Friday, July 30, 2010

Doug and I Have a Lesson with Joan

Doug and I had a lesson with Joan this morning. Doug and Savanah focused on turn on the forehand, and Rogo and I were focusing on canter. Of course we did other things, but these were the main things Joan wanted us to work on today. Doug and Savanah had a great ride last night, so he was hoping she'd be the same today. Of course that never works. She wasn't bad, but not as good as last night. They did a little canter toward the end of the lesson, and unfortunately had a bit of an accident. Savanah tripped where there was a trail worn in the ring, and fell to her knees. Doug stayed on, but poor Savanah hit hard. Doug got right off and she had a skinned knee and was limping. The poor sweetie turned her face into Doug's chest and held it there as if asking for help. He took her into her stall and put liniment on it. Before he could touch her, she held her sore leg up to him as if to show him where it hurt :(
After a few minutes he was able to lead her around without any limping, so I think she'll be fine. He won't ride for a few days, but will keep her turned out (our horses can enter and leave their stalls on their own) and hand walk her if needed to try to avoid stiffness.
Rogo couldn't have been more lazy today. Wow. I worked for every step. Squeezing, kicking, tapping, it all came into play. It wasn't overly hot and we only had a very easy ride for about a half hour yesterday, and the day before that he had off, so I don't know why he was so lacking in energy. If we stopped for a minute he'd go to sleep! Of all days to try to impress Joan with canter work! Anyway, we did lots of walk trot transitions, tried to get impulsion at the trot, etc., etc. I did end up getting two decent canters each way, but I had to give him a rather firm tap with the whip to get them. Not good. He has been transitioning much better for months (one quiet ask) than he has been lately. Before he'd pick it up easily, but not hold it, now it's hard to get it, but when you do he'll keep it. Go figure.
We also worked at trying to get his head into a more correct position. It comes and goes. Walk is pretty good most of the time, and he'll do a few steps of trot, but then out it goes. Cheryl spent a lot of time working on this with us on Tues. She did bending exercises with us and that helped.
Finally we did a bit of sitting trot. I could sit to Savanah's biggest trot, and with Dan it's like he's gliding, but Rogo is a different ball game. His trot has so much bounce and suspension, even when he's basically jogging. I'm hoping that if I just do short stretches at a slow trot that I'll eventually work up to longer stretches and bigger trots. I don't need to sit now anyway. With Savanah I did a lot of bare back riding in all gaits, in the ring and on the beach / in the woods to get the sitting trot and strengthen my seat and that really helped. Maybe I can try that with Rogo on the longe line at some point.
When I was finished with Rogo I went to see Savanah in her stall and she held her sore leg up to me to show me her boo boo. Poor baby girl. She is so sweet.
Tonight I longed Dan. To make it more interesting for him I put one caveletti (correct spelling anyone?) and one low cross rail out for him to go over and this seemed to make him happy. He was quite forward and licked his lips like crazy whenever we slowed to a walk.
It's time to measure my July goals when Cheryl comes on Tues. I'm afraid we've failed miserably. I thought the canter was going to meet our goals, but it's taken a down turn, and the same is true for contact. We might squeak through in improved left bending. Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself. Better not start guessing. We have a few more days until she gets here!
A final note - this article, Where Is the Art In Dressage Today presents an interesting perspective.

Have a great long weekend everyone. My red wine is calling...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Schooling Sessions with Rogo and Dan

