Following is excerpted from the current journal chronicling development of one riding horse.
The Reader deserves a Decryption: SI=Shoulder-in, LY=Leg Yield, HI=Haunches-in, HP=Half Pass, RB=Rein-back, PSG=Prix St Georges, F&D=Forward and Down
AND a note about the nomenclature of lateral movements: Lateral movements are described directionally by the direction of the ‘center’ of the bend of the horse executing the movement, NOT for the direction. So, SI,HI, HP right are named right because the horse, while moving right, is bent right. LY right is named right because, although the horse moves left, the horse is bent right.
5/23… I awoke this Monday to read of a tornado that took out half of Joplin MO and as yet uncounted lives, looked toward the dome of the Basilica, and prayed. And a forecast of “chance of rain after 2pm” Yeah right, I thought, the forecasters are to be trusted, Mother Nature is NOT, at least not this Spring. During breakfast, I youtubed Jeremy Steinberg taking clinic with Klaus Balkenhol in California…beautiful background…then another in which he schooled a PSG horse named Hallmark at Gladstone. There, Jeremy was working independently, it appeared, and schooling trot transitions as an expanded shakule (see-saw) of….collected trot to collected walk a few strides emphasis on walk clarity…to collected trot…several times….to trot to halt to rein-back to canter…back to trot to collected to SI to lengthened, to SI to HP to SI to medium. And all so tactful I can barely see JS influence except his lower leg moves appropriately and timely. (JS and Hallmark go on to canter work) I intend to do a similar trot shakule for SS. And to use canter to continue the restoration process of the canter itself and refresh for trot work. Will be judicious about the walk….warm down with walk and forward and down at trot!
Plan made, hamper and tack packed, I scurried of to give instructions enroute my own horse…trying to stay ahead of Mother Nature.
A few hours later, arriving at HM stable, I expected all to be well. Yesterday was his rare ‘day off’ in which I hand walked and lunged him in a large paddock, and relished the elasticity, the rippling quality of his loosened muscles in motion.
And all was well. HM was anxious to get the bridle on his face and we cavorted on nearly perfect footing through tree pollen laden breezes. The warm-up was usual, although the early canter was not as forward and fluid as I would have liked. I dropped stirrups to do the trot work, conscious of tactful influence, and I was able to sit back and UP through several minutes of trot shakule, which lacked for consistent tempo. In canter work with stirrups I asked for single changes and they came begrudgingly and late. And while doing the change exercise, he stuck out his tongue again. ( He started sticking his tongue out a couple of weeks ago, and after an oral inspection showing no problems, I removed the flash, and have been observing but otherwise tolerating this silliness since) I showered him as the wind came up, and squeegied him off, and set fair while the barn lights flickered through a torrential downpour intermittent small hail driven by a fierce straight liner from the West. (at 1pm, I noted). Much affection offered by horse at my departure directly into the blinding rain. To get to the next horses, on the west side of the storm… west from whence it came…on time. There to find horses and riders “Ready.” Upon arriving home at dusk, I noticed that an awkwardly trimmed silver maple had been “shaped up.” Only to find a huge trunk had been removed, carried east and deposited firmly between the shed and belfry of my neighbor’s carriage house. Oh, Mother.
5/24 Yesterday’s rain left water standing on the outdoor courts, so I hand walked on agreeable footing for a few minutes while awaiting use of the indoor gym. Eventually astride, HM was already somewhat loosened and tuned in and ready to bend and stretch. The lateral exercises at walk are getting better, one day at a time. The trot warm-up was frustrating; he seemed to be dragging his feet. Then I realized he was carrying himself quite well, feeling his way around and through the unevenly deep footing. Although I want more animation and up-tempo, I accepted his ‘horse sense’ and took the time to let him gain confidence in where he would be putting his feet.
Canter warm-up easier and earlier. SS objected to walk canter depart, even to the extent of anticipating and objecting before the depart cue. … I think the tongue wagging and walk-canter depart resistance are related…we will work through this. Trot lateral work still not through, resistance to throughness HP right. Canter changes clean but each required two cues, rather than one. I need to make more clear half halts, if only as seat corrections…and keep him up hill. Although he did wag his tongue, not so much, and LOTS more after I dismounted…I think he does not want to drool now that one salivary gland is open. Need to get the other salivary glands open. The indoor felt like exercising in a doused sauna, we were glad to walk back out into the shaded breezeway.
