Monday, July 26, 2021

Doing Something

After my dressage lesson Wednesday, I had talked to my husband for a while about how to think faster and do things faster. He works with people on a variety of issues using conversational hypnosis. We went through some exercises on what I would be feeling or seeing as a cue to remember to sit up and ride. Obviously ideally I am remembering to do that all the time, but I struggle to remember both the course (or dressage movement at a specific spot) AND ride. I think the conversation really, really helped my execution of things during the lesson Friday. My friend and I roped another friend into joining us to hang out (and VIDEO!). 

As a side note, while I grew up taking weekly lessons from the time I was 8 until I left for college at 18, I have definitely not replicated that consistency with lessons since then. Holy moly, it is amazing the progress that can be made with regular, good instruction. This was just a month ago and we now have a totally different trot, canter, and jump. It's not that I didn't know this intellectually, but feeling/seeing it happen is totally different. 

We warmed up in our usual way, but we're getting more and more insistent on good transitions. JT said rather than thinking trot-trot-trot-TRANSITION-walk-walk-walk where you ruin the last 4 strides of the previous gait and first 4 strides of the next, think trot-trot-trot-trot-walk-walk-walk-walk. Basically, ride the motion of the gait you want from the second you ask for the transition. That way you don't spend 4 strides "recovering" from your transition. She said I was getting so much better with my upper body control in the trot-canter transitions, rather than throwing myself at him I was staying back and balanced. He still is not round through that transition, but he's much less hollow. She again was having me ride the first 3 strides of the canter as though I was asking for a medium. Together we have a bit of a tendency to slog along for the first few strides after an upwards transition, so she really wants to eliminate that feeling and make it a nice forward transition into a clean gait. 

Jumping we started out trotting a crossrail back and forth. The first two times he launched a bit, so we kept going until it was smooth trot to the base. A bit of over correcting from the initial exuberance switched to too lazy till we found the happy medium. At one point she asked me what I was thinking about as I was heading to the jumps. Uhmmmm.... I really couldn't tell her. More than 3-4 strides out I'm usually thinking about the quality of the gait and keeping him forward and bending. The last few? Something like "Uhh JUMP?!?" At the trot I do know what I'm thinking and sometimes even saying "1-2-1-2 or trot-trot-trot-trot" in order to keep the trot rhythm and not break to a canter the last stride. She recommended I think of something at the canter too (yes, that sounds like a good idea LOL), she said she counts 1-8 and then starts over again. This helps to keep a steady rhythm. I'm not sure if that will be my method exactly, the first try wasn't fantastic because I got to a long spot on 8 and went "8 JUMP!" Something to think about going forward though. 

We were doing our friend the 5 stride line in 6 this time. And y'know what?? I was sitting up, riding, and committing to it from the very first stride of the line. It wasn't always beautiful, first time through he jumped really nicely over the first but a bit big and we ended up tight to the second. But no one died and he didn't actually even touch the rail.  

Lots of standards in the way here, but you get the idea 

After the tight spot, I did a bending line to the liverpool. It wasn't the course she'd given me, but we did it REALLY well. 

I apologized for going off course, and she told me not to apologize. She said that the only things to say sorry for are chasing or pulling the last 1-2 strides before a jump and committing him to a bad spot because of that or repeatedly doing the same dangerous thing. Point taken

We looped down through our old friend of one stride crossrails that he did much better than on Monday and then put together a longer course. 

We finished up by going through the last bending line a few more times, making changes each time. I can't use up all my good video on one post though, so that will be a video for a later day! 

He was HOT afterwards even though it was only 10 AM, so I took him back to the trailer where he drained the other half of the 5 gallon bucket that he had started on before our lesson. He is a good drinker and I am super grateful for that. I hosed him for about 15 minutes under the fan, he drank some more, and then we headed back out to watch my friend's lesson. Someone was lunging in a Pessoa in the dressage ring behind the jump field and he was fascinated. Like stood there staring the whole time (5-10 minutes). It was kind of adorable. I haven't been around him when people have been lunging before, so I don't know if it was just the lunging or the Pessoa too. 

What is that?? Not alarmed, just very observant and curious

After they finished lunging and his entertainment left, he picked at grass a little bit and then settled under the covered roof with my friend and me to take a nap. 

So sleepy, worked very hard

MOM, stahhhp taking pictures of me, I'm napping! 

My friend who was hanging out hadn't seen him since we moved barns. She commented on how much we had progressed under saddle (not hard since I wasn't riding him when we moved) and how much nicer he was on the ground. He cuddled up to her a little bit at the start of his nap and got some sleepy head scratches. He's really, really becoming a very nice horse. He's pleasant to be around on the ground, just about loads himself on the trailer, and is becoming REALLY fun to ride as we install more buttons and he learns how to carry himself. 

Wednesday we are headed out cross country schooling! I can't wait! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Let me count the ways

Pivo fail this week? Didn't hit the start button on my dressage lesson this morning. Yep. Well done. 

