Saturday, February 6, 2016

Biding Time until winter is we dressage

So far we have been pretty lucky with winter...its been fairly warm and mild until the biggest snow fall in the history of our state's snow fall happened (and I am not really was the largest recorded snow fall in the history of my state).
Sooo much snow...and this is from a few weeks later!!!

The snow fall was enough to put me over the edge...because it means not being able to ride unless I haul out and my job has been limiting that happening since no one wants a stranger in their barn later then 8pm. So anyway, I havent been riding nearly as much as Id like to and its sad. Very sad.

BUT once in a while I can haul somewhere and shockingly Tillie has been pretty behaved and, better yet, ready to work with a nice work ethic.

Is it me or does she look eeevvvvilll here?
Without boring you all too much longer on the intro, I scheduled a dressage lesson with C and finally got the opportunity to try hauling with my trailer with the partition open to see if Tillie's scrambling around turns would be better, worse or the same. 

Luckily all of our self loading practice came into to great use here since with keeping the divider open means no butt bar. I did minimally put up a lead rope but if Tillie realllly wanted to run backwards out of the trailer she could break it easily...but shes really good about waiting for me to ask her to back out.

Night hauling makes taking pictures harder :(
Tillie didnt scramble AT ALL...and majority of the time did keep herself fairly straight, but around turns you could see her swing her butt and angle herself. So I think I need to get myself a wider trailer and haul like this in the meantime...

Lesson Time: (sadly had no one their to take pics or videos)
I get on and just start going through the normal motions of loose rein walk around the whole indoor both directions a few times while waiting for C to finish another lesson. Tillie was quiet, had a bit of a speed walk going on, but not terribly looky like she can be. 

I start picking her up in the walk a bit to test her mood and see how much resistance Id be dealing with once C was ready...and Tillie was quite pleasant and even with a longer rein moved right into contact without missing a beat. Typically even after warming up walk trot canter, going from a loose rein to contact isnt as smooth as this! 

Once C started with our lesson we moved into a trot fairly quickly and her first transition was quite nice and she stayed connected without going inverted. Another Win! We treadmilled it at the trot a bit just to let her warm up...and C thought she looked off right front so we did a few changes of posting diagonals and changing direction see if it was worse on turns or a certain direction....but luckily it went away and Tillie seemed not bothered at all so we pressed on. 

C right away when I trotted again said "no bigger trot then this" which was interesting because I felt like we werent covering enough ground....I attribute this to me getting more comfortable riding her trot now and not always trying or needing to slow things down. 

Can winter and the early darkness be over yet?!

Tillie was pretty consistent in the trot and we worked on getting more inside bend both directions...for this ride, her right bend was much harder. My inside rein would end up touching her neck which C pointed out there should be a clear gap and the inside hand should be open and more inside leg to push her away. But do not lose the outside elbow (I tend to straighten it out too much). 

Leg yielding 
Moving on from that we went into riding down the quarter line and leg yielding, but this time rather then using the entire length of the long side of the arena, C wanted us doing them pretty quickly without leading with the shoulder and focusing on a straightness. Tracking left she nailed every one, tracking right we had a few at first where she really didnt want her booty to stay in line, but a tad more inside leg and outside rein fixed it pretty easily. 

Tillie eating ALL the hay
Tear drop exercise
Then C had us ride tear drop formations (trot and at E make a 10M circle and trot a straight diagonal line between H and F and ask to change the bend). Once I got the hang of the actual figure Tillie rode through this exercise REALLY nicely. C remarked she was impressed!

We took a bit of a walk break and chatted about the upcoming dressage show and discussed strategies...when I started to pick Tillie back up again I reminded myself shorter reins and really felt I found that sweet spot (you know when your seat feels solid, your rein length feels right and the stars align?). Tillie on the other hand didnt appreciate the shorter reins and despite another lovely trot transition and half circle started "whip nae nae-ing" with her head when I applied inside leg (tracking left).

She did it a few times when trying to re-establish bend and I wasnt letting the reins out...C recommended I verbally reprimand her for this....that a physical squeeze or crop for her would be too much but I need to at least tell her NO.

I will admit, I felt like the contact in my reins was heavier then I like (I tend to waiver it seems or say this after not riding for a period of time). I never dislike when this happens...just seem to notice it and feel like its not "soft" enough contact which is false. She is soft...just not behind the contact like she used to be more often a few months ago. I think I just need to re-calibrate my feel...

UMMM...wheres my food?
So we treadmilled a bit at the trot again to let her get those out and C said ok, canter NOW! OK it wasnt quite that abrupt, lol, but it felt sort of I wasnt really expecting to move into canter so quickly in the lesson. We sometimes only get to it briefly!

Test riding - being smart about placement of transitions
C did set me up for it talking about the strategy of riding in the test and prep for the transition depending on the horse I had that day. If Tillie was more up to ask earlier to use the corner or turn to back her off, if she was going well ask a bit more in the middle of the corner to present the long side of the ring to promote her opening her stride. 

So we started on left lead and it took a few steps at first, but she did a nice little jump into it I sort of didnt expect. She felt a bit unbalance on it again so I do a poor job being soft in my arms when this happens...but C talked me through it, we achieved inside bend and she felt a bit smoother once that was better. Her downward transition was a bit strung out and as we changed directions on the short diagonal Tillie was a bit fired up and ready to jumping into right lead canter which I promptly did a strong half halt which C agreed with. It sort of took away the rhythm but it was needed...and we regained a nice balanced trot tracking right within a half circle. 

I so good!
We went right into right lead canter once we passed C and it took a half the circle to get the inside bend, but once we did C even said it was a nice canter. She urged me to step more into my right leg so I dont fall to the outside (which would push tillie in and not be able to bend in). Her downward transition to trot this direction was really lovely. 

Center line - test riding
After this, C had us run through a few center line practices again really concentrating on no drifting...especially when you continue the trot on and turn at C. She said most horse and riders will drift before reaching C and to wait as long as possible to make the turn - for example if youre turning left, you start drifting right when over prepping for the turn. 

C said Tillies weight and muscling is looking good! 

Riding Novice A
Once we got the strategy for the center lines down we moved on to riding through a test. I chose to run through Novice A with C since that's the most difficult test I signed up to do for the dressage show. I am debating now on changing that after this ride and talking with Emma...but we will see how the next week goes if I change. I am currently signed up for BN A and B and Novice A. 

C called out the test as I was riding it and for the most part it rode pretty well. USEF tests tend to be harder for us since there is so much ability to build up in the trot and canter...USDF tests are nice since there is a lot more changing directions, circling, transitions etc to distract Tillie.

Her transitions out of canter to trot were a bit rocky...but C said if I plan them accurately the judge shouldnt be able to see it too much. Her right lead canter transition I planned perfectly and C said we would work on the left lead too next time, but both leads she stepped right into without needing a few steps, I just need to time the transition better and stop anticipating the build up so much.

Nicely trimmed tail :)
Her free walk we talked about her wanting to dive when she throw her head down and pull the reins from me rudely. She has a habit of doing this when doing anything stretchy or even when letting her walk on a loose rein. C suggested I dont ever let her go around on a completely contact free rein until she breaks this habit and earns the privilege back. When she goes to root give her a boot or slap with my leg. No pulling of the reins, just a bump using leg. 

Aside from those C was really complimentary and said we definitely earned the award for most improved. :) Its really nice to hear!!! 

I seee you barn cat


  1. It sounds like things are coming together for you guys. :)

    1. I hope so! The last year has been a bit of a struggle where i have even questioned if she was the right horse for me or too hard for me. It feels good to notice change!

  2. ha i love that stinkin barn cat.... sounds like a fun lesson! c is so great about digging into the strategy for tests and really planning out how all the movements will flow together - it really helps!!

    1. Shes great with helping me being more strategic in test riding...I am really not good with that yet!