Catching Up

February 19, 2010

Here are some pictures of us training at Cheryl's
Rogo is a soon to be 5 year old (April 2005) Canadian warmblood gelding who I'm training in classical dressage. Rogo is a son of the German Hanoverian stallion Rotspon (very strong dressage background) out of Gemma, a Hanoverian / Thoroughbred cross (by Godewind, from the Gotthard line; a jumping background).
I use the term classical because I want to be clear that we don't use rollkur, hyperflexion, or any similar techniques.
I rode all through my teens, didn't ride for 30 years, and started riding again 4 years ago. This is my first experience in training a horse and it is the most exciting and rewarding (and at times scary) thing I've ever done. Luckily I'm supported by two wonderful teachers who make it possible for me to train a young horse. More on them later.
Rogo's been in training for about a year now, but we've missed a lot of time due to unavoidable circumstance. Because of a shoulder problem I had in the fall I couldn't ride and we lost about three months in that instance. I've been riding him again since Dec., but it's taken a lot to get him back where he was. Also, me being new to training, it takes us a little longer sometimes than other horse and rider combinations might take.
We didn't start cantering under saddle until Christmas time. That is soooo fun and going quite well, although he hasn't come along as well to the left as he has to the right. We're going to work on the left on the longe line a little until he's feeling more confident and balanced, before going back to cantering large. He picks up the correct lead just fine, and will hold the canter except going past the door of the arena. It's a catch 22 - I can't quietly support his natural rhythm and balance when I'm trying to push him forward all the time, but he isn't ready (or willing yet?) to stay in it on his own with light support. It's become somewhat of a bad habit, but also he isn't feeling as confident about turning in that direction.
Now I'm remembering why I decided to start a blog about this - it must be gut wrenchingly boring to almost everyone (or everyone). Writing it down will be an outlet that no one will have to listen to!
My current goal is to get him to pick up a working trot with ease 50% of the time by the end of Feb. You'd think he'd have that long ago, and he did, but after the three month lay off he decided he didn't want to trot. I got him trotting again without too much difficulty, but it takes a real push sometimes to get him into a bigger or energetic trot. This happened last winter too. After he started trotting large things went really well and he was easy to push forward. Then when he was off for a couple of weeks due to a bad reaction to worm medication he didn't want to trot when he went back to work. At first I wondered if he was still uncomfortable, but after a while and talking to the vet I knew that wasn't the problem. We worked it through with patience and persistence and he was fine since. I couldn't believe it when he did the same thing in Dec. after the 3 months lost due to my shoulder. I knew he'd be rusty - but back to that??? It seems odd to me too, because he LOVED doing his big trot and would ask to do it. He asked very politely (after an early phase of forgetting whoa when we sometimes needed to trot up to a wall to stop), but ask he did. He'd give almost a slight little pull and lift and when you gave him the go ahead away he'd boom, coming back easily with just a voice or light rein aid. He was also very happy and quick to respond when I'd put my leg on lightly.
I brought him back to work by longing and just riding a few minutes, gradually adding riding time. I think I lost my feel for the amount of contact he'd take though. I may have been asking for too much and riding him with a contact more suitable to our older horses when we started back. Could have contributed to the resistance. Anyway, something to remember if we have a lay off again.
So..., working trot is one goal for the end of Feb. My others are:

* accepting (more) contact for 15 minutes (with breaks and stretches if / when needed)
* left lead canter confidently in a nice circle on the longe

I'm also going to work on:

* halting straight and square
* cantering large to the right
* bending in the corners and staying straight on the rail (remembering I need engagement to do that)
* precise (on the letter) walk / trot and trot / walk transitions

My goals for spring 2010 are to:

* be able to ride good training level tests by the end of May
* be schooling level 1 in June

I'm realizing this is quite challenging, maybe not realistic. I won't worry if we can't do it because staying patient and calm is most important. The goals are to keep us on track and to keep us motivated and moving forward, not to rush him.
Working backward from the end of May, at that time he'll need to:

* trot and canter 20 m circles in both directions
* have good working gaits (trot needs most work)
* stay in a training level frame (accepting the bit, etc.)
* trot straight up the center line and halt square
* trot off from a halt (or close to it)
* transition from walk to trot and back precisely on the letter
* do a nice free walk across the diagonal
* canter within a short range of asking
* transition nicely between all 3 gaits
* bend in the corners and stay straight on the rail

So by the end of April he'll need to:

* have the working trot 80%
* accept 30 minutes of good contact (with appropriate breaks)
* hmmm, I'm taking this to my teacher to work on together

And by the end of March he'll need to:

* tbd