Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Subtleties in Adrenaline

It's been an interesting couple of weeks around here, but I'm finally started to settle back into a routine of things with my ponies and the like. I had my second session with Crest since my accident, and like nothing had ever happened, he's back to being a miraculous teacher and partner for me.

Recently, it's become increasingly apparent to me that Crest's walk and canter (and the behaviors that surround them) are connected. He has a tendency to get very adrenalized and excited in the canter with me on his back, and of course, he power-walks like a fiend. I decided to examine his transitions online to see if I could get a feel for how things are transferring to his back.

I've found that Crest had a lot of trouble maintaining rhythm, relaxation, and contact in both canter and walk online. Now granted, I'm looking at this from a L4 standpoint. He's a shoo-in for L3. But he lacks that contact that I'd need to get the kind of ride I'd like out of him. Anyway, I've been playing a lot with getting his walk slow...and...rhythmic...and...not...adrenalized. Yes. At that pace. It is SO HARD for him, especially at the beginning of a session or after a downward transition. He gets very hyped up. Eventually what I'd like to see is for him to do canter-walk transitions online, and be able to find a nice relaxed walk almost immediately.

The key has been to recognize and release when he's truly found his relaxation, so that he knows that THAT is what I am looking for. The rest will come with repetition with him (once he figures out the pattern, he'll be great, he's so clever!). The subtle difference has to do with the tension in his body, as well as his breathing and I have to be VERY careful that I recognize it. I took a couple photos to show the subtleties I'm looking at. Thought you guys might be interested in them :) See if you can spot the difference. And yes, he's covered in mud, it poured all morning yesterday.

The "Adrenalized Walk"

Notice the tension he's carrying, particularly in his back, haunches, and withers. His topline is taught, stride long and deliberate. You can also see a flared nostril if you look carefully. His head is also above the vertical.

The "Calm Walk" (I tried to get it as close to the same place in stride as possible)

Here's his calm walk. Though it's not as evident through a photo as it would be in video, you can see that he's really using his whole body. He's reaching up and over the top, his head is lower, and his hind leg is REALLY reaching under him, indicating that he's actually focused on using his hind end. His head is also much closer to vertical. And finally, take a look at his tail. In the first photo, it's between his back legs. Not that it wasn't a bit sticky and humid, but it indicates that he was pretty braced. In the second photo, near the same place in stride, his tail is loose. Pretty interesting huh?

So that's what I've been playing with in him for now. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this transfers to his back--I may start playing with this walk-trot style freestyle. Let me know what you think!

1 comment:

Virginia said...

very cool stuff, and quite intuitive!