Friday, May 30, 2014

Anatomy of a Jump: Fail Friday Edition

Some of you may remember the time I broke down frame-by-frame the most perfect jump Cuna and I ever had caught on film. I thought it was a pretty great post.

Well, now we're doing it again. Only like... the other way around. Instead of a "how to jump it right", let's talk about "how green horses jump that sane people wouldn't publicly share on their personal blog".

Because, what fun is sanity anyways?

Let's get going!

The Takeoff

This is Courage and I in a jumping lesson. He's been going through the grid and the jump has been raised incrementally. We've just added a back rail, which means that in order to clear it, he needs to maintain impulsion to be able to jump both up and across.

photo via HorselessinHalifax
Unfortunately for me, Courage saw the new question and backed off while he tried to figure it out. I added leg, but he's not quite broke enough (or obedient enough) to respond yet.

So here he is trying to answer the question by leaping AS HIGH INTO THE AIR AS POSSIBLE!!!

Of course, the more discerning among you are saying, "But SB, if C-rage expends all his energy launching straight up, how does he plan to carry himself forward so you don't land in the middle of all those poles?"

The Airtime

photo via HorselessinHalifax
Not to worry folks! Courage has no intention of hitting that monstrous jump. Obviously.

The only thing to do at this point is to suck his hind end up and LEAP LIKE A DEER!!! It's a little less efficient than, you know, pushing forward off his hind end. Take it from me, though, the little man can get the job done.

Now you might critique my position in these shots. It sure looks like I'm jumping up his neck in the first one and here I'm sort of levitating above his back with completely useless legs and that oh-so-helpful indirect inside rein.

Those are all valid observations. I would welcome any and all position help, because trust me, it's all about to go downhill...

Well, all but me anyways. I stay up about a half second longer than Courage does because physics are (not) my friend!

Ahem. So the reason that upper level jump and event riders advocate for a "bascule" over a jump in which the horse springs up with his front end, pushes off with his hind end and his body describes a lovely arc in the air is because the rider is capable of staying in balance with the horse and equitating all the way through.

photo via wikipedia
If the horse rockets straight up, then generates forward momentum by sucking his ass up to his chin, well, instead of describing an arc, you are describing a roller coaster ride, complete with long uphill climb and then dropping directly out from underneath you at the apex.

You'll notice McClain Ward never looks like this.

You'll also notice that the nice folks on the roller coaster are in fact belted in so that when the roller coaster inevitably plunges downward, there is a limit to how high above the seat they can levitate.

So keep all that in mind as we approach the next stage of the jump.

The Descent

I know you're all thinking "well, it really doesn't look THAT bad. Like, what is she complaining about? Lots of people jump 4' on green horses and it clearly isn't the end of the world."

No. No it is not. 

Here's Courage doing his best roller coaster impression. 

photo via HorselessinHalifax
At this point, I should probably just give it up, throw my hands in the air, and hope for a decent picture. My vanity forces me to point out that not only did we clear this jump, but Courage landed in balance and cantered away AND I STAYED ON, but I probably shouldn't brag about that unless I want to get bitch slapped by karma.

Which I don't. 

So... boys and girls, this is why all that flatwork I talked about yesterday is important. This is what happens if your green horse isn't recognizing you as leader (leg=go now) and isn't broke enough (hm, maybe I should have some impulsion) to save himself. We certainly have a plan moving forward and I will write you a full lesson wrap up later, but for now, I hope you're enjoying my deer leaps just as much as I am. 

Or possibly more, since you just get to laugh at the evidence instead of riding through it. ;-) It's a thrill, that's for sure. Happy weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I Say Flatwork, You Say Dressage

photo via HorselessinHalifax
I think blogging about flatwork on a green horse with no pictures is beyond dull. Especially when it's a really good green horse who isn't doing anything theatrical or crazy or anything--he's just working through the learning curve and figuring out how to be the best at things like bending and trotting and responding to my leg.

photo via HorselessinHalifax
All that is out the window when I ACTUALLY HAVE PICTURES though. :-)

Per our lessons recently, we've been doing a TON of work on adjustability within the gaits. I usually do walk/halt walk transitions and throw in circles as needed until C-rage decides that he can deal with contact. Good news: the tantrums aren't severe and have gone from "an entire session" to "3-5 minutes". I can deal with that.

photo via HorselessinHalifax
Then we trot. Our biggest obstacle right now is that Courage gets a little stuck/locked up in his neck, right about where the standing martingale sits. I can work to remove that tension by doing a lot of forward and back at the trot and bending on a circle. Again, this used to take a really long time to accomplish, but as Courage learns just what it is I want him to be the best at, he's getting more and more responsive.

