Friday, February 26, 2010

Wednesday night was AWESOME!

So I went into my regular lesson on Wednesday night after talking with Christina about how the lesson went on Tuesday and what my impressions were and what we did. She also viewed the videos and such.

Started the lesson with warming up and she had me do a couple of exercises out of this Yoga for Riders book (I don't think that's the title but I don't remember specifically what it was called) she just got. At one point I said, "good thing he's not spooky, because if he did take off, I'd have NOTHING holding me on". I had my hands up over my head and both legs pulled up a little and out at the knee.

I discovered doing that very exercise there's a catch in my right side that doesn't seem to be in my left as it was much easier to do on the left than the right.

After that, we worked on cantering. (and yes, I was carrying the dressage whip tonight. Didn't have to use it, it's mere presence helped) My thing with the corners and waiting till he had a "nice" trot to ask Christina pointed out was because when we first started working on this with him, we kind of had to do that, he wasn't balanced enough otherwise to manage but now he seems like he CAN do the canter from anywhere in the ring, so long as I'm ready to ask for it. So she had me trot him around and whenever I thought it felt good, to sit and ask and do it like we did on Tuesday, keep after him until I get it (and keep after him to ensure he stayed in gait).

It was SO much easier to get the canter and stay in it, not perfect, but definitely easier. We started going his "good" way and the first time, he broke gait. The second time I asked him was really nice and Christina told me to make him stop. She said, after I had him stopped, it was so nice she wished she hadn't, but she wanted me to make him slow down without him deciding he wanted to. Then we worked at getting it back. We actually managed to canter more than one whole way around the ring and it felt like he would have kept going with very little effort on my part.

Going the other direction was harder but not hard. It's obvious that it's more difficult for him that way and when we finally got something going, he kind of slipped and that ruined our momentum. Still, we got a good canter going both directions and after that I was like, "I kind of just want to end the lesson here, he did SO well." We didn't end it, but we did back off cantering and do some trotting with the idea that I'd use my leg to push him over to the wall and deep into corners instead of using my outside rein to pull him over (thus having him counterbent). I had a pretty hard time with that so we slowed it down and did it at the walk. Next time I ride him, we'll likely revisit it at a walk and then at the trot. Christina said actually for something like that, pushing him with my inside leg, it's okay to keep a steady pressure instead of bumping him and once I did that it was easier.

She also pointed out that it seems every time she's seen me cantering him, he's been picking up the correct lead, so that's a good thing! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Riding, the weekend, and dressage!

Ended up not riding last Thursday. I did go up to the farm but got all distracted talking to Christine about an upcoming wine tasting the rescue is hosting and other news related to the farm. And then I got invited to stay for dinner. And then I stuck around to keep Christine company while she fed medication to a couple of horses. And by that point it was late (after 9) and cold and I just wasn't motivated enough to trudge out into the big pasture to fetch Kieran in.

Didn't ride Friday either, didn't even go to the farm.

I did, however, ride on Saturday!

Kieran's brains were, indeed, back, and he was a good boy. He'd motored around the ring that morning for a student in a lesson (they just did a lot of walking with some trotting thrown in) and I rode him in the afternoon. We did a lot of transitions. Halt, walk, halt, trot, walk, halt, back up, walk. That sort of stuff. I was pretty pleased with how it went.

Sunday, I didn't ride, but he ended up going in two lessons and even though neither was much work for him, I still let him have the break. I did mount him bareback in one of the lessons because halfway through they took off his saddle and Christina wanted the rider (an older lady) to ride without it and get a feel for what that was like but even with the mounting block, she wasn't really getting how to mount so Christina had me demonstrate getting on and off.

He also went for a ten year old girl and was very good for her too. :)

Last night, Hilary came up to the farm to teach me on Kieran there. Everything below is copied and pasted from where I posted about it on a forum I frequent because I didn't see any point in redoing it but wanted to save it here for posterity. There is also video!

The post can be found here, lots of people gave me good suggestions so I want to save the link too!