Tonight I tried to learn a routine for being efficient in doing two rides back to back. I know, I should have this worked out since starting Rogo, but I haven't. Anyone have a good routine? I brought them both into stalls, groomed each one in succession fairly quickly, tacked Rogo and left Dan in his stall. After Rogo's ride I untacked him, gave him a quick brush in sweaty areas and tacked Dan up. Sounds simple but maybe there's a better way?
For Rogo's session I thought about a post on A Work In Progress (side bar). The post is about re-building balance in a horse. I'm building, not re-building, but it made lots of sense. The post stresses the importance of riding every step. Our teachers tell us this, and I read lots of dressage articles and sometimes books, but seeing it in black and white from a blogger who's riding helps it sink in. There's something about the immediacy of it. I have been sloppy in letting Rogo slouch around a little bit at the walk, especially when he starts out. He doesn't need to ramble around. He needs a long rein to start, yes, but he can march, so we did. He has a nice walk, lots of over tracking, but he tends to be a little lazy in it a lot of the time.
My goal was a short but focused ride to work on bending, especially to the left, and taking a good contact. He did both almost right away, after having to work for 1/2 an hour for either when Cheryl was here on Tues. He did it before she was here too. I know people and horses are different when riding in lessons, but we have to get our lessons closer to day to day riding, otherwise we spend our whole lesson getting ready to ride.
The bending and contact went so well I asked for a canter on a left circle and he gave me a really nice canter circle. That's all I asked for. We did a couple of trots up the center line with halting and called it a night.
Then it was Dan's turn. I decided to work in the ring. I had his shoes pulled a week ago because I didn't think I'd ride him until it got cooler, but with my new plan I'll have to call the farrier to put them on again. He was fine after our beach ride, and is still fine, but I know nothing about keeping a horse bare foot except that you don't just start in and do it without a plan. I could try boots though. I think I'll look into it.
My goals with Dan were just a short session to get him working again - mostly basics at walk and trot, with a little canter. For our obstacle I grabbed the first thing I saw - a tarp. He is kind of a scardey-cat so I thought we'd have to work up to it but he gingerly tried walking over the corner of it on my first ask and then quickly moved on to walking over the middle of it while keeping his rhythm. What a good boy.
That was our evening. Quick and easy. This might be doable.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Neglected Child - Getting Dan Back to Work?

I hesitate to write this, because I'll feel obligated to follow through if I write it down, and I don't know if I have the energy and time for working with two horses. I know from all the blogs I read that many average everyday people are working with two horses, or more, but I seem to get so tired from training one! And there aren't enough hours in the day.
It isn't fair to Dan though to just stand around. He's a healthy, nine year old appaloosa gelding and we're lucky to have him. He hates to work in the ring, and with my obsession for dressage that has discouraged me too.
I showed him at Training Level in dressage last summer because Rogo wasn't ready to show, but since then have only ridden him about five times. Trying to get him to work with me in dressage was painful, but being out on the beach with him the other night reminded me how much fun he can be on a trail ride, and that he enjoys it too.
He has a great capacity to learn, he just doesn't like arena work. One winter when I had he and Savanah home and it was too cold to ride I did clicker training with them to pass the time. He was amazing. He'd learn with only one or two repetitions. The first thing I taught them was to turn their head away and stand still if they wanted a treat. This keeps them from getting pushy for treats. He'd stand frozen like a little soldier :) and still turns his head away to ask for treats although I dropped the training and haven't done it since.
Also, I was reminded in reading a comment from allhorsestuff (address in my sidebar) today that some horses who don't like ring work can be encouraged with cavelleti and jumping. Dan likes cavelleti and while he'll never be a jumper, a friend jumped him over low cross rails a couple of times which was the only time I've ever seen him act happy, forward and excited (in a good way) in the ring. Guess just going round and round bores him. How can he not see the fascination with a perfect 20 m circle??? How is it that he doesn't feel a communion with the universe as he executes a perfectly straight center line? I don't get it, but there you have it.
I feel kind of lost though in trying to come up with a training plan and goals for Dan. I'm thinking that it would be doable to start with riding 1 to 2 times per week, and longe 1 to 2 times per week, with a minimum of 3 sessions a week. But what to do on our rides? I don't want to just get on and flop around. Maybe to start, on the trail, week one and two:
  • sharpen walk, trot, canter, rein back, halt responses
  • review / build leg yield ability
  • turn on the forehand
  • cross a gully / ditch
That should get us started. I'll have to think where to go from there if it looks like I can keep it up.

He looks thrilled to be in the arena

Eating hay at sun rise


What was I thinking with those horizontal stripes?

We're zig zagging around the ground poles instead of going over them

His first show

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blog Updates and Morning Lesson

I figured out how to see my # of hits and countries they are coming  from - Canada, US, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Japan, France, Australia and New Zealand. This is way cool! I know there are many more popular blogs, but I'm thrilled that anyone reads this, or just stops by. Let's face it - it's kind of a niche market :) I write about the minutia of dressage aids and my training goals in painful detail. There are kind souls and kindred spirits out there though and I'm really enjoying getting to 'know' them. Please leave me a comment or 'follow' if you're dropping by. I love to hear from people.
My blog started just as a way for me to keep track of my training, but I've discovered so many interesting blogs. It's great to be able to read how other people are doing and to get advice when you run into a road block. 
I've updated my media links and added a few new ones. Any suggestions for good dressage / equestrian links?
Now, today's lesson with Cheryl. I think, seriously, that Rogo doesn't like having a teacher in the ring with him. I've always thought things went worse in a lesson than on my own because I was more tense in front of someone (obviously things don't go worse in all ways - I need the lesson to learn, but when practicing we do better alone.) But after today, I'm thinking it's both Rogo and I. He took a dive at Cheryl at one point. He did this at her barn once last winter too. He's never really come close to her, but he's attempting to warn her off. Good luck with that Rogo - she's stronger than you! I think that might be what he doesn't like. Don't get me wrong - he's affectionate and kind to her any other time, like he is with everyone. I think he senses though that she is a strong presence and that she's drilling us through a routine. He is resisting that. He's been taking a nice contact / staying in a fairly good position lately, but today we had to warm up for quite awhile to get it. His head was in the air and his nose was pointed at the moon most of the time for the first 20 minutes. 
Cheryl gave us a great exercise though - circle at each end of a long side and flex to the inside when straight. After doing this at the trot for a few minutes he relaxed and dropped his head (for the most part). This was when he decided to head at her at one point. He got a whack for it.
Then history repeated itself with the canter. He did very well last week until Joan was there, when he wouldn't canter at all without being chased into it (I think Joan was close to fainting with horror when I did that) . Yuk. He's been great at the canter since then - doing his best work ever, until today in front of Cheryl. Guess what? No canter. To be precise, he did so so picking it up in the corner and starting to cross the diagonal (the plan being to switch to a trot at roughly X). Then he decided he wasn't even going to do that. Soooo, we had to work and work to get him to canter out of a corner on a left lead. Frustrating, but ...
I'm not going to let it bother me this time. I know now that it's coming and going at this point. We're on the right track.

Things to remember about today's lesson:
- keep him flexed to the inside and solid against my outside rein to prevent him from hopping out of the ring again
- don't trot until he is lowering his head and accepting contact; do lots of bending to get started
- praise and reward when he softens
- don't try to pull him up when he drops his head too much - squeeze my legs and he'll come up (otherwise he could get over bent)
One last note - we signed up to do W/T C and D at the Truro gold show, and I now realize that W/T D (Introductory level in the US) is impossible to ride in a 20 X 60 ring and not really realistic in a 20 X 40 ring (1/2 20m circle X to A and turn up the center line at A? On a green walk trot horse? ). Has anyone tried a competition with this test? We're switching tests. 

ps -  I reread this and it may sound like I'm blaming Rogo. Don't mean to. I'm a big part of what's going on. The fact that he may be a bit off too with someone else there hadn't occurred to me before.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Trail Ride and Canter Review

Doug and I just got back from a trail ride on the beach behind our house. We took Savanah and Dan, my appaloosa. We used to go alot, but have been so wrapped up in dressage this is our first time this summer. We HAVE to get out more! It's good for the horses, and for us.
Here are a few pictures:








I just stuck the last picture in because you can't really see Dan well in the 2 beach photos of him, and I never write about him. This picture was taken last summer. He loves trails, hates dressage. I'm thinking the solution may be to practice dressage on the trails :) Honestly he'll go forever. He fights not to turn for home! I've never known another horse to do this. The down side is that he HATES working in the ring. It is such hard work to get him to go forward in the slightest. Point him at a trail though and you have a big striding, forward, eager sweetie. I was reading someone's blog the other night about finding the horse that likes to do what you want to do, and I thought, hmmm. Poor Dan has only been ridden about 4 times in the last year because I've been totally wrapped up in training Rogo in dressage and just don't have the time or energy to train Dan in something he doesn't want to be trained in. But.... I like trail rides and so does he. So I won't dread it and neither will he if we just go trail riding. I'm the type that likes riding goals and improvement (ha ha - no kidding - guess this explains the dressage!), so I'll have to set trail goals. Dan is very willing and will climb anything you point him at, but he isn't big on going through water (he will, but it needs work), etc. Maybe we can start learning a few obstacles and having some fun, instead of me trying to force him to do dressage or leaving him alone. We'll see. My ambition may peter out... It would be ideal if I could find someone who appreciated him and wanted to ride him.
Joan was down this morning and gave Doug and I a lesson in the kitchen. No, we weren't cooking (God help us if Joan was teaching us that! :) We had our bridles on the back of chairs and were reviewing the canter aids, from the initial half halt, to carrying it after the transition. Joan is a perfectionist, so each detail and nuance was discussed and reviewed - the half halt, inside and outside leg positions at each stage, hands, contact, flexion, gaiting, timing with the outside hind, ... I rode Rogo afterward on my own and our transitions were improved. They had started to get sloppy since he was carrying it more. Maybe I was rushing him into it in my zeal to keep him in it. Anyway, we slowed the trot for a step or two and then calmly picked up the correct lead canter with each ask. He is responding to my aids to carry it longer and to steering as well, so I'm pretty happy about that. It was the perfect time for a review.
Looking back, it was a great day. A lesson with Joan, two good rides - it doesn't get any better.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pictures From Last Weekend's Show

Here are a few pictures of Doug from last weekend's show in Windsor. I also have to get busy and post pictures on our club Facebook fan page. Good work to keep me out of trouble on a rainy Sun.