Anyways, it was a great lesson. We had AWESOME canter work. It was a real, honest to goodness canter. I could keep raving on and on, and I guess I will since there's no video proof to toss in here.  

DT praised our walk-trot transition, but did note that he could stay even rounder still. He is getting much more soft more quickly when I pick up the reins. There is less fighting and bracing and more accepting the shorter contact. In the trot, we started with 10m circles down the centerline. Did 1.5 circles each direction so we kept moving our way down the centerline. If we hadn't gotten the bend correct we stayed in that circle for another revolution before changing. I struggled with changing the bend this quickly, so he struggled too. A few we got just right with weight back on the hind instead of flung forward into stiff shoulders. 

We took a break after the circles and then moved on to the canter. Right lead first. It had a few good moments, but a lot of moments of me pulling on the inside rein and not putting weight in my right seat bone. Left lead after a walk break, and it was SO GOOD. He was responsive and had his weight rocked back. We managed a few "collected" strides too. I was actively riding as well, asking for bend with the inside hand and leg, giving with the hand when he did, re-asking when needed, moving his ribs over with the inside leg, shaping the circle with my seat and outside aids. It really felt like it all came together. Both DT and I wanted to try the right lead again after that and it was much improved. It was still less consistent (and the left lead is not that consistent anyways...) but there were moments that were much better. He was done after that. I was amazed how much he was blowing after the left lead canter. This dressage business is hard! 

DT was saying she could already see the changes in his muscling happening since we first met her a month ago. 

He also was much more clever backing out of Ms. GY's slant load this time, he remembered how to turn down the ramp while backing and didn't have any moments of "UH... HALP... AM VERY LONG HORSE AND AM STUCK". When we were unloading at home, he tried to take a cheap shot at Ms. GY's horse's butt when he found he was conveniently pointed right that way. Her horse nails him on the butt pretty frequently, so it was pretty funny that he saw this as his opportunity to give it back when he couldn't face retaliation. 

Yesterday we trail rode around the neighborhood. We were racing a storm on our way back and so trotted part of it even though my intent was a walk ride. We were trotting merrily along on a dirt road when he went a bit sideways. I turned to see what he had spooked at and found a group of young beef cattle RIGHT at the fence line. They must have just been moved to that pasture because they were definitely not there the last time we rode past. Such a brave horse though, it was really a very mild spook for a whole group standing at the fence unexpectedly. 

The lack of quick thinking on my part during our 10m circles today seemed very much like my jumping lesson Monday. In both instances he is a baby horse so he is going to take longer to respond, so I have to have my shit together to at least be asking him at the appropriate time. I'm mulling over how to get this done. With jumping, I think my cue to remember to sit up and ride will be going over the fence itself. Focus on the next one as I am in the air. I don't know if this is going to screw up my ride to the first one or make me unfold to quick and hit him in the back, but as JT said, at least I'll be trying something!

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

I don't care what you do, but do something!

Another jumping lesson Monday, postponed only slightly by some afternoon thunderstorms that fortunately also brought much cooler temperatures. They had moved the jumps around to mow, so the fillers we jumped the previous weeks got a bit of a hairy eyeball as we walked out to the field to graze while my friend had her lesson. Fortunately he'd mostly gotten over it by my lesson time. 

Our warm up went really well, JT was pleased with the canter he was offering. To the right, my tendency to pull was coming out. "Everything you're doing with your right rein, do that with your right leg." Then I needed to continue communicating with him with my left rein with little tiny squeezes, not just letting it be dead in his mouth because that's when he gets heavy. We worked on going between a "collected" canter and a "medium" canter. It is actually starting to be a little eerie how closely lessons with JT and DT mirror each other each week. She emphasized that collecting was not tamping down the canter. The energy should go up instead of forward in the collected canter. She discussed how his back should continue to move in the serpentine shape caused by the gait and if I started to feel stuck in my lower back it was probably because he was sticking in his lower back and I needed to do something different. If appropriate, engage that motion again by engaging my core and softly closing my leg into contact. If that didn't work, then just freaking go forward in any way, don't let the back continue to be stuck and not moving. 

Jumping we started out with a crossrail, set with square wooden poles (relevant later). After trotting that back and forth a few times, we started a course with the crossrail. We looped around from that to a bending line. Uhm. Bending is hard ya'll. I have a distinct tendency to land from a jump and then quit riding for a few strides. Kind of a celebration. So the bending lines were not ridden like bending lines, they were ridden like a jump, a party that he felt so great over the jump, a moment of oh shit there's a jump over there, and then a crooked jump without the same power from a nice canter that the previous jump had. Ugh. This theme continued throughout the lesson - my inability to sit up and ride in the first stride (or hell, even first 3-4 strides) after a jump hampered a good bit of what we did. 

