Friday, August 24, 2012

Getting Level One Ready

I want to get this down while it's fresh in my mind. I just came in from riding Level One test 1, and I need to add polish. Of course that's the essence of dressage isn't it - getting each gait and figure as close to perfect as we can. I have a ways to go there...
This is navel gazing at it's worst - just a training note to me, so you might want to skip it :)
  • Entry - practice riding the centre line straight, without halting and with halting. Halt and depart from trot. Currently he's getting fairly consistent square halts but they don't always stay straight. Also, for some reason the contact wasn't as consistent today as it has been, throughout the ride. Even freshly sprayed, the flies were bad so it may have been that.
  • I think the two half 10 M circles are good; focus on a nice forward, steady rhythm throughout and moving to the lengthened trot.
  • We need to work more on lengthening the trot. It's something that needs to be built. He has a moderate lengthening and steady rhythm.
  • He's doing fairly well in the stretchy trot circle. I need to remember not to take it for granted and to ride every step. Keep him reaching for the bit, forward and accurately on the circle. Go back to contact smoothly and on time.
  • Make even the first walk step forward and keep him marching, without jigging, across the diagonal in the free walk. Transition to contact smoothly and without a jig.
  • Sit and prepare for the canter three strides ahead - flex to the inside, half halt, aid. Gauge his willingness / forwardness - give the aid early if needed.
  • Practice following with my hands in the canter at all times - more and less for lengthen and shorten as needed. Keep the impulsion up.
  • Don't be afraid that he'll trot when I ask him to shorten his stride in the canter. If I stay relaxed and aid correctly he'll be great.
  • Remember which test I'm riding and don't do the 15 M canter circles in the wrong place!
  • Follow, soft, hands low and lightly half halt as needed in the canter. This could probably be written for every gait, but he is more sensitive in the canter and will slightly lose balance if I don't ride with sensitivity.
The test riding went fairly well. The biggest mistakes were a number of contact and rhythm glitches, which seemed more than normal. I stopped to answer my cell phone when riding and he had to stand in the flies for awhile and we didn't seem to get a good 'flow' back after that. All in all he was good and we just need to keep building on our basics. I'm missing my lessons!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Favorite New Use for Vet Wrap

As you might have read previously, I have something called Morton's Neuroma - a cluster of nerves in the middle of the ball of my right foot that causes excruciating pain when my foot is in the stirrup. Of course this causes all kinds of problems - losing stirrups, grippy knees, tension, even losing my balance on a simple trot circle ... It was very depressing.
The 'cure' for me at this point is probably surgery - riding just keeps the area painful all the time. Once it starts, riding without stirrups doesn't help - it's there and affects everything. I'd have to ride without stirrups all the time. So I decided to look for cushy stirrup pads and went on line to do my research.
Here's the interesting and great part (maybe everyone but me knows about this?) - I stumbled upon a forum where people were talking about cushioned stirrup pads, or stirrup pads to help you keep your stirrups, and someone who exercises horses at a track wrote that at the track they wrap their stirrups in vet wrap to keep their feet warmer in winter and to help avoid losing stirrups.
I tried it and it is like a miracle! Okay, maybe miracle is exaggerating, but it is a wonderful and cheap, cheap, cheap solution. It was instant riding makeover / pain management. The pain is pretty much gone (it was with me on and off the horse, because the stirrup kept it irritated), and I don't loose my stirrups (the pain caused me to be so tense that I'd loose either of them, not just the one with the pain), meaning my riding is better and Rogo can go better, without me losing balance and smoothness. The only thing I had on hand was pink wrap that I bought on sale at a horse expo. Here's what it looks like on the stirrup:
Just make a little pad for the foot bed area, then hold it in place and wrap four or five times around the stirrup. I'll check to see if I can compete with this (I'd use black or grey), but I don't see why I couldn't. Anyway, that's my favorite new use for the duct tape of the horse world.
Rogo is home and I'm enjoying our rides soooo much. He is going well. We're focusing on adding polish to the level one movements of leg yield, trot and canter lengthenings and back to working and the simple change through trot at X needed for test three (this is the area he needs the most work). He aces the counter canter loop, so I only do it occasionally - I'm worried he might counter canter when it isn't wanted because he does it very easily.
We're also continuing some of the things we started at our lessons at Fraser's - shoulder in, travers at walk, 10 m canter circles, etc. and I've had him on one short hack. For the first time we had a nice canter in a field without him trying to instantly gallop. It felt so great to canter along on him through the longish grass. It doesn't take much to impress me :) I should clarify that I love a good gallop on the trail with Savanah, even bareback, but I want to be the one to ask for it :)
Hope to get caught up on my blog reading. I've missed what's going on with my blog world community for too long!
Also, I'd love to know - what is your favorite use for vet wrap? Should we write a book :) ?