Monthly Archives: April 2012

Debbie Bowman Clinic this weekend

I rode Fling both days in the clinic this weekend. I hadn’t totally planned to, but Faeryn lost a shoe last week and could not get the shoer out, and Faxx is still coughing from the bug they all had two weeks ago. I can ride him lightly, but anytie I trot him for any length of time he coughs repeatedly.

We’re working on improving her canter, and also trying to improve my position, which, will improve her canter. I am still trying to break a bad habit of ‘pumping’ at the canter, which starts so subtley that I don’t even realize when it stars to happen. What causes it is mostly when I let my reins get too long and and then I start carrying my hands more in my lap instead of in front of me and over her withers.

She has improved a lot from last time in that she is no longer constantly trying to swing her left hind leg out to avoid takingg weight on the right hind. She is still stiffening on the right rein, which I need to fix by making sure my right rein is short enough and that I drive her up to the right rein instead of pulling back on it. It also helps to do lateral exercises to ‘unblock’ her on the right side and get her more flexible and through. I think it’s been hard to half halt her on the right – because she’s been ignoring me – so I’ve just quit and let my rein get longer to completely avoid the issue. I could feel her get much more ‘through’ when I worked on those things. I also need to remember to maintain the quality of the gaits even through the lateral work, especially at shoulder-in. I should not let her ‘flatten’ her gaits just because she is doing lateral work. Toward the end we worked on one movement that’s tough for her from Fourth level test one, and that is doing a medium trot across the diagonal and then doing 4-5 steps of collected trot over X. For years to get the mediums I just ‘chased’ her and did not maintain connection – which made it impossible to do that downward from medium to collected in a clear manner. I need to gradually ask for the medium, and keep my leg on her through it, and gradually bring her back. Eventually it will get ‘snappier’ – the medium itself, and the downward to collection – but for now this is where we need to start.

Today we did more of the same and my position at the cante rwas better. We did a lot of counter canter to get her straighter…left canter lead going right – and also renvers at the canter like we did at Marie’s a few weeks ago. She had a few perfectly square downwards to halt and then we worked more on the medium to collected trot. I need to remember the perception – when she is doing it right, she does not necessarily feel like she is going more forward or faster – she just feels FANCIER – more air underneath her, and I cn feel her back bouncing under my seat. If she surges forward and feels faster, we’ve lot connection and throughness.

Now I need to make a decision by May 9 whether or not I’m showing her at Fourth level at a show Memorial Day weekend. I will have a chance to go to some schooling shows between now and then – but not before I have to send in my entry. Now, for the next two weeks, I need to start riding through parts of the test. I have ridden through the canter work more than I have the trot. Now is the time to put it all together.

Training ‘to the test’

Here in Texas, we have standardized testing. And there is much criticism and controversy about ‘teaching to the test’ instead of teaching critical thinking and logic.

However, I have discovered that with Fling, when it comes to flying changes, I definitely have to ‘teach to the test.’ Especially when it comes to getting her to learn to do the flying changes from the various places in the arena where they are required in each test.

Getting Fling to do a flying changes along a straight line is a challenge. She simply does not see the point in it, as she knows that in dressage tests, one does flying changes when one is changing direction across a diagonal, or going across a diagonal in half pass. Since she knows she is not changing direction on a straight line, in her mind, it’s a pointless waste of her time. 😉

So, I have to teach her to the test. She learns where the flying changes are in each test, and that is how she learns them. Theoretically I know that a correctly trained horse should perform a flying change wherever you ask for one. But, since Fling has always been a little ‘special’ – why should this come as a surprise? LOL. So, she’s learned to do single changes across the diagonal. She’s learned to do them from the half pass. She’s learned to do MULTIPLE changes by doing ‘baby’ half pass zig zags. That was easier than asking her to do multiple changes across the diagonal, because, again, in her mind, why should you have to do multiple changes across the diagonal since you are only changing direction once? the half pass zig zags made sense to her because each time you change direction in the half pass, you change, and even if you are only going three strides and change direction, you are still CHANGING direction, so of course, you do the flying change. It made perfect sense to her.

But now we are in a place in her training where she is going to have to learn to do flying changes three and four strides apart. That is what is required in Prix St. Georges, which we are aiming for next year.

So, last night I started by doing several changes from half pass in a ‘baby’ zig zag – sort as a ‘warning’ of what was to come and to remind her she really COULD do multiple flying changes. Then I went across the diagonal and I just started asking for changes and did as many as I could before we ran out of real estate. They were not pretty – in fact, each one got just a tad bit more crooked and ‘bucky’ – BUT – we did four. And now that she knows that is going to be a requirement, and that she CAN actually do four – going forward the quality of each change will get better.

Part of being a ‘horse trainer’ – even an amateur one, is realizing that not every horse has ‘read the book’ and not every horse learns the same way. And sometimes, even though ‘everyone’ tells you NEVER to sacrifice the quality of the flying changes for quantity – sometimes they ARE wrong. 😉

Sick ponies – and a saddle swap

I rode all three of my kids in the Debbie Bowman clinic last weekend and now they all have snotty noses and gurgly coughs. Faeryn actually is not very sick at all – very little coughing. None are running temperatures and all are eating. So far I am not giving antibiotics since I suspect this is a virual thing they picked up at the clinic.

So it was a beautiful weekend and about all I rode was my orange tractor. I did get on Faxx and Fling long enough to discover that their coughing is exacerbated by exercise. And, since I am starting to think Fling’s saddle does not fit her anymore – or me – I put Faeryn’s saddle on her and I think that works better. I am still going to try and find her very own new (used) saddle, but for now she’ll borrow Faeryn’s.