Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Lately I find the term 'classical dressage' is being usurped more and more by people who, in my opinion, are badly off track. They try to make it about baroque horses, the riding and gaits put forward as good are awful, and they heap vitriol on anyone outside their 'group' who they hope to feel superior to. This makes me mad.
Honest to God, from what I've observed at times, even riding your horse on the bit must be abusive. Apparently the only way to avoid riding behind the vertical is a half loose rein held like a china tea cup - never mind that it's whacking the horse in the mouth with every stride. And the fact that the beautiful, sensitive horse has hollowed his back and stuck his head up in the air isn't related to this either. No that's caused by some vague, grey, as yet undiagnosed training issue that can probably be fixed with a different bit, or no bit, or more riding from the seat and core with even less rein (Guess what? You need both). God.
This can go on for years. The horse develops incorrect muscles, with all the accompanying problems, but of course this isn't being negligent or careless about the horse's welfare. They drop training levels instead of gaining them, but hey, those levels are part of the whole crazy, modern dressage world anyway, right?
Look I know there is lots of room for improvement in competitive dressage, but there have been huge positive shifts too. Also I love classical dressage (thus the blog name, which I may now change) which makes me angry that the term is being taken over by flakes.
This new classical community (an oxymoron?) has lots to say, criticizing 'modern dressage'. They are all over the Web. They can and will do damage to dressage. I wish they would shut up, stop trying to out do one another in pointing out what's wrong with every other discipline and rider in the world, and focus on getting their own horses going correctly.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Friday, October 31, 2014
There is so much great information! To clarify, Arthur Kottas shares so much great information. I don't know if I'll be able to convey very much of it. Every lesson was packed full of invaluable knowledge.
Tonight I'll start with the good news for me. As you know if you've been reading at all Rogo and I have lost a lot of time in our riding and training. Most recently he was lame on an off for quite some time, making it impossible to progress in our training. Also, he's my first warm blood, my first time training a horse through the levels in dressage, and I've only come back to riding in my fifties after thirty years of not riding. It isn't easy for an old gal like me to learn to train a big moving warm blood! Anyway Rogo's been sound since last spring, and it's been wonderful.
Because I didn't want Arthur to be appalled at our performance, I noted on the schedule that we were level 1. Well I couldn't have been happier, euphoric really, when Arthur immediately, in our first lesson, took me to task: "you can't stay in level two forever. I want you at level three when I return in the spring - walk, trot, canter shoulder in, haunches in, half pass and flying changes. In my opinion you and Rogo have the talent to do that.".
Of course I didn't feel bad about being scolded for still being in level two. I hadn't even thought he'd consider our gaits and movements good enough to call level two let alone good enough to plan to move up in the spring.
So that was the good part. The not so good part was that at times I find it difficult to process and respond to new coaching, especially new coaching that's pushing my limits and coming from someone who intimidates the hell out of me with their knowledge. Who in the world knows more about teaching classical dressage than Arthur Kottas? No one? That would be my answer.
That he's there in person, in our arena, in our little back water of Nova Scotia, Canada, giving me lessons, is almost beyond my comprehension.
He arrived for our four day clinic after giving three previous back to back clinics in North America, flew back to Vienna on Tuesday arriving Wednesday, went to Sweden Thursday, on to Belgium, England and back to North America. The man is 70 and his last lesson of ten private lessons a day, on the fourth day was the most vibrant and information packed of them all. So... it isn't really on for me to tell him I'm tired :).
Back to processing and responding to coaching - I recognize that my somewhat 'frozen' mental state is as much an area that I have to learn to deal with as the physical aspects of riding, and I'm determined to learn it. The lessons are fantastic and I made break throughs I couldn't imagine, but to me, at my level, they are intense. They wouldn't be to an experienced rider. (And I was beyond exhausted which didn't help - riding in a clinic which you're organizing / hosting and has a lot of riders and auditors is always a challenge, but... see previous note about being tired. Cry me a river, eh?).
As I wrote the above I saw something - he's treating me like a decent rider. I've watched him teach. He doesn't push people who can't do it. Hmmm. He actually said this to me, but it didn't sink in until now: "do you think I don't know what you can do?". God. I cringe thinking about it.
As a side note, Arthur is very good about gauging the amount of information you can absorb. He takes breaks from teaching and talks to the auditors in detail, so they get lots of good information too, and the rider has time to absorb what he's saying. This (absorbing, processing, calmly responding to information) is my issue completely. I own it and I'm going to become good at it.
