Tag Archives: dressage

Alone Time

For the past three weeks Sarah has been enjoying sunny California with her students who are able to afford (financially and time off wise) to go and have a serious boot camp to get ready for the upcoming season. While I’ve done the spring California trip once (and got rained out of the event I had entered) it was definitely not on my radar this year with June.

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While Sarah was gone I was in charge of taking care of her mare Rapid. This is Rapid hauling ass down the barn lane when she got loose from me #horsesitterfail

Which meant we had three weeks without lessons and three weeks to figure crap out on our own.

And honestly, it went pretty well. While I am fully prepared for Sarah to come back and have a LOT of feedback in our first lesson, I really tried to work hard, enjoy myself, and experiment with some things while she was gone.

Here’s what we accomplished and worked on for the past three weeks:

  1. We went to two shows without Sarah! That’s huge for me. I typically go everywhere with a trainer, so not doing so, AND doing it with a green horse, was huge for me. And, we had successful outings, which was really a confidence booster for this upcoming season
  2.  We’ve added trot/canter sets to our weekly routine. This is not for June’s fitness (although it is certainly helping mine), as she could trot and canter in circles for hours if I let her. It’s mostly because I want to just let her have some mindless work. Mare needs to burn off some energy and not get tense about every ride and the work we’re doing. I’m mixed on how this is working out. I think June really enjoys it, which is GREAT. But it’s also getting her fitter, which, while I love that she has lost some lbs recently, I don’t need her getting fitter. I think she needs to build muscle and strength but not stamina right now. She could literally trot for a full hour without me encouraging her. And that leads to her grabbing the bit and wanting to go, which is certainly what I am trying to stop from happening. So, I may change these up a little bit. Some fun for her mixed with some slower, deeper, trotting.
  3. Transitions. June tends to hollow her back and throw her head up (it looks like an elk, for any of you who also have elk in your backyards…) when I ask for the walk transition. So, I’ve been playing with a few things. Trotting slower and slower and slower until we walk. That works! But then, when I try to progress from that, she trots for a REALLY long time before the walk. So, maybe I am asking her to get this too quickly, but at some point I need to be able to ask for a trot to walk transition and not have her hollow. I’ve played with closing my leg, slowing my trot posting and sitting. If that gets nothing, I sit deeper and stop following with my elbows. This is working, albeit painfully slowly. I’m eager to get Sarah’s take on it and some help.
  4. The free walk. June LOVES to pull the reins out of my hand and bring her head down to her feet as she walks. YAY. Plus, she has a great overstep and for the first time in my life my dressage comments for the free walk said “Good overstep” instead of “lacks overstep.” But she isn’t consistent at all. Her head goes here there and everywhere. And she constantly tries to pull the reins out of my hands no matter how much rein I give her. So, I’m working on keeping the reins shorter, more leg and slowly letting out the contact. Again, a work in progress but it has been fun to play with.

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    Good pony post test!

  5. The canter. Our left lead canter is really getting somewhere! I can ask for more collection, and am working on her bringing her head up, again, not letting her grab and go. The right lead has made huge strides as well (ha ha fun pun) but she can’t keep it for as long and by the time we’re approaching our 2nd or 3rd 20 meter circle, right when we come off of the rail, she swaps. So, I’ve been working on getting her past that point in the circle, even if it’s our first 20m circle, and asking for a downward where she doesn’t swap leads. We got it last night and I was happy to be able to end our ride on that. I think this will just be slow and steady progress.
  6. Pole work. Just staying consistent in the rhythm to the poles, over the poles and after the poles. In both the trot and canter. I’ve been really pleased with how she’s doing. We’ll see what happens when the poles become jumps, but she is far more adjustable than she was a month ago.

I think all in all, I’m really just learning about June as a horse. I trust her so much more than I used to. I can hop on without lunging. I can work through the antics. It wasn’t that long ago that I was unable to ride the canter and Sarah had to say “Ride the canter like you know how to ride. Not like a passenger.” Now, I actually ask for things in the canter and expect things from her. She wants to kick out in a dressage test? Fine. But we’re going right back to the canter. Ok, not really fine to kick out, but you know what I mean…

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Me? I perfect

Anyway, as excited as I am to get back to lessons and have Sarah back, I’ve actually really enjoyed these last 3 weeks and feel like it was really good for both June and I.

