Mixed thoughts on dressage (stressage?)

Jumped into an impromptu dressage lesson last night (I was going to take the night off, but got super tempted so I joined in last-minute. I know, I know but hey I was on time for once?!) and we worked on similar stuff to last week with one exception- I was kind of sucking at it this time.

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We worked first at the walk, then at the trot and were going to move it up to canter except we didn’t quite…make it successful at the trot. So we stuck it there, ha. Honestly it felt rougher than last week BUT also not terrible? Just that it was hard, and we were trying. His trot was really great, super amped and really ‘moving ‘ but getting him to reach down into contact was kind of not great aka a big work in progress.

He’d be in contact, I’d slowly (and my timing was off..) start giving him rein, he’d reach down, and then immediately pop back up out of contact. Ugh! I would go back to trying to get contact back, and rinse, repeat. It takes a lot of work to maintain the contact through a lower head/giving hands.

Still some pretty solid work. Just makes me feel like urghh the canter is going to be verrrry interesting if I am struggling this much with the trot!

No polo tonight, it’s getting too dark out too early now (sob). So I will just zip out the barn and do some field riding with Oats, he needs the mental break after our fairly strenuous dressage lessons.

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Inch for inch, pound for pound?

Who needs boys when there’s booze around?! 😉

Here is a recap of my dressage semi-private on Tuesday- lateral work, more lateral work, and yes, more lateral work.

Old barn with Oats.

Old barn with Oats. Let’s take a trip down memory lane…

It was hard. It wasn’t that thrilling or much fun? But, as Karen reminded me, we were working it in the trot and not that long ago, Oats would rather DIE TRYING to do lateral work in the walk. Like, hissy-fit city. A total no-go. So, progress is happening, it is just hard and not that joyful.

The work we were doing was bend the horse in a ‘c’ shape- inside bend, with haunches off the track, moving to both directions starting at the walk, then quickening the walk, then trotting.

Oats had a few things to say about this, mainly he didn’t like it. If I didn’t release fast enough from the bend, he’d bottle up and hop up and down. If I let him have too much head, he’d charge off in the counter-bend, instead of bend. Sigh.

Dressage days

Dressage days- looks better than it was!

We then worked to do a leg-yield along the short side, and then the ‘c’ shape bend along the long side. It was…interesting. Not particularly successful, but we were trying? And I had to reward that try!

When we finished, Oats was charging off at the trot at Mach 10. He had some energy to burn off and I let him charge around for a bit, snorting and letting it alllllll out. Karen said that was very typical of extensive lateral schooling- they feel very contained, and when you let them go, they go WAY out. So, go for it buddy!

A good learning lesson, but it was definitely a challenge.

Trying is always enough

No jump lesson on Wednesday- got moved to Saturday instead (and joined my 10-item long list of things I have to do on Saturday as well, wtf is going on with my week of running errands EVERY SINGLE DAY?!).

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Ummm when do I get to be this?

Anyways I digress.

My rides then this week consisted of messing around with the best of intentions on Wed, jumping some baby jumps instead of ‘cough’ trotting jumps like I wanted to, or working on counter-bend in the canter like I was supposed to…Hey it was fun though!

I did originally trot a fence or two, but Oats literally fell over the jump and face planted quite dramatically, and it scared the shit out of me, so yeah…Canter it is!! Yay! Jumping alone!!

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My reality…

The canter was fine and the jumps were teeny, non-dramatic, and fun. We then did move on to walk lateral work, and he was pretty well behaved for it, so another win-win for us.

Thursday, I was bound and determined to finally work on canter counter-bend. I started it in the trot, working both sides bend/counter-bend before moving to canter. I had an idea that he would figure out what I was asking if I started it in trot first. And did that work? Well, sort of?

He was immensely confused about the counter-bend at the canter, and would frequently drop out of the gait into a very fast and hurried trot. Well, that’s ok. We’re trying. It required more effort from him to maintain the gait, and his balance too, and I could tell it worried him a bit.

