Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January Week 4 Review and February Plans

I meant to school today, but it was so nice outside that I wanted to ride out around the roads -- so, we compromised. After convincing Pandora to at least do a little arena work,we hit the trails, if by trails you mean roads (and I do). The arena work was okay. Nothing spectacular, she was feeling really forward and didn't want to slow down much, but we got some nice shoulder-fore done.
She did not want to do shoulder-fore to the right. Need to make sure she's bending okay that direction since it is her stiffer way.
Riding outside was lovely, though it got super cold before long and my hands were totally numb by the end of the hour-long ride. It's a nice big loop, the roads are well-paved but pretty quiet (without many blind curves, which is nice!), and it's a fantastic mental exercise for the horses. Walking past unfamiliar houses, dogs, people, flapping flags, etc was certainly a mental workout for Pandora. She behaved herself well - several in-place spooks (you know, where all of a sudden the saddle drops two inches but nothing else changes). We spent a lot of time riding next to the road where there's nice grassy areas, and got a lot of practice going over ditches that way. She tends to want to leap, I'm sure she'll be great on XC!

Our arena schooling session tonight definitely made up for our lack of one last night. I rode for almost an hour. We practiced lots of shoulder-fore (less stiff to the right tonight, but still a little more resistant to bend this way), and I got some really nice work for her. I'd like to have my mom take some video from directly in front and behind so I can get a visual on what we're doing.
Canter work was a little rough. For whatever reason, I have a super hard time finding a good seat in that dressage saddle - I really need to try a little riser pad in the back, I think it's just a little bit off.
But still, we got some very nice work done. Lots of nice walk/trot transitions. She is really getting good at those.

I almost rode tonight, despite it being a day off...but then I didn't. ;-) They were outside today, so I don't feel too guilty.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January Week 3 Review and Week 4 Outline

Day off!

I had an okay ride. I've been working hard on getting her to transition down off of my seat and legs more than my hands, since she tends to get anxious and tuck when I get in her face. Still, it wasn't the most productive overall. Towards the end, she wanted to rush and was just getting anxious, and I was a bit distracted. A solid workout but nothing spectacular.

Tonight was fun! There were seven people in the arena. It seems crowded sometimes when there's four! So we had a nice and relaxed ride, just walking, trotting, and cantering around with the other horses. Pandora was nice and mellow, and we got some good canter work in.

Tonight was a really, really good ride. I decided to try switching her back to the metal eggbutt lozenge bit I'd had her in at first. She was definitely quieter in it - going to keep it for awhile. She still slobbers some (which is nice!) and gets a nice "lipstick" foam going on, but she's not drooling all over the place from so much mouthing on the bit.
I just worked on a lot of transitions. She's REALLY understanding downward transitions off my seat and legs now - I just sit up, close my thighs and calves, stop my back, and close my fingers, and she transitions nicely. We're still working on remaining off the forehand when we do this, but it's definitely coming along.
She's also settled quite a bit about her canter transitions. In the lesson on the 7th, she got very anxious about all the canter departs. This time, I made sure to sit up (NOT duck forward), and just quietly ask. She was slow to transition the first several times, wanting to move into a rushing trot before picking it up, but before long she was prompt and compliant with the transitions. She remained calm the whole time.
We definitely have some work to do on our canter-trot transitions! I have to be so careful to keep her going at the canter (if I relax too much she instantly breaks) that when I ask her to transition down, she just THROWS herself forward into the trot and onto the forehand. This will improve with time, but it's definitely a weak spot.

16 - 18, I was at a PC retreat and I learned so much. I got some great ideas for exercises to do with her, too. I'll write a post about it over on my other blog soon.

Okay! The week didn't start off that spectacularly, but I got a really good ride in on Thursday and was very pleased with the progress we've made. The mares have been able to go out several times this week, which makes me utterly pleased and less stressed that she just got three days off. My mom did longe her for me, though.

In any case, this week should be a good one. I'm going to be working hard over the next couple months to prepare for the PC Show Jumping Rally in March. After jumping 2'9 in the clinic last week (!!!), I'm excited to see what the future brings!

Monday 1/19/09
Ride. I'm going to try an exercise we learned at the ABC retreat this weekend to help straighten your horse. You ride (assuming tracking right) shoulder-fore right for 1/4 the arena, shoulder-fore left for 1/4, then repeat. Shoulder-fore is like a pintsize shoulder-in (which is traveling on three tracks, shoulders set to the inside - the three tracks are inside fore, then outside fore/inside hind line up, then outside hind). You just shift the shoulders ever so slightly to the inside, and then the outside, and so on. This helps get control of the shoulders laterally so you can straighten, since most horses travel naturally with their haunches to the inside.

