Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Are the Non Horse People Doing Today?

I don't mean for that to sound snotty - I'm sure they're doing all kinds of fun things. But I have so much fun with my horses I can't imagine how other people live without them.
Doug and I went to the Ron Postleb clinic at Atlantic Equestrian Center in Beaverbank this morning. I really enjoyed it. He taught each horse and rider combination in a way that was specifically tailored to them (I've seen clinicians teach the same thing all day) and you could see them improving through their lesson. Some things / exercises I want to remember:
  • 10 m trot circles in the corners and shoulder in down the long side
  • trot across the diagonal switching to leg yield after starting across
  • bend to the inside (a lot) to help the horse get round
  • if the horse starts to rush, transition down until he is responding well
  • make sure the horse is correctly bent (slightly) to the inside and engaged before asking for canter
  • half halt with the inside rein on canter circles to get the horse on the bit, but don't nag
After attending the clinic in the morning we went to brunch and then I had a lesson with Cheryl. We worked on longing (getting a good trot, forward, round and tracking up) and then I rode - trot loops (changing bending) and canter - steering for him, correct riding for me. Cheryl is a lot happier with the bending now, but I have to work on getting that last bending change in the loop stronger. Also I need to remember not to post too much - just a relaxed minimal movement. 
We're happy with his canter, but I need to get the up transition sharper. We did canter down the long side, then into a circle and he aced it several times. He's ready for a little more of a challenge I think. 
I remembered to work with half halts today, and was surprised at how quickly he picked it up. It isn't new to him, but it's never been a confirmed thing for him and I gave up in the heat of the summer (he just stalled out). After practicing half halts all around the arena in both directions transitioning from walk to trot and back, I did a half halt in trot to ask for canter and he was cantering before I was ready. I think I may have a clue as to why his up transition to canter isn't as good as it was - when he gets very sharp on it (does it instantly), I fall behind him! Ug. How awful is that? I am determined to go with him - not ahead, not behind - with him. When I do, and ensure that he's engaged first, I think our canter transition problem will be solved.
His energy level today was nice - not at all the over the top energy of two days ago, and he hadn't been turned out today because it was raining. He was happy and forward but calm and sweet. I just don't understand these dramatic shifts in his energy. Savanah and Dan stay pretty much the same, but Rogo's seems to fluctuate a lot. Is it a young horse thing?
Doug and Savanah had a great ride too - all in all a really fun day. Now I'm getting ready for a crazy busy work week (Lunenburg, Digby and Truro and away from home two nights). Gotta pay the horse board and lessons!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rogo Keeps Surprising Me

Maybe this is typical of young horses and I just don't know because this is my first time backing and training one? I'm talking about how Rogo was so quiet to start and had to be pushed to go forward all the time, and now his energy and forwardness are suddenly through the roof.
Yesterday I went over to ride, but he was wet from being out in the rain (Cheryl wasn't home or she would have had them in. I brought him in when I got there) so I just longed. Honestly I've never seem anything like it in all the time I've had him. He galloped to such an extent that I was afraid he'd hurt himself but I couldn't get him stopped. He was just racing and kicking dirt against the side of the indoor, round and round and round. When I would manage to get him slowed to a trot he'd passage. Then back to galloping again. I'd slowly pull him in and get him settled, but off he'd go again.
Cheryl said later that he's matured enough to find his balance and is enjoying it, and that he's having a break through. I know lots of other horses are like this (energized), but definitely not Rogo. He's been the opposite since I started longing him almost two years ago.
This energy will be needed to go up the levels in dressage, so it's wonderful that it's appeared. I just need to be able to harness it.
I also wonder if the good grass turn out he's on is contributing. He got energized for the first time when the grass came up in the spring (after being pretty lazy over the winter), then lost it over the summer at home (where there isn't much grass) and got it back again when on grass at Cheryl's. Other than that, feed and supplements are the same in both places.
Anyway, it's kind of interesting and exciting. A new, and good, training challenge.
Tomorrow we have a lesson and then go to brunch and we may go audit the Ron Postlieb clinic in the afternoon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What a Fun Ride

