Great Rides

Doug and I rode Savanah and Rogo today. I think Jennifer might have been there earlier and rode Dan - there were tracks in the snow. It was a perfect sunny day, a little cold, but nice for riding inside.
Doug and Savanah are doing so well. I can't believe he was off for a month - they are doing walk, canter, trot transitions and getting them perfectly. An invisible half halt, and then off they go into a nice engaged canter, 15 m circle, then trot and walk. Very nice. He's asking her for a little bit of collection at the trot now too, and she is responding well. She has a great trot and she likes to trot - how much fun is that?
Rogo surprised me today - he trotted very nicely right from the start - Yeah! He would bounce forward from calf pressure the way he should and rarely does early in the ride. I think there may be two reasons:
  1. the ground poles, free jumping, lunging and transitions are working
  2. he must have been out playing and well warmed up when we started (I didn't get there until mid afternoon and there was no one around, so this is a guess)
Instead of taking 30 or 40 minutes to get going well, he went well from the start, but then petered out after 40 minutes or so. This is the opposite of what usually happens. He always starts slow and then is going strong when it's time to quit after an hour, (I don't want to work him longer than that even though he's going well by then, in case I over tire him or make him sour). Once I figured out that he was fading instead of growing stronger we called it a day.
Before that happened we worked on forwardness and connection in the trot, walk and trot leg yield, and canter. His canter felt quite stiff today in that he was hard to steer, but generally it's been better lately, so I won't worry. I may be entirely to blame (partially for sure) in that I felt stiff too - I couldn't seem to connect and go with him. It felt like a fatigue thing with me, only I haven't done anything to be tired. One of those days I guess. Just being with him felt very joyful after the health scare. I'll be so glad when I have him home with me 24/7.
I have a vital new goal to achieve (okay, improve) before show season - good equitation. I know, it should be a given that it's an important goal at all times, but I neglected it with getting Rogo started and now it's kind of a mess. I can get on Savanah and keep a fairly correct position, but for some reason it doesn't translate to Rogo. When I canter on Savanah my legs stay long and heels down. When I canter on Rogo my legs and heels can creep up. It seems to be related to holding him in the canter, but I know this shouldn't be how I hold him in it. Also, I keep a good connection with Savanah and have a good, consistent weight in my hands all the time. With Rogo, I ask for connection and then give it away constantly, as soon as he gives or puts his head up. It seems to be muscle memory because unless I really focus on it I don't even know I'm doing it. I wanted to have light hands in starting him, but I've taken it too far and gone on too long. And my last really bad habit (I'm sure there are plenty more if I ever get these corrected) is my legs. For some reason it seems they just 'float' there at times instead of laying against him giving him clear messages or staying in touch with him. I would love to know of an exercise to strengthen my lower legs if anyone has any suggestions. This is key for me. I need an equitation boot camp! 
Rogo was especially cute and lovey today. After I put him back in his stall he actually asked to be kissed - he puts his nose against my lips and then gives little nudges for a kiss. If I stop, or after each kiss he gives a tiny nudge for another one. I'm embarrassed to say this went on for several minutes. I swear he'd stand all day and do this, and he had hay in his stall. I'm putty in his hooves :)
Conclusion, hold me to this:
  1. connection better established in two weeks (he's ready and can do this - this shouldn't be a stretch)
  2. legs correct in canter 75% of the time in two weeks (they are getting there and I can do it, it just needs focus)
  3. legs quietly on all the time instead of randomly floating some on the time - two weeks
This may seem challenging, to improve all this in two weeks, but I need to focus.


Hurricanes12 said…
it's boot camp time :)
because oscar does a bit of jumping too, i found riding in two point made my legs more secure which translated back to the dressage. maybe when you're out hacking you could do some two point or ride shorter? i'm sure there are other ways of strengthening your lower leg that people will know of!

so cute that rogo wants kisses, he seems to be a very special horse :)
Dom said…
Glad it went so well :) Setting goals is a great way to improve your ride. I can't wait to see where you are in two weeks.
Oak Creek Ranch said…
Yoga is my tool for core strength and keeping my legs correct. I have trouble with my elbow flying out and doing the chicken thing. It's always something, isn't it!
Carol said…
Ha ha - the chicken thing has come and gone, to be replaced by new annoyances.
Riding in two point is good for strengthening the legs. Off the horse, I like the yoga balancing poses. Walking, running or stair climbing are also great (and easy!). It's also important to remember that many problems with leg position start with the hips. If the leg is creeping up, it could be that you're gripping with your inner thigh and/or the horse is behind your leg. Open your hips, allow the leg to fall into place and push the horse up into the contact. I suspect that as your connection improves, so will your position. It's a sort "chicken or egg?" thing.

You can so accomplish all that in two weeks. You're very dedicated and awesome about riding no matter what!
Carol said…
Great feedback. It all makes sense. As a matter of fact I was very aware of my hips being stiff yesterday and didn't even put it together with my legs wanting to creep upwards. Thanks!
smazourek said…
Three words: No stirrup work. It kills but it makes an immense difference. I look forward to reading anything you learn about keeping better contact since I need so much help with that myself.

And how sweet is Rogo wanting all those kisses?
Rising Rainbow said…
I always laugh when I hear the chicken thing. I can still catch myself doing that every now and then. You just never know when those old things show themselves again. LOL
Jeni said…
I agree with everything said so far and stress NO STIRRUPS ! I always include dropping my stirrups with every single ride, on every single horse I ride! Keeps my seat deep, my legs on and correct, and improves balance! Not to mention you really find the holes in your training (not the horses *giggle*) when you take them away.

Happy Valentines Day!
Ms Martyr said…
I'm glad I'm not the only one whose heels creep up. I can go for weeks with them in the correct position but it seems like whenever I'm really concentrating on learning something new, up they come. My instructor has me ride two point and without stirrups quite often - I'm still a beginner so working on gaining strength.
I love Rogo's kissing you. The mare I ride does not like to be kissed on the nose. Hugging her neck is okay, however.
As smazourek said - working without stirrups. I would recommend riding bareback :) I have ridden bareback every other ride or so for the last month and my hips have opened significantly. I have been positioning my legs as if I have stirrups, calf on, heels down, toe forward (as per my trainer) :)

I don't often (ever) feel qualified to make riding suggestions, but I believe bareback work can loosen up the hips!

Glad you had some good riding time with your kissy horse Rogo valentine ;)
Achieve1dream said…
Awww Rogo kisses sound so cute. :)

I can't really give any advice on the equitation or strengthening the lower legs (except maybe resistance biking - that strengthens the whole leg). It's been so long since I've ridden I doubt I remember any of it lol. Good luck!
I'm starting to realize how jealous I am of folks who can ride in the winter. Great job, sounds like he's coming along nicely.
Anonymous said…
"When I canter on Rogo my legs and heels can creep up. It seems to be related to holding him in the canter, but I know this shouldn't be how I hold him in it."

I often slip into this habit - feeling like I have to hold my horse together in the canter. To keep the pressure on, I would inevitably start to bend my knee and shorten my leg.

My horse shouldn't count on me to maintain the canter - he is perfectly capable of doing that himself. This weekend I saw a rider who would smack her riding boot with a crop, startling her horse into picking up the pace and driving forward on his own momentum rather than leaning on her leg. I am going to try that myself.

I don't think you need to strengthen your lower leg, because really, you don't want to put more pressure on Rogo - you want him to listen to what you are currently riding with.

Elaine Banfield, a local dressage trainer, tells her students to imagine that they're about to sit in a chair, but they can't let their bums touch the seat. To do this, you need to balance your weight on your heels. This teaches riders to let their weight sink through their heels when they are mounted.
Carol said…
So many good points and good advice. I'm going to keep referring back to this post as I work on things. Thank you!