The lesson I had on Faxx a few weeks ago has really paid off. Marie made me realize that instead of bending when going right, he is just falling in and leaning on his inside shoulder to avoid actually bending. (Because, you know, mom, that is SOOOOO hard!) Now that I am aware of that, I am using more inside leg to push him to the outside rein and keep him there, while taking a tad more inside rein to encourage the bend. It is truly amazing how small corrections can make such a huge difference. And also how quickly some ‘bad habits’ can be improved. On the circle he is bending well and no longer leaning. He is working well and I am starting to introduce half pass at walk and trot. Although because of his tendancy to just fall to the right, the half pass to the right is a real challenge. He just wants to fall to the right instead of bending. But this too shall pass!! He has really gotten the concept of following my seat in trot and canter and I can shorten and lengthen his strides by just ‘shortening’ or ‘lengthening’ the ‘follow’ of my seatbone. It still seems a really big stretch before I will be able to get him to do the canter/walk transition in second level. But that is OK. he is so much more trainable than he was last year – I think his mental maturity level has finally caught up to his body! Last year when I would present something new, no matter how simply I broke down the steps, he would have a complete mental meltdown sometimes. Like, when asked to do shoulder in he would sometimes just start cantering almost in place. He no longer does that and seems to understand better when faced with something new. His canter is simply fabulous – nothing to do with me – just what God gave him.
To be continued! Soon!
The only good thing about being unemployed is I have more time to take riding lessons. I have cut back in many areas so I can take advantage of having more time for my ‘riding education’ even though I currently have less money.
So Wednesday I took Faern for a lesson and we continued our work on getting me to ride her right side more and encourage her to carry herself more, shorten her frame and also to get ME to quit ‘helping’ her so much at the canter. Not that I should “throw her away” but I need to trust her to carry herself, and allow her to make the mistake of maybe breaking to the trot so I can make the correction so she will learn that it is her responsibility to a) keep cantering until I tell her otherwise, by just following her with my seat and b) weight her hind legs more. Marie said she takes back her statement that I have to ride her like she is a second level horse – she says I really need to ride her like she is a THIRD level horse. And speaking of third level, Marie had a ‘pop quiz’ on half pass at the trot. I have dabbled with it on Faeryn at the walk, and only a little bit at the trot. Marie told me to do it at the trot. And Marie was pleasantly surprised and I was even MORE surprised at how well she did. 😉
And today I took Faxx for a lesson. This was a milestone of sorts – it is the first time I have taken a lesson on him, or taken him anywhere, since he launched me in mid-September. My back still hurts from that. He was a good boy and did not mind the dump trucks that have been working endlessly on the property behind Marie’s. And the cold weather did not make him silly at all. He worked well and I got some much needed help going to the right. It has always been his ‘worst’ side – he really does not want to bend – but it has gotten worse with not enough riding or eyes on the ground. Today I got some expert eyes to ‘diagnose’ and give me a ‘prescription’ for fixing the problem. It’s not just that he does not want to bend to the right. He is also LEANING to the right while going to the right to avoid bending. Now I know why his saddle keeps slipping to the right all the time!! We did some spiraling in and out circles and also haunches in on the circle to help remedy that. So we have some good homework and a recipe to fix the current problem.
The Houston Dressage Society awards banquet is Feb. 3. I have been informed that Faeryn has won ‘something’ — either champion or reserve champion in the schooling show division. She qualified for First and Second levels, but I think they have a rule that there has to be at least two other people who qualified at a level to be eligible to get an award. So she may have just won something at First level. Last year she was Reserve Champion at First level by just a fraction of a point. It would be nice if she was a Champion this year.
I am not sure I could have ridden in my arena today, but it was windy enough and the water drained fast enough (and we were dry enough previously) that I was actually able to find some dry ‘real estate’ to ride Faeryn on. Just a short ride – she’s been off a few days and it was super windy. I took her for a lesson last week at Marie’s and she took me to task for not asking enough from her. I am letting her go around in a training level frame and I need to insist that she shorten her frame – from back to front- and carry herself like the second level horse that she almost is. So even though I only rode her a short time, I ‘upped the ante’ on her and made her work a bit harder. Marie also figured out why she is tilting her head at times and how to fix it. She tilts her head when i am riding to the left – most often in the canter. She had me ride her more with my outside seatbone and leg and voila – tilt was gone. So I worked on that too today.
Hopefully my arena will be dry enough tomorrow so I can ride Faxx. i am taking Faeryn for another lesson with Marie tomorrow and signed up for another one on Friday. I am hoping to take Faxx if I can get a ride in on him tomorrow and/or Thursday.
