Jane Savoie is a tremendously helpful member of Team Forrest as my “video eyes” on the ground. I send her clips and photos and she sends me back the feedback I need to work through the challenges that arise as I continue to school my redhead.
Because Jane’s varied background includes an OTTB in her early career, she really gets the suppling and balance issues that can crop up, particularly, like Forrest, in right lead canter.
You can see from the above photo that right canter is a little flat and braced: his inside hind isn’t quite stepping under my boot as it should be and it certainly isn’t very uphill. In fact, his back appears a bit dropped as well. Not surprisingly, as an OTTB, Forrest is weaker in his left hind and I truly feel that his tension, both in the departs and the attempt to maintain that canter, comes from his believing that he simply cannot do it. Rather than force him, I have used a couple of exercises from Jane’s ‘Dressage Mentor’ training series with real success.
It’s never as effective to describe an exercise in print as it is to watch it on video, so I would direct you to Jane’s site, www.janesavoie.com where you can see her ‘Dressage Mentor’ training offerings, which gives you step-by-step directions in a concise, approachable, manner. The particular suppling method I used with Forrest is called +7/+1 and is what Jane laughably refers to as her “Valium Exercise” because it really releases tension and resistance and truly helps a rider create ‘throughness’ and an honest connection over the back.
I felt the difference immediately…not only have Forrest’s right canter departs become less worrying for him, but I found that by using the +7/+1 actually during the depart, he remained balanced and connected from the first step. Compare the photos below with the first one I posted from only a couple of weeks ago: you can see the articulation of the inside hind reaching further beneath (easily under my boot), far more of an uphill tendency,
and for the first time, he is offering me true periods of “sit” in this right canter (always easier for him on the left lead) culminating with even a few strides here and there of self carriage. To me, the best part of Jane’s exercise can be seen in Forrest’s expression. I love this photo because I’ve been able to move his right shoulder out of the way, resulting in a feather light inside rein (a miracle!) and my boy shows in his shining eyes and pricked ears that he is completely devoid of any tension/resistance whatsoever.
For sure we have a long way to go, but now that my horse is quite confirmed in his walk/trot/canter in both directions, I feel we have something to really build on.