A big part of this is just taking my time and letting his body develop a new default and muscling. This whole concept is in direct opposition to his years on the track, so I don't get angry or flustered--I just set him up to succeed, day after day after day.

photo via HorselessinHalifax
It's the same in the canter. In order to jump well, I need him to understand (and obey) forward from my leg. NOW. I also need him to come back. S has had us play with lengthening down the long sides and then a small, collected circle at the ends of the arena. What I really love about this exercise (and the many, many repetitions) is that the small circle itself serves to collect the horse--I just have to keep him active and straight.

photo via HorselessinHalifax
And it's coming together. I don't see huge incremental leaps, but I'm getting consistent, steady improvement. When these pictures were taken, it was the first time ever that Courage gave up the brace in his neck at the shortened canter and really made like a ten meter circle. He's getting it.

It just takes lots of flat work.

So much flatwork.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Wherein Courage Jumps Grids and I Stay On

Radio silence over here. Nothing quite as exciting as flat rides and dealing with life and all that goes along with it. That said, I went all crazy go nuts and entered the little man in the event derby next weekend. We are (of course) in the largest division with the least shot at a ribbon, but no way he's ready to move up at this point.

Anywho. S was back out to give us a lesson this weekend. She liked what we'd been working on and thought it was in his best interests to do some more grid work.

because 12" crossrail=SCOPE CHECK
It was actually quite funny. Courage is green as grass obviously (see: deer leaping over cross rails), but he seems to have a handle on grids. Point down the middle, move feet as indicated by poles. There is some super hilarious video I hope to get soon to share. We started upping the ante a little.

His thing about launching himself into the air over the babyest of jumps makes for great photo ops, but completely precludes "bascule" of any kind. Which you know, we'll sort of want if we ever want to jump clean or make strides or do a course, much less go in the hunters. 

The best at crossrail grids
We started with a placing poles before and after a single crossrail and built the grid up gradually. Courage is a little weaker to the right, recent racehorse and all, so S added some guide rails on the ground to help keep him straight during/after the grid.

It was pretty funny to be able to work on my riding and position while riding the little man. He was quite serious about being the best at grids (even if he's O.V.E.R. flatwork right now), and I practiced exhaling to the base of the jump and keeping my weight in my heels.

S added a final placing pole after the grid to make C-rage actually pay attention and place down over the fence instead of his signature launch into the stratosphere. He deer leaped it the first time we came around because the setup made him a little claustrophobic and contained.. I mean, I was just riding the grid and focusing and feeling the footfalls and keeping my brain slow and all off a sudden I felt like I was 2' out of the saddle and my feet were levitating above the stirrups and my hands were grabbing his ears because his head was in my lap and then he sort of dropped out from under me.

I said something really classy and figured I would be getting closely acquainted with the arena sand in about a half a second, but he landed in a straight line and cantered away quietly and I was still in the middle of him... So there's that.

Jumping like a normal horse. This makes me excited.
We did a couple more lines, and Courage discovered it was possible to in fact jump the jump he was presented with instead of the training/prelim fences he likes to imagine.

Of course, then he decided he ought to be done. 

And S thought he needed to jump a tiny course.

So careful.
The course got done, but not before we "galloped" (aka tried to get his canter going again) several laps around the arena and deer leaped the blue barrels a few times and had some general pissy fits. Still. His brain stayed in his head, I stayed on his back, and we ended on a really good note.

All in all, I think it was excellent prep for our upcoming intro BN debut. Here's hoping, right?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tack and my OTTB

Because they're pretty cute
One thing that came out of our lesson on Monday was that I need to change my tack again. Hooray! I know I'm a little strange, but I love playing with tack ideas to help finesse the best performance possible.

So. For our lesson, I had Courage go in his micklem bridle with his eggbutt Sprenger bit, which is a very, very soft set up. This has been our default lately--I wanted the soft bit to encourage Courage to go into the contact, plus I figured it would minimize any errors I made over fences.

Mmmm leather and sparkles
Our trainer didn't love it. As she pointed out, he doesn't really mouth the bit or connect at all. He opens his mouth or closes his mouth. He isn't interacting with the bit. In addition, I tend to ride with a very soft contact. With the construction of the Sprenger eggbutt, that means the thickest part of the bit is barely touching the corners of his lips and having no action inside his mouth at all.

To me, this is actually good news. I mean, obviously I want to improve (/have) the connection and quality of the contact, but when we started, he'd just sort  of gape his mouth open and ignore me. Now we're facing a different set of challenges, which means things are changing and we're learning together. It is progress on a microcosmic level.

The prescription for hunter face
She wants to see him go in a plain cavesson to see if that encourages him to have a little more jaw mobility. Even though the mickelm is not very tight, changing up the arrangement (in concert with me stepping up the pressure) might help him learn to be more accepting of the bit.

In addition, she wants to try a thinner bit with the idea that it might give me a little more direct feedback and help him pay attention without having to use as much force.

She mentioned a d bit. Of course we'll try that. I've also had a lot of luck with the baucher and I'm not adverse to trying out a loose ring again, even if I do hate how they look.

I'm excited to play with my toys, that's for sure. Courage and I are doing flatwork boot camp while we bust out the bit box and reorganize the bridles.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fancy Jumping Lesson Recap

That crossrail is bigger than you'd think
Yesterday we got our first ever jump lesson with our fancy eventing trainer. It was a serious information overload and I suspect that at the end of it, Redheadlins probably wanted to throw a bell boot at me. Clearly that would have been wildly unprovoked and not reflective of me doing the same to her on Sunday.

We started the lesson standing still, with my trainer asking me to drop his head. Courage and I bickered about it, but weren't making a lot of substantial progress. She pointed out two things: 1) this horse had been pulled on a lot (racing, der) and 2) his average is "good enough" that he's getting away with sort of toeing the line without actually doing what he's capable of.

"Right now, his trot is a 5," she said. "He is way too cute a horse to be a 5."

We started out with some concentrated flatwork. She told us that my homework was to do 20 transitions within the gaits EACH DIRECTION, EVERY RIDE. Basically, I need to pick a lot of little fights with him so he starts learning to accept me as the leader, which will make big fights (um, gate of doom, anyone?) less of a big deal. In addition, the transitions will get him more adjustable and accepting of the contact, which are things we don't really do.

I was pleased when I correctly said that he was moving his legs forward while holding his tension in his neck. I was also pleased when we were able to start alleviating that tension by trotting forward and really pushing him into a steady contact. I was even more pleased that C-rage is now at a mental place where he can handle the pressure and doesn't lose it.

Canter circle!
We then added in some poles and crossrails on the logic that flatwork is more interesting if there are jumps involved. For me, it was very much the same ride--leg to hand, stay consistent. The challenge is to hold my position and keep telling him what I want, vs constantly reacting to him and letting him set the tone of the conversation.

We did a couple of different exercises to get him engaged in the corner. We started with a leg yield to the right, but I don't have him responsive enough to my leg yet, so those tended to just cause some sort of unstoppable powerskid to the outside and we even stopped at a couple of crossrails because he was so crooked.

What worked really well for us was to do a small canter circle where I rode him really, really forward while keeping my hands equal distance from his neck (balance and consistency, eh?), then brought him to trot just as we headed to the jump. The circle brought his balance back and up, which then allowed me to relax and breath towards the jump.

Courage, of course, wanted to impress our trainer with his very best deer leaps, so I won't say it was the best jumping he ever did. That said, it was also the most pressure I've ever put on him while jumping and while he wanted to freak out and flail a few times, he kept it together and didn't. I call that a win.

Not my best position, but look who's cute!
At the end of the lesson, we discussed my position a bit--for the next two weeks (until our next lesson), she wants me to lengthen my stirrups and make me default position be down on him instead of two point. I'm quite strong (yay!) at two point, but then I sort of abdicate responsibility for direction and the point is for him to do what I'm asking.

