Friday, April 30, 2010

My Last Lesson and Rogo Gets His First Full Set of Shoes

My lesson on Thur. was outside. We did fairly well, but nothing like the day before. I couldn't steer him as well. May have been partly because we were outside and partly because I get more nervous riding in front of Cheryl and Joan and then my riding goes to hell. I better get over that before I try to show him!
We spent a lot of time working on my steering to the left (the problem side). I'm not using my inside leg and outside rein enough, while also using too much inside rein :(
We've been working on this for weeks now and we have to get moving on to other things. It seems to be one of the toughest things I've ever done, yet intellectually it sounds so simple. I am getting so my feel to the right is pretty good. I think the left is made worse not just because I'm right handed, but because of the nerve problem I had in my neck in the fall that resulted in partial loss of use of my left arm. It still isn't fully back and it just feels weak and useless a lot of the time. I don't have good control of it or a realistic knowledge of what I'm actually doing with it.
Rogo and I lost 3 months of work at the time of my nerve problem (first he had bruised toes, then I laid in a chair for 2 months in excruciating pain)and when we started back in Dec. it was like starting from scratch except that he knew about having someone on his back. However everything else was gone - he didn't want to go forward, would stop and refuse to move if you asked him to trot, didn't take any contact, turned his head to the outside all the time, etc., etc. I was so weak that even mounting left me shaking. If I look at where we are now we're doing great!!!
Anyway, I digress. For the rest of Wed.'s lesson we worked on canter steering (he steered around the turns to the right, ran up the hill to the left) and also walking straight up the center line and halting straight and square. I think we made some progress with that. Cheryl pointed out he tends to leave his left hind a little out behind so she suggested a light feel on the left rein to get him to walk into it. It helped so I'll keep practicing that.
Today Doug and I rode together outside but then it started raining. Doug was finished by then so I moved inside. My steering was off again today, maybe even worse than my lesson. It was Rogo's first time being ridden in a full set of shoes. He had them put on after our lesson on Wed. and was excellent to shoe. When we tried to shoe him last fall it was impossible to put rear shoes on him but we've worked with him since and he went bare foot all winter.
Anyway, he moved beautifully today - forward and down, tracking up and perhaps I'm delusional but he even looked a little round to me on the longe line. However he seemed to be very deliberate and careful about putting his feet down. I think it put him off a little as far as steering went.
We worked on canter transitions and he is really getting the transition now. The next step has to be to get him to hold it longer, but I think outside will help with that. Also I tend to lean back with him (don't know why), so I have to remember to lean a bit forward a this stage.
We worked on trot circles and did some nice regular and stretching circles. There is room for improvement re shape, especially to the left, but over all I'm very happy with them considering he's barely done them before. His stretching circles are very good too, again, especially as this is new to him
We finished with walking up the center line and halting at X. He needs lots of improvement there, but it isn't bad considering we've really just started this.
I'm looking forward to my lesson tomorrow. After we both ride (Cheryl and I), we'll go for lunch and review April's goal results and set May's.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Amazingly Great Ride

Yesterday I rode Rogo in the indoor. I longed first and then rode. He was forward, forward, forward. I don't know what's happened, but he has changed so much in the last 2 weeks re his willingness / eagerness to move with energy and engagement. I had thought it was the saddle, but I gave the demo back and he won't get his for 6 weeks. I wondered if it was the tractor, or being outside, etc. But yesterday there was nothing - he was inside, by himself, in his old saddle and he just went for it. He's never been like this before. His walk was marching and soooo rhythmic. I didn't touch him with my leg to keep him going, just sat with him. As a bonus he steered like a dream. I understand that part because my aids are getting better, I'm able to 'feel' him now and we're working together. What I don't understand, but love, is his energy. Maybe the added feed? Could it make that much difference? I've added lots of feed in the past and didn't see any difference.
After the great walk (serpentines, crossing the diagonal, free walk, etc.) we trotted. He stopped when I asked for it so I have to remember to ask more softly today. But when he started it was BOOM - big trot with tons of suspension and again I didn't have to push him at all the whole time. He held this huge trot endlessly and did lots of 20 m circles in both directions (which he'd never done of this quality before) and also stretching circles (he's never officially been asked before and they were really good) and going large with direction changes. No encouragement needed for him to stay in this big trot. This has NEVER happened, except maybe when he first trotted off the longe and went large. He was still going strong when I ended it.
I finished with a little bit of canter in both directions and a little bit of turn on the forehand both ways. He was amazing! I was euphoric all the way home and still am.
I have to do something about Dan today. His lameness keeps coming and going and I think it's because he fights with the horse beside him. He'll either have to move or come home. I can't wait any longer for him to get well.
Doug and I both have lessons today and the horses get shod today. Rogo's first time to get all four shoes on. Hope it goes well. He wouldn't let the farrier (Janice Beaudreau) put hind shoes on the first time he got shoes last Sept. and they've been bare foot since moving to Cheryl's for the winter.
I hope he's as good for today's lesson as he was yesterday.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Great Weekend of Riding

On Sat. Doug and I shared a table at a tack sale with another boarder at our barn. We sold two saddles, a western and a dressage saddle that didn't fit right. Then we went and rode. It was a beautiful day so we rode outside. Both horses went really well. I'm getting a better feel for riding Rogo in corners, serpentines, etc. We also worked on trot circles for the first time in a long time. I asked for a canter on the circle but he only did a few steps. I've got to get that soon if I'm going to show at Training Level this summer.
Today, Sun., we rode outside again. Someone was loading and moving a pile of manure from beside the riding ring so I thought it would be a good chance to get Rogo used to the noise and sight of machinery close by. He stood nicely to be longed and was calm enough on the longe (no racing or acting a fool), but he was much more forward than usual, wanting to canter and canter and canter with no encouragement. I let him since he was being calm and I want him to work on balance and carrying his canter. When I thought he was ready I mounted and he wanted to take off right away, which isn't like him. Usually he stands very well until asked to go. When I did ask him to walk off he only walked a couple of steps and then broke into a fast canter and took off down the riding ring and up the hill until he couldn't go any further (not far). We turned and came back, but I had to keep a tight hold on him. He would walk VERY well - marching along and very sensitive to aids, no whip in hand, moving off my leg. He wasn't pulling to do more and did great free walks, serpentines, circles, etc., etc., but if I asked for a trot I'd only get one step before he'd canter. Not great, but not the end of the world. It was the first time I've ever tried riding him through a more edgy mood. In the past I would have gotten off and longed more.
After about 1/2 an hour we were able to do trot circles if I started out with a very small circle and then enlarged it, although he still wanted to canter. I never did let him go for it as there were two horses freshly turned out beside us who were frolicking and bucking a bit and I was afraid if Rogo started tearing around they'd start in too, and then he might buck. I wasn't up for that, especially at a fast canter!
I have to say, I found the experience exhilarating. I was nervous at times, but having a blast too. He was showing what he can do, and the energy and animation were magnificent. I still don't know if it was the tractor, his new feeding program, improved confidence, etc., but he's been getting more and more forward for the last couple of weeks. I may have to come up with new strategies and techniques to keep the energy but control it a little better.
Now I'm off to work with the Town of Shelburne for a couple of days. Gotta pay the boarding bills. I can't stand being away from him... He is sooo much fun right now!

