Dressage Lessons

Yesterday¬†I had a dressage lesson with Knots. Knots has been really good lately. We have few moments of actual crap, and he’s usually giving at least 85% effort. Take a break… and he gives about 75%, but that’s easy enough to work with.

We have stopped fighting about the contact, and he mostly listens to my legs. We can usually respond to more than one aid at a time. It’s crazy, especially considering where we were. The only problem is that now I’m not sure what we should be working on. Twenty meter circles we can do. He doesn’t come round very often, but he is consistently bent around my leg and accepting contact, especially circle right.

All this to say, I’ve been getting bored. We just ride 20 m circles. I wasn’t really sure what the next step was, since I’ve never worked with a horse in this way. This is why lessons are so important. I asked S what we could be working on while we’re developing consistent acceptance and the beginnings of roundness. I’m not always a master of words, which led to the initial response about riding consistently, oops.

After our chat though, she gave us some different things to work on, namely transferring the feel on the 20 m circle to other movements, including the leg yield and shorter time to change the bend. She suggested some modified figure eights, with a tear drop shape or along the rail doing a circle and changing directions, but smaller and harder for Knots to work on.

On some level I feel a little dumb that I had to ask these questions, but I was feeling unsure of how to continue progressing. It’s harder to polish than to start, that’s for sure. For now though, I’m feeling reinvigorated and excited for some flat work!

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Riding Recaps

Busy weekend! Knots and I went to Pine Hill and then got in a lesson with our jumping trainer while Gracie cut her forehead apart.

Saturday was the schooling before most of the students head to the show this weekend. I was coaching some of the students with Maggie. I took Knots so we could have a nice positive outing after the terrible ride I gave him last time we were there. We didn’t do anything that was a real stretch. We jumped almost all of the beginner novice jumps, some of the novice jumps, and played on the “mountain” and worked up and down some banks. We also played in the baby ditch.

Mostly we ended up getting some great videos, thanks to Lachlan (!), and having good rides over all the rough jumps from the show. I did shorten the running martingale and ride in a regular snaffle without spurs. I’m torn about using the same equipment at the show, or upgrading to a kimberwick. And do I need spurs? Its always the thought that its better to have and not need than not have, but I’m not sure. I think the spurs add to the drama sometimes, especially if my leg isn’t quiet. The other thing I changed was the saddle. I have an older saddle that has better knee blocks than the newer one. It needs to be reflocked like I need to win the lottery, so I’ve been cautious about using it too much, and which pads underneath it. Problems to deal with sometime this winter.

No media from the ride on Monday. We worked on adjustability between jumps. I’ve gotten lots better at shaping the canter coming into jumps, but I’m still having trouble engaging through combinations and between related distances. We worked on a 4-5(?) stride bending line, with one side bent more than the other. No big jumps, just getting a good canter and having conscious thoughts between. Knots was really good. We are still arguing about how close to the jump we can get, and I need to be a bit more bossy. He can crawl underneath the jump and still round over, and I need to be more assertive about the deep spot sometimes, instead of being ok with a leap.

When we came home, I put Knots back out in the paddock and patted Gracie’s face. I noticed her forelock was all grubby, and then I saw the cut. I pulled her out to look at it, and then we cleaned it out.

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Tis but a flesh wound! She was going to be moved anyway, since she is having a bit of trouble gaining back some weight. Now she gets the isolation paddock and she has a shiny aluminum bandage over her boo boo. Sad Gracie.

The best I’ve seen from you guys

I’m sure it was said more eloquently. My brain mostly remembers emotions, less so the words. But that was the response to our dressage lesson this morning. With the monsooning, I haven’t really gotten to ride much lately, and I wasn’t really expecting Knots to be a rockstar.

Especially when I gave him some bonus breakfast (he doesn’t get grain because he is F-A-T) and he cantered off to the dressage field and ran away from me! He didn’t really want to get on the trailer either. Although, lets face it, his resistance was trying to walk over to the grass. He has always loaded right onto any trailer I pointed him towards.

We actually showed up on time, and managed to be on, in the arena, before Sarah walked out. That folks, is a miracle in itself.

The focus of today’s lesson was outside rein connection, for Knots and Bear. With Knots, it seems I’ve been softening too much when he actually takes a good contact. Practically dropping him in dramatic dressage terms. So today we worked first on square turns at the walk. Turning with the outside aids. Then we took that thought to the trot and kept trying to turn on the outside aids at every touch point of the 20m circle.

It was really interesting. And Knots was a little heavy in my hand. But that’s because right now he still needs my help to balance. The lightness will come as he gets stronger. Sarah was really pleased with our work. She did utter words to the effect of this is the best I’ve ever seen him, and we all reflected to where we were a year ago.

In other news, trailer situation pending, we’re going to Pine Hill July 4th weekend and running beginner novice. Maybe… just maybe, we might score less than a 48.

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Gracie’s exciting adventures

A week late, but better late than never, right?

