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Monday, October 25, 2010

Riding with Kathy Connelly

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of riding with Kathy Connelly. It was stressful, as there were many auditors and I have never participated in a clinic with a green horse, ad to the fact that I am rusty in my riding abilities and you get a panicked Julie. Overall, I got some great feedback. My lesson on Saturday was good. It took Kathy about a second to pick up on my bad habits. I have developed bad habits with my hands and arms. It starts with the pinky on my left hand, then the rest of the hand opens up, then the wrist folds in and the elbow drifts further away from my body. Saturday Gram started a bit lazy and stiff. She was locking up a bit on the left, but we were able to work through it. Lots of transitions, and working on sitting in more to help her get off her shoulders. We worked on shoulder in and renvers (thanks to Ryan our Renvers is actually better than our shoulder-ins!)We finished our session with one of the things we struggle with Canter to Walk. Such a big mare, it is hard for her and I both to organize all the pieces to be able to site down instead of fall. She definitely focused on the amount that I baby Gram. It is so difficult for me, because I am so determined not to push her too much and to not make her sour. So unfortunately this means that I am too careful when it comes to pushing her and asking for more! Kathy kept saying things like, you are a timid rider, but you can push for more, she can take it. She really opened my eyes in the way that I deal with Gram. For example, I ask and if I get a little of what I want, I am thrilled. Instead of asking for more, I just enjoy that she is listening! I am so concerned about making a bad experience, I lost the going for broke attitude that I think got my on the NAYRC team! So it was a good wake up call.
Sunday, I felt like I got my behind handed to me... but this was exactly what I needed. I mean no one wants their faults pointed out in a public forum. But she really stayed on me, and I felt like I was riding better. Again the root cause is me taking it too easy... preparing too long, waiting too long to ask. All things that I can change, I just need the reminders. I need to continue focusing on my left hand and keeping everything in my "balance box". Elbows at my sides, pinky's in, maintaining the contact in my hands, sitting deeper in the canter, and asking for that next degree of collection.

I had an amazing time! Kathy told me a lot of the same things that Ryan tells me, but having her tell me hopefully will make it stick! I am so glad I was given the opportunity to ride with her, and I hope to continue my learning. I am going to watch my videos tonight and hope to pick up a few things that I am sure I have not written down. One thing I must do, is tie a ribbon to my left hand to remind myself to keep it closer to my body, and maintain the contact.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Spanish Gram?

So last week I had a great lesson. Donnie came along and was able to video some of our moments... In preparation for the clinic, we worked our baby half-passes at the trot and canter, medium trots, and then we ended with some half steps work. This is funny because it involved Ryan chasing us around the arena with a whip, which for me is entertaining enough... But Gram could not be topped... She handled the whip like a trooper. She was trying to tuck under behind, but still staying active. Then Ryan took the whip to the front leg to get them a bit more expressive. Well, careful what you ask the big mare! She apparently thinks that she is part PRE... Little does she know her daddy, Hilltop's Giotto is Dutch and her mom was Westphalian with some thoroughbred and then her Granddad Roemer is Westfalian. When Ryan took the whip to her front legs, the lady doth protest too much methinks... take a look:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Beautiful Weekend

Work had me driving all over the place again last week. So after my lesson on Tuesday, Ryan rode Gram on Wednesday and Thursday. I did head out to the barn on Saturday morning, with Donnie. Gramarye and I worked on stretching and just relaxing back in the saddle. I was able to get her to do a few Medium trots just for fun! We ended and I gave her a bubble bath... she enjoys this time of year. To warm for a blanket and she can get as dirty as she would like in her paddock! The more I wash her I swear the dirtier she tries to get! We have a new serious boarder at the barn, her name is Heidi. She lived and worked in Wellington for a while, so it is great to have someone of her caliber join our barn family! I am hoping that she will build a client base quickly. She has a giant 5 year old mare too, and she did young riders too! So we already have a lot in common!

