Trying To Get Foused Again

After two weeks of only riding bareback at the walk, with the occasional little trot, I saddled up today to attempt a schooling ride. My friend Joanne came to visit and she rode Savanah and I rode Rogo. Joanne did amazingly well with Savanah! She sits her trot beautifully and just looked so good on her - perfect position, had Savanah on the aids and using her hindquarters, etc. That was the successful side of the outing :) Rogo and I were atrocious! I'm not being hard on myself. We were really bad. We were far, far below being able to do even a Training Level 1 test. I'm sitting here smiling as I write this, because I'm not worried about it and in fact am so happy that I got him saddled and attempted a ride. A few days ago it just seemed like too much work, and I'm never like that (normally I have to ration myself). I know we'll get back to where we were. We had fun with a friend and ended with a ride on the beach, so what's not to love? Here's a picture of Joanne and Savanah that I took with my phone through Rogo's ears:

Joanne does a lot for dressage in our Province. Last year she organized a Stephan Peters clinic. Can you believe it? Stephan Peters here in Nova Scotia coaching local dressage riders? This year she's organized an Ingrid Klimke clinic. People are coming from as far away as BC. She created and maintains a Nova Scotia Dressage website that's an amazing resource. She's also training a young horse, a Hannoverian / draft cross and her daughter, a great young dressage rider, rides their other dressage horse at second level.
Backing up a bit, the two weeks of bareback were interesting and I learned from them. I felt my center of gravity mentally and physically lowering to a 'sack of potatoes seat', if I can describe it like that :) - my seat draped, not tight. This is how I sit on Savanah, but have never achieved consistently with Rogo. It's bad muscle memory and started from nervousness when I backed him. So although our technical prowess was non existent today, I think the bareback time was good. I'm going to try to do it at least twice a week, and incorporate time without stirrups into every ride.
Here's what I'm thinking for getting our schooling back on track:
  1. Mentally focus. Plan the warm up exercises and try to stick with it unless I encounter something that really needs to be addressed. Today my mind wasn't with it yet.
  2. Go large and get him forward before starting circles on days when he lacks impulsion. 
  3. Do lateral work earlier in the warm up to get him more forward (this seems to work well for him, but I didn't do it today).
  4. Do lots of transitions.
Also a lesson learned - I get easily distracted by having someone else in the ring. I'm so used to riding alone that through no fault what so over of the rider I'm in with, I get distracted and lose focus on what I'm doing. This is especially true for me in the warm up ring at shows, so riding with someone else is VERY good for me.
Any suggestions for how you get back on track when you've been off for a bit? Does it come right back to you, or do you have to work at it?


Jeni said…
I understand the "Some days it's just too much work" feeling. It won't take you long to get back to where you were, just don't be too hard on yourself. You took more than 1 ride off, so it will naturally take more than 1 ride to get it back.

When I got back in the saddle after I took the 7 months off, I kept my goals very small for each ride, but the 'next" ride always went a bit further until I was mentally and physically able to go all in.
Carol said…
Good points Jeni. Thanks. I forgot to include that in my thinking. Even in two weeks my energy and stamina took a hit.
juliette said…
That beach photo is just so perfect. How lucky you are!!!

You'll get it back. Start slow. No pressure on you or the big boy. Enjoy every little task/exercise. Smile. You'll be back in no time. And this break you had with bareback riding will add so much to your riding later - you'll see!
Lori Skoog said…
Bareback and balance go together well. The good are out there riding. I am so envious of you being able to ride on the beach. Hope things improve for your friend.
I think everyone is different with getting back on track. It usually takes me a couple of rides after some time off. Riding bareback for a few weeks probably really helped you focus and balance. It's so great that you get to ride on the beach, I'm so jealous. Don't be so hard on yourself, just have some fun with your friends and horses. That's the most important thing.
Carol said…
Thanks guys.Glad you support the bareback idea. It really seems to make a difference. I MUST keep at it :)
Margaret said…
I am one who does not like ring work. I love pleasure riding and would be off like a light to travel that beach shore! BUT, I have a desire to learn english dressage and that means ring work. So, I plan on starting with little bits - like 20 minutes, and then pleasure ride and practice posting, etc a bit during trail riding.

Keep at it and keep it fun.
Val said…
Although I always want to ride, sometimes I do not have much time. When I do not have time for a full ride, I like to lunge my horse. We can enjoy a similar conversation with less tack up/clean up time. I usually end up feeling like I rode even though I did not put a foot in the stirrup. Good for conditioning, too.
Carol said…
Margaret I think that you may find dressage more interesting than some kinds of ring work. You have so many things to think about you can't get bored! Also, you can practice many things on the trail.
Val lunging is a great idea. I lunged before riding yesterday and it helped alot. If I go through another non riding period I'll make a point of lunging.
Anonymous said…
STRETCH! For whatever reason, doing a ten or fifteen minutes of stretching on the ground before I climb on moves mountains. I think it's because it gets me thinking about my body and muscles again.

I have tight shoulders and hips, so I concentrate on loosening those muscles (I follow these videos: and They are not too challenging and my field boots have dropped enough in the ankle that I can accomplish these in my riding gear.
Carol said…
Prairienerd that's a great point. I'm sporadic about pre-ride stretching. I go through periods when I do it, and see / feel what a big difference it makes, and then gradually it slips. Obviously I'm in a 'slip' period. Thanks for the reminder to get back at it. I agree with you whole heartedly.
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