Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Short and Sweet

A quick update. I'm very excited. Rogo and I did 10 M canter circles today, our first ever. I'm thrilled with this turn of events. We've spent the last few months (since last fall) fixing the incorrect riding I'd been doing without a teacher and today was the first day we started new things. It's a milestone! He didn't get them 100% pf the time, but he got some of them and gave it a good try. Can you believe that just a month ago he'd never come round in the canter? We still don't get consistent roundness in canter but it's there more often than not and this latest development will help both of us. I need to get my 'feel' just right in order to support him in this and he needs to sit, focus and work with me. It's really good for both of us.
We also did 10 M trot figure eights (he did them smoothly) and worked quite a bit on leg yield. For leg yield I need to remember to bring him into it using my outside rein to keep him very straight. I've had a tendency to come off the turn leading to a leg yield with his shoulder out and then we're doomed to incorrect movement with the forehand leading and shoulder staying out. By bringing him into the leg yield with a strong connection to the outside rein he'll stay straight. It makes a big difference if I move my hands together to the inside. This gets me off of the inside rein (which I have a tendency to hold too much in leg yield) and using an indirect outside rein. This works well for us.
That's my short and sweet post. A great lesson and happy with my boy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who Decides?

After doing well at the Cindy Ishoy clinic and the lunge lessons, Rogo's canter got 'off' again - he started trying to wheel and run off, refuse to canter, etc. I wish I had video of it because I think part of the reason is that I'm not keeping a good, consistent contact with the correct feel. It felt right to me, but Doug was watching and said I lifted my hands and got tense as it happened. I was riding on my own (not in a lesson), so Sue and Jane helped me get it back on track.
Sue had me do repeated walk / canter / walk transitions with only a few steps of each. That way he didn't have time to get strong and try to take off, and I had to really focus on my aids. He did this really well and it immediately fixed the running off problem. We were both too busy and focused to get in trouble!
In our next lesson we worked on equitation and aids, particularly in walk / trot transitions. I was popping out of the saddle when I asked for walk from sitting trot and we practiced and practiced until I learned to sit on my tail bone and keep my knees off during the transition (I'd squeeze with them when asking for walk and push myself out of the saddle). We practiced asking for trot with just a quick 'signal', not a continuous driving aid until I got it. Rogo caught on quickly and was soon doing beautiful transitions to trot with just a quick, light feel from my legs. I also needed to remember to maintain a good outside contact throughout the down transition. By the end of that exercise it felt great and I think looked a lot better.
Then we moved on to canter. All of the work on transitions and contact had us prepared, and although the contact wasn't as steady as it could have been, he did canter nicely and obediently and the previous problems were gone.
Next we had another lesson outside - his second for this year and first with the dressage ring set up. Any guesses on what he did? Yup - he tried repeatedly (and succeeded a couple of times) to run out of the dressage ring. I'm glad we weren't at a show! Sue told me to correct him every time he even started to feel strong. This seems self evident, but I hadn't been doing that. I only corrected him if he got really strong and / or tried to take off. She pointed out that he knows his stuff (the dressage exercises we work on) and he has to learn obedience. Hmmm. Now there's an idea. I'm not being sarcastic - I really hadn't fully processed this. Yes, he does do well at his current level of training when he's behaving - I hadn't quite processed this. And yes, he very much needs to learn obedience. He's getting stronger and more confident as his training progresses and his belief that he can decide where to go needs to be curbed. It's dangerous if left unchecked. So that's a priority goal for me for the next few months - I decide where we go, always.
I stayed all night in my trailer and we had another lesson again the next day. He was sooo good! He didn't even look outside the arena for the whole lesson and he went through all of his exercises and figures with flying colors. What a good boy. We were riding with Christine and Ziggy, so maybe he took his cue from them :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lunge / Equitation Lessons

I had two back to back lunge lessons, Mon. and Tues. Today I am sore! But in a very good way. The lessons were both on Rogo and he was a very good boy - willing, responsive and easy going.
I want to capture my insights and what I leaned while it is fresh in my head.
  1. I'm still (again?) weighting my right seat bone more than my left. I've fixed this before. How does it keep slipping back in???
  2. my whole right side is slightly off of where it should be when I'm going to the left. My right shoulder wants to turn out instead of staying in line with Rogo's shoulder. To fix it I have to turn it in until the sensation is that it's turned much too far in (it really isn't), and I need to think to turn it with every stride at this point or it goes right back out. My right leg, going left, continually creeps too far forward so that I end up somewhat blocking Rogo's shoulder. This means if I put my inside leg on to push him into the outside rein I'm also blocking him from going into that rein. Of course of all this is inter-related and each misalignment feeds / reinforces the other. The good thing is that when I fix it there is a gratifyingly immediate response from Rogo - he stays on a nice bend / circle much more easily and my poor lunger doesn't get hauled around trying to pull him through four corners of a square :)
  3. I'm still holding with my knees at times, although this has improved quite a bit. The result of letting go and keeping them off of him is a beautifully forward and happy horse, swinging along in his trot. I mentioned in an earlier post that it was my coach constantly saying 'forward' and building the muscles and muscle memory that finally got us forward. That is only partly true. Another big factor was freeing Rogo to trot forward by taking the tension out of my body and getting my knees out of his shoulders. I thought he was soooo sluggish in trot, but now I could almost say he is sensitive in that blocking him or holding tension in my body immediately slows him, and puts tension in his back. This is true to a startling degree and I wouldn't have known it if I hadn't felt it. Practicing the 'right' and 'wrong' way on the lunge really brings it home and reinforces what I'd already strongly felt. My teacher would get me to tense my body and / or grip with my knees and instantly I could feel Rogo's back stiffen and his gait go slow and lose it's nice rhythm. Then she'd get me to relax and take my knees off and in about two or three strides he'd be back to a beautiful rhythm and forward trot. 
  4. I need to lightly let my leg, with heels down, come on and off Rogo with each walking step.
  5. I need to bend and unbend my knee more when posting, so that my leg doesn't go forward as I rise. I need to really keep the weight in my stirrups so that I don't grip with my knees, as well as putting my leg lightly on as I sit and off as I rise. 
  6. I need to give my upward transition aids as a light signal that lasts one stride, not as a hard, driving aid that stays on until I get a result. If it doesn't work get my rhythm back and repeat until he understands.
  7. Sit very tall and weight my stirrups in sitting trot. Don't lean behind the vertical. Relax and follow him. Also, it's okay if my legs move some; trying to hold them still will make things worse (this is for both rising and sitting).
  8. Remember to weight my stirrups more (hmm, a theme?) in canter. Relax and follow him with my legs instead of pushing him. Apply all the previous (body position).
Those were the main things I learned. Now to get practicing.