I met Doug at Cheryl's today and we both rode. We used the indoor since it was raining out. It was so much fun. Rogo hadn't seen me in a couple of days and was very affectionate and sweet, but at the same time he wanted to go, go, go. It seems crazy now that I was worried about his energy level as recently as the end of Sept. It must have been the summer heat that had him so lacking in forwardness, but he didn't have any forwardness last winter either. Now he is just a bundle of good energy and it is wonderful
He is very bendable and he does become round on and off, but he still needs to be rounding and taking contact more consistently. It's much better though. Today we practiced walking leg yield, should in, trotting figure eights, as well as canter departs (I need to help him engage before giving the aid) and 15 m canter circles (he is just starting these but can manage them well most of the time). I also did a little bit of sitting trot and this is getting easier to work on now that he is getting more forward and round.
He wanted to canter all the time, and once he was cantering he didn't want to stop. It wasn't scary or over the top though - just energetic. He worked fine in the other gaits.
I'm impressed because after I rode I ran into Cheryl and she said he cantered and galloped so much in his turn out that she thought about bringing him in. I guess he cantered for 15 minutes non stop at one point. I showed up to ride shortly after this (he was inside by then) and he wanted to canter all through our ride. I hope this continues, and continues to be manageable :)
Doug rode Savanah and they did very well. He has very nice quiet hands and his seat is getting better all the time. Savanah is looking great and is enjoying the cooler weather as well.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mini Riding Camp :)

Doug and I had a really fun weekend. We left our trailer parked at Cheryl's when we took the horses over. It has living quarters, so this weekend we went over on Sat. and stayed all night. We love camping and we love riding, so we combined the two. We took all three dogs. That decision wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. We cleaned out the horse trailer part and put in a fresh bag of shavings, so we could put them back there to play some of the time. They sleep in the trailer and hang out there some, but they're pretty good.
I had a lesson on Rogo on Sat. afternoon and a lesson on Dan Sun. morning. Also, we cleaned tack, trimmed manes and tails and generally had a relaxing time.
Doug made me a birthday meal since I was in Halifax on my birthday - seafood pasta and chocolate walnut birthday cake. I love chocolate walnut cakes. Mom made me one too, from a recipe she's made me for years, and I ate it with mint chocolate chip ice cream - my favorite desert! Here is a picture of the cake Doug made me:


For my lesson on Sat. with Rogo we rode inside (it was raining) and we worked on bending a lot. First walking loops to the quarter line and back. I have to remember to exaggerate the bend at this stage and also to to a direct rein, take and give. My tendency is to do an indirect rein of opposition when I feel he isn't bending well and it interferes with his rhythm / stride length. Also I hold with the inside rein too long (still). He is doing it quite well though. Then we worked on 15 m trot figure 8's. After I got into the rhythm of it it wasn't too bad, but the circle to the right needs improvement. He doesn't change bends as well going from left to right as he does from right to left. It used to be the opposite. Part of this is my fault as I don't time the aid as well as I could, but partly he needs to move off my inside leg better to the right and respond more quickly.
After this we did some canter and Cheryl wanted me to really try hard to relax and loosen my hips, sitting into him and keeping my upper body still. I've developed too much of a habit of  trying to push with my seat to keep him going, but I don't need to do that anymore. I was able to do it! Cheryl was cheering. Being stiff through my hips is my worst habit, so I think if I can improve this it will help a lot of things.
Riding Savanah bare back for months at one point really helped me with 'sitting in not on', but I lost a lot of that 'seat' when I started Rogo. I was nervous and his gaits are very different, but I'm no longer nervous and I'm used to his gaits, so it's time to get a nice relaxed and following seat rather than perching on him.
Doug rode Savanah after my lesson and they are doing great. I couldn't believe how well they did shoulder in and it was only their second time ever doing it. She marched along with big strides in perfect rhythm, while staying perfectly straight and on three tracks. I had to try it after he rode, and she did it for me too. She is so sensitive to the aids. I love it!
Dan and I focused on getting him to drop his head and take contact. He got short strided on one side at the trot after riding for about 20 minutes, so I'm going to have to keep an eye on it and work mostly at the walk for awhile to get him back in shape. My goal with him is to have him taking contact correctly on a month. Given that we've worked on this in the past I think it's reasonable.
Here are some pictures of Doug and I riding Savanah and Dan outside:




And here's a picture of Doug and Joan in the trailer drinking coffee and Baileys last Thur.:

