Thursday 26 April 2018

Think Up

For the first time in over 200 days, we finally hit 20 degrees Celsius. I went out to the barn in a tank top. Which kind of backfired when I groomed and ended up with shedded hair all over my arms. But worth it.

Cisco was slightly less zoomy than the day before. Thankfully the lesson about slowing down the trot seemed to stick so at least I had some control over the pace. Which meant that I needed to work on straightness - rather our lack of it. Going right he was bulging his right shoulder to the inside and just barging wherever he wanted. Aargh. There was lots of halting into the wall and turning the other direction when he really wanted to drop everything to the inside and cut corners.
A couple of weeks ago I said to someone that I hadn't seen a moose in a few years. I've now seen 7 in the last week. This one was on the side of the road on my way to the barn, probably about 60 feet away from my car.
We did some canter going both directions. To the left we couldn't quite make the turn back onto the rail because of bulging to the outside and losing balance. But we got the canter three times, each time he picked it up faster. To the right we just did it the once since he picked it up quickly.

We are still very much at the chase him into the canter type of transition. I was asking for it in the same spot so that anticipation would help us. Which meant that he knew it was coming and was super fussy with his head. Flipping up, curling, rooting. After we were done with the canter I schooled that area to let him know that we don't always canter there. We used our newly installed slow the f down aids as we trotted around the short end and he totally listened.
5 hours later on my way home, there was still a moose in the same spot.
Phantom wasn't quite so grumpy as the previous day when getting groomed. But she was in slowpoke mode once I got on. She felt pretty good despite only scoring 7.1 for symmetry on the Equisense. I was working on me and trying to remember how to use my core and at one point I was doing a bunch of quick walk/trot transitions at sitting trot and focusing on my hips moving independently with the horse, and this part had a really low scoring section for some reason.

My right shoulder seems to have been stuck forward the last couple of days - it is actually a bit sore where my neck connects to my shoulder. No idea why. Just age probably. So at a canter I put my reins in my right hand and let my left hand fall next to my thigh. It's amazing how well I can sit up when I do this.

Then I realized that I was riding my canter down.

I have always struggled with Phantom's canter. She is quite happy to shorten her neck, which means that her back is tight, and go along in a tense manner. She is so sensitive and unforgiving that if I am at all tight in my back she won't relax hers. So I have this tendency to try to just get her to relax, and drop her head and just slow down. As we canter I just think about keeping it small, contained and basically, down.
Cisco decided that since his big sister had a hematoma, he wanted one too.
When I was taking some lessons a couple of years ago with a lady who teaches biomechanics, we did a lot of thinking "up" to create energy. The analogy she used was to think that there is an elevator in your core area, and you want to be able to lift the elevator to create energy and lower the elevator to decrease the energy. It's not really done by stretching or shortening your torso, it's more of an internal feeling.

This was mind-blowing to me.

Since Phantom is so sensitive, all it takes to do an upwards transition is think "up". When she wants to jog at a walk, I think "down" and she comes back to walk without pulling on the reins. I don't need to swipe my leg back to get canter from a trot and it's a much quieter transition just by thinking "up".
That top bump isn't supposed to be there.
Unfortunately, this is not automatic for me. I have to still think about this, especially in the canter and canter transitions. And I usually have 2058 other things that I'm trying to remember.

When I do remember to do it at a canter, the difference is amazing.

So after my initial canter today, I realized that I was riding it down again. I picked up canter again, thinking "up" with every stride.

Holy crap, it was an amazing canter.

Forward and relaxed. Withers up, poll up, reaching out. I felt super tall and around my horse and that she was coming up to me.

We couldn't quite steer straight, but hey, baby steps.

I've got to find a way to change my mindset when cantering. Do you think I can stick a post-it note to Phantom's mane?


  1. You could get a fly bonnet with "think up" embroidered on the ears 😉 that's what I did to remind myself to look up! Haha