Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August Week 3 Review

Monday 8/17
I had a lovely ride, 35 minutes. Working really hard on a systematic, clear progression from cue-horse response-reward/discipline. To that end, I make all requests light and soft, as I would expect her to respond to very soft aids; if she responds correctly, I immediately praise or pet her, while if she responds incorrectly, I immediately back up the cue with a stronger aid or correction (voice, tap of the whip, etc).
This has resulted in energetic upwards transitions and the best leg-yields I've ever gotten. It's so much clearer now: when before she'd always rush in trot leg-yields, now she understands exactly what I want. I ask, and if she doesn't do it, I tap behind my leg with the whip. She immediately goes sideways - while quickening her pace - and I relax the aid and praise thoroughly. Next time I ask, she instantly moves over and still quickens, and I praise again. Next time I ask, I remind her gently with my seat and hands to not quicken as she moves over, and voila, a lovely leg yield.
Definitely looking forward to exploring this more. Not all cues are as black-and-white, especially in terms of how to discipline for non-response.

Tuesday 8/18
Hot hot hot day. I gave her the day off.
We picked up a bale of hay from the boarding barn we're moving to, so we can start switching the girls over and avoid digestive upset. Less than two weeks until we move!

Wednesday 8/19
Another day off.

Thursday 8/20
Eh. I had a so-so ride. Rode for about 45, almost 50 minutes. I worked hard on FORWARD when I say, and I tried to work on bending left at the trot, but just...none of it seemed to click. I feel like we're getting somewhere but nothing I try is working on the bend thing and it's frustrating.

Friday 8/21
Okay, this ride makes up for yesterday's ride. 35 minutes and absolutely awesome. I did some "judge box therapy" setting up a chair with cones and flower boxes at the end of the arena, which was really good because Pandora always freaks at judge's booths. But mostly we returned to the concept of yesterday: give a specific cue that has a specific correct answer, then always either reward the right answer or discipline/correct the wrong one. I had to break 'left bend' down into smaller steps, using turn on the forehand, leg yield, and especially get correct bend on a walk circle then pick up the trot for a few strides. By doing this I was able to hold her in the correct bend, long enough to praise her so she knows what I want at least.
Also I realized I tend to lean to the inside when bending left, so being aware of that helped.

Saturday 8/22
Okay ride. 30, 35 minutes or so. Had a 10-minute short session in the arena, w/t/c, which went really well. Her canter is getting better and better. Lots of power, and now she is starting to be able to slow down again!
Then went for a hack outside. She was super fantastic going away from home - not spooky even at the great big pirate flag, trot/canter in the grass with beautiful downward transitions at a gentle half-halt. My mistake was when I asked her to do the same on the way home, where she did not want to listen to a gentle half-halt. It caught me a little off-guard, so I had to get really strong with her and spin her around. Very frustrating - I probably worry too much but I always feel like I'm undoing training when I do that. So I schooled some transitions, both going away from and going towards home, but I never really felt like I got through to her.
Should have known better as she's always rushy when going home. Argh.
Well, I know better for next time. I can trot/canter away from home, then coming back if I want to trot I will make sure to school half-halts first.

Sunday 8/23
Another day off. That's three this week, I know, I know.

Monday, August 17, 2009

August Week 2 Review

Monday 8/10
Rode for 30 minutes. Lots of walking and trotting - we pulled out a little bridge thing and it was a lot of fun to walk her over it, she was pretty suspicious but willing and got very confident as we continued to ride over it. At the end, I cantered her about one lap in each direction. Pretty uncoordinated, goodness! I just have to remind myself that her trot was like that when I started riding last week, and it should only take a few rides for her lovely canter to come back. I hope so. At any rate, her trot work continues to improve.