All in all, a very excellent lesson. I have TONS to work on and the work we did in the lesson was some of the best we've ever done. He's taking a break after three hard days and I'm super excited to get back in the tack and start practicing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

May Weekends are the Best Weekends




It started out innocuously enough. My BO and I hauled to the hills to go for a trail ride Saturday morning. Courage is great at trail rides. I mean, yeah, his only bad day last year was trying to get to the ride itself, but we worked on that over the winter and he should be fine.

Or you know, not.

In order to access hundreds of acres of trails, we have to go through this gate. The green panels are padlocked and the barbed wire fence is well maintained.

The horses just have to walk up and step over the low spot on the little brown metal gate. Until Courage, I'd never had a horse have a problem with it. In fact, the first time C-rage went out there, he stepped over with no hesitation.

Now you can make all the arguments you want about how it looks spooky or is uninviting to horses or is scary or/or dangerous, but the fact is that if we want to trail ride at this location, we have to be able to deal with it.

Let's just say that didn't go well.

Rocking the out of control mane!
Forty-five minutes later, some nice man sent us down the road towards another barbed wire gate that was unlocked so we could move on. Courage proceeded to be foot perfect for the ride.

His only hairy moment was cresting a ridge and seeing three horses standing together.


Me: It's horses with people having a little snack break.

Courage: Oh. Ok.

So despite the beginning, we had a lovely ride on the trails and both came home better than when we left.

The crew! Photo by HorselessinHalifax
Sunday was show practice day! Alyssa went and entered in an event derby, then promptly started pressuring Linds and I to do the same. We set up a time to practice dressage and jumping and hauling out (well, for everyone but Courage, but he hauls fine *knock on wood, fingers crossed*).

Alyssa brought the gorgeous Bacon, Lins brought everyone's favorite supermodel Diva, my awesome fellow boarder rode her 26 year old arab, and of course Courage was decked out.

Practicing my hunter duck. Photo by HorselessinHalifax
We all warmed up together in the arena, then worked on our individual dressage tests. Courage and I did much better than we have been lately, which still isn't fabulous. Ms Bacon was freaking phenomenal. She is going to beat us soooo bad at the show. Motivation to practice harder? Maybe.

Then we set a little course of crossrails, including one out in the pasture. That created a tiny natural "bank" between the arena and the field, so it was actually pretty legit event derby practice.

But he still looked awesome. Photo by HorselessinHalifax
Of course, I didn't think about how I had left his proposed galloping bit on the bridle. It's just a single jointed three ring with the reins on the big ring, so it shouldn't be _that_ severe, but he was NOT IMPRESSED. He did the first jump quite nicely. I took a slight feel of his mouth for one stride to half halt and there was head flinging and running sideways and dare I say we flailed a little? Not pretty.

We finished up our course, but it wasn't nearly as smooth and polished as I would expect out of him with his beloved Sprenger in.

Giant bit does not impede napping. Photo by HorselessinHalifax
But hey. We got around, everyone had a good time, and my (real) mom came out and brought everybody lunch. I think all weekends should be like this.

We're looking forward to a lesson (fingers crossed) today. Rest assured, C-rage will be in his micklem and sprenger and I will try to round up a photographer!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Finding Our Groove

Also "decent riding" will scream
If I trot another circle, I think I will scream.

Despite growing up riding in an arena all the time, I just can't do it anymore. I don't like bickering with my horse as we do endless circles trying to finesse blunder our way into the finer points of riding. I do like jumping. I do like trail riding. I want to go galloping even if I'm about 95% sure my horse is going to bolt into the sunset.

At this moment, yes, I would rather be bolting across gopher-hole-ridden terrain than trotting in a circle.

Where we're headed
Because of things in other parts of life right now, I just want to be able to ride freely forward and not get all fussy about the details. The idea of doing a dressage test makes me want to gag a little, but the hills are calling my name.

I don't have the same all-access pass I used to (that was incredible), so I'm going to make some different choices. We'll play with jumps and flatwork in the pasture this week. I'm doing my best to line up some trail riding buddies.