Last Two Rides, April 22

A bird got into the riding ring during my last lesson, so Cheryl decided to open the end door to let it out. There were bars across, so Rogo couldn't run out, but the door being open made him very excited. He wanted to run outside. His excitement was a little over the top so Cheryl thought I shouldn't ride him,
I longed him and he tore around. The stirrups fell off of the WOW saddle I'm trying out. (Turns out they were Bates stirrup leathers and the saddle requires WOW). Anyway, after the that we did free jumping with him and then I got on a walked him around, which he was super with - marching right along, steering and bending beautifully in a nice contact. Without stirrups Cheryl had to give me a leg up. Not an easy feat for her considering I'd never done this before, I'm 5'9'' and Rogo is 17 hh. Cheryl is about 5', a brittle diabetic, and neither one of us is getting any younger. We were laughing so hard I always wiggled off the other side.
Yesterday I longed inside, with the door open, while Doug had a lesson outside. Rogo was a little inclined to run to the door but worked through it quickly and when Doug finished his lesson we went outside to ride. Rogo doesn't seem to mind at all when Savannah leaves the ring and he's left by himself. He went really well. I think I'm finally getting a better feel for him.
We worked on walking circles and steering and turning. Then I was going to do some trot circles but he went into a canter and I let him, since he's not over eager to carry a canter inside. We cantered around the ring and I was able to steer him to stay in the ring and not run up the hill. Yeah! He didn't run up the hill once. I was even able to cross the ring at the canter before we reached the end of it, so hopefully canter circles won't be too far off. He carried his canter very well. Unfortunately After the first one my back went out on me :( Not fun. I did a few more canter but the trot to get there was murder so trot circles were forgotten for the day. I've got to get to them soon though. Rogo was very good in his canter - strong and forward but not foolish or out of control. It was soooo amazing. I don't think I fully appreciated it at the time as I was concentrating on not letting my back pain ruin my position. It was full of good firsts though - first time he was 100% steerable (for where his balance is) outside at the canter (not easy for a young horse who's been in the indoor all winter), first time taking the same contact at the canter that he does at the walk or trot (I even kept my hands quiet and in a good position), first time I was able to get really into his rhythm and help both of us 'feel' it together. (Inside he's been too reluctant to stay in the canter for me to relax and do this. As soon as I relax he trots.) I was even able to keep my legs in a relatively good position - something I've struggled with with him. He's the first warm blood I've ridden and although I find his canter AMAZING (there's tons of power and jump), for some reason I can't keep my legs down and in the correct position. My heels tend to come up and my leg is too bent. I'm not at all nervous with his canter as I've learned to trust him(as he's the first horse I've ever trained I was when we first started cantering of course), so I don't know why this has been happening. Maybe we're getting past it?
Now my back is so bad I can hardly move. Luckily I already had an appointment with the chiropractor this morning, so I'm hoping she can get me back in riding shape. This is a real worry because it went out on me 3 or 4 weeks ago. If I'm going to keep riding, training and showing I can't have my back going out on me all of the time.

A Great Day At the BArn, April 17

To catch up, Rogo had a lesson in his trial saddle 2 days ago. It went quite well I think. He was nicely forward and happy. We worked on trot and canter. Cheryl had me hold a dressage whip cross ways and level in my hands so I would stop dropping my outside hand (don't know why I did this). Anyway, it worked very well. Forced me to keep my hands quiet and in the correct place, something I find hard to do with Rogo. When we went back to riding without holding the whip in that position I was able to maintain the correct hand position and Rogo went the best he's gone as far as turning and bending (according to Cheryl and it felt very good to me). Goes to show it's mostly me I guess. I find it soooo hard to get and keep the correct feel with him. It seemed so easy with Savannah.
Then we worked on canter. He is picking it up very well and willing to hold it longer a lot of the time.
Today we took the barbecue to the barn and Joan and Lawrence came over. First Doug and I rode while Joan and Lawrence watched, then all 5 of us sat in the trailer and ate sausage dogs, hamburgers, chicken burgers, and salads. It was a cold day with snow flurries at times, but a couple of pots of coffee with Bailey's and brandy took the chill off and we had the furnace on in the trailer so it was cozy. Doug, Cheryl and I had planned to clean tack but it was too cold. (We're getting ready to go to a tack sale next weekend.)
So we spent the afternoon talking about all things dressage. Joan and Cheryl were at Lancers at the same time way back in the 60's but don't seem to have crossed paths. It was a great afternoon. We talked about show plans for the summer, going to Blainville, maybe showing at Blainville next year, dressage movements and exercises,... Had many laughs and the afternoon flew by. It may have been gray and drizzly outside but it was warm and fun in the trailer. It was so good to see Joan out and having a good time after the winter she's had with Roy (also so good to know he's getting better). It's great that Cheryl enjoys having this kind of thing at her barn. She's always up for going to Cravings for after ride coffee and brunch or making hot chocolate at the barn while we work on riding goals.
Riding for Joan didn't go as well as it could have. Rogo almost cantered into Savannah (even though I hadn't even asked for a canter) and then he ran into the wall / corner a couple of times. I was nervous riding for her after so long (first time since the end of Aug.)so this didn't help matters. There were good moments though. Joan wanted to see if Rogo would canter from a walk, which I've never asked him to do, and he did it first try with only one trot step. Also he was very anxious to canter today which isn't usual in the indoor ring. I loved that! He did get resistant to the left towards the end. I think I was holding the inside too much though :( I HAVE to get consistent in keeping soft and quiet hands. This is a good lesson for showing - nervousness leads to bad riding!
Our next lesson is Mon. afternoon. It would be good to check in on the goals we set for April and discuss show plans.

Saddle Fitting, April 15

Rogo was fitted for a WOW saddle 2 days ago and I have to say, Wow. Unless it was a complete coincidence, he was soooo much more forward while staying totally relaxed. He hasn't wanted to carry his canter in the indoor, and he stayed in it no problem in the WOW, without even using any reminder aid - just sitting quietly (although we only went to the right, his good side. We'll work on left in his lesson today.)His back was swinging and loose in the walk and he did an amazing, big working trot. Maybe his best ever.
Today will be our second ride in it, so we'll see if it continues. My fingers are crossed!
The fitter (Rachael Argo, Callan Saddlery) tried one on him about a month ago that technically 'fit' him and that day he seemed to hate it. Not sure if it was the saddle or something was wrong that day, but he wouldn't go forward at all, and was very cranky. If only they could talk. The one he's trying now is a slightly different model that she put together specifically for him.
He's coming along well. We had a lesson after the fitting and worked on working trot, steering, halt, a bit of canter and rein back. Cheryl laid out poles for our rein back (first time we've worked on it) and Doug helped to get him backing the first time or two. Rogo did very well.

Doug Rides Rogo for the First Time (Also Rogo Turns 5 Today)

Doug and I rode Savannah and Rogo together yesterday. It went well. Had to ride inside because the ring was wet, which was too bad, but it was a good ride. I started on Rogo and Doug on Savannah.
Rogo did his working trot very well and continues to improver accuracy in turning. I came up the center line once and actually stopped straight (not completely square, but it might be our first straight!). Then, he trotted off - my first time asking for it and he did it.
The canter departs weren't as good though. We worked to the left. Had to really work to get them and he didn't want to carry it. Once I got a good one and a short canter I gave him a treat and stopped for the day. Gotta get outside!
Then Doug rode Rogo for the first time ever. They just walked and Doug was a little nervous, which surprised me as Rogo is so calm. I can understand it though - no one else has ever been on him except Megan over a year ago for a few minutes. Rogo took it very well - a different weight and balance. They'll work up to more.
I rode Savannah which was pure heaven. She is so on the aids. I remembered what it felt like when we won high point championship for the season. She was perfect - forward, responsive, oh la la!
Today is Rogo's fifth birthday!!! I'm going to the barn to pamper him.

Rogo Got the Canter Aid 100%, April 11

Had a great lesson on Fri. Rogo is really coming along in his working trot. We're on track to meet our goal of having it 80% by the end of April. Also, I'm slowly but surely re-establishing my ability to do accurate turns with him. The exciting part of the lesson for me was that he picked up the canter 100% of the time from the first quiet aid. No having to ask repeatedly or having him race into a trot. Just a couple of steps of trot, then slow the trot and quietly ask - Yeah! This was only to the right (his good side) as Cheryl wanted me to stop there. He did it about 10 times!! I couldn't believe it. Savannah isn't always this consistent.
He isn't carrying the canter as well as I'd like, only about half way around the arena unless I really work at it, but Cheryl suggested we let him be proud of his achievement (he was) and that he'll carry it without fuss as his balance and training progress. He does much better with carrying it outside, so now that we can ride outside things should improve. I was very happy!
On the downside, Cheryl and I aren't communicating as well as we should. We seem to misunderstand one another a lot, which is a little demoralizing to both of us. It seems that when I don't understand a concept, she thinks I blame her for not explaining it well. Hmmm, now that I think about it, I can see how she'd interpret it that way. It isn't at all what I'm thinking though. I just need to absorb things more slowly sometimes. There is so much going on as I try to learn how to train a horse for the first time that I am extremely focused on the exact thing I'm doing. Then when she gives me an instruction, it doesn't always sink in, so the intensity of the instruction goes up. I begin to think I am clumsy / slow. As I continue riding I lose my confidence to use any judgment (necessary even in a lesson). I get defensive and of course that isn't productive. What we've come up with is that when we're introducing something new, or if I don't understand something, we'll pause and go over it rather than try to get it on the fly. That doesn't work for me at this stage. Poor Cheryl is faced with training me, to train Rogo - I've never trained a horse before and of course he's never been trained before. Everything takes a little longer.
She is doing a great job of bringing us along. She's done wonders over the winter. We are so on the same page in so many ways. Things are going great training wise and that is the most important thing. The horse is happy and progressing without bad habits or fear. He's confident, trusting and happy to come out to work each day. So, I better suck up any defensiveness I feel and learn to communicate better.
My goal for lesson communication is that we are a mutually supportive team. Some objectives:
- understand and appreciate that Cheryl is pushing us to progress and succeed, and it's working
- calmly identify points where I need to pause for more instruction
- don't try to change who she is (and vice versa); we're both good people and we can work well within that
I'm going to develop a show season plan soon. Did a table of shows last night. There are 12 in NS this summer! WOW.

First Lesson Outside, April 8

Had my first lesson outside last Mon. It went pretty well. He was still very happy to be out, cantered more than trotted, etc. We had a good lesson, improved corners, worked on ground poles, etc. I don't know if he'll be ready for Training Level, but that's my goal.
Dan was a little sore - left hind. I hand walked him and will keep an eye on it.
My saddle is ready to try. Yeah! Can't wait.

First Ride Outside of the Spring, April 4

I rode Rogo in the outdoor ring today. He did quite well. He was quite exuberant and wanted to canter on his own. Several times when I asked for a bigger trot he went into a canter instead. Also, he left the ring and ran up the hill a couple of times, but by the end of our session, not too long, he was cantering around the outside of the ring, doing a nice trot and understanding turning better than the last few days. Also I think I'm getting to understand his feel as it's developing.
It was 21 C.! I couldn't keep him working too long as he still has his winter coat and it was hot and sunny.
I noticed a wart type thing between his front legs that I need to keep an eye on. I think it's been there for about 2 weeks.
He was tracking up very well in his walk and trot on the longe today. Maybe the best ever.

Getting Back on Track, April 3

Today's lesson went a little better, but that may be because my back is still bothering me so I didn't try to push him out of his comfort zone. And he needs to be pushed a little bit out of his comfort zone right now. He has learned, unfortunately, to evade the aids by going sideways away from the inside rein and jamming himself in a corner. The same trick he used to do on the longe and still tries occasionally if he thinks he can get away with it. I have to take my share of blame (hmmm, maybe all the blame). I tend to hold the inside rein too long and he doesn't need anything but a feel of it for one stride now. So I guess he can't be blamed for trying to get away from that. Also, on the up side, I can ride with lighter aids. I'm still learning his 'feel'. He's in a stage where it changes, a lot, from one day to the next. This is where it really shows that it's my first time training a young horse from the ground up. I'm not keeping up with his evolving responsiveness. I must do better! He is a great boy and deserves to be developed into a sensitive and responsive dressage horse.
I am realizing I was a little spoiled with Savannah. Although dressage was new to her, she quickly took a nice contact, stayed totally even and on the bit all the time and it wasn't an issue.
Luckily I had Joan to help me back him and Cheryl closely over-seeing everything. They'll keep me from going off the rails.
Here are the things I need for Training Level, where I was with them when I started Rogo back to work, where I am now and where I want to be by the end of April:

Training Goal Dec. 15 April 1 April 30
accepting contact 0 3 7
bending 0 4 7
working trot 0 6 9
canter 0 4 7
circles 3 5 7
halt 1 2 5
straight on ctr. line 0 1 6
free walk 3 5 9
medium walk 3 6 9

Those aren't really achievable in some cases, but I want to set the bar high. We have our work cut out for sure. But I have a very nice horse, a very good teacher and a good place to train.
This is so much fun. especially with Doug and Cheryl training for training level too.
I think I'll start riding him more, but give him a day that's physically easier between hard work days. Also, we can introduce longing and riding outside to break things up.

Not So Good Rides, March 21

My last two rides with Rogo weren't so good. He started halting and bracing again when I asked for the trot. Also, I was giving too strong an aid for him to go deeper into the corners (previously we just did big wide turns)and he ended up wedged into the corner. It really showed that I haven't started a young horse before. The feel changes every day! When I adjusted to a lighter aid he was fine. Too bad I didn't adjust properly before getting my knee banged up on the wall :(
Now I'm wondering if I should shoe him. He's been barefoot all winter, but the track was worn when we rode and it may have been too hard for barefoot. I'm going to get shoes on him. Also the track will be raked.
Savannah didn't want to trot either and that is definitely not like her.
I got so tense during my last ride that I put my back out. Not good. I have to get it stronger. I went to the chiropractor today. Wish we had pilates around here.
My new saddle should be ready to try soon. I just heard from Rachael Argo at Callan Saddlery that she has the pieces and is going to put a WOW competitor together for me. I rode in hers and loved it but it was hard to say if Rogo liked it. She said it appeared to fit him perfectly, but he wasn't happy. Sometimes he just has those days though. So Rachael wants me to try the saddle for a week and see how it goes. If he isn't happy with it we'll have to do something else. I can't wait to try it!
When I get back on my focus will be:
- practicing corners: giving immediately with the inside, using my legs much more and backing off the reins
- working trot
- maintaining canter
- while starting to be more particular about straight, square halts and straight departs
If my back won't withstand the above right away the focus will be:
- gaiting within the walk
- turn on the forehand
- walk pirouettes
- and of course straight, square halts and straight departs

Fri. Lesson, March 28

My lesson on Fri. went pretty well. The goal for the lesson was to get him to canter all the way around, without help from someone in the center with a longe whip. We did it pretty quickly in both directions. He gave a couple of small bumps one way and a small buck the other when I insisted he stay in his canter, but nothing serious. After that we did some free jumping with him and gave him some treats.
Our goals for April are to do working trot 80% of the time when asked and to pick up and hold the canter 80% of time when asked. Also we'll continue working on the contact, bending and circles.
The challenge with the first two goals will be firmness without getting him resentful or rebellious. May be time to bring treats in again.
Doug and Savannah had a lesson Fri. too and did very well. They were working on trot and canter circles.
Dan had been lame in his left back leg the last time we were there (Thur.), but by Sat. he seemed fine. Cheryl thinks he probably hurt it acting a fool in turn out.

Working Trot, March 23

Rogo hadn't picked up a good working trot and held it since moving to South Rawdon / going back to work from his 3 month lay off. Come to think of it he's never done a working trot since we've got him taking contact. Today Cheryl decided it needed to happen and we would focus on just that. Well once that decision was made he went into it pretty quickly and held it, both directions. Even did a little extension.
Cheryl told me before I rode that I needed to be more positive, that I was being too critical and negative about my riding and that I needed to ride with more confidence. I'd been thinking the same thing, just needed a push. She has very good instincts. Anyway, it seemed to work and the big trot felt magical. What a treat he is to ride.
After that she got me to canter in two point (I'd only cantered in two point once before and not on Rogo). It isn't something I did for dressage. Anyway, that went okay but we'll need to keep working on it. Reasoning is to get my heels down, keep my hands really quiet by his neck and to free up his back.
Best points for the day were the working trot and him bending and going into the corners on his own or with little aid. An improvement area is to keep my heels down in the canter. I keep trying to hold him in the canter with my heel - not good.

