The Hole in Our Flat Work

I rode with my trainer on both Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday didn’t go smoothly. I made too many mistakes, and Eli was irritated about that. We started great and ended without even being able to approach a low jump at the trot. My trainer said it was time for her to check in on my flat work with Eli. So Thursday we had a flat lesson.

staying hydrated in all this heat and humidity!

Eli flats very well, as far as responding to what I am asking of him. Our downward transitions have improved a lot. We have some bobbles at the walk, but Eli’s trot and canter are very pleasant to ride now. We can even adjust at the canter pretty well, too. We can change the canter step without speeding up — making the step cover more ground but not getting hurried.

But not so much at the trot. Whoops. Gaping maw, right there.

For the lesson on Thursday, we worked on changing the step at both the trot and canter. To make it extra challenging, my trainer insisted no sitting. So only posting at the trot and only in a two-point at the canter. The canter exercises actually went fairly well.

And then we had to trot on a very small step after cantering. Perhaps owners of OTTBs will understand my difficulties with this.

But we persisted. My trainer emphasized working in the same direction until I got the responses from Eli that we wanted. She insisted I stay patient, persistent, and NOT frustrated. She said to use circles to help Eli to understand what we’re asking now. Just keep asking until he gets it, then reward profusely. We finally got some relaxed, collected trot after cantering. But it took some time.

eating a cookie, wearing Gold Bond

At this point my trainer and I discussed what I’d need to do regularly, moving forward. We took a small gate at a canter three times to cement the illustration. My trainer’s expectations are for me to WAIT (how she is not tired of telling me this … eh, she probably is tired of it). Let Eli find the distance and let him make mistakes because that’s how he is going to learn. What I tend to do is pick our spots myself, which inevitably ends in me gunning it at some point, and Eli doesn’t really enjoy that. My trainer wants Eli to pick the spots now. Teaching Eli more collection in our flat work should give him the tools to pick his distances better. We all know he can move up very easily, but he has to be able to shorten his stride, too. My job is to provide support — shoulders up, seat out of the saddle, hands soft and following, leg if necessary. It’s not going to be an automatic thing so I have to be patient (not the easiest thing for me).

we have only one trot right now … and it’s not collected

Considering how much we had to work through these past two days, Eli is getting Friday off. I will just be flatting again by myself this Saturday and my homework is collection and transitions within the gaits. These are building blocks which are important to have in between the jumps, but I don’t want to drill. I will be giving him Sunday off, too.

I am also hoping by next week to get an .mp4 of some video from summer of 2001 — maybe lessons or a show? I cannot wait to see! Should bring back some great memories!

9 thoughts on “The Hole in Our Flat Work

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  1. I am right there with you. I forget to “work within” the gaits sometimes. Then I have a lesson and I asked for working, extending, and collected trot, and I’m reminded that it IS hard and that I really need to school it when hacking on my own. We have really been focusing on it during the last couple of months and thankfully our flatwork has gotten much stronger. I have recently started incorporating counter canter again after abandoning it for about 6 months.


  2. It’s funny how we can forget to check in on these things when we’re so focused on the jumping and the canter! Believe me, you’re not alone. Glad you figured it out though, and I’m sure everything will come together pretty quickly now.


  3. to collect and then extend in posting trot and also being out of the saddle in canter is a challenge. I guess I’m just an old dressage rider but those things are easier for me if I can be seated. A quick brace of the back and he comes back and release that and put my calves on and he moves ahead with a longer stride unless I also half halt and then he comes more “up” instead of just out. Anyway, enough from me. Sounds like you are doing good work in the flat work which will help a lot with the jump courses.


    1. I completely agree that those things are easier if sitting, rather than posting or in a two-point. Especially collecting the canter! I want to do that from my seat, but my trainer made the excellent point that the expectation in hunter divisions is a light half seat or two point, so that’s what I have to use when adjusting gaits. I guess if this were easy, we’d be bored . . .

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Agree that the no sitting piece is hard! Changing the gait in the canter is harder for me because Doc is actually relatively short strided so to get it bigger you have to push. so. much.
    Also, I feel you on the waiting. I actually got a compliment in my lesson today after we found a meh distance to the first jump and I just waited and let him figure it out and the out was gorgeous. Huh, apparently my horse knows what he’s doing?!

    Also, every time I see Gold Bond face Eli I think it’s an Appaloosa.


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