasing success. If I want her to pick up a trot I rarely have to use a physical aid, but if I change my energy from the 1-2-3-4 walk temp to a 1-2 1-2 1-2 1-2 she will almost always pick up a trot; if I put my energy to “zero” she’ll sometimes stop so abruptly I come off balance before I’ve ever thought to touch the reins.
Yet something I have never attempted is to create an energy shift in my body, and then hold it momentarily until I give the “And Go!” to execute. This was an entirely new dimension of communication for us. Instead of simple transitions now as I communicated them with my energy as I wanted them, I was giving a preparation for the transition. Previously I had the thought: I’d like to transition to a trot. Then I would bring my energy up to a trot, and as the horse sensed that happening she would pick up the trot (or if not I would add an aid to support her understanding of what I wanted). I was careful to control my energy not to be sending unwanted signals.
Why this had never occurred to me before I’m not sure but it’s huge! Now I can take a moment to bring up the energy for a trot and then wait for it….. and when I’m ready give the and GO! This tool because key for coming into a higher level of balance because what I want when asking for the trot is to do it in balance. And another nugget I learned this clinic is that when energy leaks forward which looks like a speeding up into a transition, the balance is lost in the transition and the new gait is begun out of balance onto the forehand which is exactly what I want to change going forward.
Now as I began to work with this I would be at a walk in balance and begin to change the energy but ask her to wait for it, to prepare, and when I give the and GO then the transition is simply from a walk up into a trot without speeding up the walk in order to find the trot. This preparation gave K a moment to feel her energy build before the release of the energy which meant it could come in balance through her entire body more effectively.
This added a layer to our previous energy style riding and at first she wasn’t clear on what I was doing. Previously energy up meant GO into the next gear. At first I had to use my aids to slow the “front door” by actually holding firm in my hands and not allowing her to rush forward then finding a way to translate that the energy was being released in the and GO. This I can’t fully explain and it took me some time and experimentation to feel like I found a way to do it that she could understand and anticipate. When it worked she powered up into balance in the transition and it was great fun.
When it didn’t work because of me trying to learn how to do this more effectively I would bring up the energy and shut the front door for energy leakage and she knew the energy was moving but didn’t know where to go so we danced a few times all over the arena sideways, sometimes backward and often a combination of everyway but forward as she knew she was supposed to respond somehow but I was saying not forward. What I was really saying was “hold onto it and I’ll give you the cue in just a sec” but with her dancing all over trying to sort out what to do with the energy I gave her that became tricky to execute.
What’s been a blast is to practice this from a halt to canter. Recently she began giving me some real blast off departs off her spring loaded hind end and a few times I had to hold on and apologize as I lost balance when she gave me exactly what I asked for and I wasn’t truly prepared for what it would feel like.
I reflected that sometimes I sense this same thing happening in my own life. As I try to walk in step with God, early on I was getting pretty good at flowing with his movement and if I got the sense to move, I moved. However I have felt recently that I’m getting the message to prepare for a move. But hold on. I start dancing all around my life in every which way with ants in my pants because I know a change is coming. Now I’m beginning to see that he is being kind by telling me to get ready. It’s actually nice to have warning that things will change soon- but I have to wait to get the and GO signal. I think I’m still trying to learn what that is exactly.
Something I would do for K when she would get bunched up and bothered trying to give me every answer she could think of when I was asking her to prepare, was to breathe out, relax slightly and rub her neck and give her the assurance: good girl, you’re just fine, thanks for paying attention- just wait one second and I’ll release you. The last thing I’d do would be to make her feel like she was wrong in her anxious response to this new level. I am always pleased when she responds with such sensitivity- even if it gets briefly counterproductive.
I’m pretty sure God sees us in a similar way. When he begins to upgrade us to new layers of walking with him and we get anxious trying to figure out what he wants from us, I think he wants us to find some peace as he’s just asking us to prepare and be ready for the imminent release…