Scribing at AECs – Judge Feedback at Novice

First of all, your first time Dressage scribing probably shouldn’t be a full day of championships… but I did all my homework and practiced a bit so that I would be ready to do my best for the 49 riders in my ring! (Serious apologies to anyone after the first 15 riders. I never knew my hand could actually go numb and stop obeying me like that!)

The day started VERY early with a 4:45AM wake-up call so that I could get to my check-in point at the Kentucky Horse Park by the appointed 6:30AM ride time. Luckily, it was an absolutely gorgeous morning. My judge was right on time, and she was wonderful to work with. She left A LOT  of comments (3 – 4 per box a lot of the time!), but it was clear she was doing it because she recognized how hard each competitor worked to get to AECs and wanted them to have some valuable insight.

The great part of all those comments is that I could see some theme reoccurring. Below are the five most common comments she had for competitors doing Novice B:

1. Circles Don’t Have Corners

I think a lot of our riders internalized their trainers warning them to make their circles bit and to stay in the corners… Unfortunately, when you have a circle, there are no corners. Riding deep into the corner when your circle starts at A or C is really obvious and ruins the geometry.

how I feel trying to ride a 20M circle

2. Stiff in Transitions

Up or down between any gaits. This comment came up a lot. It was pretty clear a lot of riders spent a lot of time doing the movements, but not necessarily the transitions between those movements. As a result, either the rider or the horse (or both) were weak through the transitions, causing stiffness.

3. Proper Frame

My judge took a minute to discuss the frame she was looking for at this level. Still stretched into the bridle, but horses starting to move a bit more uphill than you would expect from BN. We saw many horse’s either still on their forehand (including a few who forged), ducked behind the contact, or in a frame too tight/high for the level. Being too high/tight for the level didn’t necessarily mean less points, but it did typically mean that the horse’s gaits weren’t as open as they could be.

Curling behind the contact was by far the greater sin, as the judge really wanted to see that horses were seeking the contact.

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I would argue this is pretty close. If anything, I would want May’s withers a bit higher and her throat-latch a bit more open. 

4. Sitting off Center

My judge was very aware of when riders were positioned off of center, and she called them out on it. She wanted to see riders in the middle of their saddles so that they could be the most efficient.

how your horse feels when you lean off center

5. Stretchy, Rhythm, Power from Behind

In the free walk, she was consistently looking for three things: was the horse stretching? Was the rhythm consistent and correct (forward but not running)? And was the horse powering forward from behind?

Many riders had one or two. Rhythm was good and power form behind, but not enough stretch, or good stretch and good power from behind, but the rhythm was quick/rushed. Honestly, just reminding myself of these three things on Friday helped me get a much better free walk out of May. (Honestly, I wanted to find a picture of this one, but I couldn’t find one where the horse wasn’t ducking behind the contact)

except… more active?

Overall, it was a long day, but I really appreciated having such a great judge. She was fair across the board, and we spent a good amount of time talking about the give and take of balancing the accurate/obedient ride vs. the flashy ride at the lower levels.

Luckily, I was done scribing around 2:30PM, so I got some free time! I got to meet Jack and Britt after their great Dressage test! And then I got to walk the Novice/BN XC courses.

I will say, and I might get into this more in another post, I ended up submitting an event evaluation after the event. I think the volunteers and staff did a WONDERFUL job keeping our ring on time and moving. However, I think that the involvement of EEI skewed the whole event in favor of the upper level riders, which in my opinion, is like spitting in the face of the lower levels.

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Recent Rides & Fall Feelings

My schedule has been a bit insane lately, as life and work have both gotten in the way. Unfortunately, they have also gotten in the way of my riding. Luckily, I have been able to keep up with my recent lessons, so I have some stuff to talk about!

May and I ended up having two Dressage lessons back to back because my trainer was repainting all of her jumps and making some new ones. (Props to her and everyone that pitched in to get that done. They look AMAZING.) Luckily though, Mandy is basically an evil genius, so she managed to make both Dressage lessons significantly different from one another.

