Sunday, September 27, 2009

SHN 2009 - Saturday

Saturday at the horse show was going to be interesting. Albert was supposed to do First Level Amateur to ride at 10:22 and my trainer was supposed to ride Skyy in Training Level Open at 11:38. That meant that she would have to school me and then get right on Skyy to get him ready for his class. It would be close but I'd be able to ride Albert and then get back in time to watch her ride. It would hopefully all work out.

So we got Bert ready and headed down to the warm-up. I checked in with the gate keeper, and she said, "Number 197? I don't have you riding at 10:22. In fact, I don't have you in the class at all." I said "I'm sure he's in this class. The ride time sheets that are posted on the dressage office wall have him in the 10:22 slot." So she radioed up to the dressage office and they said that he was pulled from the class that morning because he was not qualified.

Here is what happened. When we got to the show to check in on Monday, they had Albert qualified for his Open classes but not his Amateur classes. They missed the fact that I am an Amateur, so they said he wasn't qualified. They looked up my Amatuer card, and cleared him for the Amateur classes. I rode in the Training Level Amatuer class without an issue. Evidently they didn't communicate to the dressage office that First level Amatuer was okay too.

They said I could ride in the last slot of the class at 11:38, but it would be a provisional ride until they could verify that he was qualified with the show office. This was the exact same time as Skyy's ride. Ugh. That would mean that my trainer and I would be warming up and riding at the same time. Not the best scenario but at least they has a slot for me in the class.

Since I wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page, I handed Albert to Susan and asked her to take him back to the barn while I went to the horse show office. I was none too pleased at this point because the horse was all tacked and ready to warm up and then had to get taken back to the barn. I was also completely dressed and it was raining lightly so I was wet. The show office had heard that I was coming and assured me that he was qualified. I asked the office worker if she could radio the dressage office while I was there to make sure that they knew that he was okay for the class. She made a face and said she would be sure that they knew about it, giving me the vibe that she didn't want to do it right now and I didn't need to be telling her what to do. So I thanked her and I marched right over to the dressage show office.

I got to the dressage show office and told them who I was. They said they had just gotten off of the radio with the show office and that it was all worked out. They assured me that it would be an official ride and not a provisional ride. I thanked them and went back to the barn to wait.

When I got there Susan said that her horse was none too happy. He was all ready to work and then was taken back to the barn, so he was pissed. I gave him an apple and some pats and we had a conversation about the test later. He didn't get it but he didn't seem upset either.

So my trainer and I got ready together and walked up to the warm up ring together. We rode together and she helped me out. Albert had a few issues in the last test, but I was so rattled from the sound bucking off that Skyy had given me that I wasn't riding effectively. So in the warm up I decided that I was going to get it together and make Albert work to his full potential. I tightened up his halts, got more jump in the canter, and got on his case when he got distracted. By the time we were ready to go in he was on the ball. I had seen my trainer with Skyy and he looked fantastic too.

Skyy was called up to the arena first, so my trainer went up. I stayed down in the warm up for a few minutes, and then I went up to watch her test. They weren't quite ready for me in my arena, but I would be going up soon. We were showing in the arenas right next to each other.

My trainer had a fabulous test! There was no bucking or fooling around. Skyy redeemed himself!

Just was she finished her test they were ready for me in my arena. We went around the outside of the arena and Albert saw the photographer. Now the day before he had spooked at the photographer and I thought it was a fluke, but today he also was spooking at him. I tried to refocus him but he really didn't like the look or sound of the camera, even though it was very quiet. I almost asked the photographer not to take photos, but I thought it would be okay and just went on with my ride.

We had one little mess up, because he was scared of the photographer again, but other than that it was a fantastic test.

The results? Skyy got a 63.6% and went Top Ten! He was 7th out of 40. Also Albert got a 68.6% and also went Top Ten! He was 5th (I think) out of 20.

After the awards ceremony my trainer and I got some photos taken together. Skyy's owner took some of us together too. We also went around the arena side by side and the photographer got some fantastic shots of the two horses trotting together. It was so much fun!

I'm having issues with posting the videos, so I'll get those up after I work out the bugs. Also I have other pictures to post of both horses.

In the end the show was a lot of fun. There were two horses, two riders, six classes, three Top Ten awards, and one bucking off. Plus a whole lot of work, and a lot more fun.

Look for us in 2011. We'll be there.

Friday, September 25, 2009

SHN 2009 - Friday

Today wasn't that great of a day. Well I didn't get bucked off or anything, so it was better than it could have been!

I rode Albert in his First level Open class. I was pleased with most of the trot work but wasn't happy with the canter work. I sort of froze up and was unable to refocus Albert when he got distracted by some trucks at the end of the arena. I just sort of steered him around like a bus. And this rattled me so much that I forgot what I was supposed to do in my test. Luckily I went the right way, but I went from the canter to the trot in the wrong place. This earned me an error and minus two points from each judge. I just didn't get the job done that needed doing. I am very disappointed in me.

We got a score of 63.9% and were 12th out of 53 horses. *sigh* Again, so very close to Top Ten. We could have done so much better. I need to get my act together!

Tomorrow there are 20 horses in Albert's First Level Amateur to ride class. It's my last chance to achieve what I came out here to do.

Also tomorrow my trainer will be riding Skyy in his Training Level Open class. She schooled him today and he went very nicely for her. I hope he is good for her and she can bring home an award for him. Right now I'm sore and tired, so it's off to bed soonish. Once more show day to go!

SHN 2009 - Saturday

Thursday, September 24, 2009

SHN 2009 - Thursday evening

Today I went to the barn, cleaned stalls, lunged horses, then took the day off from the barn to go and have lunch with a friend and tour a bourbon distillery (I'll post pictures of that later!). Then back to clean stalls and feed and walk horses, then back with my friends for a weekly open house dinner get together. I really needed the day off and now I'm about to head to bed.

I must say that I'm touched and overwhelmed by all the positive comments from everyone. Thanks you all so much for being so supportive. It's nothing that I could have predicted, and it's very nice to hear especially now.

I'm setting my sights on tomorrow. Albert and I ride at around 11 am. I'm going to focus and do what I need to do. My trainer is here so she can get my head and my body back in the game.

Better things are coming. :)

SHN 2009 - Friday

SHN 2009 - Thursday morning

Thank you for all of your support and kind words. I'm very, very sore this morning but it doesn't look like anything is out of place or swollen. I let myself finally cry this morning in the shower, and now I'm hovering on the edge of tears all the time.

Skyy hurt my feelings. I know that sounds dumb, but I have been nothing but fair and kind to him. I put my all into him, and what I got yesterday was a big "F You!". That on top of the fact that I feel foolish that I could think that I was competent enough to make this work is making me pretty down today.

I'm hoping getting out and seeing the ponies will make me feel better. Hearing them eat their breakfast while I clean stalls is always comforting.

SHN 2009 - Thursday Evening

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SHN 2009 - Wednesday

Today I decided to work Skyy in the warm-up arena first thing in the morning, then give him some time to relax before his class at 11:36. He was fantastic for his morning workout so I was pretty confident that he would be ready for his test.

We got to the warm up in plenty of time, and he worked nicely. Then we were called up to the arena, where we waited for a few minutes. The gal in front of me finished her test and we made our way up to the show arena.

I'll let the video explain what happened next. (Mom, you might not want to watch this. Dad either.)

Yes, he bucked me off. You can see that earlier in the test he was getting disobedient and resistant. The first canter was kind of a mess with the bucking and kicking, but I was able to hold it together and get back on track.

