Hi everyone! Here is what Darcy and I have been up to the last couple of weeks.
About 2 weeks ago Darcy and I joined the Gallop A-Team to spend 8 weeks focusing towards preparing for and eventually attempting the gallop assignment.
I had a play day in Cooroy last Saturday. I filmed my bareback assignment and had a lesson for the simples assignment with Fiona.
During the bareback assignment Darcy was having some trouble with right circles and was getting very braced and counter-flexing. This improved as the trot and canter continued but it certainly wasn't great. Fiona gave me some great tips which got him travelling a little better, but by then I'd already filmed our one attempt for the day (Darcy isn't fit enough to try another 2 minutes of canter).
Then after a break I had a lesson with Fiona. The improvement is just one hour was mind blowing!! When we started Darcy still was carrying that brace on the right circles, his transitions were super sloppy, he was just generally super emotional, and in our spirals or simples he was just blowing out his shoulder, dragging his hind and flopping on his front end. After time spent on our walk, trot and canter transitions, spirals and simples we were looking about 100x better. Our upward transitions were super snappy just off my body/energy and our downwards traditions had made heaps of improvement - although they still need some practice and work. By the end of the hour we were trotting 20m (diameter) circles around our cone and doing simples through the centre maintaining the trot, Darcy stepping under and sideways properly into and out of the simples and with a bit of flow. It felt so amazing!
The main change came from Fiona helping me to ask Darcy properly with my reins and seat. Once he got the idea of drifting into the sideways properly at walk and a moderate trot, I added in more impulsion and even told him to hurry up with my rope a few times and that seemed to give Darcy a lightbulb moment. After that we popped out a few really, really nice simples maintaining the trot and with softness, flex and lovely sideways. We left it at that for today. But then Fiona said I could ride Coolie to feel what Darcy should feel like and it was amazing! It was like having power-steering and Coolie really helped me to feel how the sideways drift in and out of the simples should feel.
Then the last 4 sessions since then we have been focusing on repeating things from the lesson as well as adding more elements of the impulsion program such as point to point and rebounds.
On Wednesday and Saturday I rode Darcy again and we continued with similar things from our lesson, but added in some point to point and rebounds. Our transitions keep improving each time and they are slowly getting snappier. I've been using them as a warm up before going onto sideways off the circle, spirals and simples. The best thing is that Darcy's gaits are smoothing out and are way more comfortable to ride, especially after he balances up from the simples. He isn't getting emotional anymore on the lower side of our pattern which can be a bit slippy, and he is getting the right canter lead more consistently. I've been trying a 'less is more' approach on offering the right canter lead and we got one attempt on Saturday where we went smoothly straight up into a right lead without me having to exaggerate the right lead offer which was awesome!! Darcy also gave me a right canter lead in a straight line during point to point and all I did was direct rein to the right to start off and then open up! That was a serious breakthrough for us for him to be offering it!
Today Darcy had a sport massage and red light therapy session with kinesiology taping, because he has been just getting a tiny bit stiff and his back was a bit sore. Which is generally a precursor to him getting really tight and sore, but I've been able to keep him feeling ok with these massages. I hope that once we finish Level 2 and get into Level 3 he will learn to carry himself even better and build better muscle that will aid in him in staying sound. He really enjoyed the massage and released a lot and he has some kinesiology tape on for the next few days to support his sacroiliac region. It will be interesting to feel the difference riding him with it on and his whole hind end really loosened up when he walked around with it on.
I also just received feedback on my bareback assignment and we got a blue tick! Only 3 assignments for Level 2 left now.
Here is the link to the assignment for anyone interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vr0Q518VLa8
Goals for the next week or two is to really get the impulsion program going really well (so that we can film the simples once we finally get access to the Pomona PC grounds) and then do a passenger lesson program.