Thursday, March 24, 2016

chippin' away

I have all this media from a recent dressage lesson, but really not an awful lot to say about it. It was a good lesson in that I learned strategies for riding through some of Isabel's resistances. She wasn't exactly bad, tho. Kinda just not giving it up so easily.

No real big 'aha' moments, or breakthroughs. Just the same solid steady march forward. Every single step might not look like progress, but the general trend and trajectory is ever upwards.

so many pretty things in this pic!
Particularly, Isabel wasn't feeling very supple in this ride - especially through our problematic leg yields right. There are undoubtedly still issues with how I ride this particular movement that block the mare... but trainer C wanted to lay down the law and make our expectations of the mare very clear.

"no i no wanna!" - isabel
Whenever Isabel resists or braces or fights the leg yield, we immediately turn in for a small circle. It wasn't intended to be rough or punishment, per se. Rather, the point was for me to use the circle to re-establish Isabel's bend around my leg. Let the circle be the bad guy, not me. But bend she must - and we circled quite a bit.

"no i no circle either" - isabel
A couple times we'd only make it one or two steps into the attempted leg yield before needing to go right back to a circle. But it was ultimately an effective tactic and resulted in some of our best ever leg yields in that direction.

"okay, geez, fiiiiiiiine" - isabel
I like thinking about riding in this way - using different figures or movements or whatever to get the desired effect, rather than just kicking harder or giving stronger aids. Sure, sometimes the answer is ye big ol' thump with the legs.... But I often resort to overly strong aids when maybe turning for a small circle would work better.

blurry but adorable
I'd like to grow to become a more tactful rider - to have a greater arsenal of tricks for getting the horse where I want her. Especially because my mind always seems to go a little blank when I'm schooling on my own. I'll forget the things I wanted to practice, or the little mantras my coaches have tried to instill in me.

less blurry.... and less adorable lol
Lately tho, when schooling alone (now that the weather and ground are cooperative and we have returned to our regular riding schedule!!!) I'm a little surprised by my reactions when things go badly. Maybe the mare isn't bending or going into both reins equally or whatever. I quickly grow frustrated and just get louder or stronger with my aids to make that mare do what I say.

But the lessons are never like that. Sure - the horse might be resistant in lessons, but it never gets ugly. It never feels like I need to resort to brute strength. My trainers have all these neat tricks for working through the resistance in a productive and diplomatic fashion such that both Isabel and I come out feeling empowered and successful.

could never accuse this horse of not trying
I've been so focused on specific techniques or movements that maybe I've been missing this more vague aspect of all these many lessons we take. Essentially, trainer C is constantly troubleshooting and problem solving while we go. Assessing Isabel's every step and directing me to ride Isabel into a better place.

But then when we run into the same problems when I'm alone, I can't always figure out how to fix it - how to transport us from blah resistance up into Isabel's next level gear.

pushing into the walk like a good girl
Not sure what the answer is here, other than being more aware and mindful. Paying closer attention to how my trainers handle problems in our lessons. I mean, sure, I'm already listening pretty closely - but maybe I've been listening for the wrong things. Or, not 'wrong' - but just different.

I've been listening for details like how to hold my hands or establish the contact or use my leg or ride a specific movement. Whatever. Small, reactive things, rather than the whole bigger proactive picture for managing the entire ride.

Anyway, it's all food for thought, really. And not super related to the lesson. About the lesson specifically - as I said, there's lots of media. Including this footage Brita snapped as Isabel and I worked through 1-2 at the end of our ride.


She caught us as we were already onto the free-walk change of rein, so you only get the partial test. But I'm glad to have it on file. There's quite a few mistakes in there, and we were generally much too fast and rushed through the test. But it struck me as quite simple to ride - esp those leg yields, it feels like we have literal years and years to ride them. Perhaps that's natural coming off riding the Prelim-A test in a short court tho lol.

So yea. It was a lesson and we did things, and it left me with lots to think about regarding how we approach our schooling rides. I would like to go farther with this horse in dressage. All things being equal, she could probably get me my bronze. I just have an awful lot of learning to do before we can get there!

33 comments:

  1. Sometimes I give the horse a walk break when I feel like a fight is about to happen. It gives the horse a chance to relax and me a chance to think about what is actually going wrong. Then we go right back to the exercise and usually things go a bit smoother.

    Also have you talked to C about this? Maybe she could put more emphasis on the things that will help you schooling alone. It will come with time, you guys are doing great.