The first lesson was all about test riding. We warmed up quick then ran through a BN test (which one? who knows). I am pretty sure we did BN A… but backwards. Honestly, I usually practice my tests backwards because May is more than smart enough to learn a test and start anticipating EVERYTHING.

The first test was…. ok. Maybe a low 30s test? The trot work is in a good place, and the quality of the canter and canter transitions have improved. However, I am pretty sure a bug bit her on the nose during our walk work so…. the head flinging was a bit much. Annnnnd I was so happy with the canter transitions that I didn’t ride my circle, which lost me a few points on geometry.

So we did a ride-a-test format, where Mandy and I discussed what was good and what was not good, and then I went back in and did it again. And you know what? It was probably a mid to high 20s type of test. Just really good. Solidly accurate, good quality on the trot and canter, stretch in the free walk. So we basically just gave May pats and told her she was a good girl.

Then… I was traveling and she got a week off. Whomp Whomp.

However, I was back in time for my next lesson, which thanks to some wind/rain, was in the indoor.  As a result, we went back to working on the shoulder-in work. May is clearly getting a LOT stronger in these movements and a lot more confident in the idea of really weighting her hind end. Honestly, just not a ton to say here hahaha. The shoulder-in work is helping and improving, but it is definitely still a work in progress.

Looking forward, Kentucky has decided to show off a bit with the weather… giving us a taste of fall. So far, it looks like all you AEC people should have nice weather for this weekend!

not yet… but it feels like it!

On Thursday, I am Dressage scribing ALL DAY in Claiborne Ring 2. Really excited to spend a day listening to how judges score Dressage tests.

Unfortunately, that is the ONLY DAY I will get to AECs, since on Friday, I am flying out to Tucson for family stuff. I’ve never been out that far west, much less in the SouthWest, so I am excited for the trip.

Again, we get back on Monday, so Tuesday will be a lesson again, which is good. Because I need my lessons. Why do I need my lessons? Because I am aiming for the Hagyard Midsouth Team Challenge in Mid-October.

Am I insane? Probably. This show is competitive, big, and engages in a bit of level creep on XC, and we haven’t gone BN since May of 2016.

You know what though, she is going great. We jumped some Novice stuff on the hunter pace. We jumped some Novice stuff at our schooling at the KHP in the DOWNPOUR. We’re schooling much more complicated SJ courses at home. And, let’s be honest, the starter level we did back in APRIL was not a challenge for either of us. Also, May has gone BN with my half leaser back in the Spring.

So… This morning I officially renewed my USEA membership.

My goals are literally to go and have fun. Watching videos from previous years (yes, I do this) just makes me feel serious envy. Cantering around KHP in mid October? Yes Please and Thank You.

What about you? Are you looking forward to the end of Summer and the Fall weather?

When Your Horse is a Teenage Girl

I was pretty impressed when I came out on Sunday and May was ready to play. I started my Dressage ride with some pretty strict rules for my. INCLUDING, sticking my crop under both thumbs to keep my hands from doing funky things or wandering. I know everyone is shocked to hear that doing this meant May came pretty reliably into the contact, including bending in both directions without my hands having to enter much of the conversation.

After a quick warm up, we played with some turns on the haunches, which were actually pretty good. So I moved into the shoulder-in exercise on a 20M circle. The left, as expected, was great. And the right was pretty good too. She was able to give me a few steps of true shoulder in. Instead of drilling this willingness, I let her drop down into the contact and switch directions after each good attempt.

not suspicious at all

Alright, so then I figured we should play with the shallow counter canter loops. We picked up the right lead first… and when I got to M, I directed her to the quarter line, then bent back to F, wash and repeat on the other side. It was OK. I still didn’t feel like she was really wrapping around my inside leg. Again though, I didn’t want to discourage the try or drill it. So we moved onto the other side and repeated…

Or at least, I went to repeat… and she immediately spooked at the corner of the arena. It was one of those moments where she was spooking, and I was looking around trying to figure out what she was spooking at… mid spook. No clue, so I circled around, and it was  now a non issue. Maybe she saw something through the door. Maybe she felt I was getting too comfortable up there. Who knows.

Either way, we repeated the same counter canter loops with pretty much the same results. Ugh.

