Friday, October 28, 2011

It's a wrap

Phil doesn't care for leg wraps. I understand the fact that he's not used to them because he never had to wear them before. However, now that he's a dressage horse he needs to wear them. And he does, every time I work him. Trying to get the back wraps on him is a challenge, because he doesn't want to stand still, or put weight on the leg I'm wrapping. Sometimes he waves the leg in the air a little (okay, sometimes a LOT). He tolerates them but he's not happy about it.


(but he's still really cute even when he's being bad).

You'll notice that's a YouTube video. I finally created an account for horsey videos - DressageMomBlog. Right now I only have two videos posted - this one and the one of my first lesson with Phil (which you can find here). I'll post more in the upcoming months.

Also, an update on Kaswyn. He has been giving lessons to little kids and he's been doing great! He stands like a trooper while they groom him and he's really good when they ride him too. The problem is that his dance card has been a little full and I haven't gotten a chance to ride him in a week! I am often there for his lessons so I know how he's being used, and I approve. He's certainly not overly taxed, because some of the kids just walk. He doesn't give lessons every day, and each lesson is only about 20 minutes. My only concern is that he's not being asked to get on the bit, and I'm a little worried that he'll get sore or stiff. So I'm hoping to be able to hop on him and get him really round and stretching about once a week, but I don't want him to work more than three days in a row. I'm not super concerned, it's just something I want to keep an eye on.

Somebody asked me today if I was going to a show next weekend. Not yet... but soon. I watched the footage of Phil's first lesson and compared it to how he felt tonight (which was FANTASTIC) and he's come such a long way. I'm thinking January. Sure, I could do Intro, but he can canter so I think I'll try Training. Maybe. We'll see.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fight for your seat

In my last lesson with Phil, my trainer said many times that I needed to make sure I was not leaning forward (as I have a tendency to do). She said I should think of keeping my shoulders over my hips instead of in front of them, and I noticed a big difference in the effectiveness of my seat when I did this. The reason for this, for me personally, is that when I lean forward a little bit I put less weight down on my seat-bones, therefore less weight in my seat. It's harder to use your seat if you don't have your weight settled there.

My rides since my lesson have been a constant battle for me. Phil is just starting to establish a steady contact, which is good, but at times he makes a really firm contact. I know he's just trying to figure out what contact I want, and what is comfortable for him, so he's experimenting with different levels of contact. But that firm contact can sometimes pull me forward, causing me to have less weight in my seat. Sometimes he takes me by surprise and will take a big step and push hard into my hand and pull my butt right out of the saddle.

I was getting a little frustrated that I couldn't stay solidly put in the saddle. On the way home one night I got to thinking about something I had heard years ago - in of all places, karate class.

I took karate for a period of time in grad school (my ex is a black belt...) and I remember once we went to his home dojo to train. We took a class from his sensei (who was really badass in my opinion). He had us doing some stretching and balancing exercises, and I remember the class trying to stand on one foot for something. People would lose their balance and just put the other foot down. So the sensei said something like this - "Don't just give up! Fight for your balance! I don't care what it looks like... wave your arms around, do whatever you can, just fight for it. Eventually it will get easier to recover once you lose your balance."

I thought about what he said, and so I tried to apply it to my riding. It was HARD! It's so much easier to ride incorrectly, leaning forward, not using my core, and letting my seat come up. But this wasn't as good for Phil. He really needs the support of my seat, so I started to fight for my seat. I really sat back, and forced myself to keep my weight down in the saddle. I didn't care how many times I lost my balance, or if I got pitched forward, I just kept fighting for it, and trying to do it right.

The difference was obvious. With a strong seat at the trot, when Phil would make the strong contact into my hand I was able to push him more forward and into a bigger trot, which allowed him to drive more from behind and, after a few strides, lighten the contact on his own. At the canter it made the difference between Phil having a quick, short, choppy canter and having a slow, rolling canter that was free and rhythmic. He is less likely to take the strong contact at the canter for some reason, but he does tend to get quick, especially going to the right. Fighting for my seat is helping me balance him at the canter because I'm able to slow him down with my seat instead of my hands, which is always better.

So, every time I ride I'm now fighting for my seat. And every time I drive home, I can tell I'm doing it right because my abs are sore!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Spammers got me

Today I had over 50 spam comments on my blog posts. They were on new posts, old posts, and every post in between. They launched a massive attack and some posts got hit more than once. It's annoying.

So I enabled the word verification option for comments. Sorry to have to do that, but I personally don't need to increase my penis size.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A lesson today!

I don't have much time - gee, so what else is new? - but I wanted to give a quick rundown of my lesson with Phil today. There is no video, even though I had someone there who could have easily gotten some footage! I had my camera and everything, I just forgot to ask. Weak!

Overall Phil is much steadier in his contact and is also much more solid in his canter. No more careening around the ring and scaring me half to death that he's going to wipe out. That's progress!

Things to work on -

1) Phil is starting to really come into my hand and seek the contact, but occasionally he does it in a very firm way, almost rudely. I wasn't sure how to handle this, because I want him to establish contact but I don't want him bearing down so much. My trainer had me actually push him into my hand harder, then half halt and release when he responded. This made him lighter, and practicing this is the first step to teaching him what self carriage is all about. Releasing here is the important part - if you never let go, your horse can't carry itself!

2) Going to the left, especially at the canter, I'm getting locked in my right arm, high in the right shoulder, and off of my right seat bone, which is allowing Phil to avoid loading the right hind. As a result he is twisting body a little, and lowering the left ear. To fix this I need to counter-bend him a little, and think about sitting on my right seat bone to help him load the right hind leg.

3) At the canter it's time to start pushing him into a bigger canter (like the beginnings of an lengthened canter), and then half halt and bring him back to a working canter. This will develop his gaits within the gaits and strengthen his body. It will also get him more attuned to my seat, which he is really starting to listen to very well.

4) Since I now have a decent connection I can start playing around with teaching him about inside leg to outside rein. To do this I need to start releasing with the inside rein when Phil has a "good moment". Meaning he's got nice contact, nice tempo, and is listening. My trainer says I really need to be there with my outside aids when I do this, especially the outside rein. We did some of this tonight and towards the end I was able to push him a bit with my inside leg too.

All of this is very exciting. In just a few short weeks this horse has made some major improvements. My trainer was really impressed tonight with his potential for reaching with his shoulder and driving with his back end. I think he has a lot more to offer in the movement department. I just need to work on realizing that potential fully.

I'm really stoked and already thinking about winter schooling shows. This could be a very fun year.

Oh, and I'll get video on the next lesson (if I remember). For those of you who couldn't see the last video - I'll try and get it up on YouTube. I guess some of your browsers don't like the blogger video player. I'll see what I can do!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Barn fun

So my lesson was cancelled for Thursday (booo!)

But it was rescheduled for tomorrow! (yaaay!)

In the meantime, I took the girls to the barn to "help" with with turning both horses out and cleaning their stalls.

The result?

They were both shoveling the bedding around. It's sawdust, so it's a little finer than shavings, but it's clean bedding. I told them they could move it around but not spread it all over the place. I filled my wheelbarrow up with clean bedding and went to bed the stalls. When I came back, here is what I saw...

Macey, totally buried in sawdust, complete with a healthy portion in her hair. Then...

Lily, the instigator, clean (for the moment). The second my back was turned, as I put the wheelbarrow away, it was Lily's turn to get buried by Macey, so...

UGH. Showers for everyone when we got home. They had sawdust EVERYWHERE, even in their girl parts. Two days later and I'm still brushing shavings out of their hair.

Note to self. Next time make sure to clearly define what "playing in the sawdust pile" really means.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What time?

I swear I don't know where my time goes. I've been running around like a crazy person lately! Right now I'm typing this on my phone while Lily is in her karate class. I'm grabbing the time when I can get it!

Having less time right now (because of work) is kinda cruddy. The good thing is that I have been able to find the time to ride both horses. Kaswyn is still doing really well. He seems content and happy most days, and likes to work. He still has bad days, but they don't break my heart anymore.

I've had some breakthroughs with Phil in the trust department. Last Monday a huge thunderstorm started during our ride. The rain was pounding on the roof and the back door of the arena was open. When we went by the door and the rain was sheeting off of the end of the barn, Phil didn't want to go anywhere near it. I was firm, but kind, and insisted that he walk up the the doorway and look at the water. Finally he went and took a look, blowing and snorting the whole time.

Then I praised him and we went back to work. He was scared, but took a chance that the water wasn't going to hurt him, and went by the door without spooking. He trusted me, didn't get eaten, and got lots of praise from me. Since then our rides have been really good. He's letting me regulate his speed, listening a bit to my seat, and has been able to concentrate. It's been great.

I have a lesson tomorrow. I can't wait!

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr