Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Short and Sweet

I took a couple days off because I am afraid part of why we had trouble last ride was that my legs were too sore and weren't doing what I thought I was telling them to do.

So, today I took out my mom-in-law's two horses and brushed them, cute bridle paths and sprayed their mane/tail. They seemed to like the attention. I put my three out to run in the arena in the meantime. After I finished with Turbo and Sparkles I brushed Thunder and put him back in his pen. I caught Dazzle, clipped her bridle path and chin whiskers with clippers, then caught Spotless. I clipped his bridle path and whiskers, then gave him a much needed bath. It was his first bath of the new year. And he looked like it. I let him dry in the sun while I did a ride on Dazzle.

I got on and track left to we were looking right. Whe was only too happy to trot so I went ahead and posted trot. Close to C I gave the reins a little and asked with my leg and seat position for canter. She cantered. We did a circle. On the correct RIGHT lead. We trotted after one circle and did it again in two other places. Then we changed rein and did it going left. I made sure I wasn't getting in her way. I looked up where we were going, didn't worry about her being on the bit, just focused on turning my body where I wanted to go. She did try to cut in a little, but not too bad. And she took the correct lead, EVERY time. she was even fairly light on the aids. She tried to canter a couple times when I hadn't asked. I had a whip, but never used it. We did about 3 circles of canter each direction, some trot diagonals, a free-walk diagonal. I just tried to stay out of her way.

Usually, I do the circle I want to canter at the trot first. I make sure she is balanced. I bend her to the inside, push her out so she doesn't cut in, ask for the canter. ANd she throws a fit and often takes the wrong lead. So, I wanted to test my theory I just tend to get in the way. She apparently I was right. She did great western when I wasn't in her mouth at all, and then today when I had contact, but wasn't trying to do anything in her mouth to cue her, so now I just have to figure out how to ask her to be on the bit but not get in her way at the same time. That's all...

So, we only rode about 10 minutes, but I got exactly what I was looking for, so I rewarded her with quitting. And a bath. Both she and Spotless are now clean, with tail bags, fly-masks, and fly-sheets. I really needed a good ride. The last one was so discouraging. Today I was sorting through pictures that had never gotten put in the right files on the computer and I look really un-impressive. They were from last fall. My leg is too far forward and for the life of me I can't fix that, OR my toes being too far out. It's the way my legs and feet are made. I fight against it every time I ride trying to sit properly. It makes me wonder if maybe I should let someone else do Dressage on her and just do Western on her. But I love Dressage, so that really isn't the perfect solution even if I could find someone to do Dressage on her.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dressage Day - First Time Through Tests

I printed out the two tests I'm going to show at the end of the month; Intro B and Training 1. I searched and searched and found the directives. I printed out arena diagrams and drew out the patterns to help me visualize them and memorise them. I read them over several times and then went out to school them as best I could remember. I knew the movements if not in the right order for both tests.

I got Dazzle, tacked up and hopped on. No spurs today, just a Dressage whip. Friday we rode with no spurs western and she was awesome. We walked around the rail, trotted, did some walk/trot/walk transitions trying to stay on the bit the whole time. She has a tendency to look shocked even though I've warned her with leg, seat, and rein aids before the change in gait. We got some calm transitions so we started the test. Intro B was first. We entered at A nicely, but she didn't want to halt at X so our down transition looked a bit violent. She then lurched her front end to one side instead of stopping straight and tried to walk off when I saluted. We trotted off pretty well. Tracked left. Did our circle at E. I was impressed with out geometry on the trot circles. Our diagnoal wasn't bad. Pretty straight, if not a steady rhythym. Our long-rein free-walk on two diagonals was really wobbly and she wanted to slow way down. We'll have to work on that one. Our halt at the end was straighter, but she still thought it was stupid to stop in the middle of the arena and she didn't want to halt on the bit.

Then we tried Training 1. We made it through the first trot circle then got to the part where you take up the canter in the corner. She took the RIGHT lead instead of the left. We tried again. She did it again. I gave up the pattern for a moment and rode her down to the center circle. She took the correct lead that time. We went back to trot and headed down the wall to try it again in the corner. She took th wrong lead again. I was getting frustrated, especially after how awesome she did the day before, so I trotted the circle at A until she felt straight and I could get the correct lead, then rode her to B and did our canter circle. She did the same thing on the 2nd canter circle. I was really discouraged, so I took her to the other end of the arena and made her work on the bit trot-canter-trot-canter until she did canter circles on the correct lead, both directions, on the bit. She did it fine there, so she must not like the something about the footing or something at the A circle. My arena is the corner of an alfalfa field and not level, so it's very possible it throws her off. Plus, my legs are pretty sore from riding so much this week after a month off. So I decided that maybe my muscles aren't doing what I'm telling them to and not cueing her like I think I am. So, it was very disappointing after the awesome western session yesterday. We'll get there, but I feel like I suck right now!

