Focusing forward

Dressage lesson time! Now, I knew Oats’ big energy from the past week was gone, so how would he be? WELL, hilariously he was good to warm up and when we began the real work, started getting silly about the back door being opened.

I got mad. I mean come ON we had a good warmup and you give me this? Looking for an excuse??

From a few years ago, looking good!

My trainer was pretty funny about it, she said well look at it this way- not EVERYONE wants to go to the gym to work hard and he just isn’t like that. She said we need to channel it, use it for good- not get angry. Fair enough!!

He worked quite intensely actually, I was very surprised. We hadn’t had a ride that intense since…Over a year ago maybe? We did a big power trot, and went into leg yield, shoulder-in, haunches in, and work, work work work work! Bending in a BIG bend, getting the outside rein active (ok, this is the part that I suck the hardest at….and never really got it 100%) and just powered along!

I was tired, Oats was sweaty! We really hadn’t had that kind of big intense riding yet this year, as we were definitely playing it safe.

Though, we did no-stirrups for the canter work and then I had to work harder than Oats, haha. The right rein had some lovely downward transitions, the left was a work in progress, and not so great, hahah. BUT we got some really solid work out of him and were able to amp up the intensity in a way I have been kind of leery about. Go Oats! By the end he wasn’t sweaty but I was ūüôā I guess he’s getting in good shape these days.

Golden State

Second dressage lesson in a two week period for us–I had scheduled it that way because I think my week coming up might be too busy to try to squeeze in another dressage lesson.

And Oats was really good! We had some moments of great ‘try’ and some of awkwardness (his head-tossing feeling blocked at the trot). We even worked on some no-stirrups canter, upon which Oats immediately went down to trot when I kicked off my stirrups. Apparently the change in seat pressure is a big trigger for him–he thinks I’m at risk of falling off, so he slows right down? Hahaha! He takes care of me (sometimes).

We worked on no-stirrup canter, to sitting trot, to walk transitions. It was a good, wholesome and very thorough ride. In the walk work, we threw in a few straight lines, working with the mirrors to determine if we were actually straight or if he was moving his butt around too much–a lot of that actually…Also something interesting- instead of wanting to come down and through his body in the canter, Oats tossed in a few swaps to right lead from the left. WTF Oats? And you say flying lead changes are too hard, and you’re putting them out right left and centre to avoid giving to the bridle? Gak! To fix this, Karen had me make sure he didn’t have the opportunity to bring his nose outside on the left rein and it mostly fixed it, though I could feel him wanting to swap instead of come down.

The trot work that got kind of wonky was when we did a fair amount of canter, and then in the trot Oats got SO balky and head-tossy…And like was hopping up/down instead of striding forward. To fix that, Karen suggested I move my elbows forward to ‘give’ to him a bit, and kick kick kick him on! He was just feeling ‘blocked’.

It took a little bit, and I had to release my defensive position to enable some success here. Interestingly, my defensive position comes into play when stuff like this happens, probably because a tiny part of me doesn’t ‘trust’ Oats to make the right decision, ie-¬†forward.

Despite my non-trusting, he worked out of it and we got some FAB trot.

Then, hilariously, we worked on this weird exercise called ‘make the horse crazy’ haha. The idea is to use your seat – VERY firmly- to¬†PUSH the horse forward, as much as you can. It’s great for using a driving seat and for re-training riders like me who get defensive and tend to perch forward when they are unsure. Oats didn’t respond like crazy – ha, him? Nope…But we did eventually get enough forward to canter from that one seat direction. Cool eh? Karen did caution us to not practice this at home. It has to be done under direction, because it can backfire if you do it incorrectly. Noted!

 

 

May all your war stories be old stories

I was saying last night that whenever people ask me these days how Oats is, I don’t really have anything to say! He’s…fine? Good? Good ol’ Oats?

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This was three years ago! I miss summer- even if I was wearing a sweater during July…

It was kind of a funny lament, because really, he’s been so good, drama-free for ages now. I’m happy with how our jumping is coming along, our two horse shows in the fall went fine, and so?

So, I have to share my old war stories instead! I say well, this pony you see me riding with no reins? WELL he used to….hahah.¬†And my trainer and friend laughed, and said be glad your war stories are OLD war stories and still not happening! It’s true! ūüôā

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Another blast from the past.