Tuesday 8/11
Mom got a lesson tonight so I did not end up riding. I am thinking about taking her to a clinic in Redmond with Brian Sabo in September. It's $100 more than the Inavale camp in September, but from a quick Google, he's pretty much amazing. A friend is going, so I'd have a ride and a buddy. Time to do a quick evaluation of the checking account, but I'm leaning towards yes.

Wednesday 8/12
I had a fantastic ride. I almost have my old girl back! W/t/c, almost 30 minutes all told. Her trot is steadily working its way toward the quality that it was before she went lame, although I can tell she's not in 100% perfect shape because she wants to lean on the forehand and because she seems to be slipping a lot in the hind end - dropping a hind leg here and there on turns smaller than 20m circle. If I put her together and make her work, the slippage goes away more.
Canter work is still fairly rough but a world better than on Monday. She felt like she actually remembered what to do when cantering with a rider up there! Still only did about a lap in each direction but it felt much better, and I got a few strides of her carrying herself without leeeeeeeaning on my hands. Good progress, and I'm pleased.

Thursday 8/13
Another ride. She was very good tonight. Canter much better - I hopped over one little cavaletto a couple times and she was definitely taking me forward to it just like the good girl I know.

Friday 8/14
Free-longed the girls. She got quite the workout, lots of cantering and galloping.

Saturday 8/15
Day off, I was in Seattle.

Sunday 8/16
Jumping lesson, it got moved a day earlier. By normal standards, it was pretty bad: really rushed a 6-stride ground pole line (though we did get one round of a quiet go-through), sorta blew through my hands to the base of every fence. But, it was her first jumping session in about two months, so I'll cut her some slack.
Instructor did show me that instead of sweeping my outside leg back to ask for a lead, which doesn't do much good, I should just turn the toe out and squeeze with the heel. Logically the aid doesn't quite make sense - shouldn't I push her off my inside leg too? - so I will explore it some more, but it worked 4 times in a row for landing on the left lead which she rarely if ever does. So, useful tidbit there.
Guess it's time to practice cantering ground poles again. We were good at it for awhile, and it's a good skill to have.
Need to practice my sitting trot. It was surprisingly good on Pandora considering I've never worked hard on riding her in sitting trot - instructor had me tighten my abs a little instead of allowing my lower back to swing loose, which I always thought you were supposed to do, but maybe I just need a happy medium. It seemed to work pretty well.

Monday, August 10, 2009

August Week 1 Review

Saturday 8/1
Longed her. I don't know, she seems alright, but just a little off at the canter. Maybe stiffness, who knows.

Sunday 8/2
First ride. Just walk/trot, lasted about 20 minutes. Feels weird to ride her again, very long, she wants to plunk around with her neck telescoped way out and level. I don't know, nice and relaxed I guess. While we're still getting into it, I'm going to let her stay pretty level like that.

Monday 8/3
Longe session. She was really good this time, moving out nicely, she even played a little at the canter. Of course the extent of her playfulness is tossing her head and taking a few leaping strides with a tiny bit of striking out at the canter, all the while maintaining a perfect circle and never tugging on the line. Silly girl. Still, it was heartening - she looked good. 20 minutes total, 2 minutes of cantering each direction, lots of trot and walk work.

Tuesday 8/4
Rode again, close to 30 minutes. Still just w/t. She seems really good. I'm running back into that wall again, feeling lost in dressage-land and wanting some serious lessons for guidance. Then I remember that it's the second time I've ridden her in almost two months, and I should probably chill out a little bit. Sigh.

Wednesday 8/5
Very light ride, just 15 minutes of mostly walk with a little trot.

Thursday 8/6
Good aerobic workout for her today! I free-longed the girls in the arena.

Friday 8/7
Day off - we were camping.

Saturday 8/8
Day off.

Sunday 8/9
Got back from camping and we were pretty tired, so the girls got free-longed again. Good workout though.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Back On Track

I hate trying to catch up on this thing when I've let it sit for awhile!

Let's see: the last month I completed was June, since she had the entire month of July off. So, first things first, let's do the June evaluation, then make some modifications to the July/August/September goals.

