Thursday, September 25, 2014

Baby Steps

As you might know, I am a huge fan of Jane Savoie. I have been following her advice through videos, audios, and online instruction for 3 years. I made tons of progress with the Old Man before he left me, and I feel like her techniques also help with the Fancy Pony, as well.
Due to this year's chronic pain from my bulged discs, my jump work has been touch and go. We haven't made the progress I had hoped to make.
Allow me to be more specific. SHE has progressed wonderfully! I feel like I have stagnated. This year has been rife with frustration. Carrying that frustration into the saddle won't help, so I do my best to set those feelings aside and revel in the fact that I am capable of riding at all!
Aside: after a total of 5 injections so far this year, I've been referred to a surgeon. Surgeon doesn't think surgery is called for and referred me to physical therapy. THIS physical therapy is different than previous PT. No wonderful things like electric stimulation or traction... This is the McKenzie Method. I'll have to see how it works as we go through the program!
Back to the riding:
As I ride, I have been constantly evaluating my dressage. The jumping helps with elasticity within the gaits, but I began to ask myself: how can I get this quality without jumping?
How  can I consistently get this feeling?
This trot makes me drool!

So, I've been asking myself: do I have rhythm? Suppleness? Connection? 
Then I consider the collective marks from my tests. Where did the judges think I could use improvement? 
Always "acceptance of the bridle" and "suppleness of the back".

Somewhere, there is resistance. And I am determined to improve our communication to break through these areas of resistance. I've gone back to Jane's suppling exercises each and every ride.

I start by marching on a loose rein just to get everything moving. 
Once I feel like the kinks are smoothing out, I get her neck parallel to the fence and practice our lateral poll-suppling exercises. This is such a tiny thing, but I think it has been an area of resistance for a while. I think she is loosening up a little more with each ride!
We start walking again, and I test the poll-suppling in motion and set up for the "Valium exercise" also known as "+7/+1". I usually start off with +3/+1, then go to +5/+1, then finally arrive at +7/+1. I have been doing this every ride and at every gait!
Suddenly, I found myself on a horse with more thrust! This was my cross-country horse in the dressage arena!

step through, much?

I reevaluate my checklist...
Holy cow! How much more quickly I arrive at the straightness work!

Now, I can start my spirals, shoulders-in, leg yields! All the while, I keep checking my first 3 ingredients.  If at any point I loose one, I abandon whatever I am doing and return to those basic elements. Suddenly, it seems the flat work is becoming sufficiently challenging to engage that Fancy Pony! 
Rather, I am communicating more effectively so that the Fancy Pony *understands* the challenge and can actually cooperate to achieve our common goal!!

See?  She is thrilled, too!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Proof! (Clicker Catching)

I know how it is.  If there aren't pictures, it didn't happen, right?
Well, how about some video?

Catching Whisper:

Its kind of hard to believe that a year ago, I struggled to catch her out of a pasture where she was by herself!!
No sweat, no stress.  She seems happy to be caught!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Birthday!

I am loved...
Holy Ship!
It's true.  I had a birthday!
My husband seemed pretty excited about his present for me.  When I opened it, I was shocked into speechlessness...

Am I dreaming???

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Update on Clicker Catching

Just chillin'...
So, Fancy Pony has new digs and is living in a pasture. WITH OTHER HORSES!
I'm ridiculously excited for her, as you might have noticed...
My only concern is that she might be difficult to catch, given her history.
The herd has not instantly accepted her, but there haven't been any real throw-downs.  And she has absolutely no "initiation marks."  She hangs out at the edge of the herd, or she walks off to be by herself.  She is so independent, she just doesn't care if she is with them or not!
I mean, when they all get to running, she is right in the mix of it; but she doesn't feel the need to be glued to someone's side.
My first attempt to catch her from the pasture went much better than I had anticipated.  I armed myself with clicker and treats then headed out wqith halter thrown over my shoulder.  I called to her like I usually do, and headed in her general direction.  She never even acknowledged me as she ambled away.  Slowly.
So, I followed, just as slowly.  When she stopped, I stopped.  I maintained the same distance that initiated her relocation attempt.  Finally, after about 20 feet, she looked at me.  I clicked.  As I reached for a treat, she took a few steps my way, so I clicked again.  While I finished retrieving treats, she marched right up to me and waited to be haltered!!
I continue to take the clicker with me, but ever since, she has made an effort to meet me near the gate to be haltered!  So, I get her all hooked up, then click and treat just for the sake of reinforcing this helpful behavior.
I would call this success!!
I did have video catching her from the back of the pasture in which I whistle and horses come trotting to the gate, but it pixelated pretty bad when I uploaded it, so you guys just have to miss out.  I'll work on that video thing... 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Mango Bay belt

I knew I needed a belt for every day. I found myself looking for something to clip my treat pouch to. I would reach for it to catch a loose horse and find nothing... I wanted something quality, but I wanted something casual enough for everyday that would take abuse.
This is what I chose!
All three phases!
 Find your own favorite belt here:     Mango Bay Design
These belts are practical, affordable, and FUN!
You may have noticed I am all about the fun...
This belt has lived up to all of my expectations!  Within a week, I had managed to get it VERY dirty while working at the barn...  It wasn't particularly pretty...  So, I ran it through the wash on gentle cycle and hung it up to dry.  It looked good as new!
Just so you know, I never did look for washing instructions, so I don't actually know what is reccomended...
I get compliments on it regularly!  My horse doesn't seem to care what I'm wearing..., but I'm sure she appreciated the fact that it holds my treat pouch conveniently close!
Do you own this belt already?  What do you think about it?
I reccomend this accessory!


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