Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
It's all about inside leg to outside rein and frequent balancing with half halts. Cindy Matheson did a great ride with Reece, working on PSG movements. There's a full range of riding levels and types of horses, making it quite interesting and accessible. One thing I notice is that there is a lot of 'behind the vertical' riding, as there seems to be everywhere now. Wish I knew why this doesn't seem to bother most people.
There are some really nice horses and riders with some riders training multiple horses. Where do they find the energy!
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Since bringing the horses home a few days ago Rogo wasn't cantering as well as he had at Cheryl's so I was very happy in his lesson today when his transitions from a slow trot to canter improved to where they were and he gave us a nice, forward canter with a good rhythm. He was doing so well that Cheryl asked me to start with a left canter (not his best side), cross the diagonal, trot, and pick up a right lead canter. This all went swimmingly until we moved (nicely if I do say so myself) into the right lead canter and started across the diagonal again. Nothing was rushed, steering was good, I was in the slightly forward position Cheryl asked me to do (because Rogo is green), he was holding the canter nicely, when out of the blue, without stopping, he gave a buck. Not a big one, but I was sitting forward in the position I don't feel as secure in as I'd like and I fell forward onto his neck. Damn. I thought I was starting to get better reflexes :( I got his head up and thought I was going to get myself seated again when Rogo realized something was amiss and did a complete halt from the canter while I was out of my seat. It was over. I went sailing off. Thanks heavens we got two new loads of sand before bringing the horses home. The landing wasn't too bad and I got right back on and did some walk/trot/walk transitions. I knew I'd be even more nervous and mad at myself if I didn't canter again, so I asked for a right lead canter and got it quickly and nicely, he stayed with me, didn't rush and came back to the trot when I asked. I decided to call it a day after a little walking.
So I guess Rogo (and probably all horses) can buck while moving forward and I still wonder why that myth is still put forward as truth.
Postscript added May 30, a rhyme that my teacher wrote for me :)
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Here's a picture of Joan at our house to give me a lesson in 2008, that Verna just sent me.
And here's another picture Verna just sent me from her visit in 2008. Girls' party + too much wine = acting silly in my brand new show clothes - who can resist - those beeatches were egging me on
Monday, May 24, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
We had lessons with Cheryl yesterday. They went really well. Cheryl and I were very pleased with Rogo. No more trouble in the corners (finally) and I was able to steer the canter and control him when he would have liked to gallop up the hill. Good stuff. It was a beautiful day and life was good. Too bad it ended with her telling me that I'm not 'as educated a rider' as she had assumed I'd be. Joan's dressage knowledge is beyond anything or anyone I've run across and she trained Savanah and I (the most unlikely of candidates) to a season championship, so my previous educator isn't the problem (although I'm not saying my riding is great, especially on Rogo). Not sure what she's looking for from me as I've been pretty clear I've never started a horse before. I think maybe she wants me to be more proactive in correcting problems, and maybe I misunderstood that. I've always felt independent action wasn't welcome in our lessons. Oh well.
Our lesson involved trot circles, walk / trot transitions, serpentines and cantering. Rogo isn't bending in the corners any more. He bent correctly in the corners a year ago (although without much contact), seemed to be on the right track this winter, and then when we started asking for more bend the whole messed up corner thing started (going sideways deep into the corner, scraping along the wall, etc.). Now he's finally gotten over that but the bending isn't there at all now so that part of our training has gone backward. Looking back I know I was holding the inside rein too long, but I also think we may have been asking with too (unnecessarily) strong an inside rein and leg aid. I have a lot of questions / confusion about all of this. Why pull their head way around, push into the outside rein with the inside leg, hold the outside rein, .... when you can just gently take with the inside, give correspondingly with the outside (laying it against the neck) and keep inside leg on and outside leg on and back? They bend, they're happy, life is good.
I remember one judge who kept writing on my tests with Savanah - 'more position left and right' and giving us a low score. She bends almost at a right angle with the lightest feel, so why would I physically pull her head around? It wasn't needed to get the bend. Anyway, the next day I rode her in this exaggerated position left and right (she bends the same amount either way) and got excellent scores and won the class. Why?
I was watching a clip of an Anky clinic on Youtube and noticed her say that when she wants left she takes on the left rein and when she wants to go right, she takes on the right rein and that she does this to keep it simple and doesn't believe in all the inside leg to outside rein thing. Although I don't like the rollkur questions associated with her name, the bit about turning makes sense to me. Why over complicate things? Why not use the simplest aid possible?I know it's necessary to use inside leg to outside rein for some things and it gives a good solid control, but it seems to me from my reading and talking to people that it's almost getting to be that if you don't do that for everything you're wrong. I'm pretty sure classical training writing isn't all unanimous in that technique. I think I'll check.
