Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Next


I’m feeling this right now.  After a whirlwind six months of my daughter’s Senior ballet, college selection, Senior dance recital, High School graduation, and an open house hosted in my barn, it’s time to get back to my real life.  You know, horses, horses, horses.  I’ve been riding through all of this stuff, but have lacked a little focus.  Just picture home/barn renovations, party planning, multiple houseguests, and tons of social obligations.  You get the idea.  It all went really well and I am super proud of the girl’s accomplishments, but we have finally crossed the finish line.  So now it’s on to the summer and plans for riding and showing.  

I’m thinking I will try to qualify for year end awards with DLSC, which means getting scores at four different shows.  We’ve done this the two previous years at Intro and Training with success, and it fits my budget and minimalist showing aspirations.  Since I am not as prepared as I would like to be due to crazy family stuff and also some really wet weather, I think I will start show a Training 3 and First 1 for a while until we get rolling a bit.  Our lengthens are only so-so at the trot but everything else in the First tests are not bad, so it’s just a matter of riding some tests(please stop raining!!!) and working a bit on “spook” training using the TRT Method.

I’ve had a couple of epiphanies about balance, energy, and the rider’s seat that I will post about soon.  Small tweaks that are making a big difference.  Wish us luck as we get down to it and start showing in either 3 or five weeks-depending on the weather!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Mindful


I haven’t been posting much this winter even though I’ve been riding inside at least three times a week and making some good progress.  The indoor I have is small, so it poses some training challenges to keep things fresh, but I feel like I did get some harder work established.  My daughter is graduating from high school this spring and the whirlwind of senior year coupled with all the house and barn improvements that need to to be accomplished before graduation have had me going every which way.  So, blogging has taken a bit of a back seat, but I have been trying to be present when riding and forget all the other stuff going on.  

A few things that are in the improvement column after a winter inside:
*better more balanced freestyle(loose rein) working gaits
*better more prompt leg yields off the seat/weight aids
*better lateral work off the seat/weight aids
*better engagement off the seat/weight aids 
*better energy off the seat/weight aids

Are you sensing a theme here?  Whenever I ran into a problem adding more energy or engagement the answer was always to do the same exercise without rein contact or bitless.  Then I would realize how much hand I was truly using and how much it blocked and irritated Jet.  This is obviously still a work in progress, but the realization that I can have level balance working gaits and even some elements of collection on a loose rein just using my seat has been my big breakthrough this winter.  Almost universally, when I ran into problems doing harder exercises this winter it was because I got lured into using too much hand and not using my seat/weight aids enough or effectively.

We’ve had some lovely 60-70 degree days recently, so I’ve been able to get Jet working outside a bit early this year and he has been SO good.  I feel like I need to knock on wood when I say it, but this has been by far the best transition from inside to outside riding ever.  The unseasonably warm weather has helped, but also he has been doing harder work inside with more lateral work and engagement, so he is thrilled to go outside and tootle at the working gaits and work a lot on the flexibility exercises like serpentines, various leg yields, and also on working gaits freestyle(loose reins).  I’ll start adding in more engagement and collectibility exercise over time, but right now we are focusing on relaxation and suppleness.  So nice to be out in the sunshine with the birds singing, the grass green, and a happy horse.  Bliss.




Monday, March 11, 2019

Can’t See the Forest for the Trees II


So last I left you dear reader, Jet and I had a massive breakthrough (well really me-Jet just wants me to figure out how to ride) about using my seat to lift his back.  The angels sang, there was actual collection, and we had several rides in a row that were just superb.  Jet’s back was up, so his shoulders were more lifted, his hind legs came more underneath, the transitions and lateral work were GREAT, and I felt like I had finally found the missing piece of the puzzle.  Nirvana. And then the wheels came crashing off.  I had a horse with a switching tail, sometimes tense, not easily able to shift from one outside bend to the other.  WTAF?

After a couple of kind of crappy, ineffectual rides(sorry Jet) I figured out what was going on.  In my excitement of figuring out lifting the horse’s back with energy and balance I forgot about the lateral.  You know, having the horse pushed into the outside rein and all that jazz.  Amazingly, if you ride your horse like a straight board, with no emphasis on being in the outside aids, he starts to turn into a 2x4 with all the resultant flexibility.  So...problem eventually solved.  I’m having to think about lifting the back, energy, AND being in the outside aids.  I think my brain might explode, but I’m getting it maybe 80% of the time. 

This got me really thinking though, about the learning process, and about how hard it is to do Dressage and improve without eyes on the ground.  I’m finally understanding that for every learning breakthrough I’ve had, it seems like there is a concurrent loss of something we were doing well.  And this is a consistent pattern.  I figure out the outside aids, I forget energy.  I figure out energy, I forget thoroughness.  On and on like an endless loop.  This is where having a trainer telling you, “You’ve figured out Y BUT don’t forget X” is so freaking helpful.  Putting the skills together is just as hard, but the rider gets a heads up before things go really south.  

Having a trainer right now is not really in the cards for me, but now that I am cognizant of this pattern I think I will be a lot more aware to beware when I make a riding breakthrough.  Just knowing that I have a tendency to add something good but also drop something I am already doing well, will be helpful for future training breakthroughs and maybe make the process a little smoother.  What are your recent breakthroughs and how did they work out long term?



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Small Change Makes a HUGE Difference




I was reading one of my favorite blogs, a enter spooking, recently and had a massive breakthrough about something I already knew.  One of those things I know, have used or done in the past, but that somehow, someway fell out of my day to day riding.  Megan’s blog post was one of several about a recently attended Mary Wanless clinic.  The series really gives a great in depth on MW and some of her methodology, but one little snippet struck me and I realized that this might be the missing component I have been searching for all winter.

See, Jet has been going great.  Relaxed, balanced, and better about matching my energy.  I’ve managed to figure out how to get him off his forehand into a better balance but still keep the relaxation.  He is nicely aligned, does beautiful transitions, and works in a lovely Training-First Level outline.  But.  As we work towards showing First this year and schooling Second, I have felt like there was something missing.  I thought I had it licked with Forward but Not Faster.  And things were better but still not quite right.  I kept working the program of poll high, stretchable, in self carriage, and waited for inspiration to strike.

When I read Megan’s post one small section caught my eye.  “Elite riders draw the horse’s back underneath them by using suction with their seat and thigh.”  She gives a nice little explanation of how to use opposing forces to achieve this, but honestly, this is something I already know how to do, I had just forgotten all about it.  Riding, the endless puzzle where you sometimes forget some of the various puzzle pieces!  Anyway, I had a feeling as soon as I read about drawing the horse’s back up, that this was what we had been missing.  I went through the biomechanics in a mental rehearsal a few times and off to the barn I shot.  And yup, it was the missing piece.  I did my standard ride but just by pushing my heels out slightly and using my thighs as levers to slightly pick up Jet’s back I got a whole different level of cadence and connection.  Everything was effortless.  The power was amazing and the energy was so much easier to maintain.  Magic.

We have now done several rides like this and the change from this one small adjustment is just astonishing.  Just like the picture below, by having that slight feeling of always suctioning the horse’s back, the bridge is more rounded and the energy can flow easily.  Have you ever had a riding breakthrough like this? Please share!