Tag Archives: horses

What Macy Didn’t Teach Me

Macy taught me so much in our year together. She taught me how to ride a bolt. How to ride a spook, How to ride a spook into a bolt.

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Usually I was good at riding the spook bolt. This time not so much

But she didn’t teach me how to ride a buck. Which, at the time, I really appreciated. But now, I could have used some practice.

Because for the third time June bucked me off.

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Yeah, I still love her though

Our lesson was going so well. We were working on connection. We were getting her to flex at the walk and trot. Then, we moved onto the canter. And we worked on some more connection, but also getting her to go forward on a 20 meter circle, and not having her run out her shoulder when we were at the open end of the arena.

She was getting tired. This was to be expected. She hadn’t worked this hard before for this long. She had been great so far. But this time, when I asked her to canter she was so incredibly behind the leg, and I could tell she really did not want to. So, I gave her a whack with the dressage whip.

And she responded with a double barrel kick that unseated me and threw me forward and then sideways. Unseating me freaked her out and she squirted forward. And I started falling off, but growing up a foxhunter taught me to never let go of the reins (who wants to walk miles home??) so I kept pulling on the left rein and she freaked out and well, I fell on my ass.

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When I stood up, there was Georgie , who was also being ridden in the arena. I looked at her and said “God I miss you.”

What’s the worst thing about falling off (when you’re totally ok)? Getting back on. It really is. Or, maybe the next day is the worst part. All I know is, I landed on my tailbone and my ring finger on my right hand did not want to bend. But despite the pain and the blood from ripping my fingernail back, I got back on and got back to work. I knew the faster I got what needed to be done, done, the faster I could go ice my hand.

June was really good. We did some more cantering, in both directions and my tailbone was on fire, but luckily we didn’t have to work long, since she was responding to everything I asked of her.

So, welcome to the world of opinionated mare babies? Maybe I’ll get better at sitting a buck. Maybe third time’s a charm. God I hope so.

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Expectations

At a coffee shop yesterday, a horse acquaintance asked me “Is June everything you hoped she would be?”

I looked at her and paused. I had so many thoughts of June flash through my head. Jumping xc for the first time, going on a trail ride for the first time, jumping for the first time, cantering for the first and second time, trotting for the first time off the lunge line.

Is June everything I hoped for? I have no idea. We’re so barely at the beginning of our partnership, how can I quantify it? How can I say yes when I have barely scratched the surface with this horse.

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Has June exceeded my expectations for bringing along a baby horse? Has June taught me so much in our short time together? Am I madly in love with her?

Absolutely.

Those are easy to answer.

She’s growing up so fast, and some days, it’s hard not to ask more and more from her. But I love the approach we’ve taken, slow and steady wins the race, right?

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We had another short xc outing last week. Just another water outing, to see if I could get her more comfortable in the water. Or, get me to be more comfortable on her in the water.

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She was great. Once again, we made progress far more quickly than I anticipated we would.

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So, here’s to a mare who so far, has exceeded all expectations.

 

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Show Jump Sunday

Labor Day weekend was a big one for June.  Saturday we had June’s First XC Schooling and then Sunday we had a jumper show at our barn. My plan was to do ground poles and cross rails. We hadn’t ever done a jump course before, so I figured ground poles could give me an idea of the turns, etc.

After a quick warm up, mostly in the round pen, June and I entered the arena for our first round. We trotted the poles, I let her look around a little, but really wanted her focused and turning.

We did well enough that Sarah mentioned what an organized and polished round it was.

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The barn swallows joined us

For my next round I decided to try to canter the poles as much as possible. Our turning while cantering is getting better, but still more Mack truck than Ferrari.

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I think she’s trotting here, but looking cute, so using the media

She was a good girl and it was no big deal.

So, next up, cross rails. Since this was our first jump course ever, I figured we would trot and if she wanted to canter, she could.

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It was definitely a mish mash of trot and canter, but she was forward and easy to steer and I was really happy with her!

Next up, a round where we canter the entire course!

I decided to ask for the canter in the corner before the first jump. We were going right, our less consistent direction, and June REALLY wanted to look out and run through her inside shoulder. So, we didn’t get our lead. Which was fine. We popped over jump one in the trot, and then cantered the rest of the course. Mare gets the whole “land and go on” idea, which I love.

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She got all her leads (from what I remember) for the rest of the course. And sure there was some veering, and she may have tried to run out at jump 3, but really, it was way more organized and flowing than I expected it to be.