Hopefully I'll be able to get Rogo back on track re bending with him home in our ring and lots of practice time.
To reflect a bit on our winter work, over-all I'm very pleased. When we arrived there Dec. 1 Rogo had been off for 3 months, first because of a cut in his leg, then bruised toes, then a nerve problem in my neck prevented riding. He had pretty much reverted to a completely untrained state. He didn't retain his training like an older horse would have. He didn't want to trot (would stop and refuse to move), wouldn't steer if you did get him trotting, had never cantered under saddle and very little on the longe line, had lost any semblance of forwardness, etc. Now he canters under saddle, walks and trots very nicely and does the upward transition quite crisply, etc., etc. I'll do my full goal review June 1 but we had a good winter and made lots of progress.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Verna and Rogo when I first went to meet him, Nov. 2007 (he's 2). I stayed with Verna while I went horse shopping and her niece Sarah checked him for me.
his breeders I knew I had to have him. He came up to me, gently pushed any other horses who tried to come near me away, and pressed his nose to my face and held it there for as long as I'd stay with him. I say that he picked me. Don't know why I was so lucky, but he's been looking after me ever since.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I'm reminded by the Munich World Dressage Masters this past weekend that I wanted to post some pictures we took at the West Palm Beach World Dressage Masters in Feb. It was a great trip - first the horse show and then three days at the West Palm Beach Ritz to re-charge our batteries.
Pictures in decending order: Anky Van Grunsven and Salinero, Stephan Peters and Ravel, Isabel Werth and Satchmo, Ashley Holzer and Pop Art (hmmm, just realized this is the order they placed in the freestyle) and a group of red hat ladies who were sitting beside us at the outdoor restaurant/bar.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
This is a quote from the USDF Guide To Dressage in the chapter Are You Dressage Material? It is very true in my experience, although I still love it even when it is a 'vast expanse of tedium'. :)
I had one of those moments of transcendent bliss today. Rogo was absolutely amazing. So forward, responsive, happy and wanting to work - we're getting it!!! And this was after he was outside playing and galloping up and down the hill all morning. We finally got our canter circle, and to the left no less! I thought it was a good month away, with lots of being longed and working up to it with half circles, etc. Up until today he has either broken to a trot as soon as I tried to start a circle, or would just plow ahead going too fast to do a balanced circle.
So today, without having even planned on it, I asked for a circle. He broke to a trot about 3/4 of the way around the first one but I quieted him and put him right back into the canter circle and around he went beautifully. Rhythmic, very forward, good shape, etc. I brought him back to a trot and called it a day. He was VERY proud of himself - snorting, arching his neck and generally taking a big 'look at me' attitude. I was so happy I could barely speak coherently. This probably seems like a small thing to most people, but it's been one of our sticking points. It means his balance and forwardness has improved, and that he can work with me in his new found forwardness. Yeah! Doug was there and watched the whole thing which made it even more fun. We both went overboard telling him what a good boy he was.
Here is the ironic thing - Joan (my previous teacher) and her husband Roy came to visit the horses on Sat. and I was telling her how energetic Rogo had become. Well he was positively lethargic. He'd had his shots 2 days before so I think that was still affecting him, although I thought he'd have recovered. Savanah of course went through her paces beautifully for Joan. Rogo always makes a liar of me when it comes to Joan :)
Savanah was tired today. I think the boys (Dan and Rogo) chased her all morning (playing). Doug didn't push her as she's been doing great and let her go back to her stall a little early.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Doug (my husband) is getting ready to show Savanah at Training Level. She's amazing. I was riding her until a year ago (she's Doug's horse but he let me ride her), when he got on her one day to try her out.
A die hard western rider, Doug "wanted a few minutes of instruction" so he could understand her training and ride her if he felt like it. Turned out he loved dressage! You could have knocked me over with a feather. He started dressage lessons immediately and we're having a blast getting he and Savanah ready to show. He had to order his jacket from BC (and they ordered it from Norway). All of his show clothes have to be brought in from out of Province. There are almost no men doing dressage in Nova Scotia.
He and Savanah are doing really well. She was Training Level Champion the summer I showed her (her doing, not mine)and I think they're going to do well and have lots of fun.
