Monday, January 31, 2011

Studded Shoes Are On, But Now I'm Worried About His Teeth...

I've never been one of those over protective, worrier 'mothers' :) but I must say I think I'm beginning to sound like one. Rogo and Savanah's shoes went back on today, complete with studs and snow dams. A second benefit to having the studded shoes is that I've found their stall mats get slippery, which is kind of upsetting.
I lunged and rode Rogo (it was cold, -10) and the trot is slowly improving. He's tracking up and there's a bit of cadence at times, but I know he can do so much more. All in good time.
He was very sweet and well behaved and was bending nicely both ways, doing nice circles and figure eights, etc. He could be quicker in his responses but we'll keep working on that. They aren't terrible and at times they're good. May have been complete coincidence, but it felt like he was moving better with the shoes on.
The last time I rode him I noticed for just a couple of seconds at one point that he might have been grinding on his bit. This was a first. Then I heard it again today, just for a moment, when he was doing a lot of changing bend to the inside and outside when on the long side. Hmmm. Then in his canter he was kind of all over the place at times - engaged, then on his forehand, then engaged again, above the bit, then connecting, then above the bit... then he started throwing his head - he's never, ever thrown his head up and down. What's up? I talked to Joan about it tonight, wondering if he could be having any age related teeth issues (he's five). She asked how long it had been since his teeth had been floated - I can't believe it - I completely forgot about getting his teeth floated! It's been about a year and they should be done, so I'll call the vet tomorrow.
It will be good to get all this done. Now, while I'm on a roll,  I should check the worming schedule. It's probably close to that time. A little early yet for shots, but  soon...
Lately I've been ending each ride by taking Rogo's tack off in the arena and leaving him at liberty while I do clicker work (play) with him. He learns pretty fast. After only about 4 or 5 sessions he's standing on one spot quite well and turning his head alternately to the left and the right for a treat. My first goal was to get him to bend to the left and right on his own - self stretching exercises - he loves it and is soooo cute! It's a nice way for him to associate the ring with treats and a variety of activities, not just drilling dressage :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Quick Lunge and Ride - Working On the Trot

I was sitting having coffee with a dressage friend a couple of weeks ago and was chatting about Rogo's trot having deteriorated and how I was working on it. She said to me, "well you have to go back and get it", in a very immediate and almost bewildered way. There was absolutely no hesitation in knowing it needed to be done, and I think, although kind, she wondered if I understood how important this basic piece was and that I just couldn't go further without it. I did know, but until she said it I think I thought if we just kept working along, knowing it needed some focus, that it would come. I'm so thankful she said it because it made me realize it needed to be solidly ingrained, NOW, no ifs, ands of buts. My long time teacher Joan hasn't been able to work with me in a while.
So since that conversation I've been more aware of that being #1. We do free lunging over poles, free jumping, me running with him, lots of walk trot transitions, etc.
Yesterday, for the second time in a few days, I lunged Rogo and really focused on forwardness in the trot. I want a nice working trot, and after a fair warm up, I want it when I ask, not five minutes later. He is getting more forward and responsive. We did lots of walk trot transitions and then I rode, doing the same thing. We only did walk and trot, and practiced lots of forwardness, bending and transitioning back to walk and up again. I felt like I was starting at the beginning of his training again, and was surprised at how weak these basic moves were when I paused to really isolate them and focus on them.
When he realized I was going to ask for a trot after only a few walk steps he decided he'd just slow the trot. Although I insisted on getting what I asked for, speeding up and slowing down the trot can be helpful too.We used to do this with Joan and it worked very well, wonders in fact. Cheryl doesn't do this, but I think I'll start practicing it on my own.
I discovered a great little trick for getting a good halt while we were doing this. When he's trotting and I ask for a walk, he's expecting to trot again immediately, so when I give the halt aid after one walk step he is instantly in a square, engaged halt - I love it!
This is taking time, but it's time well spent and it has to be done. It needs a lot more work but I think it's coming. I could put spurs on and get there faster, but I've set a goal to get my legs stronger this winter and it won't happen if I start using spurs for a crutch. I'll use them eventually as an aid, but not until everything is working adequately without them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pictures - Playing In The Snow

Today I went to the barn and lunged Rogo. We worked on forwardness in the trot and walk trot transitions and I was quite happy with him. I got to say hello to one of Cheryl's other student's, Cindy. She rides a very nice mare and after taking some winter down time (she kept up her horse's fitness though) she is starting to make  plans for spring. Or at least think about it!
I put Rogo and Savanah outside (Dan is in another barn and gets turned out with his barn mate Lucy) and took a few pictures. It was a beautiful sunny day ...

This looks like a good spot


Mom learned how to photoshop herself skinny, so why can't she photoshop me white? 

 Now for the other side


 What? All the guys do this.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do You Pull Shoes In the Winter? Even If You're In Training?

