Tuesday, August 23, 2016

leaping Lion

It's funny - I kept calling this horse "Little Lion Man" the entire morning. Probably bc of Lauren's recent post about Simon over at She Moved to Texas. And also bc he is little (relatively speaking, tho he's definitely an upgrade for me haha). And he is Lion. And also about as manly as a horse can be, as the first stallion I've actually handled, much less ridden.

This would be Lion, one of Dan's prelim horses (technically the horse ran a 1* earlier this summer, but I do not believe there are plans for him to return to that level).

yep, that's the lion!
It's been difficult scheduling a lesson since deciding in June not to continue training with Isabel for the foreseeable future. Obviously I don't want to fall off the map completely bc I love this program, but it's kinda hard when the trainer is so far away.

I don't mind paying the expenses to have Dan travel to us - that is, when I have something worth it. Right now that isn't Isabel. And as much as I love Krimpet.... well... it's probably not her either haha. So we've basically been in a holding pattern. All along tho, there's been the option to go up to PA to lesson on one of his horses, so I finally found time to make that happen.

quiet in the cross ties
I expected to ride a sales horse, especially since he's mentioned one or two of them to me before (probably hoping that I'll buy something lol). So it was a surprise when the working students brought in Lion. Exciting!

trainer P says stallions often have a sullen way about them. idk if that's how i would describe Lion, tho he certainly seemed unimpressed lol
The excitement kinda dribbled into disappointment when they pulled out a dressage saddle tho. I asked whether Lion jumped in lessons and they said 'not usually.' Hrm. I mean, I love Dan's focus on flatwork and consider his lessons as glorified flatwork with jumps thrown in... but I also didn't anticipate driving 3hrs round trip for a dressage lesson when trainer C is basically in my back yard.

not the type of saddle i was anticipating! very relieved it was changed out haha
It cleared up fast tho when he got back from hacking and took one quizzical look at the saddle, asking "don't you want to jump?" Yes, Dan. Yes I do haha. Saddle was changed and we were off to the lesson on what was certainly among the most schooled horses I've ever jumped.

especially bc omg these leathers were soooooo long. i had wrapped the damn things twice lol
And it was likely that element - Lion's high degree of schooling - that maybe motivated the choice to use him for this lesson. I've written before that Dan believes many amateur riders would be well suited to learn on something that's already gone up the levels (he usually says prelim). Saying it's more valuable to learn what the buttons are and how to push them before trying to install them on something green.

Personally I could go either way, but have really enjoyed sitting on all these nicely trained horses recently. And Lion was no exception.

the nice forward flap of dan's jump saddle was much preferred. as, actually, were the somewhat aggressive blocks
The biggest standout was in noting how he responded to my errors (the same errors I always make on Isabel or anything else), but even more so in how he responded to my corrections. Namely: when I got it right, he very promptly, noticeably, and easily ordered himself as well.

Dan made it clear from the start that I should focus on myself and my ride, especially since it wasn't a ride on my own horse. He dug immediately into my position, calling for a much longer leg with heels wrapped down and around the horse. Telling me to feel my heels connecting under the horse's belly.

a few of the residents at HF. i loved the facial markings on that one on the left - very unique!
And especially at the canter, I needed to focus on that long leg while achieving more roundness and more activity from the horse, with less inside rein. Unbelievably, the story still hasn't changed haha: the weight in my reins should be even. But if one is going to be stronger than the other it should be the outside rein. He also wanted more bend in my elbows, which (again, unsurprisingly) helped me improve the connection and get more of that "bounce" feeling in the canter.

Dan pointed out that Lion is used to him riding - meaning he is used to a LOT of leg. If my legs weren't burning I probably wasn't using enough. Well. Trust me, they burned haha.

course diagram: basically a modified figure eight exercise. all oxers are square and the course rides in both directions. turns are large and sweeping, not meant to be ridden tightly. oh and those are barrels under the wide center oxer
Moving on to the jumping exercises, I had to focus on a couple main points: getting a bouncy round canter with bend - not long or flat; going straight but without falling on the inside shoulder (Dan said that just bc you're going straight doesn't mean you don't have an outside rein - there's still an inside lead after all!); and keeping the energy coming from behind.

it was actually quite a lovely farm, very picturesque 
We circled the blue and white diagonal single in the bottom right corner of the diagram off both leads for a couple repetitions until I got it right-ish. Then went right into the course, starting with approaching the blue and white diagonal off the right lead and finishing with the one stride.

