Tuesday, September 20, 2011


So I set up my camera tonight to capture some of my lesson. Obviously you only see us when we passed in front of the camera but hey...a lot of the work happened in the middle of the ring. :)

Lots of circles still and work on turning well and getting Kieran to move more off my leg and me to rely less on the reins.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Longing over Crossrails

Started out the day with a quick warmup on the longe, then asked Kieran to trot over a cross rail. He trotted right up to it, hopped over, cantered out. I was so pleased! So we went a few times to the left, then a few more times to the right (had to go a couple extra times because he went around the crossrail instead of over). All in all he did a good job. He mostly set himself up nicely and hopped over and didn't just barrel through.

And when he cantered around on the longe, he gave me a pretty nice, rhythmic canter clocking around whereas when I've asked him to just canter on the longe in the past, he tends to want to pull away and go reeeeeeaaaally wiiiiide. But not so much tonight! I think he liked that I was asking him to do something different.

Then I hopped on bareback and we did some walking around while he cooled out and did some more turns and circles.

So, what you're really interested in are the pictures, right?

First time to the crossrail:

Annnnd cantering out

After cantering in the second time around

Going the other way

Bonus...me making like I can mount him bareback from the ground (hah!). And yes, I photoshopped my rear to save your eyeballs.

Better bonus...the videos of him going over the crossrail:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pictures from tonight

A friend of mine came out to watch us ride and kindly manned my camera, so here's a few pictures. :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just let go

Tonight was fabulous.

Jessica was running late so we spent a while warming up walking. Just doing lots of turns and walk-halt-walk transitions. When she got there, we were going to do trot poles but then Kieran, as we were moving off, put his head down. And not in the "I want grass!" sort of way, but in the "hmm, I might stretch my neck out and reach for the bit" kind of way. And Jessica was like OMG HE'S DOING IT.

Thus went a several-minute segue into why that was amazing and there needs to be more of it and somehow that got us onto sidepassing (so we used the poles instead as markers for me to sidepass from the middle of one to the middle of the other, looked like this:



That was a slightly frustrating exercise so we broke it down to doing a turn on the forehand a step at a time so I could feel him move his hindquarters (since we're focusing on my leaving the front end alone and pushing his butt around where it needs to be). Still was a bit difficult and after a bunch of repetitions, we could tell Kieran was getting bored and no longer really even trying to pay attention so we moved on to other things.

Thus we went back to last week's exercise of trotting around the triangle, but this time Jessica wanted me to put my reins pretty much on the buckle and use mostly my leg and seat for the turns (I could lift the inside rein to encourage him to turn, but I was supposed to more or less stay off his face).

Something magic happened and Kieran's movement became freer, his head went down, and he really relaxed. Whereas, when I'd take up contact, he'd tense a bit, his movement wasn't as nice, and his nose would poke up and out a bit. Looks like I've got some work to do on how to hold rein contact, eh? Of course first I have to get it back, I suppose, since Jessica wants me to ride most of the time now with as little contact as I can get away with.

For instance, he was fine just sort of trotting around (relaxed, nice rhythm) on a loose rein, but when we started the "extend, shorten" exercise we did last wee, I had to take up more rein because pushing him to extend without it just leads to a very wiggly horse going all over the place and not sure what to do. He actually did better with the shortening bit with me using more seat than hand (probably because he knows "stop" so well and so asking him to shorten is an excuse in his mind to stop).

After we got some decent within-gait transitions going either direction (plus he was doing very well trotting around the turns, yay), Jessica had us canter. Again, more on the rail (but not completely) and same idea, canter around, and at a certain point, push him forward (which mean push with seat, push with legs, and even lower my hands and push them forward a bit), then ask him to come back and around the next turn, easy easy easy\ to get a smaller canter.

We decided he likes doing the bigger cantering, LOL. He was totally down with that. And of course, after he was all, "yay!" we went back to more trotting. Same exercise as before and this time it was much better because he was so perky all of a sudden. And then we asked for that one final "shorten trot, plz" and he gave me (and I totally get what people mean by when they say their horse gives them something because he really did tonight) this lovely little jog that was still forward and just...perfect. On a loose rein, relaxed. There was half a moment where he thought about stopping and I just pushed a little and instead of how he usually jolts forward then, he just kept the same little jog gait. :) Such a nice note to end the lesson on!

Actually, I didn't push him forward so much as do something magical with my body that I can't even verbalize or figure out yet that told him to stay right there. I wish I could because it totally worked and was amazing!

So takeaways:

Just let go of the reins. We really do have to spend a lot of time just going around letting him put his head down to his knees if he wants. Not only is it helping him relax, it should help him build his topline more too.

We'll probably start doing warmups where we do a bit of walking and circles, a couple of trot circles, then do the cantering/handgallpy bit to get him keyed up, then go into the work. Since that's something he finds fun, we'll give him a bit of fun at the beginning of the lesson so he's not having to slog through all the stuff he finds boring to get to the good stuff. Especially since he tends to go so much better after. Jessica also said in general we looked better. Not just him, but me too, and how we were communicating with each other.

