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Tight Turns

April 21, 2010

In my lesson last night, we focused on turning. Funny how you can ride for 4 years and still not be able to turn! We talked about turning while keeping Carly in her round shape – she tends to throw her head up and we lose our frame – and then moved on to doing tight turns before and after jumps, like in a showjumping course.

While doing our regular round turns, Gina told me to get the ask for the inside bend right before the turn. Ask for the bend, when I get it, release.  If I hang on her head, Carly won’t learn to carry herself in this frame.  After a few tries, we were doing well with this at the trot.  So we moved on to circles.  I fumbled through a few attempts and then got the feel of it. So we moved on to the canter, using this same movement to keep her round during an upward transition.  This is something we have been working on and half halting with my inside hand during an upward transition requires a lot of coordination and timing.  We didn’t totally get it, but we made it better.

I really want to hang on her mouth to keep her head in the position I want.  The instinct to do this is wrong – it doesn’t provide the result I want. Carly needs me to give with my hands. I need to practice more and more taking and softening – resisting and encouraging. There is a beautiful balance here that I know I will achieve eventually.  When I do it right, Carly tries harder and trusts me more.  So we will reward each other.

When we cantered our circle with correct bend, we went up to a jump.  The jump was set an angle to the fence like this:

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After we went over the jump and halted straight a few times, Gina asked us to go over the fence and turn right. Yes, to the right. there were only two strides – maybe three (I know, I should have counted!) between the jump and the fence and the first 4 times we ended up going to the left in order to avoid running smack into the fence.  But then I learned to look to the right before the fence, sit up and go right. Whew! It was another thing to go right while keeping a canter.  But once I found Carly’s lovely slow collected canter and Carly figured out which direction I wanted her to turn, we got it.

We did a straight but short line.  We managed to get the correct number of strides, even when Carly took a long spot, overjumping the first fence.  Then Gina asked us to go through the line backwards, which required us to make a 120 degree turn to the left.  Turning to the left is the hardest for us.  I feel like we went through this line at least 20 times with every possible variation of wrong.  If  we executed the turn and got straight to the fence, we left our a stride.  Forget about a good lead change.  If we had a nice slow canter, we would trot right before the first fence or just before the second fence.  In most of the turns, Carly trotted or drifted to the right because I had too much outside rein.  If I hang on the reins, no matter how much leg I use, Carly will trot.  If I used outside leg and half halts on the outside rein, then we would get the nice slow canter and a decent turn.  I finally had to tell my trainer, “We’re both exhausted, that’s why we are having such a hard time.”

It’s true, Carly and I don’t do well when we are tired.  But after a break and few more tries, I finally got the feel of making sharp turns by half halting on the outside rein.  We did stall out in the middle of the line. Once, as I tried to collect Carly just stopped right in front of  the jump. Not a dirty stop, just a regular halt. She was so tired that as I tried to collect her, she took any excuse to stop.  “Ooohh, if you had just taken a little less contact, it would have been perfect!” my trainer cried out (she may have been getting a bit frustrated, too.

We finally settled for a really nice sharp turn with a steady canter going in to the line.  I was proud of us – we had never done any turns this sharp before and while we didn’t perfect this type of turn, we made a definite improvement.  The feeling of half halting on one rein through the turn, whether it is on the outside or inside, is a new concept and feeling for me.  The day after my lesson, I am still running everything through my mind, processing the information and recalling the feeling that I am supposed to have. I am already looking forward to the group lesson on Thursday so I can work on this idea some more.

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