Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Single Steps...

So, the Fancy Pony and I have gone back to DRESSAGE SCHOOL.
According to our tests, she needs more submission and to "accept the bridle."

So, with some direction from Coach, we've addressed it.  And we keep practicing.

I focus on stabilizing my lats (Latissimus dorsi) in order to establish boundaries without pulling back with my hand.
...and to prevent me giving before she does...

She can be sassy about it, sometimes.  However, she is beginning to accept a little more direction.
We have been playing the transition game.
She can count to 10.
She can count to 5.

I changed the game.  She had to maintain that perfect trot for 5 *and* maintain the contact for the transition to happen.
She became sassy again.
Then, she figured out the rules and things became fun.

We started to dance!

I played with positioning.
Shoulder in at the walk.
Maintain the shoulder in positioning for 5 trot strides.
Transition back to the walk while maintaining the shoulder in position.

Free walk break.

Trot.  Just trot.  Just trot and maintain.  Just dance with me!
Canter 5 strides.
Trot 5 strides.
Canter 5 strides.

Trot bigger!
trot fancier!
Trot littler.
Shoulder in.
Straighten out.
Trot like it's fun.
Turn on the quarter line.
Leg tield on step.
leg yield 2 steps.
party trot!

Walk it out.

Gather the walk together.
Find the connection.
Shoulder in position.
Take one step off the rail.
(what do you mean?)
Just one step.
No, keep the shoulder in position.
(You mean canter like this?)
No, no.  Just take a deep breath.
Shoulder in position.
One step.  Outside hind across inside hind.
(like this?)
Exactly like that!
Take a good long walk break.

Other side.
Shoulder in.
One step.
Not exactly, but thank you for trying something!
Bend the ribs.
One step.
(shoulder in more!!)
Nope.  Nice try.
And one last time.
Shoulder in.
One step.
(I know this can't be right, but I'm doing it anyway)
That's EXACTLY right!!
More walk.
Lots of walk.

We played in the basic gaits a little more and called it one hell of a workout!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Have I Mentioned How Much I Love Grid Work?

Started with groundpoles.
It was time for Baby Dax to learn where to put his feet!

I made the grid simple enough: 1 stride - bounce - 1 stride
I wanted to work my position and release at the same time.

The ride started with me on Fancy Pony and A on Dax.  A and Dax have been working together and are developing a great rapport!
Whisper and Dax both worked through the groundpoles comfortably, so I played ground crew and started with the last element - changing it to a cross-rail.
Dax went through just fine, with only a tiny peek at the x.  His second and third time through, he nailed it.  Solid citizen.
One by one, we worked back until the grid was all cross-rails.
Both ponies took it in stride, and everyone was building great confidence!

A was particularly interested in building confidence over fences, so I suggested we trade horses.  She could get confident and comfortable on the reliable Fancy Pony!!

We left everything as cross-rails while we requianted ourselves with our new mounts.
Let the fun begin!!

We practiced finding the right canter, and A was feeling great about her gridwork!  Baby Dax had figured it out and would take himself into the grid unless I actively steered him somewhere else.  I think he likes the challenge...

We made the last element a small 2' vertical.  I knew Dax was perfectly capable of this since he had schooled starter cross country...

So inspire A, Dax and I went through first.  I mean, if Baby Dax will do it, she knows Whisper won't hesitate!
Well, Baby Dax did it!  He again peeked at the new element, but he hopped on over it!

We repeated this until everyone was feeling quite comfortable.  We practiced position, release, planning our exit before we entered...  Then, we made one more vertical out of the bounce.

I rode Dax through, and he kept running out at the last fence.  Why was he suddenly so off?
I continued to ponder, then I realized...
He changed his canter!
He was coming in with a longer canter now, and he was landing deep in the bounce which left him buried in the 1 stride!  He *could not* make the last jump!

I think while it was all X's, he had enough adjustability to compress his last stride, but changing the single element to a vertical was just too much!
So, I adjusted the striding and lengthened out the bounce and the 1-stride...  Paced it all off again...
We entered yet again, and guess who nailed the grid!!
Baby Dax was fantastic and willing!
Obviously, he wasn't trying to be naughty.  And the Fancy Pony happily adjusted to either pacing.

We ran through this until everyone felt comfortable.  I practiced riding straight and halting on Dax.  A practiced the same on Whisper.  She was feeling great on the Fancy Pony, so, I raised the last vertical one more time for them, and let her feel Whisper actually put in a little effort.  I'd say she was delighted!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Fine Ride on a Fine Day

After what felt like a year of rainy days…  Finally, I was back in the saddle!
I decided to take a casual warm up approach.

Those of you that have been following along may already know how much I enjoy practicing my walk, trot, and canter on the buckle and just let my horse decide where we go.  My only stipulation is that she remain in the gait I requested.  This was my warm up.
Those who have been following along may also know about the policy I put into place from the day I started riding the Fancy Pony regarding jumps.  If she approaches the jump on her own accord, we go over it.  Period.
When I set this policy in place, the sorts of jumps we would be approaching were, perhaps, 12”-18”.

There were several jumps set up around the arena at about 2’-2’3”.  No big deal, but not totally insignificant, either.

We walked all over the place.  We walked long diagonals.  We walked circles (sort of).
Then, we trotted.

We trotted circles (again, sort of), and diagonals.
And guess who approached a jump…

I didn’t even have to tell her what to do.  She just nonchalantly approached this 2’3” rail with a Christmas tree under it, and trotted on over it and out the other side.  All I did was post!
I thought, “OK, now that you’ve got that out of your system, we can continue this warm up.”
Then, she took herself to it and trotted it again!

When we moved on to cantering on the buckle, she had the most polite canter ever (while maintain a true and energetic canter) and ultimately took herself over a small vertical and the tree again!  At this point, I decided we had just about enough warming up (obviously she was ready for work), and got down to business.

It was a day of transitions.
10 trot steps – 10 walk steps – 10 trot – 10 walk
All while riding the circle
or the long diagonal
sitting the trot
Now, make it 5.
5 trot – 5 walk – 5 trot – 5 walk

So, my horse can count.  I have to change the number.
She was focused for me and tried her best to stay in the bridle and carry herself.  To carry us both, really…

Then came the canter work!
Maintaining this idea of keeping it together through the transitions, she stepped deep into the first canter.
And, oh holy cow could I feel the JUMP!
THIS is what the judges mean when they want to see more jump in the canter!
I *GET* it, now!!

I focused on maintaining rideability while keeping the jump in the canter.  I tried to set her up for quiet, balanced downward transitions (which we got about 80% of the time).
Back to the trot work and trot-walk-trot transitions, just to make sure it all still works…
And then, we were just done.
Walked out and cooled off.  I didn’t want to overdo it, and she was so incredibly focused and giving, I wanted to end on a good note.

Next ride will be musical ponies through jump grids…
But, after that, I’m going to try our canter-trot-canter transitions!!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

When it rains... and rains... and rains... and rains...

What do you do when it rains 24 days out of 30 in the month of May?

You let your pony put on weight...

Your mourn the missing sunshine...

You ride the road with friends!

Somehow, you manage to sweet talk said friends into helping you with a momentous task that you have been preparing to do for months...
oops!  I thought I was loading the video.  Look for it for real in my next post!!
That's right!  Finally made it happen!!

Aaaaand...  Then you get your friend started in the same direction of insanity!!
oops! I thought I was loading the video. Look for it for real in my next post!!

...I'm still mourning that sunshine, though...


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