Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Screw Ups

yes more of this
I know I post lots of beautiful pictures of my horse dressaging like a pro. I love beautiful pictures and Courage is doing really, really well given his life history and my ability to teach a sport I barely know at all.

That's just one side of it. Sure, there are pretty moments and breath taking progress and and the fun times.

The hard things and the challenges and the failures are WAY less fun to talk about and post pictures of.

That last shot exemplifies where Courage is with his left lead canter. Yeah, I look like a hunter rider (but yay I'm effective so w/e), but Courage is soft with his hind end engaged and in a great balance and frame for a wanna-be training level horse.

And trust me, I wish that was our normal.

It isn't.

To the right, Courage is a whole different horse. I don't know if it's a right hand/right rein problem or a left hind problem or a chiro problem or a race horse problem or even a structural asymmetrical-ness in me. Maybe all of them together.

Maybe something else entirely.

if it was our first canter under saddle, it would be great. it's not.
I've been really frustrated about this particular issue lately, because I've attacked it from every angle I know how to and NOTHING has made a difference. I know one side is going to be harder than another, but does it really have to be this ugly?

I was debating training rides and gadgets and various expensive ideas, but I wanted one last ride to rule out poor riding. I took Courage in the indoor. That's a much smaller space, so the wall would serve to steer for me and I could just focus on riding.

We started very basic-- walk on the buckle to working walk. Then working walk to free walk. Then walk to trot to stretchy trot to walk to trot.

mid transition, but so balanced
Every step in a slight shoulder fore. Any resistance and we came back to walk to start at the bottom again.

Wouldn't you know, after about a solid 40 minutes of work, I had a LOVELY trot/canter transition to the right. We immediately took a walk break on the buckle as a reward, and then we started over again.

The next time only took about 15 minutes.

And then we were done.

this used to be hard
It's not exciting to read, though it's quite interesting to ride. It's just thorough, slow, methodical training.

It's teaching Courage that yes, he can canter on the right lead without flinging his head in the air and running.

He can slow down and balance and carry himself from behind.

In all fairness, he did not know that before.

And it's really hard for him.

he does have a great face
I don't usually post ugly right canter pictures because no one wants to look at them, but it's an important part of our journey. This is Courage and I, learning and progressing at our own pace.

I'm not a dressage expert or any kind of trainer. He's a talented and opinionated horse who refuses to be forced in to anything. We'll never compete on a national level or make some sort of team or set a speed record for advancing up the levels, and we aren't trying to.

At this point we'll be lucky to pull out a decent training level test this year and I still don't know how I feel about showing over jumps.

I don't want to get to caught up in showing the pretty part of riding to blogland and neglect the challenges. Screw ups aren't usually brag-worthy (hopefully), but they still happen. And someday, we will have a right lead canter to be proud of.


  1. I love seeing the 'ugly'... it makes me feel better about my own 'ugly'. :)

  2. We all have 'ugly' and it is hard to share, thanks for being brave!

  3. To appreciate pretty, you have to have seen ugly ;-)

  4. You might be sitting a little "defensively" when he goes to the right.

    The phrase, "Drop your knee," in that direction might help. If he's falling in on the right shoulder, your tendency is to sit less to the inside. Change the pattern. Make your inside leg long, keep contact with the outside rein and kind of "push" his middle over to the outside as you bend him inside.

    You have to resist his throwing you onto your outside seatbone and instead, sit "long and low" on the inside. That's where the "Drop your knee" concept comes in.

    He really looks lovely when he's working on the bit.

  5. I wish I could post pics on comments so I could put up my favorite picture of Mo trotting like an inebriated turkey before he got his act together.

  6. I have ugly ALL. THE. TIME. Also, I am by no means a dressage trainer, and don't mean to be all soap-box-y, but I learned something recently that I thought of when looking at your photos. Lately with Mollie I have to be super aware of keeping my inside hand slightly raised, and my outside hand slightly lowered. This really allows me to be sure I have a correct turn of her poll in the direction I'm going and she's not just faking it. It also allows me to keep her off the inside shoulder, instead of hauling herself around on it (her personal favorite). I just happened to notice in all the photos of you going right your hands are the opposite. Feel free to completely disregard, but it's been a fun little tool for me to play around with, and figured I'd pass it along!

