The Week of Intensity Continues

I set a goal this week of riding Rogo everyday and really focusing, focusing, focusing on our training goals. I've done everything I can think of to help us - videoing, longing, memorizing and riding tests with strategy, trying to ride every step, using half halts (he's just learning these), putting a strap on the front of my saddle to keep my outside rein steady when bending (I held it when necessary to keep from giving too much), exercising (for me), pushing a little harder / asking for a little more from both of us. 
I see some improvements. We were almost there in some key areas so a real push helps to confirm it. I can't help feeling I'll jinx us if I write it, but I think our left bend has finally arrived to stay! It's been a marathon - for months it's come and gone, gotten confused, gotten tense, etc. Now he's going into the corners and bending through his body at the walk and trot, while staying soft. 
His head is still high and stiff fairly frequently on the long side at the trot, but it's gotten better this week and I have to get my riding softer too, in order for him to relax. It's coming.
Cantering is improving. He's carrying it much better, although the transitions back slid a bit. The steering is coming too. He's doing 20 m circles, which he just started about 10 days ago. It won't be long before he'll be able to do a decent training level test. 
I know a trainer would have had him here sooner, but we have a great bond, I've learned tons, and he's making progress, so I'm happy.
Cheryl didn't make it today because she had hay coming, so we re-scheduled for tomorrow. I longed Dan over cavelleti and he did well. Doug and Savanah had a lesson scheduled for tonight, but now it's raining. Glad I got my ride in early.
Two more days left for my training blitz.


Shannon said…
You're doing great! I'm really impressed with how you've stuck to your goals and made such a remarkable improvement!

I always ride with a strap on the pommel of the saddle. It helps so much with getting a feeling for good contact. It's great for getting the horse to drive forward into the contact, too. If you're holding the strap you can't pull the horse into a frame, you have to push him.
Carol said…
Thanks! It isn't a remarkable improvement, but you're kind to say so :)
A trainer at the show in Windsor NS told me about the strap on the pommel when I told her I was having trouble maintaining the correct contact on my outside rein to the left. I hadn't realized they could be used this way. It was awkward at first, but it really helped me get the correct feel for not giving away the outside (and thus having him turn his head out). I like your description of how it helps with driving into the contact instead of pulling into it. It's going to be a good tool for us.
Jeni said…
Explain this whole "strap" thing please. Never heard of such a thing. I've just been making myself NOT use my hands at all until Bonnie's into frame. Then I take up contact. Having said that I'm fixing my hands they were horrible, are better, but not consistent better.
Carol said…
I used a flash nose band (I don't use them but they came with a couple of bridles) for my strap, but you can use anything that fits and won't break. You attach it to the rings on either side of the front of your saddle, creating a loop. Some people put them there to hang onto in case of a buck or spook.
Once you have this small loop in place, you can hang onto it with one or both hands, to keep your hands quiet and / or in a more fixed position. It will keep you from taking too much, or not taking enough.
For me, with Rogo, when we turned left I needed to hold the outside rein so that I could push him into it with my inside leg and get him to bend in the left corners or circles. Otherwise, if I gave with my outside hand he'd turn his head to the outside (more on this in a second). Without the strap, no matter how I tried, I always gave the outside rein too much - it's muscle memory and hard to shake. When I added the strap at first it felt strained and awkward, but fairly quickly I was able to do it more softly while still keeping a good hand position. Rogo responded by bending correctly and seemed to appreciate the security of knowing where the limits were. He actually got softer, as well as bending much better.
Back to the inside leg to outside rein and holding the outside - as you probably know, sometimes you have to give the outside as you take the inside. It all comes down to feel and the horse's level of training, etc. I'm not used to a horse who isn't trained and sometimes can't get the right 'feel', maybe because there isn't any yet :)
Hope this isn't too confusing or long. If I remember I'll take a picture of the saddle with my phone tomorrow and do a quick upload. It's dark and rainy now! It's worth a try if you're struggling with your hands.
Jan said…
Carol, I love your blog! Such great, detailed descriptions! And your training planning is admirable-I'm so impressed! (And humbled :)) I appreciate the information about your use of the strap on the saddle and how you hold the reins at the turn to give outside support. I look forward to using your suggestions and explanations with Buckshot.
Carol said…
Thanks! I just realized something as I was thinking about this - if Rogo was turning to the outside when I gave with the outside too much, he was following the bit - a good thing! My teacher has taught me to release a little with one rein or the other if I want the horse to seek the bit contact, but I hadn't put the two things together in this instance. Hmmm ...
Carol said…
Also Jan, I wanted to say that I really enjoy your blog and get a lot out of it. I don't think I can hold a candle to you and many of the great bloggers I follow.
Story said…
My hands often try to think for themselves, so similar to your strap concept, I started hooking a finger under the front of my saddle pad. It really helped and finally after months my hands are starting to obey my will!

I'm also finding video to be very helpful! Husband does his best to observe, but then I'll ask a specific question and he doesn't know what I'm talking about. You can't beat video.

Some of these things seem to take so long to come along. It does indeed feel like a marathon at times!
Carol said…
Hooking your finger into the saddle pad sounds like a good idea, and much more subtle for a show :) It's amazing how our bodies don't obey us. Thanks for the comments.
wendyu said…
Sounds like you're doing great! I love what your wrote because I feel exactly the same way.

"I know a trainer would have had him here sooner, but we have a great bond, I've learned tons, and he's making progress, so I'm happy."

I don't care that I'm coming along slowly. I'm doing the best I can with the time I have. In the process I'm learning so much and having a great time in the process!
wendyu said…
BTW - LOVE the strap idea! Gotta try it!!
allhorsestuff said…
I finally have a chance to catch up!
You have really been on your mark with diligence and good working rides there! Wow, very inspiring.
I did sign up for a lesson this coming Sunday..and will employ that strap idea..never heard of that but it makes total sense..hope I can do it right!I too give away the outside and straighten my elbow too much...been so long since I had a lesson...can't remember what side!

Love your work and descriptions! What a nice relationship you have with your Rogo!
Carol said…
Wow - the outside rein give-a-way struck a chord! Misery loves company so I'm glad I'm not the only one :)
Thanks for all the comments. Good luck with the strap and hand position. Keep me posted on how it goes - I'll be checking your blogs!