Doug and Savanah got two 3rds the first day, and two 2nds the second day. Although he insists he was robbed when they only got a 5 for one of their center line halts that looked pretty good (to us) ... :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Too Much Excitement

The dogs got me up at 6:30 this morning, as usual. I took them out, fed them, got the coffee on and fed the horses. I was heading out the driveway to get the newspaper when I heard air brakes and looked up to see a very large dump truck braking to avoid hitting our neighbor's horse, who was on the road. This is one of my biggest nightmare scenarios. I ran inside yelling for Doug, ran to the barn for a halter and lead line and we drove up the road (me still in pajamas). The horse ran from us (still on the road), so Doug and I flagged down traffic and asked people to wait until we could catch him or at least get him off the road. It surprised me that some people would have tried to keep driving right through while the horse was clearly very excited and racing up and down the road. Then our neighbor (the owner) showed up and although the horse was in a field by this time they were able to catch him and get him back to the barn. Whew. Everything worked out and everyone was safe. This is a young appaloosa they rescued from slaughter - a beautiful guy.
After coffee we did some schooling with Rogo and Savanah. I'm very happy to report that Rogo was back to transitioning into the canter and carrying it better. It wasn't as balanced as Tues., but he picked it up well and would stay in it. One notable improvement was that I was able to slow down his canter without getting a trot. He was fast when starting out, but with a whispered "easy" and ever so slight feel on the rein and use of my seat he'd slow down to a reasonable pace. This is new. Before I would have gotten a trot if I tried to slow down. Yeah! We did long sides and circles both ways and he seemed happy and exuberant to do it, without being silly. This makes ME very happy!
We also worked on 20 m trot circles, mostly to the left. This is still a challenge but getting better. I'm insisting more strongly that he move off my inside leg. If he doesn't, he gets a little tap. After a couple of times of this his response got better. I'm careful not to be too hard on him as I want him to like his work and work with me, but sometimes, if we've been working on something for awhile and he's ignoring me, I have to be firm. I'm really having to learn when to push and when to wait. I think that's the most challenging aspect of learning to start a horse. It's very fortunate I have such experienced teachers because I don't have the needed judgment to do this on my own.
Now Doug and I are off to a Harley Club barbecue and I'll get to see some friends I haven't seen in a while. Gin and tonic or Corona??? I like it when that's the biggest decision of the day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I Don't Know What to Think...

Did I jinx myself? I was so happy about Rogo's canter the last time I posted - it seemed like a milestone and while I knew it was unlikely to stay that good consistently for awhile, I didn't expect what happened today. 
This is what happened - it was his worst canter work in months. After transitioning consistently and nicely for quite some time now, I had to try repeatedly to get him to canter. When he did, he'd either break to a trot after a few strides, or go too fast. To the left it was racing and unbalanced. Where did my 'getting close to training level', balanced boy go, in a matter of two days? He's disappeared as quickly as he arrived.
If anyone out there has any insights I'd be very happy to hear them. You'll have to read my last post for context. 
Here are a couple of things that are different between Tues., and today. They seem minor to me but maybe they affected things?
  • He got a trim and had his shoes re-set yesterday. Joan said he was winging ever so slightly with a front foot today. Could this have that big an affect? I wouldn't think so but I could have the farrier come back to tweak it if this continues. She's happy to do that.
  • I longed before riding on Tues. (asking him to carry his canter and insisting on good performance), and didn't today. I thought I warmed up well before asking for canter work though. Did the longing on Tues. set him up better for good cantering under saddle? 
  • Was I just a little nervous riding in front of Joan, meaning my riding wasn't as good today as riding on my own, thus not giving Rogo the support he needed?
  • Was Rogo just having a bad day, as a young horse developing balance can have, and I shouldn't worry about it?
  • All of the above?
  • Something else?
As you can see, many questions are going through my head. I hope if anyone reading this has experienced anything similar, or has thoughts on this, they'll share them with me. I know every horse is different and we have to stick to our training plan (I'm solid on that), but it helps to hear what others go through!
His other work today wasn't overly good or bad. I had to work harder than Tues. for a left bend, but did get it. Rode at the walk and trot as a pair with Doug and Savanah and we all had fun with that, horses and riders.
He was taking a fairly good contact today. That was probably his best point re today's work.
Yesterday Doug mailed our entry for Walk Trot C and D at the CNHP gold show in Truro Aug. 7 and 8.This will keep us sharpening our bending and precision. Shows are so good for creating focus and a deadline to achieve goals. Doug isn't going to compete Savanah in Truro. We decided that sometimes we'll both compete and sometimes just one of us will go. At least for now, we need a helper when we both show.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

