I don't know how many of you subscribe to Dressage Today but I find it to be a very useful magazine. Because of his concussion laminitis, and because the arena at my trainer's barn is dirt, I haven't been able to take a lesson since March. MARCH! So, training Jackson has fallen squarely on my solitary shoulders. With a lot of help from my then trainer, we took my previous horse from green to third level (when I sold him). So, I know the basics and feel confident in the work I am doing with Jackson. His trot is on the cusp of 1st level since, with his lousy feet always relapsing, we spend a lot of time doing walk and trot work. I rely on DT and USDF Connections and some books (101 Arena Exercises) to keep me on the right track and to keep me from getting bored. Brett is my eyes on the ground.
There was an article in the August issue of DT about how to motivate a laid back horse. Jackson isn't a lazy horse but he is a laid back horse. That's how he got his barn name -- he reminded me of a lanky cowboy, leaning against a barn in Wyoming, chewing on a piece of hay. Jackson is a great trail horse, a great horse to put non-riders on in the arena and a safe horse. He is also a good dressage horse because he likes to go forward, he's a pleaser, and he loves having a job -- and doing it well. He's a fun, safe ride on the trail and a fun, forward ride in the arena. Who could ask for more? ...maybe good feet. Could I have good feet please?
Yesterday morning, I rode Jackson before work. I didn't have a lot of time and he is still on limited work coming back from his last "off" episode. My goal for the day's work was to teach Jackson to go forward from my seat. He already knows halt and downward transitions from my seat. I didn't know you could do forward from your seat -- I've always used a light squeeze. I used the steps outlined in the DT article.
The aid for moving forward from your seat is to lighten your seat -- sort of lift your seat upwards as if you were avoiding a tack on the saddle seat. Initially, I exaggerated the movement. I lifted myself completely out of the saddle. Of course, he had no clue what I was doing so I added a squeeze. Pretty soon I could lift without squeezing. His ears were going back and forth a mile a minute. Go? Do I go? Or not? Like this? After 15 minutes I had him making halt-walk and walk-trot transitions by just lifting my torso up but not leaving the saddle. He wasn't perfectly consistent but he was close and the transitions were nice and forward.
The most unexpected part was how much he liked it. I'm not sure why that surprised me -- duh, how much nicer is it to have someone become lighter on your back than squeeze your sides? He was also pleased with himself for learning something new. I'm wondering if the transitions had more punch because he felt free in his back to move forward. Today, his feet are resting so I'll work on it some more tomorrow.