Thursday, November 25, 2010

Internet Shopping for Riding Clothes?

Does anyone have recommended sites for the above? Living in Nova Scotia Canada, we don't have a lot of selection. I have to order in all my husband's show clothes (his jacket came from Europe, then to Ontario, then here), boots for both of us (both from the U.S., luckily they fit, not easy to do by mail ~ Mountain Horse dress boots) and I want to get a few things. Greenhawk will order in most things, but there's usually a long wait.
My need / wish list (okay, it could always be longer:
  • full seat winter riding tights (Kerrits makes a pair. Others?)
  • a warm winter riding coat and boots for Doug
  • men's dressage show breeches (for next summer; I just waited 8 months for a pair of men's full seat schooling breeches I ordered in)
  • warm coat and pants for our teacher Joan
I've had pretty good service, but mostly I pay A LOT. I think I've read on people's blogs that they have good / favorite places to shop on the internet for their horse needs, so just thought I'd ask. If you have a favorite / good shopping site, please share!
Also, I'm thinking about subscribing to Dressage Training On Line . Does anyone have experience with this, and if so, do you find it useful? (Just what I need - another reason why I can't leave my computer alone). Are there other, similar options?
Sooo, that wraps up my questions to you. Hope you can take a minute to answer if you have ideas. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lesson WIth Cheryl

Happy Thanksgiving American Bloggers!
I had a lesson with Cheryl today. The lesson went well. We did trot loops / serpentines - first to the quarter line, then to the center line and then the width of the arena. Rogo was bending nicely and Cheryl was very helpful. He seems to listen to me better when she is there. Is that possible? I was warming him up with bending and trying my hardest, and it was fine, but when she came in he got more forward and engaged in what he was doing.
After that we tried a little counter canter to the right, which he'll do outside to the quarter line and back, but he couldn't get it. The indoor is smallish, so it's quite a bit more challenging. I was able to change his bend - inside - outside - inside, so that's a good step in the right direction.
Then we worked on canter circles, starting at 20 m and then spiraling in to 15 m and then out again to 20 m. The accuracy needs work re size, but we were generally quite pleased with him. He did very well for the first time doing this exercise. He did it both ways.
Then, for fun, I rode Training Level test one (not the new one), which I've never done for Cheryl before. We've spent the last month and a half almost exclusively on bending so I knew it wouldn't have polish in other areas (precise transitions, shape and size of circles, etc.) but it went fairly well. Cheryl said he would have made mid 50's. Down transitions are very heavy. He's just falling into them and I'm not helping, so that's an area for us to work on.
Other than that it's mostly a case of getting polish and precision, nothing terribly wrong. Yeah!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Blog Bundles

I just learned how to make bundles and I've created a dressage blog bundle. It's on the sidebar, near the bottom. You need a reader (a great invention, easily installed from Google if you aren't using one) to use it. You can subscribe to 33 dressage blogs at once with the bundle I made. Of course most people reading this will have at least some of these, but you won't receive them twice if you have them in your main list and in a bundle. If you're already following they'll remain in your main list. Cool.
They aren't all dressage, all the time, but all have at least a strong dressage component. If you have a dressage related blog that I've missed, or if you know of one, please tell me and I'll add it. Thanks.
I wonder if there's a way to collapse it? I'd like to add bundles of some of my favorite non dressage blogs (i.e. A Thousand Pounds of Fragile Horse, A Year With Horses, etc.), but the list would get pretty long :)
I also follow fashion, food and a bit of art, although not to the degree I follow horses. What topics do you like?
Doug and I rode today. It was cold! Rogo just isn't interested in trotting. How can I have a dressage horse who doesn't want to trot? He has a great and willing walk and canter, so it isn't laziness - he's forward and fine in those gaits. Unfortunately the ground is too hard and slippery to go outside and I have to get their shoes pulled because there's snow now.
Savanah on the other hand has a great trot, but has decided she isn't going to make an effort at canter. She'll do it, but she makes Doug work for it so it isn't as pretty as she can do. She has a nice bouncy canter when she wants to. Ahh, if only they did what we wanted, when we wanted, it would all be so simple :)
The only thing of note to mention re training is that Rogo is starting to keep a better contact and position - head down close to the vertical, better balance and using his hind quarters more. I haven't really been paying too much attention to it as I worked on other things, but Joan told me it would come as his balance improved, and she was right. We've been doing lots of bending work so that probably contributes.
I have a lesson coming up on Tues. and have told Cheryl that I want to work on fitness. God help me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Riding By Moonlight