Here’s a short video of us doing our final round

I considered entering 2′ but decided to end on such a positive note. We have lots of work to do, and jumping our first verticals in a show, isn’t going to help anything.

Overall, I was super duper happy with June. She was great about standing around, and then got right to work when we entered the arena. She did pull the “I’m not going forward” crap in between classes, when I wanted to walk her around, but she got over it pretty quickly and we walked all over the property once she understood that wasn’t allowed. She definitely has opinions, this mare.

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Not many people see me work with her day to day, so I think they were surprised to see me cantering a course, since last time I just trotted ground poles. Trainer D was there, riding a horse for a client and she was really impressed with how far June has come, which made me happy. A few other horse women I respect also commented on what a good job I’ve done with her, and their comments really meant a lot to me. There’s still so much to do, but I love the base we have and am excited to keep getting better and better.

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June’s First Cross Country Schooling

It’s a funny thing, prepping to school cross country on your own horse after not having done so for way too long. I was convinced I would forget something, and put my safety vests in the car the night before just to make sure I didn’t forget them. Then there was the task of deciding what June needed to wear. I haven’t bought much for her, so was hopeful Georgie’s xc boots would fit her (they did!) and that she would be fine in her D ring snaffle (she was!). Once I checked and double checked that we had everything, the excitement was palpable.

We went to school with Sarah and Rapid, which I appreciated, as I wasn’t sure we were ready for a group environment yet. Keep in mind, we’ve cantered in the open twice? Three times? And she has never done the “go do something then come and stand here for a while” routine, which is what you do with groups. Plus, I had no idea what she would think of all the jumps, and all the open space, and I really just needed to see who this horse was when put to work in a new environment doing new things.

I started with lunging her (duh) and she was so calm and relaxed we quickly moved to jumping over some obstacles. She handled these incredibly well. Really didn’t look at anything, even as we progressed from logs to a “picnic” table,  red branch looking log thing, A frame, hanging logs, etc.  Again, she was being so good, I hopped on her and we got to work under saddle.

The goal for the day was to build confidence, but also for me to get a glimpse of what she might be like on cross country. Who knew if she would even want to do this, and one thing I must have, is a horse who is willing to get from one side of the fence to the other, safely.

We started by trotting and cantering around the field. She didn’t get spooky or weird as we trotted and cantered away from Rapid, into the shadows, and up and down a teeny hill. In fact, she kind of liked the exploring, and she had her ears forward, ready for what was next.

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Just taking in the sights…

I continue to be in love with this horse’s canter. I have never had a horse with an uphill canter, nor did I ever put much thought into why it was important. But then, when I rode Rapid for the first time, I was like “Woah. This is like a totally different experience.” The best part is that you just feel the power from the back end surge forward and instead of falling down they come up. Have you ever driven a sports car? Hit the gas and felt the front of the car lift as the back powers it forward? It’s like that. It’s amazing. Ever since I rode Rapid’s canter, I knew I wanted an uphill horse. And thank God, June does not disappoint. She isn’t strong enough to keep that canter for too long, but it’s there, and it’s going to make things so much easier moving forward.

From there we moved on to trotting over logs. Super simple, super FUN. Our goal was to see if we could get June to land in the canter. No problem. She was eager to do so. She was bold, honest, and everything I would want her to be for her first outing!

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wheeeee

Now, don’t be fooled. I’m making this sound easy and perfect. It wasn’t. I was thinking “steer, steer, leg on, steer, SUPPORT,SUPPORT, steer” the entire way to the jump. June was being honest and brave, but it didn’t mean I just sat there and hoped it would happen. It was a lot of work, a lot of figuring out what works best, but in the end, it honestly went great and I think both of us had a good time!

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Love everything about this!

Since I didn’t want to over jump her on her first outing, we headed over to the water to see how she would be with that. Sarah was going to school Rapid, so June and I would have a little break and she could just check things out. I made the mistake of hopping off of her, so I could film Sarah. And I say mistake, because June thought me getting off and standing with her for 20 minutes meant we were done. She wasn’t really excited when I got back on her. She got tight in her back and a little sour. So, I hopped off, lunged for a few minutes, asked her to lunge through the water (which she did) and got back on. She  without hesitation walked into the water and walked around.

