After giving P 3 days off (2 were on purpose), we headed to Trainer B’s yesterday for our 2nd to last lesson before he heads off to sunny Florida.
I had no idea what was in store for us that day, but I wasn’t expecting the question, “How often do you leg yield at the canter?”
Everyone, horse and human, has a stronger side and a direction they go better in. I used to be better going to the right, while P was better going to the left, so we sort of (emphasis on the sort of) balanced each other out. Then I broke my left ankle and that makes going right SUCK.
Combine that with going right being P’s worse direction, we’re just a hot mess. Going to the left, I can usually keep P round and bent correctly. Going to the right takes all my physical and mental ability, and when P and/or I get tired, it’s just all over.
In our lesson with Trainer J last Tuesday (before the HT), she had me step to the outside as hard as I could and shift my hands to the left to try to counteract P leaning in.
Trainer B said he felt it last Wednesday when he rode him, and it was time to fix that.
When I ask P to move off my left leg, he, ya know, does it. When I ask him to go to the left off my right leg he resists against my leg and just gets super bendy with his shoulders. And then gets fussy when you put his shoulders back where they belong, almost like he’s trying to distract you because THIS IS HARD. And then rather than keep my leg soft and rhythmic, I brace because THIS IS HARD. See a theme?
So Trainer B had us start on the left lead down the straightaway, then leg-yield to the right. Left lead? Check. Right lead? Tempi changes.
But it got better each time around, so then Trainer B set up a cavaletti, with an obstacle that we had to get past after landing.
We were supposed to land, half-halt, leg yield. Leg-yielding off the left leg wasn’t so bad:
And I didn’t even notice that he moved the chair a little bit each time to make us work harder.
But then we turned around to go our collectively harder way.
Until we didn’t screw it up.
So then the cavaletti turned into a bonafide jump, which Trainer B joyfully announced would make it harder.
And, well, he wasn’t lying.
And this is our GOOD way.
I can’t even tell you how many times I lost my right stirrup and almost hit the dirt before I finally proclaimed this was the most dangerous thing Trainer B has ever had me do. Ok, maybe it was just 2 times.
Then we turned around.
Heaven help us. But we eventually got it right.
I will say, for how challenging it was, it’s really an excellent (and simple to set up) exercise. The point is to get the horse to land off a jump and go, “What next?” instead of just charging into the abyss. So we’ll be incorporating that into our routine now until it gets a bit easier and consistent.
Then Trainer B brought up changing P’s bit on XC. And I could feel the defensiveness rise. Yeah, P has been a little bit of a freight train on XC lately, but I’m actually enjoying it because it’s so different from the whole crawling-and-stopping-at-every-jump thing we had going on before. So I asked what he had in mind, and imagine my surprise when the response was, “A fat, rubber snaffle.”
I think I stuttered, “But that’s milder than even this bit.”
But the reasoning is sound. I currently use a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra loose ring on P. The double jointedness encourages him to give to the bit and keep steady contact, which is great for dressage and show jumping, but P needs to be bolder on XC (getting there, but not enough), and Trainer B thinks that him being able to have a more solid feeling in his mouth might help.
No more horse trials this year, so the experiment will have to wait until next year. Which actually isn’t so far off now that I think about it. So if anyone uses a rubber snaffle and has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!