Yesterday I got to the barn around 3:30 pm and Rogo was so dirty (caked on mud) that it took me almost an hour to groom him (even for a half assed job). I didn't get out until well after four. It was snowing lightly, but I was dressed warmly and looking forward to a good ride. It gets dark so early now - it's dark by 5:00 pm.
We worked on the ever elusive bending. He's gone from not bending either way, to only consistently bending to the right (for months), to bending better to the left, to bending better to the right, to bending better to the left. Literally. The last few have been within the last two weeks. Is this normal? Is this how they get to bending both ways? He's bending both ways now, but much stiffer on one side than the other and the side switches, almost every ride. What's so frustrating is that a few times it's been there evenly both ways, and then it's gone again. I ride consistently - I mean regularly :) - so I don't understand what's happening. Anyway, I think it will come, so I'm not going to stress about it.
Because it was cool (cold?) and we were having fun, I worked us hard, maybe the hardest we've ever worked. I rode for an hour and a half and for the last while I was riding by moonlight (it was going on for 6:00 pm when I went in). We trotted and trotted and trotted - figure eights, 20 meter circles, going large, stretching and mixing it up. I asked for more engagement and more sustained push than I've ever asked him for before and he stayed with me for every stride. That surprised me. I'm used to him stalling out at the trot fairly quickly but he didn't last night. Then again, I was very determined and maybe he sensed that. I need to get our fitness level up! A very nice realization is that he gets and stays rounder when I push him to work this way - good boy!
After that we did walking leg yield and shoulder in. He's being slow to get leg yield, but maybe I'm slow to give the aid well. Partly it comes down to him not listening to my leg, which I'm pretty sure he understands, and which is also behind the bending issue. I'll probably start wearing spurs soon, as my legs are getting quieter (I wore them with Savanah but Rogo's movement was much bigger than I was used to). I'm not suggesting that I'm going to jab him in the side to get the leg yield, but my legs aren't all that strong and if I can keep them quiet, then spurs will clarify the aid.
We finished with trot canter trot transitions and they're getting better but have a long way to go, especially the down transition and especially for me riding it smoothly. We did one counter canter quarter line loop.
I was there alone (there was no one home, no other riders / boarders), and the moon was lighting our riding by this time, while a few stray flakes of snow floated down. Call me crazy, but this is magical to me.
I read the new training level and level one tests today. They look good, but I must read the old ones. I thought level one counter canter was to the quarter line, but now it's to the center line - that is going to be hard! One change I really like is that you can do rising trot at Level One. The longer the better for me. My back isn't great and until Rogo is consistently more round it isn't good for either of us for me to sustain it for long. I'm glad the test writers recognize that rising trot can be easier on young horse's backs, since some are doing level one as 3 and 4 year olds. I think we'll start at Training, but I definitely want to be into Level One before next season is out.
Doug and I started for the barn today, but snow squalls hit when we were almost there and we still have summer tires on the car (of course we left the 4 wheel drive truck with winter tires at home). Damn. We turned for home and it was very slippery. I was very glad to get home. Snow tires go on the car this week and we'll be at the barn first thing tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

