Manu Magic

Manu always comes over to WA with one thing that she gets us all to do in varying ways. Last time it was a position fix, this time it was the neck rope. Coolie and I got the neck rope in our first lesson, and I have to say it made a huge difference.
You can see the rope here. 

First though, Manu had me slow the rhythm of the trot. Coolie came out full of beans and was rushing forward and not using himself correctly, so I had to slow him riiiight down. Manu watched us go around then pulled us in and added the neck rope. We taught Coolie to back from the rope by lifting it, then I picked up trot again.

Manu had me lift my right hand up, which put my tail bone under me and made me straight. She wanted me to get Coolie to lift his right knee because it got stuck and stalled. I did this by lifting my right hand in the sit phase of the trot.

Manu had me sit the trot and think of sitting on the inside diagonal. I had to keep my ankles and feet soft and keep my ankle bones away from his sides, plus keep my hands up especially my right hand. Coolie likes to shorten his neck and brace, making my right hand throw the contact away so by lifting my right hand, I lifted his shoulders and stopped him going down hill and bracing.

Lifting shoulders up

We moved on to leg yield and Manu had me thinking sitting to the inside diagonal, then change to the outside diagonal before the yield. I then moved both of my hands to the outside and asked him to step over. I had to let my hips follow the movement and not block with them. The neck rope helped me to control my usually wayward right hand and as a result Coolies body stayed straight and we were able to yield easily. They got better too, and I could really feel him stepping under himself.

We did shoulder in next and again he was awesome, staying straight and stepping under himself. I have to move my hands to the outside and keep his motor going but not use too much leg, focus on my hands moving as a pair to the outside.

After a quick walk break we took it into canter. I had to slow the rhythm and get him to lift his shoulders in canter too. In the canter we focused on lifting his shoulder on both reins.
Carrying my right hand

I couldn't believe how straight I was, I felt like a dressage rider! I said this, and got some chuckles and Manu assured me that I looked a bit like a dressage rider too.

After I hopped off I was exhausted. I have done 2 lessons with Manu in a day before but I've never felt so tired or so sore right after.

Day two and Coolie had a nice massage as I tacked him up. We put the neck rope on right away and went straight to trotting. Immediately I felt Coolie was carrying his shoulders higher and that I had to do less to keep them there and I also felt straighter in the saddle.

Again I focused on slowing the trot but not shortening it. We didn't spend a heap of time on the trot once we had the shoulders up and had consolidated what we worked on the day before but with more roundess. I got roundness by asking for flexion with my ring fingers while also keeping the shoulders up with the rope. Manu wanted to work more on shoulder in and leg yield but we had a canter fist.

Again I had to really shorten the canter, I knew I had the right canter when I could feel the 3 individual footfalls of the canter. My left leg was being spaghetti and I had to really focus on keeping it steady. Once I had the right canter we did some counter canter loops. I had to really work on keeping Coolies neck straight by moving my hands to the inside of his neck but only a little bit. Once we were straight again I asked for roundness using flexion. At this point it was getting hard. We were both tired!
That's the trot!
We had a walk break then started on laterals. Leg yield we did first and he was super. We lost the straightness a bit but a few repetitions had us sorted. We moved onto shoulder in and again it was better than Monday, we had a better angle. I had to make sure we maintained a longer trot and at one point asked for a bit of a lengthening before the shoulder in and I was so amazed to feel some cadence in the trot!

We did a bit of travers too, and Manu told me i need to do more with coolie to keep him straighter. I need to keep my hands to the inside of his neck and he has to move his bottom. Roundness will come in time.

By the time we were done we were both knackered. Does everyone love that feeling of being so tired but that you have achieved so much? The key points for Coolie and to slow his rhythm but not to let him get short. I must keep my right hand up, and rise with my hips between my hands, and sit on my tail bone. Again, similar to Henry, I need to turn and do laterals using indirect rein and keep my hands as a pair. On the left rein I have to think of putting his haunches out to keep him straight.

The neck rope was a really useful tool in keeping my hands up and working as a pair. Obviously it's not a silver bullet but it was very helpful and I noticed such a huge difference in my riding, especially with things I have been struggling to overcome for years (right hand, sitting up straight!). Manu thinks that by keeping Coolies shoulders up, we will be able to combat some of the tension we face in riding tests.
Shoulders UP! Roundness needed 
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to train with such an amazing person, who is an absolute wealth of knowledge. Manu only changes such tiny things and yet they make a big difference in the way the horse and rider goes. I love the constant conversation we have throughout the lesson and how Manu links everything together. What does everyone everyone else love about their coaches?

I can't wait to get started on our homework!


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