So yesterday I had my much needed lesson. As I mentioned in my May round-up (which you can read here), Pea has been a bit on the forehand lately, especially in canter. I mentioned this to my instructor and so she requested that I have a trot and canter round so she can see how he's going. She immediately noticed how much more forward he is which is a great improvement from my last lesson (which was at the beginning of the year). I also mentioned about him seeing the vet in April resulting in being told that he's a bit stiff in his stifle and how I need to do more pole work with him. She agreed with this and mentioned that I need to do it a lot more regularly such as once or twice a week as not only will it loosen him up but it will also give him a bit of fun rather than just doing ordinary flatwork.
She set out some poles which we were to walk over first before picking up trot. She hadn't set them at any particular stride and told me to just ride him over them and let him sort himself out. The first time he was slightly hesitant, which he often is, and then the second he rushed into canter - again, a pretty normal thing for him to do. The third time, he slowly started getting the hang of it and the more we did them, the more he relaxed. She began to slightly alter them striding, making it so that he had to lengthen to go over them and despite having a slight wobble at the first pole resulting in him getting in a tangle for the rest, he did them really nicely on both reins. When we first started he was a lot better on the right rein and hesitant on the left but by the end he was equally good on both reins. I could also feel the difference in him when we were circling around to the poles as he was a lot freer in his shoulders than what he had initially been.
We then progressed onto doing the poles as a fan. Again, the first time that we did this he found it hard to bend round the poles and ended up doing a weird straight line over them, but the more we did it the better he got. We varied which point to go over by using a cone as a marker for where to ride to for the first pole and try to maintain for each pole. It took him a bit longer to get used to this one as he obviously finds it difficult to bend round as well as lift himself over the poles, but he did eventually loosen up and feel a lot better.
We then decided to attempt canter poles. I knew we might have issues here as he has lately learnt to love canter but leans on the forehand, added with his excitement of poles and I think he had a slight rocket up his bum. The first time we came into them, as I expected he shot off into the poles, but the more we did them the more he realised to steady up slightly. My instructor mentioned that I need to try and really sit up - something I find difficult at the moment - but also keep my leg on so that I keep the energy he is giving me but making him utilise it properly. As we progressed through the canter poles, we eventually started to work better together and had a much nicer rhythm.
My instructor then decided to put the canter poles on a circle and I knew we were in for difficulty! We started on the left rein as he finds bending in canter easier on this rein. It was quite difficult to manage to sit up and push him forwards whilst going round in a circle but we managed. We weren't necessarily in the middle for each pole other than the first, but we did manage to get over each pole and hopefully the more we do it, the better he will get. We then swapped reins and this is where we really hit difficulty. Pea is currently finding it really hard to bend in canter on the right rein and instead bends to the outside, therefore, trying to get round a circle making him bend to the right caused a bit of an argument which resulted in me hanging on his neck after the last pole due to him letting out an almighty buck. Luckily, as much as Pea likes to buck and dislodge me, he did realise that putting his neck up would be a useful thing so that I could clamber back into the saddle without me hitting the deck! Always a bonus! I think my instructor was a bit shocked as although she knows of him being quirky, she hadn't yet seen him buck! He continued to be stuffy after the last pole and keep bucking but eventually we managed it once or twice with more of a skip than a buck! I also learnt to well and truly sit up with my heels down, kicking on prepared for a buck! We decided to stop the exercise once he did it a couple of times with less bucking as it was obvious he was finding it difficult so instead we focused on a 20m circle in trot, making him bend to the inside whilst leg-yield in on the circle and then out again. The right rein was a lot easier than the left rein and it will take a bit for him to accept the bend without me constantly having to ask with each stride but by the end of the lesson I could tell that he was definitely a lot more relaxed and open.
The idea is to now keep working on the bend and make sure that at least once I week I include pole work. She also suggested incorporating a bit of jumping to keep him entertained so that it's not all dull polework. It is a bit difficult to do as I never have anyone on the ground with me but I am sure I will work out a way to solve it!
Thanks for reading,
(Ps. sorry about the lack of photos, really need to get someone down to take more!)