This may be boring, but I'd really appreciate knowing what others think, or hearing about your experience. It occurs to me that I should have looked into this a lot more in the past, but I took advice (although not from the farrier come to think about it, who said nothing) and honestly didn't think about it much until yesterday...
We've pulled our horses' shoes for the winter this year and for the previous two years, because we had no access to hacking out and only rode in rings with good, soft footing. The horses get turned out in their bare feet. Spring, summer, fall they are shod.When we had the horses home in the winter I trail rode a lot (on Dan and Savanah) and we kept them shod, with snow dams and studs.
Now I'm wondering about this. To make a long story short, I'm getting their shoes put back on. For one thing, water leaked into the arena and the footing is kind of hard and frozen at one end, and now I'm wondering if it is even a good idea to be taking shoes on and off like that when the horses are being ridden through out. Even with good soft footing, would it be better for them, when they are used to shoes to keep shoes all the time? I know bare foot can work fine for some horses (and promote soundness for some horses) when they are slowly and carefully conditioned and trimmed specifically for it. I'm respectful of that but for various reasons it isn't right for our horses, so maybe that means shoes all the time if they are being ridden?
We started pulling their shoes in the winter at the same time we switched farriers, so she showed up for her first visit and we asked her to take them off and trim only. She didn't offer an opinion, and has been doing it since, because we kept asking and on the surface it seemed to be working. Now I'm wondering...
I think the horses have given us clues and we didn't notice until it became more pronounced. They aren't lame, but Savanah began to not want to canter since her shoes came off, and Rogo's working trot went down hill, among other things. Yesterday I hand raked the 'tracks' out of the arena while they got their trims, and then rode. I think the combination of raking and the farrier being there made me more conscious of the situation all of a sudden a light bulb went off and thus I'm wondering what others think. If you feel like telling me I'm an idiot not to figure it out sooner please be gentle.
Now, for something completely different, here is a link to a write up a friend posted on Facebook today and coincidentally it turns out the horse in question, Rigo, is a half brother to Rogo. They are both sons of Rotspon, a Rubenstein 1 son. I didn't know Rigo existed, but the name similarity is striking. Rigo has a very impressive show record:
  • Regional Championships at First Level in 2007, 
  • Second Level in 2008 and 
  • Fourth Level, as well as Fourth Level Horse of the Year, in 2009
  • In 2010 he won the USEF National Developing Horse Championship and Region 2 Prix St Georges Championships

I started looking and found this about him as well:
  • 2009 USDF Dressage Horse of the Year at Fourth Level
  • 2008 USDF Dressage Horse of the Year (Reserve Champion) at Second Level
  • 2008 American Hanoverian Society Horse of the Year at Second Level
I can't find Rigo's pedigree. Rogo gets the 'go' part of his name from the mare line sires being descended from Gotthard and all starting with 'go'. I wonder if Rigo has a Gotthard link?
Of course Rotspon has lots of offspring, but I think this may be one of the most successful and of course the names make me smile. Another very successful Rotspon son, who's becoming a successful sire on his own is Rascalino. But I'm getting off on a tangent. Maybe pedigrees and discussions of the line would be fun to research for another post. A final forum discussion I just came across, that may explain Rogo's super temperament.
I certainly can't train to be in a league with Rotspon's top offspring, but I sure have a sweet boy who makes me happy every day - that's success.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Finally Forward

I had a lesson with Cheryl today. I'd purposely given Rogo 4 days off as a little break, and he was very forward, which was nice. Cheryl's also been giving him oil lately (I didn't know until today), so I don't know which did it, or if it was both. Anyway he can't stay on the oil because Cheryl said his hocks swelled after he went on it and went down when she took him off it. I think it was corn oil (bad mama for not paying attention, I must check and make a note), so maybe another kind would work.
We did some nice walk trot transitions - contact stayed good and he remained forward. Mental note to self though - I'm not used to him being so forward (which I want him to be), so the first couple of times he really bounced into a big trot from the first step I didn't go with him to the extent I should have and may have discouraged him a bit with my hands :(  I could just kick myself for that, because I've been encouraging him to be more forward in his trot forever, and when he is, that's what he gets for thanks. It wasn't too bad though and I learned after the first couple of times.
We worked on leg yield which is taking FOREVER. It's one step forward, two steps back. Every time we make a bit of progress it disappears again. I have to be doing something wrong. I got some good advice the last time I posted this and also Cheryl is watching and coaching, but we aren't getting it very well. Cheryl tells me I'm doing everything right except often holding with the inside rein a little too much. Rogo does an excellent turn on the forehand and it was very good even the first time I asked him, so he gets that. He's progressing nicely with shoulder in, so he understands the various aids, bending, etc. He's walking his leg yield okay most of the time, so maybe he'll have a break through soon in trotting it?
We did a small amount of canter each way. It was very cold and also his feet need a trim (the farrier is coming tomorrow), so we kept canter short. The canter was quite nice if I do say so myself - he had lots of jump and he went nicely round for me for much of it. I need to remember to keep my center of gravity upright (I tend to lean back a tad without realizing it), keep my legs long and heels down, and to keep my hips loose.
He's such a sweetie pie. I'm really happy with him.
Jen rode Dan on Sun. and I have the most adorable picture of them that her friend Maria took:

