Monday, June 4, 2018

Showing Training While Schooling First/Second

My local showing association, DLSC, has as usual, a lovely selection of Dressage schooling shows for 2018.  I have dithered and changed my mind a couple of times about what level to show, but decided to take the easier, less competitive path.  Just like last year when we did Intro, we will show the level that we can do well with a minimal warm up and even when Jet is little spooky or tense.  We have most of First Level but a few things are still a little sticky when done correctly and because it requires more energy and better balance, Jet can get a bit ramped up.  By showing Training this year we can shoot for year end awards and Jet should have better, more positive show experiences, just like last year showing Intro.  So that is the showing plan.  Four or five schooling shows this summer and hopefully, deposits in the bank of Jet feeling like showing is easy and fun.  It was kind of a hard decision but I had to ask myself what I truly wanted out of showing, to show at the highest level possible or get some good ribbons, better scores, and have a positive experience most tests.  

On the day to day riding front I will do a Training test as part of my warmup most days and then move on to working on First/Second movements.  I've had a bit of an epiphany about how to get the pieces we are missing at First.  For example, I've been trying to get the missing movements like canter 15m circle or counter-canter by just doing them a bit.  We can sort of get them but they are not great and doing them more is not making them better.  Jet is also not happy because he does NOT like being out of balance.  After thinking about things I realized the missing ingredients are energy and balance, so I need to focus on exercises that help those two qualities and THEN try the 15m canter circle or the shallow counter-canter loop.  Just like doing some trot shoulder-in and/or transitions before a lengthen, this sets up the horse for success.  Instead of having to over ride every step, the horse comes into the harder exercise in better balance and things are much easier.  Who knew?  I also made a list of what is difficult for us in each First Level test.  It was a really short list and by using the above idea of not working to much directly on the challenging movement but on the things that should help the movement I think progress should be quick and a lot less irritating for Jet.  Time will tell!

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Moment of Truth

As I ride in my teeny tiny indoor during the endless Midwest winters, I always wonder if we really make any progress over the indoor season, or if because of the limitations of space, we are just playing with maintenance of skills and fitness.  This winter has been a bit different as I have so many more tools in my tool box that work effectively, like freestyle, various leg yields, counter bend, more effective transitions, and lateral work in walk.  Even in a small space a lot of these can be done very well and make a big difference to the quality of the trot and canter.  When I started riding outside in the past couple of weeks I was amazed with how well Jet did with some exercises that we haven't been able to do for months and how willing and supple(don't you love that word?) he has been.  The key, I think, has been that I had a mental list of all the exercises I expect Jet to do at his level and if I couldn't do something because of space limitations I did do something related that keeps the skill set strong for when we migrate back outside.  Below are some bullet points of the most helpful exercises that replaced/reinforced things we couldn't do inside but we could work on in an oblique way.

*Freestyle-Basically working on a loose rein at the walk and trot(and sometimes canter) to start out our rides.  Starting with forequarter and hindquarter yields, alignment on the circle, halt to reinback, and upward and downward transitions just off of my seat.  All on a loose rein.  Replacing going large in a big ring to get loose and freely forward.

*Leg Yields, Spirals, Counter Bend-After a few minutes of Freestyle picking up the contact, doing the basic alignment exercise at the walk, and working on leg yields(head to wall), spirals in and out, and counter bend on the circle.  The key to LY and CB is getting the horse into the outside aids and then switching to the new outside.  The switching back and forth is the key.  This mimics serpentines and is super suppling.  The outside stays the same in spirals but the horse shifts in and out on the spiral from the seat, so again super suppling.  Replacing serpentines and figure eights for loosening/suppling.

*Shoulder-In/Haunches-In on the Square-The key to this is walking a square of 15-20 meters with square corners first and THEN adding in steps of either shoulder-in or haunches-in.  Over time building to doing the square turns in either sh-in or h-in, getting multiple consecutive sides, and then last, switching between sh-in and h-in while walking the square.  For whatever reason(hind leg engagement?), the square turns really helped Jet get more quality in his lateral work with shoulders lifted and inside hind engaged.  Replacing long straight lateral work with this has helped the quality of Jet's lateral work in general tremendously and of course his ability to engage and collect.

*Transitions of Quality Between Walk, Trot, and Canter-By this I mean upward transitions that feel like a release of  energy and downward transitions that feel forward.  By being more picky about the quality of EVERY transition, only doing transitions with energy, and having enough energy all the time, the quality of the gaits and the engagement is much better.  Replacing lengthening on long straights to make sure the working gaits are of good quality.

*Various Touching into Collection Exercises-Things like collected walk to reinback to walk with no real halt, transitions between consecutive gaits that are closer together, transitions between non-consecutive gaits like walk canter walk, and smaller than 12 meter circles.  This is not really replacing any outdoor work it is just touching on collection very briefly, so Jet gets used to powering up a bit.

I only ride every other day in winter and spend a lot of time at the walk with bursts of good quality trot and canter.  Every year when I transition to riding outside again it feels like the moment of truth.  Last year I was just so happy Jet was relaxed from the get go that some rusty movements were ok with me.  This year I hoped the more detailed inside work would convert to easy outside movements that we can't do inside.  All our rides outside this year have been SUPER, with flowy serpentines, lovely stretches down to back up again, transitions up that feel like a release, balanced lateral work at the trot, super leg yields from centerline, and some nice uphill canters going large.  I'm leaving lengthens for a week or two and just doing one or two exercises that require more collection, but I could not be more pleased with the results of my indoor 'alternative' training!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Olivia over at DIY Horse Ownership ran a contest for a pair of Roeckl gloves and amazingly I won!  I choose the Lisboa gloves with a bit of bling on the back and I love them!  I am a BIG Roeckl fan after receiving my first pair as a gift last year.  They are, by far, the most comfortable, elegant gloves I have ever worn.  So thank you Olivia, and thank you Toklat, who were kind enough to redeem my gift certificate and get me exactly the gloves I wanted in a very timely fashion.  

These gloves are going to look great with the slightly blingy helmet I bought for showing this summer.  Can't wait!

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?