So I stopped for a minute. What was I trying to achieve? As always, I am trying to quicken the hind end and shift more weight backwards while improving jump. Sooo I decided to pick up the right lead again and try some baby shoulder fore. I mean… not even totally three tracks, just offsetting the shoulder to the inside.

May’s reaction? Well, I am apparently the MOST UNFAIR MOM EVER. Seriously. I half halted, asked for the bend, put my inside leg on, moved my hands over, shifted my weight, and she started flinging her head around.

May:

Me:

I swear, I ended up with mouth foam on my helmet. I was just sitting there, no contact in my hand, just maintaining the bend with my leg and seat, staring at her like…. As soon as she softened, I let her go back to straight. I asked one more time, less dramatics, and I let her be done with a lap of stretchy trot around the arena and a nice walk hack.

Fingers crossed that it translates to our next Dressage ride with less drama.

Learning the Feel of New Things

Last night, we had our first Dressage lesson in a while. In all honesty, the purpose of this lesson was two-fold, I felt like May had kind of been blowing through me a lot lately, and I wanted to see if the magnawave/massage session had any effect on the flat, where it would be easier to assess than over fences.

When it comes to the blowing off thing, it’s not (usually) a blatant throwing of the head and running off with me. Although, it can be. It’s more that she sort of gives me something, I ask for a little more, and she… doesn’t give me any more. Or I make a correction, and she goes “Nah, I got this.” The correct response is typically to ask more firmly (Ask, Tell, Demand sequence).

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However, I have a tendency to back off and blame myself. Oh she must not be moving off my leg because I am sitting wrong, or blocking her, or whatever. So by myself, I might back down. This hasn’t been an issue for the last 4 years because we were securely in the position of “things I know.”

I am fairly comfortable in my ability to get a horse to bend, move through its body, connect into the bridle, etc etc etc. At least through a training level frame. When it comes to First Level stuff, I have gotten enough training to generally know how to put those most of those moves on a horse.

Now though, I am asking for more. I am asking for better leg yields, true shoulder in, and the beginnings of real counter canter work. And truly, I don’t really know what I am doing.

Case and point: Last night, my trainer asked me to do a 20M circle at the trot. Cool. Simple. Got it. We played around with my lack of geometry a bit (oops), and then she asked me to do a shoulder in along the circle. Our shoulder ins down the long side are solid enough that we should be able to do this exercise, and it is a great way to add flexibility through the rib cage (one of our issues) and encourage the hind end to come under the horse (another issue).

May Walk

I tried for about half a circle before doing a walk transition and walking over to Mandy, “yeah, what am I supposed to be doing?”

I realized that I was trying to pull her around the circle with my inside rein (not helpful), while trying to shove her haunches out with my inside leg (also… not helpful). A shoulder-in can originally be guided with the inside aids, but it really is an outside aid exercise. So… I knew I was doing it wrong, but I Could Not wrap my head around what I SHOULD be doing. If I was riding by myself, I would drop the exercise and go back to something I definitely know how to do.

Mandy, bless her, did not miss a beat. She started drawing diagrams in the sand about the 20 cm circle, the angle I was looking for and what May’s body should be doing. I nodded along, that all made sense. Then, she broke down the aids for me. Showing me the “extreme” versions of what my aids should be doing and then connecting that back to how that will influence May’s body to engage in the shoulder-in move.

too-cute

A few more nods, and I headed back out to my 20M circle.  This time? It only took me about 1/4 of the circle to get it. At that point, Mandy starts yelling at me about what I should be feeling, “Feel her coming off that inside rein? Feel the inside hind coming under her body more?” These little tidbits of feel become my way of checking in when I do this on my own. My aids are doing X, so am I getting Y?

(off topic, but I found this after my lessons, and I thought it was pretty helpful: Random French Dude’s Advice on Shoulder-In)

Going in the other direction (tracking right), the exercise was substantially more difficult for us, so when we got a couple of good steps, I let May move forward into a straighter contact. However, this time, I was able to more effectively tackle the more difficult side because I had gotten the “Feel” cues from my trainer already.

