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Monday, November 29, 2010

My girl

I don't think that Gram knows that Ryan has left... She has been super lately. I think this is due in part to her not wanting Ryan to whip her into shape! She has really matured. Things go bang now, and she looks scared, but no longer tired to bust out of the crossties and take off running. She still has moments, but they are not nearly as out of control as they were 2 years ago!

The holiday weekend meant that I go to visit the barn for a few days when the sun was still out- quite a treat for me, and Gram just looks shocked when I approach her paddock.

We worked on the collection more in the canter. She is really getting easy. She does require a lot of work from my seat and leg, but once I get her balanced all I have to do is sit there. We schooled some half pass work, I still struggle with her falling a bit. So we did half-pass to a half halt, and stop if she didn't listen. Our canter walks are getting better. But her most favorite thing, is the tap, tap to the neck, because it means she turns her head and gets a treat! This week, I will try to work more lateral work and the dreaded counter canter!

Monday, November 22, 2010


I wrapped up my last regular Sunday Lesson with Ryan... Bittersweet. I get to work on homework all winter, with a once a month tune up. My pocketbook will be happy, but I will miss my regular lessons. Our lesson was actually really good. Our new stretching routine is really helping Gram loosen up before our lesson. She is really starting to like the leg stretch too. The first time I tried to stretch her legs, she literally almost fell over- *sigh* baby horse! Now she knows that once the saddle and boots are on, when I tap her leg, that means I pull it forward, she puts her head down, and straightens it, then gets a treat. What a life; I do the work and she gets a treat for not falling down. She started our lesson very loose. Nice swing in her back, stretching down with out bracing. Ryan looked surprised. We then started to pick her up, and really focused on keeping her supple regardless of where her head was set. When I pick her up, she gets a little tense. So Ryan had us working her in different frames, all trying to get the same feeling. Our biggest problem is still our transitions, she braces into both upward and downward. He started us working on trot walk. When I would start the downward, Ryan would want me to hold her in the (tempo) step that she started bracing until I she was supple, then I could proceed to walk. This seemed to really help. Now when I say hold I don't mean literally holding her, basically, I mean the tempo of the gait not he rein. After a few times of working this she began to relax and stopped bracing in the transition. We did the same thing in the leg yields and half passes. Just when the good girl thought she was done, it was time to start canter.

We worked on the counter canter- I tend to try to stay out of her way instead of help her through the counter canter bend. I took me a few attempts. There were also two other people in the arena that just so happened to be right in my way every time I attempted the movement. Not their fault at all, just bad timing on all ends! :) There is a theme in this blog lately, basically I can now push Gram harder and expect more out of her, but every time I introduce something new I do so almost too carefully. I cannot help it! She is my baby, I have seen too many nice horses ruined, so I tend to back off too much. I am learning. I just don't want a big mare meltdown. I worked with Gram's mom (Yce) after she had some bad experiences and I vowed to not let that happen to her. In the counter canter, I need to sit a bit deeper into the saddle, and help her maintain the bend. I was trying to come off her back and trying to stay out of her way, which actually made it harder for her.

Once we got the counter canter, we ended with a few walk canter, canter walks. I need to get these sharper. The first couple are always bad. We had some really nice walk canters followed by really bad canter walks. ha. Again, I must remember to sit deep, and really use my half halts to then place her in the walk, not let her fall into it.

We will continue to make the canter stronger. It is still her most difficult gait. I must watch the walk, so that it doesn't get too lateral. I must also be careful where her head and neck are placed. She tends to like to be either in stretch mode, or high up... she needs to work on being supple regardless of where her head and neck are placed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I gotta feelin'

I had a lesson on Tuesday, one of my last before I lose Ryan to a warmer climate and not to mention a horse lovers heaven on earth- Wellyland! Last year when Jen and I visited people not wearing breeches and spurs got the funny looks, not the other way around!

I told Ryan about our circles, so guess what we worked on??? yup circles! Doesn't sound exciting, but it was very rewarding. One of my most favorite things is when I get on and I just have that feeling. Like everything is in tune. I can actually anticipate the need for a correction before it is too late. Ryan would start to tell to fix something, and then he would literally stop mid sentence because he could see I was doing what he was going to tell me to do. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't happen often, but when it does I feel like I am finally making progress! About two minutes later I was brought back to reality. Ryan had us working on our half- halt so that Gram could learn that plowing through my aides is not the right answer. We first started on the straight away. Half halt in trot almost to walk and trot off again. He really wanted to see that I had control of the gaits and she was respecting my aides. Then we progressed to the quarterline; shoulder- in then big half halt and trot right off, then haunches-in, big half halt and trot off again. There was a clear change in the trot in both of those... then he added another element: the HALF PASS. Half pass, big half halt and trot off again- yeah right! Our first attempt was really just that a (poor) attempt. My favorite Ryan comment of the night "Nothing is happening... still nothing...(losing the intensity in his voice) and that is not a half halt." I of course burst out into laughter! I knew it wasn't working, I couldn't get my body to hold the half-pass position and ask for the big half halt at the same time... There was like a complete mis-firing in my riding. It was funny though because Ryan was really rooting for me, then realized I was a complete hot mess! The outburst of laughter must have helped, because the next line I actually got all the pieces to work together. We had a good laugh about that one!