'Dan Thinks Girls Are Gross'

Maria wrote the caption :)  Jen tells me she lunged first and had a great ride, that he was uphill and fun throughout. She is doing such a great job with him. Sooo good for him to be groomed, ridden and loved on.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yesterday's Visit WIth The Horses

I had a good visit at the barn yesterday. First I free lunged Dan. I put some good music on, put out ground poles and played with him for about 15 minutes. I ran around the arena with him, so I'd get a work out too and he went through the poles really nicely. When we finished that I did a bit of clicker work on getting him to look away to get a treat, stand at liberty without moving and just started asking him to back from a voice command only. He's very quick with clicker training, but it's been a couple of years so we're brushing up.
When I went to put him back in his stall he had to go by a horse who always leans out and tries to nip the horses who go by. Dan hates him and on this occasion he hopped up a bit and struck at the air with both front legs in quick succession, hard. He's never done this before and has always led very well. Luckily I was beside him and not in front of him. Maybe he wouldn't have done it if he thought he'd hit me, but it was too close for comfort and even though he was provoked he definitely shouldn't act this way. I haven't faced this issue before, ever, so I had no plan for a reaction. What I did was give a very firm verbal 'no' and immediately made him back all the way down the aisle. Then I had him stand for a moment and then led him out, quietly this time without a reaction beside the nippy horse.
Last year Dan was stalled beside this horse and disliked him so much that he made himself lame kicking the stall wall that he shared with him. This year we put Dan in another barn, but we have to go by the nippy horse to get back and forth to the indoor ring. Dan gets along with most horses, but about three years ago we boarded at a place where he was stalled beside a grumpy horse (also very nippy) who Dan took a big dislike to. He doesn't take well to horses who try to pick on him. When our three horses are home Rogo is the dominant horse, but he is very quiet about it and all the horses get along, although Dan is kind of a tease to Rogo and Savanah. He pulls their tails and tries to get them to run, etc.
I've warned Jen, who's riding Dan, to keep an eye on it and I'll continue to do ground work with him, as Jen does too, but I'm not sure if there's anything else I can do about it.
After this I free lunged Rogo and Savanah together over poles. I kept the boppy music and ran along with them too. I'm getting so much exercise! I've started running with our dogs too (we've turned the riding ring into a dog turn out for the winter). Animals LOVE it when you do this. Who knew? Both horses and dogs act very happy and excited when I run along with them and they get so energized. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think I'm feeling a little stronger already?
After all this I rode Rogo. The ride was fine - contact was good, bending was good, energy was okay (worked for it but it came). I also think he's finding his balance at the canter and I'm very slowly but surely getting into a better canter position on him. It's really helped to be lunged on Savanah.
Now for a confession - I think I've discovered a reason he may be breaking more in his canter, and it isn't just loss of balance as he learns to use his hind quarters more. The riding ring needs to be raked and the track along the walls is worn to the base along the middle of each long side :( 
This means hard footing and Rogo is bare foot for the winter. I'm feeling pretty guilty. I didn't notice the footing was getting thin (there's a 'path' but you can't see that the sand/rubber footing is so worn unless you walk over and carefully examine it) until yesterday. He isn't lame or acting up, I just noticed he isn't as happy to keep his canter and he's always loved to canter. One big hint was that he pulled against my hands and cantered into a corner, where the footing is deep, and he hasn't done this since he first started cantering under saddle and hadn't really figured out how to turn. Sooooooo ... I won't be riding until the ring is raked. I may do it by hand. There isn't the cushion needed and also without the proper footing it could be slippery for a canter. Come to think of it it wouldn't be good for the base either.
I finished my afternoon at the barn with some clicker training with Rogo. This is all new to him, so we worked on him looking away for a treat. He turns his head so far back he almost touches his side, so I'm thinking I'll make sure he learns to do both sides, and then he can do bending exercises all on his own! :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Today's Riding Lesson