I had every intention of getting up early this morning and riding Faxx and Faeryn before our forecasted rain. But the rain showed up early – as in the middle of the night – and did not stop until after 3 p.m. You cannot tell where our pasture ends and the pond begins. There have been widespread tornado watches and all the bayous are out of their banks. To give you an idea of the magnitude – the Medical Center was closed due to the threat of flooding from the nearby bayous. So definitely no riding today – and so much for getting some work done on my arena – I was going to try and finally finish it.
Fortunately it did not rain on the Debbie Bowman clinic this past weekend. I rode Fling both days. The first day she worked really, really hard. First I pointed out to Debbie that she seemed to be drifting to the left a lot when i was going right – and Debbie diagnosed it as another evasion to using her right hind more. So we worked a lot on controlling the drifting and even counterflexing her a bit to ‘force’ her onto the right hind. We did ‘squares’ at the walk, trot and canter, controlling the drifting at each gait. Then we moved to working on the canter – asking her to carry more on her haunches and also doing some haunches in on the circle at the canter. One of the reasons I was not getting a good haunches in at canter is that I did not have her bent enough around my inside leg. I need to think of having as much bend in the canter when I ask for haunches in as I do in the turns on the haunches. We also worked on half pass at the trot and canter, and also the flying changes after the half pass. We finished up with asking for half steps. I spent about 10 minutes alternating between super collected trot steps and then sending her forward. It was warmer than it had been and Fling’s neck and butt were lathered when we finished! On Sunday the ‘drifting’ was almost nonexistant. We did some more work in half pass and more haunches in on the canter. Then we moved to working on our flying changes – the big bad bugagoo. Some progress there and Debbie gave me some exercises to do to try and fix a bad habit _I_ taught her. I tend to pull her over when I ask for the change – fearing that was the only way she would get the change. So now she is diving into the direction of the new lead when she changes. Debbie had me do changes across the centerline on the short side and focus only on the straightness – and instead of turning after the change, we stopped. And if she got crooked before the change – I was to not ask fro the change but come to walk/halt and then just do a simple change – but STRAIGHT. Super good clinic and I think Debbie is beginning to see Fling as an upper level horse. I am aiming to show her Fourth level this spring.
Very cool and blustery today but a beautiful, beautiful sunny day. For kicks, I tried out the canter zig zag with Fling…you half pass a few steps, do a flying change, and half pass the other direction a few steps. Eventaully you do it several times each direction. I think this is way fun and could be a good way to teach Fling that yes, you CAN do a flying change and stay focused and through and listening to your rider! I did not do more than one zig and one zag each direction but I can see this is not going to be a deal breaker on our move up the levels! I am so grateful for my wonderful little spotted horse. Even Marie noted yesterday that she thrives on hard work.
I rode Faeryn today and it could have been disastrous – windy day and Fling got a burr up her butt and she and Faxx went just blasting around the field when I was riding Faeryn. All I could think was, ok, Mike is out of town, I left my cell phone in the house… But Faeryn, although she really, really wanted to join her siblings in their mad dash, listened to me and was not naughty. I felt like I was riding a firecracker for a few minutes there but she maintained self-control! Good, good Faeryn!
I rode Faxx yesterday and he listens to my seatbones very, very well. And, I got our first walk/canter depart!! Yeah Faxx!! Second level is just around the corner. I have come to the conclusion that second level is where it starts to get fun. 🙂
Happy New Year. At this writing, it is 11:14 and I would be in bed but the fireworks near us have been awful and the horses are restless. They have tapered off for now, but I am sure they will surge again at midnight and I feel the need to check on the horses again at that point.
I think Faeryn’s major problem at the Schooling Show championships – and even the regular Regional Champs – was that we left our best riding in the warmup ring. I suspect I am warming her up too long and she is gettiing tired. Especially at the SS champs where she had two huge spooks in the warm up when a group of people walked down some steps from the main arena – said steps being directly at the far end of the warm up arena. When then have those huge adrenaline rushes – what goes up must come down – and I think she just ran out of gas during our second ride – which was the Second level champ. She worked beautifully before our ride – and we had less than an hour between our two rides.
Today I took Fling to Marie’s for a lesson (which I also did on Wednesday) and we have been working on piaffe half steps. She has taken to it like a duck to water. Marie is very pleased and says at this rate she will have her piaffe confirmed in six months! We also worked on canter and I had an epiphany about how to use my seatbones to establish the speed/rhythm of both trot and canter. I experimented with this technique with both Faeryn and Faxx too, with astounding results! A great way to ring in the new year!