So this is my first insight - it isn't new or earth shattering but I have a new clarity about it. When a gifted teacher gives me their attention, and I'm not just talking about international clinicians, they are truly giving me a gift and it is incumbent upon me to appreciate that gift by doing everything in my power to make it worth their while.
It would be easier for teachers to coast somewhat and let students coast. How exhausting and depleting it would be to be completely engaged with each individual rider, intensely, all day. They deserve the respect and complete focus of each student trying their best and committing to improve.
Arthur is a wonderful teacher and if you want to improve I highly recommend him.
Here is one area where I made a break through in my lessons. It is ridiculously simple, yet no one had done it for me before. He asked me to do a half pass. We'd done our fist ever half pass at his clinic in May but I hadn't done it since and didn't really know the movement. I tried to do it, he told me to put my leg back further, I thought I did, he said I didn't, confusion ensued (see above mental awareness notes). He placed my leg where it should be - what? Back that far? My leg didn't easily stretch back that far. I'd never put my leg back that far. But...you may recall... I've always had difficulty with lateral work.
Anyway, in the moment, it was a bit of a mini train wreck. I didn't really process it at the time and didn't do a very good half pass. I talked it over with my teacher and a trusted friend later and that's really when I realized I hadn't put my leg back (far enough) when he told me to. I rode Rogo on my own and tried it - he scooted his hind quarters over. Oh. My. God. It took us many months to get a simple leg yield back when we were learning that, something most horses get the basics of very quickly. I was able to do lateral work on Savanah and Dan, but they are smaller than 17 hand, long, big boned Rogo.
In order to get my leg on the same place on his body as it would be on Savanah's body I have to move it back farther. Of course. You may be rolling your eyes? Well, I know it sounds simple, but it is quite subtle. The difference in position isn't a lot, I've had great teachers who didn't push this, but the difference in reaction when you hit the move sideways sweet spot was, I'd venture to say, dramatic.
It's made such a difference that we've gone from being a flop at a walk half pass to doing a decent canter half pass in a matter of a few days.
That's all my writing energy for tonight. Sorry I didn't have more profound lessons to share. I doubt I can convey those lessons anyway, but I'll try to outline more in the coming days. Thanks for reading!
Friday, October 24, 2014
Last night I dreamed that I was beside a beautiful Creek by the Bay. I looked across the Creek and there was Rogo in the trees - I called him and he came to me, swimming across the Creek. We jumped in the Creek together, and we swam and played and I laughed at our happiness and joy. It was amazing.
We just finished our second Arthur Kottas clinic on Monday, and it pushed my límits - mentally, emotionally and physically. I'm going to write a post about it, but I think this dream is about that. It (the clinic) was awe inspiring on so many levels.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Friday, October 3, 2014
- When I want to walk from canter, relax my seat and breath out. Also it helps to think canter halt, and then walk not halt.
- If he trots instead of walks in an attempted canter walk transition then leg yield into walk, go back to canter, and try again.
- Don't do the same thing each time it doesn't work. I can also ask for one step back if he trots instead of walk.
- If he gets anxious about trying something new repeatedly then take a break from it, ie in the above scenarios go for a nice big trot to relax the mind and body.
- Remember to keep my equitation throughout transitions. Nothing should change except the quiet aid for the transition.
- Half halting on the outside during half pass can get the hind quarters more engaged, and counter intuitively it leads to a better bend in the direction of travel.
- Riding in a half seat helps me get my heels down and legs quieter (I need lots more!). Rogo likes it too.
I wish I had some magic tips to write for shoulder in. Rogo and I struggle with lateral work. It doesn't come naturally. He's slowly getting it, but it will be a matter of lots of practise. I need to stay relaxed and keep the angle shallow to achieve three tracks.
Arthur Kottas comes back October 17 so I'm busy getting ready for that.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Saturday, August 30, 2014
I don't think I should post complete lessons, in fairness to Arthur K.,but I want to have at least some of it in Rogo's diary.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Doing this has addressed some of the issues we've had for years, such as:
1. Lack of moving away from my leg promptly for lateral work - we did and continue to do turn on the forehand until I can completely control each step - the size of the step, the start and stop of the step, a forward thinking step while keeping the front legs stepping in a tiny circle, doing it in perfect walk steps. I'm still working on getting it as close to perfect as we can.
