Wednesday, March 9, 2016

new moves: omg so hard tho

Ever since I wrote last week about how amazing Isabel has felt in the bridle, we've been dealing with some bracing and fussiness. Figures, right? lol....

Really, tho, it isn't necessarily the worst thing ever. Mare is still doing really well. Whatever questionable stiffness she had going on behind a couple weeks ago has disappeared completely. Plus she's feeling fitter with every passing week.

warm up trot
She's testing me a little bit, tho, since I'm easily baited into arguments about the location of Isabel's nose... instead of say, focusing on actual quality and forward impulsion in the trot.

So we spent much of this lesson reestablishing some rider basics:

  • Inside bend, dammit. Bend Isabel beyond the point she wants to go, then when I let her back to where *I* wanted her in the first place, we both feel like we win. 
  • Use circles of varying diameters to help with this. Including circling off the straightaway when I lose the ability to keep her bent around my inside leg.
  • Stay STEADY on the outside rein when she's fussing. The little conversations I try to have with that outside rein just get lost in the noise when she's flinging her head everywhere. 


wide hands help mitigate the fuss fuss
  • Once she gives tho, I *must* soften - but not too far that I soften beyond where she can take the contact, otherwise I'll just immediately lose her again. 
  • Once I've got her there, we can restart the convo with the outside rein. 
  • And, as always, keep her powering forward and bending with little bumps of inside leg - don't let that leg get stuck!

sometimes... lol
It mostly worked pretty well. I've been focusing lately on softness (and bend) in my elbows, and it's helping. Especially in remembering to keep a forward or open feel in the contact, vs backwards (never backwards, Emma, c'mon!!).

Plus I'm maybe more consistently upright with my pelvis in a more appropriate position in the saddle. A helpful visualization that I read on Mary's blog: imagine the contact originating from my shoulder blades instead of my hands. It's a work in progress, obvi, but I'm feeling good about it.

look who's *almost* sitting up nicely for canter! 
Leg yields are steadily improving in both directions, tho going L to R is always harder. Turns out things go better when I post straight with my hips tho (a theme). Crazy talk.

Changes of bend were either really great or really shitty this ride - but mostly bc of aforementioned bracing. Still feels like progress tho.

Canter transitions were... mehhhh maintaining for now. As were our canter circles. But DAMN our canter down the long sides felt fantastic. Like she stayed really active and round in the canter, but I could shorten the stride and collect her up. And for longer than three strides without her breaking. Now I just need to figure out how to replicate that feeling on a circle lol.

brief moment of square in between dance steps
Trainer C and I also talked about the fix-a-test clinic this weekend (!!), and which test to ride: Training B or Prelim A? Prelim A has more first level movements that I want to practice in test settings, but is ridden in sitting trot. Training B only has lengthenings, smaller circles, and a stretchy trot, but is ridden in rising trot.

Ultimately C recommended Training B. She feels that with Isabel's recent fussiness, I need to focus on riding forward in the trot. That's legit challenging for me while sitting, so it's better saved for later. It's not like I'm sitting for my current competition levels anyway - 2nd level and prelim are both quite a distance away haha.

However Training B doesn't have all the movements I want help with (looking at YOU, leg yields!)... so I'll ask show organizers if I can ride Prelim A in rising trot. Either way tho, I know we'll get great feedback from this judge regardless of which test we ride.

"OMG WAT R DIS NO I CANNOT" - isabel
Back to the lesson, tho, rather than run through Training B again to finish up our session, we opted to shift gears on Isabel. The idea being, throw something new at her to engage her brain (and body) such that she might forget about all that distracting fussing.

And what new thing did we settle on? Shoulder-in.

canter helped a little
Recall I tackled this movement with C's mare Star back in January, resulting in many hilarious moments of fail. My biggest problems in that ride were pulling the inside rein and sitting too hard into my outside seat and leg.

hard trying mare tries hard
So right away I tried to avoid those traps. Not pulling the inside rein is... hard for me haha. As is posting straight ahead (instead of crookedly), and keeping an elastic soft outside elbow instead of just locking against the horse. Plus I need to remember to look UP more consistently lol.

baby steps, y'all
But I'm getting a better feel for turning my torso slightly in (as if we were turning across the diagonal or in for a small circle) and using my outside thigh to help hold things together.

It's definitely one of those movements that can't really improve until I put my own body in the right alignment... All the same, tho, I couldn't be happier with Isabel's honest efforts.


Things were a little better tracking right (you'll just have to take my word for it bc no video). Going left (our final effort above) was either just the head bent completely in, or all angle and no bend. But there are little moments of three tracks in there somewhere.

It was funny too, bc as we would circle at A or C in between attempting to do shoulder-in down the long side, Isabel would immediately go into this lovely connected trot, as if to say "OK I'm done fussing I will be good now!!" Which... might have been trainer C's nefarious plan all along lol.

rewards for a good effort
It was fun tho. I like tackling new movements, and can definitely see how this particular movement will start us down the path of transferring more weight to Isabel's hind end. It *is* a hard movement for her tho, so I'll be reading up on how to best ride it before getting too gung ho about drilling it unsupervised haha.

44 comments:

  1. I have a love hate relationship with shoulder in... I love what it does for the horse but I suck at riding it. It's one of those moves that I end up trying to do weird contortions trying to make it happen instead of keeping myself balanced and things simple.

    Fingers crossed that they let you ride prelim in rising trot. Good luck!

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    1. ha omg the weird contortions... i know exactly what you mean!! i have no clue why i try so hard to twist and turn and do odd things in the saddle, when in theory it's not supposed to be that hard!

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  2. Would love if you could share links to what you use to read up on the SI movement.
    Just remembered I'm supposed to email you about another shoulder thing!

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    1. got your email and replied!! re: good reading on the movement, i love Austen's post here: http://guineaforaguinness.blogspot.com/2013/12/put-your-left-shoulder-in-put-your-left.html

      and will also be happy to find any other helpful links as i find them!

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    2. Gracias, bookmarked to read before I next attempt fancy lateral movement

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  3. The clinic this weekend sounds fun! I'm not a dressage person, but I think the fix-a-test type shows and clinics are amazingly beneficial to both horse and rider, I'm sure you'll be great!

    Oh, and remembering to soften when the horse gives? SO HARD TO REMEMBERRRRRR

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    1. thanks - that's exactly what i'm hoping about the clinic. plus i know the judge and know she always has great insights.

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  4. She started stepping under herself really well in the shoulder in! Isabel and you are looking fancy!

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    1. thank you! i was just so pleased with how willing isabel was. she's tried this movement before with austen in the tack, but it really is very new for her.

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  5. You two are looking great! I love that image of the contact coming from your shoulder blades.. I sometimes also think "drop the elbows", which helps. And I LOVE SHOULDER-IN. SHOULDER-IN FOREVER.

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    1. thanks! i feel like i might one day love shoulder-in, maybe once i figure out how to ride it effectively instead of getting in my horse's way lol. but yea i like the 'drop the elbows' idea too but it somehow doesn't connect in feeling for me the same way the shoulder blades idea does. so funny how different things click for different riders!!

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  6. I was told that when doing shoulder in, everybody's shoulders get to move. You get a shoulder move! And you get a shoulder move! (Ugh, thanks, Oprah.) But the gist being move YOUR shoulders the way your horse's shoulders should be moving. Maybe that's wrong and I'm going to break you, but it's helped me. :)

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    1. thanks - that's actually right in line with what my trainer told me too (except she was less Oprah-y hahaha), and i definitely found that turning my shoulders in helped. except - i was twisting my hips too, which definitely DID NOT help lol...

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    2. Shoulders = Shoulders; Hips = Hips

      Your body effects the horse like a mirror.

      Unless you are riding Pig. Then do whatever seems counter intuitive. That's probably the right thing.

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    3. lolz or unless you lack a certain degree of body awareness and don't even notice your hips are doing what they're doing until it's too late!

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  7. I have to second Carly's comment about YOUR shoulders - last time I was working on shoulder in, my trainer had me look at the opposite side of the arena as we were doing it. It was like magic - me looking at a 45 degree angle to the direction of travel moved my shoulders, which in turn moved HIS shoulders. Magic.

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    1. yup - that's exactly what we worked on in the lesson (you can see the angle of my shoulders in the pictures above). only problem was that i twisted my hips too and was posting crookedly. we'll figure it out!

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  8. I also find when my horse is being fussy with contact I have to think of my contact as a whole as well. Hold with my shoulder and my hands are the spigot.

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    1. yup. it definitely gets better when i step back and reevaluate my own position etc!

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  9. Ah the shoulder in! I can't wait to teach Annie some more moves!

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  10. Looking so very fancy! The contact thing is our struggle at the moment too...pony has decided it's not a thing we do anymore (without drama, that is)

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    1. ha the contact struggle bus is so very very real lol...

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  11. I do the same thing: this is new and difficult, I should look down at my hands while I do it. I don't know why I think that'll help.

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    1. lol i pretty much am just always looking down. difficult task or no

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  12. When it came to teaching this movement to Pig, I had to start with teaching him the angle, THEN worrying about the bend. And he is very good at convincing me that 4 tracks is where he should be, so I had to remember less is more when working on angle.

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    1. that's pretty much what my trainer told me to watch out for too - the four tracks thing. we will see how much i end up practicing on my own, esp since we lack useful mirrors and i have shit feel for it

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  13. Have fun at the fix-a-test clinic! Her trot looks so lovely even through the hard stuff!

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    1. thanks! i'm super excited about the clinic :)

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  14. It's exciting to see your progress! My progress is not as exciting -- Bird can now trot pretty decent circles and is Offering A Downward Stretch that puts his neck below horizontal. Thrills abound over here in Greater Rednecklandia. Also, I bought the truck over the weekend. Now I need a trailer. And money for a trailer. *sigh*

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    1. yay for trucks!!!! also offering a downward stretch is definitely exciting in my book!

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  15. My brain turns to complete mush when trying to do anything. And then sometimes it goes, "oh hey, remember how pulling matches and sitting like a tree get you no where?" But I really wish it would remind me more often. You look pretty damn good to me!

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    1. thanks! lol what is it with our pesky brains going into idle mode whenever we want to actually do things?!? i swear i forget the most rudimentary details when i try something new or challenging haha

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  16. It's amazing how adding some lateral movements can help them decide to be connected and straight. Just like "if I overbend, she'll come back to where I want" if you do lateral work, they seem to want to be straight after. Our nemesis is the haunches in. Keep at it and those shoulders in will fall into place!

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  17. Yay for new things! I am really excited to see you guys start competing this year because you look so fantastic.

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    1. aw thanks! i hope we can keep it up in the ring too!

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  18. So exciting!! Good luck at the show this weekend!!

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    1. thanks - it should be a really great experience

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  19. Oh man don't they like the make liers out of us when we speak about something Good lol!!!

    Since I have been waiting for Henry's crack to heal, I've done a ton of shoulder and hip work.

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    1. it's definitely a great way to help them build up strength!!

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