Here is the thing. I did not want to come off of this horse. I mean, nobody likes to get bucked off, but I didn't want him thinking he could unload me and get out of working. I told his owner that if he (or any horse, for that matter) really wanted to buck me off he'd be able to do it. I also told her that at this show I wasn't going down without a fight. Sometimes it's better to just jump off when things get hairy, but I was determined to hang in there. Since I told the owner that she kept filming, thinking that I was going to be able to stay on. She was wrong.

Well, he got the better of me and I ate dirt. I was sore and shaken, but otherwise okay. I had the owner take him back to the stalls and I rode the golf cart back (we only had it for one day). I had one ride on Albert still to go, so I cleaned up my boots, brushed off my breeches and braided his mane. Fortunately the footing is new and very clean so it didn't stain my breeches or get them dirty so I wore them for Albert's ride.

Albert didn't have as nice of a ride as yesterday either. He was a bit tense and actually spooked at the photographer. He got a 63.6% and (we think) placed 11 out of 53. Coming in 11th does not get you Top Ten, so no awards for today. Bummer.

I had to tell Skyy's owner that I could not ride him anymore. This makes me sad because we have come such a long way, but Skyy has broken my trust in him. The fact is that he didn't spook, and nothing was going on that could explain why he acted that way after warming up fine and trotting around the arena before his test without a problem. He just decided he didn't want to do it anymore, and the best way he could figure out how to make it stop was to buck me off. And by god, he was right. Unfortunately, it was a dirty move. The judge at B even said that to me, after he asked me if I was okay.

So, today I have utterly failed at what I set out to do. I am not feeling very good about my riding and am doubting my abilities. Now I know that at least a few of you will call "Hogwash!" on that, but let me explain. A better rider could have stayed on Skyy, or diffused the situation altogether. A better rider could have had a better ride on Albert today, despite the tenseness. And a better rider wouldn't be afraid to get back on Skyy again.

Tomorrow neither horse has a class. I will lunge both horses and will wait for Susan and my trainer to arrive at the show. Then we'll talk about what's going to happen on Friday and Saturday. For right now I'm going to try and have a decent night's sleep and try not to get too depressed about today. If I don't think about it then I won't get too upset. So that's just what I'll have to do.

SHN 2009 - Thursday Morning

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

SHN 2009 - Tuesday

Today Albert had his Training Level Amateur to Ride class. He didn't go until 3:36, so I had time to ride Skyy in the morning. I lunged him first, and that in itself was interesting.

You see, it's been raining like crazy here. They have fantastic footing and drainage at the Kentucky Horse Park, but there is only so much rain that some of the footing can handle. So they had to juggle competition arenas around, and ended up running three dressage show rings and only one warm-up. Plus that warm-up had to serve as a schooling arena because all of the other arenas were too wet to ride in.

I couldn't very well lunge in an arena that had three classes warming up for it, as well as people schooling horses that weren't about to show, so I had to take him into one of the super mucky arenas. The footing was safe, but just wet and sloppy. By the time we were done both Skyy and I were really filthy.

I took Skyy to the (only) warm-up ring and rode him for about 20 minutes. He was tense, and tried his little bucking twisting routine again when I asked fore the canter, but this time I was ready for him. I sat my butt down and drove him forward, which made him realize that his tantrum only made more work for him. So he didn't try that again. Instead he worked nicely, and was only moderately tense.

Later that afternoon Albert had his class. He was also a bit tense but was a very good boy for me.

He ended up with a score of 69.2%. This put him in 3rd place out of 46 horses. Yes, 46! So we got a Top Ten award! I'm very proud of that boy.

After the awards ceremony they opened up the competition arenas for schooling, so I got back on Skyy to school in the arena where he will show tomorrow. He was much more settled and calm. He was focused, willing, and submissive. I was so very pleased with him. He has settled down and doesn't seem so anxious about everything.

Tomorrow Skyy has his Training Level Amateur to Ride class, and Albert has Training Level Open. As for me, I'm sore, pooped, and ready to get some sleep!

SHN 2009 - Wednesday

Monday, September 21, 2009

SHN 2009 - First night

We got down to the Horse Park in record time. We unloaded the horses and all the assorted horse show stuff. Then I rode both horses.

Skyy was very scared, poor boy. He had a lot of anxiety but he was a bit more relaxed after he lunged for a bit. Then we went up to work in the area where the dressage rings were. Things were going okay - he was being obedient but he was very tense. I was just waiting for him to take a deep breath and relax just a touch. However it started to rain.

I don't think he's ever been ridden in the rain, and he did not like it. It put him over the edge a little bit and he started running a little sideways to try and get away from the rain. I called his owner over and she grabbed his bridle and lead him around in the rain. I wanted him to realize two things - that the rain wasn't going to hurt him, and that we weren't going to stop just because he didn't care for the weather.

Once it stopped raining he calmed down and we got back to work. He wasn't done expressing his disapproval for his having to work through the rain. I asked him to canter and he exploded, bolting, kicking, and twisting. It was very quick and was over before I could say "Skyy!" Then he got back to work and even though he was tense we cantered each direction and everything was fine.

Albert was great for his schooling ride. It rained pretty hard on us as well and Albert didn't like it much either but it bothered him less than Skyy. I was soaked when we were done. So was the aisle in front of our stalls. Unfortunately we have the wettest stalls in the whole shed row. WE asked if we could move but they didn't have stalls close by that we could move to. So we are stuck with the huge puddles.

And unfortunately it's going to rain all week. So we will just be soggy. I just hope I don't have to show in the rain. I know nobody likes it, but I'm still crossing my fingers.

Now I'm very tired, and I'm going to bed. Tomorrow I show Albert. After I get sleep.

SHN 2009 - Tuesday

SHN 2009 - Early Morning

It's 5:30 AM and I'm about to walk out the door. I've been up since 2:30. That's when Macey wandered into our room crying, saying she was going to miss me. I let the little dear into our bed and couldn't go back to sleep. Hauling down to Lexington, KY, unloading, setting up, riding two horses, giving baths, and all the other fun horse show stuff will be difficult on three and a half hours of sleep.

It's going to be a long day.

SHN 2009 - First Night

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sad day

A friend of mine is putting her horse down today. I felt like I should go over there, but I have things to do here to get ready for the trip. I don't know if she wants a lot of people over there anyway. I feel like I should be helping, or doing something, but there is nothing that I can do. It's so sad.

Cherish those ponies of yours. Give them kisses and hugs today and every day. Their time with us here is too short.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Prep time

I had two great lessons on Thursday night. There was a little warm-up, then running though the tests.

We are ready. Both horses felt great.

Today I finished clipping them both (ears too!) and rode Kaswyn. I'm so thrilled that Kaswyn has been sound. He's getting his spark back and feeling more fit with each passing week. Oh, and I also fixed the arena drag so I could drag the arena.

Tomorrow I will have my last ride on each pony before we head down to Lexington on Monday. All of my grooming stuff and show clothes are packed, so I just have to get my regular clothes together. Since I have so much done already I feel excited but not stressed about how much still has to be done because I can easily get it done Sunday evening.

Just a few days left! I'll be sad heading down there without Kaswyn, but he wouldn't have been ready. I have two years to prepare. He'll be back out there.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two lessons and a fit

Last night I had two lessons, one each on Skyy and Albert.

Skyy's lesson was great. It started off kind of shaky, with Skyy not making a consistent contact to the bit. After a little warm-up my trainer had me ride a 20 meter trot circle at the far end of the arena. Then she asked me to have the horse stretch his nose down to the ground.

Here is how I usually do this, especially with Skyy. I ask him to put his neck extra round and extra deep, then I push a bit with my legs and seat and at the same time let the reins get longer. As he stretches his nose down I keep just a little contact with the bit so that if he stops stretching, needs to turn, or brings his head up I can use the reins to adjust whatever is needed. Even during the stretch circle exercise in the test you really shouldn't completely throw your reins away and have the reins lose, since what the exercise is supposed to show is that the horse maintains contact, or at least seeks the contact, with the bit no matter where you put the bit.

