I recently picked up my life, and my horse, and moved us from Charlotte, NC to a small town outside of Hartford, CT. This isn’t a new place for either of us but it represented a change in our paths and our training.
Earlier this year, I was approached by the head of my former high school about a position in their Admissions Office. At first, I didn’t give it much thought as I had just started working with a digital marketing firm. However, as timing would have it, the position soon became my opportune next step and I am now an Admissions Associate at The Ethel Walker School, which included a stall for my mare, Honey.
As I settled into my office, Honey seemed to be taking in the horses around her. Instead of only lesson horses, she was now surrounded by A-Circuit show horses. After spending years as the largest horse in the barn, Honey now lives as one of many warmbloods instead of being the only one. While I can’t say this definitively, it certainly seems as though Honey’s competitive nature and desire for attention have put an extra suspension in her stride and scope to her jump. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Honey was showing off.
So, how does this culminate into a lesson about going back to the basics?
Sometimes, when in a new place or taking on an uncertain adventure, the basics are where you will gain the most. While jumping the new fancy course or trying your hand at exercises left from earlier lessons may be enticing, the real work happens by perfecting the most basic movements.
Begin by trotting a 20-meter circle at each end of the ring. Once perfected, modify the exercise by trotting a 10-meter circle in each corner of the ring.
If you pay attention during this exercise, you’ll notice that your horse’s balance may differ from straightaway to circle and from one point of your circle to another. This is an issue of self-carriage and straightness. Many riders, myself included, forget the importance of focusing on the simple things, like making a perfect circle, but it’s the simple things that make all the difference later on.
Part A: Down the long side of the arena, show three transitions of your choice. Modify this exercise by adding the canter. Transition to a sitting trot around the short side of the arena.
Part B: On the short side of the arena, begin to incorporate shoulder-in and haunches-in, alternating between the two.
This exercise is one that every rider from beginner to advance should have in their tool box. It tells you how well you and your horse are listening to one another and it reinforces lateral movements that help with balance and straightness.
An important thing to remember is to not let your horse get frustrated. If that happens, do something else; figure-eight the arena, and diffuse their frustration before any conflict can occur. Transitions will force your horse to use their hind end so it’s hard work for your horse.
Just because we’re going back to basics doesn’t mean we ignore the jumps. Instead of working a full course, try incorporating trot jumps in your ride with the emphasis on rhythm and balance.
I’ve included a workout that Honey and I recently did to keep the jumps in our routine but still work on backing off, balancing, and finding our rhythm.
*Our video equipment is still in storage so the iPhone was our only option this time.
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