Monday, December 14, 2015

Last Week's Rides

I managed 3 rides on Penn in the past week- Wednesday 12/9, Saturday 12/12, Sunday 12/13.

Penny in her natural belly up, toes curled, sleeping state. I think she likes looking at the Christmas tree lights too.

Wednesday's ride was crap. Well, crap for Penn. The footing wasn't great- slightly slick on top. I didn't even canter because Penn was uncomfortable just trotting. I had asked him for some leg yields, and he just folded his body in half and threw himself sideways. He was just reactive to everything and more uncooperative than he's been. I'm sure I was to blame too- I get overly handsy when he doesn't cooperate, which doesn't make him cooperate any better. I was already in a funk- I didn't particularly want to ride, but I had taken a half day from work to do it and it was sunny and kind of warm out. I couldn't get our act together so I quit before I screwed him up too badly. I did use the road walk on the back back to the barn to leg yield from one side of the road to the other, and to shoulder in. That worked out very well- he bounced nicely off the trees that line the road and had some nice work.

Saturday was a bit better. And warmer! 65 degrees- a near record high! I got him down to the outdoor and he was all grunty for the first 15-20 min. Weird. I worked on the 10m circle to leg yield a bit and mixed in a little canter sooner than I normally would have mixed it in. He was a bit tense, and I know Mikey would unlock a bit if I let him canter, so I gave that a whirl with Penn. It didn't work- he just kind of leaned on me and went hell bent around the arena. I reset and made him go to work and did some one loops in canter when I could. Partway through my ride I made a huge effort to relax my hands/wrists/arms and give. Penn rewarded me by softening a bit too. I used turn on the haunches whenever we botched a transition from walk to trot. His turn on the haunch is getting very good! I had a super excellent one to the left, worthy of 2nd level at the end of my ride. A lesson was starting so the end of my ride got scrapped a bit. It took a while to cool Penn out since it was so warm and he was quite lathered.

Trail ride on Sunday.
Sunday was better than Saturday. There were a bunch of canter poles out, and 4 of them were raised on my cavalettis. I rolled those down to a slightly raised height more appropriate to Penn's ability and got to work. As a warm up, I asked him to be round in walk and walk over the raised poles, then trot two poles on a short side, then trot 3 on the next long side, transition to walk near the raised poles, repeat. He hit every raised pole with almost every single foot, every single time through the poles. After leaving the poles he'd have an incredible trot transition with his back up and everything. He couldn't hold it for long, but it was there. He only tapped the poles on the ground a couple times. Trotting didn't help much through the raised poles- he still whacked them. I'm sure he's just not strong enough yet, but it is kind of annoying. He sure as hell is NOT a hunter/jumper/eventer!

I moved on the leg yields- 10m trot circle left that put us on the centerline for a leg yield right. I paid attention to the crossover, but more to the amount of crooked he got through his body. I kept after his trailing hind end, asked him to keep his head in front of his chest more, and when we got to the rail, I asked for a canter left, went across the short side, and then went immediately into a one loop on the next long side.

I love this exercise. As soon as I found my seat (shoulder blades pushing back that recliner!) and got my outside elbow working with his motion, and thought about sinking my elbow down and in next to my side, he connected and lightened immediately and the one loop on the left lead was much easier. There's no anticipating for him in this exercise- he hasn't linked it together yet. I can definitely feel him questioning his leads in the one loop, and I think when he's stronger I'll be able to ask for flying changes and he'll give them. (Trainer and I already talked about that- as soon as he's strong enough we're going to teach them to him and I will have to be good enough to keep him on the correct lead in 1st/2nd level counter canter work). But the exercise keeps his brain thinking forward in a constructive manner.

I did the same exercise to the right to fantastic results. I'm very excited! His right lead canter gets 4-beaty, and this forced me to keep him going, and that same elbow/seat thinking kicked him into a nicely connected gear and he became so pliable. It was wonderful. I only did one leg yield and 2-3 one loops to the right because they were so good! We quit after 20 min of riding to go for a short trail ride with a couple other riders who were patiently waiting for me to be done schooling Penn. A short ride was ok- he was puffing pretty hard by then and was very good. Time for a walk on a long rein!

He has such cute little ears.
All this work lead me to think about what I'd like to accomplish in our winter boarding time. I want him to get stronger, and I'd like the leg yields to be solid by then. So I think this will be our schedule per week (do at least 4 of these, with minimal repeating within a week):

  • 1 day of cavaletti work (note, make sure to pick up my blocks before moving!). Trainer wants to get him going on that to make him stronger, but I'll have to do it on my own since she's going south for the winter. There are several dressage riders at this barn, perhaps we can make a day of it and find a grounds person to adjust poles if they're knocked?
  • 1 day focused more on lateral work and getting his canter together since the two seem to go hand in hand- leg yield and shoulder in. I'd like to add haunches in as he gets stronger. Last time we did haunches in it was VERY hard for him. This will have to be a short and structured ride.
  • 1 day working on simple trot work to build muscle and fitness.
  • 1 day to work on something that stood out like crazy on the other days as a problem, or just to review.
  • 1 day to go for a walk or do something fun that is not related to dressage at all and is completely nonconstructive!

I don't want to ride him more than 5 days a week, and I think 4 would be better. I don't want to sour him or wear him out! I'd like to go see the trails so that maybe one day on each weekend we can go out on them. It's what I would have done if I was at home all winter (hill work in the hay fields and trail rides through the Christmas Tree Farm). When we go back home in spring, I'd like him to be at a good enough muscle and fitness level to start doing some hill work and trot sets!


  1. I love reading about other people's rides and issues, because I always seem to have a duh moment. But even more important than that is how freaking cute Penn's ears are!

    1. He's just so adorable! And I like reading about other people's issues too because I can usually find something to bring back to my riding.

  2. I'll see if I can wrangle the SO into doing pole work for us :) Fiction is terrified of cavalettis so it would be good for him too. Also I went on the trails for the first time on Sunday. Lots of butt building hills haha, but pretty scenery!

    1. Perfect! Penn needs to start slowly too, so it sounds like he and Fiction will be a good pair! And yay for butt building hills! We'll see how those look as the weather goes downhill though.