Finally! I'm staying out of his way, and presto - the back comes up. Good boy!
Stretchy trot is not a movement I’ve practiced much or ride well. But as I’ve noted previously, I need to make a point of riding Derby over his back, and stretching into contact, in order to start building correct muscle, fitness, and his top line. I’m also trying to build my riding muscles back up and improve the independence of my hands. We focused on these issues in my lessons later this week.
A nice albeit fleeting moment from our lesson 6/22
On Wednesday, Christy had me pick up from my earlier ride on Atlanta, and focus on moving the horse around with my seat, while also keeping my hands quiet. We had some nice moments but really, the ride was mostly about me trying to get my act together, and continue to figure out what makes Derbyhorse tick.
She had me start by asking Derby to relax and give his neck at the walk. We then moved into some trot work, starting out on a loopy rein. I’ve discovered that I have to stay out of Derby’s face, and instead use my seat and leg aids – especially an active inside leg – to generate the results I want.
Which is easier said than done for me at the moment.
Tonight’s ride was better, chiefly because Christy had us do a new exercise that worked really well. I started out trotting on a loopy rein, exaggerating the loop to keep my hands entirely out of the picture.
Christy then had me do two things – post from a half seat, staying off his back, and simultaneously move him around without the reins – which is another way of saying “get busy with your inside leg!”
The response from Derby was almost immediate:
Derby stretches on a loopy rein.
Derby stretched down, and stayed there. We motored around like that for a while, despite the fact that I was dumping him on his forehand.
Christy had me gently shorten the reins a hair, and focus keeping my hands steady, telling me to think of my hands as side reins. She also had me close my fingers, reminding me that “There’s no way for you to give with open fingers,” while also telling me to let Derby find the end of the reins and invite him to hold the contact in his stretch.
And that’s when things started to feel pretty good indeed. Derby’s back came up a bit, and while he wasn’t moving with a big, ground-covering stride, he was holding the contact and keeping his back up – a definite improvement from motoring around on his forehand as we had been doing earlier in the ride. We were able hold the stretch for as long as I was able to maintain the light seat, steady hands and active inside leg, which as you can see from the video below of this ride is still very much a work in progress. And while the quality of the trot wasn’t great, in reality, there’s only so much I can do at once. I’ll start asking him for a proper working trot as I get better at holding the light seat with independent hands. Anyway, for the sake of documentation, here it is:
The good news is that we really got the hang of stretching, and eventually Derby brought his back up, seeking and holding the contact. I’m really pleased, because after spending the last few months watching Christy patiently build Remy’s fitness, I know that a lot of steady trot work in a stretchy, connected frame is an important building block. And, at training level, the stretchy trot carries a double coefficient – it’s an important test of the horse’s connection. Getting good at this is important, but I know I can do this on my own and that we’ll improve. Tonight was just the start.