Straps and bits, oh boy!
And of course, I busted out a galloping bit. Since _someone_ has a nasty reputation as a runaway, I'm thinking he's not going to go galloping in a snaffle. I mean, I don't mind bolting, but I don't particularly want to die.

So here goes. One way or another, Courage and I are going to find a way forward. I think the road to better dressage involves a long stretch of running through the hills to get our brains sorted out.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

What Happens When Too Much Dressage

So here's a secret that I'm pretty sure Redheadlins doesn't know: sometimes when she's not at the barn, Courage and I don't work very hard.

Like yesterday. Ostensibly, we were working on "rhythm". Basically that means whenever he fusses, I kick instead of pull and we just go forward. I generally try to keep his head down (because muscle development), but I don't really do a lot with the contact. In fairness, I think most of my instructors would say I don't do much with the contact anyways.

Yeah, that teeny tiny dark spot. It's a hoofprint. His. Hoofprint.
So we're trotting and cantering and actually having a pretty decent ride. I wanted to jump a little, but I was short on time. We're both a little bored of flatwork at this point anyways. We come cantering up the long side on a floppy rein and see a tiny dark divot in the arena.

My Brain: ALERT! Strange footing! Recommend alter course to avoid going over.

My Body: Meh. What could happen.



My Body: Meh


Dirty being a relative term
Because he is awesome and not dirty, Courage just leaped forward in a straight line, which left me just sitting in the middle of him like some sort of sky-leap-riding badass who is afraid of NOTHING. We landed in the same nice, rhythmic canter we started in. I made him walk and trot over the divot of death a couple times and all was well.

At least he can leap in a good rhythm, I guess. Bonus points? Lins might say we wouldn't have had that problem if he was on the bit and working.

I say it means too much dressage.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Three Things That are Awesome

Music choices ftw
1) I have a new car. HELLOOOOOO 2014! I'm super psyched about the warranty and the air conditioning and the space and the gas mileage, but yeah, built in Bluetooth ftw. How cool is that?

I'm less enthused about car payments, but I think that will actually balance out the sheer amount of money that the old one was costing me in repairs.

Note: original image. Good thing I'm wearing pants.
2) Remember how I said Jess is awesome? Well here's even more proof. Not only do I now have a fancy bridle and martingale, but she got me Jimmy Wofford's fancy new gymnastics book that I have been wanting SO.BAD.


Because yeah, she's badass.

So excited to start going through this and using the exercises. Maybe it will have to live in my fancy new car?

Fancy with sparkles
3) No time to ride Tuesday due to work/life commitments, so Redheadlins took a turn on C-rage and made him look like this.

Bar is officially raised.

So here's to awesome friends! Anyone want to ride around in my car? It's super exciting for like the next two days before it gets dirty!

Monday, May 12, 2014

First Real Jumping Lesson for Courage

Cars are for people who can't ride
Well, I didn't get a car and my instructor cancelled my jumping lesson, but if I let little things like logistics stop me, I'd never get anywhere. Instead of the fancy $$ event trainer giving us our first jumping lesson, I scheduled one with our usual dressage/biomechanics instructor who is also a pretty kickass jumping rider.

Of course, she'd never actually seen him jump at all, so I explained what we've been doing and that he's really game and really green.

She had us trot in/canter out over a little placing pole to a crossrail a couple of time and C-rage didn't put a foot wrong, but he's a long ways from being impressed by a plain crossrail these days.

Then she set it up to a vertical. I didn't tell her, but it was higher than anything I've ever pointed him at before. To this point, he's been nothing but brave and honest, and I had no reason to doubt him.

I do love a good straps pic
He trotted in, jumped over his shoulder and took out the top rail. We came back around while S talked about slowing everything down in my head and making time. He has to work through about 7 steps to take off for the jump properly (which is what we're teaching him) and the last thing I need to do is rush him. Instead, I need to let him go slow and figure it out. Since Courage is so well built and always engaged, we can go quite slow and it will be fine.

In order to create the time in my brain, S had my exhale the last 2-3 strides to the fence. Funny thing--I guess I was inhale quickly at the base of the fence, which was bringing my energy up and making everything feel rushed.

