Tuesday, July 28, 2015

in which isabel is adorable (and therefore gets away with murder)

The weather has not been super cooperative for much schooling before tonight's lesson - especially given my recently re-learned theory that Isabel needs consistent routine to keep the buttons from getting rusty. (She's never really bad or wild, per se... but is at her most brilliant when she's been working well with regularity).

i love her expression here: like she's questioning every decision that led to getting stuck with a weirdo like me
Plus trainer P recently admonished me to 'expect more' from Isabel. I have ideas on how to make it a reality (like working harder to get nice transitions the FIRST time, rather than going back for a second attempt), but haven't had much opportunity to actually try. 

Tho, conversely I have to be careful with directives like this to avoid slipping into bully-mode of "You will do this thing NOW bc I expect it!" Certainly there has to be balance, right? 

see what i mean? she's not quite sure how she got to this place lol
Currently I'm a bit of an enabler. I don't push for much outside of lessons (when I have a trainer making sure all is well) with regard to bend, steadiness and acceptance of the bridle, and Isabel's own accountability. And Isabel is happy to trit-trot around on the very edge of fancy that keeps me satisfied, but without truly working at full capacity.

The accountability thing is particularly interesting to me - and was made glaringly clear when I rode Austen's Pig. We were cantering along in what felt like a pretty decent manner - esp considering the sloppiness with which I asked him to canter. So when Austen suggested we transition down to trot, I channeled my innermost quiet rider and just tightened my core and tried to squeeze him down, no hands. Sounds good right? 

But what did I get instead of trot? Um, actually a MUCH nicer canter. Like, whoa - THAT was the canter I should have had all along. Ah half halts, you magical mystical little beasts... 

enabling is bad, emma!
So what does this have to do with Isabel and accountability? My default approach to cantering is leg leg leg. Always and forever amen. Meaning any hesitation or sucking back or anything gets leg. Isabel can't canter more than 2-3 strides without me nudging her. But isn't 'more leg' the answer to everything? Well, yes but also kinda no.

C has already told me multiple times that I should be able to put Isabel in a gear and leave her there until I ask for something different. Makes sense conceptually but I've struggled to put it into action. But after riding a horse like Pig who is accustomed to exactly that, and feeling what a quiet half halt could accomplish, vs all my noisy nudging... well, I have renewed energy to fix this haha.  

but she's just so stinkin cute... and i love our little routines
(even if being allowed to itch her unbridled face is actually a terrible habit that i wouldn't let other horses do... funny how we let our own creatures get away with things that are not tolerated elsewhere. or is that just me?)
Probably what this means is that we're going to see a lot more breaking in the canter, at least initially. Isabel is going to make that mistake bc she's accustomed to me carrying her along and doing the work for her. But I just need to be ready to correct it (tactfully!) and then shut up again. She's a smart cookie - she'll figure it out. 

And perhaps this will be the change needed to finally make more progress in getting myself into the right position and balance while cantering? Like I've been so busy with my legs that I've been unconsciously blocking myself all along? 

isabel is exhausted at the mere suggestion that she carry her own self
Idk really - and honestly maybe this post doesn't make any sense haha. But generally speaking: I want more from Isabel in our rides, and a part of that is letting Isabel actually canter for herself while I sit chilly. The complementary part will be ensuring that I'm riding clearly and correctly from seat and core - which should incidentally help everything else too, right? 

Lol I guess we'll find out one way or another... Have you ever ridden another horse that made clear a concept that was difficult with your own horse?

32 comments:

  1. I audited a George Morris clinic this summer and he said the same thing - that once you put a horse in a gait, they should stay there until you direct them to do something different. Oh to be able to accomplish that!

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    1. haha they make it sound so easy! of course they forget that the idea of 'sitting quietly' is one thing when you're in the library, and an entirely different thing when sitting on a cantering horse lol

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  2. That would be magical to have your horse hold a gait without all the nudging. I'm very interested in making this happen with Tucker.

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    1. yesss!!! i'm very interested too - tho the flip side is that it also means holding the gait without me inadvertently signalling for all sorts of things by flopping around in the saddle lol

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  3. YESSSS you've got the idea!! This is like.. my life's work with Dino, and the beginning of the concept of self carriage. While more leg is generally the answer, a nagging leg is no good. It's HARD though when you are in the habit of nagging and holding your horse up every step of the way! Very interested to see how you and Isabel progress with this concept! :) And loved getting about 6 emails in a row with your comments... EMMA'S BACK!

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    1. lol i am very slowly trying to catch up on all the blogs, one at a time... slow work but also very cool to see what everyone has been up to for the past week!

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  4. I think I got lucky that Quest is good about staying in gait most of the time until I ask for a change- of course she questions me still (which means we school a LOT of transitions), but for the most part she clicks right along until I ask for something different. I have ridden horses that need support and its quite a workout lol

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    1. that is lucky! isabel certainly loves all her support from me... but at least it's not actually a ton of work given how sensitive she is. maybe that's why i've been so willing to keep on doing it lol

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  5. Apollo and I will forever be working on this hahah
    I love the itching photos :)

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    1. haha yea it's tricky business!!! and i love the itching photos too... tho always feel moderately guilty that most ppl wouldn't allow it - and of course that feeling is only amplified when isabel nearly knocks down an unsuspecting bystander by trying to rub on them... oops!

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  6. I rode my trainer's 4* horse and worked some basic dressage with him (he scares me a bit, I've watched him haul her around! Haha). After I decided, "you will listen to me", the learning started. If I got handsy with my left hand trying to find better connection, he'd simply ignore me. As soon as I'd give it/relax it and add some leg, I had a happy horse who very willingly tried harder. Plus since he's schooled by my trainer, and she's installed in my brain and I hear her saying things, I'd apply them to him and get an immediate answer. I wasn't in a lesson, but I ended up with one anyway!