I got nailed for losing bend and letting the horse fall in on approach, and then letting him just get long and strung out on landing. We turned it around and things maybe even got a little worse - starting at the blue and white off the left lead going to the one stride (which we totally would have eaten if Lion hadn't saved my ass), then all the way around to finish back over the first blue and white.

with pretty little vistas out of all the doors and windows
The issue is that I would start with a decent canter (I consistently transitioned from walk to canter, which achieved that nice bouncy canter up in front of my leg) but would let it slip almost immediately, with falling in at the first jump then never pulling it back together again.

Well, actually, we usually did ok to the blue and white end jump on the other side of the arena bc there was another rider down their lessoning on his own 1* horse so I actually had to, ya know, actively steer and stuff. Which unsurprisingly led to much nicer jumps. Go figure.

nice tidy and spacious aisles too
We ran through it a couple more times in each direction (with ample walk breaks for Lion {and me} since it was super hot out). Eventually something clicked in my head tho. I could feel what Dan was talking about every time we did something wrong - that being the major advantage of riding a schooled horse: the errors were always very clear. But I just wasn't doing anything about it until usually too late.

So I actually made myself not just sit up and ride to each fence (with not just the outside rein that Dan kept yelling about, but also a helping heaping of inside leg {duh Emma}) - but also ride after each fence too. Esp since Lion tended to land a little strong, tho he always came back when I actually asked.

and large clean and bright stalls
And that last course clicked along perfectly - with the jumps coming up so plainly that I could hear Dan saying "Yes" even 2-3 strides out from each fence.

It was annoying that it took so long for me to actually get it right, esp on such a nice horse that honestly was not particularly complicated to ride. And especially on a horse that rides exactly the way Dan teaches... so it's not like any of this should have been new to me.

But whatever. It's been a minute since I had one of these lessons and I tend to be a little conservative on new horses.

thanks buddy for a good lesson!
Regardless, I left the lesson feeling somewhat empowered that maybe one day I'll have these basics down. In some ways it felt like a win to get on this nicely trained horse and make him dance a little. Tho obviously I also felt equally sheepish when I goofed up and the horse had to bail me out. 

And it's kind of annoying seeing the same mistakes I made with Isabel creep into my rides on every other horse. I didn't ever quite put the blame squarely on the mare for why things fell apart... but it's still pretty glaringly clear that my riding was part of the problem. Le sigh. 

All the same tho, I'm definitely working on it and feel like all of these rides on different horses are helping to put the pieces back together. So I'll enjoy the variety for now, and hustle as hard as I can to keep the lessons with my favorite trainers rolling even tho I don't have a regular horse in training. 

42 comments:

  1. Oohhh, so cool! I agree with Dan that its so helpful to ride a horse and learn from them, but how many trainers have 1* horses sitting around that they're willing to let us mere mortals ride ;)

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    1. Very true lol. And further more - I think his encouragement is that we should not just lesson on them, but also *buy* them. Which. Again. Great in theory. In practice.... Uh. There's that whole question of budget lol

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  2. How fun! Always enjoy your lesson recaps.

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    1. Thanks! I enjoy (usually) writing them too ;)

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  3. I always learn so much from your lesson recaps. Lion sounds so awesome & is such a cutie 😍

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    1. Doesn't he have a sweet face? Lol and I keep writing these recaps in the hopes of learning something too. Maybe one day!

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  4. Lion sounds amazing! I totally agree with Dan that people are much better off learning from a master but they are so expensive to buy and/or hard to find.
    I do think that you should lighten up on yourself about how well you are (or aren't riding). And I mean that in a kind way. It's hard coming back from an injury especially one that limited your mobility. Then you toss in your new work schedule, which makes it hard for you to get the butt in the saddle hours. That is bound to throw anyone off their game. You will get back there. It will just take time!

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    1. lol agreed - and don't get me wrong, i smiled through this whole lesson. i have zero problem acknowledging issues or weaknesses or areas that need improvement while still enjoying the process and bright spots simultaneously. this blog is a way to document both of those things.

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  5. Well-trained horses are tattle tales! It's great for learning, but sometimes the lessons ends and you sort of feel a little bit worse about your riding, until you realize that you DID fix things, it's just not perfect every time. And that you know what to focus on whenever you ride. At least, that's how I like to look at it, hah

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    1. yea i definitely know what you mean and have had that experience getting off a nice horse thinking 'huh wow maybe i don't know anything at all!' luckily this was not that kind of ride and i finished up feeling good about progressing (eventually lol)

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  6. What an enlightening lesson! It's always so great to get on a nicely schooled horse and discover "Oh THAT'S how the horse is supposed to respond when I do that!"

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    1. YES - that feeling was so awesome with Lion. like that wonderful bouncy jumping canter was just *right there* waiting for me to ask for it. he didn't hold it on his own entirely - i still had to do the asking and ride for it, but when i did, he did. it was a very good feeling!