After the bending line, we rolled back to the liver pool. The first time we got an unintentional flying change! It was pretty cool because he has never offered these before, but I think as we're improving the quality of the canter, he is better able to do that. Even though he gave the liver pool a side eye because of its change in location, he never questioned that we were jumping it. This led to a bit of a party on my part after the jump and we rolled through our turn in a canter towards the line of 3 bounces, cavaletti - cross rail - cavaletti, that we've done in previous weeks. Definitely supposed to trot in, so I had to circle the first time to get the trot and then re-approach. The second time I managed to bring him back to a trot sooner than 20+ strides after the liver pool and we came into it straight away. 

JT loves adding grids in the middle of courses, something I've never done before starting lessons with her, but it makes so much sense and is really, really helpful. It's a check/aid to the quality of the gaits and makes Yoshi think about his feet again, something he is a bit inclined to forget. The cavaletti in the grid were rolled to the highest option, so the first time I let him drift left and he did one of those jump, but not really over the jump. The second time I remembered I have a left leg and he went straight through. The idea of having to ride in the middle of grids is totally new to me. I (believe) I was taught to mostly just sit there and let the horse figure their feet out. This may be true at some point, but at this point, Yoshi can't do that. The bounces go much better if I think "canter depart" for each bounce and help with leg off the ground. And he won't just auto-pilot straight down the line. If there is an easier option by sliding one direction or another, he'll take it. He just doesn't know that going straight down the jumps is his job yet and bounces are really hard! She was really pleased with the relaxed and forward canter he was offering us after the jumps and warned me not to destroy it (see above).

The next course was the crossrail with square poles, a 5 stride line to a bending 5 to the liver pool, to a right hand turn to the 3 jumps of the bounce, long right hand turn to a line of 4 crossrails all at 1 stride apart, then a right hand turn again to a bigger set of 3 bounce jumps. The first time through the last set of bounces I drove him down instead of riding the gait up, and he choked over the first one. I kind of thought we might die, but JT yelled at me to keep riding and legging and he recovered some what. We turned around and came back through and it went much better. 

The second (or maybe third) time through, he knocked the crossrail. While I will take full responsibility for the bounces above and the related line below, this one was him being lazy. He proceeded to come around the turn and jump REALLY nicely over the first jump of the line. JT had told me a few lessons prior that she likes baby horses either in open fronts or naked. He actually will cut himself on the inside of his opposite fetlock if I don't wrap or boot, so I waded through the million different open front options and ordered some. While I plan on addressing the interfering he is doing with the farrier (who is out today), until then, he gets to wear all the protective gear all the time. He was rocking the new open fronts today, which made the point of picking his feet up more apparent to him when he knocked the square rail. 

Screenshot from a video, don't mind the quality. I'll share the video when I get it. 

The 5 stride line was... repeatedly awful in the same way. I kept jumping in, not committing to either 5 or 6 strides and ending up at a loooong 5. After the 3rd time of doing the exact same thing, she got a bit more sharp than she ever has been before. Now, JT is, I'm pretty sure, the world's nicest person. She corrects and fixes things while still reassuring you what a good job you're doing. It is some kind of amazing talent she has to build up confidence while still correcting mistakes all along the way. But she stopped me and told me I had to DO SOMETHING. She said she didn't care if what I did was wrong, but continuing to ride in, jump the first one nicely, then sit there and not do anything in the middle of the line and get to a really long 5 was not okay and not safe. It kinda clicked something in my head and made me commit. The next time I chased him down the line a little bit, but we got the 5 with a normal spot. He knocked it because I'd been a bit too aggressive the last 2 strides, but it was still better than before, by a long shot (haha). The second time I rode forward the first three strides then could sit up tall and ride the canter into a better canter to jump out really nicely. We ended on that. 

I love how much experience he is getting even at this low level of 2' - 2'6" (maybe??) jumps. He's jumping oxers, bounces, fill of all kinds including the liverpool and some other fun things; she really knows how to train a young horse. Today she told me that the first two lessons down there she wasn't sure about his jumping style. But now, he's becoming a much nicer horse, one that we have shaped. She said it was adorable how we could encourage him to do something bigger/better and he would then go... "well, okay, if you guys say I can, then here I go!" She and DT are both in disbelief that he actually won money as a racehorse! 

While I was hosing him off after she was asking when we could come down next. Usually I'm the one to message her about setting up a next time, so it was a bit different. We're supposed to school cross country next Wednesday, so when I looked at my calendar later and messaged her, I asked if she wanted to see us before or after cross country. She said preferably before - ah hah, so we set something up for Friday. She didn't say, but I'm wondering if my repeated riding to a long spot made her question us going out cross country. Which is 100% fair, I want him and I to be safe out there, so whatever she thinks needs to happen I will make happen. 

Today is feet and a nice walk hack around. Wednesday is a dressage lesson, Thursday we'll work on a short version of whatever we did in our lesson, and Friday is jumping with her again. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

It's best to never do things with half an ass

Saturday I was feeling unenthused. I don't know why, but I still felt obligated to ride. Dummy. It's freaking hot, work is insane, Yosh has been working really hard. Why push it? Our dressage ride on Friday was kinda sucky too. He started out nice, I pulled more than I legged, he got frustrated, I remembered how to ride, we ended on a relatively good note. Just frustrating because we could have ended on a really good note given how nicely he started out. 

