Friday, August 2, 2013

Rub Your Belly and Pat Your Head

Despite walking out the front door to pouring rain and a high chance of thunderstorms, Comrade and I were able to have our lesson with Robert Meyerhoff. The clouds start to clear a bit as I pulled out with the trailer to head to Peggy's. Good practice for me hauling the trailer with out a horse inside. I swear it gets wider for me though. Anyway once I got past the mean dog holding me hostage, I was set.
As I pulled up to Peggy's I realized my spurs were still in my car back at the barn. Just great! Too late now to worry. We loaded tack, hay and the pony and started the hour drive. I made sure to chew on some Rescue Remedy gum because my nerves were starting to come out.
His farm is about 40 acres with a cross country course and a huge sand arena. What I really liked was the fact that the arena was not fenced. They used landscaping timbers to establish a perimeter, but you could easily keep riding into the grass if needed. I think horses feel freer to move on in open rings too. Fences sometimes cause unintended limitations to movement.
When Comrade was ready we headed out. Bobby gave a set of spurs to borrow as the lesson may call for them. At the beginning he had me walk, trot and canter Comrade both ways. Comrade had more energy and his canter was so much more forward. Such a difference from riding in Peggy's little arena. Then it was time for the tough stuff.
As I mentioned before, Bobby rode him and felt his falls onto his right shoulder during right lead canter. I definitely concur. So he had me canter, but with in the rhythm of the gait I would squeeze with my inside leg at the girth. For additional help my left rein was opened to the outside creating a leading rein opening the outside shoulder encouraging him to stay out. When I found the pattern, I could feel him lift that inside shoulder giving him a rounder gait. Then Bobby increased the challenge by having us come down the center and leg yield out. Comrade said it was too hard and broke to a trot. I had to find a balance between keeping him moving, but not losing him out the front end. We had some success, but it was a butt kicker. The change in his canter was worth it though.
From there we moved on to trot leg yields which verbally I understood what he wanted me to do. But actually completing the task was like rubbing your belly while patting your head. Thinking about it made it harder to naturally find the timing. Plus what he wanted was opposite of how I was taught many years ago about when to apply pressure.
So here is what I had to do:
1. Trot rising around the outside
2. Come down center of ring
3. When I sat in the saddle during the post, I was to squeeze with the leg at the girth
4. When I rose during the post, I was to weight the opposite leg/seat bone
5. and repeat

That does not sound so bad, Right?
Well I was taught to ask for sideways movement in the upper part of the post. That was hard for me to learn but I did. Now I have to retrain years of muscle memory to this new way. My timing for lateral work sucks on a normal day. So add nerves and a new way of asking, oh yeah, it was tough.
We did occasionally put it all together and get some leg yields. Comrade was still trailing his butt some, but at least the shoulder was up.
To the left Comrade is better and I have more issues. I had to watch my outside rein because he would try to rush causing him to bulge his shoulder. Bobby had me really shorten my reins, I mean I was on the last nub of the web reins. His reasoning was sound though. Comrade was hit the end of the reins quicker and receive correction faster than with a longer rein. He stopped running out his shoulder once I blocked it. When I had my timing right I could feel how the squeeze cued him and the weight change helped show him the way to move. Once he moves just off the leg, we will where we need to be.
Bobby is all about riding effectively. If exaggerated directions are needed to help the horse learn, you do it. This is a concept I have heard before and agree with whole heartily. So much of what he said and worked on is similar to how my Mom teaches. I can't afford to take a lot of lessons, but I am going to try to take at least one a month or so. Next week Peggy will be back in the tack and Mom may haul one of ours out for a lesson too.
Comrade can only do short sessions of this kind of work because he does not have the muscling. We are really just starting canter work now that the joint medicine has done it's job. Can't wait to play with some of this on my own. Let's hope the rain cooperates.


  1. So funny, they really are the same! I know you read when I was struggling with him hitting the reins and breaking, just a few months ago. Well that's stopped now, so I'm telling you there's hope :) Awesome that you have someone like that to take lessons from!!

    1. Yes, Jen I remember. Your training posts are like future references for me :)

  2. Sounds like a great lesson! Interesting about the 'fenceless ring', I want to put one like it in if/when we get our property and some people think the idea is a little crazy. I may have to compromise and have a fence set back 20 feet or so from the ring :)

    1. My old instructor had one like that. It works just as well. For our grass ring, we let the grass grow longer to make the edge of the dressage ring. It is enough of a visual barrier, but can easily be ridden through if needed. Takes space to achieve, but totally worth it.