Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Random Training Thoughts about Regrets

Since I’ve started using the Dressage Naturally system, I’ve pretty much lived by this mantra.  But.  This has also led to us being stuck at First-Second Level for a couple of years while I try to figure out how to ride.  Seriously.  The interesting thing though, is that even though I was tilted forward and could not get the timing of the half-halt, we were cruising around pretty happily.  Jet was getting progressively more flexible and supple using the principles of Relaxation, Energy, and Balance to find the Sweet Spot. We couldn’t achieve poll high always(damn you slouchy posture) but self-carriage and a form of stretch were consistently there and we were harmonious even though our balance was a little off sometimes.  We got some nice scores and comments at Training and First, and most of all, Jet trusted me enough to take his spooky self to shows and be quite obedient.  That was a big deal to me.

Now that I’ve made some big breakthroughs and figured out my posture, the correct stretch, and different versions of the half-halt, I have second guessed myself once or twice about having an almost 18 year old pony that is just now getting some of the more technical “real” dressage stuff.  But.  If I had hauled Jet to one of our local dressage people with his inverted tense self, I’m sure hardware would have been suggested.  Lots of lunging to wear him down.  Trainer rides.  A dressage bred horse.  And on and on.  By focusing on the partnership first and then working my way up to the more technical skills, things have taken a long time.  The upside though, is that I know how to problem solve the relationship, I know the lower level technical skills in and out, and now that I have the ability to sit up and half-halt (occasionally) the world is our oyster. 

Now, Jet will only stay sound doing harder work for so long, but who knows how long that will be?  Could be next month or a few years from now.  Meanwhile he is happy to work for me and is my best boy.  The thing is though, by working slowly through the steps, I understands the ins and outs thoroughly so I can take that knowledge to the next horse.  Honestly, probably one of my only regrets is not doing the online Dressage Naturally courses.  I think I would have gotten to this point much quicker with more input and video feedback but also spent thousands of dollars that I used to buy my next horse.  Life is trade offs. 

Do you have any regrets about your training path or decisions you have made about your horse experience?

Monday, October 26, 2020

Acavallo Arena AluPro Safety Stirrups Review

I’ve always had a bit of a phobia about getting my foot stuck in a stirrup and having a nasty accident.  With all the new safety stirrups on offer and starting a baby horse, I decided it was time to upgrade from my Herm Sprenger 4 ways.  After some shopping and checking reviews, I decided to go with the Acavallo Arena AluPro Safety Stirrups.  They were at a reasonable price point, had good reviews, and have a simple design.  Basically, the outside arm of the stirrup hinges open under pressure.  Kind of like the old-school rubber band peacock stirrups, but with high tech materials and a lot better looking.

I got these stirrups super fast from Country & Stable.  The packaging was minimalist but nice.  The stirrups themselves are lightweight but not too lightweight, if you know what I mean.  The footbed is wider with a grated top and the whole stirrup is nicely balanced.  Basically, I noticed these stirrups felt different for the first five minutes of my first ride and then forgot about them.  They are so comfortable and feel so right with no slipping, readjusting, or twisting.  I’ve been riding in them for a couple of weeks and I love the safety feature but I actually like the design, function, and feel of the stirrups even more.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Things I've Learned This Year

Even though we haven’t shown this year, I feel like we have had a series of breakthroughs.  It all started with buying a Pivo.  Despite the lack of consistency in the video, there was enough to realize that Jet was almost always slightly on the forehand and slightly behind the vertical.  And I was always sitting forward.  Which would explain why some of the Second Level movements were not very good in quality even though we could do them for a 5.

So, big change number one was that I had to sit up if I wanted Jet off his forehand and in front of the vertical. I visualized.  I did yoga and worked out with my vertebrae stacked.  I watched every video I could find about the effects of rider posture on horse posture.  And it worked.  I am now(confirmed by Pivo) sitting up 80-90% of the time.  Jet is consistently in front of the vertical with his poll high.  The sit of the posting trot and sometimes in the canter are still a work in process as below, but this winter that will be my rider position focus.  Because he is not naturally uphill, my position has an outsized influence on his balance, so I must SIT UP.

Big change number two was that once I was sitting up with Jet’s poll as the highest point, he felt dull and low energy.  I kept working on energy to no avail.  Then I happened to see a Dressage Naturally Video Classroom FB post about going from the working walk to the slightly collected walk and the lightbulb went on.  Did you know that the stretch is not actually a stretch down as much as a stretch OUT to the contact?  By letting Jet just go head down rather than stretched out to the contact and then gradually down, I was missing the whole point of the stretch.  So with my new posture I went out and played with being poll high and stretched OUT to the working frame and thought about adjectives like swingy and through.  Low and behold now that the energy was going all the way around the circuit, with correct biomechanics, energy was not a problem. Like this picture below.

Big change number three was reading another blogger’s post about a Centered Riding clinic and revisiting the CR concepts, especially on the half-halt.  I started playing with the basic version of the Centered Riding half-halt and realized a few things.  The most basic HH was a lot like putting space between my vertebrae for a slight stretch out.  Who knew?  I then started researching and playing with various forms of half-halts as explained by a variety of sources.  That is when the lightbulb just about blew up.  Because folks, there are different half-halts for different situations.  The sit up and wait with the seat is one kind of HH but the sit up and add seat/leg without going more forward is another.  And many variations in between.  Once I realized there is not just one HH, but many many different versions, I was able to set Jet up for success so much better.  Below is a lengthening/medium after some energizing half-halts.  Jet is a little short in the neck/btv due to my position flaws, but I love the energy and hind leg engagement.

Looking over this post,  everything this year feels very serendipitous.  Without the Pivo showing me I needed to fix my posture, the changes in stretching out to the frame and various kinds of half-halts would never have been effective.  I will say though, that I credit this breakthrough to the wonders of the Internet.  I found out about the Pivo from a fellow blogger.  The posture fixes have come mostly  from Internet searches and online yoga.  The stretch that is out to the contact as much as it is down was from the Dressage Naturally Video Classroom.  The half-halt quest was again started by another  blogger and expanded to FB, YouTube, and the general internet search.

I do feel like this summer was the outgrowth of a lot of previous building blocks but that the ability to learn from other bloggers, the Video Classroom, and the Internet in general has led to this big leap.  I’m always searching, reading and watching so I can learn more.  Do feel that the ability to learn online has impacted your learning and Horsemanship?  What online resources have helped you the most?

Friday, October 16, 2020

Foto Friday

I finally got my Pivo out to check our progress.  It’s been a while!  After bitching to my husband about how much it doesn’t follow me, and how irritated I get, the entire 20 minutes that the Pivo was turned on was perfectly zoomed and clear.  Gotta love those software updates!  

Besides my reluctance to be disappointed by Pivo, I also was afraid that even though things are feeling good, that the video would tell the ugly truth.  These are just a trio of pictures that I thought represented how we are looking right now.

Stretched out to the contact at the working walk

Right after an energizing half-halt

A beautiful uphill canter stride

I didn’t really cherry pic these photos, I just choose examples that were at the best point of stride.  I’m so pleased with where we are right now.  By adding stretching to the contact, in the frame I want, and also adding in various types of half-halts for different situations, Jet is feeling engaged, balanced and uphill.  And he is not tense.  

More thoughts next week on how we got here.