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Monday, March 22, 2010

Such a Shame

So Gram and I clinic-ed with Anke Herbert over the weekend. Saturday was rough... Anke pointed out how sad my position has become since I have been training on my own without mirrors. Her actual quote at dinner was "it is such a shame that you have such a nice horse and slouch". Well that was all it took. Some brutal honesty given in a German accent. Sunday I came out prepared to sit back and keep my left elbow at my side. Thank goodness, I received an other quotable quote "It is like a different rider today".

Now on to the good stuff, the exercises we learned, published here so I do not forget. We have been struggling with our medium trot. Well actually Ryan told us that we are not straight, and the inside hind is out. Regardless of the stretch she gives me in front. So Anke gave us this wonderfully hard exercise, here is me explaining with very rough drawing:

At the trot, make a three loop serpentine adding 10m circles on the rail, before heading straight along the short side. On that short side ask for medium trot for about 3-4 strides, then 10m circle at the other side of arena before changing direction again (just imagine the 10m circle before every straight away because i couldn't get the image to look the same with each direction, as I am a horse rider not a computer wiz!):

This exercise was great to get the engagement of the inside hind, to start the medium in the proper balance. This also helped her to sit down again at after the 3-4 strides of medium, instead of just falling downward.

Next we worked on the canter. A lot of work on the 20m circle, sending her forward and bringing her back. Our biggest problem has been the downward transitions and falling into the downward instead of setting it down. Again it was my fault. I was collapsing my core so Gram was doing the same. I swear young horses ruin positions! You have to help them so much for every transition in the beginning, and then you forget when that is no longer needed. I need to get on a grown up horse to remember how I am supposed to keep my body.

All in all it was a very successful clinic, but I cannot wait for Ryan to get home and scream at me for a few weeks. With some repetition, maybe I will get at least a little closer to the days when Conrad told me I made it look effortless with my seat and transitions... sigh... oh to only be as good as I used to feel! So for the next few weeks here is my homework:

1. SIT TALL, no collapsing my core- now roll my shoulders back
2. LEFT ELBOW DAMMIT! no bend in wrist
3. Heels down

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tom Poulin clinic at Karousel Farms

Over the weekend, I went to watch my friend Paige ride in the Tom Poulin clinic. Paige is working with a young horse she broke herself. This was the first time he was faced with people and new things in his home indoor arena. They did a great job. It was fun to watch. Tom was able to really help them address some of the struggles a young horse throws your way when you really want to show off the progress you have made. It is fun that Paige and I are in the same place. We did young riders together, and now we are with the young horses at the same time. It is great to have someone who knows what they are doing and is going through some of the same things to talk things out when a problem occurs.

I was able to also to go my barn and ride Gram. Saturday was a great day. I really hadn't planned on much beside continuing working on my seat. Jen offered to come out with the whip to work some half steps. So what the heck. Gram really started to understand the sit down part. We were able to get about 3 great strides to the right, and one great stride to the left (her weaker side). We called it good after that. On Sunday, after I warmed Gram up, Jen took over. It was so fun to watch her be ridden. Gram looked better than I thought she would. There is something different about watching your horse go live and just watching a video. Maybe because I start to over analyze the video, and when it is live all I can do is appreciate a moment. Jen did a fantastic job with Gram. Gram is so long she requires a whole ton of half halts to constantly re balance. Basically my back is always sore when I take some time off and then ride again! Jen is riding my baby today because my work has me traveling tonight. I am excited to hear how she went.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Riding without stirrups

For some reason I ride so much better when I drop my stirrups and it is kind of frustrating. Last night I continued on my week of working on me. Our warm- up routine is really ugly but it seems to be the way she goes the best. I ride her on the buckle and let her do what ever she wants. When I pick up the reins she is ready to go. So this week I have been using the stirrups for the buckle part, because she is still young and I don't want to get right on without stirrups just yet. Oh and I forgot, forgive me as I digress for a moment: I bought a helmet! :)

