Yesterday, I set up a gymnastic based on the following diagram:
The gymnastic was adjusted to reflect the actual size of our sand ring, and I eliminated the final vertical. I also shortened the distances slightly – 18′ to the first cross rail after the bounce pole, 42′ to the three stride cross rail.
To start, I set up a low cross rail (about 18″) followed by a pole on the ground (9′ or three steps distance), followed by another 18″ cross rail 18′ (six strides) past the bounce pole. The final fence in the lines was another cross rail, about 2′ high, set up to develop into an oxer.
Dayo and I trotted into the gymnastic, cantering out. To begin, we started in one direction (left rein) and got used to the gymnastic. Dayo’s first attempt was stellar. I think she was not sure what had hit her and had to solve problems through. The second she approached with a great deal more trepidation, and required significantly more support through the leg. The third attempt, she refused to pick up a canter after the first cross rail, but corrected herself with encouragement, and finished well.
The fourth time through Dayo was confident, and I gave her a fifth time just for additional confidence. After each attempt, I asked her to hold her canter and cantered her in a circle, alternating left and right.
We then switched approach direction to the right rein. There is a new mare in the pasture, and Dayo had a hard time focusing (to the right, she can look directly into her paddock and watch the new intruder eating her hay!). It was a bit of a cluster, but we finished with a flourish and circled at the canter, working on a successful and smooth downward transition.
My goal had originally been to increase the difficulty of the gymnastic, but I decided yesterday to leave the learning at a success. Through the last two times, Dayo got increasingly fast as she got super confident. Once she got it, she loved solving the puzzle of it. To make her think, I asked her to shorten her stride toward the final element, putting in four strides rather than three. She did it like a champ.
I did notice that I had a tendency to look down over the first two elements of the gymnastic, which did not give Dayo the support she needed. She also has an ongoing tendency to drift to the left and this came into play for us between the second and the final cross rail.
Although I don’t like to repeat exercises two days in a row, we are going to incorporate a part of the gymnastic into our school today, with a one stride in and out to a three stride oxer. We may start with a refresher over the gymnastic before I adjust it. Our focus will be improved straightness (Dayo) and looking up (me). The two are likely related 🙂