It only looks tiny to you
So I exhaled and rode a straight line. It felt magical. All of a sudden, there was extra time in there that I hadn't noticed before. Courage snapped his knees up and jumped the piss out of the fence, then landed and cantered away in a perfect rhythm.

By the end of the lesson, we had a placing pole, enormous (for us) vertical, placing pole, and then jump out over an x. Courage was really getting it figured out and jumping like a rock star. Of course, we neglected to get pics or video, which I am sorely regretting because he felt AMAZING.

I was THRILLED with him though, as was S. He never made the same mistake twice and he was working hard to get everything figured out. It was also really great to get some feedback on my riding over fences--S loved my floppy reins and said I was doing a great job of just staying in the middle and letting him do his job.

The plan for the week is to do some cavalletti work to keep him thinking about his feet and then maybe jump next weekend again. :-D


PS and maybe I will get a car today? That would be bangin'.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Wherein Courage Gets a Bridle and I Take Selfies

Then we just take selfies
Between bad weather (wind is my kryptonite) and life (I WILL PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE, LIFE), riding has not really happened a lot this week.

I spend all day wishing I was in the saddle and then I get to the barn and have no motivation.

Don't you wish we were friends?


And a sweet book, but I'll tell you about that later
Anyways. In much happier news, Jess over at Riding Rainbow (GO READ IT NOW SHE IS TEH SHIZ) (and actually is my friend) sent me a super amazing box. I've been wanting one of her bridles for like six months, but every time I tried to buy it, my stupid car exploded. This time we worked out a trade and I got my car crushed flat in advance, just in case (take that, biatch! I dare you to cost me more money!).

So bridle. Is pretty.

Not sure if "sexyface" or "playing coy"
The wind finally isn't crazy death proportion, so after toodling around, I adjusted the bridle and hopped on. Courage and I just worked on going forward in a rhythm regardless of how ineffective our steering was or where his head went. That said, when I finally get him FORWARD, it does drop a bit. Yay progress!

Of course, I stuck him in his Dr Bristol dee because it's cute and hunter-y.

How rockstars bridle model
We ended the ride by hopping over a fun jumping exercise I set up with some bending lines. There is certainly stuff for me to work on, but I couldn't be more pleased with how my little man responded--he hadn't seen a jump in a couple of weeks and he was honest and forward. Perfect. Now maybe I'll try give him a good ride to the jumps so he isn't so underpowered.

AND there is video.

And when I got off, I had to take more pictures of the pretty bridle, if only to show off how freaking cool the reins are. They're laced, which usually isn't my thing.

That said, I absolutely LOVE the color pattern and can't wait to see how they break in. I literally took the tags off the bridle before I put it on him this morning.

In case you're wondering, it's an M. Toulouse Premia with the comfort crown, lots of padding, and fancy stitching.

I will do a write up on it once I've played with it for a while.

Plus next time I update, I will (hopefully) have had a legit jumping lesson and (cross your fingers) actually purchased a car that is neither a death trap nor a pancake.

PS I know this is scattered. It's all I've got right now, sorry.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Pony Weekend Wrap Up: Riding in da LESSON!

Cute bay horse. No need to zoom in.
So last week, Redheadlins took a video of C-rage I rocking sucking it up at flatwork. I mean, I knew it wasn't the best ride ever, but I saw the video and HOLY WOW I am not sharing that anywhere y'all might see it. I was riding really badly and so he didn't look great and yeah, best left in the past. I almost cancelled my lesson because I was so embarrassed by how badly I was riding, but that seemed counter-intuitive.

Lesson screen shot!
Instead I ripped out to the barn in record time after dawdling at the tack store, slipped into my new boots, chucked the ecogold pad on Courage, and started our warmup. We already looked about 100% better (I think) by the time our instructor showed up. I explained to her that I was unsatisfied with my level of riding lately.

She watched us for a minute and said, "Well, you look way better than last time I saw you, so whatever you're doing is working."

Of course, she immediately followed that up with an ongoing laundry list for us to work on.

