From my journal:
Date: 8/3- 7/2017
Minutes of Training: 60
Goal: Coaching with Susan; overall goal to improve engagement through asking Monarch to step under his belly with his inside hind leg. We began by focusing on releasing the base of the neck to increase his stride and thrust. Then we worked on fluency through change of direction- walk and trot.
Methods- be specific, give details: warm-up: release base of neck with a suppling inside rein on long side and adding inside leg at girth asking Monarch to bend and move his barrel to the outside of the bend in the corners. After each release, I rode him forward into the contact.
Trot- same work in walk. As he stiffened on the long side, take Monarch into a supple circle- 20 M at first and smaller as he became more supple. then back on long side. Be vigilant to catch the horse beginning to stiffen, so correction can be quicker and more subtle before he loses suppleness. Avoid a big correction by giving many small suppling aids.
Aids to supple- Support neck with outside rein, bringing inside rein away from the neck. In the beginning, this required resting my inside hand on my knee. Later, the supple aid was much smaller. In the bend- circles/corners, put inside leg/inside spur on before opening inside rein. (Goal is to teach the horse to release as soon as he feels the inside leg, before the inside rein is needed.) As soon as the horse releases his neck, bring both hands together and ride forward into the contact. Feel for the difference the horse gives in each rein. The stronger the hind end becomes, the more even the contact will be.
In the walk-trot transitions, the horse must keep neck long and relaxed as he pushes into the bit through the hind end.
Part Two- fluidity and strengthening: begin a circle in walk or trot. Keep inside leg on to encourage the bend in ribcage and step of inside hind to step under and over. Feel for the horse moving laterally, as in a leg yield, as he steps under. Support with a suppling inside rein as needed. As we approach the center of the figure 8, change the bend with new inside leg/spur. Supple as needed. If horse takes most of the circle to change the bend, do another circle before asking him to change the bend.
Exercises- 10 M connected circles down the centerline A-C in walk. 20 M connected circles down the centerline A-C in trot. 20 M trot serpentine- begin at A in both directions, so work is equal on both hands. Leg yield zigzag rail to centerline on both hands. Leg yield zigzag centerline to quarterlines on both hands. Halfpass zigzags. Work zigzags in both walk and trot- aim for fluency and engagement
Reflection: After training for the past 3 days, I realize that when Monarch gets tired, he loses rhythm and fluency. This takes great strength and needs to be built slowly and consistently. Monarch needs lots of rest when he is working deeply. Intersperse work with straight and forward in first position along the rail and big circles.
Next Steps: Continue the work for the next several weeks. To prevent injury, do cavaletti and hillwork to continue the work with variety to prevent injury and boredom.
8/6: strengthen hind end for increased engagement and fluency
8/5: goal 1-improve suppleness- release tightness at base of neck; goal 2- strengthen both hind legs to improve engagement for reach and thrust. When asking Monarch to step under his belly in bending movements he loses rhythm because of lack of strength to step so deeply. This will be our default goal for the next several days. Increase supplements to help build muscle & improve recovery.
8/3: coaching with Susan- (see journal entry above)
8/1: calm, straight, forward comments about today’s training: this classic goal from the Old Masters became the default goal after Monarch decided there were multiple wild cats and mountain lions lurking behind every bush and shadow just outside the arena. When he wouldn’t supple out of his tension from the saddle, I switched to longe work. This was a safety decision, and a good one. Discretion is the better part of valor. I was able to remount at the end android him safely calm, straight, and forward. When a horse is tense, it is impossible to straighten him, and he is never on the aids or in front of the leg.
7/30: rider- position and effectiveness of aids/horse- engagement