Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another Lesson with Ande

I had another lesson on Ande Tuesday. He's been doing very well under saddle and it was great to get Sarah's input, as always. We began with a little WWYLM just so she could see how it was coming and she thought he looked vastly better. So after just a couple circles, I mounted. I still try to keep my center low over his as I get on, but no longer try to keep my head down or worry about how my legs move as he stands like a rock until I ask him to walk off. I explained to Sarah that I have been working on a few different things with him:
  • forward and straight
  • one rein stops
  • stay on the rail
  • teaching a leg cue for forward
She helped me to organize these activities better into separate lesson segments so that he will be able to understand what I am looking for in each situation. Forward and straight along with stay on the rail becomes the Passenger Lesson. This is basically a lesson in duration, giving Ande the responsibility of maintaining the gait and staying on the rail himself so that I do not have to micromanage his steps. A one-rein-stop thrown into this exercise would translate into a correction for him. I don't want to make him think he has done something wrong when I am simply "practicing" a one-rein-stop. So instead I focus on the Passenger Lesson, increasing the steps one at a time (until I get to about 30 or so and then maybe jump up a couple steps at a time). I click when I get to the target count and he stops on his own to get his treat. Sarah recommended always beginning at a count of 1 so he understands what we are working on, but once he is able to do a higher count, I can quickly jump up to higher counts before transitioning back to gradual counts. In other words, I know he can do over 25 now. So the next time I ride I will begin at one and maybe do 1, then 2, then 3, then 5, then 8, then 12, then 16, then 20, 22 and then go back to increasing by ones. So it has taken us 8 clicks to get to 25 rather than 25 clicks, but he knows what lesson we are working on and can get into the rhythm of going until I click. If he stops, or leaves the rail or tries to grab some weeds poking through the panels, I reset him where he belongs and begin the count again.

Then as a separate lesson at another time, I can work on developing his one-rein-stop from his back. He is very familiar with it on the ground so it is just a matter of transitioning it to under saddle reliably. And rather than just throwing the stop at him, I should be working into it with three flexions first. When I practiced this in front of her, Sarah pointed out that I was not finding the appropriate leverage point for Ande. I had developed a comfortable leverage point on Smarty and Elly, but Ande is just a pony and so I needed to find the appropriate point for him, rather than just going to a set position for my arms. Duh! That's why it's so nice to have a lesson with someone else watching!!!

Sarah also recommended I not give with my hands as much as I was when I ask for a go forward. I was really throwing my reins at him in an effort to be soft on this green pony but she pointed out that I was also throwing my weight on his forehand as I did this, making it more difficult for this green pony. So I got her to tag me for just giving with my hands to the point of his withers :) It's fun being tagged!

Because I am usually on him for only about 15 minutes, I got concerned after a bit about how much was too much for him so I hopped off. Usually I remove his tack and let him stay and graze in the round pen so Sarah suggested just removing the bridle while we chatted for a while (10- 15 min?), and then I put the bridle back on and got on again. This turned out to be a great situation. He had a break, had a graze but then went back to work. He immediately walked off nicely and went right into a very nice swinging walk which we did Passenger Lesson with. After several C/Ts, I realized I had not had to use my verbal cue at all to get him forward- he was going off my leg 100%. Yay! I do need to remember to be clear to take my leg off when he goes forward to keep that cue clean and meaningful.

Sarah also pointed out another exercise I should begin working on: accelerating off a leg cue. Technically right now, closing my leg to Ande means "walk". If I close it again while he is walking, he may be confused because he is already walking! I need to teach him that leg means "more forward" (with even more nuances in the future) and understand that he may not know that now. I can use a target or voice aids to help explain this to him.

Now if this wonderful weather would just hold, I'll have lots to work on with him.


Unknown said...

What a good baby! :)

Bookends Farm said...

He does not think we should be calling him a baby any more. I told him when he can walk trot and canter under saddle, I'll stop :)