It was -15 when I arrived at the barn for my riding lesson this morning. Yikes! Cheryl's barn is pretty warm though, and there was no wind, so....
First I lunged Cheryl on Savanah, and then she lunged me on Savanah. We kept it pretty light and easy because Savanah has a coat like a wooly mammoth and I wouldn't want her to get sweaty in that cold (more on that later). Cheryl hasn't been riding in a while, so she's getting on Savanah to do exercises and get back into riding condition (she's strong because she does lots of work in the barn). We laugh though, because Cheryl is only 5' tall and Savanah is sooo wide that Cheryl's legs are almost doing the splits to get around her. 
My longing exercises are without stirrups and to:
  • lean forward and hold and lean back and hold, while keeping my legs correct
  • put my arms to the front and then one at a time move the arm to the side and follow with my eyes, while keeping the other arm still
  • swing each leg, with an unbent knee, forward and backward, swinging the hip joint
  • then both without and with stirrups I practice canter trot canter transitions, because my position is poor on Rogo (heels don't stay down as I encourage him to go forward)
I love riding Savanah, because I can ride her much more correctly than I can Rogo. It seems I am always concentrating on too many other things when I'm on him, and my position suffers. I know this isn't a good excuse - the better my position is the more I should be able to work on improving him, but ... I'm trying hard and slowly getting better with him. Cheryl told me my canter on Savanah today was the best she's seen me do, but when I'm on Rogo he doesn't respond as quickly and easily as she does, so my legs and back are working more to keep him going / steering. Oh well. At least by getting on Savanah I can work on my position.
Rogo was doing a better trot again today. Keep your fingers crossed for me. The free longing over poles and jumps seems to be helping his trot and also the running with him is helping me. I worked on contact today mostly. It wasn't very good to start. He's wanting to stick his head up again, but he improves as the ride progresses. The nice part is that I'm getting a good working trot almost as soon as I ask, which for weeks / months had taken 20 to 30 minutes to get with any consistency.
Cheryl watched his canter and said it was fine - I'd been wondering why he was using his hind quarters more but then seemed to be 'falling' forward and trotting - but he didn't do it today. She said he was probably just losing his balance as he is learning to carry more on his hind quarters.
All in all a good lesson and it was up to -2 by the time I went home, tired and cold but feeling great.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Stylish Blooger is Spreading - Fun!

A Horse and A Half very kindly and generously awarded me the Stylish Blogger Award. Thank you Horse and a Half! She writes an informative and often fun / funny blog about her adventures in dressage. Although often self deprecating, I think she knows more than she lets on :)
This is a fun way to learn more about blogger friends and maybe find some great new blogs by reading other people's suggestions.

There are 4 duties to perform to receive this award:
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award (see above)
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!
Thinking of seven things about myself that you don't already know will be hard, but here goes:
  1. I love fashion and am a clothes-aholic, although you wouldn't know it from my pictures riding in Doug's old t-shirts. No more of that!
  2. I can be obsessive and used to be a workaholic. Not being productive makes me anxious. I know this isn't a good thing.
  3. I can be a party animal (occasionally), which isn't really productive :) Come to think of it that makes me anxious.
  4. I drive a Harley, and so does my husband Doug, but now that I ride horses so much, I rarely ride my bike. Doug rides his a lot though and we do lots of biking things.
  5. I'm a little (?) flawed and eccentric and I'm drawn to imperfection.
  6. I treasure my women friends and still get together with high school and college friends.
  7. I live in an old farm house in the country with my husband Doug and in the winter time, my mother. We all get along really well and at night we sit by the fire and watch British mysteries that Doug downloads.
There are so many great blogs I don't know where to start! The instructions say 15 recently discovered, so I guess this is a good way to get some new blogs out there, as well as old favorites. I've been blogging less than a year myself, so they're all recently discovered to me! Many I might suggest will have been suggested by others, and I read so many it's hard to pick, but here are 15 interesting blogs:
  1.  Dressa-Crosse in Steel Shoes
  2. Angela Swedberg
  3. From Race Horse To Show Horse
  4. A Teens Dressage Dream
  5. Devoted To Dressage
  6. Hoof Beats For Heart Beats
  7. A Collection of Madcap Escapades
  8. Jimmy Choo - The Blog
  9. It's Quarters For Me
  10. Skoog Farm Journal
  11. Always There Are The Horses
  12. Canter Balance
  13. R Lil Bit Of Cash
  14. 50 + Horses
  15. Rebel Road Sister


Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Think I'm On To Something

I had a great day at the barn yesterday. I spent most of the day there. First I free longed Rogo and Savanah together - put on some upbeat music and put out ground poles. They get along well, although Rogo felt he had to pretend he was herding her around the arena and over the poles. She's very tolerant of the youngster :). She is so pretty doing ground poles, almost passaging. Maybe it's the draft influence but she really lifts her knees and has tons of power and action in her movement as she goes through them. Perhaps not a good look / movement for all breeds, but she is quite striking. They both enjoy ground poles, but it's the first time I've done them together. They really had fun (or seemed to be having a horse version of fun). In keeping with my discovery the last time I worked Rogo over ground poles, I ran along with them. What a workout! Wow. It did me in, but I hate exercise so finding something fun to do with the horses that also burns calories and builds strength (in addition to riding) is a bonus. They seem to like it when I do this too - it's all a big game. I'm on to something! Next I need to put out ground poles for me :)
Just as a quick aside, they have done ground poles together once before. I was longing Rogo (on the longe line) in our riding ring at home and hadn't put Savanah in the barn (Dan gets locked up when we work other horses). I know it isn't strictly safe to longe with another horse around, but I know them really well and it was fine. On this occasion Savanah stood just outside the perimeter of the circle watching intently as Rogo circled. There were cavelleti set up down one side and I steered him over there. As she saw where I was going she headed right over and trotted through the ground poles behind him. She stayed with our routine for a little while, trotting around behind him on her own, and then wandered off. She is such a cutie pie.
After free longing the two of them I rode Rogo. We worked on trying to keep a good connection through transitions and it wasn't too bad. He's still at the stage, or just getting through it, where he might raise his head during a transition but yesterday he didn't. And I'll be doomed to dressage hell for saying this, but for awhile now he's been 'even'. What I mean is that he bends and responds the same on both sides. Left had been lagging since I started him. Gee, could it have anything to do with me realizing I wasn't weighting my left seat bone and then working at fixing it? I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't even clicked into this change in him until a few days ago and connected it to getting balanced myself. I'm thinking that it is probably normal for one side and the other to get better / worse as work progresses (but not for the rider to get lop sided lol), but we're in a good place in that regard for our current training.
We did canter transitions, which are getting more precise and engaged. There is something happening with his canter though, and I need to ask Joan or Cheryl about it. He's had / has a nice working canter. The change started when I started working on circles in the indoor - I felt a very distinct engagement of the hind quarters and lifting of the forehand (quite nice) as he'd come onto the circle. The indoor is smallish, but 20 m wide, so we do 20 m circles and sometimes 15 m. He now often canters with more hind quarter engagement and elevation in the forehand even when he isn't on a circle. I think my riding is the same. It may be because the indoor is smaller. But where before he'd canter round and round the arena effortlessly, now what often happens is that he does this more engaged canter, we do a circle, we come off the circle, he continues on, and about half way around the arena there is a distinct 'falling' on the forehand, even though my aids don't change, and then of course he loses his balance and trots within a few strides. Having never started a horse before I don't know if this is a normal stage as he gains strength in his hind quarters and starts to balance himself over them more, but can't carry it for too long, or if I'm doing something wrong in my riding and interfering with his natural movement. My contact is quite light I think, and I'm not doing anything different to ask him to engage more. I've always loved his canter so I sure don't want to wreck it. As I said, I'll ask my teachers next time I ride with them so they can see what's going on, but it just recently started to be a pattern so I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts or has experienced anything similar?
I practiced a little sitting trot with him and we did some leg yield (slowly coming) and a few steps of shoulder in. His halt, after being good for the last while, slipped a bit. He didn't want to stand after he halted :( No big deal. I may leave it for a few days. All told we worked together for about an hour and a half, so it was a good, hard workout, but lots of fun, at least for me.
Next I free longed Dan over poles. What a ham he is. His first time around he leaped over all three in one gigantic spring. I've never seen him do this, so I had a good laugh. After that he settled in and did them well. Jen is coming to ride him tomorrow and spend the day at the barn so it will be fun to see her.
I had a good long gab today with one of the woman on my dressage club board. She's a great teacher and gave me some really good warm up ideas. They fit very well with the warm up I wrote up last week, which is still a little challenging for Rogo, so I think I'll revise it and incorporate some ideas from the conversation today. I can't wait to get to the barn tomorrow. Life is good!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Savanah Kicks Butt

I started my lesson yesterday on the longe with Savanah, working on my position / seat. I love these lessons. I actually feel an improvement every time. Not sustainable without repetition, but  very motivating. This time I stayed with Savanah after we took the longe off and we worked on my position off the longe line, while also practicing aids she knows and Rogo is learning. She is SO FUN to ride. She is very big (her picture is on the right sidebar; she's half draft), but very flexible and sensitive to the aids. I love riding Rogo, but he just doesn't know what she knows and it's so great to be on a horse who reacts to each half halt, moves easily / quickly off my leg, goes forward energetically / enthusiastically in the trot when asked, even lengthening easily, cantering from walk without thinking about it, etc., etc. She only went as far as Level One test one when I was riding her, but she knows this stuff so well. I'm hoping Doug will finish Level One with her this coming year so they can start Level Two the following year. She's very ready for that.
After riding Savanah I longed and rode Rogo and was able to carry over my position work. Now to practice and solidify it - heels down!
There was a lot of ice coming off the roof when I rode, but both horses were really good. I'm the nervous one :)
Speaking of drafts and dressage...
Have you seen the video of the Pony and Shire Pas De Deux? Although I think there were some snippy comments on You Tube (by far over ridden by positive comments), I think it's great. I had a look and there were actually quite a few Shire dressage videos. I'd love to ride one. Jeni at Supersize My Cob is doing dressage with her 17 hand Percheron (and she's only 5 feet). I'm jealous!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I'm Skinny Again! WIll This Be The Motivation?