To me, these are the building blocks of good instruction. My trainer has given me the tools to continue my horse’s training beyond my lessons. As for the magnawave, I am not sure I really felt any change in May’s way of going after it. It clearly felt good, but I don’t think the right shoulder issue is a pain thing, as much as it is a training thing. As a result, a pain management tool didn’t fix our training. Oh well. 😉

A Surprisingly Good Customer Service Experience

There are times in life where… stuff just happens hahaha. When I put my Dressage saddle up for sale, I cleaned it up, took some quick pics, and threw them on facebook. After a few weeks of no bites, I brought it home for a proper deep clean and glam photo shoot.

That was when I noticed this…

UGH. So I looked back through the other pics… and I clearly should’ve looked closer at them at the time.

Remind you, it has now been WEEKS since I took that second pic… But that didn’t stop me from rifling through the grass at the barn trying to find that tiny screw cover. Not surprisingly, I came away empty handed.

I figured that it was probably worth buying the new piece (if the cost was reasonable), so that I was sending off a 100% intact saddle to a new owner. (IF I EVER FIND A NEW OWNER)

So I shot Stubben’s North American team an email. Mind you, I bought this saddle second hand and not from Stubben… So while I am someone that rides in Stubben saddles, I am not exactly a Stubben customer.

They emailed me back within a couple of hours asking for my address and the serial number of my saddle. I sent both off and waited for the cost. The email I got back, “Thank you! I will see if we have an extra one hanging around, and I will drop it in the mail to you.”

It arrived on Monday and screwed right in, like the original piece. It was pretty refreshing to have a quick and painless interaction with a saddle company.

And since I have no shame, here is a link to the ebay listing again: Click Here

2019 Spring Bay Horse Trails – Dressage

I want to start the recap of this weekend’s event with so many “thank you”s. I am not sure who I can thank first or even the most.

Obviously, a massive shout out goes to my friend that really pushed me to sign up for this event. Over the last several months, she has gone from a girl I knew at the barn, to the girl I go to the gym with, to one of my biggest cheerleaders. She got 5,000 questions from me about pretty much everything, and she had to reassure me maybe another 5,000 times. However, I am so happy she pushed me to do this horse trial. Hereby, she shall be dubbed “Motivational Friend” hahaha.

I woke up poor Remus on Sunday morning 🙂

On that note, I need to thank the rest of the barn family. We had tons of people show up both days of the show to watch and help. We had people help out at the barn while we were gone. Our younger riders volunteered both days and were a massive help to the show. My teammates all stepped up to help one another and make sure our ponies were as comfortable as possible over a crazy weather weekend.

My trainer gets a HUGE shout out. Not only did she compete her own horse, but she was completely committed to each of us competing in the lower divisions. She took my warmups and prep just as seriously as everyone else, even though I was only doing starter. It was only my second time showing with her and the first show was a super soft schooling show. At this show, between the atmosphere and the weather, it was an incredible experience. It really is an amazing confidence boost to have a pro in your corner who knows you, knows your horse, and totally has faith.

Finally, I am so incredibly thankful for my amazing husband. I ended up recommending that he stay home on XC day due to the weather (more on that later), but as soon as I got home, he was combing through the pro pictures with me and watching my helmet cam footage. He was so proud of me and excited for me that he posted some of the pics (all purchased) on his facebook. If that doesn’t make your heart grow, I’m not sure what will.

ALRIGHT – ON TO THE COMPETITION

Both days were super long days since we had riders and horses in the first division of each day, and I was in the last division. Since Saturday and Sunday were held at different venues, we trailered out both days instead of stabling. However, that meant that May was on the trailer at 6AM on Saturday, and our first ride time was at nearly 2:30PM. May didn’t seem to mind. She drank really well all day and had plenty of grazing breaks throughout the day… and she took a few naps. All in all, a pretty good way to spend the day in May’s book.

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Bahaha… where am I going?

Since day parking at the KYHP is so far from the Dressage complex, we got on pretty early to walk over… and then got lost. Oops. Luckily, Best Husband Ever was there, and he helped navigate me in the right direction. I started warming up quickly, thinking I was running late. May felt AMAZING. We had floppy Dressage ears. Does anyone know what I am talking about? She was ON IT.