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    1. "dear trainer C, my schooling alone never goes as well as when you direct us through every step in lessons. what's up with that?!?" lol seriously tho - yea i hear ya. perhaps the post is a little rambling - essentially what i want is to be more like trainer C when i grow up.

      sure, if things are approaching meltdown status, take a walk break, change the subject, whatever. that's a topic near and dear to my heart (that i've dedicated entire posts to). but what about when it isn't a meltdown? what about when it's just a bad leg yield? over and over and over again? i can keep trying, or try harder, but it still might be a crappy leg yield. then trainer c can watch and say 'oh you're losing your bend - turn out for a circle to reestablish it' and i think 'ah but of course' and move on with my life armed with that one reactive response to bad leg yields.

      ideally - i'd love to recognize an issue of not enough bend in our leg yields before we even get there. i'd love to develop a more holistic feel for a horse's straightness, connection, engagement etc etc that feeds into every movement. and understand the actual mechanics of each movement better such that diagnosing where things might go wrong becomes easier. ideally, maybe i could become charlotte d one day. honestly i don't think it's asking much! lol

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    2. What got me started on my feeling things correctly is D started this terrible game. She would give me an exercise and I would do it. Then she would ask me what needed to be fixed/what I felt. I would go through lists of things that she said at one point or another and eventually get to what she wanted (sometimes she would start laughing and take pity on me and just tell me). Then we would do the exercise again and see if the same thing happened and if I could feel it and make the correction. It is a terrible game and it makes you feel like an incompetent idiot but eventually my guessing decreased and I started actually being able to feel things and make corrections. And I'm not saying this is magic (it's not it is actually quite terrible) it just worked for me.

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    3. haha I doo too (i.e. give the horse a break before a major episode explodes)

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  2. Solving issues with tactful application of related or supporting exercises is *hard*. It's what trainers do. Like, that's the job description -- helping the horse and rider improve by way of building their skills through a pyramid of exercises (blah blah dressage).

    Your coaches sound on-the-ball -- I'm sure they have tools you can take home and use. (Heck, I'm gonna take home the small circle one...) But, lessoning has a lot going on -- if you're trying hard to follow directions and feel how Iz does and ride the movements and whatnot, you may not have time for "gathering tools" in addition to all that other stuff. I use the walk breaks at lesson for tool gathering (asking questions, talking about different things to try, etc.), especially if instructor is less talkative and needs leading questions to share how they're thinking.

    Also, some of the most valuable tools I've gotten for my own riding have been from auditing clinics. (I take copious notes, longhand, when I attend clinics. I diagram all the exercises and discuss their effectiveness and stuff.) When I audit, I can devote 100% of my attention to learning-about-tools instead of trying to learn AND ride and equitate and steer and so forth.

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    1. ha yea..... growing those skills definitely isn't going to happen over night, or even this month (or year). and you're right - it's perhaps naive to think i can absorb every single little thing that happens in a lesson (tho i certainly try be watching and re-watching the videos over and over again!).

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  3. Great insights here. :) With Dino, learning to think like this has been the absolute key to being able to ride him as well as I do, and continuing to learn to ride him even better. Being able to assess WHY a movement isn't happening the way you want it to, and knowing which tools to use to address and fix that, is a huge step between riding the horse and training the horse, in my opinion. It's all tied in to developing feel, and being educated enough and knowing your horse well enough to know how different movements affect your horse, and what will do the trick in the moment to break their resistance. Lord knows it's a skill I'll be working on for the rest of my life, with any horse I sit on! It's a big, difficult skill to learn, which is why we're not all Charlotte Dujardin LOL. And GO FOR YOUR BRONZE!! :D

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    1. yes - i think that's kinda what i had going on in my mind here, 'the difference between riding and training.' we're still so new to dressage in many ways that my 'education' really has not been able to keep up with isabel's progress. that elusive 'feel' .... maybe one day we'll have it?!?

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    2. Agree with Ali- tools in the toolbox and when you're training not only listen but feel. I tend to get so stuck in my head about what we need to be doing I can forget to just ride the horse and apply the feel factor. :)

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  4. I tend to get frustrated more now than I did in the past, and only when I ride by myself. I think my standards are so much higher for what Connor is capable of, but I don't always have the skills to get that level of work out of him, so I get frustrated with him and shouldn't.

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    1. yup - that's pretty much exactly how i'm feeling, and your posts on the subject have definitely been incredibly relatable. it's like i just *know* the brilliance is lurking just below the surface but i somehow can't always break through to it.

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  5. I feel your frustration with this too!!!! Same thing goes for Chimi and me- we have brilliant flatwork in our lessons and I get excited to try it at home and I can't quite replicate it and I get frustrated :/ I find it gets worse when we have a show approaching and I'm trying to make every movement perfect in our test vs just riding what I've got. (I actually didn't ride my test before the first show bc I could feel the frustration growing and I just wanted to have a positive ride leading up to the show) but self awareness is good ya know? If you know that you get frustrated at home then in the lessons you know you need to think through the whys and what's that your trainer is doing to help you improve. I'm sure Trainer C was once in your situation (bc all riders have to start somewhere!) and now she's teaching you to be a better rider- so it will happen and you'll be able to look back at this post and think - wow I've come a long way!!!

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    1. oh man that feeling of 'needing to make every moment count' is SUCH a dangerous trap haha - and at least i've learned to recognize it early...

      it's just always a balancing act. being able to push for more, recreate some of that brilliance on my own, while avoiding creating problems i don't know how to fix.

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  6. Well if you didn't ride better with help during lessons than you do on your own, why pay the trainer? But yah I always catch myself doing things outside of lessons that I really shouldn't (like not weighting my right seat bone) and it's SO frustrating.

