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!


  1. I hope the new physical therapy helps! That trot makes me drool too, and good for you for committing to really solid flat work, when you finally get to jump again I bet it will be even more amazing than it used to be.

    1. I think the jumping work will be that much better, too! It's so easy to practice the things that have been noted in lessons and forget about the other stuff that I have researched and studied on my own. I need to remember to put it ALL together! The things we are struggling with aren't going to go away as we go up through the levels, so I want to OWN them now! Before we move up! I want that 70% in my training level dressage! I want that 30 in BN! If I break through the resistance, all the other things resolve as well. I need to learn how to dissolve that resistance within moments (rather than over my entire ride) so that I can address them right as they come up during my tests, rather than just trying to work around them.

  2. Fingers crossed for PT to do the trick so you can be feeling better soon!!

    1. I'm crossing my fingers, too! I really want to get back to training over fences!!

  3. Good luck with your back! I had a bulging disc a few years ago, but it doesn't sound like it was nearly as sever as yours. My TENS unit is what gave me relief, and I still slap it on from time to time when I am feeling a bit sore around where that disc is, or if my neck or knee hurt. Great machine.

    1. I must need to find out what this TENS unit is! It sounds pretty awesome!

  4. Jumping is really all about the flatwork. The more schooled you are on the flat, the more successful you'll be over jumps!

    1. I agree completely! I really love when we have GOOD flatwork! I can tell we have come a long way this past year, but from the outside looking in, it doesn't look much different. The big difference is how it *feels*...

  5. I love Jane Savoie too, I had encountered her through video first and wasn't as impressed.. when I encountered her in book form though, totally blown away (I guess for me the method of receiving the method was easier through a book or its just because Dressage 101 is so big and wonderful!) I really need to use it more with Ramone, it did wonders for Carlos as an already schooled horse.

    1. I've been meaning to pick up some of her books, too. I love that she hjas made the information available in so many ways!!

  6. I'm working on some of the same things. Keep on!

    Maybe you'd like to follow my horse blog too?

    Take care!

    1. It's great to know we aren't alone in this!! :D



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