Monday, July 17, 2017

Trot Lengthen and Counter-Canter Fixes

We've been a bit stuck the last few rides working on improving trot lengthens and counter-canter.  Just not able to make progress with either movement so they actually look and feel the way they should.  Until I had an epiphany.  About energy.  Again.  Basically, I have two different horses in one right now.  The fired up, slightly tense horse is Jet at a show.  Energy is not a problem.  The slightly behind my leg, slightly slow off my aids horse is Jet under pretty much any circumstances at home.  Relaxation is not a problem.  All the Dressage Naturally and TRT Method work has been super to produce a much more relaxed horse BUT I have let the energy slide in some of the basic work at home.  Don't get me wrong, I love the new, much calmer Jet, but since relaxation is almost a given, the energy and quick  response to my energy has decreased.

What does energy have to do with counter-canter and lengthens you ask?  Well, if your horse is pretty balanced and relaxed but low energy, how is that transition from trot to canter?  How high quality is the low energy canter that comes out of that transition?  How does that canter work out for the counter-canter?  Also, how is that transition from low energy working trot to lengthened trot?  Now traditional dressage would tell you to add lots of leg/seat/stick to get that much need energy.  Which usually results in the crammed together look seen all over in dressage.  Dressage Naturally has a different approach that emphasizes a whisper instead of a shout.  On a loose rein walk the rider coils up her energy like the kitty pictured below and sends it forward into a trot.  If the horse does not respond 100% the rider can tap the horse behind the leg, tap his boot, or a variety of other gentle scoot forward reinforcers.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Basically, over time, you will tune the horse to listen and respond to your energy using this exercise and the horse eventually moves almost off of your thoughts.  It is amazing stuff that looks something like this for every transition.

So, right now we are focusing on having the correct amount of energy BEFORE every transition.  Low and behold Jet's gaits are better and it is much easier to shift his balance back and/or slow his tempo.  This of course helps make a nice balanced canter that makes counter-canter possible and a slightly coiled up trot that can lengthen a little as well.  Just by focusing on this one thing but doing essentially the same exercises, problem solved.  Relaxation, Energy, Balance, are the three legs of the Dressage Naturally Sweet Spot and I find myself going back to them over and over when we get stuck.

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