Is it too much to ask? Dressage recap!

So my dressage semi-private lessons with Oats have been pretty good, suspiciously good lately in fact. So it was only a matter of time before Oats had a big throw-down hissyfit ‘I don’t wanna’ lesson, and last night was kind of it!

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Oats gets a haircut…

Luckily, he is also 17 and can’t buck as hard as he used to! Phew!

We worked a fairly difficult exercise- turn off the short end, and leg-yield at the trot. This will eventually turn into leg-yield and transition within the leg yield, and back to the gait. So we did trot-walk-trot (HARD), and then trot-canter and then canter-trot. Oats was fairly amenable on one rein- left rein to right leg yield and was kind of a disaster on the other!

Oh Oats!

He was like, umm…no. Instead of our regularly scheduled transition, he would LEAP instead of moving sideways. Like, actually just jumping in the air. Greeeat….

This escalated a bit into a leap-buck, but like I said he is getting older so his bucks didn’t really unseat me, thank god. Ha.

This lesson is one that we had done last year, but without the transitions. And the leg-yield was enough of a brain-melter for both horses! We could barely even get the leg-yielding so being able to ask just a ‘little bit more’ was a stretch for Oats, and he was learning (slowly and kind of nastily) but learning.

So there is progress, albeit very slow and kind of unpleasant for me when Oats really gets going. Oh well, I can manage! And it is nice to see how the exercise develops from one year to the next. Oats is also clipped, so I didn’t have to spend forever and a day cooling him out. YESSSS!

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Canter leg-yields?!

Yesss! We are back in action with our regularly scheduled dressage lesson on Tuesday. We practiced leg-yields with correct rider posture (elbows in at your side, leg yield using the LEG and not pulling/opening the rein. If the leg yield didn’t happen, that was ok. It just meant you had to sharpen up the leg aid more next time).

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And Oats was so good! I was quite pleased with him, the little goofball.

We worked our way up to canter leg yields, and while these were a tad more ‘fraught’ with challenge, it still went quite well and I was pleased with with his effort, sense of humour and ability.

The leg yield left-right was tricky and he got fairly heavy on the right rein at the canter, which made the leg yield harder to get, with less ‘jump’ at the canter and more ‘dragging freight-train’ but still, he was definitely trying. One thing we learned was that to keep the horse packaged up at the canter, you need leg and hand and some very minor bend, but you shouldn’t feel like they will fall apart if you let it go- they should carry themselves at some point. You don’t want the ‘canter canter canter SPLAT!’ feeling.

Also I learned that a slight bend is important because without it, Oats gets confused and wants to swap leads. Fair enough, horse!

The leg yield right-left at the canter went quite well! 🙂

Good boy Oats, I was so glad to have my guy back in action doing some good dressage work with minor hissy-fits.

Can’t get enough of myself- dressage update

So I signed up for a dressage show (yes it’s been a few years, yiikes) so I figured in my lesson last night, we should work on some elements of the tests. HUMBLING. Wow.

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What Oats would rather be doing. Also, why isn’t it summer anymore here? Godammit!

It was a tough, tough ride and I had to get ‘real’ with Oats, who thought he could outlast me. He was wrong! But I got tired, bigtime haha. He fussed, he fought, he threw a small hissy fit, we had to go back to the walk to confirm him, and then back to trot, then back to walk when he started fussing too much and protesting, then back to trot…rinse, repeat.

It was pretty exhausting, and my hip started to cramp up. I’m noticing more charley-horse leg episodes in my dressage days on Tuesday, likely due to the amount of work I am putting in on my legs from the running/longer run days on the weekend. It shows me that with the increasing amount of physical exertion, I need to adapt and get better about using electrolytes instead of just forgetting and then getting a major charley horse in the middle of my ride, AGAIN.

The last one I had really hurt, and it damaged my leg muscle for over a week! WTF?

Anyways, so the lesson was long, and tough and kind of an ego-killer. But you know, Karen said it was one of the first lessons where I was able to get firm, and fairly tough with Oats, and KEEP doing it. I didn’t give in, get upset (though it was certainly frustrating) I just kept.at.it.

So, yeah to sum up dressage= very hard and tiring and now what am I doing signing up for a dressage show? So I can show off my mediocre work and lack of progress?

Well, I do want to show off my fancy new dressage boots. So, there’s that!

Oats did get an apple as a treat from my barn friend, which was very nice of her. Also he was offered some really lovely fresh-cut long grass from my other barn friend. Greedy pony gobbled it right up!

Hate to say I told you so: Dressage recap

So Monday I went out to the barn and did a lazy bareback walk with Oats, and then treated his newly discovered leg fungus (scratches?! how did he get that!). He doesn’t particularly like bareback riding and always gets kind of hoppy and squealy at first….Ha.

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Go Oats go! Love a keen, uphill canter.

Then last night we had dressage ride and WOW it was a challenge. Oats was feeling quite angsty about giving the inside rein, and moving off my leg for some mild haunches- out and let me hear it! It was really hard work. He hopped up and down, had some drama moments including a brief attempt at a launch and then he just…settled. Of course then we had to do it off both sides (eek) and his right rein was worse!

I even got a mega charley horse in my thigh while I was riding- a reminder to myself to make sure I have enough potassium, calcium and electrolytes if I want to run to work (4k), do sprint intervals on the treadmill at lunch (30 minutes) and then run home (4k) and then have a tough lesson. It’s hard on my body, and I need to be more cognizant of the challenges it faces on these higher activity days.

But anyways, we even did a fun exercise I haven’t done in ages- posting at the canter! I like posting at the canter a lot, and I’m quite familiar with it so I was like yessss I got this!

Oats seems to respond well to posting at the canter too, and my trainer said we could do more work on that, and she also recommended we try it jumping too. I will!