We had a good lesson last night, and it was a very interesting exercise. Two diagonal lines, an x-rail then 3 strides to a small vertical. Then on the other diagonal, a bounce to three strides to a bounce.

The trick was getting Oats FORWARD during the first 3-stride line, and then maintaining that through the corner to the first bounce, and then GO! to the second bounce. I was kind of concerned how it was going to go- was I going to eat it through the bounce? Wibble-wobble through the first line?

It sure wasn’t perfect, and wow I lost my reins more than once through the two bounces set three strides apart, but Oats was golden!! He started getting more engaged through the exercise, and was powering himself through the bounce line really nicely. He just took care of me through it, I didn’t even have to steer, or really have reins at all.

Good pony!

It was quite a tiring exercise for me, but I was quite proud of how Oats was handling it. He was eating up those strides (for him this will always be a challenge).

The jumps were teeny-tiny but it’s more how the exercise really made us focus on a few things- forward, not pulling to a spot, no chipping in, straightness, going through a corner straight/forward. Yes!

Can’t get forward when I want it? Oats update~

So the other day, during my equine counseling session, I was crabbing that Oats was being ‘too quiet’ ie- not forward off my leg, snoozy, no fire!

It was true. And it was true that he was like that during my last jump lesson, which was probably why we bungled the gymnastic so many times, he just didn’t have that GO that I needed to make it through a fairly challenging exercise…

So Monday I had my session and again he was just kind of blahhhhhh…

Sunday we rode indoors, he started off balky and like, oh,¬†make me and I was like, sure I’ll make you do this, I’ll make it so you don’t even have a chance to second-guess ME! And he was fine, ok to ride, I honestly can’t even remember what we did? Canter transitions? I suppose it went fine.

Monday, rode outdoors and all the jumps pretty much are gone (wah wah)…Worked over two cross-rails focused on breathing and relaxation. It did go fairly well, his focus was off a bit and he was a little bit ‘looky’ but otherwise settled fine.

Tuesday was a bit of a different story. I would like to re-do Tuesday one of two ways:

a. Jump and gallop and have a good time or,

b. Have a serious dressage lesson.

And I ended up with c. do neither, and kind of dither around while Oats has a freakout about the¬†tractor¬†picking up pumpkins in the nearby field in the ‘spooky corner.’ ARGH.

So, yeah, not my most productive ride…We kind of just messed around, I like riding in the outdoor but I felt unfocused and unsure. I did try some dressage stuff, and he was ok about some of it but started dragging me and getting VERY rude about moving off my right leg (again!) so I had to move him to his head facing the fence to stop him from charging into the middle of the ring…

The bummer part- he was SO forward! I wanted to save that for my jump lesson on Thurs, come on Oats, work with me here!

We did a walk cooldown to the scary areas and he did have one spook, and was very eager to get the hell out of dodge, but was patient with me, and my whims…

It was very dark when we finished riding, I still had that ‘incomplete’ feeling but had to let it go. I suppose that is why I do well in lessons–I have the opportunity to feel like I’m ‘finished’ for good, instead of oh, just 1 more..thing, or 1 more lateral, or etc etc etc…

Jump jump jump! Lesson update (now with 100% more outdoor!)

That’s right, feast your eyes…

The beautiful outdoor. Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

The beautiful outdoor. Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

We’re back in the outdoor and enjoying every moment of it! It officially opened this week for lessons and so Oats and I rode in it Wed and Thurs (lesson day). He was a bit foot-sensitive, so he is getting shoes next Thursday to help him out.

And I have to say that while I LOVE riding in the outdoor and it feels soooo nice to get out in the fresh air and out of the dusty coal-miner tin can (indoor), riding/jumping outdoors is tough! I felt tired, very tired. After jumping 1 course, I was out of breath, and felt weak. And I am no slouch in the workout dept., I  mean I am racing a 10k this weekend after all and have been racing all winter, ha.

We started off dealing with the right-bend issue at the trot, then the canter (this issue would resurface throughout the lesson, because I am apparently incapable of dealing with more than 1 thing at a time when jumping- and it very quickly becomes THE JUMP!).

Then, we worked over a small gymnastic, x-rail to 3-stride small vertical, and then added in a small bending line to a pink x-rail- then vertical because Oats found it very easy. And then we brought it all together into a mega-course [felt mega to us, because there were 10 whole jumps in it!]. We did the course twice, and I had the option of doing it a 3rd time but wimped out – was feeling tired and kind of weak- but next time..oh next time, I’ll woman up and I’l do it!!

I was quite pleased with how the course went, the jumps were small and manageable except for one oxer on the diagonal that started to eat my soul…Ha. Oh and the line that I bungled EVERY time we went over it. By the time we’d get to it, I’d be tired and start kind of….not riding…so¬†instead¬†of the good 6 strides, we’d chip, land in a heap, and pull out a weak 7-strides. Both times! Gah!

Sorry Oats!

I’ll figure it out next time haha. So, straightness and bend were problems…my position was pretty good, and the gymnastic and for the most part, other bending lines rode very nicely!

When horses aren’t ‘generous’

I had an accidental private dressage lesson on Tuesday (my riding partner was not feeling well) and had an opportunity to try out more lateral work with my trainer, Karen.

Because I have no recent photos- my newest ribbon frame!  A good way to display all those ribbons cluttering up my bedroom.

Because I have no recent photos- my newest ribbon frame! A good way to display all those ribbons cluttering up my bedroom.

I said I really hate practicing it on my own because it feels so miserable and I can’t get the ‘feel’ right (much like jumping gymnastics. SO. AWKWARD!). So, she said we’ll work on that today. Ha, and I said lateral work makes me feel crazy.

We set off on head-to-the-wall leg yields first off the left rein and man, it was so ugly. Oats was resistant, chomping on the bit, head up, then pulling, then trying to barge past my legs, and my hands. It was very uncomfortable and awkward feeling. I felt like I was trying to¬†parallel¬†park a dump truck! Forward…back up…halt..sideways! Halt…forward..back up..stop suddenly…toss head around…sideways!

GAH

It was very frustrating, and I was like, no wonder lateral work makes me feel so nuts! We then changed reins and worked on it on the right rein, and it was like I was riding an entirely different pony. A fairy pony! Light as a feather! Moved sideways like a dream! Oats moved over so quickly, he needed only the softest of corrections, he kept his head in the right place, he felt so soft, so light, and so good! It was like riding a hummingbird, haha.

I was like, mouth agape…This feels wayyy different.

So that begs the question- why the two-sided argument? Why was the first side (on the left rein) so miserable, and then the right, so good and effortless? We have a few theories, and want to test them out next lesson:

1. He had to learn what was being asked, and had it figured out by the change of rein.

2. He is naturally moving softer on the right rein, and being asked to move off my left leg is easier.

Or both?

He is a fairly clever pony, who figures out what you’re asking, and then immediately learns out to, as Karen put it, ‘economize’ on your demands…Meaning, he is smart, gets it, and then figures out a way to evade the activity.

So, lots to think about anyways. We then worked on canter, sitting the canter, getting the outside rein in on the action and ‘softening’ on the inside rein. Easier said than done, but it is making my life a lot easier when I don’t feel anxious and grabby with the inside rein–I now have the outside rein to grab with impunity! I can let the inside relax more!

I also got the BEST big trot with Oats, so big that I was having trouble posting to it! The best trot I have ever gotten with him- I am loving his new ‘go-getter’ attitude. That brings me to my title- some horses are naturally more ‘generous’ with your demands, they will¬†acquiesce a little more naturally, and forgive your mistakes.

Oats, on the other hand, is not quite so forgiving when it comes to stuff like lateral work, or me freezing up in the show ring. He does ‘tune me out’ well when I screw up, but he’s not particularly generous when I’m not asking things correctly (see all my lateral work, ugh).

The good news, is that the better I ride, the better he gets! Our partnership is slowly growing, bit by grudging bit…

Long may you run

Return of the semi-private dressage lessons! My lesson partner was on holidays, so Oats and had the luxury (torture?) of two private lessons, and one week off when I was recovering from running the half marathon.

No fear, we were back in action this week and Oats was in rare form…

Flinging his head around and being fussy at any sort of lateral work.¬†NO! I don’t do that anymore!

Good- offering up a LOVELY canter when he was being asked for:

  • more trot,
  • contact in the trot,
  • bend in the trot.

All seem to equal = Ok mom! I will canter! It will be the nicest canter, because I don’t want to do any more of those other things.

I actually even let him canter large, and into a pretty fair circle, when he offered it up so nicely the zillionth time. That is not a bad problem to have right now, haha. I did get pretty annoyed at his arguing about things like mild lateral work, or bend, or going forward with *gasp* any sort of bend…

It makes my lateral work look and feel like the biggest pain in the ass and hard work!

Well, it is a phase right now. Next week he may be more cooperative. And let’s face it- small victories here with his canter. It was just so good. Wheee!

Wild rabbit season

Wild rabbit season

It was good to have my lesson partner back, and never fear, we were completely soaked in sweat (me more than Oats, hm…) after my lesson. Oats gave Karen a good staring at when she was leaving, haha.¬†And I saw three wild bunnies in the paddocks when I was riding Oats back up to the barn! Happy Easter to you little guys.¬†

I can’t be the only one who has trouble with gridwork?

AKA gymnastics…Like this here as demonstrated by evention trainers Dom and Jimmie Schramm.

Wow, I do NOT like them. But we tackle them anyways in lessons (grudgingly sometimes, hahah). My issues are- snapping forward too much with my upper body, not knowing what to do with my hands- hold back? not enough release? Release with my upper body instead of my hands? And worrying about Oats dying halfway through the grid line and us stuck in the middle! (this actually did happen yesterday) Oh and that causes me to ‘chase’ him through the grid.

So, issues run rampant with a presumably ‘easy’ exercise. Jeeze?!

Just sit and let the horse do all the work eh? Well if I do that, I fear we’ll end up sitting in the middle of the grid!!

Always start with trot poles in a grid

Give me some single fences in a course and phew, we’re on easy street (minus my paralyzing fear of jumps sometimes, ha and my need to chase to a spot…). So how do we fix these issues?

Well, by doing a lot of them, duh. We also did some…dun dun dun..ONE-handed jumping! We have done some no-hands stuff on and off, but I don’t think I have done a lot of one-handed jumping or gymnastics.

We warmed up by cantering a circle one-handed and Oats was pretty good at it, we ran through the gymnastic one-handed (well, there were definitely a few failed attempts where I¬†grabbed my contact back with both hands…!!! survival here!!) and then off the three-jump gymnastic, we cantered to a single tiny vertical on the long side- it rode well sometimes, long sometimes, and one short distance. The long distances really surprised me! If I am being honest, I am more comfortable with the short distances but want to encourage Oats to feel okay with ‘going with it’ for a longer one. And he is! Progress?!!!

And then gradually add in the fences

And then gradually add in the fences- photos from summer 2012

I felt like a cowboy! Yeehaw! Haha.

I really liked doing that exercise- there were definitely some ‘uglier’parts in the gymnastic, eek, but we survived, were totally fine, and accomplished the work.

Go Oats go!

Love/Hate

Yep that’s me and Oats most days~

Rode him on Saturday and he was a twit! I was super annoyed, because I was still kind of riding off a pretty good high of him being really good in my lessons last week- decent lesson on Tues and great lesson on Thurs and then Saturday rolls around….And he’s cow-kicking when I mount up again, acting pissy and bucking at the TROT even, and dicking me around like crazy.

Me: Trot please. More forward!

Him: No! Eff you!!! I’m going to hop! Hop! Hop! Instead of trotting, how about a canter instead?!!’

Me: No, I asked for trotting.

Him: Pop! Canter! Up!

Me: Oh okay..fine then, canter.

Him: Wait…Cantering is hard. Balk hard. Return to slow trot.

Me: Cluck cluck! Kick kick!

Him: Did I hear you thinking of using your crop? *Threatens to buck*

YEAH….so…

Not very broke to my leg these days, still, again.

He did get to go for a walk with a young lady who will be hacking him for me and he was good for her! I was glad for that, it’s been a good year or longer since he’s been out on the trails…And his behaviour in the ring indicates more than a good amount of ring sour pissyness.

Sunday, I warmed him up outside and he was way more interested in life. Forward, happy, ears pricked forward and didn’t feel balky, poppy or draggy. Good! Moved him indoors for more work and he lost a bit of his ‘pep…Bad.

Monday he had off, and the temperatures have dramatically plummeted!

Tuesday I had off, so I rode early- no lesson for us yesterday. He was surprisingly good! Got some really nice trot, didn’t push the canter too much as I wanted to work more on my ‘eye’ exercises (3,2,1- jump!) over poles. Good news is that they are getting much better, phew! Maybe I’ll develop an ‘eye’ for jumping yet. I’m trying to stay a bit more consistent with my eye-counting exercise, at least 1X a week.

Also did two laps of 2-point w/no stirrups at the trot and almost died.

And thank the saints that Oats is not a reactive type of pony…His quarter sheet, to keep him warm, flew off his butt when I was leading him to the arena, fell off his behind when I was RIDING him (had to get off and pick it up off the rail!) and then fell off him for a third time when I was leading him to the stables, where it got stuck under his foot. JESUS.

I have to figure out a better way to stick it on him, or it will cause a major disaster for me one day…Luckily Oats literally didn’t even notice it once!! Even when it slid off his butt in the arena.

Installing the ‘go’ button NOT the ‘eject’ button??

Today’s recap is going to be about the clinics I watched with Jan Ebeling and my lesson yesterday on Oats (hence the ‘go’ button not ‘eject’ button. He gets those confused, apparently. Or maybe I do?).

Jan is funny, erudite and very nice. His clinics were forward-focused (funny it was definitely the theme of the entire weekend- how do you fix riding/horse problems? MORE LEG LEG LEG! (as per every clinician, all weekend.)

I am starting to see that a BIG problem in my riding is that Oats is not forward off my leg, and let’s face it- not at all broke to the leg very well.

Hm…definitely something I have either caused, or let happen through laziness/attrition/ not wanting to rock the boat too much.

Jan was very interesting to watch- he schooled riders to ‘push’ and then ‘let go’ when they got what they wanted from the horse. He believes strongly in warming up and transitions through the gaits- big trot, small trot, then walk, then trot. If your transitions are unschooled, your other work will suffer.

He also was a big believer in FORWARD to the downward transition, rather than letting them ‘schlump’ through it.

Check him out here

He is fair and very kind to the horse/riders combos. His big takeaway is to be flexible, and be fun about what you’re doing- it’s not ALL bad. Ha.

(He should have seen Oats yesterday!)

So that take me to Oats, naturally. He felt sucked-back and pissy on our first ride on Monday, that I sort of solved by cantering immediately over poles and working over crossrails instead of doing the usual walk-trot-canter warmups. That worked pretty well actually.

Except on Tuesday, our challenging lessons with Karen Brain, his sucked-back pissyness was definitely on display.

It was interesting (and frankly scared me and wigged me out) we are in a BIG grey area. Oats is finding other behaviours- rather than straight out bucking- to get around what I’m asking. So…instead of forward trot with bend, he’s trying to canter. Sometimes throws a buck- in all fairness, he only did that one yesterday to the left. It’s not all ‘bad’ but it’s also not all ‘good’…It’s just…there.

He’s trying these other behaviours, and Karen felt like he’s slowly getting ‘there’ but bringing up these other attempts to see what he can sort of get away with. So, I guess I can’t punish him for trying??

It was funny though and SO EXHAUSTING when I was like, forward-trot-bend and he’s like…canter-suckback- neck in air. He does this funny ‘prop’ up when he was trying to canter and it felt like when he tries to launch me, so I got kind of grabby…which is the wrong response. I had to ‘fix’ it by either circling, or letting him canter but really¬†working the canter- left bend right bend left bend right bend. He doesn’t just get to cruise.

Over and over and over and over…

We did circles, oh, did we ever do circles. I felt dizzy!

Then our circles weren’t forward enough (jesus lady, I was getting tired at that point haha) so Oats thought a circle meant a chance to suck back again. ARGH.

My butt and leg cramped up. We were soaked in sweat. It was frustrating, I got annoyed and kind of mad, and Oats was just barely, grudgingly, giving me what I wanted. PHEWWW.

(oh and you should have seen our ‘discussion’ about picking out his hooves nicely before my ride. Apparently Oats feels like he should be allowed to snatch his hind hoofies away from me, rudely. I had another idea about that !!! Nothing pisses me off more than that. Frig!)

I am feeling sore today and think I will give him a day to think things over (and I need a break to go for a run maybe).

Horses. Why does it always feel like 1 step forward and then 3 steps back???