Friday, April 30, 2010

One more great lesson to get ready for the show

Lola seems to be listening more attentively than me in this picture! No wonder things went we'll, she went straight to the source to figure out what we're doing!

I do appreciated that she's a placid and patient little thing!

We had a really good lesson tonight. Still working on the same stuff, but making sure I know what's going on with the dressage tests also. I convinced my boyfriend to come out to video, so that's been fun to watch a second time. Unfortunately its too big to put on blogger without some editing or posting elsewhere and linking, so it will have to wait. :(

I also started using a different bit, a D-ring with a copper mouth piece. Seems to be working well.

I'm tired, and have to work tomorrow, so here's just the pics with no commentary what so ever. I doubt I'll get to it at all in fact... there will be too many other things to comment about with all the fun planned for the weekend! I hope to at least post the video though. The pictures make it look like stood around for 45 minutes then walked a bit and called it good! That's because the camera was taking video of all the good stuff.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Good thing she's a patient and forgiving horse!

So I mentioned yesterday that my jumping saddle made me realize how out of shape I am!! It also makes me realize that if I feel that much more secure in my dressage saddle, maybe its time to purchase a more secure feeling jumping saddle... Sadly that will have to wait until grad school is done.

Tonight I was determined to work on getting my legs in shape. I mean I can't be very effective starting her over fences if I can't hold my position through all her green horse awkward take offs. So I set my timer on my phone and did 2 minutes of of staying up in two point while doing walk-trot-walk transitions. Then did another 2 minutes of trot poles back and forth. Then back to the two point position. Then we trotted over the tiny cross rail I set up. She was so good an patient about me holding on to her main and feeling a little off balance and tired. Some horses will take advantage of that, some green horses get spooked when you're out of balance, not her, she was patient and happy to just trot along and go where I pointed.

We had spent most of the ride working on the same things, bending on small circles, walk-halt-walk on a straight line, and trot-halt-trot. I figured theses were simple things, so I dropped my irons and finished the ride with some of the same exercises, just with no stirrups. We get the trot pretty pokey and collected since I was sitting the trot and focusing on keeping my balance square over both seat bones. I need a whole lot more work on myself! Funny how you forget these things are so important!

Overall it was a great night. She was good lunging in the beginning even though she was bothered by the sound of someone using some sort of skill saw in the garage by the arena. I also had my gelding Bear turned out in the arena with us and every so often he'd wander over until I chased him off with the dressage whip. She was good with that. Every so often he'd gallop across the arena bucking just because he's silly and it was windy. She was fine with that too! Such a good girl.

Tomorrow she gets a very well deserved day off! I'm hoping to get out at lunch to turn them out in the arena to have a change of scene from the pen, but I may have some other errands that can't wait until evening. Then I'm definitely looking forward to our dressage lesson on Thursday!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New location is working great!

I've been talking about the anticipated move on Bear's blog, so I haven't mentioned it here. I packed up the horses and moved, to a great place, that will hopefully be more accessible for potential buyers. It also has a lot more stuff for me to play with! Jumps in the big arena, dressage court, indoor arena, and 5 miles to haul to the trail! I LOVE it!

Tonight I lunged my appy gelding first, then put him back in the pen and grabbed Lola. Despite the new facility, despite the wind of the approaching storm, and despite the fact Bear was screaming like a banshee and charging around his pen, Lola was a cool as could be. This was good, because I put on the jumping saddle for the first time! I am OUT OF SHAPE! Man... who knew? I'd like to actually start riding her through some of the gymnastics that I've been lunging her through, but I was surprised how wobbly I felt without my dressage saddle! She was perfect though.

We lunged so that she could some good canter work in with the big arena. We'll be stuck in the small indoor for the next few days with rain, so I wanted to take advantage of the big area. I started her into the canter, then would slowly shrink the circle down so that she had to work a little harder, then expand again. Good work out for her mentally and physically. We did the same at the trot since we're working on really bending through turns under saddle. I finished by taking the side reins off and lunging her over a little cross rail. She trotted over when I asked, and cantered over when I asked, she really listens to how I'm asking her to approach. I like that!

When I hopped on it was an easy transition to do some serpentines with tight 10 -15 metre half circles, then a straight line. Working both on bending her whole body through the turns, and going straight along the line. I'm also starting to ask her to maintain the slightest bit of bend along the straight. Then we mixed in some trot-halts-trots, she's not too quick on that. The trainer will probably want a more immediate response when we have our next lesson. I'll see if we can improve that over the next few days.

Her trot is getting more and more regular! Even with me feeling less secure in the saddle, she trotted along lightly on a pretty steady contact. I'll try the jumping saddle for a few days to get my legs back under me. The theme with the mare has proven over and over to be, "Once she know something, she KNOWS it!" She is such a happy little work horse once she understands the concept. Next week will be finessing the canter transitions!

