Thursday, August 19, 2021

Lifting the withers

Yoshi and I went back down to JT today. She got on him first, and he clearly remembered his lesson from 2 weeks ago. He was much more willing to lift his withers and bend through his body and neck. It was a lot of looping around the field asking for movement over up and up. He was really lifting his withers and moving when she did this. His hind end looked much more active and more elevated at the trot. She said that often people tried to get that by driving more forward, but he, and a lot of thoroughbreds, had a lot of engine, they just needed to be able to lift the shoulders and withers rather than doing unproductive things with that hind-end activity. She worked him for about 15 minutes, mostly at the walk with a few minutes of trotting thrown in. He did want to bear down and pull still some rather than bending, but was much quicker to give that up this go around.

These were my instructions once I got on him: 
TLDR is inside leg to outside hand

1) Outside rein has to be there and solid. Not pulling, but a constant contact. Reins shorter than I feel like they should be, but elbows more forward. Elbows moving the whole time too. If it felt like he stiffened against the outside rein, particularly the left rein, it was often because I stopped moving my elbows. 

2) Ask for inside bend using inside leg at the girth. If he doesn't move is it because he became disconnected or is it because he's going "CAN'T". If he became disconnected then I need to reconnect the outside rein and my seat to his back and then ask again. If it's the latter then he gets a bump bump with the leg and if that doesn't work then a tap ON the shoulder. 

3) Then tell him where his neck should be. Light inside rein, communicating with the upper corner of his mouth if the soft ring finger squeeze on the rein doesn't work. AKA hand always more UP than down if he's not responding. Which is the opposite of my natural inclination. Ugh. 

4) If he then stiffens against the outside rein (more likey tracking left than right), then counter flex and move him over from the outside leg and rein till he is soft. Then ask him to go back to flexing to the inside. 

5) Once he is soft, allow the neck to straighten somewhat. When he dives down through the withers and base of his neck in 3-4 strides, repeat steps 1-5 again. 

He took a few funky steps at the trot. He felt sound Tuesday and Wednesday; I think the boots were rubbing on the inside of that left fetlock, so he'll be in polos until further notice. Which is fine, we're not jumping until this is his default way of going. JT said she knows he can jump safely, but until he defaults to lifting his neck and withers, he isn't going to do it consistently. 

I've honestly not jumped a horse like him before. Thus far he will go over whatever you point him at. But.... he may fumble and flail and roll over his shoulder in a terrible way. Which, fine, do that in stadium, probably no one will die, but if I want to go jump solid things on him, that's not okay. 

As we were walking back to the barn, JT mentioned wanting to see him a few days in a row. So he will be going to stay with her next Monday through Friday. I work Monday through Wednesday so she'll ride him those days. Then I'll come and lesson on Thursday and Friday and bring him home on Friday. We're both hoping to end the week with a horse who will much more consistently be able to do this: 

I know, I'm reusing this picture, but he just looks so damn good in it

Totally cheating because he was impressed by the ditch, but still! He can jump well! 

Rather than this: 
Yuck (sorry for the quality, zoomed in video screen shot)

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