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June’s Dressage Debut

I’ve had this on my calendar since I made it:

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It’s actually the one event so far that I made it to. Which meant that the expectations I had for it were a bit skewed. BN dressage test? Um, no. We’ve been in a dressage arena once, and we still have lots of work to do in the canter. Plus, we had done the Arena Eventing show the weekend before, and I didn’t have a huge need to go jump 2’3 again. So, I decided to enter Intro B and Intro C and head over to warm and sunny Boise for a couple of dressage tests.

This was my first solo outing to a show with June. And while I have driven cross country by myself countless times, and consider myself an independent woman, there’s something about going to a show alone, with a young horse, that had me a bit nervous. I knew it was the perfect venue for our first solo trip, as it’s about 2.5 hours away and I have been there multiple times. Plus, I convinced Aimee to meet me there, so I would have at least one friend there to help should things go awry.

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And someone to shop with! Aimee ended up with this fabulous coat, I’m on the hunt for one now too…

All PC goes to Aimee for this post 🙂

June was great to trailer over and once we got there she was totally chill. Thrilled to eat some green grass and stand by the trailer while I checked in. I had a plan for warm up which involved getting her focused on me and rideable.

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We had warm up to ourselves which was a huge bonus

Warm up was actually great. She came out calm and relaxed and was responsive without being overly sensitive. I felt I could really ride her with my leg and not my hand. We worked some transitions and change in bend and I was really happy.

I realized I hadn’t tucked my shirt in or put my number on, so asked Aimee to hold her while I did so. That brief stop was enough for June to look around and be like “Woah, there’s an entire world out there” and when we went back to work things weren’t as relaxed and fluid. In fact, Aimee got one video of me just shutting her down as she tried to take off with me… at the trot.

But, still, I was really pleased with the work. Sure, when we cantered she was a tense ball of fire, but I just went back to the trot and things de-escalated quickly.

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One day I will find staring at her neck less fascinating. Ugh. Eyes up, Nadia!

Our first test was Intro C. As I was walking around the arena before the bell was rung, I noticed that the corners next to A were super duper deep sand. I opted to get my dressage whip, just in case June lost impulsion there.

The test started out really nicely. Trot work was solid, our 20m circle was accurate, and then we went to canter between A and K. We got the correct lead, good transition, and then got through the deep sand and June decided she was done with this cantering crap:

We got re-organized, and then did some more trot work followed by the left lead canter. We had to have our transition in the deep sand, but June was a good girl and the canter was quite nice. Until it wasn’t:

She just has to have an opinion about everything. Apparently she hated that corner.

Now, rather than bore you with entire videos of our Intro B and C tests, I’ve given you the low moments, because they are way more fun. But even with some bloopers, we still scored a 64% in the C test, and a 67% in the B test. And really, I was thrilled with both tests. They gave me such a great starting place to work from with her.

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Such love for this mare

At the end of my first test, as I left the arena, the judge stopped to chat with me. She asked me questions about June and commented on what a nice horse she was. Asked me about her breeding, age and what we’ve been doing. She basically raved about June and how good she was for her first test. Then, in her comments for both tests, she started them with “Lovely Horse!”

Which I guess is what every rider wants? The judge to notice how nice your horse is? How nice a mover she is and despite some antics, overall she is a sane and sensible mare who needs some mileage at the canter and in our transitions? And, to be honest, I love being singled out for good things. So having the judge notice June at the end of the day (we were the last test) was a bit of an ego boost. But then, of course I can’t just let that be what it was. I then had to get upset that she wasn’t MORE prepared for the test. That our canter had issues. That I let her drift down centerline. That everything wasn’t PERFECT.

But I don’t think “perfect” and “4 year old” go in the same sentence. And the fact that the judge saw the same potential in this horse as I do, is really what I should be focusing on. I need to use her comments as motivation to get to where I want to be. Hell, 2 weeks ago I couldn’t get the right lead for the life of me. Now I’m getting it in a test. So, from here, we have lots to work on. Or, to refine. I can’t say enough good things about this mare. She’s a challenge, and a pistol, and she’s teaching me so much, which I am incredibly thankful for.

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And is still the cutest monkey in all the land!

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Dressage Tests and Ulcers

Despite the fact that we had a dressage schooling show coming up, in my most recent lesson, I opted to jump. And while I have no media as proof, June was really fantastic. I gave her a day off afterwards and got a text that June didn’t seem very interested in her hay. I went down to the barn to find June in her shed with a tub of uneaten hay. Banamine was given, she was lunged lightly and fingers were crossed. She wasn’t any better the following morning, so Sarah gave her some more Banamine and I stopped by to check on her. She was bright and alert and seemingly normal. If she was colicking, it must be mild. But then, why wasn’t the Banamine working? Just as I was thinking she might have ulcers, I received a text from Sarah that said “Ya know, I think she might have ulcers and this isn’t colic.”

I drove over to the vet’s office to see about having them come out and happened to catch her veterinarian between appointments. She agreed, ulcers seemed likely. I have her scheduled to be scoped on Thursday, and in the meantime have begun her on the crazy expensive Gastroguard regime for 30 days. I will admit there was a part of me that was like “How does this horse have ulcers??? I haven’t even asked anything of her yet?”

But in thinking it through, and reading a great article Sarah sent me from horse.com (along with some others) it seems it doesn’t take much for most horses to have ulcers. And probably the biggest contributing factor to her ulcers (which at this time I can only assume are the problem) are that she is “meal fed” as my veterinarian called it. Meaning, June gets two meals a day, and that isn’t great for a horse’s gastric health. Now, I love the barn I board at. But, do I love that my horse spends hours upon hours without anything to eat? No. Especially since I grew up with horses who never had any issues with colic or ulcers and spent their days out on pasture, eating all day long. So, this is tough for me. And clearly, it’s tough for June too. But the good news is, I have some solutions to keeping hay in front of her for longer periods of time, without having to change how the barn feeds her. More on that, later.

 

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More of this please!

Having suffered from an ulcer myself this summer, I knew how painful they can be, and also, that eating actually makes them feel better. Along with Omeprazole. I also knew the meds can take a few days to work, and actually, if she doesn’t have ulcers, they would not help a bit. But, by the next day, she was already eating a bit more. And while she wasn’t her complete sassy self, she was feeling well enough to at least get excited about feeding time.  And while I had initially thought I would scratch from the dressage show, on Saturday morning, seeing as she was feeling better, I decided to go ahead and ride in the show. I mean, we were doing a walk/trot test and it was at our barn. Stress levels should remain low for all involved. I made a deal that I would keep spurs off and that I wouldn’t fight with her. We’d just go into warm up and see what mood she was in. If she was willing to work, we’d work. If she felt crappy, I’d scratch.

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So cute!

She actually felt calm and relaxed. Perhaps a little duller than usual, but with lots going on around her, she was curious, but not anxious. And she handled the little bit of atmosphere like a champ. I definitely could have been smarter about my warm up. I could have done more transitions and worked on getting her to listen to my aids. I did some work on 20m circles and trying to be straight up centerline, which was fine. But I think in general, I just need to go into warm up with a plan, rather than figuring it out when I am already on her back. Especially with a young horse. I was overly concerned with symmetry instead of quality of my gaits. Therefore, our circles were ok, but June was dragging me around, and not listening to my aids very well. Lesson learned. There is a lot of work on transitions in our future. I was also overly worried about connection, instead of riding forward and with rhythm. Rhythm before connection, Nadia. Remember that next time.

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But connection can look so pretty!

But overall? Overall I was thrilled with her. She was focused and willing and a really really good girl. I think with a better warm up plan, and using warm up wisely, I could have imporved a lot of things, but I came out of both tests just thrilled with how it went and thrilled at our potential future.

June seemed unfazed by all of it, and was completely ready for treats when we were all done. And while she never gets treats unless she is in the horse trailer or her paddock, I made an exception and was happy to see how eager she was for them.

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So, all in all, a mixed bag week. I’ll keep you all posted on her scope this Thursday. I guess at this point, fingers crossed we find ulcers? Blerg. But, as always, I have a plan in place and we’ll get through this.

 

 

 

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June’s Dressage Foundation

June’s dressage work has begun in earnest, and I thought it would be interesting to share our progress thus far.

Someone once said to me that dressage is similar to Pilates for humans. Essentially, we’re building core strength, so our horse can become more flexible and supple for whatever we are going to ask of them. If you have no core strength in either Pilates or dressage, you have no foundation, and doing anything that is asked of you is that much more difficult. And I don’t know about any of you, but if I don’t have a solid core for Pilates work, I start taking short cuts. And these shortcuts do nothing to help me become strong enough to do what is being asked of me. Again, I think this is very similar to dressage. And while some may say dressage isn’t as thrilling as jumping, I tend to disagree. While I don’t get the adrenaline rush from dressage that I do from jumping, feeling my horse work underneath me, from very simple aids, is actually quite thrilling, and quite amazing to me.

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Seeing this happen was really, really thrilling

So, June. My number one goal with her has always been to make sure she is fit enough to do what I am asking. This is why, in the beginning, I focused solely on getting miles on her. Sure, I had to work on the simplest of simple things, like go forward, woah, and turn. But we also worked on what my leg meant, especially what different leg aids meant. And then we added the trot, and I started getting her used to finding her balance with me bouncing around on her back. We began working on walk/halt transitions where she couldn’t halt in a hollow frame. Everything had to be coming back to front. This is a work in progress. As you can imagine. It’s far easier to halt, throw your head up, hollow your back and use zero ab muscles. But, with time, we are getting to where June naturally steps into the halt using her abs and her back doesn’t hollow. Is this thrilling work? No, but it is fascinating to me to see how capable she is of the work, and how all the pieces are coming together.

I’m going to refer to our old friend the Dressage Pyramid again:

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While I don’t think the Dressage Pyramid must be worked on from top to bottom at all times (some days you’re going to have impulsion without much rhythm), I do think it is really helpful when starting a young horse. For example, June and I spent weeks (and still work on it..) just on Rhythm. Getting her to walk and trot in one rhythmic pace was nearly impossible for her in the beginning. And again, when I began asking more from her, for example, when I began working on connection, rhythm went out the window as she tried speeding up and slowing down as tactics to not have to engage her abs. So, Rhythm was our goal, and some rides, continues to be our goal.

Relaxation is a funny one too. There is a reason it is near the beginning of the Pyramid. When June is relaxed and focused, we can get so much more work done. You need a relaxed horse in order to get that work from behind. In my experience, when she is not relaxed I go back to that hollow, un supple horse, who is not fun to ride.

And, we’ve just begun working on connection. I probably took longer to get to working on connection than many people do, but I don’t regret it. Especially when I see how easy it is for June, now that she has a good base of fitness, understands my aids, and she is strong enough to properly execute what is being asked of her. No short cuts for her!

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Maybe one day she’ll look as good as her Daddy

We’ve done quite a bit of work in side reins prior to me ever asking for connection on her back. Months of slowly shortening the side reins. I didn’t want to overwhelm her, or scare her, and again, I wanted her to be strong enough for the next step at all times. This has helped her get a strong core, so that, when I got on her back and asked for a leg to hand connection, it was there. At first, only for a few steps, but with each ride it is getting better and better. Two weeks ago I was complaining that our downward transitions were crap, and just recently I asked for a downward and was shocked at how she kept the connection and stepped into the transition, rather than hollowing.

June isn’t even 4 1/2 years old yet, and it is really important to me not to push her too quickly, especially since so far she has responded so well to the work at hand. And while some horses mature faster than others, and can handle a bit more pressure, I honestly don’t think I would start a horse differently than I have with her. As an athlete myself, I can’t imagine being asked to do something I am physically not strong enough to do yet. Sure, we need to push ourselves occasionally, but if we push ourselves prior to having a good foundation, that’s where I believe we start to see injuries and problems.