In keeping with the instructions in Arthur Kottas's first book we mostly turn just 180 degrees, then walk off, to keep the thinking forward.
After Arthur Kottas was here in May Joan got a copy of his book too, so she can teach me using his methods. She was taught mostly the Spanish Riding School method, so it fits with everything she's taught me anyway.
2. Slouchy transitions from trot to walk - I still, after all these years, don't have a good version of this most basic transition. What I want of course is a clear, distinct end to the trot and beginning of a forward, uphill, marching walk. Savanah and I had a great trot walk transition - smooth and seamless, distinct, forward - so I know I can do it. I can't seem to communicate clearly to Rogo what it is that I want. Most of the time it isn't terrible, but it can be much better. He seems to think I want a slow trot when I ask for walk and then he sort of falls into the walk and has to be pushed forward again. I'm working at keeping the energy up through the transition, and asking more 'definitely' if a soft aid isn't clear, then backing off to soft as his response improves. Does anyone else have a weakness with this and if so how have you addressed it?
3. We're doing ALOT of stretchy trot circles. First we do a slower, working trot on a large circle, then I push him into a medium trot and do a unilateral half halt on the inside, as light as possible while still getting a reaction, so he'll seek connection on the outside and also stretch down. When he stretches down I slow the trot again and gather the reins, then repeat.
I have to say, this exercise was an eye opener for me because it is slightly different than I've done it before and at first I found it, well, kind of annoying. Why would I slow his trot down to start the exercise and throughout the exercise?
Coming back from those months off (lame left front) his slow trot was awful - on his forehand and if I wasn't super careful he'd hitch. Yuk. It was great when I'd push him forward - he'd stretch down very nicely and fairly quickly he learned to round and reach into a lovely connection as soon as he felt me ask him to go forward. One day though a light bulb went off regarding why we were varying it with slowing the trot and gathering the reins - I asked for the slow trot and it was lovely - a slower version of the connected, round trot I was getting when I asked him to go forward and stretch. Yes! He slowed down, but kept his hind quarters under him and bounced along. We were / are slowly developing collected trot and I didn't even see it coming :).
Of course we've slowed down and accelerated the trot, as well as shortening and lengthening the steps for years now, and there are many good exercises for developing collection, but I have to say that this particular exercise is a good one. It also has the benefit of straightening the horse when practised in the direction of the stiff side - the half halt on the inside teaches the horse to reach for the connection on the outside where they tend to avoid it.
All in all a great variation on the stretchy circle.
We've also been brushing up on leg yield and shoulder in, and practicing walk / canter / walk. Lots of basics but we missed a lot of time and this is definitely filling in gaps. It isn't the first time and won't be the last time we've gone back to basics.
One of my biggest goals now is keeping a soft, steady connection through transitions. Again, it isn't terrible but Savanah spoiled me - she comes on the bit and stays there unwaveringly. This is what we need to achieve. Of course as I write this I see the relationship to the trot walk transition I wrote about earlier - it's all about keeping those hind quarters engaged through the transition isn't it?
I think that's going to be the theme of my next post - keeping engagement and connection through the transitions. I've got some great video clips from our Arthur Kottas clinic that I can use and it will be good for me to review them. He's coming again in October so I need to do my homework! Here are a couple of pictures of him from the May clinic - one doing in hand work with Stacie Saunders and her Andalusian stallion Yovi, and one of Arthur and I. I also threw in a picture of our mare and foal for good measure. They need their own post soon.
Saturday, July 26, 2014
We're calling our foal Surprise until we know if her father is Sir Gregory or De Niro.
Do you ever get over the wonder of them? Two weeks ago she wasn't here and now she's a vibrant, confident, gorgeous baby. Today she had her first bath with the hose and she was calm and happy.
Right now I'm sitting in the corner of the stall, chilling out with mom and baby.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Diotima had her foal the middle of Sunday afternoon. I was checking every hour to an hour and a half and I completely missed it. She went from calmly eating hay at 1:00 to lying in her stall with a foal lying beside her at 2:30. I was awed, shocked and over whelmed.
It was reverent in the barn when I entered at 2:30. All of the horses had been brought in at noon (including Diotima) because of the heat and flies. They all had their heads out in the aisle and were being completely still and silent.
