Tuesday evening I had my second lesson with Kim. My first lesson with her was fairly dramatic, and though I was extremely pleased with her instruction and felt like I learned a ton, I wasn’t happy with Robbye’s behavior. This time, I had a much more forward and thinking Robbye, and Kim even said that she was happy to see this different side of the mare. (Luckily, the really bad Robbye only comes out twice a month or so, when she’s really hormonal and ouchy.)
My main takeaway from this lesson was a new, dramatic way to ask Robbye for the “headset” part of the frame. (So nice that she showed up with a forward, tracked up, raised-back trot so that we could focus on her head and neck, where she likes to put all of her resistance.) First, I hold a very steady, constant outside rein. Kim gave me a cheat for this step so I didn’t have to think about it: take the outside excess stirrup leather out of its keeper, then hold it and my rein in the outside hand. It worked really well to both teach me what that absolutely steadiness feels like and also allow me to forget about it and focus on other things.
Once I have that “perfect” (attained via cheating) outside support, I then “bungee” the inside rein to ask for give in the neck and throat-latch. The movement is much more dramatic than the “playing with your fingers” that Michele has taught…but “much more dramatic” seems to be Kim’s way of going!
(The bungee-ing is not jerking but it is a substantial movement. It’s actually a lot like revving a lawnmower – there’s no hitting her mouth, but there is a lot of movement in her head.)
So, at the halt, walk, or trot I hold a very steady outside rein and bungee the inside one (all while keeping the rest of my body relaxed and motionless) until Robbye gives. Of course, even a tiny bit of give gets a release. However, apparently I’ve been releasing way too much; Kim says I “shouldn’t give her the whole cookie. Just a piece of the cookie.”
At the walk and trot, we did get moments of nice roundness, but we never got more than three strides or so. This is fine – it was a new exercise and she really did seem to be both thinking and trying.
(I did ask why she doesn’t seem to get this concept of a round neck and relaxed throat-latch. We longe in side-reins and she works perfectly. She gives at the halt beautifully, and in draw-reins she rounds on her own without me even activating them. But she can’t make the same connection under saddle and during motion, despite seeming to try. Kim didn’t have an answer.)
Some other smaller notes I learned:
- Kim doesn’t want me posting into the trot like Michele has me doing. Michele asked me to do it in an effort to attain an instant forward, powerful gait. Kim actually seems to expect more – she thinks Rob should surge into her trot whether I post or not.
- Kim had me sitting most of the night. One reason was so that I could give “cowboy kicks” whenever I need to emphasize the forward power.
- My sitting trot needs to be more floppy and relaxed, “like a little kid on a pony”.
- I’m gripping with both my knees and my lower leg. This is a new habit; symptom of the new fear, maybe?
- The super light aids that Kim wants still need work, though they’re better. Again, she expects more from Rob.
- Kim recommends feeding sugar at the beginning on our rides to encourage chewing a relaxed jaw. I always assumed this was a myth and never did research on it – does anyone else do this?
- Kim mentioned once that I need to keep my toes pointed more forward (which I’ve heard a million times) and also that I need to put more weight in my heels. Coming from EQ-land, I’ve worked to put more weight on my toes and butt, instead of through my heels. So I was surprised to hear that!
I’m excited to have some new tools in my toolbox. We do seem to be making progress again, and I’m trying to remain hopeful. I was very happy after my lesson! But there were some questions raised which I’ll put in a different post.
First – something I’m really curious about: I feel like everyone is always talking about getting the headset without getting “real” roundness in the back. But Rob and I have the opposite problem – even when we accomplish the tracking up, the forward, and the round back, her nose sticks straight out and her under-neck muscles bulge out. I feel like Robbye’s the only horse on the internet with a round back half and a hollow neck! Does anyone else have this issue with their horse, particularly in a dressage context?