Back to the point. My leg gets long, I sit on the correct seat bones it feels really wonderful. I wish I could ride without stirrups all the time. I think Gram wishes I could too! So drop my stirrups and it take a couple of minutes, but then we both are able relax. Last night she wanted to be up so I tried to ride her deep and round. We are getting sweat in all the right places, which makes me really happy. Tonight is date night with Donnie, so no Gram. The weekend should be a good one! Massage in the morning at 9am, off to the barn to ride, and then of to watch Paige ride with Tom Poulin. I am skipping St. Patty's because I hate crowds and would rather be with my pony than out drinking. I guess that is a sign that I almost out of my 20's! :(

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Darn that elbow

After catching up from our vacation, I was able to spend some great quality time with Gramarye. I had the day off on Friday, so I had the rare opportunity to visit the barn when everyone else is there! So Friday- Sunday Gram got worked. She was great. We are really trying to work on our straightness. Since she is a big and long horse, it is hard for her to constantly use her self properly especially when going to "our" weak side, the left. I wish I could say that it is her fault, but after riding through things I realized that I am still rusty and get crooked to the left, so I use the term "our" to really mean me. It starts with my Elbow. I have had this elbow problem as far back as I can remember. Every trainer I have ever worked with has many times said to me, "LEFT ELBOW IN!" My left elbow wants to fly away on me, and I realized just this year that it starts from a wet noodle wrist! I have been working on it, but it is the bane of my existence in dressage.

Basically my noodle wrist bend in instead of maintaining a straight line to the bit. This noodle effect causes me to bow my elbow, which in turn causes me to sit funny, and my left shoulder collapses and rolls forward pushing me completely off my right seat bone. One of my favorite tricks to stop this domino effect is to turn my neck to the right and look at the horses rear end. Oddly it works, if only for a moment, it forces me into the correct position.

So most weeks are devoted to Gram and getting her better. This week I will be focusing on my position. Tonight will be a light workout for her. I will work on my position. No stirrups, rising trot and sitting, elbow, wrist, hand. I will not care what she looks like, I will work on me not blocking her or causing her inside hind to fall out behind. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Courtney King -Dye

I found out late last night that Courtney King-Dye had a horse related accident, and fractured her skull. So I started to think about the past. I met Courtney a couple of times, once at NAYRC in Colorado and a second time at the Young Rider Graduate program at Gladstone. At Gladstone, she spoke to the group about what it was like to be able to compete in Europe on Idocus. She was a very nice girl and a very elegant rider. When I heard she had made the Olympic team I was so happy for her! The new last night made me start thinking about how dangerous any sport can be. Times have certainly changed. The day I earned my tophat, was the day my helmet went into permanent storage. I was 13 when I earned my tophat. I take great pride in my tophat, because I earned on Willy, my horse we bought as a 5 year old and we learned our way up the levels together. I remember attending Conrad Schumacher clinics and my family mad dashing around trying to find a helmet, because mine didn't fit my head any longer! For dressage, it almost seems like the message needs to change.
I notice hunter/jumper/eventers wear helmets all the time. Some argue because the horse is flying around jumping things and it is more likely that you will fall. But after reflecting last night, I think it has more to do with a direct correlation between what is required in the show ring, and how people feel about helmets. Take for example western, they ride in cowboy hats in the show, so they probably do not put a helmet on when riding at home. Barrel racing; when they compete they wear cowboy hats. Jumper wear helmets in competition. Dressage you earn that tophat. once you earn it, you leave the helmet in the dressing room of the trailer, because gosh darn it you earned the right to wear a tophat!
I am of the school of thought that didn't wear helmets. But after recent events, I am reflecting that anything can happen to anyone. It doesn't mean you are a good or bad rider. Over the next few days I will be reflecting more as my thoughts and prayers go out to Courtney's speedy recovery.