True Confessions

My house is a mess. It almost always is. I don't have any trouble prioritizing riding ahead of house work. Always. Or ahead of cleaning my car. Or often ahead of socializing. It isn't even that I'm a very good rider, or that I have lofty aspirations. I just like being with the horses and riding more than almost anything else and I don't seem to suffer from too much guilt (make that none) when I do it.
I'm pretty sure my family and friends don't mind - I'm a nicer person when I spend a lot of time with horses.
Having said all that, I find myself getting more and more rushed to fit riding in with work. I'm so lucky that I work for myself so I can set my own hours, but it's still a crunch.  
Today I didn't ride - I started to get ready to go, calculating, as usual, exactly how long I could work before leaving, when I had to be back, rushed at either end, and then I just didn't go. I NEVER do this, but maybe it isn't a bad thing occasionally. I thought I'd get lots of work done, but here's what I did ~
I researched new trends in my line of work (instead of putting together the power point presentation that's due) and then I napped under the sky light with the rain lulling me to sleep. I dreamed I was riding beautiful, perfect canter lengthening and shortening, back and forth :) Life is good.
(Just so I don't sound too lazy, I did my work tonight)
I'd better write a little bit about training, just to keep me on track :) Rogo did his first ever counter canter to the quarter line and back last Sat. He ACED it, first ask, to the right and then repeated it several times. It was easy and effortless for him. He broke to a trot on the left lead on the three times I tried it. I'm going to be very careful to note my riding the next time I try, to see if I'm doing things differently on the different sides. He usually does things better to the right, but that may be because of the way I ride.
My next few rides I need to get back to focusing on my bending, contact and  halts, while incorporating some of the new work.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Doug and I have a Lesson With Joan

Doug and I had a lesson with Joan today. We worked on lightening the forehand and the very beginning of collection - ramener.
Rogo was SO dead when we started today. He did not want to go forward. He was eating hay when I got there. Can horses be like people and not feel like moving too much when they're eating? I know you don't feed grain right before or after riding, but what about hay? 
Some walk trot transitions helped and we got with the program. To begin the idea of collection we pushed with our seat, squeezed with our legs and then 'caught' the energy in our hands by slightly rolling the hands under, and holding all of this for a few seconds. The horse should engage his hind quarters, lift his head and lighten his forehand. Both Rogo and Savanah responded to Joan's satisfaction, although they have a long way to go (especially Rogo).
After we worked on that for a little while, we worked on canter lengthenings. I didn't think they'd be able to do it because we were inside and the indoor is small, but Rogo did it - lengthening for a few strides down the long side, coming back a bit on the short side and then lengthening again. Savanah didn't do it, but Doug's hip is very sore and he really couldn't push with his seat the way he needed to.
It's a little different that we're working on Rogo's canter lengthening before trot lengthening (although we have tried for a trot lengthening the odd time). The reason is that Rogo loves to canter and, for his stage of training,  will lengthen and come back quite readily in the canter (unless he's outside and being 'strong' and then he just runs up the hill), but he still isn't all that keen about trot lengthening. We're going with what he seems ready for.After canter work we did some shoulder-in at my request. Savanah is doing really well at this. She can basically do it just fine, even though it was only about her third time ever being asked for it. Rogo did it well at the walk, especially bent left, but he doesn't stay consistent with it at the trot and can only do about four or five steps before you feel him start to stiffen and / or shift to get out of it. I should only do as many steps as he can comfortably do, and gradually increase them.
I'm realizing I have to work on fitness outside of riding. I thought that riding would keep me as fit as I needed at my stage, and it's all I have time for, but I'm realizing I need more stamina and strength. I don't know what the solution is because I HATE exercising. That's the great thing about riding - it's exercise and I love it, but to meet my goals I'm going to need more. Where will I find the time or energy for more exercise? What can I possibly do that I don't dread? Maybe I could work on longe lessons focused on position and strength? Just thinking out loud here...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Doug and Savanah

