Tuesday, April 25, 2017

4/7/2017 Day 2: "Straightness is a Bummer!"

Day 2 of lessons was a cold and very windy day- I was not looking forward to the drive home and the wind pushing the trailer around! Also, you guys get better video this time around. My mom has gotten confident enough with a cell phone (she still has a flip phone that is over 10 years old y'all, this is a HUGE step for her!), that she asked how to zoom, lol. You've been getting sucky video because I was afraid to overload her with technology. I figured she'd ask on her own how to zoom, and she did!

This is the first time we've had competing lessons going on- GP Trainer had the main sound system and the other rider had an earpiece system to hear one of the assistant trainers. It made it hard to figure out what the other lesson person was working on or where they were going- I couldn't hear the instructions the other trainer was giving. Not that I could have processed two sets of instructions anyway, lol.

We warmed up by reviewing the bend and SI exercise from the day before, except I tossed on renvers at the end instead of half pass. Nothing ground breaking, but still a good warm up.

Still shows some bend issues. But he's got some reach for a little horse!

Off to the canter! GP Trainer built on the inside leg to outside rein idea- canter in shoulder fore. Then canter in shoulder fore on single loops... which I found impossible because I heart pulling the left rein. After instruction to shoulder fore through it, then almost think renvers through it (never making it past X either time), she had me try to counter bend him through it...

"Look in the mirror. Is your horse actually bent right?"


Haha. And guess what? When I'm not hanging on my inside rein, we can make nice and straight and balanced and steady canter single loops.

She gave me some assigned reading homework for next time: the Chronicle of the Horse article that covered Isabell Werth's symposium at the FEI World Cup Finals. She went on to say how with every horse of every level, Isabell worked on inside leg to outside rein first, and most of the work was built on that. She finished her description of the article by comparing it to Penn doing anything to avoid just tracking straight, especially in walk. "Straightness is a bummer!"

Then we did two small loops at canter- like F to B and B to M and only a handful of strides off the rail. The first thing I did was make it too leg yield-like. The loops need to be clearly straight off the rail and back to the rail.

The idea with the two small loops is basically fine motor control: "Any idiot can whip the horse around, it takes a lot of core control from him and from you to only go in two steps." Penn is SO HANDY. This is where I love my little short backed horse- those loops were relatively easy to do.

We talked briefly about the collected walk- he wants do anything to avoid just walking slow and steady and putting himself back together. The walk needs to be slow enough that he articulates each joint, otherwise he can end up stabby with his hind legs.

We went back to canter, but to the right. It was infinitely easier than the left, and GP Trainer said something along the lines of, "You really do love pulling JUST the left rein!" I had told her at the start of the visit that I was trying to break my habit, and when we tackled the left canter first, she called it "insideitis," haha.

She had me add a few more MPH to the right lead canter, and then said, "Look at you, Queen of Straightness!"

Lots of good work to the right, much better than the left. I was so super thrilled that Penn could make it all the way around her indoor, almost 3 times, in canter right. He got pretty far in left lead too! Her indoor is huge, so I count it was a big accomplishment!

We finished by readdressing the lengthening/medium trot. I did a fairly conservative one in our trot work warm up, and she wanted to go back over it. She wanted me to channel my "inner 3 gaited park horse" as I do them. She wants me to think about bringing his knees up with every step, and to not let his neck out because otherwise he wants to dive down onto his face and doesn't give as big a reach with his step. I couldn't manage it well in sitting trot, so she said to try posting, but post the biggest posts I could.

It worked! I felt ridiculous doing it, but it didn't look ridiculous on the video.

She had me do another one sitting, but stand up in the stirrups a tiny amount and really put my calves on. That gave his back space to go and lift into and the drive forward.

I need to practice this- it's a strange feeling for me. Jenj and I have talked about "fluffing" the trot with the hand, and I think that's the motion that GP Trainer is after as she's shouting "UP!" at me, lol.

We have some excellent homework from this lesson until I see GP Trainer next, at the first recognized horse show of the year! Before I left, we talked about that show. I'm going to repeat just 1-3 each day, and we'll do a half hour lesson Friday night. I mentioned possibly doing second level in June, and she agreed that it would probably be ok to go give it a try by then. I mean, I was going to do it anyway, but sort-of-permission is good too!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

4/2/2017 Day 1: Finding Bend Again

Last I saw GP Trainer, which was now almost 2 weeks ago, I told her about how Penn's trot was earthbound at the show, and that I broke the bend in trot too. Bonus for an irregular rhythm in canter. She said to warm up and see what we've got.

It was not the same horse that I had at the show a mere 4 days before, leading to this life quote (Lendon Gray's response to her question, "When should I show a young horse?" while they were standing in the parking lot of a horse show.):
"There is never a good time to go out and show a young horse. They change every day, and they might be good on show day or they might not steer that day. Most grow out of it, some never do."
Such is life with young horses.

Anyway some nuggets from warm up and the canter work:

  • Let him trot just a half mile per hour more.
  • Rounder at the poll in trot.
  • Tuck my ankles into him at canter and lift his rib cage up into the thigh.
  • Rounder at the poll in canter too.
  • Start changing the canter circle to walk exercise up since he's very anticipatory. Push him through the parts of the circle where he wants to break. I needed to really sit and dig/push with my seat (I felt like a noob pumping away at him, but I really wasn't... just sitting deep and following), and really relax and follow with my arms.
  • He's in a purgatory of he understands the question but isn't strong enough to consistently execute the answer.
  • Sometimes the warmbloods are like "I've got this, I've got this, I've got this" and then all of a sudden their muscles have too much lactic acid build up and they suddenly don't have it anymore. Moral of the story, applaud the effort and take lots of breaks!
  • No additional MPH in canter, just more energy: tap him on top of his hind end so he doesn't run off his feet.
  • It's almost time to make him rounder, even if it brings his neck down, because he won't immediately splat like he did in November/December.

I was so thrilled that she thought he was much stronger than the last time she saw him, and almost ready to let him carry himself a bit lower. Yay!

On to the trot ("Show me this earthbound trot"), where she first addressed the earthbound problem.

  • Unless we're on centerline going to X, straight needs to be shoulder fore.
  • A rather exhausting-to-sit trot is the trot we need... I kind of knew that, ugh!
  • Again, rounder in the trot.
Then addressed the bend problem:

  • Lots of inside leg well before the corner to really push him to the outside rein.
  • Move both hands across the diagonal while still in the corner so I come out of the corner bent enough and already asking for shoulder in.
  • Prepare WAY earlier so when you get to the long side you give permission for SI and he just goes.
  • The inside leg FIRST creates the correct bend (go figure, inside leg to outside rein!) and he pops right out onto the long wall with proper bend because I used the leg first.
  • I have to be careful not to ask too hard because he's already bent and going- I tend to over cue and throw him into the SI instead of allowing him into the SI.
  • It's better to screw up the SI by him falling in, rather than me save him and him falling out.
  • Once SI is established, shift your weight to your inside stirrup and add a smidge of left leg (which I mostly forgot to do in the video below), and you'll swoosh off into half pass.

It was super cool, and super easy to get SI and half pass once I established bend first... though half pass has been easy for us since GP Trainer set us straight.

Boom, he was right there for SI.
"He's like Spiderman sideways!" It goes better when  keep my outside leg consistent, lol.

Penn was lucky enough to get a stall with a run during this visit! Very exciting. Except his stupid owner didn't bring any turnout clothes (aka anything waterproof) with us, so he had to wait to enjoy his run until after it stopped raining.

Shake like a dog.
"Look ma, I'm outside!"

He happily munched hay, walked to the door, looked out, circled back and grab another bite, repeat. Sometimes he'd walk outside in his lap around the stall, haha. Either way, he loved the run, and I know if I ever have my own place, I'll be structuring it so every stall has a run attached.

A really pretty rainbow showed up on our way to the hotel.
It's a good thing we didn't show up sooner, the storm produced two F0 tornadoes that basically started in the little town we stay in while we visit GP Trainer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

4/2/2017 - Schooling Show Finale

Two Sundays ago, we trekked back to the winter show series and competed at the Finale show. I am not a fan of this judge- I have 5 tests, and have seen 2 other tests, from her that used ZERO half points. It's annoying. I get that not every movement is a half point, but this is at least 7 tests worth of movements with no half marks.

Penn was so thrilled to get braided, lol.

Penn hauled like a champ, hand walked around the show ring no problem, then stood and took a nap while everyone else was hustling around the show ring to school during the ring change. I was super thrilled with him- he was so relaxed!

I planned on a half hour for warm up- lots of walking, some trot and some canter. He felt so good and relaxed in warm up that he felt ready about 10 minutes before our first ride... which was the kiss of death. Sigh. By the time I got him in the show ring, a lot of the relaxation I had in warm up was gone and he started being a little spooky (as you'll see in the videos).

I tried something new this time, I put the test movements, score, and comments in the videos:

It seems the judge finally found her half marks, but is a fan of the 5/6 over and over still. Not that I'm saying Penn and I deserved more- we were quite average. His trot was not freely forward like it usually is and it was a bit earth bound In my quest to not pull the left rein all the freaking time, I seem to have misplaced bend. The lengthenings in all gaits needed more. She nailed us over and over for the irregular canter rhythm. Her only comment at the end of the test? "Work on canter." Great thanks, I wasn't aware my horse sucked at cantering right now. 59.118%, which put us 3rd out of 4, but less than a percent behind first. The major error of breaking from canter in the 15m left lead circle did not help us along!

We had 12 minutes between tests, which is a full 11 minutes that Penn and I didn't need. I let him walk for a few, then tried putting him back to work in the trot... he was stiff as a board and did not want to play anymore. By the time our second test came around, he was even more earth bound and stiff.

I really liked his entry halt. So straight! Since Penn didn't have enough in his lengthenings, he was obviously short in his mediums. We struggled with bend and angle in the SI, something I've been struggling with since attempting to break my habit of pulling my left (or sometimes inside) rein. I will only disagree with the "more angle" comment on the travers left. I think he had plenty of angle (maybe not in the first step though). I was originally irked by her giving me a 4 for the transition from left lead medium canter to collected canter- he didn't break gait in that transition... but it's better she marked that movement down rather than applying it to the serpentine where it happened (that's a x2 movement). So yay for creative judging to give us more points? I kind of gave up on the last centerline. The only comment again, "Work on canter." Thanks. 57.073%, for 1st out of 2. I'm actually surprised the score wasn't lower, lol!

Not our best day, but Penn put out a good bit of effort and I can't be upset with him for doing what I trained him to do. While I feel the judge was dead on most of the time, and got helpfully creative with some of her scoring so bad scores were on a non-double-coefficient moves, I also feel it was hard to get out of the 5/6 scores with her, and her comments weren't all the helpful. No matter, we got out there and rode it and gained experience at a level he's not quite ready for. It still broke my confidence a little- to be scoring sub-60 at first level, after all last year? Granted, we're still rebuilding his canter... but definitely a confidence drag when the next show out is recognized.

Austen pointed out that she just wanted to give him a big kick forward when I brain stormed with her after the show, and she's completely right. He needed a few more MPH in these tests. (more on that in later posts)

We finished out the show series strong, ending up with AA/Jr/Open Second Level Test 3 Champion.

Yay for tri-color satin!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

3/31/2017 - Cowboy Dressage Groundwork Lesson

I tried getting Penn to pose nicely since he was nice and clean. This was the best shot, lol.

Two Fridays ago, LM made a trip to our barn to work with quite a few people. If you remember, she hosted the obstacle desensitization clinic I went to recently. She's a USDF Silver medalist who turned to natural type horsemanship when she didn't like the life most dressage horses lead (stalled or limited turnout, ring work only, etc), and the spooky nature it created.

She has broken horses to ride the USDF/USEF way (how you have to do it to get instruction certifications I think?), and this natural horsemanship way. The way this pertains to Penn is this: He is unsteady on his feet. We're trying to fix that AFTER he already has fitness and muscle strength. She would have addressed it before even saddling him up, making him more steady to sit on from the start, instead of trying to fix it now. The goal is to make him step more on his outside legs and get off his inside shoulder.

Waiting for our lesson. There's something about the rope halter that makes him chill the F out.
I find myself using it a lot more than I thought I would.

I started by telling her I was having trouble replicating the work she did with Penn at the obstacle clinic- He wasn't giving me any lick and chew as we worked, and if anything, his jaw was getting tighter.