Obviously this is all personal opinion, and there are a hundred ways to start a horse. However, there’s no harm in seeing what has worked for people, or understanding their approach, even if it’s not the way you do things. My hope is I continue to learn as much as June during this process and we’re a capable and strong team for may years to come.

 

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How To Let It Go

June has been back about 3 1/2 weeks now, and all in all, I am REALLY happy with the progress we are making. But, as of 5 days ago, I hadn’t cantered her since her return. I wasn’t really all that worried about it, we had so many other things to work on, but then I realized I had entered an upcoming dressage show and that test involved cantering. So, the time had come to get cantering.

On this particular evening where I decided to canter again, June and I were not having the best of rides. There was a lot of miscommunication going on, a lot of unhappy pony and rider. But, because I am not the most easygoing and flexible person (I’m working on it!) I decided it was still time to canter. And so, I asked her to canter. She picked it up for a stride and broke. So, we tried again. And same result. So, I changed direction. No better luck. So, the next time I kicked her into the canter and off we went. There was nothing nice about it, but we were cantering. At about the third 20m circle she let out a buck. And while it didn’t unseat me, I did pull her up, which is basically exactly what you shouldn’t do. But, I was by myself, and scared. So, we did some trot work, and then I threw her in side reins and lunged her in the canter. She didn’t buck once

A couple of days later, I had a lesson. I let Sarah know what had happened and we both agreed we would see how the lesson went, and if we would canter. And the lesson was going great. I had a responsive horse who was trying hard and there were very few disagreements between us. And so Sarah said “when you get back to the rail, ask for the canter.”

Oh, we’re going to canter? Wait, I didn’t know. Um, ok.

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Basically my face when I heard the word canter

But, I asked her to canter. And she had the loveliest transition. So what did I do?  I sat on her back  with my knees clenched into her sides, my arms not moving, and I couldn’t get my shoulders behind my elbows if my life depended on it. Sarah was telling me to relax, bring my hands down, follow, ungrip my knees, essentially do ANYTHING other than what I was doing. And I got a little better, but then we had to change direction. And again, lovely canter transition, but I didn’t care, I was gripping and pulling and then I felt her back tighten and I just stopped her.

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Basically what Sarah looked like after me pulling up June

Which led to a bit of an exchange between Sarah and I. When I tried to explain that I pulled her up because I thought she was going to buck, and I clearly was riding like crap, and couldn’t relax and was therefore pissing her off, Sarah basically read me the riot act. Sometimes, when it’s your best friend, who is also your instructor, you can be brutally honest with each other. And essentially, she told me to buck up (ha ha ha) and that I need to get over the fear of her bucking and ride well, and don’t teach her that if she gets tight in her back, she gets to stop.

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Yeah. She’s right. But still. My tailbone is barely healed.

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So, we picked June back up, and got right back to it. Sarah was expecting June to be pissy now that she had gotten a break and I didn’t know what to expect but I vowed to ride well and be better than who I had been 5 minutes ago.

So, we did some nice walk/trot/walk transitions, and then moved on to the canter. I relaxed my knees. I followed with my hips. My arms moved with the motion, elbows unstuck from my sides. By God, I think my shoulders were actually behind my elbows, in case something went awry, but most importantly, I just let her canter. And it was quite lovely. And easy. And then we trotted, changed direction at X and did it all again the other way. We had lovely upward and downward transitions and it was all just magical. I didn’t worry about getting bucked off. I didn’t worry about anything,really, and instead I just rode my horse, and did what my instructor told me to do. Essentially, I took Step 1 in Letting It Go.

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Macy used to be spooky and reactive and I used that as a crutch as to why I couldn’t do what Sarah was asking me to do.

Now, June bucks, and I am using that as a crutch as well. But unlike Macy, this is my horse, my partner for the foreseeable future, and to have that crutch is just going to hold us back. So, I’m letting it go. And I’m going into each ride, thinking about riding well, and how I want to ride this horse, instead of “but what if?” Because “what if” has never helped anyone move forward, find inner peace, or develop a partnership with their new horse. So, here’s to a new attitude, and riding to my ability, not my fear.

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Black Friday on Wednesday

I’ll be honest. I LOVE Thanksgiving and hate that it gets overshadowed by Black Friday sometimes. I mean, isn’t the entire point of Thanksgiving to be thankful for what you have and who you are surrounded by?