I have lots of great news about Doug and Savanah. They are doing really well and are training for Level 1 for 2011. They won their silver pin for 2010. That requires two scores over 60 from two different judges. This was their first year, and they only went in two shows, so they did well. They have lots of ribbons, even a first place, from a class with lots of great competition. They're the featured local rider on NS Dressage currently (lower left).
Savanah is a wonderful horse. When Joan started teaching me (I told the story here) she didn't think Savanah would be able to go in a show (she was hugely over weight, shaggy and unbelievably her previous owner had used her for barrel racing!), but she showed all of us! She loves dressage and loves to show and it has been wonderful for her. She went from a horse who constantly anticipated and acted nervous, to a confident happy partner. She's a draft cross and she isn't one of these crosses who just looks a little solid. She shows her draft. We don't know her breeding but were told  she was a Percheron / Thoroughbred cross. That wouldn't account for the color though. Maybe she's a Paint / Percheron cross? Her feet are the size of dinner plates and she isn't a horse I would have picked out (only because up to then I liked more 'refined' looks), until I found out how wonderful she is.
Doug picked her out, and boy did he pick a winner in the equestrian pool. She must have thoroughbred genes, because despite her draft looks, she loves to go forward. She has more forwardness than 5 year old warmblood Rogo (she's twelve, still many good years left with her). Together with the forwardness, she's 100% reliable. I'd trust her with my life. Then add in that she's very sensitive to the aids. For a big horse, she'll bend almost at right angles and is as constant and steady on the bit as you can imagine a horse being. She's just solidly there in your hands waiting for the next move. For example, when Joan recently instructed Doug in shoulder in, he didn't have to teach her - she is just so on the aids that when he asked for it she did a perfect shoulder in almost from the beginning. The next day she trotted it in a beautiful rhythm. How cool is that?
All in all, I'd sum her up by saying that she's about as fun a ride as you can have.
She's beaten some nice warmbloods in competition - I love it when under dogs do that! She does well by being consistent, precise, having good rhythm and loving the show ring. When she hears the bell to enter she feels like a balloon blowing up underneath you and then bam - she's going for it :)
She was season high point champion at Training level the year I showed her, and even won her first Level One class at her first gold show that year, scoring mid 60's.
Here is a short video of she and Doug schooling today:

video

Doug rode western until he announced a year and a half ago that he'd like " a few minutes instruction with Savanah in case he felt like riding her". Well, that was interesting. He was blown away by her responsiveness, even at the level she is, and instantly started dressage lessons (he'd jokingly made fun of dressage big time until then). Now he's hooked and plans to take her up the levels as far as they can go.
I know she isn't papered breeding stock, but sometimes I fantasize that we should continue her great traits...
Doug's riding is really coming along great. Joan despaired at first :), with his western background, but he's a natural. He's one of the few men in Nova Scotia doing dressage.
Here are a few pictures of them:



video

 And a short video of me with her in our first show (above). I can't wait to see what Doug and Savanah accomplish.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Alex and Maude

Doug and I went to see our nephew's new horse Maude yesterday He got her last spring. She's a two and a half year old Clyde / Thoroughbred cross and she is lovely. I was really impressed with her. First of all, she hadn't been turned out in a while because of the days of heavy rain, but she was quiet in the cross ties and when Alex led her down to the outdoor ring  she calmly, quietly followed and stood while he took her lead line off. Then she exploded! Wow, did she ever hold herself in until the right time, and then went for it. Her canter was so nice it's hard to describe. Unfortunately I didn't get any on video and he wisely doesn't canter her yet on the longe line (hard on her young joints). She reaches up and out in the canter in this very uphill movement, even though as a two year old she's built downhill for the time being. Her bucks are pretty impressive too :) She leaps in the air and then almost flips over. I hope she doesn't do it with Alex on her back :) but I don't think she will.
He longed her at the walk and trot, then sat on her at the walk and did a little trot in each direction too. It was only his 4th time on her and she was soooo well behaved. You could see her carefully placing each foot and almost teetering as she balanced him. I remember Rogo doing that. I think it is so amazing and sweet that they want to balance us instead of just throwing us off on the ground.
He's using a hackamore for now, but will switch to a bridle and ride her english. I think she'd make a nice dressage horse. Here's a video of her on the longe.

video

I had a lesson today. It was outside and the weather was beautiful and that's the best thing I can say about it. Rogo was pretty good, but he's forgotten how to move off my left leg for some reason. Not a biggy, we'll just keep practicing. He was great at the canter. I need to start challenging he and I more (while continuing to work at getting the bend right), so starting tomorrow I'm going to see if we can get some lengthenings (in any gait) and also some leg yield and shoulder in.  