And here's a picture of our three dogs in the trailer - a chocolate lab, a yellow lab and an unknown who showed up at our door last Christmas and insisted on staying. They look evil, but the pictures were taken with my phone, so quality isn't an option :)

One final note - people remark how big Rogo is (not necessarily true by warm blood standards) and I just don't notice it because I'm around him all the time. After riding Dan though he seems gigantic. He's about 2 hands taller!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Doug and I Have a Lesson With Joan

Today (hmmm, it might be yesterday now) is my birthday and I celebrated with a riding lesson with Joan. It was great! She hadn't seen Rogo in a few weeks and she was very happy with him and kept saying how well he is doing. She agreed that he's reached / crossed a milestone in his training.
Doug and I had a lesson together and Savanah is doing really well too. The crispy weather agrees with them! They're forward and energetic, yet responsive. It was so fun. After warming up with bending and gait transitions Joan started working with us on shoulder in. She is very knowledgeable about classical dressage and the origins of all the movements. She taught us who originated shoulder in (I have to get her to tell me again) and she told us that the modern definition conflicts with the older definition. Joan taught us that in older schools of thought and at the Spanish Riding School shoulder in is a four track movement. The movement is currently (modernly) defined as a three track movement, which is of course a shallower bend. Joan recognizes this as a more elementary step towards the four track movement.
We worked on the three track movement. Joan explained it to us and had us start opposite her and ride towards and away from her, bending first one way and then the other. Both Savanah and Rogo were able to do it. I marvel that they can. It really takes feel and balance to keep them going straight yet bent. I know higher level riders would find this very elementary, but we're (our horses and us) just learning so it's a challenge.
To finish I asked Joan to help me with my canter aid and position. She was happy with my position and Rogo's canter, remarking on how they've improved (in that he'll bend, steer and carry the canter), but she tells me and I agree that the transition to canter need work. He used to pick it up immediately when I gave the aid. I'd slow the trot, give the canter aid and off he'd go. Then he went through a period when he'd go into the canter right away but the first stride or two would be very slow and laboured. Now he is increasing his trot speed before picking up the canter and thus going on the forehand. I wonder if he needs more engagement of his hind quarters to get it right? He isn't schooled in half halts and I think this would be a big help. Joan assumes he knows this and I think Cheryl probably does too, but he isn't. He just didn't have the forwardness or impulsion to 'get' a half halt over the summer and I've been negligent in teaching it. I think I'd better go back and add it to my goal sheet!
Anyway, it was a great morning and we finished with birthday cake, coffee and Bailey's in the trailer.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Back to Riding Rogo

I'm back from vacation as of last night and had an amazing ride on Rogo this morning. I think I need to give him more holidays. He was great. I know we'll have lots of set backs and challenges, so I might as well enjoy the good times - today was soooo fun! He was so full of life that I longed him for a half hour before realizing how much time had gone by. That's a little too long in my opinion, but not terrible occasionally. He was very forward. After that  I rode for a half hour and he was still wanting to go, go, go when I got off. I turned him out just after this and he galloped around, so he is really energetic.
He was moving off my leg beautifully, meaning he was doing the best corners and circles in both directions that he's ever done. He did a big, working trot with no having to push him - heaven. We worked at this in loops to the quarter line and back to practice changing bend. I cantered on a circle to start. I was a little iffy on cantering straight right off the bat after eight days off and him being so forward, but I did canter out of the circles and down the long side, then into a circle and out again. Wow - it was soooo fun! He was so responsive and sensitive, yet well behaved. He's a dream to ride right now. We actually did one canter circle that wasn't much more than 10 m and it was nicely controlled and even, then out and across the diagonal. Remember as recently as July his canter wasn't even established. Now it is quite maneuverable  (for his stage of training).
After more than 18 months of feeling like I was making VERY little progress, things started clicking around mid Aug. and we've been making progress since. Now that the cooler temperatures (I'm assuming) have added in forwardness it's even easier to work with him.
We did a little leg yield and a little shoulder in. I really need someone working with me for the latter, but I tried a few steps each way and he seems to be getting it.
Now it's time to work on me. I'm afraid with all the concentrating on Rogo my position really needs some work, especially in the canter.
My over-all goal is to build and polish Training Level and Level One over the winter. I'm sure Training Level for next summer is very realistic and we can at least start Level One. I just need to be disciplined and stick to a plan. I'm realizing too that the plan needs to include lots of breaks and some hacking for Rogo.
I've really missed reading my blog roll while I was away. Now it's time to catch up.

