Wednesday, April 20, 2016

the return of 'squeeze + hold'

Or, in other words, trainer Dan C is back from Aiken! Readers may recall that for most of last year we took two jump lessons each week - one with trainer P from OF, and one with Dan, who travels to our our home barn.

Trainer P is wonderful for a variety of reasons. For instance, we get a lot of mileage in her lessons - lots and lots of reps over coursework and a variety of fence styles and grids. She's a big believer in letting the horse sort itself out and learn from repetition.

This is great for me, as my shoddy confidence requires that jumping feel routine and mundane rather than a cause for nervous excitement.

no media from the lesson today, so here's a head shot of izzy contemplating her life choices
Dan, on the other hand, is a master technician. He wants every step ridden correctly and schooling treated for what it is: Training. He clearly distinguishes between 'getting it done' at a show, and day in, day out practice at home. Bc when you're home? No cutting corners.

My experience riding with both of these trainers simultaneously has been overwhelmingly positive. Dan's lessons are often cerebral and mentally and physically exhausting, with high expectations on the rider. And P's lessons serve as the perfect melting pot to work on those nitty gritty details in a lower-pressure (but still safe and educational!) environment.

So it's a relief to know lessons with Dan still fit into my schedule despite everything turning upside down for the new job. Weekday evenings are a crap shoot, and weekends are out for professional competitors for obvious reason... But weekday mornings? Especially when I'm working from home? Turns out to be a reasonable solution. 

And who doesn't love lessons at ass o'clock in the morning? lol

oooh but here's some media from a lesson with trainer P at OF right before loch moy a couple weeks ago
So anyway, I had my first lesson with Dan of the year. And as might be reasonably expected, it was predominantly a flat school with a small one-stride grid almost incidentally in our path.

The biggest focus was straightness. Dan called me out on Izzy wiggling every which way, and said that using bending and flexion to get the horse round might work - but that it's almost become something of a trick or gimmick. That it didn't matter if Isabel was round and steady up front if her hind end was fishtailing all over the place or if she wasn't truly engaged.

He had me use the rail, rather than endlessly circle through no man's land in the center, and gave the most basic of instructions:
-   use both legs equally, from hip to heel ("squeeze and hold!")
-   feel Isabel coming into both reins equally
-   counter bend (or even just think of counter bend) into the corners with outside aids on to keep her from fishtailing through

the ground was nasssssty out - you can easily see why i was unsure how running xc the next day would go!
The whole idea is to keep the horse round with just my seat and legs, rather than needing to bend and flex her every which way with the reins. I don't think we're quite there yet - but I appreciate the idea. She needs to be STRAIGHT first since getting overbent and disconnected from front to back is already so easy.

Other focal points included:
-   focus on the right tempo (hint: it's probably slower than I think)
-   but keep the horse ACTIVE behind. feeeeeeel the push
-   keep my legs ON, but without the horse scooting forward or speeding up

Despite the horse feeling not particularly accepting of my legs on this day (making it a very good lesson on being purposeful and clear with my aids), I could really feel the difference when we got her totally straight front to back and pushing from behind.

THAT'S the trot we need for her to actually give me a place to sit, for instance.

puddles errrywhere! mare was (mostly) fine tho. just do the adds on a collected stride and wait for the horse, emma!
Anyway, more of the same at canter. Plus working on collecting + moving forward, which pleased me especially given my notes from the Janet Foy clinic. Collect for a few strides, then ride forward. Then a few more strides of collected, then ride forward.

It's the same stuff I've been practicing, with the sole difference being a heightened focus on the horse moving equally from both hind legs into both reins and staying STRAIGHT.

Dan said it's natural for Isabel (given her particular way of going) to swing her hind end around as I ask for more engagement - which somewhat echoes JF's concept of moving from stability to mobility as you go up the levels. It's just something I must pay attention to and fix each and every ride before trying to add complexity.

It's such a simple concept - just the fundamental building blocks of all things dressage... And yet it's been so easy for me to ignore Isabel's hind end falling in and out when the mare otherwise seems to be going well.

and here's a random between the ears shot. don't say i never gave you anything!
Straightness was the whole point of our jumping exercise too - which, as mentioned, was just a small one stride grid. Dan wanted us approaching from a "comfortable" canter - not too collected, not too forward, just going and balanced. No worrying about a distance - just ride it straight.

