Thursday, March 5, 2015

dressage check-in

We beat the ice storm on Tuesday to get out for some schooling. The arena at FV was freshly watered and mostly cleared of jumps in preparation for the last winter schooling show. That was just dandy since I wanted to work on our dressage test (presuming the fix-a-test actually happens this weekend... ugh) and there was plenty of space. 


I am a bit reluctant to share the actual footage ... but whatevs I'm gonna do it anyway. This blog helps me document our progress - including all the ups and downs. We'll never be perfect but I hope to see improvements over time. And I've never claimed to be a DQ...


Right away Isabel felt ready to work and stretch. A big struggle right now is getting a feel for Isabel stretching through her neck and over her back, vs. 'faking it' (whether through a tense, fixed headset or by curling under). But throughout the ride, I felt like we were really working together and achieving a greater degree of softness and consistency.  

trotting up center line

We schooled some spirals and circles and attempted some leg yields - but I primarily worked on transitions (walk-trot-walk, and within each gait), trying to stay soft and long and low through them. And Isabel felt great. 


preparing for 20m circle to left

After maybe 40ish minutes of this, I opted to run through the BN-A test and asked B to take video. The arena width is somewhere between 40-60m - serving nicely for the length of a dressage court. And there were jumps set up to mimic the other long side of the faux court - tho I suspect the contrived practice area was a bit narrower than 20m. Whatever, we made do (or not - the circles were all fairly abysmal lol).


free walk

This was our first time running through the whole test since the MCTA Jenny Camp Starter Trials in October, when we scored a 39.0. We did the same test at our first event in September (video of that attempt here), and scored a 41.6.

after second 20m circle to right

I'm not sure how this particular run would score in comparison - tho I want to believe it's objectively better than the last test caught on video. But really, the struggles are all the same. Every single movement needs work. But particularly our transitions into and out of both canters are sloppy and hollow, and the circles are all kinds of disorganized. And everything falls apart after the free walk change of rein. 


halt (crooked, natch)

I need to organize coming out of the free walk (including shortening my reins and adding approximately 800 half halts...). The whole second half of the test feels completely rushed, and by the time we finished our right lead canter circle (breaking early, obvi) I was so over it and just wanted it to end. So our final trot and turn up the center line and halt were all sloppy. 

Not quite sure why I get so worked up about tracking right - but a huge part of resolving our issues in this direction will be for me to just slow the F down, sit up and relax. 

That said tho - after finishing the test, I schooled that transition into right lead canter and circle at C a few more times without much improvement, then let Isabel canter up the long side of the full arena and got what might be our nicest right lead canter EVAR - relaxed and balanced and forward (but not fast). So that canter is in there somewhere - but finding it on a circle is just gonna take some more work.



Looking at the video and subsequent stills left me a bit more discouraged than I really ought to feel. There's just so much work to do. Like my position, for example - I really believed I was doing better about sitting up tall and not perching forward... but there's clearly still much to be desired. 

And also - there were certain moments where I thought 'ooh I'll have to check back to this specific spot on the video bc this feels right.' And then on the video? Not so much... 



But I'm gonna stick with my first impression of being quite happy with the ride. Isabel felt loose and relaxed and ready to work. That's exactly the attitude and work ethic I love in her - now I just need to fix myself in order to properly channel that willingness and energy. 

Hopefully next week's clinic will provide me with more tools to this end!

34 comments:

  1. I think you're being way too hard on yourself! Sure she's curling under a bit here and there, and there are a couple "I'm a red-headed mare" moments, but overall I think you guys are looking GREAT. She looks relaxed, and her trot is big and loose. I definitely think you guys are on the right track. I bet you rock the fix-a-test--provided you ever get to go to it!

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    1. Thanks! She did feel really good - I just get frustrated at not being able to tell when she's so curled up like that ... We are workin on it tho :)

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  2. Sounds like a very positive & productive spin to me.
    Fingers crossed the fix-a-test goes ahead this time and you can see your improvement and can get more tools to continue the upward cycle ☺

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    1. Thanks - I really hope the show happens too tho they keep leaving is in limbo lol. But whatever - we'll figure it out one way or another !

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  3. Like Carly said - don't be so hard on yourself! You are both at a fine place in your dressage for this point in your eventing career - and it's a VAST improvement over where you started! The fix-a-test will give you a really good idea of where to go from here, too. :)

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    1. Thank you!! It's easy to forget how far we've come - bc the goal lines are always moving lol. I'm happy w out progress tho, but really want to get some eyes on the ground while we are working!!

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  4. Just the fact that you can identify what you need to work on means you're already most of the way there!

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    1. Thanks - and I agree that self assessment is critical. Tho admittedly a lot of my impressions from the ride were formed from watching the video, and not necessarily by *feel* during the actual ride... Still gotta work on that!! (Or ya know, get into a regular dressage program lol)

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  5. You guys look so badass!

    I'm seriously so excited for you this season. All the hard work you are putting in is paying off. Smile and be proud of yourself!

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    1. Thanks!! All things considered I'm pretty pumped up about the months to come. It's easy to be proud of izzy too - she's such a rock star and loves to show off. I just need to get my own butt in gear lol

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  6. i don't think it looked too bad. i'm sure there were moments where it wasn't where you wanted it to be but i am also certain that you had excellent moments. your transitions looked smooth and the canter was composed and wasn't looking rushed etc. i feel like dressage is probably more difficult than some of the other equestrian activities since it requires a lot more control and coordination of the rider. i'd say you're on the right track and i'm looking forward to seeing more!

