Lengthening our Lengthenings

Kelso did well with the week off from a lesson because he let his little Wonder Pony colors shine this Thursday morning. I could not stop smiling for a few hours after dismounting; I don’t know why the universe put him in my life, but I am sure grateful it did.

I arrived to the ring with a mouth full of food and Paul giggling, commenting that “you would show up to the Spanish Riding School and my formal lesson chowing down…” I am running out of wild-but-still-allowed things to keep Paul on his toes. Now taking ideas. [The WP was shaved off the one and only’s hindquarters this week because it isn’t becoming to shed out with patterns, but we haven’t lost our goofy spirit. Life is too short to be anything but fun!]

After our normal lunging session, we proceeded to our lateral movements of shoulder-in, renvers and travers. When crossing a diagonal I encouraged Kelso to do a lengthening. Paul then informed me that was the base line trot we needed; I nearly fell off my little guy. What used to be our lengthening is now our everyday trot. Our lengthenings are lengthening!

One of the biggest points that was focused on during our lesson is me using my back and not solely my hands to work on the submission of Kelso. I have a tendency to use my back while forgetting to hold him in his hands; I attribute this to Kelso’s [quite] old habit of curling. Now that we have somewhere to go, he doesn’t do this at all. Imagining my hands attached to the reins are then directly connected to my hips and back made the world of the difference. This causes it to be tough for Kelso to throw his head without having to pull on his mouth. It also solidifies the idea of “pushing them forward into the bit” rather than pulling them back. I am super excited about this new feeling and skill because I think it has been a pretty big missing piece. We seem to find a lot of those every ride, which is pretty exciting. [This also makes me think about my poor little sacrificial lamb.]

From there, we moved onto half-pass, and due to my inexperience with riding and training these, I would start it too late after getting on centerline, causing Kelso to have to do a pretty steep half-pass to make it to the wall. I pinch myself every time Paul says to do a half-pass; my pony is so fancy! After these, we continued on to do trot-halts. In-hand work has really improved Kelso’s sitting ability in this particular movement. By working him on the ground, I am able to encourage his hind end to be more active without causing him to run out from under me. Paul was quick to comment on how much they have improved, and it is pretty wild to feel the difference in the strength and swinging ability of his back. This improved overall quality of his trot was also felt in his new lengthening. We feel like we are floating and it is an out-of-this-world feeling.

The canter was the next focus point of the lesson, and it is a night and day difference from when we first arrived. We began with working on canter-walk transitions, and Kelso is getting to be calmer in the uptake. I had a good conversation with Rose [a generally great human who trains here at the farm] about how canter-walk transitions can be very difficult to horses to learn as they need so much impulsion with the ability to calm down immediately after. Previously, they were able to use their forward momentum from the trot to spring into canter, where they are now being asked to sit and use a lot of power and then asked to immediately relax. I am just holding on to the hope that Paul said having that excitement will be helpful in teaching flying changes.

In this group of circles, Paul encouraged me to do a travers on the circle, which will graduate into a working pirouette. The preparation for the canter-walk transition is to swing Kelso’s back up more to encourage him to collect his canter. While the canter is not supposed to necessarily get slower, by the rules of physics, it will slow down some as his stride gets shorter but simultaneously springier. I do this by pushing him with my back and encouraging him to sit more. Paul introduced the travers on the circle as Kelso is a clever little guy (a phrase he used multiple times in the lesson) and can fake using his back without actually becoming springier. The travers on the cirlce forces him to use his back as he has to engage his little hindquarters.

From here, we went large around the ring and did renvers and travers. Initially, I could barely move Kelso around as he was not strong enough to do anything. It is incredible how much more adjustable he has become. Finally, we played with lengthening the canter, which helped him use his back even more.

At the close of the lesson I exclaimed “This stuff really works!” While there are days it seems simple, it is anything but easy at times. I am thrilled with the Wonder Pony’s progress, the instruction I am getting here, and the fact Kelso is willing to give me his little heart in all he does.

Off to be thankful for how lucky I am,

Erin and the WP

Week One Trivia: Who invented the shoulder-in?

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