Then, there was a delay in our ring. so I let her walk on a long rein. Then, when we were one out, I picked her back up, did a few walk/trot transitions, as per my trainer’s recommendation. I threw in a quick canter transition, and we were ready to go in!

(Below are the movements, score, and a version of what the judge wrote. It’s not verbatim because… drawings. Any of my comments are in italics)

Movement Scores

  1. Entrance, Halt, Proceed at Working Trot: 7.0 – Obedient to Halt. Square. I am surprised this scored so well. There was a ring and warmup running behind the judge’s booth… As soon as we came down centerline, May REALLY wanted to watch those rings. 
  2. Track Right at C: 7.0 – Smooth Turn
  3. Circle Right 20M at B: 7.5 – Active Trot Steps. Well Shaped Circle
  4. Circle Right 20M at A, with Canter: 6.0 – Prompt Transition. Lack of Bend and Poor Circle Shape.  I got so excited about a decent up transition into the right lead canter, that I almost forgot to circle. 
  5. Transition in and out of Canter: 6.0 – Well planned up transition. Unbalanced down transition.
  6. Change Rein at working trot: 8.0 – Good quality trot shown
  7. Circle Left 20M at E: 7.0 – Becomes a bit rushed. Loses shape a bit. She actually thought about giving me a canter transition here… hence the loss of rhythm. 
  8. Circle Left 20M at A, with Canter: 7.0 – Better plan to start circle. Better quality canter.
  9. Transition in and out of Canter: 7.5 – Fairly good prep for transition.
  10. Medium Walk: 7.0 – Keep marching walk I was just super happy that she didn’t jig because she was getting VERY jiggy in warm-up. 
  11. Free Walk: 7.0 – Covers Ground in FW. Show more stretch down. Agreed. 
  12. Working Trot: 7.5 – Smooth and Forward
  13. Center line and Halt: 8.0 – Straight and Square.

Collective Marks:

Gaits: 7.0 – Some stiffness in Canter
Impulsion: 7.0 – No Comment
Submission: 7.0 – No Comment
Rider’s Position: 6.5 – Keep eyes up!
Rider’s Effectiveness: 7.0 – Effective Rider
Geometry and Accuracy: 7.5 – Well executed test

Overall Score: 29.3

How could I be anything other than thrilled with that? Scores at schooling shows tend to be pretty soft, so I wasn’t sure where we were going to end up. However, I was really pleasantly surprised to see that 29.3, and it put us in second going into SJ!

Worst Accident I’ve Witnessed

First of all, thank you for all the comments regarding yesterday’s post. Hope you all enjoyed some April Fool’s Day Fun. 🙂

In the nearly 25 years I have spent around horses and in barns, I have witnessed many people fall off. From green horses having green moments to finished horses having serious opinion issues to the stuff that falls under the category of “stuff happens.”

This weekend, I witnesses one of the scariest accidents I have seen in a long time, and it definitely fell under the “stuff happens” category. On a rainy Saturday afternoon, I was riding in the indoor with 2 other riders. One was on her upper level Dressage horse and the other was riding her green, but lovely hony (not sure if he actually measures under 15h, but he’s adorable).

Down the center of the arena was a line of trot poles. The sides of each trot poles were raised in those ikea potty training things:

Image result for ikea potty training
These dudes

So the poles were barely off the ground. They weren’t painted poles, but they were a light brown against the super dark brown/almost black footing of our indoor.

As May and I came down the long side of the arena, preparing to run through our Dressage test for this weekend, I heard the poles clatter, and May pretty much exploded. Now, my first thought was “you’ve heard poles scatter before, May. You actually occasionally do that yourself.”

However, when she spun around, I heard the screaming and saw both horse and rider on the ground. The horse seemed stunned and was laying on the rider’s left leg and the rider yelled and shoved at the massive horse on her.

I kicked my feet out of my stirrups and scrambled out of the saddle. I could see from the white in May’s eyes that she was completely freaked by this. I pulled the reins over May’s head just as the horse regained her feet and got up. The other rider in the ring with us was also off and closer to the rider.