In spite of my lack of enthusiasm Saturday, I trudged out to the field and dropped jumps. Most went to crossrails, one was left a tiny panel as part of a one stride. I tacked him up, he looked just as excited as I felt. He actually didn't open his mouth for the bit. Not clenching his teeth or throwing his head, just sitting there with my hand holding the bit in front of his closed mouth. I hadn't realized until he did that quite how polite he usually is about taking the bit right away. Communication man, I just went on about how he talks and I listen, then this... 

Mild protest aside, we kept the warm up short, working on bending myself to the right so that he could bend too, it worked mostly well. The transitions were improved from walk to trot, and trot to canter. But I cheated. Both our initial trot-canter transitions were accidents. Asking for a bigger trot and bend with the inside leg and he interpreted that as a canter transition. Because I wasn't actually asking for a canter I was still RIDING through it and so they were nice. How's that for confirmation that it is my problem with the trot-canter transitions?!?! 

Once we started jumping, I... kinda rode... we worked on keeping the TROT motion to most of the crossrails. Counting the trot rhythm out loud helps keep my body on the right rhythm so he stays in the trot. Maybe a lesson to use even without the jumps. The one stride went really well. He eyed the way out the first time, but with much less commitment than he did in our lesson last week, and I was more prepared, so I rode it better. The 4 stride line... ugh. Complete failure to sit up and ride between the fences for time 1 and 2. Time 3 I finally got it together because otherwise I was about to quit since it was a me problem not a him problem, not fair to keep drilling when I'm the one that sucks. 

We had one horrendous jump over a log. I'm honestly not sure what happened, we came in in the trot and then something went wrong. He jumped it really well, which sent my lower leg flying. WEEE... it went WAY back to the point that I felt it touch near what felt like his flank. He landed and had a bit of a protest over that. He galloped off with his mild attempts at bucking. The gallop was impressive, the bucking attempts amusing. Fair buddy, that was not a nice way to thank you for jumping. I apologized, slowed him down a bit, reapproached with a nice canter, sat up, put my hands forward, and kept my eye on the jump. Much better. By that point I actually had the sense to quit.

Sometimes my mom is not the brightest... I am a good boy anyways

It's weird... that sense of obligation, of having to get things done works well for me with running. If I skipped my run every time I felt lackluster about things, I would run about twice a month and then after a few months probably not at all. Because if I don't log the miles I loose fitness, running gets harder, I don't feel like running because it is hard, and so on until there is no running. It works well for me with my job too. But this doesn't translate to riding. 

As far as I can tell, there were three good options on Saturday: 
1) Walk trail ride. Still building fitness, seeing the world, stretching our legs. 
2) Ground work. That thing I keep saying I'll do. 
3) Nada. Let the horse be a horse. He's a thoroughbred who lives mostly out. He doesn't really need me to mess with him 5-6 times a week to stay fit for our lower level adventures. 

And the type of fitness he does need? Yeah... not fair to ask him when I'm not all there for the ride when he is still at the point of learning it and it is HARD for him. I want it to feel easy, so I need to do my part. If I am not committed to being an understanding, kind, thoughtful guide that day then it's best to not even try. And if he says "hey, today I don't really feel like taking that bit?" maybe I should listen and change the plan some. Bareback hack in the field in a halter? Grooming? Massage? All valid options that still help build our partnership and would do much more for his enjoyment in his job. 

He got more than his usual one post-ride carrot and got some good wither scratches afterwards. Sorry kid, this one is all me. 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Passing Seasons

While the June wrap up didn't have as many big life changes as May, I have noticed huge changes in Yoshi himself over the last month. And not the type that just get documented in conformation shots. There's recently been a big change in his attitude and demeanor. He's relaxed. He's happy. He's calm. He is still a baby horse in that everything has to go in his mouth. But it's in a playful way now - halters and leads off the wall, my hat and coffee off the stool near the crossties etc. It's sort of a shift towards realizing he doesn't have to defend his space and his food all the time. I'd like to think he feels we listen when he talks. 

I think this change has two main causes:
1) Ideal living situation- turnout almost all the time with a stable herd, free choice forage, minimal bugs
2) Establishing our bond and relationship
3) Plain ol' time 

Obviously the living situation has been covered. It really is pretty ideal. The pasture is HUGE (7 acres) and has a variety of terrain and shaded areas. There are 5 horses total so while they generally all are grazing near each other sometimes two have paired off and are somewhere else. Sometimes Yoshi is still by himself. I'm not sure if that's something that will change over time as he bonds more with the others or if he has a somewhat independent streak in him. There is SO much grass right now that they don't need hay in the pastures. When they come in twice a day for grain they spend an hour or two inside under the fans. Often they'll all be turned butt toward the fan napping after they finish eating. Sometimes they get 1/2 or 1 flake of orchard grass or coastal hay in the stall, especially if they're staying in for a little bit longer while some get ridden in the mornings. 

