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2013 Region 5 Gifted Fund Recipient, for Training in 2014

Vincent Van Gogh said, "Great things are done by a series of small things put together."

My week with Sarah Martin reflected this quote. The first two days, Sarah started my horse, Ricoh and I with small steps; leg yield warm up and circle to leg yield. It was these small steps that were slowly answering the question of my mount not properly using his hindquarters. The leg yield is one of the keys to bringing the horse through the back and engaging the hind quarters. While I was doing these exercises, I was to bring him round in front and watch his trapezius muscle in his neck. She explained this is one of the muscles to look for when the horse is properly using his neck and back to raise his shoulders. We were focusing on the small muscles and building them in a correct way to get the horse to use himself through his back correctly. This muscle is connected to other muscles and nerves down the back. When the horse starts to use himself correctly through the back they will start sneezing because these nerves are being activated by the small muscles connected to the now engaged trapezius muscle of the neck.

Throughout the week, the basis of each warm up and each work session was this engagement through the back. Ricoh would start the small sneezes, I would watch his small muscle on his neck and he would give me small changes in his back. The eye opening moment that all the smalls were working in to something bigger was when I took Ricoh across the diagonal into a medium trot and it was the best and most correct he has done. There was nothing forced and we had never practiced a medium trot during this week, it was just there because the basics were there.  When changing to canter work, Ricoh was more straight and correct as he has ever been.  His changes were also forward and correct.

 Learning from Sarah was uncomplicated, as she teaches similarly to how she trains- with consistency and much reward. Her quiet consistent voice was always in my ear, systematically encouraging me to be correct and accurate with my aids, which helped me to see how the small things can lead to great things.

These are the notes I took from my week from training:

Before the week began, I was at a standstill in training and in need for more instruction and homework. Ricoh and I have shown 4th level and are working on Prix St Georges movements. The problem areas we have are engagement behind, keeping him in the left rein and counting our changes correctly. I have problems physically and am constantly working on the effectiveness of my seat aids.

In this week, I hope to answer these questions along with having Sarah ride Ricoh to feel him. I also would l like to plan out strategy to move through the levels and eventually Grand Prix. Since we live so far away it is difficult to get consistent instruction.

Training Day One: Warm up around cones. Turn on haunches. Around first cone, leg yield to second, change bend and then half pass to third and around third cone. Repeat. This is to get the inside hind leg under his body. Engaging and building muscle.

Training Day Two: Twenty meter circle with ten meter circles. Head and neck very bent to engage the trapezius muscle. Both ways keeping a very rounded horse and twisting my belly button to the center of the circle, especially to the right. Halt-walk through my right seat bone when circling to the right.  Then trot-walk the same and canter-trot all through the right seat bone. The twenty to ten meter circle really shows you where there is a problem.

To get the inside hind leg under the body use leg yield. In the Spanish riding school it is called the first Movement.

Always warm up in shoulder in.

Hips back, shoulder jaw poll. If he has a tight spot he will show you were it is. You are influencing his spine.

Ask. Is your horse mentally or physically not in the game?

Sneezing and snorting. They are working their back. Need to hear that or they are not working their back.

Exercise: Down center line, leg yield to V or S and then lengthening. Remember to keep the connection.

Canter: Before doing collected work, do big canter and trot to retain the forward because collection takes away the forward.

Control both legs using haunches in. First do a leg yield then do haunches in and keep the inside leg.

Three muscle rings. Hips, ribs, shoulders.
Twist to the direction of the circle.

Training Day Three: Started off with the warm up exercise leg yield turn on forehand around a cone then change bend and half pass. Then did clover leaf pattern on a twenty meter circle with leg yield, turn into a 10 meter circle. Watching trapezius muscle and lowering neck allowing a bit of a longer neck. Raise the shoulders.

Half-pass exercise: Down centerline. Shoulder in right, half-pass right, change bend and leg yield to half pass in new direction.

Exercise: Haunches in down long side to leg yield, then straight back to long side. Activate the hind leg to bring the shoulder up. Turn my body in the direction of his head.

Renver to leg yield is a good shoulder suppling exercise.

First canter of the day is a working canter. Just like the working trot.

Training Day Four: Warm up in the walk. Walk exercise is the figure eight leg yield to half pass and then turn on forehand then turn on the haunches. Repeat on other side. Warm up in clover leaf at trot. Leg yield to ten meter circle. Repeat on both sides. She said his left side was tired today so we did not work hard. Did some changes of lead. Talked about shoulder control.

Training Day Five: Warmed up in both exercises walk and trot also did some cavaletti work.
Shoulder in to renvers. Shoulder in down centerline careful to maintain bend and straight direction. Change of lead. Counting. When starting the diagonal for changes, first change does not count from the wall but starts at quarterline. After first change then start counting.
it seemed to work best for Ricoh and I that we counted 1,2,3 change.

Training Day Six: Another exercise that we did was to do counter canter starting on the short side then we would go down the quarterline and change. If change does not feel good, don't change, we can go around short side on counter canter.

Don't dwell on the small stuff when starting out. I was concerned that he was not having a good canter-walk and asked for a couple of more times. I finally got it but she said I would tire him out worrying about it. I feel I got a better feel after that. Difference of opinion.

Training Day Seven:

Exercise for lead changes: Come off corner in outside bend. Make first change and then circle. Make next change then circle.

Variations:  Make another change without a circle. Or may not change and go around short end in counter canter. Reward often, stop a good collected stop and pet.

Ride counter canter from quarter line change and count 3 changes. If he slides right going from left to right, it is ok to train lead changes from on the wall.

Collected to forward canter on a circle then come around corner and set up to pirouette. One line in to half pirouette and a parallel line back out. Set up for pirouette different than changes when you come around the corner. For changes you counter flex a little then start across diagonal. For pirouette you keep inside bend and then go across diagonal.

Had an issue with him haunches in when going across the diagonal. Just came out of the corner a couple of times and walked then did walk pirouette and either rode in to corner or picked up canter lead and changed at C. At the change at C I was coming too close in on the turn and too close to C need to give more room. 

Jennifer Quigley riding Ricoh with Sarah Martin