Then I rode Dan bareback while Doug rode Savanah. Dan did well and so did Doug and Savanah.  I rode Savanah after that, so I rode all three today. She was so much fun, as usual. She's energetic and on the bit and responsive - how much better does it get? I need to get some video of Doug and she. Next post is about them!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lesson On the Crazy Heavy Rainfall Day

Rogo and I had a lesson Sat. morning and it was pouring! It was so loud in the indoor ring that Cheryl and I could hardly hear one another. Doug wouldn't ride Savanah because she was too spooky (normally she's totally rock solid), and I don't think anyone else was riding, but Rogo doesn't mind wind and rain.
We started doing a lot of fairly tight bends and loops, and also quite small circles, at the trot. This made his gait less rhythmic and forward, but it's good to get him doing this and seeing his bending improving. 
I've added a video for my future reference, thanks to Doug recording. If you watch it you might want to turn the sound off as the rain is roaring. I see his canter still doesn't have the jump it did, but it's come and gone before. Hope it never goes for good! He's on his forehand, but all in all I'm happy with him. He's looking happy and relaxed most of the time, even though the conditions were wild, and he's willing in trying for all this fairly challenging bending and bending changes.

video

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oct. Training Results and Nov. Goals, 2010

Training area
Achieved
Sept.
Goal Oct. 31
Achieved
Goal Nov. 31
Contact (accepting contact with the bit)
5
6
5.5
6
Bending
5+
6
5.5
6
Working trot
7
7
6.8*
7
Canter:

Transition



Carry

Steer

6+ up, 4 down
5
5+

6

6
6

6 up, 5 down
6
6

7

7
7
Circles
6
6
6
7
Free walk
7
7.5
7
7
Halt
5
6
5
6
Half halt
3
4
Straight on center line
6
6.5
6.5
7
Rhythm
W-6+
T-7
C-7
7.5
7.5
7.5
6*
6*
6*
7
7
7
Precise transitions
5
6
5
6
Leg Yield 
3
4
3
4
Should in
3
4
3.5
4
Me
Canter position
5
6
6
7
Relaxation
5
6
5.5
6
Sitting trot (Rogo)
2
3
3
5


Notes:

  • Keep using legs and get him listening to steering with my legs
  • * working trot and rhythm went down because we added in a lot of bending and he's still getting used to it
This page has our goals and results since I started to write them with Cheryl last April. She tells me the results of the goal setting at the end of every month. She's an Equine Canada judge so they should be fairly accurate. She can be tough! (but also kind)


One area I want to start seeing more results in is the contact and roundness. It is sooo important, the foundation of everything, and we haven't moved much in our results since the spring. There is improvement, but I think there should be more. I didn't pay a lot of attention to it for a long time, but it's time to get serious about it. I know a lot of people use, and over-use, side reins and I'm very ambivalent about that tool. I use them carefully and sparingly under careful supervision from classical trainers. I know they're fine in the hands of an experienced trainer, but honestly, how many young horses do you see behind the bit these days? The majority are in my experience and I just don't get that. It's incorrect even in an older, trained horse and to have a young horse tucked in like that isn't pretty or developing his/her freedom of movement. I've read the argument that young horses haven't found their balance yet, etc., so curl up. That may be true in a few cases (?), but most will stick their nose out, not in, unless they're being trained to over-bend in.
Anyway, I think I'm off on a bit of a rant, but it's my pet peeve. The rule books are clear on where the horse's head should be and you rarely see it there anymore (although in older pictures and videos you do). At the World Dressage Masters I attended last winter with the top riders and horses in the world, the majority were behind the bit most of the time. That's incorrect. Period. But some (many?) of them practice rollkur (making me iffy on going again).
Not that I have an opinion.
 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rogo's First Ride Out at Cheryl's

