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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fun days

So after our intense training this past weekend with Ryan, Monday was a day of rest and Tuesday was a fun day. Donnie and I are leaving for our annual friend vacation tomorrow, so the week will be relaxing for all of us. Last night we went out to the barn, and just started with some work on the buckle. We galloped around a little, but she was very cautious not to get too crazy. At this point I cannot wait for the weather to break, so that we can practice going outside. I am excited to pack up our silly looking trailer and take her around to experience new places and get use to being a real show horse.

Last night we ended with some really good stretching and tried to work our baby walk turns on the haunches. We have got a good baby turn to the right, but the left is a mess. She tried to turn on the forehand and we end up with four legs operating independently... I am hopeful that one day we will figure this out. the rest of the week for Gram is going to be somewhat fun. I asked Jen to work her while I am gone, and then Friday she has a free jump lesson with Jen and Mara. Gram is a good jumper, I am the wuss. I wish I could be there to watch, but I will instead me on the beach in Mexico with a umbrella drink in my hand! Back to serious training next week.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ryan Yap

We had our clinic with Ryan Yap this weekend, and boy have we missed him! Here is the thing about dressage that I hate just as much as I love: You never know everything. There is always something to learn, or a new way to do an old familiar move. I was all excited to show Ryan the progress we have made... well it wasn't quite the response I expected. Yes, we have definitely made progress but the thing I was the most excited to show him was the thing he said needed the most work.

My wonderful husband was kind enough to spend an entire day at the barn in 35 degrees and video tape our lesson. Which was wonderful, but also brought me to realize a harsh reality. Sometimes when something feels so good on the horses back (in this case what I thought was pretty darn close to a medium trot), it really doesn't look that great on the ground or on video tape! The worst part about this situation is that the mistake is all mine. I need to set her up straighter... hand smacking head on forehead- duh. Makes sense when I hear it, when I type it, when I am on the horses back. But, I took a short cut without realizing. I wanted the medium trot. I wanted to have a medium trot for Ryan. I wanted to do something fancy, even if we aren't 100% ready for it. This of course my friends is not dressage... this is teaching a trick. Her front feet flipped, her shoulders even raised a bit. But when you divert your attention to the hind legs- yuck! sweeping along, out behind her instead of reaching up under herself. Again YUCK!

In short I learned an important lesson this weekend. You need to have all the basics 100% otherwise it isn't worth forcing it, just to have to correct it later down the road. Now for the good news. Ryan introduced the whip and little bit of serious sit down. Gram was great. She didn't get nervous, she tried. She sat, if only for a brief moment it is a step in the right direction and all I needed to get over my want-to-be medium trot depression. Today she was ready to learn, I am hopeful for the day hopefully coming soon that we can sit down and lift to get that darn medium trot.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cheers for Butt Foam

Only in the world of horses and specifically dressage horses is "butt sweat" AKA "butt foam" something to cheer about. Due to a crazy work week mixed with just not feeling 100%, last night was my first night out to the barn since the weekend. Not ideal since Ryan Yap is coming in from Florida to clinic us this weekend, but I have to pay the pony bills somehow! So I head to the barn last night, Gram at first looks at me like why have you left me for so long?? Quickly she got over it, and was super snuggly. She just wanted face pets and to be told how beautiful she is, we all have those days. So since she had four days off I thought stretching was of the utmost importance, plus I want to save her best for Ryan this weekend. I start my sessions with a good 5-10 minutes of just walking on the buckle. It gives us both time to loosen up and relax. My last horses were older FEI boys, so for them that walk time was needed... I feel like if it was good for them, it cannot hurt the young ones either. Plus it gives her the chance to not feel like all we do is work, work, work.

