Tuesday, September 19, 2017

dinosaur dressage redux: elegance + a gif!

So my long time dressage trainer C spends one day a week traveling to other farms for lessons - including our new barn OF. While we weren't able to ride with her during the first month after our move, things are looking like we will maybe FINALLY be able to get on a regular schedule!

future elegant horse???
Even better - the dynamic has shifted such that she reaches out to us ("us" being the handful of riders at OF who lesson with C regularly) to schedule rides, instead of me needing to remember to text her about a lesson. Definitely makes it easier for coordinating purposes!

looking dubious tacking up. polo wrapped bc of puffy fungus-y legs. fungus was cleared just in time for the fat kicked leg. c'mon sir, get a grip!
Another cherry on top of this new arrangement is that a) I don't need to haul out to take a lesson and b) since trainer C is on the road instead of teaching out of her normal barn, she can charge us less while still pocketing more money since she doesn't have to pay out a cut for her barn. And I don't pay a ring fee. Saving on time AND cost??? Yessssss :D

blurry and dark but you get the picture
Oooh and one last benefit: so far we've scheduled things such that Brita does the early lesson and I arrive in time to catch the end (including taking video and media). Brita then has returned the favor by sticking around for my ride and taking more pictures! Yay dressage media!!!

still showing some bracing up front, but maybe getting moments of figuring out that his butt is actually attached
Lots of stuff to be excited about with this arrangement. Which is good bc the rides themselves have been challenging lol. I wrote about our lesson here, saying that it was a rough ride with us pushing the envelope for Charlie. And maybe pushing a little bit too hard, and he ended up kinda giving us the finger and quitting on the ride.

canter is so easy for him. wish i could sit up tho!
That's a big reason why I've wanted to get him more fit again, so that physically he's a bit more comfortable with an increase in work load. But he's also still got some emotional road blocks to his dressage training.

coverin' ground
Charlie can still be very resistant to being driven forward. And after he's figured out how to do a certain thing, when I change the rules on him (as in: asking for more) he can be.... a little defiant.

you put your left leg in, you put your right leg out, you put your left leg in and you canter all about
This crops up mostly with Charlie sucking back, sticking his head way up in the air and propping a little bit. Tho sometimes he mixes it up by kicking out too lol (such as in that glorious gif above, too bad there isn't volume on gifs so you could hear us all giggling at his "expressiveness" lol).

cute gazebo for background
That's been a bit of an ongoing challenge in our rides lately, which is frustrating... But the moments in between his outbursts are getting really good.

The general gist of this lesson was pretty similar to the last one: Putting the horse more fully on my outside aids, connecting his hind end such that he can turn more like he's got "rear wheel drive" instead of always needing to drag his shoulders around. And working harder to make me sit a little more correctly.

picture will be improved with just a few more tweaks i hope!
Particularly: C wants me to get downright zealous about my outside rein, and simultaneously stop using my inside rein as a crutch. You can see in the photos tho that this is really difficult for me haha. I'd let that inside rein slip out... but would then hold my inside hand out and lowered to still hold the connection.

My outside hand meanwhile wants to be either right on his neck or bordering on crossing over... whereas I need to hold it further out over his shoulder. C encouraged me to press my dressage whip against my outside thigh to help the outside hand stay anchored in place. I must also start thinking about connecting the reins to my elbows instead of using so much hand movement.

i really need to stop using wide hands as a crutch 
Additionally, C took me to task for my lower leg position and use. She was adamant: I must rotate my leg so that it's not clinging with the calf/heel with toes pointed out. Rather, I must keep my toes pointed forward, finding my big toe in the stirrup iron. I need to be thinking about using my upper calf instead of my heel, and to use much more thigh instead of pinching my knees.

the pieces are coming together slowly but surely tho
This is really really difficult for me bc gripping with my lower legs is kinda like my security blanket.... But especially given Charlie's surliness about being driven forward, I need to be a lot more accountable and purposeful with leg aids rather than just constantly nagging at him...

The lesson itself kept us on a 20m circle the whole time, rather than doing any exciting movements or figures or anything. But I was able to get a much clearer sense for what the "feel" is that I'm looking for in connecting Charlie's hind end and getting him more on the outside aids.

look who's sound again! back in action with a lonnngg (and somewhat misguided) solo trail ride. atta boy charlie!
We also had to deal a little bit with going through Charlie's whole "dinosaur in tar pit" tantrum every time we picked up after a break. It's a behavior I thought we had maybe resolved a little while back... but now I'm recognizing it for what it is: Charlie's go-to response to any increase in flat work intensity. Whether bc the work itself gets harder or bc he's less fit. It's just something we'll probably always deal with in some form or another.

Per usual, consistency and routine are probably my best defenses against the antics. It's hard to keep the rules the same when we have so much unplanned time off.... but I'll do my best! And in the meantime, I'm SUPER heartened to see how much the quality of Charlie's work is improving. Obvi, again, there's a lot needing improvements but I feel pretty good about saying he's squarely within the expectations of a training level dressage horse.

And so the cycle continues. Charlie appears to have recovered from his poor puffy little bruised leg, so we are hopping right back into the action. Included in that is preparing for a new plan to help address rider fitness in tandem with the horse's conditioning. Stay tuned for related details (and a contest!) soon!!

28 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure that all the dressage trainers are wrong and that pulling on the inside rein is essential to good riding. Otherwise we wouldn't ALL be doing it. Am I right? Charlie will figure it out and be so fit and flexible that everyone will be wanting to purchase him. I see a huge change in how he carries himself since you brought him home.

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    1. ha i love me some inside rein tho!!! and actually i *do* think there's a reason we all use it, and that it's an effective tool.... but there comes a point in a horse's training where they should be able to achieve the same carriage without that direct aid. often tho force of habit among us riders makes it very difficult to make that transition away from relying on the rein. which is.... basically where i get stuck haha

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  2. Charlie has opinions and he isn't afraid to express them :) your new arrangement sounds perfect. Anything that saves time and money around horses is amazing.

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    1. omg seriously! after years and years of sacrificing so much time and energy to get my lesson fix, it feels downright luxurious to be able to just show up to my barn and ride!!!

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  3. jealous your instructor comes onsite. That is so cool. I am okay with hauling to mine but some days it would be so nice not to have that hour or more extra tacked on right??

    He is looking good. Now you need to go wrap him in bubble wrap thanks :) HA

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    1. yea i was ok with hauling to mine multiple times a week for a couple years... but definitely don't miss that lol! and yes plz, bubble wrap for charlie!

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  4. He's looking a lot better! Those moments are going to happen more and more. I know you commented about Charlie's post-break attitude in my blog post, and every horse is different but Connor's did improve a lot as he got used to regular work. Post-break used to be literally unusable, just don't even try. Now it's more like...never going to be as good as pre-break, but not embarrassingly bad, lol.

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    1. yea, charlie is a little different i think. he can get back to where he was after a break - there's no difference in the quality of work, we just have to go through the whole 'dinosaur in tar pit' tantrum first sometimes. as i wrote above tho, we had mostly gotten past it before but after so much time off the problem has cropped up again. so we'll just get past it again soon enough i hope!

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  5. Hooray for less trailering! I'm an inside rein junkie, too. It's a problem. He looks great! Glad he was sound!

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    1. the inside rein is my favorite lol! and actually this lesson was last week, so before his latest lameness. i'm just slow in getting around to writing about it haha! but yes, he does appear to be sound again now anyway, yay!

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  6. Consistency and routine are pretty much my dream goal yet something always seems to happen to derail the grand plan. How great to have your dressage trainer on site now!

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    1. ugh yea i know what you mean. such a total bummer about how reality so rarely lines up with our carefully formulate ideas! what's that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men??? lol.... but yea. we make do with what we got, and life is definitely easier now that we're at a barn where C can come to us!

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  7. He has improved so much since you guys first started. And that whole riding with your toes pointed forward nonsense is just a little too difficult. My legs just rotate outwards. It's my conformation.

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    1. ha i tried to tell my trainer that. she.... wasn't buyin it lol

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  8. hahah the wide hands comment on that picture made me laugh.... my trainer is CONSTANTLY telling me to stop taking my hands so wide. if she had like a meter stick old school style she'd probably hit them with it.

    his canter flail is great. go charles go :D

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    1. lol maybe i need to get hit tho. like the whole ride i was trying to be so conscious about my hand placement and trying so hard to have my nice bent elbows and hands-together fancy dressage look goin on. then i watched the videos and was like, wtf how are my hands actually down at my knees tho????? sigh.

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  9. Oh, hi, hello, would you like to join the Club For Riders Of Horses Who Throw Prehistoric-Level Tantrums When Asked To Return To Work After A Break? I have a spot open for a co-president.

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    1. omg. yes plz. are there t-shirts????? i think we need t-shirts.

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    2. Lol with three such different horses and yet.... One unifying attribute haha! It's not a great club but at least the members are fun ;)

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  10. Oh man, idk about you but I always feel so special when my trainer is checking with ME to schedule lessons instead of the other way around. Like, yes! I'm one of the chosen ones!!!!!

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    1. ha! yea it certainly helps when it's mutually beneficial to the trainer -- she's just as eager to fill and optimize her schedule among all the barns on her route as we are to claim an hour of her time!

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  11. OMG he looks gorgeous! He has come so far, Emma! Wonderful job <3 Yeah I used to be so bad about my hands coming down. Oddly enough, western really helped with that lol. Now my hands pivoting at my wrists to look like piano hands.....western has made that worse lol. I'm so glad though that his leg got better! Like other said he now needs bubble wrap. Oh, what about those bubbles used in bubble soccer?! Charlie needs lol.

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    1. Thanks! His good moments make me so excited! Now to just eliminate some of those other... Less good moments lol. But yea the hand position thing is so so hard. I think bc it's something that needs to be adaptable and evolving with our horses needs - esp like you say the differences in disciplines and what not. But I'm not very quick at making changes to my riding, esp for some stuff that gets committed to muscle memory. It's tricky!

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  12. Wow Charlie, you so sassy. You better watch out for that one. Look at that last picture--he looks like he's ready to book it out of there! But seriously though #elegantAF is going to be his hashtag in no time.

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  13. Yay to Charlie being sound again!

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