    Don't be afraid to expect more from Isabel when you're by yourself! You take lessons, bring your issues to lesson and ask for a check that you're on the right path. It's why we lesson :-) A week of doing something wrong won't hurt that much if you're really off base in what you're asking, plus you'll be ready to fix it at lesson time. Plus, all that time in halfway land is going to bite you in the butt later. It did to me!

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    1. that's actually really good advice - thank you. part of the problem is that i don't trust myself to not lose my temper if things aren't going well - i want this stuff to be fun for both of us, but i also want to keep improving. so i can't let all my weird mental stuff hogtie us - and i definitely don't want to create extra work for future me either!

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    2. I hear you on temper- if you find yourself losing your temper, go to something simple that you guys can do when you're angry. It can be anything, trot some poles, ride some walk halts or walk trot walk transitions (halfway land is ok at this point), something she likes, anything to put a positive spin on the ride for your horse, then go for a walk. Come back to it the next day, or even later on in the same day if your schedule allows. It's hard to walk away when it's really not going right. I find myself supremely frustrated and on the verge of losing my temper a couple times a summer, and it's hard to walk away when it's just not working. But think about it this way, you want it to be fun for both of you, so if you find yourself not having fun and getting angry, stop and do something else as soon as you realize it. You won't be accomplishing anything by continuing, so peace out and go gallop through the fields. Hell, that might be the key to getting whatever task you were working on done!

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    3. thanks - you are so right! i've been working explicitly on this (temper) for the better part of a year now and am getting pretty good at recognizing when i need to step back and change tactics/focus/energy/whatever. usually the realization still comes a little too late - like after too strong or rough of a correction - but i am identifying it and letting it go and moving on. and yes finding those positive places to go is a huge priority!

      tho your first point still holds true: i can't let just the fear of losing my temper keep me from trying and pushing and seeing just how far we can go. gotta find the balance somehow, right?

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    4. Ahahahahahahahaha... Sorry. Just remembering all the times I've lost my temper in the last month. Bahahaha!!

      In all seriousness, exactly this. Pushing for more is going to create stress for both of you and some temper tantrums, from both of you. Learn to be aware of when you're losing your cool and be prepared to forgive yourself for doing so (cause, you will).

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    5. that's exactly what i'm working on. still pushing myself, but being self aware and ultimately patient/forgiving with both isabel and myself. not likely to reach nirvana or anything like that lol, but i can try to just be a little better every time :)

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  7. If the gait is a slow meander? Nailed. If the gait is a slow, laboring trot? Nailed. Anything else and we're screwed.

    Also, I completely, 100% let Archie scratch his face all over me like that all the time.

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    1. hahaha yea - some 'gaits' are easier to let them be than others ;)

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  8. My trainer is a big fan of this same concept- as soon as the horse gives you what you want, you soften and stay still. Make corrections as necessary, but they have to learn to carry themselves in a certain way until they're told otherwise. It's hard to retrain ourselves!

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    1. it certainly is! esp since my mare is so much more sensitive than i am quiet, i frequently do weird things with my balance and position that makes her think i *want* to stop, when really i don't... but yea we're working on it!

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  9. don't have to nudge at the canter.... usually. but at the trot and walk it's all nudge. when i watched silke's clinic this weekend she was telling another girl that when we do that we desensitize our horse to our leg so that when we want to use it for more delicate movement, we can't make it happen because they can't feel us. but seriously. i feel your pain. i don't know how else to ride so that we are actually moving.

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    1. yep pretty much. not only do i desensitize my horse, but i actually rub the hair off her sides in the winter!! it's like getting caught red-handed lol. le sigh!

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  10. Bahaha! Emma! I had to laugh out loud about my horse staying where you put him. I'm sure he does feel like that to someone new, but I just remember constantly kicking to keep him going in collection. Ha!

    We went through a period (a year ago?) where my trainer put me in the position for collection and had me stop gripping with my legs (not take them off, persay, but stop trying to squeeze the life out of him). He stopped. Every time. It was a serious flaw in our training. I wouldn't say now that he stays where you put him as much as he depends on your seat to tell him where to be, not so much your legs. Stop moving your seat? He stops. Loosen your back and ask for bigger strides? More animated gait.

    All that said, if the bigger isn't properly through all you get is some fugly herky jerky gait. Boo.

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    1. lol i think he can stay in the 'easy' places just fine - tho the 'easy' place for him (meaning not really the full capacity you ask for) is still kind of what i need to work my ass off to even get for a few minutes with isabel lol.

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  11. I hope it goes well for you!

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    1. thanks! we've got our work cut out for us, that's for sure!

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  12. I have a pet peeve for horses that need constant leg! I think it's just because I have 8-10 horses to ride in a day, so they can all use their own legs to keep going, thank you very much. That said, Arwen was exactly the same for MONTHS. Kick, kick, kick was required simply to keep going at the same pace. Now we both have finally installed the idea that kick = go until I say stop.

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    1. see it's so funny bc i think isabel will be much happier when i STOP kicking her... but right now she's so conditioned to rely on my leg... bad habits on my part, oops

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  13. THIS! Yes lol, we are actually definitely the same person/ rider

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    1. lol if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck... well, it probably rides like a duck too :D

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  14. One thing D does that a lot of trainers don't do is she makes you tell her what you feel. Then it is followed up with what correction do you need to give. This process gave me confidence in the fact that I do understand the problem and the correction. From reading your blog I think you know what needs to happen and how to fix it but you question yourself. Have faith and ask questions. You've got it and you have pictures to prove that you are improving.

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    1. yep we are working on it every ride every day!

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