Sunday, March 1, 2009

Of Canter Cues and Bending

We had another nice ride in the indoor tonight. Brego definitely feels better having lost some weight, I would guess maybe 50-100 lbs. He still has a nice layer of fat over his ribs, but he's lost the roll behind his shoulder blade and over his withers. I no longer struggle to get the girth on the first hole.

Since we're getting back into the swing of things, I kept cantering to a minimum. We worked just enough on it for me to practice my new canter cue. I have been listening to Jane Savoie on CD and she talks about the canter cue being a "windshield wiper" type movement of the outside leg (in addition to the other aids). She says too many riders hold their outside leg back for too long and then cue with a squeeze. Guilty as charged.

For as long as I had Brego, getting him to canter was such a chore that I liked to "warn" him it was coming, so he could gather himself and try not to fall on his face. As he improved and got stronger, I, being the weaker link, kept the cue. So the last couple of times we have ridden, I was retraining myself and Brego to canter with a swift outside leg cue. It takes more coordination than it sounds. :)

Regardless, tonight we started to get it. Brego definitely understand the new cue, but his body is still in hibernation. A couple of our departures were more like lunges into the canter but the key is that we both have agreed to change our vocabulary and seem to be talking once again.

At the walk and trot, I worked on Brego's bend. He (or rather I) tends to be one sided, so I tried to work on strengthening his weak hind leg by overbending his stiff side and counter bending his good side in a figure 8. I am not sure I completely understand the logic, but Brego certainly did. It was very hard for him to counter bend. Think of turning Brego like a bus.

After trying this at the walk and trot, Brego started offering a very relaxed and true bend on his bad side (if I could remember to keep my inside leg at the girth). Lots of mental thinking and coordination during this session, which is the part I really love about dressage.

Overall I am encouraged. Brego's mind is as sharp as ever and he seems willing, even excited, about the mental gymnastics. Now if it would stop snowing and we could go for a real ride and let him stretch his legs. The smallish indoor really does make me feel like we're both boxed, anticipating that next corner coming way too fast. I tried to mentally trick myself that the arena was larger than it was to not cut off the corners. It's amazing that when I focused on it, Brego did much better. Horses are mirrors of our thoughts.


Lizz Bishop said...

I agree with you it needs to stop snow.
Glad to here you and Brego are doing good.

Bev said...

Daun, I'm trying to visualize this figure-8 maneuver. It's hard to imagine. His weak hind, is that from the injury to his hock last Fall or is it his naturally weaker side?

I'd also be interested in hearing more about the "windshield wiper" canter cue because (imagine a drum roll) I haven't yet really cantered him! Because he's young and big, he didn't have one when I got him last year. It would be nice to learn the cue correctly from the start rather than re-learn it down the road.

My trainer is currently working on his canter. She's been lunging him, using side reins, etc. For now there isn't much variation to it -- just huge suspension at a speed quite a bit faster than I feel comfortable riding myself. My confidence level, which had been climbing steadily, needs work after the buck he put together with me on him last week. My trainer is attempting to help me focus on the bright side. She says such a huge buck proves he's capable of really high level dressage.

manymisadventures said...

Glad to hear things are going smoothly. It's nice to read about someone having a 'conversation' with their horse while riding, instead of one-way demands. I find that I have the best rides when I really tune into what my mare is telling me.