June Outline
More hard work this month. Attending an eventing derby clinic and then an eventing derby at Inavale on the 5th and 6th. Finals week is the 8th – 12th. Lily Glen Eventing Camp is the 18th – 22nd, then Inavale’s annual HT is the 26th – 28th - won't be riding, but I'm grooming. Basically just another month to keep pushing the envelope. We REALLY need to put in some solid dressage schooling.

End-of-month goal: Achieve a good BN-level dressage test away from home - to include good bend, transitions, and gaits. Develop the correct pacing for a smooth stadium round. Further develop towards a soft, adjustable, balanced gallop in the open. Push the height a little bit more, making sure to include lots of Novice-height (2'11) fences in the mix. Restore our ability to bend well. Jump banks into/out of water, given the opportunity.

  • Good BN test away from home: eh, not so much. My dressage is by far the weakest link, which bothers me. I have a plan, though. Not complete.
  • Develop the correct pacing for a smooth stadium round: Hard to say, since I didn't get much chance to do stadium courses. But, she did very well when we coursed at the derby, so I give this one a pass.
  • Develop towards a soft, adjustable, balanced gallop in the open: oh hell yes, this one is definitely a pass. I love galloping her and though we have a long ways to go, it only keeps getting better.
  • Push the height, making sure to include N-height fences: again, very much completed. I jumped all kinds of Novice fences at Lily Glen, and Pandora was a rock star.
  • Restore bendability: again, no pass because I haven't had a chance.
  • Jump banks/water, given opportunity: no opportunity :(
Okay. So, that's taken care of.

Here were my supposed July and August goals:
We will take it a bit easy the first week to give Pandora a break from all our schooling/conditioning/competing. The second week, we’ll pick it back up a bit, because Inavale’s Adult Eventing Camp is the 10th – 12th. Will probably enter at Novice level to help me prepare to compete at Novice in September. At the end of the month is a PC Mega-rating, where I will get my D-3. Considering getting my C-1 at this time as well, but there is another Mega-rating in September, so I may just plan to attend both.
End-of-month-goal: Be a solid D-3 or C-1 and feel prepared to tackle a Novice-level eventing competition. Schooling courses at 3’, beginning to really work on 1st-level dressage, totally comfortable in the open and jumping into/out of water.

A bit of breathing room this month before September. There’s a PC Eventing outreach program the first weekend, which will be a good XC schooling opportunity. Too far away to really set good goals!
End-of-month goal: Feel prepared for a Novice-level schooling HT, feel prepared for a C-1 rating if I haven’t taken it already.

So. Let's make a few modifications, since July was spent (hopefully completely) recovering from a lameness, and I'm bringing her gradually into work in August. I did pass my D-3 on McKinna in July, though.

August Goals: Bring Pandora slowly but steadily back into regular work. Include at least once-weekly walk hacks around the conditioning loop. Slowly reintroduce jumping before a lesson on the 17th, where I will tell the instructor that I want to take it pretty easy. By the end of the month, establish a level of fitness where Pandora is capable of a light XC session, a two-mile hack with lots of trotting, or a 50-minute dressage school without feeling tired. Maybe not to the cardiovascular galloping fitness of before, but to a comfortable level.

September Goals: Continue to develop fitness. Do a lot of gridwork, until Pandora is very relaxed about it. May or may not go to the Inavale eventing camp the second week - depends on her fitness and my finances. If she is still sound, we will head for the Mega Rating at the very end of the month and go for my C-1.

Of course, this all depends on her continuing soundness, of which I am far from convinced. I've longed her a few times since her prolonged bute-and-rest, and she seems alright, but yesterday she was just NQR at the canter on the longe. I can't tell if it's lingering lameness or just stiffness, but I'm not getting excited about any goals until I'm confident that she is staying sound.

Anyway, I will get back into my regular riding/training log now.