So as May and I have been upping our fitness lately. There is one aspect I have let go. Lateral work.

After getting May’s teeth and joints squared away and getting our fitness back up to a respectable level (still not where I want it, but much closer), I figured it was a good time to see where our lateral work stands. If you read this blog at all last year, you know that, without a jumping saddle, almost all of our lessons were Dressage lessons where there was a strong focus on lateral work. Why? Because as my trainer describes it, May is a body builder… not a ballerina. She needs more yoga before we can achieve real collection.

It makes sense to me, and I did see a lot of progress in her way of going throughout last year. So, I started with the old 40 degree angle, nose to the wall, at the walk exercise.

Dressage Exercixe 1

This one… Black is wall, yellow line is horse (who should be straight) and arrow is direction of travel.

She was really good. She moved off my left leg, held herself mostly straight, and finished the move by straightening out and marching forward through the end of the arena. Awesome. I repeated it a second time with the same results, and then we switched to the other side.

I got nothing. I set her up for the move, closed my outside rein, but my outside (right) leg on, and she threw her hind end through my leg and snapped into a straight line along the rail… No.. not what I asked. I made a small 10M circle,and asked again. Same result. She got a tap with my spur and reluctantly moved her hind end over. Eventually, we mostly got there, but she was still a bit of a pretzel. I didn’t want to drill the move, so I moved on to walking leg yields.

I thought about my trainer’s advice last year. Ride the horse like a table. If you had a table around you, and you picked it up and moved it along the diagonal, without turning, the legs of the table would trace the line your horse’s hooves should follow. It’s a weird visual, but it works for me. Again, I started with having her move off my left leg. We started with the quarter line to the rail, then the center line to the rail, and it was something sort of magical. She kept her body straight, moved at the angle I requested, and I could simply hold the contact with the outside rein. She got a big pat and lots of praise.

Old media, you can see how much this helped us last year.

Then, I reversed directions and asked for the same from the right leg. Again, I got no response. Cool. I rolled my spur into her, and she moved on her front end. Even more cool. I tried to hold her with my outside rein, but she sucked her neck back, popped her shoulder further to the outside, and twisted her neck to the right. Ugh. Mare. I straightened her out, rolled my spur into her, and asked again. Same response.

Of course, I didn’t have my dressage whip with me (which only really makes her tense and might not have helped anyway), so I reached back and patted her just at the hip. It was meant to be a “hey, you need to move this part too”, and was definitely not hard enough to cause any pain. However, May took serious offense to the whole thing. She flung her head around, threw her body sideways, and gave me a giant huff. Maybe I just surprised her? I have no idea. It mostly seemed to work though, and I was able to get some correct (albeit very shallow) leg yield off my right leg.

Still pretty though… I gotta fix those hands!

The rest of the ride continued in mostly the same fashion. She moved easily off my left leg and tried to ignore my right side. (This is probably the root of my issue of getting her on the outside rein and was probably exasperated by the wolf tooth) I think the issue is still likely related to some general stiffness issues, so I am adding in some carrot stretches and her Back on Track sheet to see if those help. I am also going to continue with the pony yoga to see if it improves.

Something like this for our next ride?

I think my next ride (hopefully tonight) will focus on stretchy circles where we leg  yield in and out. I think that will help with the stretching and moving over issues. All the mud probably doesn’t help any stiffness of muscle soreness either. -.- In fact, it is supposed to rain 10 out of the next 15 days. Pretty sure KY is going to float away at this point.

ADDED: Found an awesome resource on some carrot stretch exercises and information: 

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  1. Avery

    Twice as much work on that not as good side! Carrot stretches and maybe some body work too if you can.

    1. Emily

      That too! The woman that has her two horses next to me is in the human medical field and
      has all kinds of stuff (theraplate, magna wave, ultrasound machine, etc). Maybe I’ll ask for her input (or a recommendation for a body worker)

  2. nadsnovik

    I really like that exercise! They’re always worse one direction, aren’t they?

    1. Emily

      Always! But I know I am worse with my left side so ugh lol

  3. stampyandthebrain

    Some of my favorite exercises! The times I miss riding my chestnut boys most are when I put my right leg on maestro to ask him to move over and he just ignores me, lol. He will do the walk exercises fine then once we go to trot it all flies out the window!

    1. Emily

      Oh I totally got flipped the hoof the other day. I know it will get better again, but ugh lol.

  4. Tracy

    I did the spiral exercise with Niko the other day, but we added groundpoles for more excitement and to give me a better visual!

    1. Emily

      Good idea with the ground poles! If it rains this weekend, and I get stuck in the indoor (likely), I will drag them out!

  5. the_everything_pony

    Carrot stretches are the best! Amber is surprisingly agile at those haha. Sounds like a good plan for Miss May!

  6. nat412014

    I’ve recently been doing some similar work. An exercise that we did that may help you too was pill flexions inside and out on a 20m circle. I thought Abbey was fairly balanced on a circle but when I asked her to turn her head to the outside on the right rein we really struggled to stay on the circle. It’s a simple exercise but is really helping Abbey and I to take our suppleness to the next level.

      1. Emily

        Hahaha it took me a second, but I knew what you meant! I am going to try that too. I know we really struggle with a true counter bend on a circle, but that might be a great way to break up whatever mental or physical block she is having.

  7. Emma

    I love leg yield exercises for Charlie too. So so so useful in helping him limber up and soften his back!

    1. Emily

      May too! Today was much better ☺️

  8. L. Williams

    A table is a very good visual, especially considering horses want to pretzel so bad when we do lateral work lol

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