Okay, so tonight was my second lesson with Hilary, the dressage instructor. The first time I went to the farm she teaches out of and rode one of the school horses. This time, she came up to GG and taught me on Kieran. Before the lesson began, she asked me what I wanted to work on with him and I said we'd been working on, for instance, the intro USDF tests (which we spent the first lesson on so she really already knew that) as well as just generally getting Kieran more balanced and doing transitions and, lately, trying to get a decent canter transition. Usually that means we try and get one short transition both ways before we move on to other stuff.

I thought that meant we wouldn't work on the cantering thing much but we did quite a bit more than I expected, but I think it was beneficial. But I'll get to that.

The first thing we did was she asked me to think about what I'm actually doing with my body when I ask for a transition down and to tell her what that is. I told her, since I was walking at the time, that with Kieran I usually exhale and squeeze my buttcheeks and then tighten the reins to ask for a halt and she said that was right and then we talked about half-halting.

Normally, when I've heard it described, it's about kind of pushing with your seat, squeezing with your legs, and holding the energy with your hands. Or something like that. I've never felt like I really did a "real" half halt but I think I was making it more complicated than it was and trying too hard. Hilary described it as doing that same halt transition....almost. Basically, doing it but relaxing my body before he actually halts and then pushing him forward. So we tried that, and talked about how to use a half halt to rebalance (and later she talked about it sort of as something to do in those stretches of a dressage test where I might be tempted to let my mind wander because "oh, we have until whatever letter before we have to do something new so I'll just sort of mosey along till we get the-....dangit, we're there, turn!" If that makes sense). Then she had me do downward transitions from trot to walk, then half halting at the trot which I had to figure out how to do it all in that instant where I'm on the downbeat of a post but once I got it, I could really feel Kieran almost sort of hesitate for an instant before moving forward again. Not breaking gait or anything, I don't know how to describe it well.

The way I ended up describing what I was doing to Hilary (becuase she made me imagine I was also standing in the center of the ring as the instructor and telling myself what to do) was really sitting deep when I come down on that beat, tightening the reins, but squeezing with my legs to make sure he doesn't stop.

Once we'd done this, we talked about transitioning up into the canter. We also discussed how Kieran tends to anticipate, once we've started trying for the canter, he'll lunge into the really fast trot in certain corners he thinks I'm going to ask "go faster" again, and then I usually feel like I have to bring him back down, or circle him, getting him back in a nice trot before we can ask again. What she suggested was doing exactly opposite of what he expects. So if he's plugging along thinking I'm going to ask to slow down, really pushing him harder to go faster in the gait. If he anticipates me asking him to go faster, ask for a walk instead.

So she had me start trotting him and really pushing him for a faster trot before sitting and going for a canter. Usually, once we get it, he does a stride or three and then it's really hard to keep him going and he drops back down into the fast trot and I usually let him (even bringing him back into a more even trot) and wait until we're in a "good" corner (heading into a long side) before I ask him to canter again. Hilary had me instead, if he went down back into a trot, keep after him until he cantered again (basically pretend like he never cantered) and said if he was going along nicely, he got to get the easy transition out of a corner, but if he dropped back down before I was ready, he'd have to do it wherever it was, and didn't get a free pass to just decide when to slow down. Make it harder for him to go back to a trot than if he'd just cantered a few more strides till I asked him to come down on my own.

Anyway, she had me start out by just getting a few strides out of him, then a few more, then half the ring at a time until we did that both ways. I mentioned it felt easier to get him to do the transition this way (still isn't pretty or "easy" but easier than in the past) and she mentioned it's kind of like if you woke up in the morning and someone told you you'd have to walk 50 miles that day. You wouldn't feel like you could do it or be motivated to get it done. But if they told you instead you only had to go down to the mailbox, that would be much easier and you'd get right on it. Also something about just like a long distance runner has to build up to that distance, you can start with just doing a little and then increasing it. I think previously, even though I know my regular instructor and I are "only working on the transition" and she stressed I only had to get a few strides out of him, I still had it in my head that I'd have to get him to canter all the way around the ring, for instance.

That was the bulk of it, I think, as I remember it.

Oh, she also talked about making a checklist of the things we've talked about so I can keep it in mind for when I'm riding on my own. So like. Do up and down transitions each way. Remind myself of "how" I'm doing the transition. Do half halts (or do like walk -> halt -> walk-halfhalt-walk -> halt). Remember to mix things up so Mr. Horsey doesn't anticipate what I'm asking. (Like, something I pointed out was that I tend to grab a bit of mane when asking him to canter so I wouldn't accidentally jab him in the mouth while we're still working this out. She suggested -- and had me do -- things where I'd trot, grab mane, then ask him to walk so he'd stop associating that with me asking him to canter.).