Turning a Corner, March 22

At our last Lesson Cheryl wanted me to start pushing Rogo deeper into the corners instead of doing more of a big oval in the arena. Now that he is staying straighter and bending better it's time. She pointed out I wasn't using my inside leg enough in the corners to keep him out. I couldn't do it yesterday, but today, after the first couple of times around, he went waaaay into the corners, so much so that he sort of pinned my leg up against the wall in the corners. At first I thought he was being bad because he didn't want to try something new, but then I thought, no, give him the benefit of the doubt - you're asking him to try to do something new and he's figuring out the aid. So I tried harder to give just the right amount of leg and outside rein and he went just where I wanted him. He wasn't screwing up - I was. He did it a little awkwardly at first, but then better and better. I couldn't believe it. For the very first time he was very maneuverable under me, while keeping a correct frame (for his age / training). I swear I could have leg yielded, and I guess I was leg yielding out to the corner, because I wasn't just steering in with my reins, but moving him out, into the corner with my leg. Yippee!
I tried it at the trot, but he couldn't keep him rhythm when he hot the corners. I don't think I was supposed to do it at the trot yet anyway. I'll ask about it at my lesson tomorrow. I didn't push the matter, just went back to doing it at the walk and giving lots of praise.
Then we worked on trotting and trying for more of a working trot. He was sluggish at first, but his energy level goes up as the ride goes on. I didn't do any longing today, just got on and rode, so he didn't have that warm up.
He was quite willing to pick up his canter today and even did it on his own a couple of times (not a good idea in most instances, but while he's learning I'm not going to discourage him). He wouldn't hold it for long though. Only half way around to the right and even less to the left. I was by myself so didn't push it. He did okay and went into it better than usual, so... It will be time to ask for more soon, but I'll do it when someone is there to help if needed. I wonder if I'm doing something to put him off? Otherwise, why would he be picking it up on his own, wanting to canter, and then dropping it fairly quickly?
Then I asked for a little turn on the forehand (one step each way, went well). Also Cheryl had us try our first walk pirouettes yesterday so I tried one of those each way. Not a great success but not a complete failure either. I finished asking for walking deeper into the corners again, but he wouldn't do it anymore. I dropped the matter, did a little trot, then walked on a long rein to finish. A fairly good ride and the initial work was really exciting.
I longed Dan after that. We worked mostly on walk trot transitions and a little cantering. He did well.

Lesson, March 20

I had a lesson on Rogo today. It went okay. We started asking him to go into the corners more, now that he is staying somewhat straight and bending in the corners. Also, we tried a walk pirouette for the first time. He did okay at it, not great but not terrible. We finished with some cantering in both directions. I haven't been practicing much lately and got Cheryle to help ne reinforce the aid with the longe whip. He did fine - calm and happy, but I found I didn't have the 'push' today to push him out of his comfort zone and stay in the canter. We only got around about 3/4 of the way. Maybe next time.
Doug had a good lesson on Savannah. They are getting ready to show.
It was 19 C today. Amazing for March.
We worked on Cheryl's fence after our lesson.

Really Good Riding Lesson, March 16

Rogo went so well for me today. I watched a video of my last lesson before today's lesson and I think it really helped. I kept my hands quieter and it showed. Rogo was keeping his head in a nice position, bending, etc. I'm seeing a difference in him. He went so well at the walk and trot that Cheryl told me not to bother cantering today. He had a great, confidence building experience.
I longed Dan outside and he went well. It was beautiful again...

Rogo and Dan's Work for the Day, March 15

Today Mom and I went to the barn. I longed Rogo outside and he got away from me and ran all over the field. He fell down when he hit snow - right over n his side. I finally got him back and we had a good longing session. Most of his turn out over the winter has been in the indoor ring, so he was pretty excited to get out. I longed him outside the other day and he wasn't as excited as today. He went well. He's slowly but surely learning to stretch into the contact with light side reins. I have a lesson on him tomorrow.
I was going to ride Dan today, but after all the excitement with Rogo I decided just to longe him. Seeing how Rogo had enjoyed his run, I turned Dan out and let him run. He had a nice little canter around and then came up to me when I called him. What a good boy. I longed him inside. We did a lot of walk trot transitions and then a little cantering. His canter is still not good, especially to the right. His walk and trot were very good. I was quite happy with them. He was just in a halter. I need to get him bending and taking contact better too. I'm working with him so he'll be in good shape for Michelle and Louis, although once I get him going well I won't want to give him up!
Dan needs to be tested for worms. He's had on and off diarrhea.
The weather is the best I remember for March. We've had a week or more of sunny days and 10 + temps. It's perfect riding weather!

Riding, March 13

We're having the best March weather I can ever remember having. It's sunny, calm and warm (for March, + 5 to 10). Perfect riding weather. The horses still have their winter coats, although they're shedding fast, so we have to be somewhat careful that they don't over heat.
I rode Rogo today. He is doing well with bending and contact. I think I can sort of do circles now while staying correctly bent. We're circling in and out in both directions. We're also continuing working on stretching forward and down and that's going quite well. The thing I have to focus on now is keeping my hands and seat quiet so he doesn't throw his head up. That and the circling are my goals for the week. Oh yeah, I have to get him outside and having some fun. He's been very patient about boring circles in the arena.
I'm also going to make a point of getting Dan back to work. For the end of March:
- conditioning
- contact and head set
- circles as per Rogo
- beginning to obey Louis
This week:
- ask Cheryl about side reins
- riding Mon. (Sun. too if I have time)
- longing Tues.
- riding Fri.
- riding Sat. / Sun.

Lesson, March 12

Today in my lesson we worked on getting Rogo to stretch forward and down in the trot in both directions and bending correctly in the corners. We also worked on canter. He did okay after he picked it up but didn't want to pick it up. It took some work.
He's taking better contact and staying straighter. Cheryl is an amazing teacher - very intensely teaching all the time and seems to magically fix things and get us doing things I can't believe we can do.
I also agree with and like her philosophy - taking things slow, classical training, etc.

Riding Update, Rogo and Dan, March 8

I rode on my own today as Cheryl had to leave and Doug didn't come with me.That usually means I'm not going to take too many risks or try something I might need help with, as I'll be alone there for hours.
I longed Rogo first, then rode him. He didn't go all that well for quite a while into the ride. I find now that I can ride him with a fairly good contact in the trot both ways, but his left walk still involves turning his head out if I have contact. After working in both directions, doing some canter to the right and me getting frustrated with left walk, we worked on decreasing trot circles to the left. The first one wasn't great, but not bad. The second was surprisingly good. He stayed flexed to the left, came in fairly evenly, and kept his rhythm, even when the circle got small. He went out evenly and with good flexion and rhythm too. Go figure. Just when I thought we weren't getting anywhere he surprises me.
I can't wait to get a properly fitted saddle on him.
After Rogo I rode Dan. With Michelle and Louis starting their riding lessons it's time to get Dan back in shape. He won't listen to a green rider AT ALL. However, I started back riding on him after 30 years, so it can be done. We did a lot of walk trot transitions and it seemed to sharpen him up, then a little canter both ways. I almost fell off him at one point when some sliding ice on the roof made him spook and I got up over his neck. Oops!
Doug and I both have lessons tomorrow. Michelle and Louis had lessons last night.
We took Michelle and Louis to Greenhawk on the weekend and got them outfitted in riding gear - boots, breeches and helmets. With the red L.L. Bean jackets we got at Frenchies and gave to them for barn jackets they looked like a riding team! Very cute. Must post pictures.
Michelle cantered last night. Yipee! Louis struggled with Dan (they'll come along). Cheryl and I agree he has a natural talent and loves the horses.

