What To Do When You Do Not Have Plans To Show...

I have to admit, I was afraid. Afraid that I would not know what to do with our precious riding time when not preparing for a show. Usually, during show season you try to keep your horse happy, repeating the needed movements and some variety with some trail riding and that is merely it. Then you head to a show and immediately see the results and the stuff that needs some more polishing. In winter, you start with the new movements and try to get them show ready until spring - and so on and so forth.

Pony B good!

Without showing, you miss all this feedback and the urge to train on a certain movement til the next show. So, what do you do with your horse when you don't show? I figured out that this is a huge opportunity to work on tons of stuff - even though you are not explicitly working on new movements or the polishing of already know movements.

With Hafl, we paused our showing career at 3rd level, showing proper flying changes, lacking all those lateral movements especially in canter and well, canter itself. So what are the things you can work on while taking a break from showing?

Suppleness & Contact

Back in October, I started with a totally different training approach. I slowed Hafl down so much that he started to carry himself properly stopping him from cheating by getting faster and faster. That was the first step towards a way more supple horse in the end. Now, the feeling in trot is totally different and we can do lateral movements for example with ease. Canter was still a problem but we are catching up. Tons of transitions in between and within the gaits helped a lot. Make sure your horse does not get over the bit during the upward transitions. We did thousands of transitions and of course, we do not get all of them 100% perfect - but the good thing about training is that you have the chance to do them all over again until you get them right.


Impulsion & Strength

The most difficult thing for a horse like Hafl is to turn the carrying into a pushing movement. So we were really good at this slow and controlled trot when we started to create a little more upward movement, having a more swinging back and eventually, lift those legs off the ground. That worked after some weeks pretty well, now the challenge was and still is to turn this into impulsion. I guess when you looked at my trotting in December, you might have felt like you feet fell asleep - indeed, it looked super boring. He was very good in the contact and truly carried himself but what was missing was the forward expressive movement that we needed to create. But the basis was there so we started with collected trot on the short side, some forward steps on the long side, back to a very collected trot and again some steps forward. I made sure that Hafl really sat on his hind legs before giving him some more room. Of course, he tends to hurry instead of making his steps more expressive. But slowly, we are getting there. What we started on the straight lines, we slowly incorporated in all the movements of a test. And boy, there were days when I saw him fight hard to survive this absolutely exhausting training! These days, I have at least the possibility to have him make shorter or longer steps alternatively with relatively little effort. Way less than it was a year ago for example. We cannot keep the impulsion for an hour yet, but every step counts. In canter, I am almost dying with the exercise of 5 steps of collected canter, 5 steps of medium canter and so on and so forth on the circle. My abs are hurting that much when we do this but you can slowly see that Hafl is building up muscles and strength and really using his withers in the transitions. Yay for Hafl.

Straightness

Nothing would work without straightness. Even though you might think that your horse is pretty straight - go and ride on the second, third or forth track for a training unit. You will quickly see how difficult that is! Hafl hates it when we do this because these units mean no cheating. I am trying not to ride too many movements when I do straightness training, just concentrating to keep him straight and forward, riding transitions and making sure that he is not sneaking back to the track again.

A little hand walk before the training session

Happy Athlete

This is a very important aspect for me. Of course, I see that he tries hard and gets better at what he is doing. But the best thing is that he really loves his job. Whenever I come to the barn, he cannot wait to get to the arena and get some work done. Even those mornings when I have to get him from the field - it is not that he is cantering towards me but he always trades yummy green for some work. I guess he feels proud when we achieve something during training. So my job is to make him feel as comfy as possible even though he has to work hard. But Hafl is a happy athlete as long as there is treats.

You might ask now: no new movements? Well, indeed, we do try some new movements. Four and three tempis work out pretty good already, we even manage some two tempis now. And of course we still have those canter pirouettes in sight...and with the work on the issues above, one day his canter will be good enough for a proper pirouette. Can't wait to see - and probably, show it some day.


PS: You might have realized that most of the stuff isn't something I made up myself - actually, it is part of the training scale - read more on that here!

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