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But I never got that relaxed, easygoing, horse back. She continued to be tight in her back and sometimes refused to go forward in the water. I wouldn’t give her her head, as I didn’t want her to buck, so the entire experience wasn’t as low key as I was hoping. I got a little stiff, she got a little stiff, and I expected it to go south. It didn’t. It went ok. In fact, in looking at the videos, I think she was less likely to buck than I thought. I think she was just figuring out the splashing, she wanted to drink (which she later did), and she didn’t love the feeling of wet boots in the water.  At one point she just started pawing and pawing and pawing in the water and would NOT move. I was legit scared she was going to lay down and almost hopped off, but Sarah was like “Nope. Stay on.” And she grabbed June by the bridle and pulled her out of the water. Then she looked at me and said “THAT was being a pony.” Meaning, she was just being a brat. So, the good news is, she isn’t scared of the water. She didn’t buck me off. We need to work on me being confident but smart when she pulls these shenanigans. Actually using my dressage whip to get her moving forward. I knew from the get go she was going to test me. Now I need to have the answers.

We walked back to the trailer on a loose rein and all in all I’d say it was a great experience. I’m so excited to get back out there with her!

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Jump Progress

Now that the FEH class is behind us, Trainer Sarah has been having us work on our jumping a bit more. June is taking to it incredibly well, and I like to think she rather enjoys it!

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She can clear a cross rail!

The progress has been really fun. Over the past month or so we have gradually begun to add to what June can do over jumps. We started with groundpoles, moved to a grid (groundpoles to a cross rail), then a single cross rail with placing poles on either side, and today we linked two cross rails together, only one with placing poles! It was basically our first course! And, last week, I lunged June out in our jump field over solid obstacles. Including the ditch! So, she’s getting experience with lots of different jumps.

It’s kind of amazing how things progress with baby horses. I was saying to Sarah how it isn’t linear, and you always have to expect the unexpected. For June and I, this unexpected set back has been our struggle to pick up the right lead correctly. We struggled and struggled with this in our last lesson. I  just couldn’t ask in the right timing, June wasn’t doing me any favors by dropping her shoulder while looking to the outside. So, I spent two days with her on the lunge line, trying to figure things out. Trying to apply what Sarah was telling me and figuring what might work. And, lo and behold, I got her to pick up the correct lead on the lunge consistently. But, all that trying got June a bit anxious and she started to canter even when I didn’t ask. And always on the incorrect lead. So, we’ll stop lunging at the canter. We’ll take that off the table until it is no longer a big deal anymore.

I took what I learned lunging her and applied it under saddle today. I was ready to have to ask, then ask again, then ask again, for the correct lead, but June picked up the correct lead the first time I asked. I took my time, made sure I was ready to ask and wouldn’t you know it, it was no big deal.

We cantered a full course! (It was 3 jumps but the excitement was as if it was 12!)

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Also, there are moments where this mare’s canter is dreamy. Those moments are fleeting, but I can’t wait to feel it more often once she is stronger!

Of course, her canter can be long and strung out, she doesn’t always keep the canter, getting her to steer to the jump (and over it) can be a task in itself, so nothing looks “pretty” yet. But, to be honest, after my last lesson, I was elated with where we were at. June is getting stronger and more rideable. She can hold her more compressed canter for longer. We’re both figuring this shit out, and it is so fun and so exciting!

We have our first xc school this Saturday followed by a jumper show Sunday. I’m hoping to enter cross rails and maybe canter some of the jumps. Can’t wait for all the adventures that await us!

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This is us, galloping off into the future together…

 

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June’s First Trail Ride: aka June Can Buck

In my human mind, trail rides are like when your teacher tells you you’ll be watching a movie during class. You’re like ” sweet! Easy class!” I mean, what horse wouldn’t love a trail ride? You get to hang out with friends, not work, and munch grass.

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Look at that view! Who wouldn’t enjoy that view??

But that was my human mind. I didn’t really look at this from the perspective of an equine. June doesn’t know what a trail ride is. She knows she was trailered about 30 minutes to an unknown location where there were no other horses other than the one she trailered with. We’re in the middle of nowhere. She knows her mother didn’t lunge her, even though she lunges her before every ride. She knows that her mom got on her and expected her to walk out into the unknown forest.

And she responded by launching her mom into outer space.

I’m not making excuses for her. Launching me 1 minute after I got on her back, is not ok. But, since she is a baby horse, I am trying to figure out where I went wrong. And all I can think is it was a bit too much out of her comfort zone.

