Tuesday, June 14, 2016

"i see dead.... branches"

This post is a mishmash of two stories, one told through bullet points, and the other with pictures. Both are mostly unremarkable in and of themselves (like that's ever stopped me before), but perhaps paired together it becomes .... better?

Eh. Probably not. Let's just call it a subject matter dichotomy (bc fancy terminology fixes everything) and move on with it.

one must be dressed for success before hitting the trails. prerequisites include ridiculous tack that may or may not have a history of falling apart, and a mouthful of stolen hay.

Anyway. Bullet points reflect on takeaways from our recent lesson with trainer Dan. Photos and captions (and post title) are from yet another trail ride.

then it's off to the woods! 
And onto the lesson:
  • Biggest focus was on the use and strength of my legs.
  • Our whole picture needs longer legs (mine, not Isabel's). My stirrup length is fine, but my legs get too short - needed more stretch down through my calf, while keeping it ON the horse and under me, not pushed back.
  • As always, we gotta slow the walk way down to really start the conversation with the horse about connection and coming through.
  • The most extreme half halt is the 'walk at nearly halt' exercise - with horse remaining active. Dan noted that Isabel does actually have a half halt in there, he had it while he was riding - but I need to be stronger myself to put it to use.

wherein recent rainfall has brought down TONS of small clusters of leaves and branches that are all now scattered along the path
  • I rode in the nathe for this lesson too - despite some initial skepticism from Dan. 
  • Ultimately, tho, he said the fussiness in the contact could be in part due to the nathe, but probably that's just an excuse and it's mostly bc the horse is behind my leg. 
  • I MUST improve my timing in adding leg when she fusses and softening the leg when she settles. 
isabel is surprisingly adept at hunting down these fallen branches. it might *look* like she's noshing on the living greenery here, but look closer and you'll see it's yet another clump of dead leaves
  • At least I'm happy to report that my timing with softening/holding with the hands has improved - I feel really confident that I'm softening the reins at the right times (without giving away the contact)
  • But too often, when she fusses, I go to the hands first instead of adding leg. 
  • Needs more leg. always
she will actually grab the entire branch and carry it along with her, shaking it like a dog. it's... definitely weird haha
  • Dan says that the greatest event riders (Phillip and Michael et al) are so great bc they use so much leg. 
  • He claims that Phillip's working students can barely keep his horses trotting during conditioning sets bc of how much leg he uses. 
  • And that the dressage principle of "leg OFF" unless you're doing something purposeful with it doesn't work for event horses - they need to accept the leg without leg introducing tension. 

and she's got quite the eye for them, presumably she's constantly scanning the horizon for more dead branches?!? i'm really not very clear on the attraction here?
  • He wants to see my leg strength improve via riding sans stirrups. 
  • Exercise: drop stirrups at collected walk, into collected trot (sitting), into collected canter. 
  • Just ride that for a while. (when jumping, pick stirrups up once the collected canter is established then go on to approach the fence)
  • I. Um. Almost fell off a lot trying to get that trot canter transition stirrupless. Oops.
  • Canter to trot was atrocious stirrupless. Isabel would drop immediately into that fast hollow fully inverted jackhammer trot that is impossible to sit. #notpleasant #needswork

at least she's more or less best left to her own devices. no hands required. she's just busy picking up dead leaves. nbd. trail ride will continue momentarily - hopping from one island of dead branches to the next.
  • Through all this, I MUST say 'forward' with my whole body - the seat must be encouraging forward, even as I half halt and collect. 
  • The seat can't just sit there doing nothing; it can't be braced or holding tension either. It must move with and encourage the horse's back.
  • And when I *did* pick up my stirrups to head to a jump, I was to maintain that same feeling of riding without them.

obviously with the occasional break for dramatic foresting lighting
  • We started with canter poles (also no stirrups) - and I needed more outside rein to hold the stride together instead of getting fast and flat (flast?) 
  • Then jumped a wide-ish ascending oxer on the quarter line off both leads (with the back rail rising every time we changed directions)
  • First few times in each direction we repeatedly hit a gappy distance (not ideal). But I'm still happy to report that the mare rode forward to it and jumped well, and I did *not* ride backwards. Yay small victories! 
  • We eventually got to a more appropriate out-of-stride distance tho, with a last half halt applied 5-6 strides from the fence. 

wait - those aren't dead branches! they're not even dead flowers, isabel, they're fake!
  • The jumps actually felt really great, even when the distance wasn't perfect. I'm proud of myself for riding the long spot instead of pulling for the chip, even if Dan would prefer that neither happen. 
  • So naturally I asked to be finished with that lol, But Dan said no (womp womp), and made us do a little more. Which predictably made me nervous about fucking it all up and pushing the envelope... but good little monkeys do what trainer says, right?

ahh, yes, of course, we stumbled upon the newly set up dressage court for last weekend's CT (that we did not ride in). fun times.
  • So for a final exercise, he had us jump the same oxer (now square and raised a little more) off both leads on a figure 8 pattern purposefully slicing it at somewhat severe angles. 
  • And said we could be done if we did it right, But if we didn't get it right, just keep going til we did. 
  • Famous last words right? 

mare looks hungry still, tho. hungry for more branches i guess. who knew. is your horse into that kinda thing too?
  • So how many tries did it take to get it right?
  • ONE try. Boom. Good pony. 