Western At An Arena

(Turbo at the outdoor tying station near the round-pens)

My two friends that have been boarding at my house moved their horses to a boarding barn across the highway that has a giant outdoor arena, an indoor/heated/sandy-footing arena, two round-pens, a hot walker, and a warm-water boath station. So, Friday they spent the morning moving all their tack from my tack-room and their horses to the new barn. In the afternoon, they came back and picked up me and Dazzle to come see the new digs.

Dazzle was upset that she couldn't see her friends and screamed like an idiot. I put her in the roundpen and she was happy there as she could see her buddies. I round-penned her a little. She was quite distracted, but walk/trot/cantered both ways. Ali and Melissa had round-penned Bayberry and Flash also, and then put them on the hot-walker. Bayberry went on first. She is an ex-racer so we guess she probably had been on one before. She put her head down and plodded along like nothing. Then, Ali added Flash. He tried walking on it backwards. Then he figure it out and followed Bayberry. Last, I added Dazzle. She waited until the rope pulled her, then trotted and stopped. Pull-trot-stop-pull-trot-stop. She finally figured out if she just walked out it didn't pull on her. Then she figured out if you stop and mule-stance against the rope the whole hot-walker stops moving. I yelled at her to walk and she gave me a You're-No-Fun look and started walking again.

After the hot-walker lesson Ali and Melissa hosed off their horses and tied them to dry in the sun. I tacked up Dazzle back at the trailer where my stuff was and she was not pleased to be out of sight from Turbo, Bayberry and Flash. She screamed, dug in the gravel, and finally reared. I yelled at her to knock it off. When I had her tacked up I had a moment of fear where I considered asking Ali to get on first, then decided she'd be fine once she saw her friends.

I lead her to where the others were tied up and she settled right down. I put on the bridle and my helmet and got on. She stood just fine. We went to the gate of the outdoor arena and opened it. The noise of the noble paneling scared her at first, but I assured her it was just a gate and we were able to finish opening it. Once in the arena she was great. I had a curb bit with a jointed mouthpiece and a fairly short shank. She had never been in one before. I was able to ride on a loose rein just fine. We jogged, whoa'd, turned on the haunch and forehand, jog-cantered, canter-whoa'd, everything I could think of. She took the correct lead even on the rail all but one time. She took her RIGHT lead when I asked for the LEFT. That never happens. We only rode about 15 minutes, but she was really good and it was hot and we were both sweaty, so I called it good. We opened and close the gate again going out and I took her back and untacked. She was again unhappy to be on the wrong side of the barn.

I took her inside the barn to the wash stall. She stepped in, heard the drain gurgle and backed out. She refused to go back in. The stall is plenty big enough to walk in, turn around to face out, and be put on the cross-ties, but she'd have nothing to do with that. So, I hosed the side she had half-way in and then that distracted her enough when I asked her to turn so I could do the other side she walked right in. I just held her as I figured being in the stall was progress and she's never been in cross-ties before. We'll try that again next time. After that she stood in the sun with Turbo and Flash while I took pictures of Melissa riding Bayberry. She was dry within half and hour and ready to go home.

It was a great ride and made me think that maybe by the end of the summer we might actually be able to compete in open schooling shows and have a shot at placing in western. Very encouraging.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Show Plans For Summer

I did a schooling show last Sunday on my old gelding, Thunder. My husband drove me and kept track of our places. Afterwards he announced I am not allowed to show open shows anymore unless I think I can beat the trainers/stuck up rich girls. I can only show Dressage. So, he told me I am to start taking lessons again and I can do two shows this summer. Then next year I show all I want, hit everything if I want, after this year of taking lessons often. So, the two shows I'm going to do are the two that are in town. Both are schooling shows. Nothing high-pressure. I'm going to do Intro B, Training 1, and Dressage Trail at both. Should be interesting and a learning experience. Last year she did one of the shows but I didn't ride her, Melissa did. They did an Intro class. So, we'll see how I do on her this year. I'm really nervous about it, but I'm sure we'll through it. If we make enough progress, I might hit an open show or two later in the summer. But I won't waste the money on it unless we're doing well enough I might place well. We'll get there eventually.

Other than those two shows, we're going to get conditioning for the Chief Joseph Trail Ride. I have paid my head fee and just have to get the balance paid off now. One of my friends is borrowing my father-in-law's gelding to ride it since he always works it anyway. So, Trudy on Sparkles, me on Dazzle and Alison on Turbo. Should be a blast. Melissa is going to work it with the rest of the crew. The ride is 5 days, about 20 miles a day. Not a race, but you still have to be in decent shape as does your horse. Dazzle will be earning mileage towards her Distance ROM with ApHC and hours for the Saddle Log program through ApHC. It will take four years to get her ROM in Distance. It's exciting to finally be starting on it. So, the beginning of our summer will involve hours of riding to get conditioned for that.

What are your plans for the summer? Anything exciting?

