The month of July was mostly a bust for May and I. Even when trying to ride at 7PM, we were still struggling against 90% humidity and 90 degree temps: aka – too hot to actually do anything. We also took down all the jumps at my barn while my trainer was absent. Given the number of leasers on school horses without my trainer there, I agreed with the decisions and decided to focus on our flatwork. As a result, May has pretty much reverted to being completely out of shape. We did, however, get a chance to work on something that has plagued us since I bought her – lateral work.
The great thing about lateral work is that you don’t need to do it at speed. We did a lot of work at the walk. So I would take May out of her stall, throw on a bridle and hop on. Then, we would spend 20 minutes just walking. We worked on tracking up and moving through her back at the walk. I love working on this bareback, because you can really feel if you have it correct. You can also tell how much your own balance influences the horse’s ability to lift its back muscles and push from behind. Unfortunately, walking around doing leg yields and spiraling circles in and out makes for a REALLY boring blog. (it is also super boring to watch, just ask my poor fiancé)
Fortunately, my trainer came back to work last week after having her baby. Yes, she is a badass. Thanks for asking. The first lesson we did was a Dressage lesson. I mostly wanted feedback on how we have been doing with the exercises we worked on. Overall, we made some really good progress. May is pretty consistently moving from the inside leg to the outside rein and I can push her body both ways. The problem, I can only push her WHOLE body each way. When a shoulder escapes me, I can shove it back into place, but I can’t move the shoulders enough to influence how the hind end is tracking up. As a result, May likes to swing her haunches in, instead of truly collecting.
So where does that leave us? In desperate need of some shoulder-ins. So we began practicing them. To the right, May got them fairly easily, stepping over and moving through a couple of w/t/w transitions in that alignment. We even did a couple of w/c transitions. Then, we went left. May was… just not having it. Flinging her head, prancing forward, and overall just telling me she didn’t understand. I sat patient and got a few walk steps in shoulder in and she got big pats. We finished with some stretchy trot, but it was definitely a walk-centric lesson; however, the lateral work left us both sweaty and sore. May, of course, demanded to be rewarded for her Dressage prowess with several huge mouthfuls of grass that can only be correctly appreciated with slow-mo.
I went up again a couple of days later and played with the same idea. And Voila! There was suddenly a lot less fight going to the left. I also just did a couple of transitions to the right before going left. I figured part of our issue earlier in the week was just her getting fatigued, and that has definitely been a theme for us lately. Once she gets fatigued, she gets slower off my right leg and heavier into the right hand. When we jump, this turns into a full on counter bend. On the flat, I can circle until she gives me the bend again, but I know it’s something she’s going to continue to struggle with until she’s strong enough to hold.
Definitely something to work on. Later in the week though, we switched gears and got back into what both May and I really love, jumping!