We began almost immediately by using two whips, one in each hand, held resting against the shoulders and straight up and down. It was a really awkward thing and really hard for me to keep my hands still and input all the other things I needed to do but it was really helpful in controlling Stella's shoulders which was the theme for this month's lesson.
Stella has always been a very wiggly horse
and I've worked hard to get her to be a straighter horse, but she's not straight enough and I'm missing that umph in my riding awareness that recognizes big straightness failures but not smaller failures that make the difference between a rideable horse and a dressage horse.
When she gets lazy and drops behind my leg she can use her neck and shoulders to squeak behind my contact and do whatever the heck she wants and I find myself getting into arguments there. I generally solve this by FORWARD but sometimes I need to be able to keep her straight at slower speeds, and to learn how to correct her shoulder drift before it happens. Right now it's like it sneaks up on me, especially when I'm jumping. One second I feel comfortable with our general straightness, then BAM she looks like a protractor.
I held each whip against the shoulder, thinking about riding the shoulders and ignoring the neck and head, and tapping or whacking the shoulders with each whip if she popped the shoulder out or leaned. This made Stella GRUMPY and I get plenty of mare faces, which probably meant I was doing something right!
We did most of our work at the trot which is an easier gait for me as she's %30 less wiggly and is much happier about going forward. At home I've been working on sharper canter transitions and a better canter. She's happy to canter when she's happy to canter, but she doesn't like to canter when she's grumpy, or when she thinks I'm going to take contact. Hand gallop around the arena no problem. Gallop on the trail no problem. Canter on contact big problem.
In the lesson video we do quite a bit of cantering and it's not super pretty. I've got my legs in her sides, I'm leaning forward, and I'm thinking about those DAMN whips! This was about standing her up on her shoulders and going forward and not about the canter itself. After this lesson I went home with a determination to sharpen her responsiveness to my canter aids. Stella is not amused.
We also did some trot work that I was really happy with. She looks like she's really coming together and there are bits and pieces that look fantastic!
J nailed us on our lazy walk, something I've been paying more attention to at home but have not yet solved. Stella on the trail has a beautiful walk. Tons of swing and overtrack. It's her places to go things to explore walk. No trails? Death march to the slaughter house walk. A clear indication that she's not motivated and needs me to set the standard for the walk (which I've always neglected in the past with all my horses until Annie, who ended up having a lovely walk when I finally woke up).
I have again removed the video of J's voice. It really helps explain what we are doing and why but I feel that the internet is a big place and I don't want someone to misinterpret instruction that I had no problem with.
So where does this leave us regards to the jumping? Unsure. I need to improve my skills as a rider and become more aware of the straightness of my horse and my horse needs to be more willing to be straight, more responsive and be a team player. How much of this is due to my lack of skills and how much is her personality is a mystery.