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    1. Thanks - that's reassuring! I've taught myself quite well to leave knocked rails behind me while jumping and just focus on the next fence - but in dressage I still get mired down in our mistakes. Guess it just takes time?

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    2. probably plenty.... but that just means more time with isabel!

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  7. You are doing great! Just move a bit more forward and it should improve everything just that extra bit :)

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    1. That actually makes a lot of sense - thanks! I tend to get so focused on rhythm that I end up creating a somewhat backwards and *stuck* feeling ride. Gotta think about going forward!!

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  8. I think she looks great! If I were you, I wouldn't worry about those moments where she's curling. That's from a lack of push over her back, but she's balanced and happy, so I wouldn't really screw with it for now. Bigger fish to fry, right? I would let her travel along happily, as long as she's in balance. Sometimes pushing for that extra oomph of forward can push them off balance and you end up back at square one. She's still new to this, so let her get comfortable moving in balance before you ask for more engagement.

    You're making GREAT strides in keeping her balanced, and not getting ahead of her. That said, you're right. you are still kinda perched at times. That's going to put her on her forehand a little bit. It's not a huge deal for now, just something to be aware of. The more upright you can stay (think about connecting those seatbones to her hind legs), the more she is going to be encouraged to slow down, push, and stay with you.

    If you're noticing issues after changing rein, you might check your own lateral balance. Are you twisted? Leaning one way? Stuck on the other seatbone? Not encouraging the new outside leg to move around the circle?
    -- this is one of my biggest issues, and it's often related to my seat being stuck in the other direction. I forget the outside hind has to travel further around the circle, and I don't ride it. I focus on the inside instead. That causes us to lose our balance and fall out of the circle. If that sounds familiar, try riding the outside of the horse for the first few strides after a direction change, to get the feeling of the new direction. It's all in your seat, not your hand, and it all depends on your lateral balance as a rider.

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    1. All great points - thank you as always for chiming in!! Re: her balance, that all makes a lot of sense too - so I'll try to stay tuned in to that without pushing her too far. She definitely needs to build strength!

      And your second two points I think are very interrelated. My position is very much evolving - tho slowly and not always very evenly. I'm absolutely crooked from head to toe haha, and believe that's a big factor in our problems trackin right (tho I also believe Isabel had her own crookedness too). Basically I think we are a little codependent haha and it's been tough feeling it out on my own without someone there to guide me. The idea of riding the outside aids seems like a good way forward tho - thanks!

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  9. I thought your opening circles looked lovely! Really relaxed and swing-y and just a happy, rhythmic picture! You have a lot to be proud of!!!

    Boca is still in the "tense, fixed headset" stage, which is actually an improvement over self-rollkur pony or the unhappy camel. And we have no canter to speak of!

    It's all about the journey - don't forget where ya came from! ;)

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    1. Self-rolkur! Lol! Poor Boca! That's kinda what I thought watching my video too - like gee Iz take it easy or ppl are gonna get the wrong idea!!

      But seriously tho, thanks! It's easy to get frustrated wanting to see improvement faster, but I'm also just enjoying the process too :)

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  10. I am totally with you on feeling like you're sitting up tall and straight and dressage queeny, then seeing a photo/video and going "My god, WHAT AM I DOING?!"

    I think you guys look great, though- keep up the good work!

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  11. Right?? Clearly I need to spend more time in arenas w mirrors haha. Thanks tho - we are just chipping away at it :)

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  12. People smarter at dressage than I have already given great points/advice. But I watned to say a huge kudos to you for being so open and willing to make these changes for her. Since I've started reading I feel like there has been TONS of improvement in her, and I just think you two look great. :) Keep it up lady, you got this!

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    1. Thank you!! I really truly am enjoying the process - even if it's quite different from my experiences w jumping and hunters haha

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  13. You are crazy (but not really). I think you guys look marvelous!

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  14. You are so positive about this, and that makes such a huge difference. Videos are the best way to critique yourself, which is why I take (or attempt to take) so many.

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    1. thanks! i really like watching videos of my riding - and am usually good about not being tooooo nitpicky.. usually lol.

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  15. Don't get down on yourself, overanalyzing can definitely be a bigger issue than what you intended to analyze! For a horse that curls- my advice is always to get more horse in front of your leg, not necessarily faster/off balance but quicker and carrying you forward. Then hands down, elbows soft, but give her a place to go in the bridle. My hot little mare is going through this phase right now- where she curls and braces, curls and braces. It's frustrating but she's most steady when I've got my leg on and she's carrying me forward in balance.

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    1. thanks! i definitely try to avoid over analyzing... it's hard sometimes tho haha! good point about getting more horse in front of me - my trainer says that a lot but i tend to confuse her speediness with being actually in front of my leg -- she's tricksy that way! but thanks - i will definitely try to be more aware!

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  16. Ditto to everyone above, don't be too hard on yourself! The test is very pleasant and your pretty chestnut mare looks happy. Preach to the choir about sitting up in a jump saddle, you are doing an admirable job! I would just add that even if you have a bad movement just move on, the judge forgets about it and so should you, each movement's score is separate so if you have a rocky canter then have a kick ass recovery and center line, if you throw in the towel so will the judge. But seriously if your test looks like that I bet you will see an improvement in your score, such a pleasant pair you are!

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    1. thanks - and that's a great point.i really could feel myself 'throwing in the towel' after that second canter (and actually almost just stopped right there) -- but i need to learn to just take a deep breath and keep going, just like i do in a jumping course if we have a rail or refusal or something...

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  17. I think you guys are coming along swell! Practice makes perfect!

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    1. thanks that's the hope! just practice practice practice :)

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