Sunday was an exciting day. Donnie stayed home to work, and I dawdled at the barn all day. I love those days. Jen took her baby horse to a keuring so I was able to offer some help with loading baby! :)They are so easy to load at that age! Made me wish that I had Gram in Chicago as a yearling, so I could have done more with her! She is good about every single trailer expect of course the one I have! I will give her that is oddly shaped, but I try to make happy experiences for her. I would like to try again with a short trailer ride next weekend just to get her used to it more! I need to come up with a great treat at the end of the tunnel. My mare is stubborn, but she is also motivated by her belly. The better the treat, the less stubborn she becomes! I am looking forward to a great week of training, to further prepare us for Kathy... I think everyone in the barn is getting a bit nervous about her arrival! I just keep telling myself, she cannot be any more difficult than Conrad...right??!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back in the Saddle

My crazy work schedule is finally starting to slow down! Thank goodness, because I don't think I could take much more time sitting in a car instead of in a saddle. Had a lesson with Ryan on Thursday, which was pretty bad... not because of Ryan, but because of my lack of being in the saddle. Gram and I were both stiff. I am not sure who started what, but I had that horrible feeling when I got off. Like all the wind was taken our of my sails, how can I get that bad that quickly. So I tried to shake it off. I spent the weekend with my BFF and bright and early Saturday morning we started our joint horsey journey. First her barn. I got to yell at her from the ground, which I am not going to lie made me feel so alive with riding. When I first graduated from college, I had thought I wanted to be a trainer. I gave lessons back home in Michigan, and even had a couple of students actually show. My family and I were serious about buying a barn or the land to build a barn, but at the last second I scared myself to death. But then I thought about being in a barn all day every day and dealing with people- I mean let's be truthful here, we aren't called "Dressage Divas" on accident! Most dressage people have a bad reputation outside of our dressage bubble. There is a group of dressage riders specifically adult amateurs that only ride inside, complain about even the best footing, care, food... just about any excuse to say that their horse is bad because it is someone or something else's fault. We all know at least one Dressage Diva (DD) in our network. So I thought that making money in an office and pursuing my horsey passion as a hobby was a better fit for me in the right here and right now. Sometimes I regret that decision (like when I have a horrible ride on Thursday) and then there are other times when I am perfectly happy in my well rounded, every hour of every day booked life. At any rate, helping my friend from the ground, made me happier than a lark. Then we went to my barn and GRam was really good. Just when I think she is a different horse from a year ago, she reminds me that mares don't trust immediately, it is earned. I had my friend jump on her, and immediately remembered just how quirky my mare can be. Hand must be just right, legs must not get after her too much. In a way, I realized that just when I think I am training her, perhaps she is training me too. Like I wonder if some days she is like, "here we go again with that left rein- I told you last week you were suppling me all wrong and now you are doing it again- when will you learn silly human!" and at the same time I am thinking "Here we go again with that locking on the left rein- just when I thought we were communicating you lock up again!" Eventually though I realize that I change the way that I am asking to get a better result... so who is training who now? :)

Sunday we had the best lesson I could have asked for after not really consistently riding for a month. We worked on not locking. We worked on circles, because Gram and I start to brace. We worked on a rocking back trot, without me using the reins all from my seat and leg. Now as I type this it seems like I should know that is what I am supposed to do, but riding a green baby horse really takes it toll on your skills as a rider you must be able to turn things off and on and realize that they are maturing so you don't have to ride them like you did when they were 4 anymore. Things I wouldn't have done on Willy or Rushonne I do to Gram. Humph! Anyways, we worked our baby half-passes at the trot and canter. I need to remember in the half pass right to now lock my seat. We worked on our walk canters, and then canter trots. Big mare has a lot of moving parts it is easier for her to fall down, than sit down! We also worked on the canter activity. We are going to venture down the flying changes, so we are doing more counter canter, to really balance her and make that hind end stronger to support the act of a flying change. In a couple more weeks I am hoping to have them at least well on their way to being clean.

As we prepare for the Kathy Connelly clinic I am sure I will have more tips to remember and document. I hope to have my lesson videos posted shortly after the clinic. I am also working on my old archive of videos from back in my lessons with Conrad Schumacher... I am determined to get those videos up before the end of the year because if nothing else, that was one of the coolest opportunities I had as a young rider!