And Even More on the Saddle, March 7

Yesterday I took Mom to the barn. It was amazing out - sunny and 10 C. Spring is definitely on the way. Cheryl suggested we longe outside - our first time working outside since being there. I settled Mom in a chair with a blanket and we watched Cheryl longe Dancer first (she was beautiful and did a half circle of almost passage when she asked her to come back from a trot to a walk - in a halter!).
Then I longed Rogo. He was happy to be outside and floated around the circle. I tried longing him over a low jump that was sitting there, which he did, but both times he kept going and went out a gate into the pasture - first one way, then the other. He stopped right away though. He likes people too much to run away.
Before taking him out Cheryl got me to put the Albion saddle on him (I'd mentioned to her how well he went in it the day before). She pointed out that it didn't actually fir him. So I emailed the iftter again. She tells me that the Albion may have relived the usual pressure points and wasn't bad enough to cause immediate pressure, but eventually would if it doesn't fit properly. That was interesting. Makes sense. I sure hope the WOW she's putting together for me works.
Doug went to the barn today and watched some of Michelle's and Louis's lesson. Dan didn't want to go for Louis (of course) but I think he'll be fine as Louis gets more experience. Dan goes fine for me.
My lesson tomorrow. I want to review my goals again with Cheryl.

More on the Saddle, March 6

Today Doug, Michelle, Louis and I went to the barn and we rode all three horses. Louis learned to post. It was only his third time ever on a horse (first two times on Savannah, today on Dan) and he did it almost as soon as I told him how and looked like he'd been doing it for years. Michelle did really well riding Dan on her own. He was testing her but she did well and I know he'll come along for her.
The interesting thing about riding today was that I rode Rogo using Doug's new Albion saddle. After he reacted poorly to the WOW saddles we tried on him the other day I wanted to gain some insight as to whether it was just going back to a dressage saddle, or whether it was the specific WOW saddle. Seems it may have been the saddle. He seemed to me to be going better in the Albion than he's ever gone. he picked up this great big trot without even being asked and I haven't been able to get him to do that since starting again in Dec. There was lots of suspension. He did it several times and had a couple of really nice canters too. I thought he felt really loose and free under me, so I asked Doug to come and look and he agreed that Rogo was looking really happy and free. It was so nice to have him being happily forward on his own without pushing. I won't draw any final conclusions from this, but it seems that maybe the WOW isn't right for him. Every horse is different so I need to make sure I get the right thing for him.

Michelle and Louis's Riding Lesson, March 6

Michelle (our Daughter) and her new boyfriend Louis started taking riding lessons. They are going to ride Dan. I'm so happy! Dan needs his own 'owner' who will make a pet of him and treat him special. Right now I'm so focused on Rogo that Dan gets basic grooming and that's about it.
They started their lessons on Savannah and did really well. She went nicely for them. They both seem to have a good natural talent so I hope it works. Louis hasn't been around horses before but really enjoys them and it shows. He'll do well with the horses.

Saddle Fitting, March 5

I had my saddle fitting yesterday. Not a total success, but not bad. The fitter is a Society of Master Saddle Fitters (UK) Master Saddle Fitter. SHe has a very impressive background and sells WOW and Albion saddles. My husband had great luck with his draft cross mare - the first saddle she fitted them with worked great for both Doug and Savannah (his mare). She had been trying to head into the center too much for quite a while, and with this saddle that issue disappeared. Must have been something about his position in the old saddle. Both of them were very happy with the Albion saddle they initially tried and he ended up buying it. At my insistence they tried a WOW and didn't like it. The fitter loved Savannah.
I LOVED the WOW. It was the most comfortable saddle I ever sat in. Unfortunately Rogo seemed to hate it, even though it appeared by all tests to fit him perfectly. He pinned his ears, braced, resisted moving forward and even seemed on the verge of bucking at one point which isn't something he does. I got off and longed, then tried him in the schooling saddle we've been using and went back to the WOW. He was a little better but not great. I tried him in another WOW and he seemed a little better but still not in top form. He did seem to get in the spirit of things and started to stretch his back ad feel the different saddles. He stopped pinning his ears and was relaxed and feeling what was happening, but I can't say he seemed totally confident in any of them. This is new to me so I'm wondering if, as a young horse, changing saddles is a bigger deal to him. He still doesn't have great balance and switching from a general purpose to a dressage may have put me in a different enough position that he had to really focus on balance. He started in a dressage saddle, but as he grew and I learned more about fitting I knew I had to switch saddles and put him in the general purpose as a filler while I shopped, because it fit him and was handy.
One thing I was pleased about - he seemed to figure out that we were trying saddles. I thought that taking him in and out of the ring and changing saddles four times, in addition to longing, might make him cranky. He's never experienced anything except coming in, longing / riding and leaving again. He didn't get cranky at all. If anything he got happier and more relaxed as it proceeded and he realized I wouldn't force anything on him. He didn't mind at all that we kept asking him to go back in and go to work. After the initial bad start he got more relaxed, stretched his back a lot and got progressively more energized. We were at for close to 2 hours and he was still cheerful at the end, so that was good.
To the fitters credit she said that she couldn't in all good conscious sell me a saddle that the horse didn't seem happy with, so she is going to put together a demo for me and leave it with me for a week to 10 days. That should be enough time to see if it will work for him.
Rogo had a great canter in the middle of the fitting when I put his old every day saddle on him. Maybe he was so relieved to be in a familiar saddle. Anyway, I sensed he wanted to go so I put my outside leg back and on and away he went with no voice aid in a beautiful forward canter. He was very energetic, would have galloped in a heart beat, but came back instantly when I asked. Very nice.
So, we'll see what happens. I hope we get a great saddle that works for us.

