Early Days

Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Meet Elton. 

 I know, its hard to meet him in the dark. He normally isn’t so ghostly, but I ride at night and pictures are tough. Let’s try again.
Meet Elton.

Photo courtesy of Laurie Canty’s Facebook album.

Elton is my trainer’s horse. Laurie Canty knows how to pick ’em – this guy is tall (16-3), dark (all black), and very very handsome. He was my mount Wednesday night for a lesson over at Wind Walker Ranch in Somis. It was is his first time being worked at night, and I even had to take him away from his dinner, but he was a dreamboat.

We worked on the normal stuff: inside leg to outside hand, balance, and getting his back legs up under him rather than lagging out behind. It was really awesome to FEEL him change his body – with legs as long as his, the difference was quite noticeable. He was a very willing guy. My three main take-aways from the lesson:

1) Fake connection/headset.
Elton would sometimes toss his head up in the air to evade connection (like a certain grey mare I know..ahem). My first reaction was to hold tight on the outside rein and add leg. WRONG. This instantly achieved a lowered poll and curved neck, but also a strong no-no from Laurie. “Doesn’t he feel very light in the connection right now? A little too light?” Well, uh, yes it did. Thank goodness she asked because I would have never even thought about that. Turns out he was faking it – more of a headset than actual connection. Light bulb moment. Need to really think about this with Spirit.

The solution is to add leg and get him really engaged BEFORE asking for connection. If I ask for connection and he head tosses, I had to *lighten* my hold, add leg, then ask again with a small squeeze. The difference was crystal clear once I got it.  Connection with Elton does NOT feel like it does with Spirit the vast majority of the time. Until now, I thought that getting a connection using inside leg and outside hand (as opposed to tug/jiggle the reins, left-right-left-right method) was real. Apparently not. Just because you use the right method doesn’t mean you’re getting the right results. PLUS I wasn’t using the right method correctly. I was jumping the gun with my hand rather than really focusing on his hind end first.

2) Upward transitions to the canter.
Elton will not pick up the canter unless he is collected and under himself. The first few times I asked for it, I ended up with an ugly splayed-out trot. At that point on Spirit, she’d go straight into a (likely ugly, splayed-out) canter. Elton will not. He’ll do extended trot all day long. But he wont go upward from it. This is why riding the trainer’s horse is amazing – he literally forced me to ask for the upward transition correctly, from a collected but energetic trot with his hind legs well under him. He will not take it from any other position. Wow. Interestingly, with him you use INSIDE leg, and its a squeeze instead of a scrape. With a corresponding squeeze on the outside leg.

3) Impulsion/legs coming under/swinging.
Elton is leggy. And when his hind end comes under himself, I felt myself sitting about 2 inches higher than before. You could really tell when he was using himself and when he wasn’t, which was nice. It’s not as obvious as on Spirit. In fact, nothing is, except for her mood. Anyway, it was really good to FEEL the impulsion from the back end. I need to somehow create that with Spirit.

Elton was such fun. I do hope I can have some more lessons on him. We even hopped a small jump a few times, but maybe in a jumping saddle it would be easier. =)  I especially want to ride him, then immediately take a lesson on Spirit.  It was nice to confirm that I do know the aids, but also how I might not be applying them correctly.

By the way, only 8 days until my wedding! Yikes!

1 comment on “Tall, Dark, and Handsome

  1. Excellent lesson! Elton sounds like a fabulous guy.


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