My project - Victor and Randy
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, February 6, 2008 09:04 PM
On a third day of my visit Frances was giving a lesson to one of her students, Randy. Randy has a beautiful Friesian gelding Victor. Victor and Randy are learning dressage together which makes it much more difficult process. I have expressed my wish to ride Victor. Frances talked to Randy and suggested that I work with Victor while I was there. I want to thank Randy for that opportunity and for giving me permission to write about him and his horse. It takes courage to discuss openly your riding issues.
Victor is 10 years old, he is very tall with high set neck. Before Randy bought him he was a carriage horse and that taught him how to brace his neck. However, the rest of his body can be as wiggly as a worm. Here is a situation. Victor is very hard to put into any kind of position because he is very wiggly and if I insist he would brace his base of the neck high and hard and that would be it. On top of that Victor has a lateral muscle imbalance and he likes to collapse himself on the right shoulder and drop the left side of his back. It feels like you are keeling over to the left when you are riding him. I take my hat to Randy, riding Victor is a very hard work.
My goal with Victor was to teach him to relax and lower his neck and start working from behind better. When that happens it is much easier to organize his body and make him straighter and better balanced. Frances suggested draw-reins that adjusted to the sides of the saddle like side-reins. The first reason behind draw-reins was to stabilize Victor's shoulders. The second - to prevent bracing his neck. As soon as I felt him let go I would let go too and as long as he stays stretching down and relaxed I stay soft and giving. In no circumstances I would keep Victor down by force. Because I had only 10 days to ride Victor, we considered draw-reins more like therapeutic short-term work. First time Victor felt draw-reins he almost reared. However, he started to come around very quickly. It took him only a few times to realize he cannot really brace his neck against me and that if he was soft I was soft too. I had only two rides where he really tried to brace against me after that he would give very quickly. We started working on shoulder-in on the circle in walk. I wanted him to step over from light inside leg. Victor really wanted me to squeeze and hold him, he has got used to that from Randy. Randy is tall and strong man and he likes to put pressure on Victor: squeezing legs, driving seat. It took me a while to convince Victor that my light touch means business and means forward. After couple days things started to come together. Victor started to stretch into the bridle, giving me shoulder-fore on a circle, leg-yields, shoulder-ins, renvers first in walk then in trot. Even canter felt straighter and more balanced. However, Victor couldn't canter for long in the proper posture. I'm guessing he felt weird and got tired quickly.
I have worked not only with Victor, I have worked with Randy too. His main issues were:
  • Driving with his seat
  • Not rotating his thighs in enough - which usually predisposes to seat driving and calf squeezing
  • Collapsing his body back and down - not enough core stability
  • Heavy left side and unstable right side - this really handicaps him on the circle to the right throwing his body outside and creating a desire to grab a right rein.
While Randy was getting more balanced and quiet with his seat he noticed that Victor's trot became more bouncy. It was not hard or stiff bounce. It was more like a bigger wave, bigger amplitude bounce. Randy's driving seat was squishing Victor down. When Randy became better Victor was able to use his back muscles properly and push more from behind. Randy felt it as a bigger bounce.
Randy worked on shoulder-in, mostly at the walk and a little bit at the trot. When I got home from my trip I have received an email from Randy. He was talking on Victor's behalf. Here it is:
I couldn't wait to tell you that Randy rode me today in a lesson with Frances and we performed awesome shoulder-in at the trot in both directions! We were balanced and forward and it was so much fun! Thanks for all of your instruction to both me and Randy we've had a major breakthrough and we owe it all to you.
Working with Victor and Randy was a lot of fun.. Victor has very sweet temperament and Randy is very passionate about learning. He is attentive, willing to approach a problem from different angles and has a good sense of humor which is indispensable quality when dealing with horses :)
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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