Lesson, March 3

I had a good lesson today. I longed without and then with side reins. Then I rode, going first to the left. It was a struggle. He doesn't want to bend left and wants to stick his head to the outside. I could get him going quite well if we trotted, but the walk was a constant balancing act. We did a trot circle of decreasing and then increasing size, starting and going back to 20 m. It wasn't too bad, considering it was his first time. Going back out was harder than coming in. He went well to the right (he usually does) and then we cantered to the right, started across the diagonal at a canter, trotted and picked up a left lead canter on the other side. Cheryl was quite happy with it, but she was giving Rogo a bit of encouragement, so I can't be too pleased about it. We also did a bit of turn of the forehand - one step and then walk or trot off. He is really getting the aid now.
The nicest thing is that he is so calm and sweet - he loves people, always shows up at his stall door and pushes his head into his halter, will follow me anywhere with no lead line, wants to hang out, etc. He's so sweet and loving that it's hard to be firm with him when he does rebel / resist in training. Because he does have a stubborn streak too! Doesn't get cranky or hold a grudge though - I can do a correction and move on and that's the end of it. Working with him is a privilege. It's so fun to have a horse like him.
Tomorrow is our saddle fitting. Should be interesting and it will be great to get him into a properly fitted dressage saddle.

I'm Obsessed, March 1

I'm in Port Hawkesbury for work. I've always been a workaholic, but now all I want to do is ride and train Rogo. I'm obsessed. I think about him all the time. When I'm not riding him I think about riding him and talk about riding him. I'm writing my blog so I won't bore other people to death talking about him. Of course every detail and nuance is endlessly fascinating to me. It's what I think about when I fall asleep at night and when I wake up in the morning. All I have to do is think about him and the other horses and I feel happy.
The saddle fitter is coming Thur. I'm really looking forward to it.
Rogo wasn't his worst, but not his best when I rode him yesterday. He didn't want to bend to the left, but I don't think I warmed him up long enough. I didn't longe, and I didn't walk on a long rein for very long, so that was probably the issue. he finished up pretty well, although he hasn't held his canter very well the last 2 or 3 times.
Wed.'s focus - warm up/stretch, contact, bend, energy, square halt, hold canter longer (ask about slipping).

Rogo is Awesome in the Wind, Feb. 24

I had a lesson yesterday morning. I thought about canceling because it was raining hard and the wind was off the charts. 80 km/hr and gusting on top of that (I read in the paper that it was gusting up to 115 km / hr.). The indoor was like being inside a drum. You had to shout to be heard, and be standing close to one another even at that. Here's the amazing thing - Rogo didn't even flicker an ear in acknowledgment of the wind and noise. On top of the steady roar, there were gusts that screamed and shook the building. He just kept going as though it was like any other day. We longed and then I rode him. It went really well - no more or less energy than usual. I got some good working trot on the longe (briefly make his circle smaller if he goes into a canter when I ask for more energy / lengthening). Cheryl figured out I shouldn't ask him to do a really forward working trot under saddle yet - he puts his head up, hollows his back and rushes. We are going to work on circles more to get bend and suppleness and let him get more confident in his increased contact before asking for working trot. It's very close. This is in rising trot. When I sit and ask for more he responds with a great lengthening (for his age / training), so it's nice to know he will listen to my seat like that. I don't sit much though because his back isn't ready.
He is picking up his canter from my leg and I'm doing just a couple of steps of slow trot before asking. Sure isn't all the time, but getting better.
He didn't want to go straight or bend when I started to the left today, so when I switched to the right he was great and then did left okay when I went back. Good to remember.
In discussion with Cheryl, my training goals for March are to:
- do decreasing / increasing circles, first on longe, then under saddle, and
- working trot (after the above has developed his ability a little more)
I also need to remember to try for square halts and look for a good response in walk / trot transitions.
All in all a good lesson today, and his behavior in the crazy noise was very impressive for a green 4 year old. He is also very good when snow is coming off the roof. One day a huge fall came off one side and seemed to go on and on with a thundering noise. His head went up and he stopped, then continued on with a little more animation. Lots of horses would have been in the rafters. He's hard to read though - 95+% of time he is unbelievably good, and then something you'd never expect throws him off, like the time he was scared of a chair in a new place or a slight noise of snow on the roof that you could barely hear over the music. It's very rare and becoming rarer though.
After riding Rogo we (Doug and I) tacked up Savannah and brought her in. She is the most trust worthy, reliable horse in the world but she got 3 steps inside the door of the arena and I swear she went 10 ft. in the air and 20 sideways. The noise was too much for her. I know she doesn't like wind (like many horses), but I'd never seen her react that badly. Then again, I'm not sure I've had her (or any horse) out in that much wind. We decided to longe her and not ride her. She continued to be out of character, bucking and running. She had a beautiful trot though :) Anyway, makes Rogo's behavior even more impressive when I see a horse who I trust more than any I've ever known be unnerved by the noise, while he stays completely with me. To be fair to her I must say I've ridden her in some big Nov. winds on the beach and had a ball. Also, she doesn't care at all about snow coming off the roof, trucks, etc.
After working with the horses we took Cheryl to lunch to celebrate her birthday and for the 3 of us to set our March riding goals. We went to Cravings Cafe and it was great. A very nice morning.
Doug's goals are to work on his seat and position (particularly thumbs up), and generally keep preparing to show training level. Cheryl's goal is to work on Dancer's conditioning.
Yeah Rogo!

Today's Ride, Feb. 24

Today I watched Doug's lesson on Savannah - his second with Cheryl. He did really well. I can see an improvement right in front of my eyes. Savannah is doing so well too. She is so much fun to ride. They will do well together. Wonder if we'll compete against one another this summer? She'll kick our asses!
I rode Rogo on my own today (no lesson). He did well, but not as well as yesterday. I think every other day may be best, at least until we can ride outside and break things up a bit. Also, having Cheryl actively coaching the ride is still a big help. We aren't to a point of being able to work on our own a lot. Having said that, it wasn't bad and it's good to have some practice time on my own. He is taking contact and bending. He picked up his canter with just an outside leg and slight inside rein aid - no voice, no hard pushing. Then held it quite calmly until he slipped (a wet spot at one end). I'm starting to be able to feel his canter and sit into it instead of on it. It's my first time with a warm blood and the power and suspension are wonderful, but quite different to what I'm used to. He wasn't as forward in his working trot today. May have been a little tired. I was. Yesterday we worked hard!