He's Actually Starting to Carry the Canter!

Rogo's transitions into the canter have been pretty good for awhile now - reliably picks it up quietly from the first ask and gets the correct lead. The problem has been keeping the canter, but today he got it! I asked for the right lead and cantered around the end, down the long side to E, did a respectable 20 m circle, cantered out of it and asked for a trot, which I got. Then crossed the diagonal and did the same to the left which he also did well. The left circle wasn't quite as good as his head was turned in too much to be straight on the bend, but it wasn't terrible. He went from not doing it at all (as recently as Tues. it was getting better, but not near this), to doing the whole thing, really well both ways, in one day. I'm not complaining, but what's up with that?
I've been doing lots of trot circles to work on balance, and longing a lot at the canter, so maybe he just felt confident and balanced enough to do it. I did just lightly touch him behind my leg with the whip a couple of times to encourage him, but it used to be that if I tried to do that for encouragement he'd stop and buck (more of a resistant 'bump' than an actual buck) or race without much 'steerability', so I backed off trying to force it and waited for him to be ready (sometimes wondering if I should be pushing harder but with both Joan and Cheryl telling me to let it develop). 
Oh la la!!! I'm over the moon. I have an actual real horse to ride!!!!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fun Lesson With Cheryl

I had a fun lesson with Cheryl this morning. Hmmm, or maybe I should say we had fun drinking coffee and Baileys AFTER the lesson :) We had a great gab about dressage - lots of laughs.
The lesson went well. Rogo was taking a better contact this morning and bending better than he has in a while. Also, it really helped to see all the riding at the show on the weekend. I know what I have to do as far as getting him bending, but to see some of the riders doing it well and to be immersed in riding culture all weekend makes it sink in more. 
Rogo's best work this morning was at the canter - he did a great canter out of a left circle, part way up the long side, then across the diagonal, a few trot steps and right into a right lead canter around the end and down the long side again (it took several attempts to get this though). The long side canters were great - big, lofty strides - I was in heaven! Being my first warm blood, this is very different from the canters I'm used to, but I love it!!! It felt like we were hanging in the air for seconds at a time before touching down for a split second and lifting off again.
He also did a very nice trot after our leg yield schooling. I think the work on leg yielding (he really doesn't get it yet) had him so bored that the chance to go forward was a welcome relief and he went for it.
I'm going to take him in a couple of more walk trot classes this season and start showing at training level next summer. I don't enjoy showing when I don't feel the work is solid, so there's no point trying to fudge a training level this year. I'm happy with getting him acclimatized to show environments, learning a good warm up routine (timing, etc.) and competing in walk trot to get him started.
I have to get Doug his gold license. He wants to do some gold shows as well. Yeah!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Show Update

The tractor pull and big foot truck which were also at the show grounds made it really noisy, but it didn't seem to upset the  horses. Unloading was a little dicey, with big trucks coming and going all around us.
The show went well, but was really, really hot: 30+, humid and no breeze. It was important to be very careful not to over heat the horses. The warm up ring was outside, the competition ring inside. There was a hose outside for cooling the horses and jackets were excused, so that was some help. Even so, some people chose to scratch.
Doug and Savanah did very well with two thirds the first day and two seconds the second day. Scores were generally lower than Truro for most riders. Doug was the only man in the show again! We have to get more men involved.
He's becoming addicted to showing I think - he likes the buzz and being 'on stage'. Even though he is very susceptible to heat stroke he still loved the show. I'm so glad! It would be a drag if it was something I wanted to do and he hated, because it takes a lot of money and time and it could lead to tension if only one person was interested. I'm surprised at how much he likes it because I thought he was more of an in the background type, but turns out he's a center line junky!
I didn't compete Rogo, but just took him for experience. He did very well. I longed in the warmup and did a ride in the indoor dressage arena. He did very well as far as being calm, but wouldn't bend. At least he wouldn't bend or flex to the inside; he did lots of counter bending. He was very interested in the flower boxes along the rail and made sure to keep an eye on them at all times. I did walk and trot with small circles in the corners to try to get some bending (he would bend on the small circles, but he just didn't get a correct flexion most of the time). I need to learn to use my outside rein more effectively. No surprise there. I'm newly committed and determined though. I WILL get this with him!
We did a little canter in the dressage arena too. He did very well to the left, but wanted to rush after the first few strides to the right (the side he's more confident on)so I pulled him into a rather awkward circle. Lots of work to do on canter too. Those are the priority work areas now, although we won't over-do the canter to get it. He needs lots of trot circles, etc. to increase his over-all balance.
The people at the show were fabulous. Doug and I stay in our trailer living quarters and are at the show grounds all the time. We meet so many interesting horse people; makes it really fun.
I'm kind of thinking our next show will be the Truro gold show the first weekend of Aug., with just Rogo competing. I'll have to get right on it tomorrow to see if it's still open for entries. Also, I want to attend the Dressage New Brunswick Freestyle Extravaganza next weekend as a spectator. It's something I'd like to do in the future so it would be good to check it out this year.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Off to Another Show

We're going to another show this weekend, although I'm not competing. I'm taking Rogo for experience and Doug is showing Savanah. This is a bronze show in Windsor.
I'm show committee chair - a fancy title for someone just learning the ropes, but I'm a decent project manager and it's an experienced team. Right now my board co-chair is off trying to arrange to get the arena moved at the 11th hour, when the previous plan fell through - yikes! Hope it works out. 
It poured yesterday and I had to leave at 7:00 am to work in Halifax today so I haven't gotten a ride in. Megan came and helped me practice trailer loading. We worked out a few kinks and I think everything is back on track. We need time and more trailering but it's headed in the right direction and as safe as I can get it.
There's a tractor pull on the grounds where the horse show is so it could be dicey. We of course didn't know this when we booked the show. It could make for an interesting weekend. Has anyone else been around a tractor pull? They are VERY loud! I'll keep you posted (so to speak).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lesson WIth Cheryl

Rogo and I had a lesson with Cheryl this morning. Thankfully the rain stopped and the heat didn't return with a vengeance until after our lesson was over. That didn't stop Rogo from being lazy though. He was REALLY sluggish - I worked for every step :) I tried to remember not to nag and to release my legs as soon as I got a response, but it was back to draggy almost instantly. Cheryl got me to tap lightly with the whip behind my leg in time with his rhythm when I was in the corners. This helped some, but he didn't really wake up and engage in the lesson until it was almost over. He's always been slow to warm up, even in winter, and it's not unusual for him to suddenly become quite forward after 40 minutes or so of pushing him. 
Today we worked on quarter line and center line loops from the rail and this seemed to get him going, finally. Suddenly he gave me a huge working trot, great bending, forward, forward, forward without pushing. Yeah! At least it was there for a few minutes.
Our work today was walking and trotting on the rail in both directions with small circles in the corner, adding in one canter transition out of these small circles each way at the end of that exercise, loops, a bit of leg yield (trying to get him to understand the concept but it's a struggle) and always lots of free walk. The general theme is bending and balance and will be for some time to come.
He wanted to poke his head out a lot today too, but that got better with the corner circling and loops.All in all, nothing spectacular but a solid lesson and I'm very happy with him.
Now the trailer is sitting in a mud hole, thanks to all the rain, so loading practice is on hold until I can get it moved or the mud dries up. Damn.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Trailer Loading - Rogo's Hot and Cold

Rogo has always been a dream to load. Calmly walk on, turn, get tied, gated, stand quietly until he reaches his destination and then quietly walk off. Although the other two have more experience and aren't bad, he was the best, a non issue. 
Our trailer is designed such that they have to turn to be slightly facing the rear once on (apparently more comfortable for the horse) and then they walk off. 
The first hint of trouble re the trailer occurred when we went to bring them home from their winter stay at Cheryl's. He started fidgeting once he was on and gated - nothing too serious but moving around alot. 
Then, when I loaded him to go to the Truro show he reared and hit his head (luckily I'd just started using a pad on his head) and he just wasn't all that great to load - nervous but not refusing. He came off fine in Truro, but loading to come home, he wanted to rush off once turned.
So naturally I decided we needed to go back to basics and do some practicing at home. It was worse! He pulled and rushed off the trailer and even stepped on my foot. Twice. It was getting to be dangerous - he could have gotten on the road.
Then I put a bridle on him, put a longe line through one side of the bit, behind his ears and attached to the bit on the opposite side. Maybe sounds severe (?), but he knows this from when I used it when he ran away on the longe (after months of longing) and he respects it and doesn't really pull. With this in place I led him onto the ramp and backed him off a few times - no going on and turning.
The next day I put the trailer in the pasture and fed him his supper in it. That night, same set up re bridle, and I walked him completely on and off twice. The first time worked, but the energy level was too high for my liking and the second time was calm.
Last night it was too rainy to practice, but I fed him on the trailer, locking the other two horses in the barn (he doesn't mind being separated from them, which is a real plus). I kept watching from my office window which looks down over the riding ring and pasture, and he just stayed on. And on. And on... After two hours I had to go take him off because the other horses were wanting out and I didn't want them to start fooling around the trailer. I think he must have fallen asleep for awhile, because he was still eating his hay when I went out. I slipped a loose, big halter on with a lead line clipped underneath and he lazily walked off. Yeah!
Now I'm not thinking this is cured, but I THINK we're on the right track. Much more practice and maybe some trial runs with Megan as back up :)
Now if it would only stop raining so I could get some ride time in!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Courtney King-Dye Hopes to Ride Again Internationally

Courtney King-Dye Hopes to Ride Again Internationally

I love Courtney's riding. She rides soooo beautifully. She's one of my favorite riders and writers.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Canter Transitions

We stopped working on the canter in the week before the show, and truth be told have never focused on it. We usually get one short canter each way just to keep him remembering the aid and leave it at that. He just doesn't have his balance and resists if you push too hard. We've been getting him to carry the canter longer on the longe, to increase his balance, and it seems to be working.
Joan was here this morning working with Doug and she is very much against forcing anything (good!), so wasn't enthusiastic about me joining in her work with Doug on canter transitions. But - I really think it's time to bring a little focus to it. He IS getting a bit more balanced and developing a bit of carrying power. So I convinced her that we should give it a try ("Joan, he's 5!") and voila - he was great! (To be clear, it wasn't his age but his lack of balance that made her conservative on this.)
I know many people would think we're too far behind, but we had one major set back that caused us to basically start over from scratch last Christmas and a couple of other month long ones. Also, in keeping with Joan's classical philosophy, we didn't really start training him until then anyway (I sat on him  at the walk and trot before then, but no real getting down to business and work.)
Anyway, back to today - soft, easy transitions both ways from a gentle trot, 100% of the time. We did five from the right and seven from the left (his weaker side). Joan seemed to be very pleased with him. Next we'll ask him to hold it a little longer. Maybe we will get in Training Level this season? In looking at our training goals this is our weakest area, but I'm not worried because it's coming and I think it's going to be very solid when he gets it. His canter is lovely.
It was very hot, even though we started at 9, so I only worked for about 20 / 25 minutes and then brought him inside and sponged him for awhile with cold water. Doug hosed Savanah, but that's another thing Rogo has to learn :)
Now off to get them some hay.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

June Training Goal Results and July Goals


 

Training area 

Goal, June 30, 2010 

Achieved 

Goal, July 31, 2010 

Contact (accepting contact with the bit) 

Bending  

6 – R, 4 – L = 5 

Working trot 

Canter

  • Transition
  • Carry
  • Steer


 

7

5*

5* 


 

6

4


 

6

5

Circles 

Free walk 

Halt 

5* 

Straight on center line 

5* 

Rhythm 

Precise transitions 

Frame 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Good Part (along with an 'Incident' :) )

Rogo was so amazing at the show. He was upset for about 5 minutes Fri. night when I took him out to do his arena ride - there were horses and trailers coming and going everywhere and this was all completly new to him. Then that was it. He was fine for the rest of the weekend. He even stopped calling to Savanah by late Sat.
He seemed to be very calm and interested in everything and loved being fussed over. He stood stock still for 45 minutes to be braided (another first) and was just generally happy and sweet. It was his first time in a warm up ring (he's only been ridden with one other horse in with him before), first time in a line up, etc., etc.
He got lots of positive feedback from people at the show and the judge commented on both tests that he was a 'nice horse' - a first for me!
There was one incident. My biggest fear re his performance was that he'd jump out of the arena. Most of our practice has been in a fenced arena or indoor, so all I could do to prepare him for the dressage ring was lay out some cavelleti and ask him to stay inside them, which he did. Rogo was doing walk trot for his first show, and test B was scheduled first. He went through the first 3/4 of the test really well and I was so happy as I felt him listening and responding to my aids in this completely new environment. Yippeee! Then suddenly, with no warning or pulling as he was heading to his last circle, he hopped sideways out of the ring! My worst fear! It's too painful to describe in detail :) I thought I'd die of embarrassment.
Anyway, it turns out that the judge had forgiven another green horse the day before when he should have been eliminated from walk trot so he told me to finish the test and he actually marked and placed us - 62.38 and second place :) As I said, the ride until then had been quite good. He got second place in his next class too (stayed in the ring that time)  - all in all a successful first show. I could have asked for more, and he had more to give, but I thought it was most important that he have a good first show experience (and not learn to leave the ring lol).
Now to get down to work on all that we learned. Here are some pictures:

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fear

Dan (picture in right side bar) bucked his face off in the arena familiarization ride and the warm up when I took him to a show last summer. I don't know how I stayed on him. Who ever said to push them forward when they buck because they can't buck and go forward at the same time is out of touch with reality. Dan galloped, with his head pulled completely back almost to my knee, all the way across an arena, bucking and hopping like there was no tomorrow. Although he hadn't bucked in two years (and hasn't bucked since), I thought he'd reverted to bucking Dan. 
He'd had an exposed nerve on a tooth a couple of years before this and by the time I discovered what was causing the problem, after several bad episodes, I'd been knocked out (while wearing a helmet) and broken a rib from being bucked off on the beach. A vet, a trainer and a farrier all told me that he was just spoiled when I had them look at him to try to determine the problem during this time. Finally a dear friend called and said "I'm picking you both up and taking you to a clinic for problem horses before he really hurts you". I didn't even own a trailer at the time, so this was huge (thank you Lynn).
The clinician took 30 seconds to find the broken tooth and the two vets hosting the clinic confirmed it - the bit was hitting raw nerves. I could cry when I think about the pain he felt.
Anyway, I digress - the tooth got pulled, Dan has been fine since (used a hackamore for awhile), and I got my love of riding back. Until the show last summer when the crazy bucking started again. Damn. I was a nervous wreck for the show. I rode him through his classes, but I was afraid every second. To make a long story a tad shorter, when I got home I found a small sore in the girth area. I rode bare back for a couple of weeks and he's been fine since, but he broke out of his stall at his next show (screw on the latch was only in the wood 1/4 inch) and now I don't have a good feeling about shows, which I LOVED the summer before.
To be more specific, I now have a love / hate relationship with shows. I know how much fun they can be from the summer I showed Savanah, but now I can't help feel "what can go wrong next?". Fear has entered the picture. I didn't know the meaning of the word when I was younger so it isn't pleasant. Also, I sense it isn't okay to admit to this. Riders, good riders, are supposed to be confident and fearless, right?
Taking a young horse to his first show is a stretch for me. OMG, the pictures! I'll let a picture tell the story. My face in many pictures is  absolutely twisted  into "what is going to happen next?". Needless to say I deleted most of them :) Here's just one - I think Rogo looks gorgeous, but what up with that sour puss face on me? There were lots more like this :(. 
My next post is going to be about the upside of taking Rogo to his first show (euphoria! :)), but in the interest of honesty I had to post this first...

Doug and Savanah are Off to a Great Start

Doug and Savanah did a great job at the show on the weekend, despite his shingles. This was Doug's first show and I really wanted him to like it so he'd want to continue. As it turned out he didn't want to come home! Camping, horses and horse people - what's not to love!
They improved their scores over the course of the show and ended with a first :). Savanah still has it (she was  training level season champion the summer I showed her) and Doug and she make a perfect combination. Who says you need a warmblood to do dressage? Here are some pictures:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pre-Show Problems, But Lots of Help Too

Poor Doug - he and Savanah are entering their first show this weekend and Doug has shingles. I suggested he scratch and we wait until he's feeling better, but he's determined to go. He's in a lot of pain, on and off fever, etc. Not the best condition for a competition debut! What a trooper. We are lucky to have a trailer with living quarters, so at least we can stay once we're there. Camping will be fun. Megan is going to help us and Cheryl and Joan are coming to coach, so we have lots of help! Megan clipped Savanah for Doug today - not an easy task for a draft cross who hasn't been in a show ring for two years. She has a lot of hair!!!
Our check lists are out, grooming kits cleaned, trailer stocked, show clothes packed...