Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March "Four Exercises I'm Using Right Now" Weekly Post #4

Barbie Doll Riding

My trainer introduced me to this idea when I was riding a horse that used to pull a lot of shenanigans in order to distract me from whatever we were really trying to accomplish. He was young, wiggly, and a bit bull-headed, and would take off or dive this way and that, or shake his head - you name it, he tried it.

My trainer said "Just ignore all that BS. Get in your position and ask for the same thing, and only that thing. Ride like a Barbie Doll. Just sit there and don't change. Show him that you're not getting caught up in his foolishness."

This is working well with Phil. When he gets nervous, or takes off in fear, or gets speedy at the trot, I just ride like Barbie. I just sit there, quietly, and wait until I have enough of his brain and his attention to work with. This is more of an exercise in my patience, rather than a pattern that I ride, but I find it really helpful to be nonreactive at times. I just keep asking for the same thing, and ignore the reactions I get that are the wrong ones.

April's Theme - It's Showtime

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I'm working on downloading video from the show today. I'm beat and I don't have it in me to write a post about it.

Soon though. :) Right now I need my bed.

Why did horse shows seem easier when I was younger? They are still fun, but now I feel tired and beat up at the end of them. And this was just a schooling show! I guess I got wimpy in my old age. ;)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Half of a halt

I know I talked about a lesson that I took last week, but I haven't had the time to sit down and write about it. I'm going to try and bang this out at work while it's a little slow.. we'll see how that goes!

So the night of my lesson it was a bit of a circus in at the barn. If you've watched any of my videos you'll see that the stalls open right onto the arena. Usually when I ride it's not a big deal because there isn't much going on, but that night it was a full house. During my lesson there was another child's lesson, two other people riding, someone lunging, two people at opposite ends of the arena cleaning their stalls with the wheelbarrows outside of the stalls (and therefore in the arena right on the track) and it was during feeding/watering time. Phil was completely distracted, but this gave us good material to work with because my trainer said "It's time to teach him how to accept and respond to the half-halt, and keep him from blowing through your hand".

First, she fixed my seat. It had only been three months since my last lesson and already Phil had gotten me pitched forward in my seat again. Then she said that I needed to exaggerate my body movement when asking for the transition from the trot to the halt. Like, really lean back, very deep in my seat, and try to use less rein. I needed to insist that he go all the way to the halt, then really praise him. She said I could even say, in a very low voice "Whoa" so that he would get the point of what I was asking.

Since there was so much for Mr. Distraction to look at, it was a perfect opportunity to do lots of transitions from trot to halt. At first I wasn't using my body enough, so my trainer said not to be afraid to REALLY exaggerate it, and that I won't ride it this way forever, or even for very long. Just until he gets the idea that a half-halt off my seat means something.

He was starting to really get it, so my trainer told me to now ask for truly half of a halt. As in, do the half-halt but not let him quite halt all the way before asking him to push off again into the trot. This is for building strength in his haunches and back, and for getting him sharper off the aids. This worked really well, and I've been using it a lot since.
Then we did a little canter work. Phil's canter has improved immensely since I got him and my trainer was really happy with the rhythm. The departs are even pretty decent, so we didn't work a lot on that.

Lastly, I wanted my trainer's opinion of the lengthenings that I'd been working on. Before I had her get the camera out, I set Phil up and asked for a lengthening across the diagonal, and it was a really nice one. Of course, it was the best one of the night. My trainer said "Oh! Well, there you go." Then I had her video some more diagonals, but it was hard with so much going on to get a clean diagonal, and I don't think the video shows him doing any particularly good ones. I'm not going to post the video unless you guys really want to see it.

All in all it was another great lesson. The half-halts and half-of-a-halts have really been great. Phil is really starting to respond to just my weight. At the beginning of our sessions I'm still exaggerating my seat and weight, but towards the end I find that I can be more subtle and still get a reaction.

This weekend is another schooling show. We're doing Intro B and C. Hopefully it will be another successful show!

Whew! Got that done before the boss came around. Some days you're just lucky, I guess. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March "Four Exercises I'm Using Right Now" Weekly Post #3

Clockwork Bend

Another exercise my trainer has me do with Phil, this time to help with his straightness. Phil is very crooked, and was mostly crooked going to the right. He would pop his left shoulder out, and leave his right haunches in. This made it very difficult to ride him that direction at either the trot or the canter. To help with this, my trainer had me slowly bend his neck to the right in degrees like you'd see on a clock. 12:00 was straight ahead, then bending the head to 1:00, then back to 12:00, then try 2:00, etc, until we were at maximum of 3:00 and were able to go from 12:00 to 3:00 easily. The key here is to go slow, both in the bending and the returning to 12:00. The exercise can be seen during a lesson with my trainer here -

The hardest thing about this exercise is keeping the horse on the 20 meter circle, as they have a tendency at first to dive to the inside and avoid having to stretch and bend. This exercise is about stretching the side of the horse that is stiff (in Phil's case, his left side is stiff), so going on a small circle would just allow him to curl the whole body. By asking the horse to keep on a large circle, but bend the neck and body to the inside, the outside of the horse gets a nice stretch. It also helps the outside front leg to reach farther forward, a bonus for that stiff side.