Best Ride Yet, Feb. 23

Today was the best ride we've ever had. Even though we've been training for a year (with one three month break and a few shorter breaks) everything seemed to come together all at once. He accepted / wanted a good contact, he bent nicely, he had energy and engagement. Wow! It was wonderful.
It didn't start out so well, but then Cheryl, my teacher, got me to take more contact with both reins and keep my outside rein contact stronger in corners instead of giving so much on the outside when taking with the inside. All of a sudden everything clicked. Of course Rogo was ready now and he wasn't even a week ago. It seems almost magical when it works! He actually goes stronger and with more energy now that he is understanding contact, instead of hanging back from it. Yahoo!!!
I'm used to riding Savannah who is solid, solid, solid, and I keep a good contact with her, but when it comes to riding Rogo I have no idea and now I'm erring on the side of not enough (or was until today). Today really showed he feels more happy and secure WITH contact. Finally we're getting it!!! Oh, also, we finished with a great canter - strong, forward, and yet very much responding to aids. I'm in heaven.
I'm sure we'll be back and forth on this. Seems that's how training goes, but we're definitely on the right track. The thing to remember - focus, concentrate,ride at all times.

saddle Fit, Feb. 22

I've scheduled my lesson for 12:30 tomorrow. Key to remember - ride actively and think all the time! Also, our saddle fitting is scheduled for next Thur. I must check on reputation of WOW saddles.

Sunday Afternoon Ride, February 21

I rode with my husband and his horse Savannah today. Savannah is a draft cross, specifics unknown. She is an absolute sweet heart and one of the most fun horses I've ever ridden. She is safe, safe, safe yet wonderfully forward - never has to be nagged to hold her gait or rhythm, picks up a trot or canter at the lightest aid, etc. I won the Seahorse circuit Training Level championship in 2008 (our Provincial circuit) on her and also took her into a Level One test at a gold show the end of the season and won that on her too. Doug, my husband, tried her after that and loved her so much he gave up western riding and switched to dressage immediately. She was his horse to start with, but I'd been using her for dressage. So then I focused on Rogo, and while he was getting old enough / ready to train and show I trained my Appaloosa (palamino with blanket) Dan and took him in Training Level last summer. He was fun and did okay, along with having a few escapades in keeping with his rather mischievous personality. Seems I'll be in Training Level for ever!
So today's ride went fairly well, but the cantering wasn't as good as yesterday. He was accepting contact quite nicely, staying straighter and bending okay in the corners. He wasn't great at the working trot, but not terrible either. Being with Savannah he seemed to want to get in front of her and then crowd her / cut her off. It wasn't a huge, bad issue, just a bit of a nuisance a couple of times. He isn't at all used to being ridden with another horse, so this will be good experience for the warm up ring. Cantering to the right went fairly well, left he didn't want to hold very long. I think I'm going to try riding every other day for awhile instead of 5 or 6 times a week, and see how that goes.
Doug has started getting Savannah and himself ready to show at Training Level this summer. They are doing well. His problem (she doesn't do it to me) is that Savannah sometimes tries to turn into the center of the ring with him. Our current teacher Cheryl (he had his first lesson with her the other day) made some suggestions to him and they did great practicing today.
My Mom, who is 86, came to the barn with us today. She is a real animal lover and enjoys the horses. After riding we all went to lunch at Cravings Cafe. It was about 4 degrees C. with a gentle snow wafting down - all in all a great Feb. winter afternoon.

Great Lesson - February 20, 2010

February 20, 2010
Today's lesson went really well and I have lots to think about and work on. First I longed him and used side reins for only the second time. The first time was a couple of days ago. The reason for side reins is that I want to encourage him to trust contact with the bit. Being inexperienced with starting a young horse, I'm not sure I have the best feel for getting the right contact and keeping it really steady. Joan, one of my teachers, would have preferred that I not need them, but she understands why I wanted to try them at this point. They are set with just enough contact so that they don't droop / form loops, and I only use them for a few minutes.
Next I thought it would be a good idea to be longed at the canter to the left (me riding, no side reins), since he doesn't seem to be confident in corners to the left. He can do them, but doesn't seem to believe he can - he goes deep into the corner at the canter and turns smoothly, but somewhat sharply. At this stage we should be doing wide turns with bend. Anyway, he didn't like my longing plan and it was not working well - too much work to hold him in the canter and our thought had been to get him cantering more happily to the left. He's done this before on the longe. So, we took the longe off and I cantered first to the right. It was the best he's done - picked it up easily and held a nice forward canter for about 4 rounds of the arena before I asked for a trot. He would have kept going but I thought I'd stop there as it was the most he's done and he did it really nicely. Then I changed directions (left) and just as I was thinking I'd ask for the canter he started to canter on his own. Maybe I subconsciously gave the aid? It's the first time he's volunteered a canter on his own, so I didn't correct it, just let him go. He went by the door he didn't want to go by before and was going well; didn't hold it as well as he did to the right, but he did a good job. I asked several more times, got a full circle and then some, and he didn't even notice the door that has been our nemesis for the last month. What's up with that? He was also clearly recognizing the leg aid to pick up the canter much better than before (I still accompany the leg aid with voice). His last circle of the arena to the left was forward, happy and strong so I asked for the trot again on that note. For the last two times I've ridden him I stopped trying to push him by the door in the canter. I'm not sure if that has any bearing on it, but for whatever reason today it wasn't an issue. I'm very happy with him!
Now to me - not so happy with my riding, but nothing I can't work on. I wasn't doing a good job of keeping him straight and bent correctly in the corners at the walk and trot. I got sloppy at first asking for the canter (too willing to go into the canter any old which way as long as he picked it up and this isn't necessary). I got sloppy again after the canter because I was so happy at how well he'd done and the good transition to the trot, that I forgot to keep him in a good trot. Yikes! Okay, one week left in Feb., so next ride:

* rein on / off quickly (and support with legs) to keep him on the rail and to bend in corners; don't keep a steady pull on the side I want to bend to
* engagement at the trot; a good working trot
* pick up, ride, and transition out of canter as cleanly and correctly as with any other gait
* generally ride with clarity and thinking at all times!

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