A few weeks ago I got the chance to take a lesson with Megan from A Enter Spooking! I’ve read her blog for a while now and since I’ve gotten to meet her in real life, I jumped at the chance to clinic with her.
Nicole and I both got to lesson with Megan, and it was super fun being able to watch each other and get lots of video and photos. Yay for Blog Buddy Lesson Adventures! Anyways, on to my lesson!
Megan watched me warm up and I told her that we started to work on more lateral work (LY/SI) but we had issues with being on the bit consistently and Spot getting tense and braced. With that being said, we started off on everybody’s favorite 20m circle with the main focus for me was to get Spot’s neck and head down as low as possible. With the way Spot is built, it’s real easy for her to be on the vertical but not actually be on the bit and using her bod, and since she holds tension in her underneck, having her as low as possible would help her let go of that tension and free up her back.
At first, Spot wasn’t too sure she wanted to play, but she settled in and was nice and forward. However, when I thought she was on the bit, Megan told me that she was barely on the bit and I needed to work getting her lower as she was still holding out on me. To get there, I needed to connect the outside rein more and really think about driving Spot’s inside hind leg up and into my outside rein while imagining her rib cage being on the bend of the circle. This was a common theme with others as well…that damn pesky outside rein!
Not quite there yet…
Getting Spot lower required me to really maintain my rein connection but to also keep my inside rein soft and soften the inside corner of Spot’s mouth/jaw so she wouldn’t be inclined to brace. Megan also had to remind me I needed to not stop riding when I got her where I wanted and to not freeze because once I froze Spot would pop back up and get tense again. Spot wasn’t strong enough to keep herself there and it was uncomfortable for her so I couldn’t trust her yet to maintain that position. But damn…when I was able to get Spot working correctly her trot felt HUGE, floaty, and almost too fast. But in reality, it was because she was taking bigger steps, opening up her back, and really swinging through the trot. Also, its funny how during my ride I felt Spot neck and head disappeared and was too low, but watching the video shows how it really wasn’t that low, ha!
I was really glad that Megan kept talking to me throughout my lesson, and it helped me connect what I was feeling to what exactly I was doing with my body. Sometimes I can get a little too much into my head and if I’m doing something precisely right, but with Megan inserting herself into my stream of consciousness I was able to focus on what she was saying and to try to execute it. I’m so glad I got tons of video so I can go back and watch and listen to all the good info I missed!
Once I was able to get Spot a bit more consistently in a lower position, we started to work on figure 8s. I had to work at being less abrupt when changing the direction as I had a tendency to just fling myself over and not help keep Spot balanced through the turn. To keep the figure 8 smooth, Megan had me slightly counter flex Spot in the 1/4 of the circle before switching to the new direction to help prepare her to step into our new outside rein. It took a few times but we had one or two nice figure 8s where I was able to keep her nice and low throughout the whole rein change, but with the times where it wasn’t as smooth, I was able to get back our roundness more quickly. Because I had Nicole and Andy with me I got some sweet video and you can hear Megan coaching in both videos.
And did you hear Megan’s comment about how the Flying Potato is “so uphill” and “so connected through her body” ?! I almost couldn’t believe it when she commented that Spot has the conformation for dressage with her short back, uphill build, and big booty. It was pretty amazing for me to see video of how Spot’s gaits improved when I had her really working through her body, a pretty big night and day difference! Maybe I can get my fancy potato to dance!
I was so glad I had an opportunity to lesson with Megan! I learned a ton, got some great results, and have a idea of where the path forward is now for Spot and I. Not to mention, I had an awesome time being able to hang out and lesson with Nicole! I’m super excited to work on getting Spot more through and off her under neck in the coming months so we can become more consistent and more comfortable working.