Savanah, who's the lead mare, had pushed her stall wall off of its base a few days before the birth and moved herself into the empty stall by Diotima's foaling stall. We let Savanah put herself in from turn out (she's the only horse we do this with and she goes right in to her own stall), but she started going into the stall by Di and just standing there, even though there was no bedding, hay or water (that was waiting on her stall). Maybe it's a coincidence but I like to think she was standing watch for Di. Do you think this is possible?
I'm so glad the foal is here and both mom and baby are healthy. We won't know who the sire is until DNA testing is done (Di was bred to two different stallions last summer, three weeks apart, and confirmed not in foal). Using 340 days she's a week late for De Niro and two weeks early for Sir Gregory, but there can be quite a large variation of :normal. '.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
We had the most amazing, wonderful surprise in April. We'd bred our sweet Hanoverian mare EM Diotima three times last summer and she was confirmed not in foal after being ultrasounded last September. I thought I'd try breeding her one more time before giving up, and I had the vet come in April to check her to make sure she was healthy and ready for breeding.
Our vet always talks as he works on our horses, explaining what he's doing, but on this occasion he went very quiet as he ultrasounded her. I thought the worst - that he saw something bad, and not able to contain myself any longer I asked what was wrong. He told me nothing was wrong but that she was carrying a big, healthy foal!
I couldn't speak, except to say oh my god over and over, and then call for Doug. We were giddy with excitement! We assume she's in foal to Sir Gregory since he was the final breeding, but I guess we won't know for sure until the foal's DNA is checked at the time of registration. The other stallion she was bred to was De Niro (sire of five of the horses at the London 2012 Olympics).
Anyway the third breeding was July 31 last year so 240 days puts her at about a week from now. Normal gestation for mares is anywhere from 320 - 360 days though, so you don't really get a due date.
Last night she started to drip a little bit of milk and she has tiny beads of 'wax' on the ends of her nipples although you can't see them in the picture of her udder. You can also see that she has hollows on either side of her tail head. This happens as the muscles relax in preparation for giving birth.
I'm hoping to have happy, healthy mare and foal photos to post soon!
Friday, July 11, 2014
Sunday, July 6, 2014
Or waking up to smell the coffee, or something like that...
If you're reading you may have noticed that we haven't had the easiest time since opening the doors to our horse facility last fall (although there have been lots of good things). There was a crazy cold, record breaking winter with blizzards every few days, Doug's broken rib, my shingles, living in a camp (much of the time) heated by a wood stove, without running water (away from our beautiful old farm house where Mom at 90 was holding down the fort), etc.
We looked forward to spring, because there were so many great little events booked (we are an events facility) - we felt so lucky that things were working out. Then... a strangles outbreak hit Nova Scotia, the worst in many years, and barns went into lock down. No one, and rightfully so, was going anywhere.
We cancelled almost all of our events as a precautionary step and for the first time, slowly but surely, I began to have doubts about the future. I didn't sit and worry, it was more like a dawning awareness that nothing was going as planned. I began to feel very low, a failure, and lost confidence in my ability to plan.
So here's the link back to the title - I'd been too crazy busy to enjoy this place. It dawned on me that although things hadn't gone as planned, this could be one of the best summers of my life. Financially it's tight but we'll manage to get by, and in the meantime I have a magnificent in door, a sound horse, regular lessons with my beloved Joan, time to play with my sweet ponies. Maybe this is what was supposed to happen at this point? Maybe this is the best thing ever, if I just recognize it before it's gone?
Sunday, May 4, 2014
I want to remember the past winter. It was one of a kind. We lived in a lean to camp / RV combination much of the time, so we'd be with the horses. We didn't have running water. Heat was supplied by an old wood stove. Some mornings when I got up there was ice on the top of my water glass.
Mom was home in Noel Shore but she came up for Christmas (I went back and forth between the two places). One of the pictures is of Mom and Doug at Christmas time, with the dogs.
The other picture is of Doug's brothers Gary and Greg in the camp. We had so many good times!
I've enjoyed this time but it's been hard. I trade casseroles and ring time for riding lessons. We routinely work 12 hour days and there aren't any days off.
This year we'll build living quarters and slowly we're getting things done, but last winter was an adventure and looking back - it was lots of fun.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
I'm hosting and riding in an Arthur Kottas clinic in six weeks, after Rogo being lame for most of the winter. We are so out of shape, me more so than him. I've hired a riding teacher, Megan Bishop, to work with us on fitness (while riding) two to three times a week for six weeks. Also Joan will start our dressage lessons twice a week if it ever gets warm enough for her to teach.