Last week was an exciting week for Gracie. Her normal schedule consists of being ridden by a college student (Kayla) 1-3 times per week, and an occasional hack by Robert. Oh, and she’s SUPER fat. We’re currently contemplating moving her to another pasture so she can stop eating everyone else’s food.

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Monday she got to go to the dressage lesson. I don’t think Sarah has ever seen me ride Gracie (although lets be real, we still haven’t broken 30 rides ever…), and she hasn’t seen Gracie go (with Maggie piloting) since last year this time. So the potential for a big difference.

The dressage lesson was really thought-provoking. With Knots, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching him to move off my leg and trying to bend him around my inside leg. Gracie doesn’t have a problem running away from my leg, bending is impossible, but put a little leg on and SHOOOSH! Sideways.

One of the major benefits to the college student riding Gracie is the focus on slow, relaxed, and balanced flatwork. Gracie is a big mover, and she never really learned how to contain her majesty. She’s improved in HUGE ways with the riding Kayla’s done with her.

Back to the dressage lesson, we were able to improve on that work and start thinking about the next¬†steps in her progress towards dressage pony (eventer, lets be real). Namely, holding herself up without freaking out. So, basically the same thing as slowing down, but on 20m figures and especially at the canter. All while accepting contact. Kayla is working with very light contact currently, but I was working with Gracie to accept a bit more. Especially because that’s how I can help her at the canter.

Our trot work wasn’t bad, I just needed to work on keeping the contact consistent (I see some loose side reins in our future.) She was having trouble falling in circle left and running out circle right. This is where the light bulb turned on with me a bit. Knots really requires a lot of inside aids to do anything. Gracie needs the outside aids to support her ridiculous, all-over-the-place movements. Quite different to think about in the moment.

We really worked in the canter to help her hold herself upright and without running either in or out of the circle, which, surprise, makes her feel more unbalanced and then makes her run, starting the loop of doom. This was especially challenging circle right, she had a lot of trouble holding the canter. I worked hard on keeping my outside aids consistent and allowing her to move out without falling on her forehand. Whew. This was a great core workout, and I have to get stronger as we keep examining this.

Dressage lesson was great, gave me lots to think about. And then I got to be at the barn when Kayla started over some jumps.

Kayla has been working on the flat for several months and getting Gracie to slow down and calm down. They have been working over poles, and keeping the same attitude: its not a big deal. Gracie still gets very excited about poles. (I swear we’ve been doing poles and crossrails the entire time we’ve owned her…) Either way, this was the first time Kayla was jumping Gracie, and the first time shes been jumped since Maggie rode her after she dumped Rob at the show last fall. Hopefully you followed that. Anyways. Video evidence of her going over jumps without freaking out too much:

 

Sorry for the sideways video, it was in the moment. Definitely some solid work here, she’s doing really well. Hopefully some more solid work with Gracie and Robert will have a bit more time and they can start plotting their next outing. There is potential in there, we just have to make the time to dig it out.

Jellybean makes a new friend [again]

Its Spring Break here in Texas, which means extra ride time. Combine that with my recent defense of my master’s degree, and bam! Riding again!

Monday was dressage day. I took Jellybean to Sarah’s and she was a mess. Which is mostly my fault. I have got to start holding her accountable for being a horse and stop making stupid excuses for her. If she won’t poop under saddle, its not my problem; we’re still working! She tried the spooking game. She ran from the log, she ran from her shadow, she was worried about the flower box that the dressage letters are painted on. Luckily my new saddle has some stick, she ran sideways a couple of times and I felt glued into the seat.

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We worked on keeping a constant rhythm. Her walk was crappy and we worked on actually striding out. Then more at the trot and the canter. Use those gaits and cover some ground! I have been struggling with making her movements too small. In any case, we had some improvements, and it gave me a lot to think about with my riding.

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Tuesday was a barn work day, which means lots of projects to do and lots of time spent walking around. I logged 25,000 steps. Whew. We cleaned out the cross country field and did some general cleaning and maintenance. I also had another student try Jellybean. There is the potential for some mutually beneficial situations, but we’ll see.

We went to the cutting pen and Jellybean was doing the spooky thing again. We were concerned about grass in the wind… We worked on a circle and she calmed down and then I had the student ride her around. She was a little tense in her arms, and she wasn’t quite comfortable with Jellybean’s low head carriage, but those are easy to fix. I had her ride around and hang out and see what she thought while I walked off to do a couple of workday things.

When next I saw them, the student was telling me that Jellybean was being a little bit silly. Something about a shoulder shake and pseudo-spook and kick out. And a separate moment with Jellybean tripping and the rider moving around and Jellybean being worried. I’m was pleased that we were getting an accurate view of what Jellybean does. I always hate when you try out a horse and everything is oddly perfect.

We’ll see if this works out, it would be nice for Jellybean to have a person that can ride her on the regular. It would also be fun for this student to get more ride time with a horse that can learn a little quicker than the lesson horse. Stay tuned.

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Another flight with the Jellybean-kite

For the weekly dressage lesson I decided to bring Jellybean. Mostly because I actually rode her between the last time Sarah laid eyes on her, unlike Knots. Jellybean got breakfast before we left and I did something completely stupid that luckily didn’t end in death. While she was eating I walked up behind her and started to put a shipping boot on her hind leg. By some miracle of God I didn’t get kicked, she just jerked her leg forward. Amanda, be more aware!!!

Anyways, we loaded up the trailer in a fairly boring manner, Jellybean appreciated getting into a lit trailer instead of the dark trailer of the last week. We drove down the road and arrived just on time. We brought a breakfast taco, and hoped our offering cancelled out our lateness. One day we will be on time.

As I got Jellybean off the trailer and tacked her up, I saw the kite fill with air and lift off. Jellybean was snorting and checking everything out. I tied her to the trailer (on the opposite side as Bear) and she started screaming for Gracie (spoiler alert: she wasn’t on this outing). I put the saddle on (whew, it fits now. It didn’t fit last time I tried to ride her in a dressage lesson… a year ago.) and then the bridle and walked her around the trailer. She was still looking at everything. I started getting her girthed up and she just kept spinning around me. Maggie asked me if I wanted help holding her. I declined and continued playing the spin around game. Sarah asked if I wanted a lunge line. I also declined and mounted up.

We walked a lap and then immediately started trotting around. There was this terrifying rope thing swinging in the wind across the field (hammock) and then there were flowers in front of a large log stack. Scary life.

Anyway, this doesn’t end with me getting bucked off and falling in the dirt. Jellybean calmed down and we got to work in the arena. We worked on trotting in a nice rhythm and just a little bit of inside leg to outside rein in the trot. Then Sarah had us work on the turn on the forehand. Jellybean did two steps immediately, and then the trick was to get her to stop anticipating the movement. Hmm.

We switched sides back and forth asking for the turn on the forehand and Jellybean started to get frustrated so we did some more trot and worked on a figure 8. Then we came back to the work on the turn on the forehand. Sarah explained to me that we want to teach Jellybean that she can more her face and neck without moving her body. We worked on that at the walk a bit. Walking straight while turning the head from side to side. We also increased the amount of bend we were asking for in the turn on the forehand. Jellybean was trying really hard at the turn on the forehand and she was trying to wait for a cue instead of guessing.

After a little break, we worked on some cantering. We cantered two 20m circles at the end of the arena and then continued down the long side trying to maintain rhythm and balance. Jellybean was very balanced at the canter, and Sarah seemed pleased with her. Circle right Jellybean even stretched down to find the bit and get a little help with some balance. Sarah pointed out that this was really good, and that one of the nice things about baby horses is that you can teach them the aids are for helping, not hurting.

We were finished after the canter and we walked the horses out and chatted a bit more. I was pleased with Jellybean’s brain power. We made it through the kite moments without any actual drama and then we figured out how to turn our head without our body a couple of times. And she is looking to the bit for support. This was a really positive ride, and definitely helps me continue to be excited about our progress.

 

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Jellybean almost got stuck in the fence grabbing at that tiny piece of grass

Lesson recap: Dressage fun

Weekly lesson scheduled, and first lesson ticked off! This week we were at the farm, but next week we will begin hauling over to Sarah’s place. Its going to be exciting seeing where we get with a weekly lesson. Of course, it will be better if we can ride regularly, but we’ll see.

We started off swapping some gossip and saying hello, since the last time we rode with Sarah was well before Christmas. Then we got warmed up. I started Knots on the serpentine exercise we have been working on, and he settled into it nicely. We trotted up and down the arena a few times before giving Sarah our training recap. Basically haven’t ridden much, but got three dressage schools in recently. I told her he was stretching down at the canter a little bit without changing pace and verified that yes, that is good!

I moved back out to the rail to canter and worked for the good transition. Sometimes when we stand in the arena middle we are a bit sticky getting back to work. We got to the canter and I focused on sitting tall while he cantered along. He did actually offer a little bit of stretch while Sarah was watching, so that was good.

Once we were fully warmed up, we talked more about sitting tall as he stretches without dropping the reins. We started working on a 30-40m figure eight and trying to adjust pace, slower and quicker trot. Knots was overbending circle left while fighting the bend to the right. As we came through the middle of the figure eight he got tense and threw a few steps of tranter. At first I was leaning in anticipation, but as I worked on sitting tall he got better. He also improved when we continued on circle right until he didn’t get excited coming through the middle.

I’m pretty happy with this lesson, considering ride time has been limited since last we met Sarah. She could tell he was trying, and that is real improvement from Knots. We finished up with a little curry and lots more peppermints. And now riding is over until the weekend. It looks like our Pine Hill schooling is being moved to Friday afternoon, since there is another rodeo for our favorite cowboy on Saturday in Crockett (1.5-2hrs away).

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