Due to her somewhat hefty (ahem!) weight, the saddle had been tending to tip forward, since the girth was wanting to shift forward - pushed there by her rotundity. This saddle actually has 4 billets, which is very unusual in a close contact saddle, so I used the 2nd and 4th billets this time for the girth and that helped quite a bit. The saddle is a Pessoa Rodrigo, purchased second-hand, and is the only one of many, many saddles we tried that actually fit her - as blessed by our chiropractor. I like the 4 billets, and wish more close contact saddles had them.
Our objective today was to try out the Mylar ported snaffle that I talked about in Saturday's post, and also to try some "floating" lateral work - more about that later. Her hind feet are still a bit sensitive - see in the pictures how she's weighting her front end and putting her hind feet a little bit underneath her body - and my back's still recovering, so we planned to work in the soft arena footing mostly or entirely at the walk.
Well, it isn't really about the bit, but then I suspected that. Bits rarely solve problems. She carried it pretty well, but wasn't very interested in using her hind end and as a result tended to lean on my hands. I expect this tendency was exacerbated by her sore hind feet. We did manage to get some decent backing, but the walk wasn't all that great. I think I'll go back to the KK double-jointed snaffle with the lozenge, and use the Rockin' S snaffle as well from time to time. She didn't "curl up" with the Mylar, but did tend to want to go too low with her head and neck. I think we just need to go back to the basics of our softening and transition work and just keep on plugging - we'll get there and there aren't any quick fixes.
We did manage to refresh all of our basic lateral work - turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches and sidepass, in both directions. She did very well at all of this and maintained her softness. Then we tried two lateral work exercises that are new to her.
First, we tried Mark Rashid's exercise of "floating" laterally. You start out walking on a straight line, say south to north down the center line of your arena. You then "float" the horse into a sidepass - still travelling south to north, but with the horse's head facing east and tail facing west. Then you "float" into backing, with the horse's head facing south and tail facing north (you're still traveling north). And finally, you "float" into a sidepass facing the other way (head west and tail east), finishing up walking south to north again. The objective is flow, precision - to keep the movement in a straight line - and ease. It's harder than it sounds - if you aren't very soft with your cues, you lose the regularity of the movement and the straightness of the line. "Floating" is the goal. I think the exercise is most elegant if the horse makes a 360 degree rotation in the same direction as you move through it, but if you break it down into pieces you can pretty much do anything you want with it. You can also mix it up with turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches, but the basic exercise is the most challenging and interesting to my mind. Maisie did pretty well at this for a first effort - I was over-cuing and so things could be softer. We'll keep working on this exercise - it's a fine one.
Then, we tried sidepassing down a pole - with front legs on one side and back legs on the other. She was able to fairly easily do it to the left, but couldn't quite get the hang of it to the right - she didn't like her legs on opposite sides of the pole. Her sidepass to the right isn't as precise, so this pole exercise exposed the weakness. I didn't force the issue, but went back to some more of the "floating" exercise to end with.
We finished up with a little bit of trotting to test her feet and my back out - so far, so good!
* * * * * *
And finally, as a special treat, visit this recent post by jmk of Buckskin and Bay - she's uploaded a couple of nice short videos, with audio, from the Mark Rashid clinic we attended recently - she rode her horse Scout - the videos give a nice flavor for how Mark works - it's all very low key and there was over 24 hours of this sort of work at the clinic. Notice in the first video how no one's too fussed about whether Scout gets the correct lead at this point - they're focussing on the change of rhythm and the precision of her timing only. Jmk and Scout were working on the precision of her cues, combined with making them more soft, and they were the subject of my post on Horse #5 - there are more clinic posts on the sidebar. Enjoy!