Friday, September 26, 2014

is spooking your horse an acceptable aid??

I went out to ride today thinking that the drizzle was light enough that it would be nbd. What I didn't realize was just HOW MUCH rain the farm got... the ring was soup. So no riding. Spa day instead, wherein Isabel got her bridle path cleaned up and her whiskers snipped and her belly stuffed with candy canes. Fun fun. 

We did get to ride yesterday, however, and it felt a bit like a breakthrough. No pictures tho - so enjoy today's fun spa time while I recount what all went down.

notice shiny pool of water in far corner of ring. boo

Yesterday was dressage practice. We're doing a w-t-c test at the HT this weekend and I feel... unprepared. I ran through the movements and then the whole test the day before. And it was messy. Ew. Like I'd be lucky to escape the test with a score in the 50s...

I think part of the problem is still in my warm up. Isabel needs to be asked gently and calmly to get connected on the reins. I can't just poke around for a lap and then shorten 'em up and expect her to just *bam* get on it. Especially if I want her to stay with me later through transitions and in the canter - our hardest gait right now.

is Chesney a friend or foe?

 So instead, I tried a new tactic that combines ideas I've gleaned from other bloggers with an approach touted by my bio-mechanics trainer (who I will FINALLY see again at the end of October - YAY!!!). 

The idea is to really really exaggerate the inside bend, to the point of near leg yield. It's very gentle tho - just keep the inside rein wiiiiide open to bring the horse's head all the way around, and allow (but still gently support) with the outside rein. And LOTS of leg - particularly the inside. So the whole horse's body is straight and moving forward on a line or circle, but the head is way over-bent to the inside.

hey dude - that's MY stuffs

Isabel braced a bit at first, but after a few laps of this exaggerated bend at a forward but easy walk, she started to release at the base of her neck and go low. Here's the tricky part for me: being there to almost "catch" her from falling on the forehand so that she can learn to trust the connection, but not actually popping her in the mouth. 

We did this for a few laps in each direction - and as she loosened up more and more with her neck and poll, I was able to slowly draw in the reins. So her frame shortened up to what I'd ideally like to see in the actual test, but she never hollowed out. 

oh but you can totally have the muzzle. take it, it's all yours

Then, when I had my reins where I wanted them and she felt steady in the connection, I tried to 'lift' into the trot. And boom - it was right there, no hollowing out or anything. We then proceeded to have the steadiest few minutes of trot I've ever experienced ever. There were a few blips here and there, sure, but was actually a connected and forward trot first and foremost. It felt GREAT! 

And if she started to brace or fight against me, I'd ask for the same exaggerated bend at the trot (tho the bend is lesser at faster speeds). 

look ma - no whiskers!

There were four lesson kids riding too - taking individual turns to practice their own dressage pattern. So we were doing lots of circles and changes of direction just to stay out of the way. It was a great way to keep her mind engaged and focused on me. 

Even our canter work was the best we've ever had, though it's still kinda heinous. I *must* sit down and back. I can't give Izzy the support she needs to use her own hind end if I am in a half seat. Just doesn't work.... (side note: I did feel like the new stirrups are helping here - score!!).

moar candy canes plz??

Then all the kids left and it was getting a little dark and Isabel started worrying. Trying to tell me there were horse eating monsters and maybe we should follow the kids. But she still didn't hollow out - just sped up a lot. At one point she was about ready to break into the canter from the trot, and it was the most AMAZING trot I've ever ridden. EVER. 

She was round and loose through her neck and shoulders, her back was swinging, and she was MOTORING with her hind end. I actually *felt* the loft and suspension with each step. Man. Now THAT is the trot I want in my test!!! If only I knew how to actually achieve that trot without a nervous about-to-spook horse lol. We had about 8 glorious steps of this before she settled back down. 

there's gotta be hay around here somewhere

In fact, she stayed with me and we did a bit more trotting and one more canter and it was just all so much better than any ride we've ever had. I was practically giddy. Not really sure what the difference was... maybe the warm up? Or maybe she was just in the right mood?? Who knows... hopefully I can find that same gear again at the show. 

So I finished with that (totally forgetting to practice turns up the center line and halts... oops) and made sure Isabel knew just how awesome she is. Even if we don't get the same quality in the test, it's inspiring just knowing Izzy has that kind of trot in her :)


  1. Sometimes it takes a little 'spook' to unlock that kind of movement in our horses! Good luck this weekend!!

    1. apparently so - who knew!?? thanks for the good wishes :)

  2. You ride what you can get sometimes. If they offer a big lofty trot (for whatever reason), you channel that energy and keep it up for a long as possible, with lot of praise. Paddy offered me a few steps of passage the other day because he was pissed off, and I was like "OH YOU ARE SO AWESOME!" and asked him for more, lol! Make them think it was your idea all along and go with the flow - you never know what they'll offer up!

    1. i think you're right - i just wish i had a better sense of 'how' to ask for more lol. now i know it's there tho, so maybe that'll help me find it again??

  3. Bobby definitely gives his best work when he feels like he's about to explode. Not something I normally strive for though lol! Good luck this weekend!

    1. thanks! and interesting... i guess it's all about finding the balance between relaxation and borderline insanity?? lol

  4. **CAUTION**
    Lofty trot:
    mild hallucinogen; street name: what WAS that
    Acute effects: disbelief, euphoria, weightlessness
    Health risks: highly addictive

    Can't we just buy more with candy canes?

    1. haha that's exactly what i was thinking - like ooooh THIS is what ppl mean when they say dressage is addictive.

      and my answer to everything horse-related is bribery. fingers crossed it works!! lol

  5. What a fancy girl! Too bad you can't harness that and sell it...imagine all the money! Good luck at your event!

    1. thanks! too bad i can't just harness it period even for our own personal use lol.