She showed me again (and this is kind of rusty remembering because I didn't write it down soon enough):

  • Begin by making sure Penn will drop his head when you pull down on the lead rope, or when you pull back and forth if he resists. (Penn drops his head easily)
  • Hold him by the side knot on the noseband. Walk into his shoulder (keeping his neck fairly straight- this is where I went wrong), so he yields on a circle. If he doesn't move out of your way, tap with the whip. Work this from both sides.
  • As this gets better, when the inside front leg steps down, pull down on knot to soften his neck. (I think that was the reasoning, but the end results should be he lowers his neck as he walks)
  • Slowly send him away from you, and out to trot.
  • Do a ton of changes of direction- if he gets quick in the change, stop him mid change and make him back up and come forward.
  • In the trot, give him big "half halts" by bringing up your leading hand up to half halt him and raise his inside shoulder and set him onto his outside shoulder, but you have to flick with the whip too because he'll want to stop right away.

The final bullet point led us to use a tarp to help. Penn is very good with tarps, which is what let us do this so quickly to him (aka, if you try to replicate this at home, use common sense please!)

Begin by rubbing the tarp over him on both sides in a pleasant way- a way he would like to be pet or rubbed. 
Put the tarp over his back and walk on, then stop and pull it over his head.
Once the tarp is on the horse, NEVER let go of it. You need to be in control of it.
The end result: the tarp is on the lead rope. (you can let go of it now)

The idea with the tarp is that it is something slightly spooky to lift him off the inside shoulder without much effort on your part. You can still lift the line to half halt, but it should require less effort.

LM did some back up, come forward, then sent him out around her in walk, trot, AND canter, with a bunch of changes of direction. She said she doesn't usually have trouble getting canter once she puts the tarp on, but Penn was having none of that. He would rather face the tarp than canter on a small circle. She said a horse as far along as him should have no trouble cantering on the line around you- it ends up being a 12-15m circle because you move along with him. When she's done working with the tarp, she pulls it off the line and onto the ground in front of the horse, then has him walk over it to reinforce the idea that it won't hurt him.

This was the least blurry picture, sorry!

Then it was my turn to try. Uhh, I'm quite clumsy. Like, very clumsy. There's a reason I ride and don't walk/run, haha. I needed a smaller tarp because I just couldn't handle the folds of the big blue one. That made it harder for me to get him to stay out away from me, but that's ok. I need to keep my own feet moving and move into him to make him move away from me.

Overall, I got a much better understanding of what needs to happen on the ground, and I'm excited to try it on my own. It has been over a week since this lesson, and I haven't gotten a chance to! The weather suddenly cleared up and the nice days between our travels I spent trail riding instead of working in the ring...

Trail rides instead of work make for a happier pony!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sudden Backlog of Posts Because...

The tree vs house saga continues to be annoying. Advice: Go full 1984 on your neighbors. Survey their trees and their entire property. Apparently when a diseased tree that belongs to your neighbor falls on your house, if they didn't know it was sick or dead, it's your fault. You have to notify them, via certified mail, that their tree is sick/dead and poses a risk to your house. In insurance, apparently ignorance on the owner's side is bliss.

I suddenly have a huge backlog of posts too- I had a ground work lesson with the cowboy dressage trainer LM, we went to another schooling show, and we went back to GP Trainer's barn for lessons! I was able to finagle a day of zero responsibilities this past Saturday, but it quickly filled up with "Spring Sprucing" for the trailer. Sigh. The trailer looks great and needed it for sure, but my relaxing day of getting notes and video together was nixed!

Started by emptying, sweeping, and washing. Husband changed the emergency brake battery too.
Then we fetched our new horse, "Slim." He's a bit long in the back, very rigid, and doesn't fit in the trailer.
He's quite skinny, you can see all his ribs!
Slim in action! (we actually got him to work on the roof, but this was a nice extra use)
No more leaky roof vent.
Husband grinding off rust. There was a lot of it. All steel trailer yo.
After grinding, rusty spots got painted. Certainly not perfect, but it'll continue to slow down the rust.
During- just before this point we decided to go buy more paint and do more than halfway up the walls.
"Strong roman nose on him." - Austen
I painted him with a paint roller, that's my excuse.
Wet paint!
Finished! Hopefully it doesn't take us another 5 years to finish up the doors and divider, lol.
(Paint still tacky, it was cold overnight which didn't let the paint dry. It was tricky putting the mats back in!)

I also caught some video of Penn playing Sunday morning. He's kind of a jackass to the other horses. This is why we have to be careful who he gets turned out with, lol. Kind of funny how after all the shenanigans, he just stops and eats hay.

At least he trots real pretty when he's done, lol.