Despite Isabel being pretty fucking hot to the touch (and absolutely DRAGON-ing into our canter departs...) she jumped beautifully every time. Found the jumps nicely without fail, and was supremely rideable. We got called out for our left drift issues (shocking) - but I could fix it with minimal effort. Just needed to, ya know, actually DO it.

So ultimately a very straight-forward lesson (puns haha). But I'm left feeling pleased about getting back into the routine. We need more discipline, more focus on the details, and, more than anything else, I need to be a stronger and more effective rider on both sides of the horse. And these lessons have historically worked reeeeally well for us.

Plus, it was actually kinda nice to enjoy the peace and quiet of an empty sleepy barn at such an early hour lol - especially compared to the busy weekends and weeknights. Do you ever seek out ride times when you know your barn is deserted? Or do you prefer the hustle and bustle of lots of activity?

38 comments:

  1. Sounds like a great lesson! Im sad we didnt get to do one together yet, but maybe some day our schedules will align! I like the tip about thinking counter bend to use more of the outside aids for straightness...I would imagine that worked well!

    and as far as an answer to your question: it depends on my mood. Lol sometimes I love when everyone is around to catch up and be social and have that hustle and bustle to practice getting Tillie focused similar to a show environment...but other times the peace and quiet it nice especially when I need to concentrate hard.

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    1. ha i think by this point all of our horses are pretty well schooled to a level of hustle and bustle well beyond the typical show environment.

      true story: warming up at loch moy a couple weeks ago i had to pull izzy to a halt from trot TWICE bc of being literally cut off by other riders circling in their own little microcosm. TWICE. mare absolutely did not care in the slightest - just halted politely then carried on with life as if nothing happened

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  2. I love morning rides but I've recently discovered a downside to always schooling alone (Stinker has brain leakage if sharing the ring). All of my lessons are in the morning and always have been (just realized that).

    D sounds like an excellent teacher (I have probably said that a million times now).

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    1. yea there's definitely an advantage to riding both alone and in crowded rings as far as our horses are concerned. it kinda depends on my mood whatever i prefer.

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  3. Sounds like an awesome first lesson back with Dan!

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    1. ha definitely - i'm honestly pretty happy to just settle back into the swing of it!

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  4. Isabel LOOKS hot in these pictures- like she's raring to go!! (And like she's REALLY enjoying herself!)

    I almost always ride when the barn is deserted. I go before work at a very reasonable 7:30 AM and leave by 9 AM. Most of the time the barn owner comes out around 8 to start feeding/moving horses around, but she's the only one I ever see! It's really, really nice not to have to share the arena or get hung up talking to friends. Occasionally I'll go out in the late afternoon, but then it's almost more of a social visit than a "get things done on my horse" visit. I'll chat with people and piddle around on one of the horses. It's fun, but definitely not productive!

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    1. ha she was raring to go in those pictures, tho it's from a different ride than this lesson. but yea. she's been running a little hot (in weird behind-the-leg ways) lately lol.

      i definitely know what you mean about stuff not really getting done during 'social' hour too haha. all to often i've been pulled off my expected plans by all types of random stuff lol

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  5. I love that you are able to take lessons from so many different trainers and apply them ALL to make your riding better.

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    1. thanks i really love that too. and i feel like i've found a good combination of trainers - since there are definitely some techniques that don't really mesh well with one another. luckily the trainers i like and ride with all share similar philosophies and approaches that work well for me.

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  6. Sounds like a great lesson! I'm not sure what I prefer, I think it depends on the barn I'm at and what horse I'm riding. I didn't care when I ride Rico, but if I had my way, I'd ride TC around 10:30 every day. And again I wouldn't care with Rico, but with TC it's nice to have people around but not have a bunch of people in and out of the arena with me.

    For my future barn, it's going to depend on whatever job I find nearby. My friend rides in the mornings and goes into work late, which I think would be really nice if my commute wasn't too long.