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Sure, this looks like fun… but not really

We did complete the trail ride. Despite a hard fall, I lunged the snot out of her, and then walked with her out the trail. I rode for about 1/2 the ride and for those moments, she was great. But I was sore, and defeated, and my confidence was blown. So, I didn’t ride her over stream crossings, and when I felt she needed a break I walked along side her. But we completed a 3.6 mile trail ride in the Idaho wilderness.

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Look at me riding my horse on a trail! Also, maybe I shouldn’t have brought Siri along to run around her?

And because I have an amazing friend, and I knew I had to conquer my fears of getting launched on trail rides, I asked Sarah if she would be up for another trail ride the following day. And so, the following day, we loaded the horses up, and gave it one more shot.

And this time, I lunged June.

I left the dog at home.

I didn’t ask any more of her than I do back home in the arena.

And she was foot perfect.

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And I look pretty happy!

She looked around and took it all in, but happily followed Rapid into the Idaho wilderness. This was somewhere she had never been, and she was okay with that. I asked her to lead on the way home and it was ok- she led for a bit, but was clearly a bit unsure. So, we let Rapid lead again, and I rode home on a loose rein.

Was it the perfect first trail ride?

Hell no.

But it ended well, and I am less sore than I was. I learned that keeping her routine as solid as possible is important for her. She wants to be lunged before I ride her no matter where we are. Skipping that, and asking her to be perfect somewhere new, wasn’t fair.

So, June can buck. I knew that. And I need to keep that in mind next time I want to hop on her and do something new. That seems a small price to pay for a horse who otherwise has been fantastic.

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Bridle Shopping

It’s tough with a baby horse to put money into things they may outgrow or not need anymore. Well, let me re-phrase that. It is hard for ME to put money into things June may outgrow or no longer need. She’s wearing Georgie’s Kool Coat this weekend at the show despite it being way too large. I’m waiting for her to fill out and get some muscle before  making a dressage saddle purchase and I’ve been piecing together tack for her to wear in our day-to-day rides. While I solidly believe fit is important, that’s about where my investment has ended in her tack.

I don’t currently have a show worthy brown bridle for her, so when prepping for the FEH class I asked Sarah if she had one I could borrow. And lucky me, she did! A really pretty Schockemole bridle that she got in Ireland. It was a cob size, but I feel like June’s horse size bridle is a bit on the large size, so wasn’t too worried about fit. Well, it wasn’t until I tried to fasten the noseband that I realized this bridle was not going to work. Pretty much everything fit except the noseband. It wasn’t close to being large enough.

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Luckily, Sarah had another bridle I could try. Only problem? It’s navy. (Yes she has a navy bridle. I didn’t even know such a thing existed.) And while I will be riding with my navy saddle pad, I was REALLY hoping to have June wear a brown bridle with her brand new, beautiful, Dark Jewel Designs browband. Amelia from DJD was even kind enough to get it to me in time for the competition! But adding a brown browband to a navy bridle just isn’t gong to work. I decided a nice, clean, not put together mishappenly bridle is the priority. So, because I really, really, want to show off her new blingy browbands, and have a show worthy bridle, I’m looking to you blogosphere! Help me find a bridle! Here is my must have list:

-dark brown

-jumper bridle

-up to $200

Yes, that is my list. But I really, really need to stick to that budget because I still have a lot of things I am trying to pay off, like Stella’s surgery…. So those beautiful Vespucci bridles are not going to be considered. I’d be up for a used bridle if you have a nice one, but it would have to be in show worthy condition.

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A Schockemohle contender…

Let me know what you love, what to avoid and help me get June looking her best!

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FEH Prep

I leave WEDNESDAY for Washington, where June will be competing in the 4yr old FEH class. Right now it looks like she’s her biggest competitor. Since she’s the only one entered in the class. I’m super bummed about this for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because I want these classes to be supported. I love that  USEA created these classes as an alternate to the YEH classes, but from what I’ve seen here in Area 7, not many people are attending them. Which is a huge bummer.

And while really, June is only competing against herself despite how many horses may be in the class, it would be nice for the judge to have other horses to keep her eyes on. Sure, this will be more like a dressage test in that all eyes are on me, but yikes, an equitation style class seemed way more appealing when I signed up.

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I mean, yes this is cute to look at, but still…

Regardless, June and I are walking, trotting, and cantering pretty solidly. Sure, she can be behind the leg and a little lazy, but I am hoping that’s nothing a tap from a dressage whip can’t help!

