In preparation for moving up to novice level, we’re working on a number of elements of our flatwork: some basics that we’ve let slip (straightness and suppleness) and some new movements (medium trot and now, counter canter).
We’re using a small number of exercises to build the suppleness, which in turn makes it easier to get the straightness.
Concentrating on bend with very clear aids to change bend on both reins. We also add in 10m circles to vary the exercise and keep Abbey listening.
We’re also using two loops when Abbey gets tense and spooky. I have to ride the corners like I would another loop.
Once Abbey is feeling warmed up, is bending in both directions, we’re moving onto a 20m circle, spiraling in and out. Abbey and I are weak on our left hand side, so she falls in on the left rein and out on the right.
With this exercise I’m concentrating on different things on each rein. On the right rein, I’m riding the outside aids, using my outside rein and leg to ensure she doesn’t fall out. My RI had me flexing Abbey to the outside (making sure that the circle size remains the same) and then to the inside, before spiraling in and out again.
On the left rein, I’m trying keep my inside hand up and slightly out and using my inside leg to maintain the size of the circle.
On both reins I have to keep an eye on Abbey and make sure that she is truly bending through her body and not just her neck. By varying the size of the circle, the exercise makes sure that she is responding to the leg aids.
We’re not yet doing a true medium trot. The first steps have been to ask Abbey to move forward off my leg in trot on a 20m circle, and come back. At the beginning, any forwardness was rewarded. Now I’m asking at a specific point on the circle and rewarding (‘good girl!’, give with the inside rein and scratch on her neck) for a definite response.
As her confidence is building I’m asking for more forwardness on a long straight and on the diagonals. And then, for her to soften in front.
Tonight we’ll be trying this of the first time. The plan is to start with small single loops – the trick, apparently, is to maintain the bend as we head back to the track (which is the part when Abbey will be in counter canter). Once we’ve the hang of those we can make the loops bigger, and then start on ‘teardrop’ shapes.