Monday, July 13, 2015

Weekend Riding Report + Horse Show Plans

Saturday was a super busy day for me. It all started with me getting my trailer to the barn's local mechanic shop to be inspected at the bright and early time of 8am. Which means I'm waking up at 6 like I do for work to have it there on time!

Trailer was about 2 months past it's inspection... no worries, I wasn't using it since Mikey wasn't going anywhere for anything. Trailer passed with a note to take the battery on the tongue home and try charging it for a couple days. The mechanic asked how much I used it this winter, and I said 3 times. I thought it was just chit chat, and a little later I asked about the battery because it never seems to come up green (charged). It's always charging. He said I don't use the trailer enough to get it to fully charge, so if I could take it home and plug it in, that would be best. If it won't hold a charge after that, get a new one. It's still safe to use because it holds enough charge to put the breaks on (part of the inspection).

I took the trailer back to the barn and tacked up for a lesson at 9:30.

Trainer and I chatted about what's going on at the farm, a dressage schooling show in a couple weekends, plans for the recognized show I'll do in August, and plans for the rest of the year and next year.

Before we get to lesson, here's some applicable info:
  • 7/26/2015- Horse on Course Dressage schooling show. I was able to confirm that the show is still going on since the entry form isn't on their website at 16 days out from the show. I also got the entry form!
  • I also will not be going alone to the above show! Not by a long shot. Trainer has several babies that need ring time, so those horses are going. She's also having everyone who is going to the mini trial the following weekend go to the dressage show to practice their tests. Then there's a handful of people who are also going because either they only ride dressage now or they've never ridden dressage and want to try eventing. Basically, we're a group of 10+ horses! I'm thrilled to not be going alone like I always do! I'll most likely have someone to share travel expenses too... and hopefully I can braid a bunch of the horses going to earn my entry fee money (I'll only need to do 3-4 to earn it), and maybe I can braid Trainer's horses to work off coaching fees. I better get to the farm early the Saturday before!
  • For the above dressage show, we're going to ride 3-1 twice. Having the canter half pass work ready won't happen, and that way we get more chances to practice this test. This conclusion was come to after much discussion about 2nd and 3rd level and not wanting to confuse Mikey on his changes. I'd rather have him go, 'oh yes, we're changing directions, let's change leads via flying change' instead of me trying to force him to hold to his counter canter... It shouldn't be confusing- the change comes from seat and leg, but he's had a hard time catching on, so I'd rather he auto change on me. Which leads into the next few points...
  • 8/15-16 WPDA USEF/USDF Show at Quentin Riding Club - ride 3-1 and 3-2 both days. Attempt to finish my Bronze Medal.
  • 9/12-13 VADA/NOVA USEF/USDF Show at Morven Park - ride 3-1 and 3-2 both days. I'll go for sure if I miss my bronze in August, 50-75% chance of going if I do get my bronze in August.
  • Next year I'd like to spend time riding 2-3 and 3-3. We're not sure if Mikey will hold up to 3rd level or be able to move beyond it, so I'd like to get a Dover Medal (win the AA 2-3 at an approved show) and above a 60% at 3-3 so I can work on and show a 3rd level freestyle. This will also force me to get my changes organized into happening when I want them to happen since we'll be moving between second (no changes) and 3rd (yes changes).
  • 4-1 late next year/year after with Mikey. We aren't sure he'll be able to do the canter pirouettes anymore (I'm so glad I got to do them with German Riding Master last fall!), and 4-1 is the only 4th level test that doesn't have them.
Ok, and now on to lesson.

I mentioned to Trainer that the horse I had Friday night was super sensitive, super up, and very wiggly. I had mixed some shoulder in, haunches in, and half pass back into our work, and he responded by offering that instead of say, the circle I asked for. My error I know, but I just didn't know what to do with him because he's rarely like that. He was super attentive, but also felt like he was 2 steps away from a meltdown. He also ignored my left leg entirely.

I had been walking him as we chatted, so we went off to trot and added in some shoulder in and haunches in on the circle to start. He resisted, so it became, 10m circle into shoulder in, change to haunches in, 10m circle, repeat. We eventually took it down the long wall, same pattern.

A lot of the work focused on me not smothering him with my outside rein. Even weight in both reins by relaxing the outside rein! It feels like I'm pulling the inside rein, but I know I'm not. When I don't smother him with the outside rein, he keeps the tempo going and keeps stepping forward into the movement.

Mikey was awesome with shoulder in, and resistive to the haunches in, but he still maintained his bend (had a tougher time of it to the right). We did a lot of work on these, mixing in 10m circles and me posting on the wrong diagonal.

We took a break, then picked back up and started going from trot shoulder in and trot haunches in into trot half pass. I found this almost impossible to do in posting trot, so I spent some time swapping between that and sitting.

The left was ok. Keeping the bend wasn't bad, but keeping the tempo and forward throughout the movement was harder. To the right was an entirely different story. His haunches in right is already tough, but I asked him to move it into half pass with my left leg and he totally 100% ignored me. Spur, no response. I wailed on his left hip with my whip at that point. I asked with leg, then spur, and I got nothing from him, so I had to make my point heard. He of course went to invert and run off, but I forced him to hold the haunches in bend, but had to be very careful not to touch the outside rein. He was baiting me with it the whole time to escape the work. So after a round or two of that, he moved over very readily but we had trouble keeping the bend. I wanted to bring my right hand into my crotch or almost over the neck, but obviously that won't work. I ended up doing a give and take with my right elbow, while keeping my hand in it's correct placement. It's an odd feeling, but it worked. He immediately stopped fighting me and had to bend his body properly and soften.

Basically, I need to stop smothering him with my outside rein so we keep the forward in the movement, and really force the bend to happen by riding properly (who knew!). Plus I need to ride in posting trot on the wrong diagonal (helps me keep the outside hind moving). Mikey needs some time to strengthen up a bit more before I do a lot of sitting trot.

We finished up without getting to canter, which is fine. It wouldn't have been any good anyway!

I spent Saturday afternoon washing my truck. It was horribly dirty, and it doesn't even go anywhere! We park it under our tulip poplar, which had covered it in an oily dirty sap that required scrubbing to get it off. I also hosed out the bed because it had trace amounts of mulch in it and was growing grass! I did find some new chips in the paint (driving to OSU twice in the winter didn't help I'm sure...) so I need to get the right color touch up paint from a Chevy dealer so Husband can work his magic and cover them up so they don't rust.

Sparkly clean. Except for the tires. I'm horrible, I don't scrub tires.
Husband and I went to a local church's summer carnival for dinner. They had a Ferris wheel, spinning swings, tea cups, games etc. It was fun, but we didn't ride anything.

Sunday was a bit slower paced, I got up and went riding, and that was about it besides making dinner. With all the sun we had Saturday, the arena had finally dried out a good bit. It also wasn't too hot.

I spent about 20 minutes working shoulder in, haunches in, and half pass in walk. I made sure I was consistent in how I asked, rewarded Mikey for anything good and above, and in return he worked so much harder. We had to have the same discussion about moving away from the left leg. After doing all that work in walk, and a lot of it was very good, I moved on to trot.

I had a lovely, uphill floaty trot. Who knew developing the walk properly really did that? I used to not spend much time in the walk because all I did was piss him off and frustrate us both. I'm glad that's changed. I asked for a few lengthenings a promptly messed him up, but I'd half halt and collect and he'd come back to his good boy self. I think I'm going to try to get a grab strap for the front of my saddle to help me sit the trot in medium/extended trot. Hook a finger under it, I'll keep my balance and so will he, and I can still influence him.

Something that I found works well when I lose bend, throughness, uphill, or self carriage (for my own notes, and anyone else who struggles with it): inside seatbone and leg to outside rein until I feel him shift his ribs and shoulder out, then half half outside rein to outside leg to stop the movement out and straighten him, apply a tiny amount of inside rein to remind him of the bend. It doesn't have to be a huge motion from him in the first step, and it took me several days of walking to figure out how best to apply it, and it took my trainer's help to get it started (see my reins crossed lesson).

It only takes a step or two now for him to come back to me in this more complicated series of half halts, and when he comes back to me I have the nice uphill gaits back. It's almost like riding a giraffe (I know we usually talk about it being bad, but in this case it's good). He's a round, through and connected giraffe. Bad analogy, but that's how his uphill movement feels to me. It's the only way I can describe it. It's becoming quite consistent though! I'm so excited to take it in public.

I did a lot of shoulder in to 10m circle to haunches in each direction, mixing up the posting on the wrong diagonal as I could. I mostly sat the 10m circle and haunches in, but to the left I rarely needed to do that. He was very soft and cooperative. Praise makes him even more so. I had to remember my prim and proper shoulders up and back in the circles and all the movements- that really makes an immediate difference.

The hardest thing is getting my half halts done in the half pass before I run out of long side to continue half passing. Which is odd because I ride in a converted baseball field with no arena wall/line/markers, so I essentially have as long as I need to in order to get something done, well beyond the 60m. Since I'm not on my straight line I'm trying to work it out how to apply them and remain in the movement and keep my balance, but when I get it right he immediately softens and has all the correct bend he needs. I suck at it, but I'm so glad he's willing to reward me when I get on the right track.

I moved on to canter because we hadn't touched it the day before. I wanted to see how the rein release I'll need for 3-2 went. It occurred to me that Mikey tended to blow through me at centerline and change directions when we did 20m circles in canter at C, so doing a rein release there seemed like a bad idea. I decided to match rein release circles with diagonals for flying changes to make it obvious for him, and test him a little. He delivered on the rein release. I really held my hips to where I wanted to go, gave a release of both reins, and he didn't move an inch! Hello self carriage!

The flying changes still leave something to be desired. I was using my set of 8 trot cavalettis as a makeshift wall to force him to realize he needed to do a flying change. These had been picked up and stacked because they were in the way for the jump lessons that happened Saturday, so I didn't have my wall. Mikey absolutely gets it that he needs to change leads right to left. He tries. It's ugly, but he tries. The left to right... I'm not sure if it's a slow right hind (the injured one) or he doesn't get it. I think he gets it- he gives me the big hop up front but no change, even the front legs, but I think it's hard for him. In his defense, I didn't spend as much time as I should have developing the canter. We'd been out for 40 min working already... But he gave me many right to left changes without too much of a fuss. They won't be ready for the schooling show, but maybe they'll be good for the recognized one. I finished with a confidence building simple change through walk for the left to right change because I could not get him to do a flying change for the life of me.

I did a handful of trot/halt/rein backs as well in my trot work. Who knew that uphill trot into halt helped me create straight rein backs. Straight and willing. I got my 4 diagonal steps and was like, "Whaaaa..? No fuss? Straight? Pat and good boy! Moving on!"

Walking home. He was tired.
I think I'll do a bunch more of the simple changes to help build that leg up and get him to understand. It won't hurt the other change either! Our next ride needs to be trot sets. We're doing 4 3-min trots through the hills in the hay field with 3 min walks in between. After that one, I think we'll do a longer/lower ride with a lot of transitions. It'll be good for Mikey's brain too. Weather permitting of course... I can do trot sets when it's rainy, but if the arena is dry next time I'm out, I'm doing transition work!


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  2. just found your blog and am trying to get caught up. very cool that you're so close to the last couple scores toward your bronze - good luck!

    1. Thanks for reading! There isn't too much to catch up on - I've only had the blog for a year or so!

  3. Good luck with getting your bronze! The schooling show sounds like it will be fun. That sure sounds like a good weekend of riding!

    1. It was! Poor Mikey, I told him he'd have today off, but the weather cooperated to use the arena so he had to work. Thanks for the well wishes, I think I'll need it! I'm going to be quite the busy bee the weekend of the schooling show... Braiding my trainer's 6 horses, Mikey and then anyone else who wants to pay me.

  4. If I manage to nail down a job before the closing date, I might be joining you at the show at Morven! I think I've found a ride, at least... :)

    The grab strap on the front of my saddle has been a godsend for lengthened trot. So has getting Pig more relaxed and swinging through his back. When he's relaxed and swinging, I can sit it. When he isn't I have no hope!

    Going from 2nd to 3rd isn't so bad. Just make sure Mikey is listening to your counter canter aid, and you're good to go!

    1. I just counted money this morning, I can only afford 1 day at Morven... So if I get my medal in August, I probably won't go. If I don't... well I hope you nail down a job and we can stable together for one day at least! It's an extra $200 between stabling, classes, and hotel (I nailed down an incredible rate on priceline for the night, $85, but that's still a lot!).

      I used baling twine last night as a grab strap. Mikey and I were both surprised by my not boucing around like a fool. I'm ordering one tomorrow on Prime Day! My trainer has sat an incredible number of horses in her 15 year career... and Mikey has the #1 spot as most difficult to sit, and it only gets worse with the extended gaits. When he's through it is easier, but I lose my seat in the lengthenings and I mess him up, then we're just a floppy inverted mess.

      I did 2-3 and 3-1 in one day at the end of last year, and it was a disaster. 3-1 was first, then 2-3, and Mikey got completely frustrated that I wouldn't let him change leads. He listened to my aids, but all was lost after that. He was an angry mess. I'd like my bronze, then I'll work both levels at the same time next year! This year I'm just going for, "Look Mikey! We're changing directions! Why not change your lead?" The step up from 2 to 3 isn't bad, but it's the stepping back down from 3 to 2 that gets me.

    2. The hotel is only 10 min away... thanks for the offer of your house though :)