I meant to take pictures of the ring last night but I didn’t remember until I was driving home. Oh well. We were riding in the main hunter ring again with the same course that was set on Tuesday.
G explained that we would be building up to the exercise he had planned. To start we were to trot in to the quarter line cross-rail (with a trot pole in front) on a left rein. Six strides after the jump halt. Repeat but halt on the fifth stride, then forth, then third. This exercise is to get our horses to listen to the half-halt by over exaggerating it with a full halt. This is good for C’s horse who often gets strong and rushes fences. Tucker on the other hand usually needs to be pushed to make the striding. This exercise will still be good for him because it will act to rock him back on his haunches and lightening his forehand.
The first time through we stopped by about the 9th stride. G stressed the importance of elevating the poll, stretching up tall, staying in the front of the tack and dropping the weight into the heel. Turns out I was putting too much weight into the toe and goosing him slightly while asking him to halt. By the 4th stride halt I had my position sorted out and we halted properly. G had us change direction and halt as soon after the jump as possible. It’s important to remember to allow them to complete the jump before asking for the halt. We did this once or twice and were able to halt within the 3rd stride.
Next the outside 5 stride line was set with a pole in the middle (vertical, 3 strides, pole, 2 strides, oxer). G had us circle through centre on a left rein to go over the pole, 3 strides then vertical with a halt after. Then circle through centre on a right rein to go over the pole, 2 stride then oxer with a halt after. The first time over the vertical we had a long spot to the pole which made the out over the vertical long and therefore the stop was messy. The second time through I got my eye back and hit the stride properly and was able to halt properly. Over the oxer another problem reared its ugly head. Tucker has habit of dropping his head and pulling on the rein so that I’ll lengthen them when we’re halted in the middle waiting our turn to go. The first time over the oxer we were almost halted when he dropped his head and pulled me forward, causing the halt to stutter forward. G told me to not allow this to happen because it could develop into a bad habit. If he tried it again I was to do a hard one handed halt while bracing my other hand on his withers and give him a good kick in the side. Sure enough the second time through he tried it again, but I was ready for it and was able to stop it and halt. What a brat!
G continued to build on this concept of exaggerated half halt and rocking them back. Still using the 5 stride with the pole in the middle and a pole in front of the vertical, he had us trot in to vertical and halt over the pole (or as soon as possible). We did this exercise twice and were able to halt before the pole both times. Remember to use your voice to help signal the halt.
After that G removed the pole from the middle of the 5 stride and asked us to trot in and add a stride to the line. At this point he stressed that we weren’t to try for 6 but to properly half halt and compressing the stride instead of slowing down, allowing the hind end to stay powered. If it was likely we were going to fit in 7 go for the 7 don’t push for the 6. We hit the in beautifully, stretched up, raised the poll, compressed for the 7 with a perfect bascule over the oxer. Yay!
Our final task was to put this together in a course. Right rein to quarter line (which was set to a vertical), to diagonal 5 stride, to outside 4 stride, to diagonal signal, to outside 5 but add for the 6. We landed off the quarter line on the wrong lead and proceeded to screw up the change to the point that I had to circle to get it. We hit a bit of a tight spot on the in of the diagonal so I sat up for an add instead of pushing hard for the uphill 5. Built up our rhythm through the short side and made the downhill 4 stride no problem. This is where the half halt exercise really came into play. There was so much time until the diagonal oxer that his stride started to get long and flat, a good half halt at the turn to the oxer and I had him back on his haunches. Another half halt on the turn to the 5 stride, and a half halt after the vertical allowed for the 6th stride add. G let us finish on that but stressed that in order to get the lead change you can’t just rely on the indirect rein. You continue to use the outside rein and a lot more leg to get the shoulder to shift to the outside track. It’s the indirect rein and inside leg that shift the shoulder onto the outside track in order to give space and allow the hind end to swap. I think I finally get it. I’m going to start thinking about changes as shifting the shoulder, hopefully that will solve the problem.
Takeaway: stretch up, drop weight into heel more, both reins and more leg through changes not just indirect rein.