Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Simple Stretches

I thought this was a very good example of some simple stretches for your horse.  I do the flank/hip stretch after every ride and can frequently hear Jet's back crack.  I always do it after picking feet and he's gotten to the point he starts stretching before the treat even comes out of my pocket!  I'm thinking I'll add in the girth and the hind fetlock stretch as well.  The front end stretches are super easy for him so we don't bother...

Do you do stretches with your horse?  What type, and before or after riding?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Flying Changes

I have never seen Jet do a flying change of lead at liberty in the many years I have owned him.  Because of this I've always thought he had an inbuilt limitation of Second Level in dressage.  Sure we could put piaffe on(working on that!) and play with some of the upper level tricks like half pass and pirouette (working on that too!)but trying to do clean changes with a horse that never ever does changes in the field seems to me like a bridge too far.  Since he is the BEST BOY ever, I am cool with that.  I figure I am lucky that at 15 he is still sound and happy in his work and that we are learning and improving.  

Things have been going well this winter despite the hideous weather and my teeny-tiny indoor ring.  He is straighter, more through the back, the lateral work is getting effortless, and the canter is really, really nice on occasion.  Some long term little problems have gotten better and he feels great.  It's hard to judge how much we've improved though, when we've had just a handful of rides outside in the full dressage court to really vary the work and test things out.  Sometimes I wonder if he really is getting stronger and straighter or if it is just a figment of my (vivid!)imagination.

But then today I went to get him from the field and he was feeling "frisky" and bombed his way in towards the barn and directly towards me.  And did three clean flying lead changes on the way.  Seriously.  I couldn't believe it.  I've never seen him do a clean change in the 10 years I have owned him.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think this indicates that we are ready to start changes under saddle any time soon.  I do think though, that it shows we are on the right track of training for straightness, balance, and energy.  He is finally using his body correctly under saddle and that is changing the way he moves in general when free.  You know, in way that dressage is supposed to improve an ordinary horse, not just put tricks on a fabulous moving from birth warmblood.  That it shows up at liberty is just too cool. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Ride With Me App by Smartpak

In the latest Smartpak catalog there is mention of their new free app for riders called Ride With Me.  It is for people riding alone who would like another layer of safety.  All you have to do is download the app and have your cell phone on your body.  The app works by notifying an emergency contact by text if you stop moving during your ride for a proscribed number of minutes.  It is very easy to use.  Basically, you get the app through Google Play or the App Store, enter in your info and emergency contacts, and you are good to go.  You just have to start the app at the beginning of each ride and remember to click out at the end.  So far, I love the ease of this thing, the added layer of safety, that it times my rides, and the fact that it is FREE.  Nice work Smartpak!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Can't See the Forest for the Trees or Straightness Revisited

Sometimes in my dressage journey I feel just like this pony.  I could see perfectly well, if I would just have the common sense to get my bangs out of my eyes.  Seriously.  Jet has been going well, better energy with less tension and better transitions, but still feeling a little crooked maybe or just not in the outside rein?  Something?  Anything?  Anyway, the three new monthly videos dropped on the Dressage Naturally video classroom  HERE a few days ago, and all became a bit more clear.

Two of the three videos were about the basic alignment exercise, which is explained a little more in depth HERE and HERE in previous blog posts.  Apparent I am a little dim, because in those posts I covered the same material as the new videos, but I somehow forgot some of the more salient points.  Again, bangs.  Anyway, the premise of the basic alignment exercise for straightness is that the place between all the crooked places is the straight place.  So instead of trying to hold your horse in alignment, say on the circle, you go PAST the straight spot to the other crooked spot and then go back to neutral.  After doing this a few times neutral ends up being a lot straighter and the rider works a lot less.  The horse also is more free in his whole topline, uses both hind legs more evenly, and can push and carry much more effectively.  The new video Karen did uses the visual of a crooked pool noodle (representing the naturally crooked horse) that is overbent to the other direction to end up mostly straight when released.  Really powerful visual and again, I can't recommend the video classroom highly enough(I think it is something like $12 for the first month), and soon as I watched the video I knew exactly what I needed to do.

So, I did my normal training ride but added the basic alignment exercise at the walk and trot.  After a few minutes Jet was much straighter in active neutral, swinging much better through his back, and more energetic with less effort.  A few days later he is straighter in the lateral work, sitting better for slight collection, and swingy and soft in the back and in his attitude.  Everything feels easier, he is much happier because he is straighter, and it is not so hard for him to push and carry.  I feel stupid, because I already knew the answer 18 months ago but couldn't see the forest for the trees because I forgot all about using the BA exercise.  Better late than never though, right?  Next up, how the basic alignment exercise relates to lateral work.