51 comments:

  1. Yay!!! The branch thing is hysterical. Love the weirdos :)

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    1. lol i took a video too but it was too long for a gif and i figured it probably wasn't really worth the effort of editing and uploading and whatnot... bc probably it's not as funny as i think it is lol. but i do think it is pretty funny!

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  2. i agree with everything he said. the horses i train/ride take A LOT of leg. to speed up, to slow down, SO MUCH. and you dont have to no stirrup for the whole ride, just do a little bit at the end and youll be amazed at the difference!!

    you guys are awesome :D

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    1. omg so much leg. always leg. i think that was the biggest bummer in breaking my leg - i had grown so strong as a rider after the entire spring/summer/fall of lessons with dan last year.. and then poof! all gone. so now we build back up...

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  3. Sounds like things are coming along! Although I'm impressed that you remembered all of those points from the lesson! And come on, why don't you have all of that stuff perfected yet - it's not that much! :P Seriously though, it's great to have a focus point and a game plan. And sounds as if you are starting to rebuild your base and your trust bank with Iz. Which is awesome :)

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    1. haha right - it's so easy, just put your leg on, canter the horse, and jump the fence! maybe one day we will figure it out consistently lol

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  4. Where did you get such ridiculous red hackamore. I need it

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    1. lol so that was actually from an entirely red nylon headstall and hackamore combo that i picked up at the local consignment shop for like $12 a couple years ago. it's technically pony sized, and the nylon headstall was a disaster... but the hackamore piece mostly does what i want it to do even if it's a little narrow (and occasionally falls apart mid-gallop... oops!)

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  5. YAY FOR YOU!! So happy to read that you two are back on track!

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    1. thanks. just trying to do one step at a time.

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  6. No stirrup trot/canter transitions? Kill me now. Sounds like a great lesson though and it seems Dan knows how hard to push you. :)

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    1. those transitions are not at all easy for me haha. in practicing them since the lesson, the upwards have improved but the downwards still leave a lot to be desired. we'll figure it out tho! and yea dan is good about putting on pressure when we need it. i don't always feel super comfortable in the lessons... but he's proven to be very trustworthy in that regard.

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  7. Wow, sounds like a very helpful session with Dan! I went to Adult Horse Camp over the weekend. New truck died (in my driveway right before I hooked it up to the trailer which was WAY BETTER than dying on the turnpike with a loaded 3-horse slant) so I borrowed a truck and went anyway. At camp, Bird got to see two different indoors and a wash stall and lots of jump toys and he did All The Things while modeling his best behavior. I got some good takeaways for working on this summer and I only cried once.

    The clinicians were very kind and encouraging; the crying was a result of my hearing problem. See, they say "You have very fair and correct aids." and I hear "Even with halfway decent aids, you still can't do this crap." They say "He comes in ready to work and gives a good, honest effort every time. You should give him more credit." and I hear "You are a shitty, unappreciative trainer." They say "This is a horse that would be easy to ruin but you’re doing a good job with him." and I hear "You’re doing a good job ruining him." (Like, that one isn't even CLOSE to what the clinician said. WTH?) *sigh* It is not the fault of the (fair, encouraging, helpful) clinicians that I can twist absolutely anything into soul-destroying commentary.

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    1. time to get that hearing checked, lady!! lol but seriously i know what you mean about hearing the "unsaid" words, whether they were intended or not. sounds like a good experience tho!

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  8. That last pic of the dressage court I thought she had picked up the PVC and was carrying it with her. And YESSSS No Stirrups!!

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    1. haha she probably would drag that court around if i let her! and believe it or not, i thought of you while riding the no stirrups haha. like. well. i've been saying forever that i need to be more like L - and here's the last little push. so. no stirrups work, here i come!

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  9. Glad it is coming together again! Ahh the leg issue. As someone with a bum leg, I fully, fully understand the issue. I think I posted about it a few weeks ago, a trainer immediately found my bum leg to be taking a break. Lots of no-stirrup work helps, as well as being aware of it.

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    1. lol honestly idk if this was about one leg working more than the other, nor was it really about neither leg working... rather, the whole point is that both legs need to do MORE. my legs are basically always on (just ask my dressage trainer, it drives her crazy) but dan wants to see them be stronger, more more more. always more, apparently.

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  10. I love the double story telling and your horse is definitely a weirdo. Dead leaf hunting does not seem like a normal horse hobby!
    Gosh, back when I was young and motivated I used to pull my stirrups off my saddle for weeks at a time. Now that just seems like torture...

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    1. lol she's the dead leaf hunter extraordinaire. such a goofy horse... and yea, torture does in fact sound like the right word for it. at least he didn't make me post without stirrups!

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  11. That whole MORE LEG things seems so counter intuitive to me, especially on the hot ones, but it also works. Crazy stuff.