  7. It all takes time. There will be struggles and there will be difficulties. We are all here to support one another!

  8. Love this post.
    The "screw-ups" are part of the journey, because the bad moments make the great moments that much better :)

  9. I did some similar things last night with Chloe too. About a million walk trot transitions, a lot of shoulder fore. Wouldn't you know, Chloe's normal, rushed and unbalanced trot slowed down after some work! Love those ah-ha moments! We have to work through the ugly moments to get to the beautiful moments. :-)

  10. I prefer these posts actually because they are all about learning! I sense a strong interest in dressage developing :)

  11. For a LONG time, Missy's right lead was baffled me. Turns out I was leaning over her right shoulder so it was really hard for her to canter that direction. I was weaker going right, and making it a lot harder for her to do her job going that direction. Once I figured that out, the problem started to fix itself. Body awareness is everything.

    Not saying that's your problem, but it is a thought...

  12. Screw ups are most certainly brag-worthy. You learned from it didn't you???? Getting it right and perfect and awesome all the time, doesn't teach any of us much.

    It's the times we f'ed up, bombed out or blew it that we remember what we did and what we should have done instead. And when we go back and work on fixing it, figure the how and finally, Finally- NAIL IT!!!! It makes it all worth while and posting about it gives us all a reference point to go back to when we need a refresher.

    So for this post- THANK YOU!

  13. Thanks for sharing the hard direction shots. Nice to be reminded that we all have our struggles. Bending right and right canter has been tough for Hemie as well, and I've read that OTTBs can have a harder time with it, but who knows.

  14. I usually only post abou tthe bad things haha. I think there has to be a balance from a "good blog" prospective, but I think we all know that theres good & bad in every horse/rider pair.

    That being said your progress has been swift and ya'll always look sexy

  15. There is hardly any ugly with that handsome fool.

  16. I have this problem going to the right with O. My back is crooked so I sit crookedly unless I am thinking really hard about it, and O is crooked that way naturally, so we're just all together crooked all the time. Then sometimes if I use my brain really really hard and think about what I am doing, I can carefully manipulate and bend her correctly. For a long time I went, is it chiro! Is it joint! Is it teeth! Is it something else! And everything else got ruled out, and we figured out.... oh, it's me. Lol.

  17. LOL... the ugly isn't ugly at all, just part of training. :)

  18. Doesn't look that bad to me. Just baby moments. :)

  19. Baby steps and back to basics gives me hope that some day i will get there with my patient saint like horses that put up with my pathetically abysmal attempts at consistency.
    Your progression with C in the short time since moving barns is inspirational!

  20. Hero also struggles to the right. I think he's still not quite strong enough to hold a balanced canter for long that way, but I'm sure some of it is on me as well.

    I love reading all of your posts, you and your OTTB give me inspiration for where we might be someday!

  21. Harley used to flat out run to the right, now it is his better lead.

    It isn't ugly; it is interesting.

  22. I don't like to see just pretty all the time. Life isn't like that. I prefer what is real.

  23. They're not screw-ups in any sense. They're learning experience. We can't all be perfect. You guys have been doing some amazing things and I'm sure impressed. I think a lot of us are. You're doing great and seem like you have a good plan.

  24. If it was easy, everyone would do it! I love seeing you guys progress, and I love your seemingly lighthearted attitude when things don't always go as planned. It's what I love so much about your blog. You seem to take the good with the bad and just keep plugging along, steadily (but o so obviously) getting better and better and better! I admire that about you :)

  25. I'm pretty much a card-carrying rider of the canter struggle bus... It sucks but I'm really hoping that the ugly will eventually turn into a beautiful swan too lol

  26. I rode in a clinic the other weekend and the clinician said that most right handed people struggle going to the right in the canter. I think this is because we overuse our more coordinated side and forget to activate our weak side. To the right, he was constantly reminding me to use my left leg. I was already using my right (too much), but I needed to get the left working more. When I did it, Indy cantered beautifully. When it became idle, she became hollow. I don't know if this will help, or if you're even right handed, but I thought I'd throw it out there. On another note, his 'ugly' is definitely not bad. It will certainly get there :)

    1. I am so right hand dominant that it's not even funny. I will have to try this.

  27. That might be the handsomest "ugly" I've seen in a long time! I share your canter struggles, and working on our counter-canter has actually helped us balance a lot better. With a thousand half-halts and tooons of leg support, but I think it helped her figure out how to balance.

  28. It's just part if the journey. A great post illustrating that! Go C Rage!

  29. I also like when you post the "ugly" photos. You and Courage are inspirational, and it's uplifting to me to see you two working through your struggles just like Robbye and I are.

  30. Ugly definitely doesn't look so ugly to me, but as most everyone else has said we all have those moments. I can pull my iphotos up right now and find all kinds of them.

  31. That ugly isn't so ugly! It's hard when there's such a difference because it makes the bad side seem SO bad.

  32. I love this post. Nothing is automatic.


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