Monday, July 27, 2015

Lessons lessons and more lessons

This post will be long so I apologize in advance.

The last few days has been a flurry of activity for Tillie and I, mostly because I reached a point of no return and simply needed a lesson before I rode again without eyes on me....At least I felt that way.  Riding alone has been frustrating to say the least - Not to any fault of Tillie's, but rather me trying to recreate what I learn and feel in a lesson. It is so hard to do when someone isn't there nagging you pushing the limits (but really shouting at me to correct my rouge right hand).

It started Thursday evening when I rode and just got so in my head and frustrated I had to stop. We suddenly lost our downward transition from canter to trot...We have been really drilling doing these just off my seat and staying through. Instead, she reverted back to doing the tightening spinning top thing and not stepping under herself. She would just canter this itty bitty (albeit lovely) canter instead.

So I just threw one of my students on Tillie in a lesson afterwards. Seeing her go sometimes helps me (don't worry it was all for selfish reasons, this student really learns a lot off Tillie)

My fire breathing dragon trucking around a kid over fences just as cool as a cucumber! 

And to my pleasant surprise Tillie stepped right up and told on my student's mistakes without being mean or malicious or scary or sassy...etc and the many more things I could list she has done in the past. She even popped over a small vertical without running, diving or bolting. Yayyyyyy Tillie!

That at least made me feel a little better. Nothing like seeing some buttons we have been working on actually working with someone other than me.

Lesson #1 - Dressage

So I promptly scheduled a lesson for myself and Tillie to solve this mental block and frustration for Friday the next day. I trailered out to C (just using first initials of trainers here) for a second try with a lesson with her after feeling slightly disappointed in the first.

I was not disappointed this lesson and got some really nice and soft moments where Tillie felt really just unlocked. The goal is to start getting her activating and unlocking the muscles at the base of her neck and withers. It was also nice to hear her say she did see some improvement since the July 4th lesson and could tell an overall difference in both Tillie and me (Especially my lower back).

She had me ride with a dressage whip since Tillie was a bit more dead to my leg and shockingly better tracking left and softer that direction. Silly horse...anyway the whip really pointed out and helped me with my right hand issue. So homework is to ride with a whip (to Tillie's dismay I am sure).
Tillie was quite please with herself after our dressage lesson.

I still need work on keeping my leg down and long when using it which seems to be the next thing on my list ;) We did a lot of work on the canter transition and getting her to JUMP into it. We also did basic leg yielding really focusing on keeping her straight in them and coming out of them with more step in the trot and not just losing steam in the process of doing them.

Lesson #2 - XC Clinic

D riding one of the horses in the clinic to help get a point across to the horse.

Saturday we geared up and drove to this gorgeous facility for my other trainer D's XC Clinic. I was nervous all morning watching the others go dreading if Tillie would pull her old antics, cross her jaw and just dive and be silly after fences. The last time I did a XC lesson with D, I fell off twice. Yes you read that correctly - TWICE in an hour. I wanted to die of mortification.

Anyway, the first few warm up fences, she absolutely was bracing and diving after fences and I felt myself sort of go "oh crap" as D kept hollering to let go, use less hands and more leg. UGH the dreaded more leg fixes all...except leg on doesnt always make Tillie soften yet. So after a very enthusiastic finish that involved bolting up the hill after the first set of fences D sent us away to time out and just go let her run it out.

So we came back and with each fence we started to get a groove. We schooled some bending lines over roll tops, canter down hills (did I mention how much I HATE downhill?!), ditches, banks - up and down and finally water jumps.

The water was by far my favorite!

Lesson #3 - More dressaging 

Sunday morning companion.

So Sunday I went ahead and had the other C come for a lesson as Tillie was barely winded after XC schooling and figured some dressage the day after a hard day would help us push through her limits.

Right away she commented how much improved Tillie's walk looked and overall seemed happy, relaxed and had better improved muscling in more correct areas. She kept reminding me to carry my hands and watch that silly right hand which gets grabby both directions **sigh**. Homework - work on giving with the right rein only without locking the left.

We also rode with a dressage whip which Tillie instantly changed her demeanor in good and bad ways...but decidedly went OK and worked well.  We worked on the walk to trot transition and did some leg yielding in the canter to work on softening and getting a bigger step. VOILA our canter to trot transitions were back!

The most interesting exercise we did that helped unlock Tillie's withers and shoulders was to ask her on a small 15m circle to bring her shoulder in (trying not to use the inside rein - guiding only) with the outside rein but pushing and using the inside leg to get her to step over and fill the outside. I needed to be better about closing and supporting the outside rein and once I did she did it well.

It decided to downpour in the middle of the lesson despite no clouds to be seen in bright sun.
Very odd, but kinda cool outside the getting soaked part. Trainer commented it would prep us for our first 2*
at FH! Not that we will ever get there ;)

My looming Lameness worries

The only slight worry I have is she kept tripping up/mis-stepping on her right hind in the Sunday lesson a handful of times. She was sound in the lesson, but C commented to watch that....and that is all I need to hear to get worried and frantic.

I always worry about her soundness and that leg is the fretted cellulitis one she protects and had residual higher lameness issues last year as a result. Strengthening work helped it go away and be nonexistent - until yesterday.

I am hoping she was just a bit tired from the sudden burst of lessons which are making her work correct and she was just tired. I did some stretches with her and today she gets a well deserved day off.


Tillie has blossomed this summer and, dare I say it, finally grown out of the terrible toddler phase of protesting, sass and just silly nonsense she used to pull under saddle. It quite definitely is still in there, but our rides lately has been more on the spur and kick ride. She is very much a pull ride majority of the time, but she's finally learning running around and speeding through aids gets nowhere.

I actually the last two rides in the sandbox have need a dressage whip!!! Oh boy does tillie not like that!

Between the clinic and lessons I realized I had pleasant rides from her without needing to push buttons too terribly hard because of protesting. She went on and off the trailer each day nicely, stood nicely on the trailer and just in general acted like a seasoned show horse.

Who knows maybe we are getting somewhere!


  1. Whoa - you are a lesson machine! Sounds like you got lots of good homework. The first video worked on my work computer today and you guys look awesome in it! :) I hope the mystery off-ness goes away soon.

    1. Thank you :) and I hope it isnt anything to worry about...But as long as she is sound and happy I am determined to chip away and get better!

  2. so glad you had a better ride with dressage-y C this time around. and also super bummed i missed the xc clinic! you guys look phenomenal tho, and sounds like you're walking away from these lessons feeling a little more empowered! :D