5/25 My own instructions this morning came from Katherine Haddad, via blog on The Chronicle website…in which she says a lot of useful things about instructor-student relationships, including agreeing with me that clinics are more challenging for clinicians. Of course, she does NOT say they are potentially disruptive to a horses programmed progress unless clinician and rider counsel thoroughly, verbally.
I continue to ponder her discussion of flying changes:
“Let’s say I have Student A, Student B and Student C in a clinic. They are all amateur riders with a good basic seat on well-trained horses capable of third level. All three students are having trouble riding flying changes.
Student A needs to hear:
“Listen to the timing of the canter. Hear the rhythm of one-and –two, and one-and-two, and one-and-two. Your aid comes on the “AND.”
Student B needs to hear:
“Ride counter canter across the half diagonal. At the centerline, stay relaxed and touch his belly with the left spur.”
Student C needs to hear:
“Kick him! You’re not asking for a change at all. Your spur never touched his skin. Don’t be afraid of his reaction. He knows his job. So ASK him!””” From The Chronicle of the Horse website May 24, 2011, Katherine Haddad
Some students have trouble with the “AND”…which AND? I muse.
Thunder storming this morning… more water outdoors, so HM will need to bend and stretch indoors, today on a lunge. Midday the air was heavy and still, making it difficult for any of us to want to do anything. From the barn I went to my office, left the tackmobile outside. While I did ever multiplying administrative chores, up came a tornado with hail documented to be as large as softballs, grape fruits. And trashed the trar. Thanks, Mom!
5/26 Thursday already! After riding two others, I got to HM by 11a. Only to find him ‘edgy’ beyond fractious, verging on cantankerous. So many changes in air pressure are unsettling to us all, horses and humans alike. So I took the time to give him a massage and found spasms in surprising places, spasms likely caused by reactions to thunder, lightning, and hail on a steel-roofed and -sided stable, maybe even the reactions of his stable mates to those conditions. Fortunately, I had an hour in which to rub out the spasms, close the massage, and watch his reactions to being tacked, which elicited a myofascial release oriented rub of his head before bridling.
Under saddle, just we two indoor gym, he was playful, incited by cool brisk air flowing through open doors and jalousies, and hyper-alerted by an invisible, but audibly recognizable terrier (his terrier, the one with whom he curls up for naps in the straw—-yup, puppy’s back to horse’s belly, nostril to nostril) complaining and voicing alarm about who knew what outside. SO I took advantage of HM exuberance, and rode forward. He was immediately impulsed in walk warm up, and shying and bolting and scooting from any excuse, so I put his mind and body to work, required lateral work very soon, and it got pretty good. He trotted out with immeasurable impulse, great activity, a wonderfully swinging back. Canter was quite acceptable. So for trot work I did J Steinberg’s trot shakule exercise, and got the most “through” trot HP yet, BOTH directions.
The canter and counter canter were good, the changes not so good. I was curling forward rather than staying up to permit the change to come through from behind, I was not nudging outside into a softening inside rein as I should; I had failed to correct my own seat after riding defensively through the terrier alarm. The second walk-trot-halt-rein-back shakule was useful. I concentrated on lengthening and shortening without changing tempo. I’ll do more of all of this in coming days…and I will ‘watch myself ride’ tomorrow! As fractious as this horse was, today’s was a most exhilarating and progressive ride!
5/27….Arrived yesterday a borrowed copy of Charles Harris Workbooks from the Spanish Riding School 1948-51 in which I have read only a few pages of his biography, penned admiringly by his nephew, and the first few of 675 (!) entries of the CH’s notebooks accompanied by superbly draughted pen and ink sketches. It’s amazing that focusing on one only most basic element of seat, I found myself today sitting so much better that I and all of my rides were amazed, liberated, animated, enhanced. This book is a treasure! HM was delighted! The highlights of the work were canter plie to half pass to plie to flying change, and all were good both directions. Then some highly impulsed, very uphill collected and medium trot. In my mind my emphases were first on my lower body: open hip, bottom of thighs heaviest part of leg, maintaining passive contact with calf, upper body erect-as if a puppet hung from above to mix metaphors with Sally Swift, pecs up, eyes anticipating inscription of each figure.
Lots of figures…just the basics but lots of them. And square and even body in all executions. Then I spent some more time in trot shakule, trying to clarify the difference between bigger strides and faster strides. We are not doing so well at that, yet.
And still, HM has a busy and unhappy mouth….thinking of lowering the bit one hole next ride. He’s just been ridden four of the last five days, and he was not unhappy to see his saddle today, or his bridle. So I should keep this pace as long as both our skins remain intact…as summer cometh.
I’ll read more Charles Harris in the next few days…nap next.
5/28/11 Breakthrough…actually a whole week of breakthroughs for HM.
I was hesitant to saddle HM today… During his comeback from rehab, he’s been ridden only every other day, getting stronger and becoming more elastic, week after week. Ready to move-up, I have ridden him on Mon and Tues, lunged him on Wed, and ridden on Th and Fr…and so it is Saturday, and the forecast is that Sun, Mon and all of next week will be 70 to 93…and humid.
The good horse was at peace with himself, standing square, and craning his muscular neck into the aisle way, looking only a little surprised when I carried his saddle to the rack. Was totally easy in the groom stall. This morning was still temperate, so I Rolfed his head, tacked and strode to the indoor, outdoor still too wet. I no sooner closed the door when the groundskeeper’s trailer rumbled into the courtyard, and the neighbor’s kennel announced annoyance to no one but a single, unaffected stable worker. Luckily I got astride before they revved their engines…and began pummeling the outer walls of the gym with mower expulsions and weed whips. They were totally unaware of our being within, and I was not about to dismount and try to get their attention through the din. They wear earplugs and safety glasses, I and my horses do not.
The walk started out extremely collected and cadenced, if not brave, but immediately even contact. After 1 1/2 circuits each direction, I asked for LY, and out of leg yield came big swinging long medium walk on even contact! and so contact and my own position as recently tutored by CH, were the theme…and more canter than trot, as reminded by Lendon Gray and Debbie McDonald via Dressage Radio this dawn, and again good canter plie-HP-plie>changes clean and clear both directions. And many good clean changes at 10 and 12 stride intervals. I will eventually shorten those intervals as HM becomes stronger and more confident and through the changes, but need to plan a way to do that around too many jumps indoors. It will be easier outdoors.
In trot I felt more motion coming from behind and through his back, sooner. I played with alternating sitting and rising… as frequent refreshment of schwung. The medium trot became more uphill, and I was able to keep an uphill frame in medium and collected walk interludes.
I saw the wagging tongue in the first counter canter left lead, but was not conscious of it later. The wonder is that when I dismounted, I saw significant thick foam evenly on BOTH sides of SS mouth. Soooooooo…either the flexions at the poll are coming naturally and producing the salivary foam, OR the other saliva glands have unclogged…In any case this is the best foam I have EVER seen from this horse. Next is to get both my legs into such a consistent passively adhesive position that I produce lather under my calf. I have to keep working on my seat.!!!!!!!!
5/29 Arrived last evening Britta Schoffman’s 2007 Klaus Balkenhol: The Man and his Training Methods translated by Reina Abelshauser for Trafalgar Square. I’ll review and take notes. Scanning, I have already found, on page 44, what is, even out of context, one of my favorite quotes of all time: “Most alleged ‘innovations’ aren’t really new but were actually dismissed as useless centuries ago.”
HM was under saddle 5 of the last seven days. A good enough increase of intensity. It was already 84F @10:30am and there was no electrical power the neighborhood of the stable. (Mother Nature, what have you been up to this morning?) The only available footing was a fairly steep paddock of adequate dimension. So after battery-powered barbering in the breezeway, bandaging and booting to lunge, we used that paddock for walk and trot only. It was interesting to see HM offer four modulations of walk in each circle he made…the drama of the extended walk downhill was breathtaking. I prayed he did not over-stretch anything. It took a little encouragement to elicit a real working trot…wanted to not step hind into fore print. That particular paddock is just steep enough that even working trot was a lot of hind end work, even for this increasingly strong horse. So I did not ask for canter at all. HM was enthusiastic to graze clover without flies…the vinegar and dish wash detergent actually works, so far, this season. Then I hosed his old injury sites, scrubbed his coronary bands and applied antiseptic ointment. I hope I don’t have to use that footing often.
Siesta with Charles and Klaus now…then dead-head the garden.