  • I am a long torso-ed person with long arms, so I need to keep my reins really short. I try to cheat and have long reins by dropping my hands and widening my elbows and any number of strange nonsensical habits. 
    • To fix this, she reminded me to ride with my elbows by my sides and slightly in front of my torso. Not only does this help with keeping a solid connection and straight line from elbow to bit, but it also engages the front of my core and helps me sit more correctly, which makes my aids more effective. 
  • We moved on to leg yields on a circle. I can get Courage to wiggle around each direction, but I don't have solid control of his hips and shoulder and he tends to be tight through his body, so the lateral work will definitely help us.
    • To fix us, she had me focus on just moving his hips in and out a few steps at a time. I had to wait until I felt his legs crossing underneath me, then immediately reward him and go straight a few steps. He was already starting to get the idea when we moved on to...
It's an old picture, but he's still cute.
  • Leg yields down the wall.
    • This was a whole new concept for us, but the idea is to let the wall check his forward progress so he is forced to listen to my leg and move sideways. She warned that this is very mentally hard, especially for green horses, so we are supposed to do it every session but only a couple times each direction. 
  • Then we trotted. Trotting is not always the best for us. 
    • She had me focus on holding my hands level, no matter what. As soon as I drop either hand, Courage twists his head and gets fussy. He also is struggling with the concept of bending through his rib cage, which makes serpentines difficult. In her words, we need to "make his sandbox bigger". I need to widen my hands and add a lot of leg to emphasize forward without making him feel trapped. 
  • Cantering was fun too. 
    • We cantered a circle in each end that was as small as he was physically able to deal with, then as we headed down the long side, I pushed my hands forward and let him learn to take me forward on a bigger stride. The idea was just to let him roll along because if I ask him for more forward at this point, he tends to get tense in his underline. 
  • Downward transitions. I know I said we've had a couple ok ones, but they're pretty consistently bad and I still wasn't really getting through to him. 
    • She pointed out that at this point, the little man just doesn't physically know how to use his body in a downward transition. He's not trying to be bad, but he doesn't have the slightest idea of what I'm asking or that it's even possible. We're trying a new strategy--every single downward transition is on a tiny circle right now. It gives me enough leverage to help him and the actual movement should help him start to figure out what it's like to do a transition without tensing his entire underline and sticking his head straight up. 
He's always been a jump jump horse. What is this "race" thing?
Whew!! I know that's a massive info dump, but it's really good information that I wanted to remember and I know some of you are in similar training places, so hey, it might be useful. 

I hopped of Courage, hosed him down, and jetted out of the barn. It was noon, but I was off to the races!!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pony Weekend Wrap-Up: Goin' to the Tack Store

It started out as a really good idea--I'd sent some items to a tack sale and the ones that didn't sell were just sitting in my loaner vehicle. I either needed to put them away or sell them. I have lots of horse stuff and was ready to part with these ones, so I opted to hit the local tack store before heading out to my lesson on Saturday.

Of course, they know me there. Redheadlins happened to be working the counter. She's my notoriously expensive friend, under whose influence I have ended up with things like a Sprenger bit, a fancy breastcollar, oh, and a new horse. Before I check out, she assures me I have to see the new consignment that has come in and because I'm a tack 'ho, I accept.

Can't say no
I am in desperate need of new breeches. I am also not overly-endowed with money due to life circumstances. She hands me two pairs of lightly-worn FITS full seat breeches. $35/pair. I've always wondered if I would like them and been a bit insecure about the ass-patches, but now I'm going to find out. Look for a review soon, I guess.

Then we get looking at some fancy tall boots. I'm not too interested because they're dress boots and I don't really "do" dressage, but I already have breeches on. I slip into one pair. Dehners. Broken in, but not used up. Fit like they were made for me. Stury, soft leather, super classy looking, $51.


Things to do after 10
And then I'm really like "Ok, time to stop spending money, I am legit headed to a lesson blah blah blah" and we walk back to the saddle pad aisle and there's an ecogold dressage pad for $14. "OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO BUY IT," I tell her and she snatches it up. Afte all, she rides dressage and I do not.

But I look down and on top of another stack is another ecogold dessage pad, also $14. The fleece is a little worn, but the pad is in perfect condition. I make grabby hands and book it for the front counter.

So yeah, in case you're keeping score, that's 2 pairs of FITS, 1 pair of Dehners, and an Ecogold pad all for $150.

And it was only 10 in the morning.

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