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  7. i love this!! let me know when you go ill come video so you have footage!

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  8. Awe man Lion, sounds so cool!! I love stallions.

    Its wonderful that youre getting the chance to ride all the different types of horses. I was always jealous of my friend Jackie who rode everything under the sun and was super adjustable in her riding, where I'm stuck used to the OTTBs way of going.

    I know its a bummer to make mistakes, but I think its a good thing you're making them on ALL the horses, instead of Just Isabel. If that makes sense? Now you know what to work on and can go from there!

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    1. ha yea in some ways it's reassuring to recognize which issues are decidedly mine. doesn't necessarily make it any easier to fix... but knowledge is power, right? or something like that? lolz.... but yes also agreed that i would love to become a very adjustable rider and be able to just hop on anything and get it going. maybe one day!

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  9. Cool! I have no experience with stallions. He sounds like a good bit. What a great lesson that you got to work on you! That can kinda be like a 'damn' moment too, then there are no excuses! Moar media!!

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    1. definitely no excuses!! lolz. and also yea, sad for lack of media. i pretty much have no shame in dan lessons and have been known to set up my helmet cam on the rail to capture all the salient details.... but idk. it had been a minute and i'd never been up to this farm before so i figured i'd try to tone it down at least a little bit, at least for this one time. haha ;)

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  10. Even though I don't jump, I still really enjoy your lesson recaps! Plenty of applicable tips even for my mediocre dressage riding 😉 Lion is a cutie, and that farm is gorgeous!

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    1. isn't the farm so pretty?!? i definitely enjoyed sniffing around and checking everything out haha. and glad you find the recaps useful. i basically see jumping as just flatwork with obstacles, so it's useful for me to translate a lot of it into dressage-y terms

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  11. That sounds so fun! Long drive for sure, that's about the amount of time on the road for a dumbledore lesson but some trainers are definitely worth it!

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    1. definitely worth it for the right trainers - and i had zero problem rationalizing that with dan! alas, i very rarely actually have the time to do it tho.

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  12. i think its great youre trying all these different kinds of horses. a couple years ago we were parked next to dan clasing's trailer ( i think lion was doing one of his first trainings). lion was tied to the side of it quiet as a mouse eating his hay. they warned us he was a stallion but honestly if they hadnt said anything i wouldnt have known.

    why are they not gonna go back to the 1*?

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    1. he's a very well behaved guy, that's for sure. dan says he has his moments and 'requires constant discipline' - but honestly that sounds more like a summary of dan's life philosophy than anything else haha. i'm not totally sure on his training path but i believe he might actually be nearing the end of his time as a member of dan's string to move on to career #2: makin babies lol

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  13. Sounds like a really good, helpful lesson! I love riding those schoolmasters sometimes- they tattle on me, but it really helps!

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    1. agreed 100% - lion was very good about doing what i asked but i had to actually, ya know, *ask* haha

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  14. What a great opportunity and I am glad you were able to get in the lesson and that the mix up with the type of riding you were doing was cleared up!

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    1. yea seriously - i was getting ready to hard core pout if that turned into just a dressage lesson lol

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  15. He's cute! And looks fairly normal sized, which is confusing...

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    1. lol don't be deceived - they call him the 'pony stallion' after all. i apparently can't leave my roots!

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  16. He seems like a cool dude, and a good lesson partner. I'm enoying reading about all your new horsey friends!

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    1. yay glad to hear it! i'm having fun making all these friends haha (mostly)

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  17. Eek! What a cool lesson. I'm jealous. I need some schoolmaster type lessons myself. You're lucky to have such a great trainer.

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    1. I'm super happy with my team of trainers - just wish I could see them all more often!

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  18. Lucky you, riding all the different horses this summer! Lion sounds amazing. My inner 10 year old wants him to make babies with bridget ;)

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    1. haha i definitely feel fortunate to get some of these opportunities

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  19. Lion looks and sounds just lovely!! Your lessons with Dan are potentially my fave ever lesson recaps to read about on the interwebs! Glad the saddles were switched out haha that could have been disappointing for three hours travel!!

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    1. ha i'm glad you like the recaps! i certainly enjoy writing them, and obvi enjoy the lessons even more :)

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  20. That is awesome!! I was worried for you, because I would also be irritated driving very far for a lesson that wasn't what I had in mind, so I'm glad it was amended.
    I love your lesson recaps! Very interesting stuff there.

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    1. glad you liked the recap! and yea i'm super glad we jumped. it was exactly the lesson i needed :)

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  21. New plan: steal Lion. Keep 4ever. #winning

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  22. Oh my gosh what a great horse to ride! So jealous! I've never ridden a stallion before

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