I'm now finding that Phil feels crooked to the left now, so we are starting this exercise the other direction. Doing the exercise both directions is going to help Phil develop straightness, which is sometimes really elusive on a wiggly young horse!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March "Four Exercises I'm Using Right Now" Weekly Post #2

Counterbend Circle

This exercise was introduced to me by my trainer when I was riding Lee to help improve his lateral suppleness and help teach him to go to the outside rein. We would ride a 20 meter circle on the true bend, then at the centerline we would change direction onto a 12-15 meter circle but keep the same bend. So basically we'd be riding a smaller circle on a counter bend. At the end of the counter-bend circle, change direction back to the 20 meter circle, all the time keeping the same bend. Every time you change direction, change your diagonal so you're still posting with the outside front leg.

At first it's pretty hard when you change direction, because the horse doesn't get that they need to, say, turn to the right but stay bent to the left. You really have to use your body to help the horse go in the direction you want them to go. After a few times each direction they start to get it when you change direction but not the bend, and they really push into your counter-bend rein - the inside rein on your counter-bend circle. It sounds confusing, I know, but what happens is you're just riding a figure eight with one small circle and one big one and keeping the same bend on both.

I find that this really helps Phil become more supple, and that when we change from the small circle to the big true bend circle he really jumps to the outside rein. Then I ride the large circle and continue to push him to the outside rein, and with him already there it eliminates the need for me to get my hands involved. I can just use my seat and weight.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I don't have much time to write, but I have a lesson tomorrow on Phil. I'm super excited because we've been working on changes of stride length within the gaits. So at the trot I've been working him on the 20 meter circle and asking him to take a bigger step and lengthen the stride, and then asking him to accept the half-halt and come back to a working gait. Last week he was doing so well on the circle that I decided to take him across the diagonal and try it that way.

He did really well the first time, but then coming up on the second diagonal, in the corner, he got a little spooked. There was a new horse in the corner stall who was chewing on the wall, and it was making a weird squeaking noise. Even I was like "What is THAT?" for a second. Since we've been working on the whole "I'm not going to beat you for spooking" thing, he was not afraid of me, just the horse, and coming into the corner he rose up in front and sat down behind, in preparation for a spook. I held him together long enough to get him turned onto the diagonal (and away from the squeaky horse), and then I loosened his neck real quick. I used that spook energy and sent him forward, asking for a bigger stride.

And holy sh*t people, I got it. It was HUGE. He went through and over his back, and floated a good four strides before he fell on his forehand. He only quickened his pace a little bit. Then he actually accepted the half halt before the corner and didn't run through the transition. I made a big fuss out of him, and loved all over him. Then we tried it again, this time without the spook, and he totally got what I wanted. Since then we've been working on it, and Phil gets really excited about it. He really loves to lengthen that trot, and it's feeling really good. He doesn't get an entire diagonal of perfect strides or anything, but he's getting it and he's trying.

So I can't wait to show my trainer. I might be totally off base, and what he's giving me is incorrect and awful, but I kinda don't think so. Just thinking of this horse's future makes me SO excited.

I'll get video of my lesson if I can. :) Can't WAIT!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

March "Four Exercises I'm Using Right Now" Weekly Post #1

Utilize the Diagonal

Phil and I are working right now, amoung other things, our downward transitions. I've seen Courtney King-Dye say that the basics for any horse are "Start, Stop, and Steer." Well Starting is not an issue, but Phil sometimes doesn't Stop all that well, and occasionally he blows through my half-halts from canter to trot. To help him achieve a prompt but forward feeling down transition, I'll ride the canter across the diagonal and ask for the trot just before we get to the wall. I think that him approaching the wall gives him the feeling of "Oh, I better think about stopping" and then when I half-halt he is more responsive. This also works from the trot to the walk, where he is especially slow in taking the aide for the down transition into the walk. We are also working on overall acceptance of the half-halt, but that's something else entirely. This exercise gives him the correct timing and a chance for me to praise him that he's on the right track.

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr