Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Big Bay Boys: Very different rides

This weekend, I rode both Saga and Oberon back-to-back on Saturday, but just rode Saga on Sunday. I have decided that it's prudent to ride Oberon first, since he requires more energy on my part, while Saga is more forward and a little bit easier.

Instead of using my 1/4 inch Tom Thumb spurs with Oberon, I borrowed FuzzyPony's 3/4 inch spurs. WOW, what a difference! Oberon is usually very easy to get to do a walk-canter transition, but we've really been having issues with the trot-canter transition. He has a lovely medium trot that he is happy to do all day, but cantering from the trot is another story. Unless, apparently, you have Serious Spurs. This time, I just turned my toe out a bit, poked him in the side and... Instant Canter! We had super-clean trot-canter upward transitions, and our downward transitions were pretty balanced too. Awesome!

I also discovered that Oberon has some really serious lateral buttons. You have to press hard to make them work, but maaaaan... shoulder in, haunches in, and gorgeous, gorgeous leg yields. We just came 'round the corner, I looked where I was going and dropped the weight into the leading stirrup, and BAM! I have never gotten that much relaxed, forward, and actual sideways movement before. It was a fantastic feeling and I could have done it all day!

Coming round and carrying himself was another thing though. I felt like I was absolutely hauling on the reins to get him to really bend his poll. I also felt like I was sort of dragging him around the circle instead of having him carry me around the circle. More leg didn't really help, he just sort of got more forward and heavier on his forehand. I did a bunch of walk-trot-halt-walk-halt-trot etc. transitions, but as soon as we'd do more than a half-circle, he'd just sort of get motoring and blew off my half-halt requests to come back together. Eeek! I'm really not used to riding a heavy horse, so if anyone out there has got some tips I'd love to hear them. I'm hoping to get a couple of dressage lessons in the near future to get some help with this. I really feel like Oberon has all the pieces to put together a nice first-level test this fall, and I'd love to give it a go if I can figure out how to make it work.

As you might imagine, Saga is a very different ride. He's also hard to balance back, because he's rather heavily built in the shoulder and built a touch downhill. However, he's much more forward and has a tendency to get somewhat curled up, suck back, and "hop" into a canter if he doesn't want to put forth the effort to carry himself on his hind end in the trot. At the canter, he tends to get really strung out and motor along if I don't insist on him balancing. It can be nice one moment and fall to pieces literally in a stride. In contrast, Oberon is much more balanced - I just have to keep him going!

On Saturday, Saga and I had a serious argument. I asked for some leg yield and he completely blew me off - head up, no lateral motion at all. I tried again and really focused on keeping my body correct, and again, nothing. I took my foot out of the stirrup and literally booted him over (using a dressage whip just makes him suck back) and he finally got that I was serious. He knows how to move off my leg, but apparently I have not been asking for enough of a response lately. We have both gotten pretty complacent, and it's definitely my fault for letting it happen.

My second ride on Saga (on Sunday), I worked a lot on transitions. Our walk-trot transitions feel really good - he feels like he's puffing up under me and stepping off into the trot. Pretty much all of our other transitions are a wreck. Picking up the reins from free walk to working walk results in llama-ness. Trot to canter involves several running steps, unless I really work hard to balance him to make a good transition happen. Downward transitions are hollow and crappy. Soooo...

On the free walk/working walk transitions I focused on keeping an inside bend with my leg, then slowly walking my fingers up the reins. And resistance or loss of rhythm and I'd softly close my leg. That seemed to help a lot (duh! you don't take up the rein without an appropriate amount of leg to counter. basic dressage, anyone?). On the canter transitions, concentrating on keeping my seat tucked under me seemed to help prevent him from falling behind my leg and running into the transition. We also did a couple of leg yields from centerline to B or E, canter transition at the letter, 1/2 20 meter circle, back to trot down the long side, turn down centerline and repeat. He was anticipating a lot, so I tried to mix things up with changes of direction, 10 meter circles or serpentines, anything to get him paying attention. I think that's another element contributing to our poor transitions - since I haven't been very demanding of him, he's really quite dull to my aids. I need to mix it up more so that we both focus, and not take anything that's crappy.

In the canter, I focused on keeping him balanced enough that I felt like I could do a 15 meter circle at any point. We even did some counter-canter on the right lead, which is his worse side (and the side he falls out on). He actually stayed pretty balanced, but I feel like he could come more from behind and not plow along so much on his forehand. But, it's coming along. The lateral trot work was much better on the second ride - he was much more responsive and stayed more balanced into and out of the laterals as well as during the laterals themselves. Obviously things are not "fixed," but at least I think we are paying better attention to each other. He's not going to "give" me the good stuff if I ride poorly, so he'll keep me honest and on my game. :)

Do you ride horses that are significantly different from each other? How do you tailor your rides to each?


  1. Maestro and Myra are light years away from each other. I'm still having a hard time changing my riding style between the two... especially when I ride them back to back.
    Myra is so sensitive and light (and a baby!)... Maestro not so much.

    For Oberon's heaviness.... have you tried dropping the reins when he leans, and then picking them straight back up and demanding a frame?
    Or, you could give him a STRONG half halt on the inside rein when he leans?
    When training Crisp to be light, I really had to pop him in the mouth to get him to hold his own head up. Worked well! But pretty ugly to start.

    1. LL, yes, I was trying to drop the reins with Oberon, especially the inside rein. Unfortunately he's sort of like "oh, ok, whatever" and just goes along with it. Strong half-halts don't do a thing. I think his head weighs more than I do!

      I'll figure something out... just gotta find the right tool in my toolbox and I'm sure we'll get it.

  2. I loved your riding descriptions. You should do this more often! I got a very clear picture of your rides and your two horses. That was fun!

    I used to ride many different horses before I had Harley. I did my best to make them all as close to the same as I could. For example, if one horse was really ticklish, I would keep my legs on him so that he would dampen down a bit and relax with leg pressure. If another horse was dull to the leg (I used to ride a Perch cross that was wicked lazy), I would keep my leg off of him and if I applied my leg expected a response right away. If I didn't get one, used the whip. With that horse there were pretty much only two phases of pressure: light and whip. He was pretty bull-headed, but after weeks of relentless consistency, he would canter off only my leg from the trot. I wanted the two extreme horses to be closer to a middle sensitiviy, so that they were each more rideable. I much prefer the sensitive type, though. That is the Saga/Cash/Harley-type, I would imagine.

    1. That's really interesting - I think I try more to ride each horse more in a style that suits him, maybe because I'm so used to riding so carefully with Cash? I don't know. Well, except Oberon - I'm NOT going to fall into his trap and bludgeon him around the arena! We are definitely going to work on being lighter on the aids. I'll never live through it if I try any other way!

      I agree about preferring the sensitive type. It's interesting that you put Cash and Saga on the same scale, as they are NOWHERE near the same. I will have to do a post comparing riding the two of them, and you'll have to tell me if Harley is more like Cash or Saga. I'm guessing from your descriptions that Harley is more like Cash - uber-sensitive and a very delicate, tactful ride. SO much fun, but SO much responsibility to ride well.

    2. Yikes! And I get on Cash so casually...

  3. Although I have not read a whole lot about Cash, I did get the feel that he is higher on the sensitivity spectrum than Saga. I just figured that they are still closer together than either one is to Oberon.

    I would love to read a comparison of you two beloved horses. I think Harley is probably more like Cash for the reasons you mentioned. He keeps me on my toes!