I pulled May over to the stunned horse and grabbed her reins before she could think about taking off. Our indoor is open at both ends, and I know how dangerous it can be for a scared and stunned horse to just take off. The rider was trying to get up, on her hands and knees, and I couldn’t tell if she was genuinely hurt or just really shocked.

I walked both her horse and May around the arena for a while, noting the initial stiffness in the mare’s left stifle. Luckily, it seemed to abate a bit as she moved. Once she had calmed down a bit, her rider was back on her feet. I rolled up the stirrups of the saddle (May’s ground manners really have come a long way), and offered to untack the mare for her.

Overall, she seemed sore, but not seriously injured. The other woman in the arena is a magnawave tech, so she offered to come over and treat both horse and rider and to check in on her. While the accident could have been so much worse, it is always a bit unnerving to see such a big accident from a well schooled pair doing a fairly simple exercise.

At this point, I have to ask, was it a full moon last week?! Pat your ponies people and always wear your helmets!

Post Injection Dressage Lesson

This lesson was a bit funny because NT had just gotten back from Aiken on Monday morning (like 4am-ish), and I hadn’t really gotten to ride much lately. On top of that, I hadn’t had a serious school on May since her injections (thanks to the weather), and our part leaser (PL) has a combined test on Sunday….

Sooooo I decided to Dressage, since I figured PL was going to be jumping during her lesson that week and then again at the competition. I also really wanted to see if we could pinpoint any improvement in her comfort level with a solid Dressage school. I pulled out the Dressage saddle, and when NT (or ET haha) asked what I wanted to work on, I kept it pretty simple. I wanted to work on our connection through transitions and adjust-ability within gaits. Nothing like the basics to keep you honest.

We started with some flexion work on a 20M circle at the trot. We focused on straight, then overbend, then straight, then counter-bend, all without losing rhythm. May quickly keyed into work and seemed really comfortable bending in both directions, pretty clearly a difference from our last lesson, where she was good but tense in the right bend. Once we had some good bending, NT sent us around the ring for some leg yields.

The leg yields were… fairly mediocre. I haven’t touched them in a while in favor of getting more adjust-ability back to front. But, when we went to do an extended trot down the long side, she gave me a serious effort. She really started to engage her hind end and push through… but my timing in extended trot is REALLY off, so I didn’t half halt soon enough annnnnd she broke to the canter. I was really happy to see the improvement there post-injections, and it definitely gave us something to work off of.

We worked on the same flexibility exercises at the canter, and again, she seemed much happier to shift her bend and balance around as asked. By the end of the ride, I felt like I had a good amount of “weight” in both reins, and I had a lot of influence over her body with my seat and legs. Can’t wait to bring this level of connection and obedience into the show ring!

Side Note: pictures are being dumb in WordPress today, so enjoy the GIFs.

Side Note 2: Being out of the gym for a couple of weeks is definitely impacting my riding, so I finally got back into my regular spin class last night.

How to Have a Dressage Lesson Next to Polo Practice

Typically, my lessons are on Tuesday nights, which tend to be unusually quiet at the barn, and honestly, I love that. By the time my lesson is over, the barn has mostly cleared out, and I get some quiet time to reflect on my lesson, pet my pony, and just relax. However, this week my lesson was on a Wednesday, sneaking it in right before NT spends a couple of weeks in Aiken (so jealous!).

This week, I pulled into the driveway to see a few horses tied to trailer by the indoor. Not thinking much of it. I got May all ready for a Dressage lesson. Since May has done a lot of jumping lately, I wanted to reestablish our connection and get some homework while NT was out of town. So the white boots and pad went on, I threw on my new spurs, and I headed out to the indoor. I got halfway there when I saw a white ball fly past the entrance, followed by a HERD of polo ponies.

Alright then… outdoor it is! While it was pretty warm (in the 50s and I ambitiously rode in a t-shirt because I only had heavy jackets and fleeces in my car), it was WINDY and CLOUDY. Since May had a fairly easy few days after last week’s jump-heavy rides, she was a bit up. Plus we were in the outdoor, with the jumps! And the polo team was in the indoor right next door to the outdoor. While May couldn’t really SEE them, she could definitely HEAR them.