A tough lesson and a lot of work, but again I’m starting to see some real physical changes with Oats- he looks ‘longer’ which seems weird to say, lankier and less ‘ponylike’? Cleaned up his legs for the third night in a row, and then drove home and was immediately confronted by a highway at a dead standstill…Waited for 10 freaking minutes, and then followed a bunch of cars doing a u-turn across the median to catch the highway the other way, and drove back home on smaller roads. UGHHH!!! Thanks highways! Stupid stupid stupid.

Mr. Oats steps up his game

Had a dressage lesson yesterday, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not- my trainer was later than usual, so late that my lesson partner went up to the barn to look for her? Turns out she was stuck in the porta-potty…that had no toilet paper. Oooops!

Long story short she is now missing 1 sock. HAHAH.

Anyways, after a bit of a delayed start we moved on to our lesson- teaching the horses to come ‘over their backs’ and work on ‘self carriage’. It was a VERY physical lesson, I was sweating buckets (almost wrote- swearing-buckets, ha) and Oats really stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge.

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Not quite in the outdoor yet, but an example of Oats charging…

It was astoundingly good, for me, because Oats was trying so hard. No sass (except for at the canter on the right lead, a few sassy kick-outs) no fussing that much, no angry hopping up and down. He was amazing!! We achieved the contact, trot and pace we needed. His trot had so much loft I was getting tossed up.

I loved it! It was exhausting but soooo good. Wow, that pony really impressed me.

He came over his back, and we were able to ‘test’ it by bringing the trot down to a quiet trot, and then ramping it back up to a ‘big’ trot, and so forth. Then we went to the canter (it was not as good) and the back to the walk. At the walk, we played. Experimented with lateral work, turning without moving my hands, big walk, little walk, sideways walk, more lateral work…

Oats really got it!

What a superstar pony.

I was just overjoyed with the lesson (and completely exhausted,  Oats was covered in sweat). He is totally in the groove! 🙂

Like riding a broke horse

Had a TOUGH dressage lesson last night. Wow. I went into it feeling tired, and came out feeling exhausted! I was even talking in my sleep last night, I was so tired. Ha. But, it was the good physical tired, rather than the insane stress insomnia I was suffering from for months.

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Me this whole freaking week. Also Oats after last night..

To recap- I ran-commuted yesterday (roughly 4k to work and 4k home), went out for a fabulous breakfast with my colleagues to The Ruby (where I enjoyed an absolutely obscene breakfast of fried chicken breast on waffles, highly recommend), and I then I worked on some mild sprint intervals on the treadmill- tried to fight off puking, ugh breakfast was too soon and too big, and then I jogged home, got ready for my lesson and rode in a sweaty, exhausting, tough, challenging dressage lesson.

Whoa. That is a lot even for me!

I guess part of me felt a bit constrained by racing so much, because I was trying desperately to not get injured, overtired, too sick (failed on that) and trying to recover from the one race in time to race the next weekend.

That is no joke and quite frankly takes its toll.

So how did I cure pounding my body into the ground for six weeks? OH, by doing it in one day of course! (ha, but not really. Jogging is much easier than racing and a lot more friendly on the body).

But yes, going into my lesson I was tired.

But no rest for the righteous, eh?

We worked on getting the horses to accept the contact and be ‘over the back’ without using bend as a quicki shortcut. We did a LOT of canter at first, and then broke it down to the walk, then trot, (and a lot of halting since Oats DID NOT LIKE THIS WORK and was making life difficult)…

It was rough man! Wow. I was dripping with sweat, so was Oats. My poor fingies were cramping up. Oats kind of hated the work, having small hissyfits and dancing around, throwing his head up/around, protesting, etc.

We did achieve some really nice steps, and Karen said something that made me feel totally stunned- that you can achieve that level of work ‘the automatic’ contact where the horse goes into-and-stays-in contact the whole time?! But HOW?

Simple but never easy.

Also time.

Of course….

What makes a good man?

It felt like I hadn’t had a solid dressage lesson in forever! We had a break due to a change in my fellow rider’s schedule, so yesterday I was quite interested in getting back on the dressage train.

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Totally us right now. So, where are the next Olympics?

And you know what? It was a really good, solid and comprehensive lesson. We first worked on some modified quarter-turn on the haunches at each corner, focusing on getting the horse to move off your leg instead of ‘pulling’ around the turn. Then, we focused on getting the turn ‘all the way around’ instead of just a quarter. I had to expand my circle because Oats wanted to pivot off the hind end, instead of turning his shoulders more.

It was actually way harder than it looked or than I thought it was going to be. And we sucked at it on the left rein, yeesh. Oh well!

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Mr. Oats, dressage superstar

Next we worked on positioning for Travers lateral work with actually some really solid progress at the walk. When we moved up to trot it was…interesting. Some things I learned and need to remind myself: Lower is always good, so allow Oats to reach/stretch his neck down when he feels resistant. If it seems awkward and too hard, break it down. Move off leg for one side. Then ask for the inside bend on the other side.

Make it really clear what you are asking: Bend. Move off leg. One at a time. THEN try combining the pieces, relaxing the pressure as you ask. Give-take, give-take.

We even got ‘some’ positioning at the trot (which was described to be as a banana shape, the horse forms a banana and you travel that way haha), which surprised me as it was kind of tricky for Oats to understand and I wasn’t expecting him to get it in the lesson. Go us!! He wanted to stretch hardcore after that and got fussy. To be expected, and actually his attitude towards the whole lesson was great- he wasn’t having any hissy fits, hopping up and down, or anything! WOW! I think that was the first time I’ve been able to ask for lateral work of such comprehensiveness without some squawking from Oats.

Go Oats go! Some really great efforts and grown up work from the pony. 🙂