I started a post this morning where-in I noted my lack of resolutions. I never make them. They don't work for me, although I admire the people who can stick to them. But it was snowing again today, for the second day in a row, and again I couldn't go to the barn for a ride :(
The one resolution I did come up with this morning was to spend less time working (I work for myself, so theoretically it's possible), so I decided to spend the afternoon starting to learn photoshop, something I've wanted to do for a while. Heaven help me if I didn't learn how to clone, which, without a heartbeat's hesitation, led to shaving off belly fat and behind bulge. Am I a natural genius or what? I liked the results so much that I'm thinking maybe if I keep this image in front of me I could be a little thinner by show season. Although a little on the crude side, here is my first 'retouching' :)
Rogo and Carol, June 2009

Rogo and Carol, Coming June 2011

At the very least I resolve not to wear Doug's old Harley t-shirts for riding anymore! Something with a bit of tailoring / fitting is clearly in order.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lesson With Joan

We had a lesson with Joan this morning. She has an amazing knowledge of classical dressage and is religious about correct training and super light invisible aids. What I love about her is that no detail or refinement is too small and perfection is the only worthy goal. This is odd, because it doesn't fit the rest of my personality.
She can quote from every old master from the last several hundred years and tell you about training debates across the centuries, various schools of training and style and what country they originated in, etc. She is responsible for my fascination with dressage, and Doug's as well. She is an older woman who's main teacher and mentor studied in Europe during  Podhajsky's time with some of the people you'll see mentioned in his books. Joan was on her way to study at the Spanish Riding School when life circumstances intervened (parental health problems) and she didn't go. Although hip problems prevent her from riding now, she's a wonderful teacher to have and a rare treasure for someone living in rural Nova Scotia. Together with Cheryl, who's experience and knowledge are wonderful, we have a great teaching team. Cheryl really knows about starting young horses and has helped me immensely. I should do a little biography on both of them, as they are both very interesting people.
I don't think Joan knows what to make of Rogo at times. She's worked with a lot of Thoroughbreds, Anglo-Arabs and other hot, sensitive horses. I know warmbloods can be very forward and sensitive too, but some aren't and Rogo isn't. He needs a good long warm up and then he's great, but he doesn't come out ready to work in the first 10 minutes. Since we usually drive Joan to the barn with us and I don't want to have her sit around in the cold, Rogo doesn't get a long warm up before our lesson starts. I'm not too happy with that. I think next week I'll go over first and then Doug and Joan can go over together.
Today worked fine over all though. Joan worked on stretching the horse forward and down on a 20 M trot circle as the focus of the lesson. Rogo actually loves to do this and will stretch his nose pretty much to the ground. If I can get him steering well and staying nicely forward in his trot he'll score well on this move. Savanah doesn't stretch as well on the circle yet (she does a great free walk), but she does a better shaped circle and keeps a better, forward rhythm.
I tried wearing spurs with Rogo for the first time at the end of the lesson. I was trying so hard not to touch him with them accidentally that my legs got stiff and although I didn't touch him my legs were moving forward and back way too much. When I did use them on him (very lightly), he responded well - not too strongly but a good response to forward or sideways. I rode Savanah with spurs, but it's easier to stay quiet on her. I may leave the spurs for a while, or just put them on for a few minutes at the end of a ride occasionally to try to get my legs quiet and working well with them.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My New Fitness Regime - Rogo's the Coach

I've come up with the perfect fitness program - I run along with Rogo as I free longe him over ground poles. Ha ha, not kidding. I mentioned that I need to incorporate some fun days in the arena with Rogo, so they aren't all dressage days. For someone like me who just does dressage, I imagine it gets pretty dull for the horse, so I realize I have to find things for us to do to mix it up a little, especially this time of year when we can't ride outside. 
When I went to the barn today I decided we'd just do free jumping, ground poles and an introduction to clicker training, no riding. He was happy to do free jumping, but sedate. He's beginning to understand the routine, so he cantered around quite willingly both ways and did the jump I had set up. Then I removed the jump and laid out ground poles down one long side. I had some upbeat music on and the arena is small enough that even free longing him I can do large ovals in the middle and go around with him, which I did. A song came on that I like (Rolling Stones, She's a Rainbow) and I remembered someone (Calm, Forward, Straight?) mentioning that their trainer told them the rider / trainer needs to put the energy level in that they want from their horse, and I wanted to see if Rogo would pick up on my energy level.
..... There was no one else around - I had the arena and my horse and some boppy music all to myself and I was feeling happy and exuberant soooo, I said "Yippee!" and started running along (no waving whip, etc., just a heightened energy level from me) with him and instantly he was galloping and snorting and his energy level was UP HERE. He was so happy and excited. I was worried that he'd trip on the ground poles - he isn't ready to gallop through them yet :), so I said trot and he went to a huge trot, literally passaging through the poles, tail way up on the air, and lengthening down the other long side. I ran along with him, singing as I went (believe me I wouldn't do this if there were anyone there - maybe Rogo was in pain). There was nothing scary or out of control about him, his ears were forward, no behind turning toward me, etc. He was having fun in the indoor, my goal, and I was getting an incredible workout running ovals in the middle of the ring while having fun too. It was a good workout for both of us. As you know I want to improve his trot and this certainly got a nice trot in a fun way. I hope I can eventually segue that to under saddle.
To finish I wanted to introduce clicker training. I haven't done alot, but the first thing I do is teach the horse not to crowd or get demanding for treats, so when treats are used to reward the horse stays respectful and safe. I only had a broken up candy cane to use for treats, so we went with that. He loves them and wanted a piece, so I waited while he sniffed the treat and pushed my hand for it and waited and waited some more. The second he looked away I made a clicking noise and gave him the treat. We repeated this several times and by the time we finished he was looking away each time I brought out a piece of candy cane. He seemed to like this game too. I only do it for a few minutes.
I free jumped Dan before Rogo and refreshed his memory on standing in one spot while at liberty. Jen is coming to ride him tomorrow which is great.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lesson WIth Cheryl

