Hi everyone! I've been in "deadline mode" at work for a couple of weeks now, so I've not had that much free time. But here is another chronicle. Eventually I'll post the story of the hack outside the school last Friday and last Wednesday success cantering with Mefisto (finally!!).
Wednesday, 4 April
I arrived at the barn today, to find Francisco and a couple of carpenters around one of the boxes. Since the arrival of the new mare, Lezíria, there has been one horse too many for the places available. As a consequence Lord and Ice have been sharing a box. Since the situation was dragging itself, it was decided to transform one of the larger boxes into two standing stalls. The work was being finished when I arrived and Francisco asked me if I would mind delay my lesson an hour. As I always stay till well after the end of the following lesson, that was not even the slightest inconvenient. After the box had been cleaned the two horses were taken in - under Génio's protests, because there was a lot of fuss and none of it was about him
Everything was taken care of with still half-hour of time to spend before the lesson, so we idled the time away talking. When the other students had arrived and we were all ready for the lesson to start Francisco assigned us our horses, with Lord being chosen as my mount. I went to get him from his new home and as I took him from the box Ice started to call after him. He only calmed down when we had been in the arena (which is thirty meters away) for a while and he understood that Lord was not going away. When the lesson was finished and I took Lord back, as soon as we approached the box Ice started to call out again. When Lord entered they eagerly sniffed noses before settling down in their respective sides. Considering their behaviour at feeding time, with lots of bite threats and face making, I had no idea they were such good friends! I guess that was why they were the two chosen to share a box.
There really isn't much to be said about the lesson. I had it together with the students from eight o'clock. Right at the beginning I had a reprimand from Francisco for not keeping a steady contact and allowing the reins to slacken and tighten again - jabbing Lord's mouth in the process. After a short lecture about it I carried on with a lot more care taken over the lightness - and steadiness - of the contact.
I had some problems with keeping Lord close to the corners, as he kept insisting in cutting them. My first approach was applying inside leg as usual, but also forcefully holding him with the outside rein until we reached the point I wanted us to turn at, where I released the pressure and Lord would turn by his own accord. After a couple of laps doing this I realised that the situation was not improving, and we were only keeping to the appropriate path by force. Faced with this I started to thing about the situation from the different points of view of the two of us. My view of each corner was something like "I want to go this way and I'll push and pull all it takes to get us there. The more you resist the more I do so. OK, now that we finally got here we can turn... see?"
. On the other hand, Lord's point of view was probably something like " I want to go this way and I'll push and pull all it takes to get us there. The more you resist the more I do so. OK, now that you finally gave up we can turn... see?"
. It's easy to see why the situation was not improving
! I was actually teaching him that if he resisted long enough he would eventually "win". All he knew was that as soon as we got near a corner I'd start to holding him, and holding him, and holding him... but as long as he kept insisting I would "give up" and let him go.
Keeping this in mind I tried a different approach. No more forceful holding of the outside rein I'd just "play" with it to keep him focused outside, and I pressed firmly with the inside leg. Whenever he did a corner well I'd pat him gently in the shoulder, if the corner was not that good I'd just ignore it. I would like to say that this new method got perfect results, but it didn't. Nevertheless, even if our corners were not as close as they should be, my riding was not forceful and we were slowly improving. By the end of the lesson they were good enough, with the exception of the corner next to the arena's gate, which he kept cutting and I stopped insisting.
As usual we ended the lesson with a little bit of canter work. After my difficulties with Mefisto the previous Saturday it was really comforting to be able to canter without much effort with Lord. In fact, if my first and third tries were nothing special, the second one was just great - calm, cadenced, without cutting corners inordinately and without hesitations or changes of speed when overtaking the others. And what's more, it felt wonderfully to boot