But the other part of me, the frugal part who loves a deal, can’t turn a blind eye to Black Friday. And I secretly love Amanda C’s Black Friday post, even though some years I come away without a single purchase.

This year though, there were a couple of things I had my eye on. And, because I just wanted to get the shopping done, I started shopping on Wednesday, hoping I could get it all done before prepping for and thoroughly enjoying, Thanksgiving.

And, well, I got it all done before Black Friday, thanks to Riding Warehouse.

In my opinion, RW did a couple VERY smart things. For one, giving 25% off all purchases is a huge selling point. I ended up purchasing a new black show coat from them, something I really, really, needed. Going into the purchase I had a couple of requirements. I wanted a moderately feminine design with a hidden zipper. I wasn’t sold on one brand, although I  loved my Horseware coat that I previously had. Upon some perusing I found an Equine Couture coat that was on clearance. It met my criteria and while I’m not entirely convinced it’s not a bit too Michael Jackson looking, a 50% off pricetag caught my eye and had me taking the plunge.

I’m hopeful I love it and June and I will be moonwalking to many amazing dressage tests. Or something.

So, I purchased the coat and was like DONE!

But then, a few hours later I was like “Sh*T! I need winter riding gloves!!”

And this is where RW did the second incredibly smart thing. The gloves didn’t meet the $50 minimum for free shipping, so I was hoping I could add them to my existing order. I contacted Customer Service via online chat and was told that my order was already packaged (holy quick processing!) and therefore the gloves couldn’t be added.

But they would be happy to waive the shipping costs if I would still like to purchase the gloves.

They made it so easy. I used the same payment method, and before I knew it, I had another email confirming the purchase of my new Heritage Spectrum Winter Competition Show Riding Gloves

Also, 25% off and no shipping costs!

So, with Thanksgiving and all the joys of family, friends and food behind you, if you haven’t already, get shopping. And may I recommend Riding Warehouse? I am so impressed with their customer service, ease of use and obviously their amazing products.

I already have my eye on this saddle pad. Let’s see if I can get through today without purchasing it….

 

 

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The Dressage Training Pyramid

In our indoor arena Sarah has painted this on one of the walls:

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The well-known dressage training pyramid.

I spend a lot of time looking at this piece of art. When I was riding Macy, I wondered if we’d ever get to the pinnacle. I’d check off what we had accomplished after every ride, and ask questions like “So, today we had rhythm and impulsion, but not much relaxation. Do you have to go in order of the pyramid?”

I feel like this pyramid haunts me a little bit. It teases me by showing how much I have yet to achieve in my riding. It goads me into thinking that one day I can have true collection, but not without connection!

Now that June and I are solidly doing some WTC rides, the training pyramid is back on my mind. After last week’s lesson, I pointed to the pyramid and said “We don’t even have rhythm. How will we ever achieve rhythm????” I never in my life thought that achieving rhythm could be so hard.

But then yesterday, I looked at the pyramid and said “Watch this.”

And I engaged my core, applied my leg and asked for the trot. June maintained a beautiful rhythmic trot all the way around the arena.

“See THAT, pyramid??? There’s a lot more where THAT came from.”

Of course, I couldn’t maintain this trot for 3 circles, but hey, baby steps. Literally, baby steps.

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Speaking of baby steps, not only is June so much calmer when tied up, she allowed me to put standing wraps on her and wasn’t a freak about walking around in them!

This pyramid, while it taunts and goads me, is actually really cool to have as a visual when I ride. It gives me a goal to work on, of course, but also really makes me reflect on each ride and see what needs work and what needs progress.

Of course, I think we’ll be working on rhythm for quite some time, but that’s ok. You’ve got to start somewhere!

 

 

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Second to Last Lesson

Because it finally decided to snow in Idaho, and because the snowstorm was quite significant, and because the road to the barn blows like crazy creating zero visibility, my weekly lesson was cancelled last week. No big deal until I realized I only had two lessons left on the mare and really, really, wanted those two lessons.

So, Sarah squeezed me in for two lessons the following week. I opted to do one dressage and one jumping. And because neither lesson would be working towards something bigger, I was a bit lost as to what I wanted to work on. For like a minute.

Then I was like “Lets do upper level movements and not worry about everything being perfect all the time!”

Weirdly, my perfectionist of a trainer was not really into that idea, but agreed to do some upper level movements and we would do them well.

Macy was great during warm up, despite the fact that Sarah was riding Georgie in the arena with us (more on that later). BTW having your instructor on a horse during your lesson is amusingly annoying. For one thing, they’re way more mobile- she could come to the end of the arena with me or have whatever vantage point she wanted easily, making it way more difficult for me to slack off at any point during the lesson.

But clearly, we had to get a picture of the two of them. Sarah hasn’t ridden Georgie since she injured herself, and I didn’t ride Macy before the injury, so we’ve never been on each other’s heart horses at the same time 🙂

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Classic Georgie and Macy. Georgie being perfect and Macy being pissed.

So here was the great part about the lesson. I can finally understand not only what the horse should be doing, but what I should be feeling. I understand that in order to do shoulder in, I need to do about 50 other things before we even think about coming up center line, and I need to feel the horse doing them underneath me because if I don’t, the movement is not going to work. At all.

We had another aha moment about my hip as well. I naturally carry my left hip and shoulder forward. If I make a point of thinking of keeping my left hip and shoulder back, Macy immediately responds. I can actually get her to be straight easily. But the problem is, it’s really tough and moderately painful, to ask my hips to be flexible. But still! It was a great aha moment!

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My head is cropped off, but does it matter? The rest of the photo is pretty nice…

The lesson was so good that at the end I proclaimed I wanted to skip jumping for the next lesson, and do more dressage. It was that fun and I really, really, felt like Macy and I had made huge strides. I didn’t want it to stop!

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This is me smiling during a dressage lesson. When does that EVER happen?

But then I got home and realized, if I don’t jump Macy in the next lesson, when will I ever jump again?????????? So, while I really enjoyed this lesson, I couldn’t forgo jumping.

I’m kinda just in denial that this was our last dressage lesson. Man this mare has taught me a lot and been such a school master on so many levels.  I’m just going to pretend that it isn’t ending, because right now, that thought makes me very sad.

 

 

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Tools in My Toolbox

Last week I had a bout of vertigo, resulting in missing a day of work (first sick day in 3 years!) and laying in bed trying not to vomit. Vertigo is not fun, ya’ll. I had a lesson on Macy scheduled for the following day, but learning from past experiences where I ride when I don’t feel 100%, I asked Trainer Sarah if she could ride Macy in the lesson.

I was slightly apprehensive. I mean, it’s not like Sarah would be schooling my horse. She’d be schooling her horse, who I had been riding.

Sarah can get Macy to look faannnccy

I was ready for disaster. Or, not disaster. A lot of schooling Macy to get her back to “pre-Nadia riding her.” Um, is there anything more nerve-wracking than having your trainer ride her heart horse who you’ve basically ruined? I think not.

So here’s the good, the bad,  and the ugly from the ride.

The good- Sarah was really happy with how Macy felt. She felt strong and lighter than she had in the past. I’ve been riding her correctly!

The bad- Macy was a bitch for Sarah to jump at first. Sarah had to undo all the ruining I had done. It didn’t take her long, but it was definitely there. Because of yours truly.

All because of my stellar riding.

The ugly- There really wasn’t any ugly. Except that Sarah had such an easy time correcting Macy and getting her rideable. It was eye-opening to me. The mare is rideable, I just need to use my aids more effectively and have a stronger core. And 15 years of riding her might help. But I’m not sure that’s gonna happen.

So, we all have our trainer’s ride our horses. Or, in my case, their horses. But this ride was more eye-opening to me than just a regular training ride. I came out of this lesson all “I can do this! I can get this mare to be rideable for me!”

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And so, the next time I went to ride her, I was all pumped. I had all these things I wanted to work on, and was so excited to ride her well and have a fantastic ride. But when I brought Macy into the indoor arena, I was greeted with three other riders already riding.

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I can barely ride Macy with one other rider in the indoor.

