Dixie is a lesson horse??

Well not really but I invited one of my student’s out to hunt with me on Sunday so we decided it would be good for her to ride Dixie again and get comfortable with him. She had trail ridden him once before but it had been a while. She owns a TB of her own named Orion the Hunter. I actually bought him as a 3yr and sold him to her so it has been fun to see him come along.

Dixie had not been ridden in quite some time. I would say at least 2 wks if not more due to that abscess that was draining. I lunged him around on Friday and he looked sound on the straight lines but sore on the turns which was to be expected with those sore heels but I figured I would see how he felt.

I loaded Dixie up and met her at the indoor and I was riding my other horse, The Boppus. The indoor was being used so we started out to warmup around the track which was a comedy act in itself as there were icy spots and it was a sloppy sandy mess where it had thawed out. We did trot around and a tiny bit of canter. The horses were behaved but excited to be out and about.

We moved into the indoor and although Dixie was being good there was an obvious tension going on between the two of them. My student’s TB is a very slow TB so a lot of leg to get him going. Dixie is not fast but very forward thinking and you don’t need a lot of leg to get him going. Not to mention I had not had him in the ring since the end of eventing season in November. We are either trail riding or hunting so his mindset is a bit different and when you are hunting you tend to trot really big. You are moving in the trot and the canter so he was obviously a bit confused and she was doing her best to communicate with him.

I had her really start to think about controling the tempo of the trot using well timed half halts.  The hardest part about riding a greener horse and a horse with such a big stride is getting in the half halts before they get away from you. So you almost have to feel that they are increasing the tempo and stride length and catch it before it happens which takes perfect feel and timing. I had her think about over doing the half halts so that she thought she was going to walk but then she softened and kept trotting. That allowed him to slow down and shift his weight back to the hind end.

In her lessons on her horse we talk a lot about preparation as her horse is also a 6yr tb so fairly green himself. I am always talking about planning and giving the horses direction. They have no idea what you want unless you tell them. So if you want them to bend I really like to set up the change in bend with the half halt so you are first slowing them and then pushing them over. So every turn I had her thinking about half halt and then push with the inside leg to outside rein. The half halt set him up to receive the step over aids instead of being bombarded by the leg.

I also had her really thinking about being softer everywhere. Using her breathing to relax and think about stretching up tall and using her core to support her instead of her reins. Much slower posting and be quick to slow the posting anytime he wanted to increase the tempo on her.

We had gotten this all down really well and then we played with the canter. Oh boy I think we scared her parents. Neither her or I were worried..well that is not true I was a tad bit worried. Dixie has a big canter and he is still at the stage where those first few strides are a bit big and unbalanced. Hunting isn’t always the best for addressing these issues so you can imagine how this might be a bit of an issue.

She is used to her slow horse that needs a bit kick to get into the canter. The first few transitions she picked up he was off to the races. Never in a bad way but they were not sure what to do. What would happen is she would sit to canter and lots of leg. He would bound off into the canter and she would lean forward and the reins would go slack and off he would go. She didn’t understand how to get him back and was alternating one rein and another so each time she pulled one rein the other rein would get loose.

As an instructor I had to stop and think about what was going on. I know this horse inside and out and he is dead quiet so what did I think was the issue. He is still a bit green and is used to be ridden into contact in more of a dressage manner where you maintain contact from trot into the canter. She was dropping the contact and when you just let loose he just goes and she was leaning forward.

We stopped and had a chat and I explained that I wanted her to maintain the feel from the trot into the canter. All she was to think about was a slight press with the leg and sit but keep the shoulders back, strong core and maintain support on the reins. At this point hold a bit more contact than she thinks she needs.

Start with cantering down the side and stop in the corner. Yes, this was working and each transition she got better and better. Whew, much relief all around as it was a bit scary for a bit but once she got it she had it and my lord he looked amazing. She was able to canter both directions with a soft feel and using her core to hold the canter slower. Good job!

The lesson was almost 1.5hrs so she was tired and he was tired but she learned so much it was incredible. She really learned how to put a horse together and how to ride a more sensitive type of horse.

At the end of her lesson we put Jenna (another horse crazy girl who has been hanging out at my farm on the weekends) up on Dixie for some pony rides. She got to walk and trot around on him but we didn’t let her go. I don’t have any lesson horses so that is the best I can do for her right now.

Some pictures from the lesson.

You can tell in this canter picture the shoulders are forward and a bit of tight body and her hands are down with locked elbows.

Here she was saying whoa and asking him to chill it out a bit.

I think my hubby had stopped taking pictures when she had finally gotten it figured out but she did and it was really nice. Poor girl was tired but she said it was one of the best lessons she had gotten and she really understood the concept of holding her body and giving him support after the lesson.

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