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    1. yea green horses are definitely tricky to figure out what works best. when i was riding Bali i liked people around bc he did better when there were things to distract him from being a toolbag... but then again if there were too many people around it could be dicey bc steering was occasionally iffy haha

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  7. Our barn has been soooo busy on lesson days lately, that I find I like the quieter days when I just school myself. Dan sounds so great, and I wish we had someone picking at the details that much right now. My trainer is great, but focuses more on the big picture, leaving us to work out some of the nitty gritty for ourselves.

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    1. yea when it's super busy at our barn i don't even consider trying to do jump schools. it's just not safe, and not worth the frustration to either me or my horse, and i find that i end up going for fences bc there's a gap in the crowd, not necessarily bc we're packaged up nicely. not good practice!

      but yea Dan is phenomenal at the little nitty gritty detail work, and it truly pays off. it's hard to notice in the moment, but i definitely see a difference in my horse after riding with him for a while bc she is learning the whole time too

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  8. Dan sounds great to ride with. I want to come play with Dan. And Emma.

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    1. Oooh yes do come play!!!! We love to have fun here :D

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    2. COME PLAY I WILL PLAY TOO!!!

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  9. I love how Dan can take dressage concepts and turn them into jumping concepts. :)

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    1. He is definitely a big believer. When I told him how much of a shit show our jumping has been - esp the stadium round at loch moy, he pretty much told me it was a problem with my flat work. Which in a way is hard to swallow bc our test that day was SO GOOD, but then again a training level test maybe isn't testing all the same things we need for a more correct jumping round...

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  10. Those jumping pictures are so great! You guys look like total bad asses. Glad you are figuring out your schedule.

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    1. thanks! we're trying to make the schedule thing make sense haha, slowly but surely!

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  11. I just ride around my work schedule and cringe a little (/lot) when that means our rides coincide with all the crazies. The good news is that after riding at home all winter, shows are pretty tame in comparison. The bad news is how close I am to murdering people some days...

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    1. ha yea i definitely feel ya there. tho i can't get too murderous tho bc most of the people creating all the arena traffic are literally 6yr old children who don't know how to steer... still sucks tho...

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  12. Love it! I managed to talk one of the trainers at the last barn into giving us a 7am lesson! Puts you in the best mood and you get online at a reasonable time!

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    1. definitely - the timing worked out way better than i expected!

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  13. Getting Murray engaged on a straight line is so hard for me, and I even find it challenging with other horses. So clearly it's me, though perhaps it's not just me? Maybe it's hard in general?

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    1. idk... it probably depends on the horse (and rider haha...) but isabel definitely finds it much harder to travel straight then to go off in every direction all at once haha

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  14. I don't have a barn situation with boarders. Most of the time, I ride by myself, including the over-fences work. I'm careful and the other option is not jumping ever, so... yeah. During the week, I ride after work and before dinner, usually from about 4:30 or 5 pm to about 6:30 or 7. It's a nice way to wind down from work and refocus. On weekends, usually I get out around 10AM so that I can get other stuff done with my day afterwards.

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    1. yup that's been more or less my same type of routine for the last couple years. but that 'after work and before dinner' part has gone completely out the window with the new commute, so we adjust.

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  15. Looking good! Sounds like a really good first lesson back with Dan.

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    1. i'm definitely happy with it and looking forward to more!

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  16. Love early morning lessons! Not only for the peace and quiet, but the great feeling (usually) I am left with for the rest of the day. :)

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    1. i can definitely see that as being a big plus. unless it's a really shitty lesson haha

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  17. I personally love the quiet sleepy barn, mainly because of the hustle and bustle of commuting and everyone at work essentially being on fire. Sounds like a really great lesson! Isabel looks so cute over those fences. And a funny side note, now that I have met you I am totally reading your blog in your voice. lol

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  18. I have social anxiety and feel judged (they do and tell me about it) by the people at my barn so I prefer it empty. Lovely footing!

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  19. I actively seek out barn quiet tines, hangover from Kika's less stellar days so I didn't feel like I was getting in the way. I just love the solitude of popping on the radio and doing what I want from what the horse offers me without judging eyes - not that I'm so big headed to think anyone is seeking me out but barns are always rife with drama and gossip. Luckily the language barrier and my hermit like qualities mean I float through in blissful ignorance

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