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Jump Jump Miles

Two Steps Forward

Despite the lack of evidence on this blog, I have been riding my big red beast. In fact, his schedule has finally settled into a routine (knock on wood) that seems to be working very well for both of us. The best part is  that I’m starting to see some real progress both in Miles and myself. While I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic, sometimes it really is hard to contain my excitement. I love this horse and I can’t wait to have him back to his usual self over fences.

Miles cheesin

So,  just what is our magikal routine? Well I’m so glad you asked! Right now I ride Miles 3-4 days a week on the flat, with at least one day focusing on courses of ground poles where we work primarily on pace. The rest of the time I try to switch things up and keep it interesting. Now that forward is re-installed, I’m working hard on creating transitions within gaits. The goal is to have 3 confirmed speeds at the walk, trot and canter: collected, working and extended. I’m also throwing in some baby dressage movements like turns on the haunches and forehand, leg yields and shoulder-in. All of this is going really well, so I’m usually quite pleased with our flat rides.

Miles trotting in the Fall Sun

Our one issue though is anticipation. After we canter the first direction, I can hardly pick up my reins without Miles bursting into a trot. Or acting like a giraffe because he thinks we’re about to canter. Does anyone have any advice for this? I try to move very slowly and gradually when picking up my reins, making sure I’m not closing my leg too much. I’ve tried doing something else (like circling or framing), but I’m hesitant to be too harsh when he does move forward (albeit more than I want) because we worked so hard to get the go installed in the first place!

Jump Jump Miles

Anyways, in addition to Miles’s flat rides with me, he’s getting 1 lesson per week over fences… usually 1-2 per month with me and 2-3 per month with my BFF, the working student. I’m always present no matter who is in the irons because it’s really valuable for me to watch Miles go around. When he’s good, it gives me confidence and when he’s bad, it confirms that we’re doing the right thing. Plus, Miles really is improving quickly. He can look grumpy all he wants, as long as his feet go where they’re supposed to.

Can't Wait to Show Again
Remember when we used to do this?

I rode Miles in my monthly lesson last week (on Monday, before all the holiday festivities commenced), in a big group lesson. When we first started jumping I was quite nervous and I have to admit I held my breath on the landing of our first fence. But Miles never offered any bad behavior! We did our first crossrail gymnastic (which made me SUPER nervous because I’m not very good at gymnastics and Miles tends to get rowdy…), we jumped our first 18″-2′ verticals, we trotted our first course of jumps, cantered our first jump AND cantered our first course where we GALLOPED DOWN THE LINES AND MADE THE NUMBERS.

Gallop to the Base

I know, I know, I was so freaking happy. It’s still a long way away from where we used to be and where we want to be, but we’ve already some so far. I was grinning from ear to ear and Miles got heaps of treats, pats and hugs. Riding him around a course reminded me just how much I feel ‘at home’ on this horse and how much I love the hunters. I can’t wait to get back out there!!

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Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

17 thoughts on “Two Steps Forward

  1. Awesome progress! As for anticipating the canter transition, I know a mare who does that. Rather than giving her the reins after a break (in lessons, we typically canter one direction, take a short break and canter the other direction) – she wouldn’t loosen her reins during the “break” so she wouldn’t associate picking up her reins with going to go canter. Dunno if that helps!

  2. As Lynn said, just don’t reliably drop your reins when you do a walk break and it will go away. Mr. P does this as well if I get in the habit of always dropping them for breaks and picking them up for work. To mix it up I usually ask for shoulder in or haunches in at the walk while I’m letting him catch his breath. Sometimes I do that first before dropping the reins, sometimes after I pick them up again and sometimes I just don’t drop them at all. Once they don’t know what’s happening next they will start to wait while listening for your instructions.

    So excited that you are getting back to a good place with Miles!

  3. Woo hoo!! Love the great feeling of doing something and doing it well!!

    I’d say do lots of picking up your reins and letting them go and making sure you are not closing your leg at all bc you want to keep his quick response to that…. Also when walking you can pretend you are at a show and not let your reins loose.