But until then we're working on the dressage tests for this Sunday. Big day for both of us! And just because I always bite off more than I can chew, I'm taking her to another hunter show on Saturday! Not too much work for her really, we'll only do a few classes. I just figure it will be one more new place, and it has some really fun classes for greenies! I never thought I'd be so excited about a hunter poles class! I get to do a full jump course, at the trot, with only poles to step over!!! Sounds lame, but its perfect for her level right now. Yes, she's capable of more, but I like to set us up for success at the shows. We'll school the rest at home. So still sticking to walk trot classes until she feels really comfortable with her canter transitions. I think the light bulb will go on soon, and then she'll think its just one more easy thing that her silly rider seems so pleased about.

Blankets are pulled out of storage yet again and back on the horses, all ready for the rain!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Awesome lesson followed by a great show!

Wow I'm so excited to be sharing all the success from this weekend!

I had the BEST lesson ever with Lola! I guess its a good sign that the trainer is worth my time and money if I say this after every lesson. We worked a lot on her trot and getting her to bend through her body on the circle. Same thing over and over, create a tempo, insist she keeps that tempo by using my body, push her to step under herself and lengthen her stride and lift her back by wrapping my legs around her and using my calves in rhythm. Sounds so simple, this is stuff I know, but somehow the trainer gets me to do it all at once and the result is that Lola looks and feels fantastic! Of course Lola started out by looking out of the arena, and doing her pitter-patter trot and going with her nose poking out. Then about half way through the lesson, we got a great trot going and the trainer says, "There! NOW you're trotting! She's finally tracking up. That's what you want. So your homework is to do this everyday until you get THAT trot!" So there's my homework. Then we worked on some bending through the corners and walking straight up center line. Luckily Lola halts square almost every time, its awesome, but we have a lot to think about and work on before the dressage show next Sunday!

Today's show was a blast. I think Lola was pooped from the lesson... me too actually. She was super relaxed at the show and not spooky or silly at all. There was such a difference between this and the last show. We did a walk-trot pleasure class, which we didn't place in, maybe because she was being a little pokey and not trotting out much, maybe just because she wasn't an Arabian. It was a breed show. She's not in a perfect frame yet, but she's going forward while accepting the contact and that's all I can ask for a horse at her level of training. She was cool as a cucumber from beginning to end though, and that is a huge step forward from the greenie scardy-cat she was at the show only a month ago.
I ran into a friend there who had her chestnut TB mare out since she's for sale. So we decided to enter the pleasure pairs class, and came out with second place! it was a blast look at the pictures because we were just stride in stride every time! We looked awesome! It was a really fun little class, and I was so impressed with how Lola handled that. We also had perfect trot in to line up and stopped square and beautifully! So we got some great pictures, and hopefully some video, but I don't have the time or energy to even look at it let alone make decisions on what to upload. So pictures will do for now!

I love this time of year with the poppies and pretty wild grass everywhere. YEAH FOR SPRING!!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Long time without an update

Well, I haven't been updating on Lola's progress, because not a whole lot has been happening. So here we go, the last week and a half.

We've been working on trotting on contact and creating a tempo and lifting her back a little as her head goes down. Its hard work, and we're in need of more lessons. We're working on canter transitions, but still are not quite "lifting" her as she steps into the canter from a good rhythmical trot. She still gets quick, I am in need of some lessons! Unfortunately we haven't done a lot of work on that, here's why...

I work at a CPA firm, work has been crazy, to say the least, pretty much since mid January. Crazy marathon tax season turned into a crazy sprint the last week, so between that and bad weather, I just didn't get out to see the horses. Then when we closed the office on the 15th I took two days to get as far away as possible from all the hectic busy scheduled and structured things in my life. When I came back I found both my horses all scratched up and both had swelling and heat due to unattended cuts on their legs. Great!

So with all this Lola had just about a week and a half off. Not too bad all in all. All swelling gone, and cuts have nice scabs on them. So Tuesday night we lunged, and tonight we got right back to work.

Other big news, just before I disappeared from the barn, I had Lola's former owner come out. I promised I'd let her ride her once I got her started. She's a trainer, and like I said, she just doesn't have time to start all her horses because she gets side tracked with other horses in training, and Lola had sort of fallen between the cracks. She had done all the ground training and at least got her to the part of mounting when Lola was four, so she has a relationship with the mare, and Lola certainly has a place in her heart. It was great to see someone else on her. She looked fantastic! Being a trainer, she got way more out of Lola than I do! It was great to see what a really good rider could do on her.

Big plans for the weekend: lesson first thing on Saturday, and one or two classes at a little schooling show. Mainly we are going to the show to take advantage of a good arena! Everything is soaked again... I hope to get some good video of Lola while we're all cleaned up. Hope to be posting some good stuff early next week!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A little catch up...

So I took a little video of lunging the day of the lesson. Again, I had no one there to do it for me, so no video under saddle. She was definitely looking around at the new place. I just kept asking for something new each time she looked away to get her attention back on me. She was listening, even just to my body language without telling her to come down to the walk. But she still needs to keep her head to the inside better!

In the second video she was getting the idea that my attention was divided, and started getting a little quick. This is the trot that the trainer said "Needs to be erased from her vocabulary" when she's under saddle. So I am asking the same on the lunge line... at least when I'm paying attention! But look how strong her right lead is!