In addition to the ideal turnout/stall/forage situation, Ms and Mr GY really care for him as though he's their own. Ms. GY does a once over and some body work on each horse before they go back out at night. She's noticed the change in him too and commented. Not only is he building muscle and gaining weight, but he's HAPPY. 

I think getting #1 right has enabled #2 to happen. While we worked on ground work before he was sound to start riding again, it still felt transactional. He wanted to know exactly how to get the treats and that was the end of his interest in the games. He would walk up to me when I came to get him from the field, something he only does about 25% of the time now, but it was out of boredom and desire to get food. Who wouldn't want to leave a dirt field with no friends? 

I had also tried to bond with longer grooming sessions, taking time figuring out where he did and didn't like to be groomed and with which brush. But it was like every time I hit a sensitive spot he'd put a mark down in the negative column and hold a grudge. And this horse is SMART. He picks up on things very quickly. And it seemed like I was being sized up as either a positive or a negative human. After a sensitive spot that made him angry he'd stay angry for the next little while and even spots that had been neutral were bad to touch. Now there's still a bit of a face when I groom in the girth area, but he forgives and looks pleasant again as soon as I move on. He's started to lean into itchy spots on his neck and shoulder and make those good faces for them too.

He's getting better about snatching treats. I can talk him into doing carrot stretches properly most of the time rather than just frantically flinging his face around and almost falling over trying to snatch the end of the carrot. He gets a post-ride carrot after I go into the tack room to hang up his saddle and bridle, but he is very polite about it, and if I forget to grab it clearly tells me with expressions, not by dancing around. He's always done what he was supposed to in terms of loading, leading, and working under saddle. My jumping trainer described him as "workmanlike", which is very on point. So there aren't clear changes there at this point. But it does feel like he is looking to me more for reassurance or confidence when he is unsure about something. 

He also has, without much work on my part, become very accepting of having his face and ears touched all over. I can even pick that gross ear debris(?? the stuff that crusts in the fur in the bottom middle of the ear) out without upseting him too much. He objects a bit, and then like grooming, lets me get back to rubbing on his ears. 

The final part is just time... Time off the track being a horse and time getting used to each other. As with any relationship we're learning what to expect and how to best interact with each other. And when expectations are known, horses (and humans!) seem to be much happier.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Dressage Lesson #3 - I coulda been a trail horse!

Dressage lesson number three happened yesterday morning. This time the Pivo fail was not having enough space on my phone to record the video. Some time soon we will get this right... 

It was just Yoshi and I today, so we got right to it. Today he did start out much brighter and with more push from behind, and dressage trainer was really complementary of that energy. I think that is thanks to our jump lesson and REALLY moving forward in the gaits. In continuing the parallel lessons, we worked on... transitions! Yoshi is pretty sure this is horse torture. 

She had us getting really round and even a bit deep before asking for the upwards transitions. I was instructed to "keep riding and bending" through the transition, the parallel to jump trainer's "don't throw away your hands as you ask". We also worked on the small trot, big trot exercise again, although this time she called it collected trot, which is so much of a stretch it's kinda funny. But that was the idea she was going towards, which makes sense. 

She had us start working on this in the canter too. First, she addressed my position and told me to put my butt down in the saddle and not let it leave. Shoulders back, lift up, sit bones down, drop femur straight down from there. Then we started working on collecting. Just a continuation of horsey torture. He was pretty sure that collecting a bit meant trot. Which gave us some very nice canter-trot transitions. I need to be more clear in my seat that we are still cantering. She said this should be an easier gait to work at, but that this was all going to be hard for him because he was a big, long horse, more rectangle than square. So the lateral work will come easier but the collection will be harder. Again, collection is used very loosely, we were basically asking him to go from his normal canter stride, which is around 13 feet I think, based on the pole exercises I've been working on with him, to maybe a 12 foot stride. Holy hell though, baby horse and I struggled. I think we struggled just as much 2 weeks ago when she introduced the idea at the trot, but I've already suppressed that. She had us shortening the stride and then moving to a 15m circle. Then we were allowed to go back to his normal stride and then back to the 20m circle. She also started to introduce the idea of a stretchy trot at the very end. Just across a diagonal and then we walked and ended there. He actually looked less exhausted at the end of the lesson today, I think the muscles we're using are getting stronger! I may be anthropomorphizing, but he seems to be enjoying the work as well and is becoming much lighter and easier to ride. It's so much fun! 

- Collect and extend the trot and canter (again, still using those words VERY loosely) 
- ROUND in transitions. There shall be no popping up with his head and hollowing his back. The trot-canter are allowed a bit more leeway, she said not only is he not strong enough, its a habit now, so progress, not excellence, is our expectation. The walk-trot should be held to a higher standard. 

