Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rachel and Grandma and Arabian Horses - Lessons Part 3

The first post of the Rachel and Grandma and an Arabian Horse series was posted several months ago and documents Rachel's journey on her way to her dream of competing one day at the Arabian and Half Arabian US Youth National Championship Show.

Lessons Part 1

Because Rachel is dyslexic, if I give her too much information at one time, she can get overwhelmed. Once that happens she is no longer capable of taking in any kind of information. To ward against this, I tend to break things down into the most simple form possible to teach her something new.

For example, the directions posted to turn the Arabian horse in yesterday's blog. I instructed Rachel to use her outside leg instead of her inside rein to move the horse's ribcage around the circle.

I watched Rachel apply the directions and then add the next step according to how the horse responds to her application of the aids. Many times, when the outside leg alone is applied to turn the horse, the horse will still fall in slightly on the circle. Not nearly as much as when the horse is turned by pulling on the rein, but the horse will go slightly out of square. To prevent this, the inside leg is applied to "support" the ribcage.

Dressage mom, also, reminded me that it would be more productive for Rachel to turn her shoulders and her head (instead of just her head) toward the arc of the circle to help keep the horse rounded on that arc. It is important for the rider not to drop her own hip or ribcage and to keep her chin up, because any of these things will throw the horse off balance.

So once Rachel has figured out how to keep the horse in the nice round circles that make up the figure eights we have been working around the cones, I moved her on to doing serpentines around the cones.

First, we started of with nice round serpetines, more like a half circle. Then changing direction at the center point with another half circle of the opposite turn and so on down the line. I had Rachel circle the horse around the last cone and return back down the line.

Once she had mastered this technique, I had her change how she maneuvered the cones. We still worked them in a serpentine manner but instead of arcing around the cone in a half circle, I had Rachel move the horse using the half pass.

In simple terms, a half pass is similar to a side pass. However, in the side pass, the horse just goes sideways. In a half pass, the horse is doing sideways at the same time it is moving with forward motion. The result is the horse is moving off at an angle while his body remains square underneath the rider.

So if Rachel and Dandy are standing in front of the first cone looking down the line of cones, Rachel will apply the inside rein (the rein opposite the line of travel in this case) and her inside leg and push with her seat to urge the horse to move. At the same time she will open up her outside leg to allow the horse to move through that leg.

To make it easier for the horse to understand this request when it is new to horse, rider, or the pair together, it helps to have the rider (Rachel) push her weight onto her outside leg. That will throw the horse off balance towards the direction we are asking the horse to move. Once the horse steps sideways, he's given an immediate release to tell him he has done what you were asking. I encourage Rachel to say "Good" using her voice to reassure the horse as well.

Obviously, I didn't ask Rachel to use half passes to maneuver the cones before she had learned how to do them well without the cones. But once she had mastered keeping her horse square underneath her while moving him off at an angle to either side, then I added the cones to the exercise.

To maneuver the cones with the first cone one the left, Rachel would move the horse in a half pass off to the right until she was even with the cone on her left side. Then she would reverse her aids and side pass the horse to the left, passing the first cone with it directly behind her, and continuing to the left to the midpoint of the second cone.

Here Rachel would reverse her aids again, thus half passing the horse to the right and continuing the line to the mid point of the third cone. Essentially, if you picture the cones in a straight line, the horse is zig-zagging the cones with half passes instead of doing the previous round serpetines.

To be continued..........

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  1. Rachel has really learned a lot on these exercises. I knew they would be helpful, but I had not idea how much.