But, instead of backing down, or expecting the worst, I decided to ride Macy from the moment I got on her, and committed to 30 minutes of work, mentally and physically.

To make things even more challenging, there was no rhyme or reason to what the other riders were doing, and they liked to get REALLY close to Macy. (At one point one was so close Macy turned her head and BARELY missed biting him. She’s THAT reactive. And bitchy).

I immediately got her walking and working on bend and coming over her back, trying to get her to relax. She was actually great. Then we moved onto the trot, same things, and she was a bit more tense, but I really worked on getting her to relax and did my best to avoid other riders. There was a pole in the middle of the arena and we trotted over it calmly.

Things were going well enough that I decided to push my luck and try her out at the canter. At this point, two riders were chatting in the center of the arena, and one was cantering. Macy HATES when other horses canter. But I was feeling “brave” and had a beautiful walk/canter transition and was able to keep her pretty relaxed and not all bunched up, wanting to bolt. I worked on flexing her left and right, and even worked on keeping her haunches from flying in as we tracked left. Woah. Thinking and riding? That’s weird.

I remembered that Sarah mentioned “Lateral work is a tense horse’s best friend” so we worked on leg yielding out on a circle, and some haunches in to get her more supple. By the end of the ride we were calmly cantering over the pole regardless of what was going on around us. I was even able to do some two point to sitting position in the canter, something that can make Macy squirt forward if not done well.

Was the ride perfect? No. But by using the tools in my toolbox, I was able to work through things, rather than become a hot mess. Macy stayed fairly relaxed and rideable. And do I dare say that we may be the ground pole champions of the world? Well, probably not, since we can’t do more than one at a time. But, maybe one day, one day soon, we’ll be cantering over multiple ground poles.

One can always hope.

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Prix Caprilli Champion of the World

Our barn runs a schooling dressage test of choice series each winter which is super fun and laid back. Last month I entered Macy in the Modified A test and Georgie in Intro B.

This time I entered both mares in the Prix Caprilli class. For those of you unfamiliar with Prix Caprilli, it is literally dressage over fences. You have a dressage test, but some directives have you hopping over fences on your way from one end of the arena to the other. It’s super duper fun.

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Georgie less thrilled at the previous show. PC: M.Graves

But, since, ya know, Macy and I are regulated to groundpoles currently, I scratched her from the show. I thought about just entering a regular dressage test, but realized that wasn’t going to be much fun either.

I was the last rider of the day, at 5:15pm.. So, I went for a run, cleaned my house and chicken coop, and did as much as could before heading to the barn, but was still there two hours early. I watched a couple of riders and then brought Georgie in to get ready.

There are two tests offered in the Prix Caprilli at our barn. One with 2′ jumps and one with 2’6 jumps. The tests are difficult. They’re not  easy to learn and you often have a jump you need to avoid in a 20m circle, so they take some thought. I was the only adult entered, for which I felt a little silly, but I got over it when I realized Georgie literally isn’t allowed to jump 2’6, and we have literally jumped 2 single jumps in the past year.

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When I jumped her once this year…

Plus, I did not prepare for the test at all. I ran through it once with Macy, sans jumps obvi, and have been asking nothing of Georgie in our rides together other than come round and move off my leg. And while she was by far the most experienced horse in the class, I was ready to have fun, and really didn’t care about anything else.

It was the sloppiest test I’ve ridden in years. I forgot to steer and Georgie almost hopped over one of the fences before I yanked her off of it. During the free walk and stretchy trot it became apparent I had not asked Georgie to do any of those things in over a year.

But none of that mattered. Mare was her usual rockstar self. She was obedient and perfect and this seemed to be her kind of dressage test. Sure she totally stumbled over the last fence (it was a cross rail keep in mind) but ya know, its ok, mare hasn’t jumped in a while.

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Has it become obvious I have no media from the show?

This was the perfect break my brain needed. It was awesome to ride Georgie again and just be able to enjoy the ride the entire time. Plus, we came out as the champions of the class. So, maybe not champions of the world, but that’s how it felt in my mind

We’ll see what her future brings, but I’m thankful she can still make me smile so much.

 

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