Okay, now I think I've covered the bulk of it.

We didn't really spend a lot of time talking about me and my position and I'm kind of cringing while I'm watching these videos (I also felt all over the place while I was doing the canter bits in the lesson but my videographer says I wasn't as all over the place as I felt).

Anyway, suggestions welcome. Flames, not so much, but I'll put on the flamesuit if I have to.

And yes, there's lots of little videos. My camera was apparently acting up and she couldn't get more than one semi-long stretch at a time (and the stretch she did isn't terribly exciting) but several of the others show us going into a canter.

Heeeere we go!

Let me know if the videos showed up right, they're acting up for me, but there should be six.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A few lessons learned

I had a whole huge post written up about the ride (very short) I had on Monday but Blogger ate it and I don't feel like re-doing it so I shall, instead, sum up.

Monday I was dying to ride in the deep snow, because I never have, and it always looks like fun. I learned a few things from the experience:

  1. If you're going to ride in deep snow, do so right after it falls and is still powdery. Waiting till it's been sitting around a week and is now heavy and crusty on top is not a good idea.
  2. It would behoove you to check your tack before riding lest one of your reins break while you're stranded out in the middle of thigh-deep snow.

Thankfully, my horse is a saint and I hopped off and I slooooowly trudged back through the snow to the beaten down path the horses had made in the field, ignoring the look Kieran was giving me of, "Mom, you're an idiot, but see, I still take care of you." I probably could have gotten away, in hindsight, with just gathering up both reins, grabbing some mane, and sending him back toward the gate, as I highly doubt he would have run off with me or otherwise taken advantage but at the time my first reaction was to hop off.

That was the only ride he'd really had at all since two weeks from yesterday and it hardly even counts since it lasted all of two minutes and I wasn't really asking him to do anything besides plow through snow.

So last night was my lesson, and it was to be an hour long (instead of the usual half-hour) so we could make up for missing last week due to the Snowpocalypse. It turns out...Kieran really can't go that long without being ridden as his brains fall out and he gets lazy. He didn't get stupid or crazy though so I can't be too hard on him. ;) Though we did try cantering a bit and then he'd start anticipating and getting fast so he is now going to learn that anticipating and getting fast means he has to do circles until he slows down and gives a nice trot.

But since he wasn't all there, we didn't ask him to work too hard on anything that required much thought from him. Christina instead told me to drop my stirrups and started telling me things to do as I rode around the ring. "Turn right at A, do a 10 meter circle in the corner, posting trot coming out of it, now a 20 meter circle at B, then a free walk at F across the diagonal..." Uh, you get the idea. :) Ow, my thighs.

Planning on going up to ride him tonight and we'll see if his brains have come back. He did, at least, stand perfectly for mounting. (almost perfectly, he started thinking about walking off as I was getting my feet in the stirrups but stopped when I said whoa).

Friday, February 5, 2010


So for the first time in quite a while, I rode a horse other than Kieran in my lesson the other night. Kieran, you see, had just had his teeth done earlier in the day so he got the day off in case his mouth was sore.

So I rode Dobbin, a Belgian cross gelding who is built like a tank but smaller than my guy (barrel-wise and height-wise and stride-wise). Nice guy, a bit further along in his training than Kieran is (his canter departure is more reliable), but he's not as fit as Kieran is (he just came to the barn not so long ago and hadn't been ridden for months before that). Anyway, by the end of a half-hour lesson, it was obvious he was pooped.

But before that...OMG it felt so weird riding a different horse (and in different tack than I've grown accustomed to). His stride felt all wrong and his trot felt all wrong (and don't even ask me to sit it, it isn't pretty. Plus Dobbin hasn't really learned about rating his gaits so he doesn't really "get" slowing down the trot. He thinks if you say slow down you want a walk). Eventually, I got the hang of it, and we even cantered a little bit before he got tired.

It was definitely a good thing to ride a different horse but I really missed riding my boy. :)