The biggest challenge about dressage is no matter the rate at which you are progressing, going back to the basics can only improve the higher level movements. You never get to the point where working on a half halt for 45 minutes feels like it is a bad, boring, basic training exercise. Once you get it as sharp and crisp as it needs to be, you can improve all the "tricks". It really gave me that feeling- the feeling that I knew what we were doing, and knew exactly why we were working on it. So now of course The Black Eyes Peas is stuck in my head... I gotta feelin, that tonights gonna be a good ride.... wooo whooo! :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Saddle back

So the last week has again been busy. I guess I should be happy that I have time to blog once per week. December I will write more often (I hope). Last week again was not great. I rode Gram on Tuesday night, and it was not good, we were both stiff and just yucky. Heidi Basler, the newest addition to the barn was giving a lesson, so I tried my best to avoid them. I did a lot of work on a giant circle which revealed to me that I need to circle more! The big mare doesn't care for circles, she would much prefer go down the long side. (A side note, Donnie drove the scooter from the city to the barn to store in the horse trailer for the winter!)

Ryan rode Gram on Wednesday and then Thursday I had to work late...again. So Saturday when I went out the barn we work on suppling and just a few tricks. My parents came for a quick visit and to see our progress since the Kathy Connelly Clinic. Donnie was able to come to, so it was quite the adventure! We did a few canter walk, walk canter transitions and ran through our trot half passes and baby canter half passes (which were slightly out of control, so we did one that wasn't running and called it good). I think my elbow is getting better. Everyday I think belly of my forearm facing up. That seems to be the route of the problem. Funny, something I have struggle with my entire life, and she gives me a solution in 10 minutes... Oh to be that good!

Sunday I went to the barn solo and I had the arena to myself. Gram was fantastic. She has really gotten to like the idea of treating from the saddle. After just a few times, she now turns her head to me when she does something good, like ok Mom hand it over! When I got on, I realized that I had put the saddle on further back than normal. Previously, in my Prestige I did put the saddle back further to allow for the shoulder freedom. When I got my Schleese and met with the rep, she put the saddle rather high, so I have been trying to do the same. I must not have been thinking because I put the Schleese in the Prestige position. But once I got on, I honestly was just too lazy to move it! Well, I amnot sure if this was in my head, but Gram was awesome. Her trot was really lofty in the warm up- the canter warm up was great. There was no stiffening in her lower neck. It was a great ride. Who knows why, but I think the saddle placement allowed her shoulder to move more freely. We worked on our 10m circles. I tried my best to not help her too much. This is normally our problem, I help her to death and cause bracing. We actually got 10m circles in the canter in both directions. The left is her stronger canter, so the circles generally aren't a problem, it is the right where our 10m circles tend to be egg shaped and closer to 12m. We worked on our half passes, and then really made an effort to work on our collection and activity in the canter. I still need to remind myself to sit deep and help lift her shoulders. Overall, it is coming together really well! I just hope that I can work on the changes more over the winter. Though the plan is still to bring her out at Second level next year, so there really isn't any big rush. It would just be nice to have the option to also go third, even though that is the level that I most struggled with as I learned.

Here is our new treat stretch that we do before our rides:

Monday, November 8, 2010

A good day

So over the last week Gram thought she might want to be lame. After going out for Halloween, I decided it was better to just graze her on Sunday. That means she was on vacation Sunday and Monday. When I came out on Tuesday, she had some mysterious swelling in her left hind. It didn't seem to bother her and worked itself out after some movement. So I chocked it up to just being in the stall and the weather changing. Wendesday the swelling was back, and this time effected her movement. She ran around for the first bit taking off steps and tossing her head in the air... Now at this point I started to get concerned. But after a bit more movement, she seemed to have the off steps worked out. I continued with stretching exercises and then ended with our best canter halt yet. Thursday work kept me late, so no barn for me. Friday was shots and teeth floating performed by Dr. Nicky. This also meant that Saturday was a vacation, so the last week she was on vacation more than she was on the job. Ryan came back from Europe, so that meant a Sunday lesson. I was afraid how Gram would perform. Most of the time when she has that many days off, the first day back is not anything to write home about!

I started my lesson preparing Ryan for how bad this lesson may be... I brought up her days off, the off steps, her lion area was actually happy to be brushed, maybe the hind feet needed shoes or maybe even time to start Adequan shots. I walked for our normal 5-10 minutes, then then hesitantly asked for a stretchy trot... bum bum bummmm- she was awesome. No off steps, no leaning on me, just relaxed and swinging. By the way what is it about horses that makes them try to make us look like complete liars? I got the "Ryan look" which really is enough to make me feel like a moron without the need for words. It is like this look of confusion with a sideways glance that of course translates to me as "why are you such a freak?".

Our lesson was one of those where I felt like I hadn't missed a beat. I have been working on my crazy hands and elbows, and was feeling pretty good. During our lesson, I think I even surprised Ryan. I am getting better at re-balancing Gram from a quicker leg. She appreciates it, I am sure. If I can get my body to get the timing right we have great success. I have also started cheating on our downward. For now, I give the big half halts, then add a quiet "brrrrrrr" and she doesn't fall down. I think I will have to continue this until she understands that big half halt is a preparation for the downward transition.

We worked on our baby half pass at the canter to a counter canter, which she finally didn't break to trot! I am sure it was almost as ugly as it felt, but I was happy that she tried and had the right idea. Our trot half-passes probably could be better, but I am still struggling my own body in these. I have gotten the outside rein off to the side to encourage the crossing behind, but I have added my own lifting the hand up, which is bad and ugly! Just one more thing to ad to my list of things to remember not to do! FEI doesn't mean lift your hands way up (Feeling Elevation Inhands)! :) I know a stretch, but made me giggle to type.

Overall, our lesson was great! Just getting the feeling of the rebalance correct and really engaging Gram's hindquarters and then just the overall preparation of everything felt awesome. our lesson on Sunday made up for all the crappy riding I had been doing. I think a lot of it stems from my butt kicking at the Connelly Clinic! So thanks to Kathy for realizing that I could be pushed, and thanks to Ryan for continuing to push me!