As you can imagine we're both very rusty in our dressage, as well as being out of shape. Can you tell I'm not feeling very confident? I need to work on mental as well as physical strength.
I've had one lesson with Megan so far (yesterday) and my main take aways are :
- Think about holding my abs / core firmly. This almost instantly made me straighter in the saddle and better balanced. I need to keep reminding myself.
- Count the rhythm constantly. Use the counting to keep the rhythm the same and also to stay focused. - Let Rogo canter at his own speed when he starts (for now). Then when I ask for more be gives it. This was quite a dramatic improvement (his canter had lost its joy).
We're working on transitions which I'm very happy about as it's probably our weakest area.
I'll see if I can up load a trot video. Stiff sboulders are another thing needing improvement!
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
I enjoy schooling in the walk and we are able to do a bit of work there. I introduced walk pirouettes, and he did it very well right from the beginning to the left. To the right he goes wide. I don't think I have him into the outside rein the way he should be. I don't mean I want a heavy hold on the outside - just that he moves into it easily and lightly.
In schooling I tend to hold the outside more when turning left than when I'm turning right. I've been taught to do this because of a tendency to lose straightnes when turning left. As we begin to school walk pirouettes I see that I've developed greater sensitivity to the outside rein when on the left rein. (Is it just me, or would this sound like complete mumbo jumbo to a non dressage person?) Anyway, the long and short of it is that I was pleasantly surprised by the left walk pirouette and identified a bit of a training hole in the right pirouette - the issue being sensitivity to the outside rein, not the pirouette.
My other pleasant surprise was rein back. We'd not worked on that before, ever. I know it sounds odd, but with the difficulty I've periodically had getting Rogo to go forward, I didn't want to teach him to go backward. Oh, we'd occasionally get into a tight spot and I'd verbally say 'back' while pulling back (releasing when I got it of course), but that was it - no training backward movement. Imagine my delight and surprise when I asked him to back up one day while standing at a halt, and he promptly and correctly took the exact number of steps back that I asked for, stayed perfectly straight, and did it with a light as a feather aid. Where did that come from? Lesson learned for me - use light as air aids for the best response and don't drill movements. This also relates back to my late December lesson with Erin MacQarry where we worked on lighter asks.
The other thing we've worked on at the walk is lengthening and shortening strides and going from slow to fast and back. The results here are mixed. Some days are better than others, but with the sporadic riding perhaps it's all I can expect.
I resolved late last week that I was going to ride a minimum of four to five times a week, even if it was only for fifteen or twenty minutes, so we'll see how it goes.
Here are a few pictures from a Saturday evening I spent in the barn while Doug was home with his broken rib. It felt very peaceful and happy listening to the horses munching their hay (this is my favourite sound in the world).
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Okay, story # 1:
A couple of weeks ago one of our three dogs, Max, ran away and our little dog Pepper went with him. Max and Pepper are both rescue dogs and Max has never learned to stay home (it may be because he was tied for three years before we got him). Anyway, he escaped wearing a leash, so we were doubly worried because if the leash got caught on anything he wouldn't be able to come home. It was 10:30 at night, and we looked for an hour, walking and driving up and down the road.
Finally, as we drove along, I pulled over and told Doug to walk in a driveway and look for tracks. Unbelievably, the tracks were there - it was like finding a needle in a haystack. Off we went, across a field and into a woods. I'll cut to the chase - I ended up falling through the ice into a brook we had to cross, and when Doug came back for me he fell in too. It was about -5, our flashlights were dying and we were a good distance from the road and our truck. We had to go back because we were both soaked - not only had I fallen through the ice, I fell down in the stream and then fell down over and over walking out. Gawd. We finally made it back to our cabin where we stay when at the arena site, and somehow Doug found the strength to get dry clothes on, fresh flashlight batteries and a charged phone, and he set out again. He wanted me to stay at the camp in case I needed to call for help, but I think he knew I couldn't go on. He called at midnight that he'd found them. Max's leash was tied round and round some trees and his back legs were tied together. Pepper was curled up at his side and they were both shaking like leaves.
Earlier that night Doug had asked me to put Nola in because the coyotes had been so close. The whole episode left us shaken. Here are some pictures of the dogs at the beach in front of our house.