I can't explain how it works that way, but it does. I guess we just both relax a bit more after having a fun canter around the ring. :)

So yeah. I'm supposed to work on turns on the forehand, that trotting exercise, and cantering/handgalloping him. Woo. And keeping my reins as loose as I can let them go.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Had my lesson tonight, we were already warmed up by the time she got there so Jessica had us start with showing her some walking circles since I said I'd worked on them since last lesson. They still weren't pretty (and one day I will get someone to video!), but they did at least feel better than last week. Mostly because Kieran just felt a bit more forward so it wasn't like he was just dragging himself around. Jessica said it looked like he was using his back end properly one stride in three (so...room for improvement, hah)

Once we'd done a bunch of circles in both directions, she had us do the same thing but at a trot (remembering to keep a steady rhythm). The rhythm part was actually much easier this week. Kieran was definitely "with it".

Then we added a new element. We had three barrels set up in a big triangle. So Jessica had us start trotting around them (so, not on the rail, but not inside the "barrel territory") and when we rounded a particular barrel (still remembering the circles! even though this was technically just part of a circle) I was to start pushing him forward with my seat and legs on every down beat of my post...not to get him to go faster, but to get him to move into a more extended trot. Took a couple of repetitions and then she was like, "YES THAT!" and I was like, "what? He didn't move any faster?" but it was bigger which was the point and when we did it again, I felt that.

So, by that point, he was starting to think about anticipating the barrel we'd ask for him to extend at so she has us go around again, but this time she said when I went around that barrel, to think about half halting with my outside seatbone and outside rein and think "easy easy easy, wait wait wait" and then on that side of the triangle, ask for a smaller trot, almost a jog.

The first time, he thought "eeeasy" meant "brakes!". The thing he's good at is stopping...and he's actually pretty good about doing it from his hind end instead of falling all over his front end when he stops. But I managed to push him forward before the brakes fully went on so suddenly he was pushing off from his hind end and we got a really nice little trot out of him. :)

Then we had to do it all going the other direction. (and remember those circles when you go around turns!)

We rounded out the lesson with a bit of cantering and here Jessica said if we needed, I could go more on the rail instead of just staying around the barrels). But the idea was the same...get a nice forward trot going, then sit and ask for the canter. The first time, we just cantered once around both directions (and no snarky kicking out this time when I asked for a left lead canter!).

Then we went back to the right lead canter and Jessica said, "now when you come around the turn heading toward the gate, I want you to sit back a bit more and push with your seat and legs and get him to really move out". We found another gear! Pretty exhilarating, actually.

Back to the left lead and going that way, I asked him for the extra gear going away from the gate, but still got it! He was fairly tired by that point (so was I!) even with several walk breaks but he still was willing to give it to me.

I did have some issues with my feet sliding through the stirrups while cantering (they'd end up shoved "home" instead of on the balls of my feet) but Jessica said I was keeping my hands where they were supposed to be and my butt was where it was supposed to be and my legs weren't flailing around so she didn't stop me. I just...I guess I tense up or something, but I have a really hard time with my leg sort of drawing upward when we canter and then the stirrup goes wherever the heck it wants.

We also talked about me having to remember keeping my calf on and weight in my heels (in general, not just at the canter) which is something I know, but it's good to be reminded of. I like that she reminds me of the things I need to fix with me, but we're focusing a lot on getting Kieran to use himself better and be fitter. And he definitely seemed more interested this week than last week (whether that's the improved weather or he likes that we're doing something instead of random moseying, I'm not sure, but I'll take it!).

So, good lesson! Kieran got peppermints afterward. :)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When did Fall happen?

So today it was unseasonably cool. If this is a preview of what Fall will be like, all I can say is, "moar plzkthx". I half-expected Kieran to be full of beans today and snorty but actually he was really mellow and willing to listen. I put him on the lunge line first, just to gauge how responsive he'd be and he was really good so I hopped on and we worked more on the homework from our last lesson.

We were supposed to have a lesson tonight, actually, but Jessica got held up and wasn't able to make it so we've rescheduled for Thursday evening. Too bad, because it probably would have been amazing but oh well, we got a good ride in. Lots and lots of circles (both on the rail and off, big and small) and working on that rhythm at the trot and getting him to pay attention to how I change my posting rhythm.

We do need to have some remedial "stand at the mounting block" class though as he likes to stand stock still until I start to get on the block, then swing his butt away or take a few steps. Today instead of just sighing, getting down, and repositioning the block, I growled at him and gave him a smack. Only took two repetitions before he stood for mounting.

Of course, I got off to open the arena gate and went to get back on so we could do our cool down walking around the farm and he got shitty about standing again so we repeated and when he stood, I just stood on the block for a minute and patted him and told him good boy, that's what I want. We'll see if it sticks. I anticipate a few rides where what we do mostly is me getting on, riding around, getting off, getting on, riding around, getting off, getting on...


But other than that, nice ride. He seemed more engaged today so that was nice, too. Maybe it was just the cool weather. I know I feel more interested in work outside when the weather's nice than when it's all hot and icky.