Meet Royale
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, January 28, 2008 07:08 PM
I have left Royale to be the last because I think I had a crush on him :) He is 3/4 brother to Fino and they have so much in common it is scary. Royale is very emotional and his affections and dislikes are all out in the open. He doesn't think twice to express himself. He likes to "talk". You call his name and he calls back. He gives you his tongue to hold. I think I want an Andalusian stallion for the affection, emotional closeness and straightforwardness.
Riding Royale was no picnic. I believe he is second to Teo. He is not bouncy but he likes to go crooked and stiff and to convince him otherwise is a hard work. He exposes any weakness in a rider's seat. He likes to go very crooked to the right and my unstable right side with floating right seatbone was exactly what he needed to do whatever he wanted :) I think I rode two different horses: to the left - straight, steady, easy to do things; to the right - stiff, crooked with haunches in, hard to turn, no balance.
To improve things I decided I would start from the walk. When I can get him to go shoulder-in to the right in walk then I can trot to the right and so on. It took several rides but eventually things started to come together. Suppling his base of the neck was one of the things that helped a lot. I would ride him first in walk and do lots of small circles in shoulder-in until I feel that he gives his right side to me and stretches forward and down. Turns on the forehand worked well: front legs walk smaller circle and hind legs walk bigger circle, there is substantial bend through the body and inside hind really steps under and across. I did such work both directions but more to the right. When you start the work and horse feels stiff inside aids are more active, the more horse supples and gives the less inside aids are needed and more outside ones regulate the frame and direction.
Another thing that was difficult is to ask him to walk with slow and steady tempo. He wanted to go very fast. Frances suggested an exercise: halt a few times after just one step, then after 2, 3, 4 and so on. That really worked, Royale started to wait and listen and slow down and halt very smoothly.
I did a lot of work on suppling at the base of the neck in the trot. It required the same approach as in the walk. However, exercises are a little bit different. Circles are bigger, less bend and more of the shoulder-fore than shoulder-in at least at the beginning. If he was stiff and didn't soften and step into outside aids soon enough in trot I would walk him and repeat an exercise at walk and then ask for the trot again and continue to supple at the trot. The more acute and precise a rider is at releasing his/her aids the less time is needed to loosen up the horse. These exercises must be focused on asking and giving at the right time. I found out that if I ask at the moment I feel slightest resistance I get results much quicker then if I wait and let him work incorrectly for some time. Even when he was good and I was riding around arena on a straight line I would check on him and ask him to give me his right side then his left side. It can be done so discreetly that it is invisible for onlooker but the horse and rider stay connected to each other, having a conversation known only to them.
Royale's canter is like riding a wave up and never down. On the left rein I thought:"Wow!" what a great canter. However, his crookedness to the right was such a nemesis for me that at the beginning I couldn't even ride a circle correctly. While my seat was getting better and I have worked with him a lot at walk and trot I started to feel more control over his canter. Frances suggested to support him with my right knee so he would stay connected to it and does not fall outside so much. Incredibly it worked. Sometimes riding is so counterintuitive it is amazing. Two exercises helped me to ride straighter canter. One was riding a circle to the right like an hexagon, thinking of every miniature turn as a step of a pirouette. Another one was counter-canter on the left rein, thinking of counter-shoulder-fore and focusing on controlling the path of the shoulders with outside (regarding to the bend, not arena sides) rein. Because of the wall on the right he couldn't push his haunches out and had to straighten his body.
One day we had a snowstorm and his blanket got wet all the way through, he was cold and bursting with energy. It was no way I could had a normal ride so I let him "fly", he did most wonderful forward trot and I think it was most spectacular one I have ever ridden. The only thing I did is I controlled his tempo and balance. That trot is now firmly planted in my head as a vision of what to look for in an extended trot: the steady slow tempo, incredible power coming from behind through his whole body, reach into the bridle and desire to show off. Thanks Royale!
Happy riding...
 
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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