That’s fine though, and it’s a learning process. I repeated the whole shebang on the other rein, and then played with a bit of asking for counter canter (shamefully by literally asking for the counter bend and then just going into the canter from there. Straightness? What straightness??) and it was okay…

I’m pleased with Oats’ effort, and the fact that he was willing to try instead of shutting me out entirely. He was quite sweaty after his work yesterday and it looks like clip time is coming on Monday!! (I am so desperate to get him clipped, it takes forever to cool him out and I am tired of getting home after 9pm every night!!).

Night off for both of us tonight, and the lesson on Saturday when my marathon week of a zillion pesky and expensive errands continues!!! (I am jealous of those with holidays right now. god.).

Orchestra for the Moon

Taken from a Jenn Grant album title, (saw her on Tuesday), to provide a recap for this week: mixed results.

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Oh man do I want it to be summer!

Monday I had organized an equine counselling session, as I realized I was in need of a tune-up after my bad/good lesson on Thursday. For some reason, because I was feeling a lot of stress that week, I started making a lot of very negative value statements about my riding, my lesson, and everything– after what was, to be honest, not a terrible lesson. So what gives?

Turns out that I was likely trying to make that lesson resolve what I was feeling emotionally/ physically, and that just…didn’t happen. I was trying for redemption via my horse and jumping, and you know what? A big nope on that.

And it left me feeling discouraged, useless and like, unfulfilled. A good comparison would be my car: it was also breaking down last week and when it stalls or breaks down, I don’t immediately think I am a bad driver! I just think, well, time to get the car fixed. So jumping to the judgements after my ride because I am in a bad headspace and looking for my lesson to ‘cure’ it isn’t reasonable or good.

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My future!

Good to know! So, how to solve this? Answers to handling and managing my feelings are to make sure I feel grounded, get myself in a better headspace. If I know I am not, then to acknowledge it, and make do. Realize that I might not hang the moon on the first try, but that I am going to work it, and see how things go. Be honest with myself about how I am feeling, and be honest with my horse.

I went to ride Oats after my session on Monday and woooow…he felt terrible! So stiff, wouldn’t bend, head-flipping, coughing, didn’t want to canter, didn’t want to hold the canter…WTF? I tried to loosen him up in the trot with minor success and then got off. Can’t deal, that’s ok. It was also monsoon raining the entire day and I now think he literally spent the whole day standing in his shelter= not good for the horse.

Tuesday Oats had the day off, and Ian and I went to see Jenn Grant. She was lovely! She played Dreamer, which I liked off the Heartland intro immediately. A lot of her other songs were really cool, chill and she has a great voice. There’s something really heartfelt about her singing, and she seemed like a very funny and interesting person. My feet were killing me after though, I’m not used to standing around at bar shows hahah.

Wednesday I went to the barn with some trepidation. How was Oats going to be? I longed him briefly before my ride and he hates the sand ring, so he kind of refused to do anything but jog around. Hmm…I didn’t think it was going to go well.

Actually he surprised me! He was moving so nicely. But then…dun dun dunnn…The hopping and head-flipping came back at the trot.So WTF is this then? I puzzled over it for a bit and then realized…Oats is feeling cooped up, caged up. He wants (asking as politely as he can), to GO!!

So, I got up in two-point, and we cantered. And cantered. And cantered. And it was sooooo nice. He felt flowing, free, just really good. He clearly needed to get this out of his system! Then we could go back to the trot, and I popped him over a few x-rails, at the trot, and then we worked in between trot and canter. Just some flowing figures, big loopy circles, and he felt great.

Interesting…

Struggle-bus dressage?

I noticed I’ve been complaining about flatwork a lot lately- in all honesty, Oats has improved by like, 100% and my ‘wanty’ behaviour is due to the things I now think we are capable of doing…

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Another time when he was sweaty too!

Like yesterday- our dressage lesson was pretty good, I wasn’t scared off anything and Oats didn’t bug me too much. But, things like- he wouldn’t trot when I was asking for contact in a medium-low stretchy frame- he would only canter. And canter. And canter. For a pony who has the HARDEST time going forward, it’s quite interesting to ride him when he finds canter easier than trot. I wanted trot though, so I was like wtf horse, why won’t you just trot?!!