I had a few minutes before NT headed to the ring, so I started with my usual “my aids mean something and you need to listen” routine. So we walked on the bit, and we halted. I try to be REALLY methodical about my aids when she’s like this, so I shifted my weight back, engaged my core, halted my seat, closed my thighs, and then rocked my hands back.

And she ignored me.

So then I pulled, and she threw her head up and halted.

And there is May in a nutshell. She KNOWS these aids. We do them EVERY TIME I ride, but she will always give that little baby test to see if I REALLY mean them. If not corrected at that point, it all snowballs into a big hot mess of her questioning if I REALLY mean that aid…

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An old pic… but still valid

So we walked again, and again, I shifted my weight back, engaged my core, halted my seat, closed my thighs, and then rocked my hands back. And she slowwwllllyyy came to a halt. I let her move forward again, and repeated it in the other direction. After 3 – 5 repetitions, she is tuned in. So at that point, we can finally trot.

The trot was still a bit tuned out, so we just did big, loopy figure eights. I asked her to move off my legs and flex through her body. Buuuuut I actually don’t think this is still the best method of getting her to tune in at the trot. The walk/halt stuff is super important. And Trot/walk/halt tends to make her more tense instead of less.

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BUT NT to the rescue. I told her that May just felt really tuned out, so she had us trot and just work through our gaits within the gait. So we started with working trot, then stretchy trot, then working trot, then collected, then working etc etc etc. By the time we rotated to her “bad” side (going to the right), she was on my aids and listening. The right bend has gotten SO MUCH better.

Once we had all three variations of trot nailed down, we moved into the same exercise at the canter, but replaced stretchy trot with a medium canter. My left lead transition was really good. She was actually a bit sticky off my leg to go into the medium, and that stickiness created some struggled at the collected canter.

You know how I knew when we got the collected canter? May GRUNTED. She sounded like me mid spin class when I realize I have another 20 min to go and the instructor says we are going to “ramp up the resistance”. UGH. sunset-trot

To the right, I was not surprised to get a little more resistance with some head tossing and breaking down to the trot. Ultimately though, we did get a few steps of true collection, so that was pretty cool.

Finally, we moved onto a serpentine exercise. Trot across the short side of the arena, turn left, do a 10m half circle, trot across the short side, turn right, do a 10m half circle etc etc etc. All the way to the end of the arena and then back.

Given that there are a TON of jumps in the ring, I had to get a bit creative with my half circles. However, by the end of the exercise, May was the most connected and steady in the connection as I have ever felt her. She was tracking up, in front of my leg, and I felt like we could spring forward or halt dead with ease.

So when we finished the exercise, and NT said to do it again at the canter with simple, trot changes in between, I was super excited. The first half circle to the left was GLORIOUS. I really felt her step under herself and bring her shoulders around.

Then we went right… and it was a little messy. I sat back further. I added more leg. I engaged my seat more… but she was clearly over it. We managed to mostly pull it together to finish, but it was clear she was tired, and it was really hard. While it wasn’t perfect, it definitely gives me a great set of things to work on while NT is away, AND it gives me a great baseline before her injections on Saturday.

XCG

Obviously though… she wasn’t THAT tired. Because when I turned her out that night, she GALLOPED down the hill, JUMPED over the ditch at the bottom, GALLOPED back up the hill to get to the new hay bale in her field…

Do you have a specific routine you go through that helps your horse settle into work?

A Tale of Two Rides

First of all, a GIANT thank you to everyone who commented on my post and facebook and instagram regarding the great helmet search! I think I will have to suck it up and make the pilgrimage to Dover (turns out, it is a full hour and a half away), to try on all the helmets. Be ready for an epic blog post about all the helmets.

As for Ms. May… she’s been both a delight and a frustration lately hahaha. I think the wet weather has been keeping her from really moving around in her field like she usually does, so she has been a bit more tense and flighty lately.

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I rode her last Tuesday night, and it was just a really odd ride for a lot of reasons. First of all, the weather made a SHARP 180 during the day on Tuesday. From 65 during the day, to close to 40 when I was actually riding… and we were riding under the lights trying to stay out of the way of a pretty interesting jumping lesson.

