Letterman is back in work and finally fit enough to start getting a bit serious again. He still needs a bit more time before he should start jumping so it was the perfect time to get a dressage lesson. I contacted Kelly Mcginn and she said she would travel out if I could get three rides together. My mom came over on her horse (CMA Flint Hill) and I figured I would ride another horse.
I really enjoy taking lessons on the green horses. It is very beneficial for me so that I can have somebody checking in to make sure that I am doing the right things and also to help me be even better. I decided to ride Bling in my lesson as my other personal horse is a bit too green.
I explained to Kelly how I had been riding Bling. When he arrived he had been very curled under and went with his head on his chest. He also had no forward button at all! I immediately went to a bit of ground work to establish the forward button and have also been working on lots of time out of the ring to get him forward. Switched from a metal bit to a herm sprenger duo mullen mouth and just let him go up and out. Didn’t even think about asking him for any sort of work into the contact.
In the last few rides I have just started to ask for a bit of contact and am now working on asking for a tiny bit of lateral work. I don’t want to drill it too much as he is still is gaining muscle and isn’t physically capable of holding it for very long just yet. We have to remember he was let down but basically only getting 1 hr of turnout a day so no real muscle or fitness. They can get very sour if you ask for too much too soon.
I started my lesson out in a metal bit which I had been trying out this week. I wasn’t sure if I liked it but I think he was a bit more rideable in the metal bit (eggbutt jp snaffle with piece in the middle). We did some trot work and she really thought he was right where he needed to be. We worked on a bit of right bend trying to just get him to push into the left rein. When I went left we used a slight counterbend just again to work on him filling out the left rein and moving off the right leg. She said because he likes to curl that I shouldn’t do anything if he comes above the bit. Just correct him if he goes below the bit by using my leg and hand to bump him up and out.
He really sits so nicely in the hand at the trot that I find it very easy. He is getting quite soft in his body and allowing me to move him a bit laterally. What I still find difficult is the canter. I told her not to laugh at me too much 🙂 Bling is 16.3 and is a big horse. I totally admit that I struggle riding these bigger types so cantering him and making it “correct” is hard for me. He has a huge canter which is absolutely amazing but because he isn’t strong enough yet and wants to curl it can be hard to balance it up and out. I picked up the canter and Kelly immediately went WOW. She couldn’t get over what a big powerful canter he had. She remarked that he was just like a big warmblood that is finding the balance. He has so much power that he is pushes himself downhill. She had me really focusing on riding the frame up. I wasn’t at all asking him to come into the contact but in order to life them up and out you need to lift, leg and then go forward. He can only hold it for a few strides at the uphill balance but it’s amazing when he does.
I asked her if she minded if I switched to his other bridle with the duo bit so she could watch me in that bit. I like him better in the duo and find his balance to be a bit more up and out. I know sometimes on a horse like this it can be confusing because trying to figure out how much contact you need is a constant question in my mind. I will post the actual lesson video for you all to watch. You will hear her say that just because he curls doesn’t mean you let go of the contact. Exactly the opposite even. You want it to be a bit of a heavy feel with a horse like this so you can have them hold the contact so that you can ride them up and out. If they aren’t on the contact than they are so light there is nothing to push to. I need to get better and being steadier so that I am consistent with my feel.
She liked him better in the duo bit and you can see that he canters a bit more up and out in the duo (2nd part of cantering left is when I switched bits). Cantering right he wants to drift towards the gate so it can tough to get him straight around by the gate. Lots of work!
I’m just so proud of how far this horse has come in a short time. What a lovely horse he is and so rideable. He has such a good brain that he really accepts the training. Kelly though he had the potential to go right up the levels in dressage. Just needs to build the strength to carry it but of course we know that he will!
Here is the full lesson video for those who want to watch. Don’t laugh to hard 🙂
For those who want the short and sweet version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08HlDyczSM4
I had a really great learning session on Letterman. Letterman isn’t the easiest horse on the flat but he is very talented. He raced for a long time so changing the way that he goes will take time but I have been very patient in bringing him along slowly and carefully. He finds bending right quite difficult and really makes it hard for me to ride him because he blocks that right side. He pops that ribcage right against my leg and you can’t move him off of it at all. He had 3 months off so I’m just starting back asking him for any sort of real work in the ring. He is giving me the finger 🙂 He has a good work ethic but he is quick to let you know it’s hard.
I told her that my main problem is that he can be spooky at times, he is inconsistent in the contact and that he doesn’t allow me to move him off that right leg. Basically she said fix the right leg problem and the rest will go away. That is what we worked on for the lesson and boy did he feel totally different. She got on him a bit to feel what I was experiencing. She really worked him with accepting the right leg no matter what. When going left she wanted him to still be available off the right leg. He always wants to overbend but she wanted me to work a bit of counterbend to have him more into the left rein off the right leg.
Transitions are the absolute toughest on him. Holy moly does he brace and pull into them. She had me working him in a slower gear. If he isn’t absolutely soft and off the right leg than don’t walk. Think about slow..slow..then walk so that I keep him available in the body. That really helped.
He is opposite of Bling in that he is pretty strong and tough. His preference is to be above the bit and it takes quite a bit of pressure when he is being above the bit. I have to be able to resist that quickly and push him back into a right bend to get him to soften. When he is soft he is so soft!
Right now I don’t worry if he is a bit low in the frame because he will always be easy to bring up! We are just working on him not using his neck against me. Here is his video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQSUUt5Mm8E
I think they are a good compare and contrast of horses that have different evasions and how to handle them. I was happy with watching Letterman on the video because I sometimes think flatwork on him is like pulling teeth. She really liked him a lot and said there is a VERY nice horse in there. Motivation to keep working!