Training - How to Time Things and Guage Progress?
I had a nice ride. It's about 25 and very humid, so we didn't work hard, but we touched on most of our goal areas.
Since this is my first time training a horse, I don't have a feel for how long things should take. I sense (know??) we were an awfully long time getting to walk trot (a year and a half, including the lay offs and set backs!). I read Dressage Today and go to competitions and see that 4 year olds and even 3 year olds are in level 1 sometimes. I'm sure some horses are ready and capable of that, but even if Rogo had had an experienced trainer I know he wouldn't have been. He was sooo clumsy and awkward (confirmed by Joan, Cheryl and Megan - experienced trainers) and just had no ability to 'work', as in concentrate, cooperate, etc. As I posted earlier, this summer was when he 'clicked' with the learning and training experience and became an engaged partner. He's five now so I'd say that even accounting for my lack of experience, he's on the later to mature end of the spectrum. He still seems to be growing too (I haven't measured him since the spring but he grew 2 in. last winter), and at that rate of growth I honestly had the feeling he just didn't know where his legs were sometimes last winter!
It's been thrilling to experience him 'learn to learn'. Once this happened, I started posting firsts of all kinds - first flying change under saddle (a happy accident), hack out, leg yield, shoulder in, ... The flying change won't be repeated as a training goal for a long time, but it demonstrates he's acquired better balance and the later two are in the very baby stages.
We started cantering at the beginning of the year and were able to transition promptly, steer, show some balance, do circles, do simple changes through trot and carry the canter by July - about 6 months. Is this an average time? Seems a little long when I read other blogs. Now I can lengthen and shorten his stride in the canter, hold him in it pretty much as long as I want and (almost) pick it up from a walk. I can't consistently do all of this, all of the time, with a quality gait (if I could we'd enter a level 1!), but it's moving in a good direction. He always gets his leads right (always has).
The leg yield and shoulder in are handicapped by my lack of knowledge. I'm learning the aid as he learns to do it so I don't have any feel. I'm learning to understand though that sometimes we just need to struggle through things until we both get it - as he gets a step or two of lateral movement and I praise the work, I start getting more of it. Then I start to get a rhythm and my aid becomes more confident and clear. Does this make sense?
Rather a rambling post - but as Rogo learns to learn, I'm trying to become trained to train :) , and it entails committing some of this to memory.
Tonight he did well in a walking leg yield to the right, not so well to the left. My aid is better to the right. We practiced shoulder in for the second time and he seemed to get some steps both ways, but I really need someone on the ground to tell me if we're actually three tracking as this is completely new to me.
He did nice canter departs, but I didn't (didn't sit and go with him well). The canter was fine, but not as 'jumping' as it has been. Bending was good and the contact is definitely improving.