I thought I would be too tired to ride when I was on my way home from Lunenburg Wed. evening, but it was sunny and beautiful for the first time in days (weeks?) and I just couldn't resist. I knew I'd arrive at feeding time, but thought  I could just clean tack and kill time until Rogo was fed and digested :), but it turned out that Karen and Elaine, two other boarders had arrived just before me to ride and feeding was going to be at the far side of the suppertime feeding window. Yeah!
Karen was there for the second time that day to ride, and guess how old her horse is? He's 30, or will be in the next few months! He's amazing and I'm soon going to get some pictures and video and devote a post to him. Of course she doesn't ride him hard, but he has lots of get up and go.
I hadn't ridden Rogo with them before, so it was fun. They warmed up in the field while I warmed up in the ring, and then we all walked around the field adjacent to the outdoor ring at the end of our ride. This made Rogo very excited and happy! He was perfect, but what a bounce he had in his step.
In the ring Rogo continued his performance from the last ride, although perhaps a little better. As I mentioned, because of rain we'd been riding mostly inside since getting back to Cheryl's and when I took him outside this week his performance lost most of the gains I felt we'd made this fall :( His attention just isn't there. He isn't spooky or even very looky, he's just not mentally focused on his work and doesn't respond well to my aids. I can't blame him for all of this either. I'm realizing that because the distances are different in the patterns I ride for our warm up routines and training I'm not riding and giving aids as clearly and definitely. So, big surprise, I also need to learn to perform in different environments. What a shocker.
I'm also convinced my tiredness (I mentioned my work is crazy busy this week) affects this, maybe more than I realize. Although being outside has energized him, I'm bone weary tired when I ride and I sense that this is draining to him. He'll start off sparkly and forward and then quickly kind of deflates. He probably feels like he's carrying a dead old sack of potatoes around and how much fun can that be? Having said that, I realize it's going on and don't ask for a lot, and the riding is good for my soul. Walking around the pasture on him in the fall evening sunshine was just what I needed. I came home exhausted but my head was clear and I was happy, happy, happy.
I have a lesson tomorrow morning. That should be interesting. We're getting heavy rains and high winds (gusting to 110 kms Doug said). Moms' screen door blew off today. Rogo is amazingly steady in this environment, but it's really hard to hear Cheryl in that kind of wind, let alone with rain beating on the metal roof. I'll keep you posted :)
Things I want to remember from this ride:
  • I also need to learn to ride in different spaces, of different sizes
  • my tiredness affects Rogo's energy level; don't try for much more than getting out and spending time together
  • keep practicing the half halts (and working on canter departs when my energy returns)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why It's Good To Change Riding Locations

I've been working all over the place this week (Digby, Lunenburg, Truro), but met Doug at the barn today for a ride. 
Rogo's been impressing me so much lately, so maybe it was time for a reality check :) We rode in the outdoor ring, after riding inside for the past couple of weeks (rain) and I had difficulty getting Rogo to focus on the work. He's been so bendale and responsive lately though, and it just wasn't there today. He didn't want to move off my leg, to the extent he even ignored it or moved against it at times. Our leg yield was non existent! He'd do shoulder in a bit, but I was careful only to ask for a few steps since it seemed like I should be careful not to over do it.
I tried for some canter lengthening (he was starting to respond well at home, lengthening and shortening again, while holding the gait), but he didn't lengthen. He may have become a bit more 'impulsed' :) but not longer in the stride. I wanted to work on this outside because the indoor isn't a full size ring and it will be harder for him to lengthen there. Soon enough we won't be able to go outside. Here's a clip of the canter taken with my phone. Not our best effort - I'll have to get another, and try harder.

video
Boy, do I ever need to focus on our contact and roundness. His  head is still high and out.
I found myself tiring quickly, so rather than try to ride when I was tired and Rogo wasn't having the best day, I just rode for about 45 minutes and ended on a positive note. 
If Rogo can't maintain a consistent performance from home to Cheryl's and indoor to outdoor he sure won't at a show, so all in all this is good for him. It was fun despite the reduced performance.
Doug and Savanah had a good ride. I think he is going to write goals as I do, so I'll post them.
Rogo and Savanah have been cantering / galloping in the turn out a lot, so they're self conditioning. I guess they've been running up and down the hill a lot - love it!