Tuesday 1/20/09
Ride again! Work on my position this time, using another exercise we learned (it is apparently from Sally Swift's Centered Riding, which I plan to get soon). At the trot you sit for 8, post for 8, 2-point for 8, post for 8, sit for 8, etc. When done properly, the horse should not change at all when you change your position. Once you master 8, you go to 4, then 2, then 1! This goes for all 3 gaits; you simply use a half-seat instead of posting for walk and canter.

Wednesday 1/21/09
Day off. Free longe the horses around the arena.

Thursday 1/22/09
Longe and ride. I will set up some cavaletti to longe over, probably just trot poles, and then leave them up while I ride. Spend lots of time switching between 2-point and sitting today, work on transitions.

Ride. I think I will go to a PC lesson this week. The Pony Club show is next week, so it might be a good idea to get some instruction. Since this will be the first Christy lesson since I discovered at the clinic that the mare can actually jump (and oh goodness she tucked her knees up and rounded her back!), I'm curious to see what she'll have us do. It will be nice to find out how well Pandora goes around a course, you know? She seems to know her leads well - I have not been asking her for them over fences, but then again I've only just started going over things that aren't X-rails. I don't feel she's balanced enough for flying changes, but simple changes should be fine.

Light ride. Chew over what I learned at the lesson, stretch out the muscles we worked yesterday, switch ourselves from H/J to a dressage frame of mind (which means transitions, transitions, transitions, and probably more shoulder-fore work).

Dressage lesson with Melinda. The lesson with her was I think the first lesson I took Pandora to. It was before we'd made some good progress, so I'm eager to find out what she thinks of the changes we've made. I am sure she will have plenty more for us to work on! I feel that I'm a lot more focused now - I've really established my goals and am consciously finding exercises to help me get to them. I've got a much clearer picture in my head of what I want and what I'm doing to get there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

January Week 2 Review and Week 3 Outline

The arena was in use so I longed her on the line instead of letting her run loose. She was good - the dragon peeked its head out a few times when she wanted to dig in and run, but she certainly didn't go bonkers. Had her hop over some cavaletti a few times. Smooth and easy, though I did have to convince her that yes, she really did have to go over them (they weren't exactly set up for longeing so it took some careful aiming).
I want winter to be over so my ponies can get some turnout!!

Had a decent ride tonight. One of those sessions where I can tell we're still doing constructive work, and we're slowly but surely working towards our goal...there were just no 'lightbulb' moments. Still, it was a solid ride, and we're making progress.

Lesson night. Pandora did pretty well. Lots of transitions to help keep her up off the forehand. When she had us do a lot of trot-canter transitions in a row, Pandora got really anxious - it was too much for her to handle at that time, and was making her more upset than it was worth. After I called a stop to that and we did some quiet work, she came back to me mentally. However, I really see the value of transition work in keeping her moving forward from her hind end, so I'll experiment with this.
We then spent awhile over trot poles, low X-rails, and a cavaletto. Pandora was fine, wanted to rush through the trot poles a little. Picks up her leads beautifully over the cavaletto, no matter which way we come in or turn out. When I wait for her and keep my shoulders up and back, she's great.

Chiro visit. Last time she was lots of 3s and 4s all over - most of that was gone this time, yay! A 3 in her right pelvis - there'd been some rotation but it released pretty quickly. 2's everywhere else - a little shift in the jaw, a little compensation in her neck, hip, and poll. Her only major issue (and it was pretty major - a 4 on his scale) was in her right shoulder. Something was locked up really deep in there, and it took him ages to get her to work it out. He speculated that since it was so deep and hard to release, it was probably a long-term issue that was present at the first visit, just masked by all the other issues.
In any case, she'd held her adjustment very well. The pelvis, shoulder, and slight shift in the jaw were the only returning issues - everything else was minor compensation for those. He was impressed with her condition and noted that her topline looks way better than last time he saw her.

Night off. I'd planned to ride, but I knew I'd ride hard in the clinic on Saturday, so I just let them run in the arena.

AWESOME CLINIC. Full report here.

Day off again - let them run in the arena. Getting tired of no turnout, but you get what you get in the Willamette Valley. Sigh.

This next week it's time for me to apply what I've learned. I've taken so many lessons in the past couple weeks that I'm looking forward to doing some work on my own.

Monday 1/12/09
Day off - I switched to feeding Monday nights.

Tuesday 1/13/09
Ride. Flatwork - work on my position and walk/trot transitions.

Wednesday 1/14/09
Ride. Same as Tuesday - position, transitions, spend some time cantering.

Thursday 1/15/09
Ride. Do some Thursday Torture - spend time in two point, stirrupless riding, and so on.

Friday through Sunday I will be at a Pony Club retreat in Corvallis. They're going over advanced horse management topics for upper-level PCers plus older members. I'm really looking forward to it, but there will be no riding over this time.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January Week 1 Review and Week 2 Outline

Rode for 30 minutes. Focused on what I learned in the dressage lesson - keep the outside rein firm, sit up, keep the forward but lose the on-the-forehand. In all it went very well, got some really nice trot work and the canter is getting better. Some clumsy steps behind, but she's due for a farrier appointment tomorrow so that may be part of it. 30 minutes riding time total, each of us broke a nice sweat. Good ride.