Screenshots from the jump lesson

At the end I tried to unpack this continual turning left with my body when going right. At the halt, dressage trainer stood in front of Yoshi's face, about 1-2 feet to the left and told me to turn my body towards her, then the same thing when she stood on the right. It felt much more natural and easy to turn left. Turning right was hard and something in my shoulders fought it. I've been using my husband's foam roller recently for an exercise he does for his neck/shoulders/elbows - lay flat on your back with the roller along your spine (it's broad enough that doesn't hurt), then extend arms out with humerus perpendicular to body and forearm up/parallel to body (so a 90 degree angle at the elbow). Palms are up. In this exercise, with him visually checking, I am less flexible in my left shoulder, at least in this way. When I do abs exercises that are supposed to be straight up midline, I have a tendency to want to twist my body to the left (ie lengthen right oblique muscles, shorten left oblique muscles). So the left turn in the shoulders is, I think, just the final culmination of unevenness lower down. The right seat bone is also failing to engage and the left leg is not doing much when tracking right. I was struggling with the "put more weight in your right seat bone" instruction. I want to do that by tipping/tilting, which is incorrect (obviously).  Speaking to my husband he said it sounds like the gluteus medius may need to be strengthened and engaged on that side. So that's what I'm looking into now. I'll probe dressage trainer more the next time I see her. She did note that the weakness/slowness of the left leg, which she attributed to people being right-side dominant mostly, will lead to late changes from right to left, when compared to the left to right. She said if I fixed it now, I would be ahead of the game. I don't feel like there's really a choice to fixing it now, he is so clearly uneven and stuck when it comes to bending right from my inability to actually turn my body to the right. 

"The piriformis muscle is part of the lateral rotators of the hip, along with the quadratus femorisgemellus inferiorgemellus superiorobturator externus, and obturator internus. The piriformis laterally rotates the femur with hip extension and abducts the femur with hip flexion.[1] Abduction of the flexed thigh is important in the action of walking because it shifts the body weight to the opposite side of the foot being lifted, which prevents falling. The action of the lateral rotators can be understood by crossing the legs to rest an ankle on the knee of the other leg. This causes the femur to rotate and point the knee laterally. The lateral rotators also oppose medial rotation by the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. When the hip is flexed to 90 degrees, piriformis abducts the femur at the hip and reverses primary function, internally rotating the hip when the hip is flexed at 90 degrees or more. (Netter's Clinical Anatomy, 2010)" 

From this description from wikipedia it seems that the dropping the femur straight down with the toe forward, parallel to the horse, the piriformis will need to be relaxed and the gluteus medius engaged. I'm not positive that fixing that piece will fix everything above that, nor that it will engage the left leg, but I don't think anything above or below it can be right until I do that properly. 

Just a pig enjoying his kiddy pool

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

WW: Indulgence

When I last competed seriously in dressage almost 15 years ago, sparkly browbands really weren't much of a thing. But... now... times have changed. And I want in. On my plain bay with no markings, I feel like it should be allowed. So I did. I spent an excessively long time picking it out on equiture. Everything on that site is gorgeous.

No enthusiasm for his bling 

Poor hairless summer face

Monday, July 12, 2021

Jump Lesson #3

I tried to use the pivo to record this time, but it recorded our 25 minutes of flat work and then started filming the trees behind it. There were only two spots I could set it because it has to be in the shade or my phone overheats and shuts down. One was under a pavilion with thick support beams and it kept losing us and filming horses in the field behind us when we would go past a support beam. The other was in front of a clump of trees/bushes. It worked okay there until it decided that the trees were more interesting and in spite of being set on continue hunting, it failed. 

Lack of video aside, it was such a great lesson! I was a complete dumb at remembering courses, I'm going to blame still catching up on sleep from overnights and the fact that it was 90 degrees with who knows how much humidity. Other than that though, it went SO SO well. She said he looked even more connected and through than he had just a week ago. We worked on going forward into transitions. Walk-trot was pretty straight forward, if I maintained the connection he would step up nicely into the trot without hollowing. Trot-walk was more challenging for me, when trying to get the walk forward I was often chasing him back into the trot. She wanted the walk rhythm coming from my seat and scolded me for goosing him. Trot-canter was also more challenging, she didn't want me to build him up as much for the canter, she said that if I teach him that we have to "work up" to the canter then that is the way he will always need to be asked. 

(Apologies for the lack of horse/rider in half the video...)

We started out jumping with a one stride. Both jumps had some interesting filler that she said was actually the spookiest stuff she had. He didn't care about it walking up to it, so we started out by angling just to one side of the first jump and then going over the second. After doing that a few times we tackled the whole thing. He ran out at the second jump, I think a combo of the filler and the WTF do I do with my feet in here. I wasn't expecting it so didn't react appropriately. I did yank right hard enough that I knocked over the standard with my foot as he slid out though. The second time through he was wiggly but I was prepared and we got over it. 