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    1. i definitely understand why hot horses need more leg - especially after riding isabel for so long. i'm in Trouble if she tricks me into taking my leg off haha

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  12. I had a stirrupless lesson Sunday and the struggle was REAL. Our upward transitions were great but holy shit I nearly fell off from canter to trot! One of the the things that seemed to help my visual brain was thinking about my position without stirrups as me "standing over my horse" so imagining my feet flat and touching the ground and being very deep in my seat, seemed to help my body do what it is supposed to! I predict much more of this torture ahead!! ps. way to go for nailing the figure 8! pps. your pony I think is part dog.

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    1. omg the downwards just suck, right? when i practiced in my next lesson with trainer p, she thought i was doing weird things with my hands that somehow dropped the contact and caused isabel to go all inverted and jackhammery. we'll see, hopefully it'll sort out fairly easily!

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  13. Bridget and Izzy sound like long list sisters. Also, the branch thing? Bridget also likes to grab a big one and carry it along to nibble on.

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    1. haha somehow that doesn't surprise me at all. and does Bridget also pull back if you try to take the branch away from her? bc Isabel gets *very* offended lol

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  14. Cosmo also LOVES to hunt for dead branches/leaves. Twinning.

    This could be an exact quote from my trainer, "more stretch down through my calf, while keeping it ON the horse and under me, not pushed back." Twinning agin.

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    1. ha Cosmo def needs to come on trail rides with us haha. and we can be unnaturally short legged and curled up riders together lol

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  15. Progress sounds encouraging. :-) Hopefully all this is just a speed bump.

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  16. Yes to no stirrups work. I should do more myself. But I'm lazy. As far as branches go, I have watched Nilla break live branches off the pine tree near her turnout and eat the branches. So yeah, I have seen that before.

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    1. i mean... i don't think breaking live branches off trees is weird. choosing dead branches from the forest floor over all the surrounding living greenery tho? doesn't strike me as super normal lol

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  17. I've been a biiiig fan of the handsy school of riding. I could actually be a professor at it, if it were a real thing - so I feel your pain of going to hands before legs.
    I know it sounds ridiculous, but if you look up Youtube videos of George Morris there is one of him riding a really hot, but somehow still behind the leg mare with her head straight up in the air. He is still with his hands (elevated to match her headset) and he's talking all George Morris-y like "she must accept my legs, she must accept my hands, my contact" and now his voice pops into my head when Gavin avoids contact and somehow it reminds me LEG ON, HANDS STILL. :) I hope this helps, but it may just be some weird thing for me.

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    1. Believe it or not, I think I know *exactly* which video you are referencing (and have probably linked to it somewhere here) bc it was a huge inspiration to me with Isabel lol.

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    2. Why am I not that surprised?! ;)

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  18. I feel like when in doubt add more leg is my mantra. Going too fast? Add more leg. Going too slow? Add more leg. Stiff? Add more leg. You get the idea. :)

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  19. I'm glad that you guys had a good lesson with Dan.

    I am guilty of not using enough leg.. gah!

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    1. i think most riders would say the same haha

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  20. Sounds like a great lesson with some good progress forward! And an awesome trail ride, your trails look so wonderful- it's been getting warmer out here and all I want is to trail ride under some trees!

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    1. these woods are pretty much the best ever when it's hot AF outside - they somehow always stay cool and breezy and shady even on the nastiest days

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  21. Used to board my arab gelding at a farm where trees lined the driveway. He would constantly stop and snatch branches and leaves to eat from them as we walked in to the barn (to the dismay of the barn manager lol). As he prefers eating them, he hasn't carried any branches around, but he does like to carry my dressage whip around for me...maybe its an arab thing?

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    1. haha you might be right! mine doesn't pay much attention to the dressage whip (maybe she thinks if she ignores it, it will ignore her haha) but she'll grab at brooms

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  22. Can you have Dan write a guest post about why "leg leg all the leg" is so important to him? I totally understand that a horse needs to accept leg without introducing tension, that makes perfect sense, but I struggle with the "LEG LEG ALL THE LEG ALL THE TIME" because it seems hard to me to then make a difference with leg. Needs more info. Must have info.

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    1. well, i had planned to ask him this question during our lesson this morning, but never had a chance to get a word in edgewise between his constant directions for more leg.

      the thing is, tho - when i add more leg, it DOES make a difference. my horse goes better with more leg. it is true when i can muster up the strength, and it was definitely true when dan schooled her. it's sadly not very scientific to say "i do it bc it works" ... but that's kinda just what it is.

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    2. Sounds like you'll just need to schedule another lesson with Dan to get the answers!!!!! WHY DAN WHYYYYYYY.

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  23. SO happy to hear the jumping went well! As with the branches, I have no clue!

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  24. I'm a weirdo (I know, shocking, right?) and actually like the no stirrup work. I kind of wish we did more of it.

    So very happy to hear you are getting past your stadium woes!

    And yes, more leg. Took me a couple of years to understand that when the cheeky redhead was having a "hot" day (what can I say, she's a Gemini) she actually requires MORE leg. It is counter-intuitive, but works for some odd reason.

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  25. My legs ache a little just thinking about all that no stirrup work! But at the same time, I really see how it could help build TONS of strength. Pain is gain in this case, I guess.

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