We're getting back on our every Tues. lesson schedule so today we had a lesson. Last winter I did two lessons a week to get us back to work, but I want some riding time on my own to work on things this year, and also I'm busier. 
I read posts from younger women sometimes lamenting they don't have more lessons, so I feel a little guilty posting about them, but I have a message for all those young women - you are much more flexible, strong and resilient, and you'll have more money for lessons when you get older. A rather sweeping statement, but generally true. You know what they say, "Youth is wasted on the young" (George Bernard Shaw).
I'm not suggesting lesson money comes easily (it doesn't), only that barring bad luck (health issues, job loss, etc.) a more stable base is built by now so with care and prioritizing there's more likelihood of eking it out. Financing horses / riding would make an interesting post. The things we give up to ride would make some people think we're crazy, but we feel like the luckiest people in the world.
I'm off on a tangent - back to the lesson update. We longed Rogo first, with me on after the first few minutes. I did my exercises again (the ones from Sun. made me sore!) and did some fun things to try to separate body parts, i.e. posting trot while arms are out to the side and me turning back and forth with them out. I ended up laughing too hard to do much, but I got the idea of it. Off the longe, I think the leg yield is coming, but it's definitely one of the slower things we've worked on. His halts are getting better and it was generally a good ride.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Ride of 2011

I had a great lesson with Cheryl on Sun. It started with her longing me on Rogo. We worked on my exercises, particularly to relax / loosen my hips at the beginning while he walked. Then we worked on getting a good working trot, (no stirrups - yikes!) which we did fairly quickly. Then she wanted me to hold a better position in my canter. Well to be clear, I wanted to as well, but am stuck quite often in still thinking I have to PUSH him in the canter and my heels tend to come up. He's carrying his canter quite well most of the time and I don't want to teach him to only respond to a heavy aid, but it's hard to build new muscle memory. Anyway, after a few tries, knowing she was keeping his canter I got my position corrected and maintained it into the trot transition (another challenge, my foot goes forward).
Then we took the longe line off and worked on cantering across the diagonal and changing leads. He's done this outside for awhile, but the indoor is smallish and he hasn't done it in there. I learned from one of the clinic videos I watched that with a young horse you may succeed with canter steering by asking several strides before you need the movement because it takes them some time to process the ask. I tried this and it worked first try! He cantered across the diagonal, trotted, picked up the opposite lead and continued on. We did it twice, but I was too tired to do any more. It amazes me how much energy is needed to ride him, even when he's forward and well behaved as he was yesterday. How will I ever hold it together through an entire test? They are deceptively tiring, I know from showing Savanah, and Rogo's bigger movement makes him more taxing to ride, although I LOVE it. 
I need to improve my fitness so more longe work. I'm also taking joint supplements (Joints First - a recommendation from my 86 year old Mom) and have found a big improvement in my lower back pain. Boy, do I sound old or what? (Don't answer that.)
We did some leg yield practice (still a challenge) and some halts. For the  second ride in a row he did these square ramener (beginning of collection) type halts. It might be a fluke, but I think a good halt is coming. He gets off track so easily though - I have to completely take my legs off the second the halt happens, or he thinks some kind of turning should be required.
I want to clarify something from my previous post '2010's Top 10'. I mentioned I'd been competition manager for a dressage show. I was, but it was my first time as a show organizer (an Equine Canada Show) and I had lots of experienced help. I learned so much. Anyway, I'm afraid I  made myself sound more experienced than I am. I used my past event management experience, read lots of resource material and we had a great team that pulled it all together.
Jennifer and her friend Maria came to the barn after I rode Rogo, and Jen rode Dan again while Maria took pictures. Free jumping first, then riding. She did great with him again so I'm very happy about that. I'm lucky to have found a good rider like her to ride him and she feels happy about it too, so it's win / win.
Here are a couple of pictures that Maria took:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010's Top 10

