Considering that, our work this morning before the farrier got here was only at the walk. She wanted to walk off from the mounting block - and my daughter confirmed she'd been mounting Dawn (my daughter rides bareback) while she was moving and Dawn apparently thought standing still for me was no longer part of the program. So when she walked off, I jumped down and we went back to the block for another go - this time she stood nicely on a loose rein while I got on and settled.
Then we did a bunch of things - softening work, transitions, figures, changes of stride length within the walk, and some backing. I find more and more that walk work is really an important foundation for everything else, and that you can work on all sorts of things, including relaxation, straightness and rhythm, at the walk and then find that the work translates well to other gaits. I also think establishing a good quality walk, halt and back and the transitions between them is very important as it sets the tone for everything else. To me, watching a horse move at liberty, in hand or under saddle at the walk tells a lot about the horse, its soundness and athletic potential and the nature of the horse's training and interaction with the rider.
After our walking warm-up, Dawn and I worked on some more lateral work, starting with turn on the haunches to the left. I kept my focus on the feeling of "up and over", which creates an opening for the shoulders to move into. Once that was going well - we'd been doing a little work on it for several sessions - we did the same thing to the right. Each set was interspersed with walking around on a loose rein when she took several really nice steps. Then we did some work on turn on the forehand in both directions - she finds this easier than turn on the haunches.
Then we did some sets of walking down the long side, halting and then moving directly into a 180-degree turn on the haunches to reverse direction, then walk back and do a turn on the haunches to the other side to reverse direction again. This exercise can also be done without the halt, but it helps get the weight on the hindquarters. When we're doing turn on the haunches, I try to be sure that the hind end is active - think walk pirouette where both hind feet move, but in a very small circle. Then I threw in some turns on the forehand for do a 180. The trick with this I find is precision, combined with softness - if tension or bracing or pushing enters into the equation, things no longer flow smoothly. This is a fun exercise, since you can do 45, 90, 180 or any other sort of change of direction you want, all over the arena, and mixing up the directions and movements. A pretty good day's work for only being able to walk!
The next step we'll take is to refresh her side-passing work - this can also be varied by doing it as leg-yield. The side pass requires that both the front and back ends move, and effectively combines the work on turn on the haunches and turn on the forehand. Once our side-pass is working well, we can move on to a wonderful exercise which is a real test of softness, relaxation and precision - getting those three in the same package is the test - the "floating exercise". The following is a description from the clinic post last year on horse #7:
. . . when going in a one direction, say from north to south in your arena, move from walking forward, into side pass with the head to the left, into backing, into sidepass facing the other way, and back into forward as one continous flowing motion. You don't want the feet to stop or to have any hitches in the motion - if you use too much aid this can stop the flowing feeling and lock up the motion. It is not possible to successfully do this exercise unless you maintain a good open flow - this exercise also helps you get a feel for what you need to do with a particular horse.
On flow, from the same post:
Flow is very important - think of the movement of the horse as a continuous flow even in halt. The engine is still running - feel the flow. If you get it right, the movements will be continuous and lovely, not just one step after another.Dawn and I are putting together the building blocks for this exercise, step by step.