So I’ve been feeling like I’m plateauing with one of the horses I exercise. I’ve spent a lot of time getting her to be forwards in the trot, and to use her hindquarters more, but still she is too much on the forehand for my liking, which is affecting any lateral or medium work. She’s not particularly downhill in conformation, but I think it’s a lack of engagement of her tummy muscles so her back is blocking the power.
I’ve used direct transitions, which help to an extent, and plenty of circles and leg yield to improve the flexibility of her hindlegs. Rein back has also been really useful in helping her take the weight off the forehand, and the upwards transitions subsequently feel better. She tends to load her left shoulder and take her quarters to the inside, which has been checked by the physio and I think this is a limiting factor in our progress, so I’ve done a lot of work leg yielding right, counter canter, and travers.
Anyway, I’ve been struggling to overcome this blip, spending ages planning my sessions and beating myself up a bit about it all. A couple of weeks ago There were some poles out so I decided to have a break from flat work, and worked her over raised poles in a circle and she seemed to enjoy the change. I don’t think she’d be a great jumper because she shies at all jumps as we’re working and it took me weeks to get her to trot over a single pole without stopping to peer over it first!
The canter felt significantly better after this pole work, so I was convinced to try some cavaletti work with her in our next schooling session, even if I had to get off a dozen times to rearrange the poles.
In the next session we began with four poles on the ground and once the mare was happy with this arrangement I raised them one at a time. Of course each time she had to peer at them and knocked a few whilst sorting her legs out. At one point someone asked me if I’d fallen off because I was remounting.
I could feel the difficulty the mare had with the poles as her natural response was to rush, lengthen her stride, but not elevate any. When she got it right, he back lifted, her legs flexed and the trot slowed with each leg spending more time in the air. Her weight shifted perceptibly off her forehand, which combined with lots of transitions created a lovely trot.
So we’d had our mini break from dressage, and cavaletti were out earlier this week when I rode her. She pinged straight through them, so I used it as part of our warm up, and then once the canter had loosened up the trot I readdressed the straightness and loading the left shoulder issue. We’ve played with shoulder in, but it’s really more shoulder fore. This time however, left shoulder in felt as good as it ever did, with the left hind being activated, but the right shoulder in suddenly had a break through. Remember, her quarters go right, but this time they stayed behind her, and the right hind stepped under with the left shoulder lifting. It felt much better!
After a few strides I rode straight out of it and she literally pinged into medium trot. It was like the handbrake had been taken off and she suddenly found it much easier to propel herself forwards!
I did a couple more right shoulder ins before enjoying her medium trot before finishing. I felt inspired, and I felt like a lightbulb had been switched on in her mind! Now we can build on this new found straightness and nail the trot-halt transitions, medium trot and walk-canter transitions ready for some more novice tests!