5/30 Memorial Day…the electricity in the office blinked off for a minute at 6am and curtailed my reading reports and forecasts. (Again this morning, Mother Nature?) Tack cleaned and stirrups reversed…temperature zooming, though blessedly breezy from the south…I struck out early to instruct before students’ barbecues, then to ride mine. HM looked great, and I was mounting in the already too firm upper court while the Barn Manager was turning horses to the accompaniment of howling curs, an open mare screaming for company in the front field. Simultaneously, the driver of an empty stock trailer stopped to admire His Magnificence, then bumped noisily out the rutted lane. All combined making for just enough audio madness to cause HM bolt and dive soon after I was astride.
Then to unwind with LY which connected inner leg to outer rein, each direction, followed by walk modulations. HM was not thrilled by the footing, but I believed it would be ok for his degree of conditioning, so when in trot warm- up he ignored my forward aids, I tapped the whip on his rump from the left …he bucked, I asked again for forward…and got it. That lesson was done for the day. Canter warm-up was forward and upward about the perimeter, with some canter forward and down to stretch the topline. Seems to have worked.
The first work was lateral in both trot and canter. In trot: LY, SI, HI, then HP-SI-HP-SI. more nearly even in both directions. In canter, plie-HP-PL-HP-PL….three times before asking for a flying change. Both directions. o my delight the horse was more through his topline in HP trot both directions, and more up and through and buoyant in HP canter both directions. I do not remember asking for CC today.
Next work: without stirrups, sitting trot with SI, lengthening and shortening, refreshed with canter with forward-feeling departs from trot and what felt like good schwung. Then shakule walk with straight backing. And a long walk to warm down.
I saw NO tongue wagging at all. But only a tiny bit of saliva on both sides. Causing me to wonder “had I been so handsie that he was unable to hang from the poll?”
Riding without stirrups, and with left stirrup accidentally shorter than right, is good therapy for my own left leg.
Tomorrow’s, Tuesday’s footing, if outdoors, will be even harder…so I don’t yet have a plan. Must play it by ear.
5/31…Hot, but still breezy, and footing still firm, not hard. HM was pleased to be saddled, audible sigh as I settled the saddle and attached the girth. When I removed his halter, he began contracting and stretching his face and under-neck muscles through the pecs, beyond the girth. And seemed he would have continued this self-administered exercise indefinitely, had I not reached for his bridle, to which he then turned to grasp. Although the upper court was relatively calm, he was hesitant of the footing. After inspecting the margins, I made a long sweep of LY right, which got the left rein contact, followed by a long sweep of LY left, which got the right rein contact, then forward several strides of collected walk, which got him chewing, to a long strided free walk which accelerated the loosening. Then some SI, and HI, and HP each direction at walk, into a medium, uphill walk, from which we trotted. The earliest strides of walk were more impulsed than they have been, and today I used the same sequence of lateral and longitudinal contracting and stretching in trot as I had just used in walk, quite effectively.
In today’s canter warm up I included counter canter spirals, with increasing collection in decreasing diameter, and vice versa and the entire exercise better to the right than left. Also forward and down in canter both directions. Although canter F&D served to stretch- “open”- his neck and raise his back a perceptibly, I did not feel it was coming forward from his tail as I would like.
The walk work interlude of shakule included rein back, collected, medium, and extended walk emphasis on uphill attitude. I did not include 1/2 pirouettes today. Canter work included plie-HP-plie…repeated three times to a clean change…did this both directions twice today, and was not quite as good as the day before- the canter itself did not maintain buoyancy.
We indulged a few minutes of free walk during which I reviewed the preceding. Then I dropped my stirrups and did a shakule at trot that included collected, medium, halt, rein-back, and some trot ‘half steps’.
The shakule’s tempo is improving: this horse is increasingly able to lengthen and shorten his frame without changing speed. I’ll continue to consolidate this exercise, and soon start to use it at canter.
As denouement to shakule, I regained my stirrups and encouraged F&D to the ground in a long rising trot….followed by a segment of medium, uphill sitting into a halt. The went for a trail walk to warm down.
I was not aware of this horse’s tongue even once today. But neither did he foam. I am thinking tomorrow’s ride will focus on refinement of half halts. Tomorrow, I’ll change from unflashed “D” to a flashed loose-ring.