If everything in 2009 goes the way this ride did, things will be swell! We clicked really well tonight. I think she knows more than I've assumed (the whole time I've treated her as a mostly green horse), and now that I'm asking her for it, she's delivering. Much less leaning-on-the-forehand tonight, and here and there we got some steps where she was really pushing from behind. She gave me one beautiful canter depart, which is a Pretty Big Deal since previously her canter departs have been pretty rough. A much smoother canter today too, easier to ride, probably cause she's not pounding around on her forehand as badly. Again 30 minutes, nice light sweat, just a good solid ride. She felt really "together" tonight - we were just in sync. Moved off my legs nicely too. I'm excited for the lesson tomorrow!

Good lesson! We had an unmounted session beforehand focusing on conformation and how it affects movement. Quite enlightening, especially since we did some switch riding to find out how other horses moved and if our conformational predictions were correct. Interesting note - horses with training or condition issues didn't always move true to their conformation, i.e., Pandora tends to travel very heavily on her forehand even though her conformation doesn't necessarily predispose her to it, because she wants to snatch at the bit. The horses who have been consistently trained under the same rider and are in good condition tend to move exactly like their conformation suggests - interesting.
Pandora did quite well. A little anxious during the switch ride, but she still behaved, and gave her some nice lateral work. Take-home message: since she knows leg-yield and shoulder-in very well, use them to help her stay off the forehand. Need to half-halt with the seat more and the hands less to help her balance and stay. off. the. forehand.
Hopped around a small course of X's twice. She's calm and steady, locks on to the fences and doesn't hesitate. She'll be very fun to jump. I'm trying to get used to the feel of her still, and it was hard to keep her off her forehand, so there was some diving involved on the back side of the jump. Prescription: canter cavaletti/bounces and fences with landing poles.
Overall a great lesson, I was pleased with her and came home with some new ideas.

Lesson again, flat. I'll give you one guess as to what we worked on....staying off the forehand! We really got into it and I have a much better understanding of what to do now. She had me slow down Pandora's trot - get Pandora balanced and carrying herself first, then add some leg. A few times I was able to get some strides of light, springy trot after adding leg to a balanced trot, so I know we're getting there.
Stop worrying about contact/on the bit - don't let her tuck behind the vertical or dive down, but other than that, focus on self-carriage. LOTS of half-halts with the seat to ask her to not lean on the bit, then relax and allow her to push forward once we're there. Sort of like riding a teeter totter: slow with the half-halt till we're balanced, then move forward, then rebalance, then add leg...
She wanted to ignore my half halts and hands toward the end of the lesson, but it was an hour-long lesson and she'd been ridden four days in a row, so I think she was ready for a mental break! We made some good progress though, and I know what to work on. Ellen says that if we work on those half-halts and balance for a week or so, we should get to where we can add some leg and keep the balance in a bigger trot.

Finally, a break for the ponies. They got to go out in the round pen for about an hour while we mucked. Sadly, this is the extent of turnout lately - don't get me started. I hate winter. I love that she can behave while cooped up in a stall all the time, yes...but now that she's proven it, can we have turnout? Just a little?
Unfortunately the fields would be utter chaos if that were to happen while it's this wet. We just have to survive a couple more months, then they'll get to start going out again.
She'll get tomorrow off too, just some light longeing - Mondays are a long school day for me, and classes start again tomorrow. Woe.

This week will be much of the same: work on staying off the forehand, get a couple lessons, keep on truckin'.

Monday 1/5/09
Day off again. Free longe the ponies, let them spend as much time loose in the arena as possible.

Tuesday 1/6/09
Ride. Work on half-halts with the seat, staying in balance, neither tucking nor diving. Figure-8s are helpful!

Wednesday 1/7/09
Robin comes to give a group lesson at the barn. Not sure what she'll have us work on - probably lots of flatwork with a little jumping. I'll let her know what we're working on and hopefully we can just get some guided insight to more of the same.

Thursday 1/8/09
Longe and ride. I'll probably do some longeing over canter ground poles to help her with rocking back and forth, as was suggested to me in the Friday lesson. Then I'll ride doing much of the same: off the forehand, relax, off the forehand, balance, add leg, don't dive, don't tuck behind the vertical, balance....

Friday 1/9/09
Light flat ride, since I have a clinic the next day. Same thing.

Saturday 1/10/09
Clinic. It's an all-day affair: flatwork, a long lunch break, and then over fences work. I'm a little concerned about over-facing her, since she's not *super* fit, but I think if I let the clinician know what we're working on, she won't push harder than is fair.

Sunday 1/11/09
Day off. Free longe/turnout as much as possible, maybe some clicker work if I'm feeling creative.

This week will be a true test of my riding schedule. Can I keep up with this and school at the same time? We'll see!