During that ride, she was tense through her whole body, half halts were considered to be suggestions, and the idea of coming off her forehand was a foreign language. I ended up taking my winter gloves off and riding bare-handing (something I NEVER do) because I couldn’t figure out why the connection was SO bad. It varied between her hiding behind the contact to her leaning down and bearing into it.

So what do you do? You do a ton of transitions. Trying to get the horse to accept both the reins and the leg. Or at least… that was my plan for action. The canter was just an impressive feat of holding the horse together with all the aids. Leg stayed on until the hind end engaged, seat stayed deep until shoulders came back to me, hands stayed engaged until she flexed around the contact. Then, suddenly, it all softened, and I had a really nice horse on my hands.

She still wasn’t super supple laterally, but she was engaged and listening. Cool. Then, I spotted my trainer doing a cool exercise.

spindaljump

The exercise had you jump one wing (maybe 2′ high), loop around to the second wing (maybe 2′ high), and then come back to a trot or walk and go over the center piece (maybe 18″). The piece was really more of a spindle shape than a barrel, so it had small sides on it as well. However, it was REALLY narrow. (I would think the same method would work with a small barrel, but they definitely need to be LITTLE.)

The goal was to go perfectly straight over the center piece and really have the horse between your legs. May’s feeling on it? That it wasn’t worth jumping. She was great over one, and two, which looked like proper jumps to her. But over the spindle? Nope… she just stepped over it and knocked poles everywhere. But, she was straight, and I felt bad making NT reset jumps for me when I wasn’t even in her lesson. So we called it good. She was straight, she was brave, she was just UTTERLY UNIMPRESSED.

Friday night into Saturday morning it snowed, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the barn. However, by mid-day, the snow had melted off the roads for the most part, and I figured I should probably ride the beast again.

The barn was bustling with activity as NT and some working students and other boarders worked to make sure the place was fully winterfied before a serious cold snap passed through KY this week into next week. (The high this Sunday is 20 degrees, with a low of 4… I told the half leaser she can picks another day to ride haha)

I tacked up May… noting just how wet her feet are. Ugh. And I headed into the indoor. The trainer from the other barn was riding in there, doing one stride tempis around the outside of the arena… nbd. Let me just get on and try to bend right. I hopped on and we walked for a while.. I am not sure why I decided to just walk, but it was a good decision apparently. May got nice and limber, and by the time we went to trot, she was READY to get to work.

She was quick off my leg, but consistent in the contact. She wanted to get heavy through the transitions, so we did a lot of big loopy circles with transitions and changes in direction. I was concentrating so hard on maintaining this great feeling, that I did not see the working student approaching the arena with the massive wheelbarrow. May did, however, just as we passed by the arena entrance and the wheelbarrow was all of 5′ away from entering.

May popped off the contact, threw her head in the area, and SKITTERED away from the door. The WS kept apologizing as I put my leg on, lifted my hands, and reestablished the trot we had before. I told her it wasn’t her fault and no big deal… but I hope she took my word for it.

I spent a lot of time at a barn with some older ladies with some serious fear issues. Anything that you did the spooked their horses resulting in screaming, throwing things, and then at least a week of the silent treatment. I know it came from a place of fear, but I refuse to be that way. Spook my horse. Please. It gives me A LOT of information on where our holes are. (Or just confirming the fact that my horse is a bit high at the moment).

However, May settled right back into work. I did some shoulder ins and leg yields at the trot. They were great… ok. I picked up the canter and did some leg yields both away and towards the wall at the canter… also really good for something we haven’t touched in about 6 months. MMMMMK. I asked for a halt, and she rocked back and came right down, staying on the contact. I shrugged my shoulders. Gave her a pat. And called it good at about 25 minutes of work.

Just as I was leaving the arena, I noticed that a bunch of people were going on a trail ride, so we hopped into that group. What better reward for a yellow pony than a nice trail ride after a great dressage school?

WHEW! LONG POST. If you all made it this far, let me know, do you find that sometimes your best rides follow a ride where you really struggled?