I bought an Ansur Classic treeless saddle in January that I blogged about HERE. I wanted to do an update after owning the saddle, showing, and riding in it extensively. Basically, I love it. Really, really love it. Comfortable, no back issues for either horse or rider, and things that I thought might be an issue like mounting from the ground or saddle slippage have not been a problem at all. In fact, during Jet's recent abscess layup, I rode my daughter's smaller pony in a treed saddle and spent a good part of the rides wishing the Ansur was small enough to fit said pony. I really noticed that the treed saddle jarred my back quite a bit more. I just don't have anything negative to say about the Ansur. I continue to feel a much closer contact with Jet's back, really balanced, and like my leg goes in just the right place. The quality of the saddle is excellent. A couple of things I have noticed that surprised me are that the saddle is maybe a little heavier than I expected, and that I think Jet maybe sweats a little more under the saddle than with my previous Marcus Krehan. Neither is a big deal and we give the Ansur Classic a big thumbs up!
Thursday, August 2, 2018
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Isn't this the truth? Riding is a series of peaks and valleys sprinkled with despair and triumph, served with a side of humility for all that is unknown or misunderstood. I've recently had one of those peaks in coming to understand energy and a valley in that Jet is currently sidelined with an abscess. Horses.
After our last dressage outing, which I was quite pleased with, we have a break of about 6 weeks before our next show. The plan is to spend 4 of those weeks working on the weaknesses in First Level and then doing 2 weeks of TRT ground training and test/spook training right before the next show. When I sat down and thought about what element we are most challenged by for First Level between Relaxation, Energy, and Balance, the answer was definitely Energy. Doing the Training Level tests for shows is great, but it does lead to more focus on having a lower energy horse with an emphasis on relaxation. All good as per our last show, but how does that pan out for First Level? Not well, apparently. After I had a nice post show first ride, but very dull in the transitions and lateral work, I had a lightbulb moment.
I had been trying to ask for more energy before each transition and during certain movements. I had the epiphany that INSTEAD I need to keep a level of energy commensurate with the needs of whatever I am riding all times. For example, on an energy scale of 1-10, a Training test might be ridden at an energy of 3, but a First test might be ridden at a 5. What I had been doing in reality, is riding for relaxation, having an energy level if about 2 for Training, and trying to "energize up" for transitions and before and during things like lengthens and lateral work. Instead, I need to be asking for a higher general energy level, say a 3 for Training or a 5 for First, and just release into the upward transitions, lengthens and etc.. So, this was my working theory and I went out to test it post show ride number 2. I rode exactly the same warmup and exercises but early in the ride did the matching energy exercise of building energy on a loose rein at the walk, releasing into a trot, and melting to a stop at 100% effort(backed up by a tap with the stick if necessary to get the match). Then I started out the working gaits asking for a higher energy from the beginning and Jet was so much more engaged, the transitions were like a release, and the gaits were light and free. Just lovely and effortless. I thought it and he did it. You know, the Sweet Spot.
Anyway, a big breakthrough about the different levels of Energy needed for different things in my riding and also in understanding the interplay of Relaxation, Energy and Balance. Now we just need to get the abscess cleared up and we can take this breakthrough into the First Level work.
Monday, July 16, 2018
We went to our second show of the year Saturday and despite going to a very spoooky facility, had much better relaxation and ride-ability. Jet was great getting off the trailer but when we got to the indoor he was LIT. My husband commented, "THIS is going to be a fun show" and I had my doubts as well, but I stuck with my plan and it all went really well. I started with TRT in hand work in a non-spooky part of the indoor until he settled, which happened quickly. Then we did in hand work in the spooky places until he settled, again pretty quickly. After that I hopped on and did my normal warm up on a 20m circle and then went everywhere. He was SUPER to warm up, relaxed, attentive, and really with me. Then it was lunch break time and we went outside to the perimeter of the dressage ring and started the whole process again. He got LIT again but settled down in hand and under saddle fairly quickly, and we spent a lot of time cruising the judge's stand and just walking with some lateral work thrown in. We also schooled the walkway from the indoor to the outdoor repeatedly because it is super spooky because horses. And then it was time for Training 1 and we were third to go.
He was much more attentive and relaxed in the test 1 compared to the show a few weeks ago. We had a few 8's, some really nice comments, and had a 72% for 3rd. Test 2 also went well, he was a little strong but still listening but had a little spook and bobble on the first canter transition. We still scored a 70% for 4th though, so no complaints. The judge was very complimentary about us as a team and really only wanted a bit more swing and a bit longer step sometimes, which I totally agree with. Even though Jet was more relaxed than last show he was at about 80% of thoroughness compared to at home tests, so I thought her judging was totally on the money. Some of the horses we were competing against were very fancy and in order for my inexpensive non-big moving pony to win in that kind of company he really has to be close to 100% correct.
I'm really pleased with how I prepped at home for this show by doing a ton more TRT in hand work, riding test movements in all the spooky places on my farm, and setting up judge's stands that were pretty scary. I also visualized myself deep breathing through everything including the tests, used my mantra of poll high, aligned, and in self carriage, and did a few steps of lateral(shoulder-in) here and there during the tests to help get Jet loosened up a bit more in his back. I also changed my overall goal to having as close to the level of relaxation and swing at the show as we do at home and we got quite a bit better on that. An improved outing and hopefully, we can do the same and get even more relaxation and thoroughness in August. FYI Jet is cool with horseshows as long as he gets paid in potato chips!
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
I watched a really interesting webinar about dressage showing the other day. There was a ton of great information about how to prepare, perform, and progress but one thing really stood out for me and explained why sometimes my goal setting seems a bit off. Why sometimes, I get a good placing or score but don't feel very satisfied. We all know that goal setting is important to improvement, but in dressage we tend to think of goals as a score or a placing. Instead, what if we think about the result we want but have broader ideas of what a result can encompass?
So, if a result in dressage can be all sorts of things like harmony, how the rider feels after the test, just completing without an E, relaxation and responsiveness in the test, a certain percentage score, a certain placing, or even winning, there can be much more variation on goal setting. Instead of just this percentage or that placing, goals can be much more broad. This makes so much sense to me. See, for some people winning is the goal they set and the result they need to be happy. For me, if my horse is tense and incorrect I don't care if I won, but if my horse is relaxed and correct and a better pair bests us, so it goes. Still one in the W column in my mind. For every rider on every horse there is a different result they truly want and thinking really carefully about what result would truly make you happy leads to much better goal setting.
This has opened up a whole new way of thinking about goals and explains how I need to set up my goal setting for shows in the future. With Jet, if he is relaxed and attentive the tests are typically pretty good, especially since we are doing an easy for him Training Level this year. If my goal is relaxation, balance, and self carriage in my show tests, the scores and placings will take care of themselves. Getting there will not be easy with his tension issues sometimes in a show environment, but now that I understand that is the result that will make me happy, I have a much better goal in mind. No guarantee we will get there, but having the goal be clear will definitely help with strategies. Striving for harmony and correctness ultimately works for me at home and if we do the same for showing and get a few ribbons along the way, that would be nice as well.