Sunday and Monday she had off. So tonight we got back down to work! We started by lunging over some trot poles again, and even a canter gymnastic. I kept the distance short so that she'd have to collect up a bit to do it. She was much more comfortable trotting in and cantering through so we mainly did that, and when she got the hang of it she could canter in just fine. Still nothing big, just letting her gain confidence in where her feet are at, letting her learn how to see the distances herself, and slowly build the strength so that the bigger fences seem just as easy. I forgot to video her doing. Which is ok since I don't think I could have made it work! So I tried taking a picture of it just to show, but I had it on video... lame. Here's a 3 second video of poles sitting still. Not as entertaining as poles with a horse going over them, but gives an idea what we're up to.

Overall tonight went well. I think she really likes the gymnastics on the lunge line. It changes things up. Then we lunged a little with the side reins on and I hopped on and tried to recreate the success from our lesson Sunday. I don't think I was holding myself together as well, but she is getting the idea and we got a few good circles of a real trot! We did one good canter depart. It wasn't perfect, but that's my issue. I have a tendency to "throw" horses into the canter rather than "lift" a horse into the canter. It something I'm going to be working on a ton while she's learning canter departs because its essential for her to do them properly. It was slick from the rain so I didn't want to push my luck doing very much tonight. She picked up the canter when asked, without rushing, so we called it good and went back to just a little more trotting so that she gets into the habit of going straight back to that balanced rhythmical trot and doesn't race around. Then we walked on a loose rein so that she could stretch her head down and relax her back. We ended by opening and shutting the arena gate! Gates are something I insist all my horses can do. But I'm still beaming with pride that she can do it.

Tomorrow she's got the day off again, then we'll be back at is full force on Thursday!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Great dressage lesson!

Oh what a great day! These are the days that I think I’m probably selling the horse that I should keep and compete on. I hauled Lola out for a dressage lesson and we had just the best ride ever.

Basically I got from the lesson that I need to stop riding her like a young horse I’m breaking and start riding her like a dressage horse and it will all come together! She is still figuring out what contact is, but as long as I rode her with a light, but persistent, contact, she would eventually relax on to the bit and lift her back. She doesn’t hold it very long, but we’ll get there.

I have been trying to regulate her pace with my body, and the trainer picked up right away on some of my issues in my position that are not helping me or Lola. I need to really use my abs to sit up tall when she starts to take hold of the bit and pull down. I need to keep my lower legs wrapped around her a little more and create the rhythm there, while holding and regulating her from quickening with my seat and posting.

She also worked with me on creating more of a rhythm at the walk. Lola’s walk is nice and forward with a purpose, so now we are trying to keep an engaged walk but slow the tempo down so that she can relax through her back and be able to eventually leg yield and all that! We did some good work on bending to the inside.

We ended with some canter work. We focused on the canter depart and the idea of “lifting” her into the canter from the trot. She did really well. I need some work! ;)

I was totally engrossed in what I was doing at it seems that Lola follow suit because she didn’t even think about looking around out in the pasture of horses by the arena. Just a fantastic feeling.

The trainer also thinks that Lola is a fabulous little mare with a lot of potential for dressage. So she is living up to all that I dreamed she could be when I first saw her scruffy mud covered self living free in a big pasture. Now the question is, do I have the time to get her to that potential?

I’ll think about that later. I’m just going to keep reliving our dreamy trot!

Friday, April 2, 2010

No rain means fun outdoors!

Lola and I hit the pasture this evening after work. It didn't storm and bucket rain like predicted last night, so it was nice and dry. We started out by going for a jog. Yep, a jog. Like if she were a dog. Not really, it was a little more than that.

The thing is I haven't been taking lunch breaks at work because we are just so busy. Now I'm not starving believe me! I usually eat lunch at my desk while working then leave the office for an hour to go jogging or work out in the gym. But no time lately... so I've gotten creative. So now I take one of the horses for a jog as a warm up. Its a good warm up for me too!

So once we go back to the front of the pasture where I left my boots and helmet we started working on some trot poles and canter on the lunge line. We also spent some time last Sunday dragging logs out as small cross country jumps. So she got introduced to those also.

When I finally got on it was getting cool and the sun was setting, so we didn't have a lot of time. We picked a good spot to keep on a big circle and trotted and cantered. She prefers her left lead, and in an open space like that where she feels she can go any direction she automatically picks up her left lead. So we cantered to the left first and she felt really good. Then after trying to pick up the right lead by holding her together like I would a broke horse (and just getting the left lead) I got smart. We trotted away from the barn at an angle that when I just started to turn to the right to head back towards the barn I asked for the canter and since she was focused on going that direction she picked it up perfectly! Cheating? Nah. She's young, she's just getting the idea of cantering under saddle. Once she's got that and she's more comfortable and stronger on her right lead we can pick up the lead by asking for it. For now, I'm keeping it simple and easy.

It was dark by the time we were done, and we both got quite a work out. Tomorrow she gets her feet trimmed, so any work I do will be limited to what can be squeezed in before the shoer gets there. A quick lunge will probably be all, so she'll get to have a more chill day tomorrow.