We put a few courses together after that. The first jump was an oxer that we were supposed to be trotting into. Like our trot-walk transitions I struggled with getting a good forward energetic trot without letting him slip into the canter at an awkward half stride before the fence. It was asking for forward with leg, but keeping my shoulders up and maintaining trot rhythm with my body. She nailed me for letting him get heavy and flat before the fence. Shockingly this does not lead to a fantastic jump. After the first jump we actually got to canter all the others. I was doing much better at looking at the fences and actually making tiny adjustments to make it happen. I schooled over ground poles on Friday and struggled a good bit with striding then. However, the more I learn about HOW people learn, the more this makes sense - when an error is made it alerts the brain to pay attention to figure out how to fix it. So doing that Friday with lots of errors and then sleeping on it for a few nights was probably the best thing I could have done. Our canter fences felt very different from when we were cantering around little courses back in February. Then he was going because he's a good horse and that was what he was taught, but it was more so flinging legs around over the jumps. This has totally changed his jump over the fences. He is much rounder and uses his back rather than just his long legs. 

I am getting SO much out of these lessons. She's got such a system for teaching the horse and the rider, it really feels like each lesson builds on the last. First we established forward and bending within the gait, now our homework is to execute that in each transition (and she really does mean each... no finishing a course and falling into a heap of a walk). With the jumping, first we established forward after the fences, then we added moving around between the fences, and now we're up to actually cantering the fences which means moving in front of the fences some.

We're headed down next week for another lesson and then are going to go out cross country a week later! Ms. GY is going to come as well, and I'm excited to see her and her gelding ping around the novice and training questions. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

WW: Best and Worst of Florida

We're in the early part of Elsa right now. It looks like it won't be too bad here except for bringing more rain to already saturated ground. 

Ms. GY snapped this picture of us yesterday coming back down the drive from a short trail ride. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Even the best learners can only fix 2-3 things at one time

The really great part about the two trainers I'm now riding with regularly is they tell me the same things, in slightly different ways... 

Dressage trainer: Are you trying to hide your aids from a dressage judge? Make it happen! 
Jump trainer: Being soft and light but kinda nagging and not getting it done is much worse than REALLY making it happen with an aid that is very visible. THEN you soften. It doesn't have to be pretty, it has to be effective! 

Dressage trainer: Don't accept that trot until it is through and bending. 
Jump trainer: MOVE his shoulders, really make him move and bend and follow you, don't settle for pleasant. 

Dressage trainer: Sit on your pockets 
Jump trainer: Lift your shoulders up, be tall 

And so on. It really is fantastic though, their teaching styles seem incidentally very complimentary of each other. During my lesson with the jump trainer today she was very pleased with the progress in the quality of the trot and canter. Whereas last time she was commenting that she really liked Yoshi's attitude, this time she was saying that he was going to be a really nice horse. 

We worked on looking at the jumps, moving him and developing the quality of the gait between jumps, and moving my hands forward towards the jumps. 

1) Looking at the jumps - as soon as you start planning your turn towards it, look at the fence. Maybe a quick glance to make sure you're not going to crash into anything else, but that should also be done through your peripheral vision. Then keep your eye on the top rail as it disappears between his ears. Done with a lift of the chin, this definitely wasn't the bad staring at a jump that I can be guilty of. This was planning so that in the future I'll be able to adjust the striding to the jump. She said it was all a lie that if you had the quality canter the rest would come together. I think this is where my years with Zing spoiled me. If I got the quality canter and straightness, he knew enough to get the striding for us. Green horse? Different story. She also said staring at the trees way past the jump was not helpful to anyone. Fair point. 

2) Moving him around - last time it was just land and go forward from the jump. This time she wanted me to start actually riding him between the fences. Asking him to bend to the inside, lift his inside shoulder, move it out into the outside hand, and then bring him uphill with a half halt on the outside hand. When we got this right it was SO much better to jump from. 

3) Moving my hands towards the jumps - the boogey liverpool was the second jump we did this time. He'd been eyeing it as we flatted around it, so I rode pretty aggressively forward. He did it, but she wanted me to be able to soften more as I rode confidently appropriately forward (ie not rushing him off his feet). So shoulders back and up and hands forward. It felt a bit like a leap of faith moving my hands forward like that, but he went every time and went straighter and softer than when I was holding. She definitely knows green horses! That shorter reins but hands up and forward (less of a bend in my elbow) feeling should happen with every jump. 

We did 2-3 loopy courses again. This time we added in a bounce line with 3 jumps as a bounce. He did well through that, but on the same line we did last time of crossrail bounces 3 strides to cavaletti bounces, he about fell on his face through the cavaletti bounce. She had me fix the canter in between and actually ride the 3 strides instead of passively sitting there hoping he'd figure it out. And sure enough he managed it much better the second time. We also cantered a baby oxer a few times until she was happy with the quality of the canter and therefore the quality of the jump. Looking at the jump, I could tell our striding was going to be wrong the first time. I didn't want to rush him for the long spot though, so we both waited. It was definitely short and awkward, but I knew it was going to happen that way, which I think is an improvement. The next time the long spot was less long so we went for it there. She said he was almost toasted and done at that point, but really wanted us to get it, so we put together a good canter again and then finally got it right. It was a great feeling. 