First Day Neck-Reining

I have practiced neck-reining in the snaffle a little every once in a while, using lots of leg aids to teach her to neck-rein. She was getting it. Today, I decided to try the curb for the very first time. Next summer when we show she will be 5 so she'll have to be able to use a curb for western. This summer we aren't going to show much, so it's a good time to teach it as there's no pressure.

So, today I tacked up western, fitted the curb bit and we headed out to the arena. She turned easily and stopped nice. Backed beautifully. Better turn on the fore-hand and haunch then two-handed with a snaffle. We worked on walk/jog and then jog/canter and then walk/canter. She took the right lead almost everytime, to the point I forgot she had a bad side. She tried to dive in some, but I was able to push her out with my inside leg. We got so light she was getting hyper. Walk/canter/ho. Canter/ho/turn on the haunch. Jog/walk/ho/back. She was getting really light. It was a lot of fun. Then we practiced side-passing over a pole for trail class. I'm going to work on that one. Find the balance for leg and hands since I haven't done it one handed before. She is really good at opening the gate. She almost does it all by herself.

Since we were learning new things I only worked for for about half an hour again. She seems happy to be the center of attention again. I hosed her shoulder and back, sprayed some of the winter dried-on mud off, and put on her fly-sheet and put her in the arena. She is living in there untill there is a dry paddock availble. She is SO happy to be wearing a fly-sheet and getting pampered again. Yesterday I had brushed really well, then hosed her off and put her fly-sheet on for the first time this year. She was hardly shedding today. That is promising. I hope she gets naked for summer quickly!

First Spring Ride

I rode Dressage yesterday for my first ride on Dazzle in over a month. First she got time to run in the arena, then I lunged her both directions and she was lazy. No bucking or anything. I tacked up and hopped on. We walked and trotted around the arena. She was good. We worked on trot/canter transitions. So took the wrong lead a couple times, but not too bad. She is way wobbly and rushed both directions at the canter, but that is to be expected after a break. It was pretty warm, over 60 degrees, which is the hottest it's been yet this year. Dazzle and I were both sweating, so I kept it short. Half an hour all together. She is trying more then before. She isn't throwing her butt in and out when I ask for the canter and I'm able to use my inside leg at the canter to keep her out on the circle. She likes to dive in when cantering to the right. Then to cool down we practiced leg-yield from quarterline to fence and fence to quarterline. She seems more responsive to my aids then before. This is good, just means I have to work harder on giving lighter and lighter aids.

Always Get Back On

January 28th I got a day nice enough to ride between snow flurries and rain. I tacked up western for a change and headed off in the field. Today was different for two reasons; I didn't have anyone with me, just my cell phone, and I didn't lunge first. We just headed out.

We walked and jogged to the far end of the field and I put us on a circle in the corner of the field to practice trot/canter transitions. She got mad and stopped, went up a little. I pulled her head to the side to short circuit her attempt at rearing and then kicked her forward to get the canter that had made her mad in the first place. She cantered. She tossed her head a few times, but didn't try anything naughty again. We trotted down the side of the field and did another circle about halfway down the length of the field. We trotted, cantered, trotted and as I asked for the canter again she started bouncing around and by the time I realized what was going on I was way off to the left and she was still bouncing and going forward. Crap. I grabbed for mane and ripped some out as I fell, I landed still holding the reins. She looked like she knew she'd messed up. Somehow my glasses broke in the fall. The right stem was barely connected. I bounced back up in the saddle and we went forward again. We trotted and then I asked for the canter and she started bouncing again. I short circuited her by pulling her head to the side, then kicked her forward into the canter. We trotted, cantered, trotted, did figure 8's with trot in the middle, and more circles of transitions. There were no more naughty moments.

I'm sure lots of people experience this all the time, but I make it a point not to ride naughty horses. Dazzle is usually good, but I pretty much always lunge unless I have been riding everyday. When she tosses her head or does anything that could knock me off balance I slow her down to a speed I can control better. At my riding lessons last winter I learned that I have successfully taught her to be naughty when she's tired or bored as I will let her slow down. I had never fallen off Dazzle before. She is usually pretty good. The big thing is that I have never fallen off and hopped back on with no worries and just determination in mind. I wasn't scared at all. We were just going to do what I asked. I wasn't angry, I wasn't shaky, no tears were rolling down my cheeks. I wasn't concerned about falling off again. I was ready for her. And it went well. I rode again the next day with a friend and she was just as respectful with no issues at all. We did the exact same pattern. Out to the far end for a circle, to the middle of the side for circles. She was a good girl.

So, I seem to have earned the respect from her that Melissa already had. It was very liberating. That's the best way I can describe it. I wasn't scared of her anymore. I feel like I can get so much further with her now that I'm not scared. I don't know what changed. Nothing that I can think of. I ALWAYS get back on when I fall off. But usually I'm weak and shaky and I will be scared the next several times I ride. It seems like that is over.