Fluid dynamics, or the dynamics of fluid riding
April 21, 2011 Leave a comment
This is an awfully fancy sounding title for a blog post, but I had a cool lesson last night that, among other things, involved my first few dinky baby steps of haunches-in and haunches-out. Or, in keeping with the fanciness – renvers and travers. Say it with me “rhan-vair” “trah-vair.” Dang, I sound good! (So do you!)
I was riding adorable little Tucker, who is very well trained and sensitive. Christy was mounted on her newly off the track baby horse Remy, who is just starting to really use his back and is getting the dressage basics down quickly. From the back of her green bean, as we discussed how aids need to be 1) distinct and 2) contextual, she gave me a short demo of how to move different horse parts around. Under her guidance, Remy did one step of shoulder in one way, and repated it on the other side. Then, again at he invitation, he moved his haunches a step in either direction.
As Christy talked through the movements, she highlighted how she uses her aids to block and channel the horse’s movement. An outside rein can hold a shoulder, a foot slightly back blocks a haunch, while the aids on the opposite side invite, encourage and guide movement. I immediately thought of how water flows. It finds the path of least resistance. But water (like certain crafty Quarter Horses I know) is also good at evading the channels humans create for it. It will take advantage of weak points. Horses are the same. Indistinct or unconvincing aids open the door for evasions or incorrect movements. Under Christy’s careful riding, Remy the green bean performed a few strides of both haunches in and out. As Christy pointed out, you don’t train entire movements. Horses don’t have magical buttons one can push to generate the renvers, or a half-pass, or a piaffe. The movements are the sum total of the horse’s gaits + the rider’s aids. And, frankly, the rider’s aids have a much larger coefficient in the total equation.
I started experimenting on Tucker. I’ve ridden a lot of shoulder in at both the walk and trot, and can also manage its corallary, shoulder-out. But deliberately controlling just one stride of each proved to be a lot tougher than I would have anticipated. And that was the beauty of the exercise Christy had me do. Because moving the horse’s shoulders one stride from a standstill requires precision and deliberation in order to move just the shoulders, and nothing else.
Tucker and I wove drunkenly around for a few minutes, until I got the feel for what I needed to do. And then we did a nice little cha-cha-cha. One step right, one step left.
Then I switched my attention to the haunches. More drunken weaving ensued. And eventually, I got the feel for what was needed to move his haunches one step right, one step left. Tuck shook his cute chestnut booty.
Maybe I should have titled this post “Horse Hokey Pokey,” … you put your left haunch in, you put your left haunch out. Wonder what the judges would think of that as a freestyle? Ha.
Anyway, I digress. Once I was moving horse parts around with more specificity, Christy had me try these while walking, pointing out the important fact that I need to hone these specific aids, because they are what I’ll use to control shoulders that pop out or haunches that drift. These are tools I need to add to my kit.
I aced the shoulder in, and got the shoulder out, too. I was on familiar ground. The haunches in and out were a different story all together. I did quite a bit of leg yielding instead of the desired movements. I took some deep breaths, and concentrated. I held my outside rein, I softened inside, I asked for a little bend inward, I slid my outside leg back a bit, to move the haunches out. “There! That’s it!” Christy exclaimed, towering over Tucker and me from her vantge point high up on Remy. I was beaming. This was fun, it was cool – but it’s hard!
We experimented a little more and I had a few correct steps here and there. The lesson really wasn’t learning about how to ride the renvers and travers – I’m far away from that point. But it’s never too soon to learn how to more correctly influence the horse, and as Christy showed me with Remy, correct aids can generate the desired response – even from an uneducated mount.