I asked about fixing jumping ahead, which felt even more obvious when I did with the looking at the jumps method. I said it felt like I jumped ahead about 50% of the time. She said it wasn't that bad and there were other problems to fix first - the three listed above were what she wanted me focusing on for now. It was neat to know that she has a definite system to getting things done properly, something that I've felt is lacking in other trainers I have worked with. There was a plan that we are executing, step by step, rather than just yelling something different about my position or his canter or striding after each fence.

She wanted us to come out and have one more jump lesson there before she wanted us to take him out cross country schooling. I'm hoping to set one up next week and do a two lesson week again (dressage Wednesday, jump either Monday or Friday) and then take the next week off from dressage but go school cross country with her and my friend and her green horse. 

My friend didn't make it out this time, so no media at all :-/ I'm not sure if the pivo would work in her big field, but I may try it next time. Worst that happens is it films the trees for 45 minutes. 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

June Wrap Up

 June didn't hold as many MAJOR changes as May did, but we still did a lot of different things. 

  • 21 rides
    • 2 dressage lessons with a new trainer
    • 1 jump lesson with a new to Yoshi trainer in which we jumped a liverpool and a lime slice 
  • 1 interesting chiropractic session
  • 1 photo shoot 

  • Continued to stand on the sure foot pads once a week or so 
  • Introduced more stretches into our routine - stifle stretches and neck carrot stretches every other day
  • Worked on ToF and ToH on the ground... once... I guess it was a vague resolution to do better in June, and once is better than none ;) 
Most importantly, he seems HAPPY and SOUND. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Without video does it even count?

Dressage lesson take 2 - three lessons in 2 weeks! We're on a roll. After 4 hours of sleep (yay flipping from 2nd to 3rd shift mid-week) I hauled myself out of bed yesterday morning and we loaded up Yoshi and Ms. GY's horse. I went first this time, "driver rides first". I told the trainer the problems I'd been having - when I ask for the inside bend tracking left in the way I thought she had shown me, he was falling in more even with a lot of inside leg. When I asked for inside bend tracking right, we're getting the weird head tilt. I asked what unevenness I had that was contributing and she said that it was probably just him being green and uneven. Hrm, but J mare would occasionally do that same weird right head tilt. 

Once we actually started working, she noted that I was asking him to bend right with my inside rein, but going left with my body when we were tracking right; the same turn my right shoulder more to the inside that I was told the week before. Retention ya'll, I've got it. To the left, I was dropping my hand down rather than bringing my elbow back when asking for bend. Fix that, and magically, he wasn't ignoring the inside leg and pushing through it to make the circle smaller when I asked for bend. 

She has a pretty rapid fire way of teaching, and I think I love it. For us it was just change of direction after change of direction. No drilling a circle till it was perfect, but usually just one or two 20m circles then change direction and get it the other way, change back, and again, and again. For Ms. GY who was starting flying changes with her horse (side note, I've never seen those be taught, it was SO COOL), it was walk-canter right-walk-canter left-walk-canter right and so on (probably 15 walk-canter transitions in one lap around the arena) with an ever decreasing number of canter strides and walk strides. She matches it with her voice and her own energy level as well. 

She discussed the piriformis muscle as well and had me consciously feel mine and then feel tension and then attempt to feel relaxation. She said they are the flight muscle that is tensed before animals take off, so if I tense mine, Yoshi goes looking for what is about to happen. When I focused on dropping my femur straight down the change was instantaneous. Very cool. 

We did fewer trot-canter transitions this time and instead stayed in the gait for about four 20m circles and a total of a full lap around (circle at A/C, canter large to E/B, circle, canter large to A/C). I was NOT to nag him into staying in the canter by getting suckered into driving every stride with my leg clamped on "if you have to use that much leg to canter at all, how are you going to do half-pass or collected or extended canter?" If he faltered, calf on, then tap with whip. He got quite offended in his ears and his tempo the first two times with the whip, but he's a clever pony and quickly learned to maintain his own pace. To the left I was much too stiff in my right elbow. Consciously moving it with the strides helped to allow him to actually go forward.

After the canter we practiced slowing the trot and making it bigger. She described the slowing as a tin man with creaky joints that don't open well. He was VERY responsive to this and would break to the walk as soon as I did this. So we did it much more subtly and over 5-6 strides. This worked, but he definitely found it very challenging to do. Making it bigger was easier "now you've got really well lubricated joints, open your hips and release your thighs". Back and forth, each for about half a 20m circle. Introducing longitudinal suppleness. 

We're taking next week off from a lesson, but are going again the week after that. Lots to work on and think about in the mean time! 

Hopefully have something good to compare to in a few months with all this dressage!

He LOVES these balance pads. So much licking and chewing.