    Keep up the good work girl!! 🙌

  4. WOOHOO! So glad this is working well for you guys! And I will agree with what the previous commenters have said about curbing Miles’ anticipation – don’t stick to the same routine! And make him keep working during walk breaks. I have a similar issue with Dino at times – if I let him putz around on a loose rein during walk breaks, he acts up (crankily doesn’t want to go back to work) when I pick him up again. Keep that walk WORKING and you’ll break that habit super fast. 🙂

  5. Yay! So glad things are going well. Congrats on making the striding! That’s such a huge step.
    My advise on getting him to not anticipate the canter is basically the same as what’s already been said. Make sure to break up your routine. After your canter make him work at the trot of walk for a bit or even pick the canter back up. Same thing when you pick your reins back up, choose something else to work on before asking for the canter. Keep him guessing about what you want next. Lots of transitions are a good thing too. Luck!

  6. YAY YOU!!! That is some fantastic progress.

    Courage loves to anticipate. It’s not a bad thing, because it means he’s paying attention and trying to do the right thing. Biggest thing is not to change the way I ride (take leg off or give in). I just insist he keep going forward and staying loose at the gait I want, and if I need to change the subject, that’s fine. 🙂

    Love what you guys are doing!

    1. I love the progress you are making too! This is awesome!

      This is the tactic I would take — some predictability in your ride can be good, because it helps your horse understand what is coming next. Generally, animals appreciate predictability — though obviously an up transition is signalled by many things other than just picking up the reins. I would practice picking up and letting go of the reins while walking, and encouraging Miles to stay at a walk instead of breaking lazily. When Murray breaks to a trot when I haven’t asked, it’s usually rather disorganized and ugly, and it’s basically his way of evading doing the “proper” transition. He then has two choices: get to WORK at his chosen gait (he chose it, after all), or come back to the gait I was asking for and, when I ask for it, transition nicely. He is usually quite happy with the second as he doesn’t actually want to work that hard.

      But like Aimee said, I like a horse that is anticipating JUST enough to almost read my mind.

  7. When you’re walking, go around the ring and alternate between loose reins & contact. When he starts to want to trot as you pick up your reins, really half halt with your seat ONLY. Go back and forth a few laps, and then trot like normal. He’ll eventually be de-sensitized to it 🙂

  8. Everyone has already said great stuff, so I’ll just add one more tidbit because this is something Val has a HUGE issue with. Whenever Val thinks he should be a giraffe or canter off without me, I redirect. Sometimes this is just bending, or leg yielding. Other times I make him trot around until he takes a big breath before we’ll canter the other way. But whatever we’re doing, he has to use his hind and and push up into the bridle. I usually use more leg than I was ambling around when asking for this, so that he learns leg doesn’t always mean go faster. Sometimes it just means that he needs to engage.

    1. Also, it sounds like you guys have made tons of progress, and that is so awesome! Sometimes we have to go back to basics before we make real progress. I do at least!

  9. yay i’m so happy for you! i love all the tidbits everyone else already said about helping with the anticipation. another idea that might work in tandem is to change how you do your canter work. instead of transitioning up, going for a while, then coming back down, maybe do lots of rapid fire transitions from walk trot, trot walk, walk trot, trot canter, canter trot, trot walk, etc etc. it’ll reward the fact that he’s paying attention to you (even if he’s a bit misguided with the anticipation) and also maybe break up the routine enough so that he never really knows what’s coming next. good luck!

  10. Sounds like you have a great plan in place! Keep up the good work and remember to breathe 🙂 Apollo gets racy on me when I hold my breath…which I do whenever I’m focusing on something haha

  11. You already have a lot of great advice/tactics. Knight gets a little anticipatory and I do a couple of things. Some times I just halt and make him stand and pet him and then get a really nice relaxed walk. Other times I switch to loose rein stretchy trot on a circle. I am by no means a trainer, but these are what my trainer has had me do and it seems to work.

  12. Hell yeah!!

    Looks like you’ve got a lot of great suggestions to help with the anticipation. Can’t wait to hear how things go.

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