So this is what I did in the lesson. Skyy was stretching some, but not all the way down so I kept trying to ask him to stretch down by taking a bit of contact and loosening his neck. My trainer said "Longer reins, and have him stretch down more." I tried to have a longer rein but he wasn't stretching to it, so I kept shortening them.

She kept saying "No, longer rein, as in just hold the buckle of the reins." Well when you hold the buckle that is as long as your reins can possibly get. But he wasn't stretching. Still she said "Longer reins, just let them go!" and I finally said "But I have no contact, see?" and she said "I know, just let them get longer."

I completely didn't get what I was supposed to be doing. Clearly she wanted me to have the horse stretch. He wasn't stretching. How would a longer rein with no contact at all help me to make him stretch? I was getting frustrated, because I felt like I was trying but I just wasn't getting this exercise. So I'm ashamed to admit that I threw a little hissy fit and said "But I have no contact! Nothing in my hands! How can I get him to stretch? I HAVE NO CONTACT!" To illustrate my point, I shook my totally loose reins forward so they were waving elaborately.

She said, calmly, "I know. Just hold the buckle and don't worry about it."

Fine. If that's what she wanted that is what I would do. I held the buckle, and Skyy put his head in the air. He didn't race off or even speed up, but he didn't put his head down and stretch like we were supposed to be doing either. When we came to the spot where we should have turned to keep on the circle I didn't do anything with the reins but tried to turn him with my seat and leg, and he didn't turn. My trainer said "Okay, well, turn him back onto the circle and keep holding the buckle."

So that is what we did. A few times my trainer had me establish contact and a working frame again, only to have me hold the buckle again. Then she said "Pat his neck, talk to him, get him to relax." I started to scratch his withers and talk to him, much like I did at the last show after our tense ride. The whole time all I kept thinking was "Where are we going with this? I'm clearly not doing this right and the horse isn't getting it either." But I kept my frustration in check and did as I was told.

Suddenly, after trotting for what seemed like an eternity with his head up in the air and the reins completely slack, Skyy stretched all the way down to the ground with his nose. His released his neck and his back, and gave a big sigh. He did this all on his own without me touching his mouth.

Oh. That's what you wanted. Huh. Now I get it.

My trainer said "Ahhh! Yes! That's it!"

We worked this exercise for a few more minutes that direction, and then worked it the other direction. After that Skyy's contact was much steadier and he had much better swing and relaxation in his back. Then we took a walk break and I prepared to run through the test.

As I was sitting on Skyy running through the test in my head I heard my trainer and Skyy's owner laughing quietly. I said "What? Are you laughing at me because I'm talking myself through the test?" and my trainer said "No, well, yes, we're laughing but not about your test." They giggled a little more so I said "What is it?" and my trainer said "Just run through your test and I'll tell you later."

So we went through the test twice, and they were both pretty decent. The second test was better because I was able to fix some of the issues from the first test. He's got the basics down but now I have to put the polish on all the movements.

As I was cooling Skyy down I said "Okay, what were you laughing at?" My trainer smiled and said "You never get rattled like that in a lesson, but I could tell we were having a breakdown in communication. It's just because you're so intense right now with the show coming up. It reminded me of that one lesson where you freaked out on Kaswyn with the 'He just WON'T get off my LEFT LEG!' "

I laughed because I remember that lesson. I think we were working on trot half-pass to the right, and my horse was sitting on my left leg. I was squeezing with my left leg as hard as I could and he would not move his haunches over. It was exasperating. We tried again and again but he was completely blowing off my left leg. Finally I came unglued and put both reins in my right hand, took my whip in my left hand, and spanked his left butt cheek with a WHAP WHAP WHAP! My trainer, shocked, said "Um, okay, what was that for?" and I said, in my best snotty fourteen-year-old brat voice, "He just WON'T get off my LEFT LEG!"

