Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. ~ Thomas Merton

Monday, November 29, 2010

Obstacles, Hang-Ups, Roadblocks and Sticky Spots

I've been challenged, by my friend Clare in her response to my comment on Nitty Gritty Plan.  The challenge - to outline some of the sticky spots I have in my horsemanship.  Specifically working towards my L4 Liberty and my L3 Freestyle.

When it comes to Freestyle riding my biggest obstacle is my fear of losing control.  Letting go of that rope and really trusting my horse is hard for me.  I suppose it's a bigger hang-up than just my issues because I'm sure it creates a roadblock for my horse.  If I cannot turn loose to her, how can I expect her to turn loose to me?

A specific problem - riding and guiding my horse with the carrot sticks.  I can ride with them and if Cricket listens to my body we're golden.  But if I have to use the stick it goes to hell in a hand-basket.  Rather than yielding to the stick, Cricket turns into it and bites it.  Why?  I have no idea.  She doesn't bite the stick when we play on the ground.  She yields to the stick on the ground, soft and easy.  Under saddle, major issue with her biting at the CS.  Not exactly the picture the assessors want to see in L3.

And then our perpetual Achilles heel - the canter.  We've come a long way, mostly in fits and starts but we've still got a ways to go.  I can canter Cricket on a Question Box pattern and I can do some Follow the Rail.  But it's not wholly confident on my part nor is it wholly relaxed on Cricket's end.

Roll those three things together and I have a particularly big sticky spot when it comes to passing my L3 Freestyle.  Of course I could try it with Bleu but I've yet to even try cantering her under saddle and she has no idea about responding to my body . . . yet.

My goal to progress towards Freestyle is just to ride more and have fun while I do it.  I'm going to work on Cricket and the CS and see if we can't figure out just what's going on - I have a feeling it's part dominance and part lack of confidence.  I'm going to ride Bleu more.  Even if she's not the one to actually ride for my audition, she's teaching me about courage, confidence and leadership.  All things I need if I'm to conquer the canter on Cricket.

My singular hang-up for my L4 Liberty is the required flying lead change.  The precursor to that issue is the maintain canter and draw at the canter.  Right now, even getting Cricket to canter takes an act of Congress.  So we're going back on-line and trying to fix her impulsion there.  It needs to be a puzzle and I need to be playful about it.  She's offered/attempted a FLC at liberty in the big arena.  She thought about it too late and tangled her feet and had to buck/kick her way out of it.  Since she's already better at liberty than on-line, if I can fix it on-line it should work even better at liberty.

So there it is - my issues in a nutshell.  I have a plan and I just need to put said plan into action.


Naturally Gaited said...

Very, very interesting. You are well over my head here.. If you start your phase 1 with the carrot stick way out to the side, does it make any difference in her biting response? I wonder if utilizing a little CT would help with teaching her to maintain a canter?

Now to action! :-)

Tina said...

We so need a brainstorming session, you and I! LOL. Maintain gait at the canter is holding us back, too. And, I can totally relate to your Freestyle woes. I'll tell you, I did mine, hoping for L2, and got L3. It wasn't perfect, and in watching it again the other night, it wasn't even very good (to me).

Dixie also gets upset if I have to use the sticks, and I suspect it's because (in her opinion) I don't use them fairly. She might be right, as I have a lot less emotional fitness riding. At my Kristi Smith clinic in Oct, I instead learned to play with some different techniques rather than resorting to the sticks (and pissing her off). For instance, when she'd leave the rail in FTR, my first tactic was to "brickwall her" and use my stick hard to let her know there was a brickwall there and she wasn't to run into it. Yeah, that just made her angry. So instead if she'd come off the rail, I'd say, you want to go in the middle - great, lets canter and do some sideways and some turns on the FH and some other more challenging stuff. That way trotting on the rail looked pretty darn good!

Having an LBI is both a curse and blessing. At least she's teaching me to think outside the box!

Good luck, and please share anything that works for you!!

Lisa said...

Clare - the weird thing with Cricket is that she responds so beautifully to body movement, leg pressure, focus, etc. Except when she doesn't. Then, if I need to use the stick to reinforce something, she bites at it. I think it's dominance (you can't make me) coupled with lack of confidence (you've never properly explained what that means from up on Z3. I've started playing friendly games - rubbing her with the stick and just keeping it up until she stops biting. Our last session was really good.

Using CT for canter - I've never stuck with it long enough to get a free, forward canter. She's always halting, waiting for the click and treat. I'm using treats to reward her but not in a specific C/T manner. Not sure how it's going to play out - we shall see.

Tina - you'll be reading all about my trials and tribulations as I work through the canter. The funny thing is that Cricket *wants* to canter under saddle, is always offering it, easy to move into it, etc. On the ground, it's like pulling teeth. Explain that one to me!

I've watched some different auditions and I'm convinced I can do the majority of it at the walk and trot. But I need to feel confident enough to canter her with at least one stick in my hand. We're going to work on that this winter and see if we can muster an attempt at an audition in the spring.