Cheryl, our teacher, got on her the day the pictures were taken and did leg yeild, shoulder in and a few steps of half pass. She (Savanah) is ready to move up the scale and Doug is keen to take her. He's going to go back to working with Joan so we'll divide up teaching - he'll work with Joan and I'll work with Cheryl. Both teachers will advise on both horses. No reason, they are both great and we are very lucky to have them.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Doug video taped the Tues. lesson which is pretty much a wake up call to me. I can ride better than this. I'm somewhat mortified to have anyone see this, but I want to have a good record and also, maybe others are struggling too? The good news is that we're making progress again. Two steps forward one step back.
Although the video looks terrible to me, there are lots of good things happening, most importantly that Rogo is now so much more forward and willing to work. And his attitude is wonderful - he could care less if other horses leave the arena, leaving him alone, and he's much happier in our lessons.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Today was the strangest yet - he was cantering around me in tiny circles before I could get him out on the longe line. Who is this horse and what did he do with Rogo? I didn't need to ride with a whip and he was very energetic and forward throughout our ride, even after I longed extra long. Once he was warmed up he was wonderfully responsive (for his stage of training). I had no trouble getting him to walk or trot even though he really wanted to gallop! Also he did very good circles, stretching circles and bending in the corners. We did some cantering both ways at the end and the steering isn't there at all. He picks it up just great, with the correct lead every time, but he just wants to run up the hill. I'm thinking as the trot steering gets stronger the canter steering will come.
I feel like such a loser that I've had so much trouble with steering him. What can I say - at least I think he'll make a better rider of me. He insists I get the right balance of inside leg and outside rein and stay light on the inside rein. Also he changes his feel all the time. Seems so elementary but to me it is so elusive.
His rhythm was coming and going a bit today too, although it's been very good for the last while.
So, for the coming week, our objectives are to continue improving bend and steering, practice C.L. and halt, and canter control. Cheryl will longe me at the canter again to help us get a better feel for turning instead of heading down the long side at a gallop :)
All in all I'm very happy with him and the forwardness is like a gift from God.
I became reacquainted with Joan when I was 50 and it changed my life. She'd been my 4H riding teacher when I was in my teens but we lost touch when I moved away to go to college. Thirty years later I was back.
I'd always had a huge admiration for Joan and her abilities as a horsewoman. Her knowledge of dressage theory and practice are amazing. When I ran into her after moving back to Noel Shore I invited her to lunch and she graciously accepted. Laughing and talking over chowder and salad the years fell away and Joan offered to give me riding lessons again. This isn't an offer to take lightly. Joan had stopped taking students many years before and I wasn't exactly someone to tempt a top teacher back to the ring. I hadn't ridden in thirty years until buying a horse the year before and our two horses (my husband Doug rides too), while sweet and good on the trail weren't close to being suited to be competitive in dressage. Never the less, Joan made the offer (the gin and tonic worked!) and I jumped at the chance.
I was so excited I don't think I slept at all that night. I carefully outfitted myself over the next week in preparation – riding breeches, boots, dressage whip, … and finally the big day arrived – my dressage lesson with Joan! I had my appaloosa Dan saddled and ready and we got started. While Dan is very forward and willing on the trail he's never been fond of ring work and this was the worst day yet. He wouldn't move! As I tried to respond to Joan's instructions he wiggled sideways, squirmed, or simply planted his feet. It was a disaster. Realizing that at my stage I wouldn't be able to learn with Dan, Joan suggested we try my husband's half draft mare Savannah for our next lesson.
Poor Joan. Would Savannah be able to start me with some simple, basic lessons? She was clean and neatly turned out when Joan returned a few days later, but the positive descriptors stopped there. She was also very over weight (a bad experiment in free choice hay), shaggy and feathered like a Clyde, and completely out of shape after a winter of very little work. Savannah had some good things going for her though – she was willing to work and forgiving of my lack of skill.
Slowly, subtly the changes started – the weight whittled away, the feathers and shaggy mane were trimmed and her black and white coat began to gleam in the sun until it looked almost liquid. Muscles began to appear as the months wore on and her tendency to nervous anticipation was slowly replaced by quiet confidence. She greeted Joan at each lesson with a touch of her nose or placed her forehead on Joan's chest. She began to come to meet me when I went to the pasture to get her for lessons or practice and so the bond grew – Savannah, Joan and I.
One day Joan suggested, "You can show her, but don't be disappointed if you don't score well. Savannah can't produce the action needed to do well in the show ring."
Hmmm, to tell the truth I was more than a little intimidated to enter the same ring as the beautiful warmbloods I'd seen showing the summer before. I wondered if we'd be laughed at, or thought presumptuous for entering a show, but I was also excited about working towards specific tests and improving our score. I decided to put her in a show at Training Level and it's the best training / riding decision I've ever made. We had specific riding goals, suitable for our level of expertise, clearly laid out and a timeline for meeting the goals.
At 51 I was entering my first horse show. I had no idea it would be so complicated – memberships, licenses, entry forms, show clothes (what do you wear?), ordering boots from the U.S., show grooming and braiding, trailering, – yikes! Somehow we found our way through all of this and were ready for show day. My husband's riding teacher Megan was a magician at clipping Savannah for the show and teaching me her grooming tricks. Joan took charge of clipping her tail. Savannah had never had such white socks, clipped ankles, beautiful braids and thick, flowing tail. Where did that fat shaggy mare go and who is this stunning black and white show horse?
I tried to mentally prepare for a low score at the show, telling myself we weren't competing, just meeting new people and getting great feedback from the judge. "What are you going to do if you come first?" Joan said with a smile. What? And yet, that's what happened. Savannah came first in both of her classes at our first show and better yet, from the time we arrived until the time we left we couldn't have met nicer, warmer people who went out of their way to make sure we felt at home when they found out this was all new to us.
Savannah went on to score in the mid to high 60's at her next show and tied for Training Level champion and reserve high point champion (even after I rode her off course in one class).
At our last show of the season Savannah was awarded the season high point championship at Training Level and also won her first Level One class at her first gold show.
She'll never float across the ring in high level movements*, but each day, with Joan teaching us, we're becoming the best we can be. Savannah brings a big heart, rhythm, precision and a love of showing (who knew?) when she enters the ring. As she powers up the center line as straight as an arrow (described by judges as a "nice, bold entry") and halts perfectly square for the salute to the judge, she knows she's a winner.
Dressage is for anyone and any horse. Joan and Savannah are giving me a gift that transforms my life and leads to new challenges everyday. For 2009 we have two horses in training!
*Postscript – I've learned since writing this I shouldn't place limits on her.
I wrote this story for my teacher Joan Stoddard-Rhyno at the end of the '08 show season. Since then my western riding husband Doug got on her one day (she's his horse) and immediately gave up western and started dressage. He'll show her this year as I get ready to show Rogo.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Dec. 15, 2009
April 1, 2010
April 30, 2010
Goal, May 31, 2010
|Free walk||3||4 / 5||5/6||6/7|
|Straight on C.L.||0||2||3||5|
This is my teacher Cheryl Cassista’s goal setting system. I started with her in Dec. when my previous teacher Joan Stoddard-Rhyno needed to take time off for personal reasons. I’ve been so lucky with my teachers. It seems fate brought both of them to me and they’re great. It isn’t easy finding classical dressage instruction in the rural areas of Nova Scotia :) I’m going to do a page about them.
Back to the goals – she (Cheryl) started me more generally, i.e. working trot, bending in corners, and as we progressed she switched to this system. I find it very useful. It helps me when I get anxious – I can see that we’re making steady progress. Also it makes it more fun and interesting.
My personal goals for May? Stop tensing my lower back (and creating back pain) and lose 5 lbs.!
Note: The reason Rogo's Dec. scores were so low is that we had been completely off work for 3 months. He wasn't ridden or longed from the end of Aug. until the beginning of Dec. due to him having bruised toes (started cantering him on the longe before I realized he needed shoes to do this; we've since added two more loads of sand as well), then I had a nerve issue in my back / neck that left me pretty much immobilized for two months). When I started him back it was like starting from the beginning again. It wasn't like an older, more trained horse who you would just have to work with on conditioning and sharpening aids again. I hadn't expected this (I thought maybe two weeks to get him back where he was - duh). He reverted to stopping and refusing to move when you asked for the trot, refusing to steer at the trot, not really doing more than jog when he did trot (that was new, he liked to go forward more before)...
We hadn't cantered under saddle before the lay off and we first did that between Christmas and New Year - yeah! It was sooo exhilarating and fun. Then as we worked on it I have to admit I was scared for awhile, but persevered. Sometimes Cheryl would have to stand like she was longing and encourage him with the longe whip. She has very good judgment about how much to push him and it always worked out fine, but there were times my heart was in my throat!
April 1, 2010
April 30, 2010
Goal, May 31, 2010
Goal, June 30, 2010
Contact (accepting contact with the bit)
4 / 5
Straight on center line
Focus will be on starred item – anything that needs to go from a 3 to a 5.
Seems like I didn't improve much in May, but I feel okay about it. We got much better in corners, he is starting to steer at the canter and is carrying it better, etc., and I'm sure we'll have a break through any day now lol
My personal goals for June? Lose 5 lbs.! That I didn't lose in May L