So that makes three times that I've pitched a fit in a lesson. Well, maybe not pitched a fit, but got a little bratty. I guess with as many lessons as we've had in 10 years it's not too bad, although it shouldn't be any. At least she's not mad at me!

Albert had a great lesson too. We worked the "buckle stretch" with him too, since he's not stretching down as much as he should either. He needed a bit more convincing with the reins though. We will work on that at home. I also ran through the test twice and made the same mistake twice - the same mistake I made last week in the lesson. I will not be happy if I go off course at the show. You would think that making the same mistake and then correcting it at home would drill it into my brain, but for some reason I keep screwing it up. Albert is very solid and ready for this. I just have to keep him slow and relaxed because he gets a little pumped up after his first medium trot in the test. If I can remember that we're good.

Two more lessons Thursday. Schooling rides on Friday. Clipping and riding Saturday. Packing Sunday. Then on the road Monday!

Monday, September 14, 2009

2009 Sport Horse Nationals Ride Times

I've been crazy busy, so there has been no time for a real update, but this recent development warranted a new post.

Ride Times have been posted!

Here are my times -

Tuesday - Albert at 3:26
Wednesday - Skyy at 11:46 and Albert at 3:02
Friday - Albert at 11:10
Saturday - Albert at 10:22 and Skyy at 11:38

It will be nice having Thursday off. Saturday will be interesting since I need more time on Skyy to warm him up. It will be tight but should still work out just fine.

Still so much to do. I'll have two lessons this week on each horse. Then it's lots of packing, clipping and cleaning. Ack!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Oh. Okay. Calm, right?

I just realized that I will have two more lessons before we leave for Sport Horse Nationals. Two more chances to run through the tests in a regulation sized arena. Did I say I was ready for this show? I'm not so sure anymore.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Thursday's lessons

I had two fantastic lessons on Thursday. Skyy was first. We really made some breakthroughs with the contact. When I first started riding him it was hard for him to make consistent contact with the bit at all. He would come above the bit, dive below, go behind the vertical, take his head left and right, etc. Then we got to the point where he was bearing down really hard on the bit. It was nice that he was making contact but he was doing it on his terms.

Last night my trainer had me push him forward when he would bear down on the bit. He finally got the picture that I would just send him on if he did that, so he started to settle lightly on the bit. Then I would release my hands a little bit as a reward for him. It's finally all coming together in his head and he is understanding when is expected of him.

We also worked on the canter departs. My trainer said that I need to set him up for the canter departs like I would for a second level horse. I should expect that he accepts the half-halt, reaches under, and pushes into the canter. We had some really nice transitions because when I expected it and set him up for it he obliged.

I rode him Friday in hopes that we'd be able to repeat our success, and I was tickled pink because he was fantastic. Until yesterday I was worried that we would not be ready for Nationals, but now I feel like we have just enough time to refine everything. We'll be ready.

For Albert everything at the trot was really quite good, except that I need to remember to slow the tempo so that he does not look like he is rushing. This will also help him relax his back and take longer more reaching strides. Then we worked on his biggest problem - that he carries his haunches to the right when cantering to the right. My trainer had me pick up the right lead canter and then had me do haunches out and put his haunches to the left while also making him look to the left with his head and neck.

The first time I tried his Albert got very nervous and started to pull on me. He was remembering the couple of times that I had tried to work on his flying changes. So since he was cantering and I bent him the other way with my inside leg on he was sure I was going to ask for the flying change, and that scared him.

We worked on this haunches out (renvers) exercise until I had to stop. Now, I rarely ask for a break in my lessons. Usually I will just suck it up and deal with the pain or whatever. But he was pulling on me so hard, and I was unable to loosen him at all, that my left hand went numb. So my trainer and I talked about what we were doing and why. She said "So you understand?" and I said "Yes, I understand, I just can't do it!" We both laughed at that, and when I could feel my hand again we started back up.