After our walk, and of course some chit chat with Jen, I pick up the trot. She is lazy... happens to us all after a vacation, that first day back is the hardest. So I grab a whip, immediately I have her attention and she is ready to work. We do our normal warm up, stretch at walk, trot and canter in both directions with circles and lots of changes in direction. We walk, yet again. Now we are both feeling loose and ready for a few minutes of serious work before we agree to call it a good first day on after 3 off. I pick her up again, and figured I would use the advise from the Blog of Catherine Haddad- play the accordion. If the horse wants to be down, ride them up; if the horse wants to be up, ride them down. She of course wanted to be down today. So my entire plan for the session was to ride her up, but just for a short period of time. She was wonderful. So as promised, it was a short work out. We rode up at trot and canter in both directions with just a few transitions (to make sure we didn't forget how to move after a halt, see first blog entry). We probably did serious work for a grand total of 6 minutes. Total time in saddle: 30 minutes. 10 minutes walking on buckle, 10 minutes warm-up stretch, 6 minutes riding up with transitions and an other 5 for cool down. I dismounted not expecting a whole lot in terms of sweat. Out of habit I always roll up one stirrup, walk around her back end, casually lifting her tail to check for "butt foam". To my pleasant surprise there was lots of "butt foam"!!!

"Butt Foam" tells me, in short, that we did something right! Non-dressage people would probably be offended by the happy dance we all do when we find butt foam. It normally entails a slow pull of the hand, or a fist pump variation. Without being too graphic, "butt foam" is a white lather that appears in the rear end between the cheeks. In theory, if you are riding your horse properly, every dressage rider should have the foam with every ride provided winters are not spent in the north! Living in Chicago, my foam sitings in the winter are limited, and I was shocked that we had it after only 16 minutes of actual work doing more than just walk. Sometimes it is the little things that make us happy. This is just one small clue that my path is headed in the right direction. To make me happy it just takes a good butt sweat! :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

You cannot teach a schoolmaster

At this time last year I was happy when we could canter without running anyone over. It is amazing to me how quickly my baby is changing. She just turned 6 last week. She had a late start, partially because she just wasn’t ready as a 3 year old and partially because my husband, finances and career just last year allowed for me to afford the time and money that having a horse in Chicago costs. It is funny the stages that horses go through. Recently, I started to work canter walk… this has been quite the experience. My girl is one of extremes; she tries very hard and gets frustrated. (I am sure most of the stories I tell here will be about her extremes). So we worked the canter walk those were fine, literally took about a week for her to understand- so I thought to myself, this horse will be easy. Same thing happened when I introduced baby shoulder-in and haunches-in. so I attempt canter walk. First couple times she didn’t understand at all. We worked at it probably once per week for the last three months. Finally, it sinks in, she understands what I want and willingly halted. So I called it great, figured that was it!

I go out to the barn last week, (here comes the extreme I mentioned earlier) and suddenly we forgot how to move forward again from a halt. We are talking about temper-tantrums like crazy, bobbing head, telling me no, threatening to unseat me. So I can already tell that one day she will make a fantastic schoolmaster. She reminded me of my schoolmaster Rushonne. If I didn’t ask in just the right way, he would almost laugh and then just do whatever he wanted, so long as it is nothing close to what I was attempting to ask for. Gram in this moment reminded me of that fateful day on Rushonne, where I tried to get him excited before we entered the arena at a NAYRC qualifier at Detroit Dressage. I got after him in warm-up and in fact had the best warm up of my life. We entered main arena and began to trot around the outside, still the best he had ever felt. Then the bell rang. His ears went back, as if to say I will teach you KID. I prepared him for the centerline, A enter collected canter… ears back, canter slowed, he sat down… X halt ssss- oh shoot… rear, rear rear, kick out, hop buck…salute. The whole test was a disaster. He pretty much gave me the finger and taught me an important lesson- Never try to train a school master. They know more than you. Now Gram isn’t to this point yet, but I can tell she has it in her, to not take any crap if she thinks you are wrong.

By the end of the week Gram and I came to an agreement. I would work the canter halts sparingly and she would try not to get mad.