Just for fun I thought I'd reflect on my top 10 dressage related activities or events of 2010. It will help me feel like I'm getting somewhere! Here they are, in no particular order of preference:
  1. I came back from a three month riding lay off (one month bruised hoof for Rogo, immediately followed by two months nerve injury/thing in base of neck for me) - it was like starting from scratch for him and I was shaky weak just mounting. 
  2. I had my first canter on Rogo on the eve of 2010, so I'm including it in the list. It was a high, and then a somewhat nerve wracking winter as I confirmed it with him - I'd never asked a green four year old to canter on a fairly loose rein, sometimes with encouragement from Cheryl with the longe whip :)
  3. I got Rogo professionally fitted for and bought a nice saddle. It's a WOW and he really seems to like it. We did the same with Savanah only she got an Albion which was perfect for her. We kept buying not quite the right thing, so we decided to takes savings and get the saddles they needed and then - no more saddles - this is it! I also had a double bridle custom made for Rogo, and I can use it as a single for now. This is his lifetime tack.
  4. I took Rogo to his first show. I was a nervous wreck as I had no idea how he'd act. I actually felt nauseous whenever I thought about it, even the winter before, but I knew if it worked out okay and he liked it, that it would be so much fun later. He was upset for about 5 minutes, then almost too relaxed! (I'm not complaining!)
  5. I watched Doug take Savanah to his first ever show. They did so well and moved from 6th to 1st place over the weekend. I found out it's really fun to be the groom and have no pressure.
  6. I became co-chair of our Province's dressage club and met the most wonderful, amazing woman who's the other co-chair. I can't say enough good about her - she's fun, strong, super intelligent, devoted to and knowledgeable about horses, has values you could stake your life on and on top of all that is  really, really nice.
  7. I was competition manager for two dressage shows. One was canceled because of a hurricane at the 11th hour and the other went off without a hitch.
  8. I took Rogo on his first hack. We went by ourselves on the beach and he loved it and although he was quite looky and a little excited about it (why not - he'd never seen these things before), he was also very well behaved.
  9. I started blogging as a way to keep a training journal and I discovered it has so many benefits. I love getting feedback and ideas from other people and I often incorporate them or at least take comfort that I'm not alone - others have been here before! I feel like I've 'met' so many great horse people this way.
  10. I met some wonderful dressage people here in our Province. The woman who started Nova Scotia Dressage (a website for dressage people in our Province), other riders at the shows, the women on our dressage association Board, ...
and a bonus item!
  1. Rogo's Christmas present to me - the collected canter circle that he just offered up on Christmas Eve as I prepared for the end of our ride. I cried. It was a high.
I'm going to think about year goals, but off the top they need to include making it more fun for the horses - free jumping, a turn around the outdoor when it isn't too slippery, clicker training, etc. I have to give it more thought. Ideas anyone?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Jen and Dan

Here are Jen and Dan on their first ride at Cheryl's. She'd ridden him once before when he was at home. They did GREAT! I was so impressed by how she rode him. He's only been ridden maybe five times in the last year and a half, if that (I know, I'm very slack - I can't find time!), and I expected he'd be flighty and silly for his first few rides. We longed him together, me starting, then Jen took over. Then I longed her on him the other way and then she rode on her own. Dan seemed to really connect with her.
Dan sticks his head up in the air, but she made great progress with it throughout her ride. You could see Dan progressively becoming more relaxed, having periods of going on the bit and by the end of the ride he was actually stretching down for her when she gave him a break. Yeah Jen and Dan!
The thing that really impressed me about both of them was that Dan quickly began focusing on her - you could see him concentrating, licking his lips a lot and keeping an ear turned toward her. He was responsive to her aids and they did w, t, c both ways and also some turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches (his first ever - not perfect but not bad), figure eights and flexing in and out. Jen rode him very softly and asked him for gentle bends to get him to relax and take the bit and you could see it working. I was impressed with her riding - she was quiet, had a good influence on Dan and knew what she was doing in riding a horse that had been off for quite a while.
Dan can be spooky when he isn't being worked regularly and there was snow coming off the roof yesterday, so I even wondered if we'd just have to longe yesterday and wait for another day to ride, but he was fine. Obviously he'll need to get back in shape, but this was a very good start. She plans to ride him once a week or so, when ever she can get to the barn, so I know that with her doing that I'll be motivated to help. I'll longe and do ground work between.
Jen told me she loves to groom, braid, do ground work, etc. so this is perfect for Dan. If ever their was a horse that loves to be fussed over it's him. He needs his own special person and it's been lacking. Bring on the Dan pampering Jen :)
Doug and I rode Savanah and Rogo earlier in the day, but they were both more interested in getting outside to play then in having a lesson. Can't say I blame them. We turned them out after riding and they were exuberant and silly. Good horses!