    That theory of using exercises vs aids is a really good one! Some horses you can just make do things- make them bend, make them go on the bit- and they just comply without too much resistance. Others really can't handle riders coming up against them for no reason other than "because I told you so." Some horses need to know why.

    So give the horse an exercise where the easiest thing to do is to comply with the riders' wishes, and then it's both rider and horse working together to do an exercise rather than work against each other. I have a pony in my barn that zooms off at the canter with her kid, so we started picking up the canter from the walk on a 10m circle. Much more effective than having the kid try to hold her back. And everyone is happier- pony realizes that if she doesn't slow down, she'll fall over (but doesn't come up against the kid), and kid doesn't have to get her arms ripped off.

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    1. haha good point - that is EXACTLY why i pay my trainers ;)

      isabel is a good girl that will do a *lot* of things just bc i say so, except for when she won't. and when she won't, i just need more tools. more education. your example about the pony is so perfect bc that's exactly the kind of approach i'm thinking of - except it's a crap shoot whether i'd ever think of moving to a small circle on my own. except. hm. maybe small circles are always the answer?!>

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  7. Being a more tactful rider is something I also struggle with. It's kind of funny- I get more frustrated with Moe than I do with Gina; I'm not sure if it's because I've had such a long partnership with him or because Gina will absolutely blow up and be pissed and murder me and he won't.

    This will sound kind of silly (or like I do drugs before I ride or something lol...OR IS THAT THE ANSWER?) but I've found that things I do in yoga apply to to what I do on the horse. When I feel myself beginning to get frustrated (or when I'm frustrated and suddenly realize I've actually been that way for 10 minutes), I concentrate on relaxing my body from the head down and breathing in and out, just like I do in yoga. I try to push my feelings out of my mind and think about nothing; I am zen, I am calm, I am a still pond. I find that it helps me become more objective- e.g. "why is Gina popping her shoulder out on the 15 meter canter circle?" Because I am not supporting her with the outside rein. Because I am dropping my inside shoulder. Because her back feels weird today. But I don't have to get upset about it. I know how to help, and now I am calm enough to do it.

    I swear to god all I've had today is two cups of coffee and no drugs or alcohol. :P

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    1. oooooh maybe drugs are the answer tho? ya know, that whole relaxing harmonious mind melting trip? LOL ... but seriously - your point about focusing in on that body awareness to really feel out each movement is exactly where i'd like to get. just not there yet.. workin on it tho!!

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  8. This!! Seriously I need to work on the troubleshooting too. Figures are excellent tools

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    1. such excellent tools! i wish i knew better how to put it all together for a better picture!

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  9. Yes! This is me right now. My coach is a see-all, know-alling goddess freak of nature. She always knows what all my body parts are doing far better than I do, and knows exactly where they should be. Schooling on my own, needless to say is a crap shoot. But one mantra has stuck: "When in doubt, release." Kind of helps me from getting into a fight and remember to relax, take a deep breath, pet my pony and try again.

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    1. ugh that magic trainer dust... so addicting, and then so annoying when we can't get our fix! i love that mantra tho and will definitely try to commit it to memory! we already do lots of petting and trying again tho - but just that alone won't fix our leg yield.

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  10. I don't get frustrated anymore really because never set goals haha. In the warmup I figure out what his issue is and we work on it. If theres no issue, I don't ride very long. he's still a bebe and has a wee brain. Even then I loved this post. You're always so insightful. Also that walk pic, BAM

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    1. lol i was actually super surprised watching the video of that walk transition - we have been accused of 'flopping' into our downwards before (womp womp) so it was exciting to see an actual kinda nice one!

      but yea i agree that there's def a difference between how we approach the degree of schooling with a green horse vs a mature (and relatively trained) horse. there's no reason isabel shouldn't be able to accomplish a pleasant leg yield right. just gotta find the right combination to help her get there!

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  11. Oh goodness, this was my lesson last night. Thanks for sharing, and add me to the riding with mindfulness rehab group :)

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    1. i think we need t-shirts for this support group lol!

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  12. Izzy says "I decline to acquiesce to your request" LOL

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  13. I think the only really answer is 'time' unfortunately :/ and I think you're putting into words a frustration that most (all?) adult ammys probably experience. It's tough for us one-horse full-time job riders to know what to do all the time. That's why the pros are pros. I get totally frustrated with this same thing! Sometimes it helps me to remember that I'm limited. Sometimes. Other times it frustrates me more lol ;)

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    1. yep, i agree pretty whole-heartedly. it just is what it is, and we just keep working through it, or at least try haha.

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  14. I have very similar photos of Suzie on the bit nad marching forward... and then 2 seconds later a photo of her head straight up in the air. Must be a red mare thing.

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    1. haha yup. they has opinions and want to be sure we know it!

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  15. Just last night I used a small circle to get Cosmo back on the rail and off my inside leg. You want to lean? We will circle and you will have to balance. Totally worked.
    Cosmo: 6
    Carey: 1

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  16. Upward trajectory is good! I'm working on adding more tricks to my toolbox right now too. I like the idea of walk breaks when things are going south as suggested above :) (going to steal that for myself haha)

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