Sept. Results and Oct. Goals, 2010

Training area

Goal, Aug. 31

Achieved

Goal Oct. 31

Contact (accepting contact with the bit)

6

5

6

Bending

6

5+

6

Working trot

7

7

7

Canter:

Transition


 

Carry

Steer


 

6


 

5

5


 

6+ up, 4 down

5

5+


 

6


 

6

6

Circles

6

6

6

Free walk

7

7

7.5

Halt

6

5

6

Straight on center line

6

6

6.5

Rhythm

6

W-6+

T-7

C-7

7.5

7.5

7.5

Precise transitions

6

5

6

Leg Yield - new

4

3

4

Should in

 

3

4

Me

   

Canter position

 

5

6

Relaxation

 

5

6

Sitting trot (Rogo)

 

2

3


 

Notes:

Keep using legs and get him listening to steering with my legs more on straight lines, as he does in corners.

He's doing well enough to add in my riding, so I'll start adding some priority areas there.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Rockies

This post isn't true to training journal topics, but boy, do I ever feel like my batteries are re-charged and ready for more training.
This is a picture of me behind our hotel in Banff. Today we'll visit Verna's sister and family on their Alberta ranch. I'll see horses!

-- Sent from my Palm Prē

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Road Trip

Verna and I drove around all day yesterday and ibgot to  see the badlands for the first time. Can you make out this beautifil herd? They were grazing at the foot of a cliff as we drove by so I had to stop for a look. The temperature was 18 C. Yesterday and todayband tomorrow are supposed to be the same.
We're headed for Banff. I LOVE  the Rockies!

-- Sent from my Palm Prē

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Holidays for Horses?

I'm leaving tomorrow for Alberta - one of my favorite places in the world (also where I bought Rogo). I'll visit my very good friend Verna. I stayed with her when I was out there horse shopping three years ago and that's the last time I've been out for a visit - too long. She's been to visit me since then thank heavens.
Her niece Sarah checked Rogo out for me (she's an equine grad) and she got married today!
Anyway, we'll go to Banff and I'll get to sit in the hot springs and stare at the Rockies, which I find almost spiritual. Also, since the weather will be gorgeous out there this week we might go camping in Verna's funky little Bowler trailer - eating, red wine, outdoors - perfect!
My one concern is that Rogo will be off work for over a week. Doug will longe him for me a couple of times, but that's it. Unfortunately poor Cheryl broke a rib, so I can't get her to ride him while I'm gone.
I know I read about people giving their horses training breaks when they're coming off of a tiring show season, etc., but I know nothing about it. My experience with Rogo having breaks has been awful. He was off for a month twice and three months once in his first year under saddle. Every time he was off we pretty much had to start from scratch again. Now I'm scared for him to have down time, even though I know the work is better established now and also a week + isn't a month. It might be good for him? Wishful thinking?
If anyone knows about philosophies on training breaks I'd love to hear about it.
On a different note there are at least 7 or 8 dressage clinics in our area in the next month. This is amazing! We're a small Province where dressage is a developing sport, so it's very exciting to have this breadth of opportunity. I hope lots of people come out and take advantage of the great opportunities. Not sure if Doug and I can fit it in, but we're looking at our schedule and budget. Also, should I wait until Rogo is more established in his contact before taking him to his first clinic? I've haven't ridden in a clinic before.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Maybe My Most Interesting Comments Ever

I got the kindest, most interesting and helpful comments when I wrote a post entitled Training - How to Time Things and Gauge Progress. The hands down consensus was not to even think about it too much, best summed up by Jeni (Super Size My Cob) when she said "it takes as long as it takes". My teacher Joan has always said fast is slow and slow is fast when it comes to dressage.
I want to touch on some of the interesting points and highlights of the comments.
TBDancer told an interesting story of starting her OTTT as a four and a half year old. He sounds wonderful. She said that both Secretariat and Seattle Slew would fall down as young horses when they tried to run. I hate to admit it, but this made me feel better. Something scared Rogo when I was on him one day shortly after I backed him and he tried to run away and immediately fell down. I probably shouldn't admit to that clumsiness, but he was VERY clumsy :). I'm happy to report he's much better now and continuing to improve, but boy, there were times... I think Joan used to despair :)
Shannon from A Work In Progress shared her experience too in training her horse. I love reading her training posts as they're very helpful so I was impressed to read about her philosophy to keep it slow. She pointed out that dressage horses often compete at the highest levels into their late teens, something you don't see very often in other disciplines.

Grey Horse Matters told the story of her once in a life time horse, a 17.2 Dutch Warmblood gelding - Wow! Unfortunately it seems a trainer rushed him and he became fearful and confused. What a lesson in that. Seems he didn't start connecting with his training until he was seven. I can see that happening. The saddle fitter said she thinks Rogo will grow until he's seven and I met someone at the show this past weekend who's horse is amazing and just coming into his own at seven. She's an FEI level rider but happily showing her seven year old at training level and he exudes sweetness when in the line up but knocks everyone's socks off and hauls in scores in the 70's when doing a test. Good for them.

Kate from A Year With Horses wrote a post entitled What Is Progress. Highly readable, as all of her writing is. She echoes the take as long as it takes sentiment.
Jan from A Thousand Pounds of Fragile Horse added her encouragement. She is making great progress with her horse and always has kind words for Rogo and I as we find our way.
Dressage:Equilibrium Through Horses is passionate about classical dressage and the time it takes. She's starting a mailing list of like minded people. You can sign up here.
So I learned some interesting things about my fellow bloggers and their horses and training. I got told on on uncertain terms (in the nicest way possible) not to think about how long things take. And I gained confidence that it's okay to go slow. Not bad for a simple post. If you aren't already reading the linked blogs they're well worth checking out.
As a final note, I rode again today and Rogo was even more hyped up than yesterday. Who is he and what has he done with Rogo? It was all good -  I longed first and then had a great, energetic ride. I love the forward!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

There Is So Much To Catch Up On

I've been crazy busy so am behind in my blogging. I want to write about so many things - the comments on gauging training progress, the comments on rollkur (wonder why nobody's started a boycott of companies that sponsor these riders?), my work travels lately (Lunenburg, Digby, Truro), learning to act as show manager for the last dressage competition of the season, my imminent vacation to Alberta and trip to Banff ...
Given I only have a few minutes, those topics will come later when I can do them justice (especially the comments which I loved). Tonight I'll write about moving the horses to their winter location. We move them to South Rawdon for the winter so that we can have an indoor ring to ride in for the winter. Last winter was our first time there. Before that we were in different barns. This is Cheryl Cassista's barn (she's a dressage judge and teacher). Joan will come there and teach too and Cheryl is happy about that. We have so much fun there.
I'm kind of sad about looking out and no horses though. Here is a view from my office window - you can see the circle in the sand (and several manure piles too!) - the last one I'll see before spring, and no horses. It looks so empty out there!


The exciting thing is that Rogo is beyond energized. We moved them on Tues. and I rode there today for the first time. You may remember that I've been wondering how to get / keep him motivated. He was very forward for three months in the spring (I couldn't carry a whip!), after a somewhat lazy winter, and then gradually lost it towards the end of June / early July. 
Today it was raining and we were in the indoor. He was so anxious to go that he gave a little buck when I made him stand after I mounted. Then I had to do small (tiny) walk circles all around the arena in both directions to keep him controlled and focused. This is Rogo I'm talking about. He isn't like this. I sure wish I knew what made the difference. He isn't like this at a show, which is new to him and has no turn out. He wasn't like this last winter, so it isn't cold. What up? Anyway, he marched and bent beautifully, so what's not to love?
After we warmed up enough to go semi straight we did walk loops and towards the end ventured trotting across the diagonal between loops. We finished with  left lead canter circles which he aced. No whip and he transitioned up beautifully and despite being VERY forward he was also completely responsive and working with me, not trying to run or misbehave. I was ecstatic. It's like night and day when this happens. When it hit last spring it came out of the blue and it wasn't even after a move in that case. I just went to the barn one day (at Cheryl'e) and he was like that. Go figure. We set out Oct. goals which I'll post soon.