A week ago an a**hole decided to shoot an exploding target in a campground (I don’t even know what an exploding target is) and he started a massive forest fire about 8 miles from our barn. When I say massive, I’m talking over 50,000 acres and it is still only about 49% contained. It has moved from where my barn is, north, to where a lot of friends live. They’re in “pre evacuation” notice, meaning get ready to get the hell out.

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Scary,scary shit PC: Blaine County Sheriff’s Office

As you can imagine, when there is a forest fire in your backyard, the smoke is thick and you can feel it in your lungs. It’s like a perpetual campfire you can’t get away from. I gave June two days off during the worst of it, and then, when the wind was blowing it out of our area, I brought her back into light work. It seems the worst of it has passed (thank you firefighters!) so we’ve resumed our normal schedule.

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When you do the Intro A test, there are lots of pics of you trotting

In our non riding/exercising days I practiced wrapping legs again, clipped her tail and bridle path and practiced braiding her mane. She was great for all of it.

I think we’re about as ready as we can be! I’m super excited to get outta dodge with my pony, dogs and BFF. It’ll be fun to see how June handles the atmosphere and if the judge thinks she’s as special a horse as I do.

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The Georgie Predicament

To catch you all up, Georgie went to her new lessee April 1st. She’s being leased by a junior rider who hasn’t done a whole lot of jumping and Georgie is the perfect match to help her build confidence in eventing.

I was super happy when I heard this gal would be riding Georgie. She’d be in a lesson program with Sarah, part of Pony Club, and I knew Georgie would love not being asked much in dressage while still getting to jump some small jumps.

I have the option of riding Georgie once a week to assess mental and physical soundness, and give any feedback to Sarah. Initially I thought I would DEFINITELY ride her weekly, but as the months have gone by, I’m riding her less and less. For one thing, Georgie doesn’t need me to ride her. I watch her with her new rider and she looks great. Sound and happy. Secondly, I have June to focus on. And while I did pony June off of Georgie one day, that ended up being a lot of work and not really stress free, so I haven’t done it since.

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This about sums up that ride

I’m lucky in that Georgie’s pen is next to June’s. The two mares have become buddies and get turned out together. When I bring June back from a ride, I give Georgie a treat before giving one to June, just so June knows where she stands in the hierarchy 😉

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I get to see lots of Georgie’s butt when she’s out on pasture..

My dilemma is this.

I love watching Georgie with her new rider, I honestly do. Of course there is a part of me that wishes I was still her rider, but dwelling on that does me no good. What’s harder for me, is watching Georgie succeed without me.

Does that seem weird/selfish/horrible? It probably is, but hear me out.

Georgie is currently competing at the Intro level in Pony Club events and doing up to 2’3 at jumper shows or derbies. This should come as no surprise, but she is rocking it at this level. Mare can “assume the position” in dressage and is far more put together than any other horse she is competing against. Get her out on cross country and she lopes around safely with an attitude of “just hang on, I got this.” And while she did hit a rail at her last event (which made me laugh out loud) the mare has got show jumping down, even if her rider has the tendency to jump ahead. Essentially, she is safest, most capable, horse out there.

The problem arises when people tell me things like “Georgie is amazing.” “Georgie is such a great dressage horse,” “Georgie is so easy.”

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Back in the day at Rebecca Farm

Yes, she is all of those things. But it took me years and a lot of work to get her that way. And when she wins competition after competition, all I can think is that I hope her rider realizes how lucky she is to have such a great horse. I hope her rider, and those commenting on how great she is, realize there was someone who helped create that. And that, right when she was at her peak, and the hard stuff started to get easier, I had to let her go.

I know it’s a testament to my hard work that Georgie is still easy and happy and retains lots of what we worked on together. But sometimes I don’t want to hear how great she is without a “you put a lot of work into her” at the end of it. Georgie has the best brain and the best work ethic, so she was easy on so many levels, but it doesn’t mean she magically became a great dressage horse, or easy to ride.

So therein lies my dilemma. Be happy for Georgie, and all the fun her new rider is having, without lamenting that I no longer have her, and am no longer the one succeeding with her. In the grand scheme of things, really not a big deal. But every once in a while I long for the good ole days, which seems only natural.

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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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Chronicles of a "Mini-Pro"

Celebrating the incurable addiction which is being an equestrian

A Horse For Elinor

Dressage On A Dime

Charley's Angel Eventing

Just a High Schooler Living for Jesus & Ponies