Although he was still heavy in my hand, eventually I got to the point where he was doing the exercise properly. Then my trainer wanted to work on the flying change, just to prove to him that it was nothing to be afraid of. She had me pick up the canter, come around the short side, and at the corner head across the short diagonal towards the center of the opposite wall. On the centerline, in the center of the arena, I made a ten meter circle with plenty of bend, and at the completion of the circle I let him be straight for one stride. Then I changed the bend and asked for the flying change while turning him into a circle in the other direction.

The first three or four times he changed in front, panicked, and started to run, then changed behind. My trainer coached me to get a better quality of canter in the circle, and to make the request for the change more fluid and with better timing. Finally, when I set it up correctly, he got a great clean flying change. My trainer said "Ah! He did it! And after he did it he looked right at me with his eyes all big and worried, like he couldn't believe he did it!" It was great!

Then we did it to the other side, and he got it in three tries. Of course he got lots of praise and pats for his great work, and we stopped there. That little horse has tons of talent. He got Friday and today off, and will get schooled on Sunday.

Kaswyn pulled shoe off in the pasture, so he's on walking duty until I get the blacksmith out. Ah well. We've got nowhere to go, so I'm not stressing about it.

I am starting to get nervous about the horse show. A little over two weeks to go. I better memorize those tests - I don't get to have a reader for any of them!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Don't panic, it's still me

I got tired of the old layout. Here's a new one. I'll be fooling around with it for a bit so the look might change a little in the next few days.

Like it? Hate it? Let me know!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Feels like old times, only better

I had a lesson on Kaswyn tonight. My trainer came to our barn because the other two boys were out with their owners riding on trails so I had no trailer. It's nice to ride Kaswyn in the large arena but it's not essential since we're not getting ready for a show or anything.

And boy, am I glad I didn't try and take him to the show. It's obvious now that he is very weak and needs some time to get himself back in shape. We didn't work that long but the work that we did was very productive. My trainer had me work some more with getting Kaswyn to move forward off of my leg and seat while at the same time staying round and connected. What Kaswyn does is start to lose impulsion and his hind legs get long and trail out behind him instead of reaching under and pushing. When I put my leg on strongly his first reaction is to rush forward and quicken the tempo. What I want him to do is gather his hind legs under and push harder up instead of out.

To do this my trainer has me push hard with my leg and seat, then stop him from rushing forward my giving a receiving half-halt to harness the energy and direct it up and out, and use my legs to scoop the hind legs under and keep them pushing. Then when he is pushing and has a nice jump to his stride she wants me to release the reins and let him carry himself for as many strides as he can. We worked on this both at the trot and canter but the canter is harder for him to maintain in the slow, pushing, jumping stride. Today I started to feel him get tired. We stopped for a walk break soon after and I told my trainer that I thought he was feeling a bit fatigued. She said that was fine, and that once a week I should push through that tired point for about five minutes. Only once a week, and only when I feel like he's in a good place to be able to handle it and not get sore or over-do it.

We also worked on some shoulder-fore at the trot on the 20 meter circle. This was to start revisiting some gentle lateral work and also to improve the inside leg to outside rein connection. It was also an exercise for me to get him to bend around my inside leg without using my reins, but using my legs and seat instead.

I realized this evening as I was getting cleaned up that I'm in a really good place with my horse right now. He's completely trained and he remembers everything. It's just that his body is not ready to perform yet. It's like we're starting over, but my riding is ten times better and his mind is trained and willing. He knows his job and I finally am learning how to do mine effectively. If I can do this right this time, and not push to hard, or make him crooked with my bad habits, or screw something else up because of my ignorance, then I think we might really have a chance to come back. And I think we'll come back strong and better than we ever were.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr