Lessons With Joan

Warning - this post jumps all over the place - can't seem to get it organized. Also, there's some repitition from previous posts but it seemed context was needed...

Okay, setting the stage - I'm sitting at my computer looking straight out at our home riding ring (foreground) and the bay. The sun is setting and it looks like this:

Just had to share that as I feel so lucky to live here. Now, to dressage training :)
My riding has been rather sporadic for months. When Rogo was in the valley this past winter I was too busy to ride more than once a week for the last few months he was there. Sue Fraser, my teacher / his trainer rode or lunged him twice a week. Then, when I got him home there was so much rain that riding time was in short supply.
Then, for about a three week window I was in heaven - My old riding teacher Joan was able to teach me again!  She taught me as a teenager 35+ years ago, then gave me lessons for a year and a half on our draft cross Savanah when I came back to dressage after 30+ years away from riding. She didn't give riding lessons anymore, but for some reason she offered me lessons and I jumped at the chance. Here's a picture of me with the saintly Savanah, coming home from a bareback ride on the beach last fall:

[With Joan as our teacher, Savanah and I were Training Level high point champions for our Provincial circuit the summer we competed. I could write a book on Savanah and my admiration / love for her, but then I'd be off on yet another tangent. She belongs to Doug, my husband, and he went on to take lessons with Joan and also earn many first place ribbons with her.]
During this time while Joan taught me on Savanah she and I decided that I'd buy a young warmblood and together we'd train this horse through the levels - me riding, she teaching (Joan can't ride anymore due to arthritis). Well, that didn't happen. Joan coached me through a completely uneventful backing process and then life intervened. She had to deal with family health issues and there wasn't any time to teach. I floundered, trying to teach him myself (having never ridden a warmblood and just inexperienced over-all), I took bad lessons, I acquired bad habits, etc. 
We really didn't get into good lessons until the fall of 2011 when I took him to Fraser Equestrian Center (check out their camps - they're wonderful). We made a lot of progress there, but it's close to a two hour drive one way, and it exhausted me, especially with trying to work on our facility, so I brought him home in May. (We're happy that Sue and Jane Fraser will give clinics at our facility, and a teacher who was trained by them for many years will give lessons.)
But..... our facility wasn't ready and I needed lessons badly, so I turned to Joan, knowing her life was calmer now. She'd said she'd never teach again but I had to ask and she didn't let me down - she agreed to give me lessons again! She is a classical dressage purist, an inspiration, a perfectionist, a walking encyclopedia of dressage history, ... can you tell I'm over the moon?
Different people teach differently and learn differently and Joan's teaching style suits me very well. I'd describe it like this:
  • She talks to me while I'm sitting on my horse in front of her, explaining the background of the exercise. This can cover some or all of the following - the purpose of the exercise, what body parts it gymnasticizes, which riding master in history 'invented' the exercise, debates that have occurred about the exercise throughout the history of dressage, how the movement may have evolved, what movements it leads to, which 'schools' (i.e. German, French, Dutch) prefer which methods,
  • She explains the aids for the exercise in detail. She covers timing for the aids - when the aid(s) should be given in relation to foot falls, what the exact sequence of aids is and why (if there's debate about this in the sport she explains why she does it the way she does),
  • I practice the aids while sitting in front of her and she adjusts where needed,
  • I go ride it and she calls out corrections, 
  • I come back and she critiques and makes suggestions,
  • Lastly I'd note that she's an extreme perfectionist and very serious about dressage, but she's also very encouraging.
Some people learn better with other styles - being intensely instructed as they ride, being pushed hard, getting a lot of information about what to do as they do it. I find it difficult to process information that quickly and to develop my own feel. I completely understand and respect that others are the opposite. This would actually make an interesting post - learning styles and how they relate to dressage. I suspect most healthy type A dressage riders :) have at least a smattering of knowledge about different learning styles, but how does this relate to three D learning so to speak? Anyway, Joan and I are a good fit, and good friends too.
She is doing a review of the basics with me, which is great since I didn't have lessons for a couple of months and before that only rode once a week. We're working on my equitation. The main training focus is transitions, both within and between gaits. We're also working on half halts. Rogo and I have / had the habit of doing a little hesitation when doing down transitions. Joan is getting me to practice precision and timing my aids to get him to do uphill down transitions that are forward and that maintain his rhythm. Rogo is catching on quickly and I love how it feels. 
Part of our last lesson was spent practicing straight, square halts. Here are a couple of pictures:

 Stepping into it

 Straight, sqaure, motionless, on the bit and ears listening - good boy!
 Joan's explaing the finer points of the halt: "think forward motion"

 And a couple of random shots:


We're also practicing half halts and when to give the aids for up transitions. This is good work for Rogo. At Fraser's, thank God, Sue instilled forward as the basis for everything else (without it you can't do anything) and the work on transitions builds on that. It keeps Rogo busy and thinking and doesn't give him time to start 'plodding'. To be honest, he hasn't demonstrated a desire to go there anyway, even in the heat. This is the first summer I can say this. Maybe he's grown up a little?
I'm very happy with him. He could be further along as an eight year old (where did my baby go?), but considering we've only been in good lessons for less than two years he's doing great. 
Anyway, there we were, having wonderful lessons with Joan, when bam - horse fly season hit with a vengence week before last. They attack Rogo viciously. He gets huge, bleeding sores and they cover his girth area. This year he's started to panic when they appear. I've had to stop riding except just before dark, when I can sometimes sneak in a short ride:(. If anyone has a solution please tell me, but I've pretty much decided there is no solution.
That's my Rogo update. Here's a picture of our little herd I took on the weekend:


Coming soon - our new foal! Here's a sneak peak:

Bliss Point, taken last week at 6 weeks (by Bellisimo M, out of EM Diotima)


Oak Creek Ranch said…
So great to hear from you! Rogo has really turned into a grey grey. My Jackson doesn't have any dapples left (sob) and he's ten. I have gotten the name of a trainer up here that I will try when things settle down. I miss Gayle -- she was a very good fit for me (like you with Joan).
Lori Skoog said…
You sure live in a little slice of heaven. What I would give to be on the water like that. With all that is going on in your life, I don't know how you can ride as much as you do. Back in the day, when I was taking classical dressage lessons every week, I felt the same way about my instructor. For years she went to Portugal during the summer and studied with Nuno Olivera and then passed it on to her students. How fortunate were we. I was and still am "Miss Back Yard" but learned a lot.
Carol said…
So good to hear from you guys! Sounds like you both had great teachers.
Annette I always enjoyed your lesson posts. Hope you find someone just as good at your new location.
Lori how wonderful that you had a direct line to Nuno Olivera! Have you written any detailed posts about the lessons - teaching styles, approach, etc.? I'd love to read them.
Val said…
Very interesting post!
I really like an instructor that explains the background of everything she is teaching. That being said, my current teacher likes to use an opposite appraoch. She gives me an exercise and then asks me to tell her what I am feeling and how my body or my horser have changed. I find this very challenging and sometimes I just want her to tell me the correct answer, but the growth she has allowed me as a rider is undeniable.
Carol said…
Val your teacher sounds wonderful - I think this approach would help with understanding and retention. Your point also reminds me that Joan almost always starts off with questioning me, seeing if I can figure out the 'why' of something. Thanks for the great point.
You live in a beautiful location. I love the water and would give anything to live on it.

Love your pictures with Rogo and the lovely Savannah.

So happy for you that Joan is teaching you again. Isn't it great when you just click with a trainer. She sounds like a dream. I like a trainer who explains the whys and hows of a exercise. Sounds like it's all going good.

Don't know if it would help Rogo but Blue is attacked viciously everyday by flies. We found that using Avon Skin So Soft helps a bit.
Achieve1dream said…
Cute baby!!! I'm so happy your trainer/friend is giving you lessons again. :D You both look great.

As for the flies... good luck. Chrome has sweet itch which is caused by gnats, not flies, but causes sores from the coronets on his front legs clear up to his withers and halfway up his neck. None on the back on his body or his girth so it doesn't effect riding but he looks miserable and disgusting all covered in sores. I have fought hard to prevent it and failed miserably. :( So no advice, but I wish you luck.
Anonymous said…
My poor Gabe has the same reaction to those nasty, awful horse flies. He takes off running and bucking and hides in his shed as soon as they start coming out.

I ride in the mornings (through necessity more than anything) and find the horse flies aren't around early.

As for keeping them horse fly free...bug sprays aren't effective against horse flies, but fly sheets are. Rogo would probably love a fly sheet!
Jan said…
thank you for your kind comment on my blog. I haven't read many blogs lately but just read yours and my goodness! you are so very busy this year! I loved the photo of Rogo standing still and straight and quiet - he's perfect!! So sorry the bugs are so terrible to him- I hope they go away soon and his welts begin to heal. And continued good luck on your facility's construction.

Jan said…
thank you for your kind comment on my blog. I haven't read many blogs lately but just read yours and my goodness! you are so very busy this year! I loved the photo of Rogo standing still and straight and quiet - he's perfect!! So sorry the bugs are so terrible to him- I hope they go away soon and his welts begin to heal. And continued good luck on your facility's construction.

Carol said…
Thanks for the comments everyone! So good to hear from you and get ideas for treating the horse flies. I should say that I've had great luck treating the bites / sores with diaper rash cream. Fly sheets don't seem to work for him - the flies bite his groin and girth area.
allhorsestuff said…
This was so inspirational!
YOUTWO Look Awesome!! You really do!

You have a peice of heaven right there where you live. I know that there are some prices for the lot...Horse flies and storms sometimes, but wowsa!

I have had very good results from daily "slatherings" of "SWAT" on the chest, girth area, underbelly, inside-way up legs, hind quarters and where ever. It has been the only thing that works for nasty biting flies. It washes off nicely when you need clean too.
Don't get original...unless you like PINK!

I am so happy for you!!!!
allhorsestuff said…
A dedicated wash cloth, is what I use to apply. It is THICK stuff...and medicated for the after bites.
Carol said…
Thanks All Horse Stuff! I'm going to give it a try.