But, as my trainer pointed out, if he’s doing the exercise well enough at the canter, leave it there for now. It’s mentally doing the job that you need–you can get nitpickier about the gait later. Fair enough!

So, we cantered–seeking the nice, stretchy lower-frame work that we tried to get in trot. And then we eventually got it in trot!  And the tried for it in a quieter, more compressed trot to transition to a small canter. This was met with mixed results- Oats started being a twit about yanking the reins out of my hands and tossing his head…So, back to the drawing board.

I found (again) that I let him buldge off my right leg going left. Oh and I rely too much on my inside rein to keep him in corners- this has been plaguing me on my jump lessons bigtime!

It was a very sweaty lesson. Oats had rivulets of sweat running down his forehead! If he’d only trot, I’m sure it would have been much less sweaty, but you know, ponies…No sense reasoning with them!

I did give him a very big and long head-scratching session- as dictated by me so he doesn’t rudely shove his big head on me- and he LOVED IT! And he got some more candy canes as a treat!

Winning the battle = winning the war

So after my aforementioned war with Oats on Sunday about lateral work, and moving off my right leg with out a major hissy fit, I was …concerned about how Tuesday’s semi-private dressage lesson would go.

Good or bad?

Well, it actually went pretty well! Turns out that having ‘it out’ with Oats on Sunday and making him do his homework actually made our lesson on Tuesday much smoother. He was moving off my right leg (finally!) with minor disagreements, he was a bit locked up on the right throughout the whole ride but nothing terrible, he was just better on the left, haha.

So, we warmed up with head-to-the wall leg yields left first and then right, and then worked on some trot work with a big bend and a leg yield (we kind of sucked at this to be honest), and then canter work that loosened Oats up and let him move forward (much better at this). He was starting to get kind of balky and rude at the trot, and the looser canter sort of let him ‘let go’ of his attitude.

We ended on the left, with a squeezy trot and big deep low neck, to a canter transition, back to the squeezy trot. I was pretty impressed with his attitude towards this work, and as Karen noticed, his endurance is improving. Ie- his hissy fits and temper tantrums are more minimal, and start happening much later in the ride, rather than halfway through, which was more typical.

So, progress people! I’ll take it!

Good pony Oats.

“Don’t do anything by half. If you love someone, love them with all your soul. When you go to work, work your ass off. When you hate someone, hate them until it hurts.”

Dressage lesson recap:

In short, better than last week but still quite a challenge.

We worked on some brief lateral work to get Oats listening and get him to pay attention to my aids, rather than flipping his head around and fluffing up and down with me. It was only when I ‘got serious’ about it – and frankly, kind of annoyed and mad- did he settle and go, oh ok mom!

Calm

Calm

In his defense, I’m pretty sure he had a nasty bot fly basically hassling him my ENTIRE ride, because when I got off, there it was, buzzing around him and when I was brushing him off, he was freaking covered in bot fly eggs?!!

There must have been an effing thousand of them? It took a good long while to painstakingly scrape them off my poor horse. Jesus. I did manage to kill the freaking thing though- it was the only option, as it would not leave Oats alone!

I have NEVER had a problem with bot flies before this, and now, in the span of 1 lesson, he was covered in the eggs. SHeeeeesh!

Anyways, that may have contributed to his fizzy attitude towards work…He just seemed quite reactive, a bit sparkly and jazzy and he DID NOT want to cooperate at times. Hilariously, when we were doing a bit of side-pass, Karen said ok a few more steps and then straight- and Oats going fabulously! Until she said that and he immediately started flipping his head, and going backwards.

Sigh…

So, we had hit his limit for side pass steps, apparently!

We had to return to this exercise a few times when he felt like he could blow through my hands/aids at the trot and start being a little twit. It was a way to bring him down, get him focused, and then go back to the trot exercise, and for me, it felt like a good way to not ‘buy into’ his drama when he was getting antsy and prancy.

So, we did end up getting some really nice stretchy trot work, but not without a lot of work on mine and Oats’ part–though I have to say, it took less time and a lot less work than last week, sooo…Success?? Ha.

At least I didn’t have to canter/gallop him in a ‘must outlast’ test of endurance. Now that lesson, I did not want to have a repeat of, hahaha.