Monday, 29 January 2018

Thinking And Riding

Two things that often don't happen simultaneously in my world :)

I've already mentioned I've been watching a ton of video the past couple of weeks. I feel like a broken record, but our weather is still terrible. I'm riding, but I am not lingering at the barn. Which, of course makes more time for watching videos from my warm, dry home! The Robert Dover Horsemastership clinic for one, the West Coast Dressage Festival as well. Plus my usual YouTube suspects, anything Carl or Charlotte, plus Anna Ross Davies, Helen Langehanenberg, and Ingrid Klimke, to name a few. There's no shortage of inspiration out there.
Why yes, that looks like a lovely place to ride! Good thing there is the indoor nearby!

Regular readers know the thing I struggle with the most with Bridget is that she really, really, does not like to be truly in front of the leg. She might have energy, she might feel like a powder keg, but that energy prefers to go up and out or at best, forward with legs rushing and about half the engagement she's capable of.

Right or wrong, what I've got out of my lessons is to keep my reins at the desired length, soft elbows, and push Midge up into that contact. Lots of lateral work if she really doesn't want to get her hind legs under. This is hit or miss, and she's inconsistent...in the real world, she trots around just fine with her head up and her neck straight, thank you very much! I can totally get her soft and round and using her big bottom, but as soon as I change the bend or transition, we need to start over and build the power and relaxation back up again. It's frustrating to me, and quite honestly, she gets herself all frustrated with it too.

Taking a page from the videos I've been watching, this week I really just focused extra hard on keeping her in that happy place.

From Robert Dover, she needs to feel like she's ready for anything I ask. I also need to verbally praise her every time she's going well.

From Laura Graves, don't let her be in a bad place. i.e, if she's inverted or stuck, change the question immediately and get her into a good place. Praise and ask again. Don't get stuck going around in a less than desirable way or they will learn that it's an option, even if it's not a desirable one. Work on the very edge of where they're comfortable.

And..from watching lots of dressage tests...At our level, I'd rather have the forward, happy horse in the maybe more open frame than desirable, than the grumpy, stuck looking one being forced into it. Seems obvious, but I have let myself get pressured in the past.

So. We went back to the super basics. Pony needs to go forward sharply, she needs to move off my leg immediately, and she has to listen to my seat. She also needs to be accepting of the contact while moving forward...that whole 'taking you' feel.

This whole winter, I've been riding her in a lower, more open way than I know EC would prefer. But, I felt like I need to reestablish the whole being accepting of the contact while truly moving forward...that whole 'taking you' feel. I'm of course biased, but I feel like it's been working - pony is consistently happy and forward for the first time, maybe ever.


Now, I am starting to ask her to come 'up' a bit again, to sit a little longer, to carry herself there. I'm trying very hard to choose exercises that do the work for me rather than nitpicking at her...ie if she attempts to race along on the forehand and blows through my half half, we immediately go haunches in on a 15m circle and she has to collect a bit and sit her bum down. And you know what? She doesn't quit, get worked up or frustrated about things when I set it up that way. More than any horse I've ever owned, Midge REALLY needs time to think things through, and really needs to understand the why of it all. I'm not sure she's ever going to be the type to just immediately do something because someone said so, and I'm getting to be OK with that...if she needs lots of extra time and repetition to figure it out, but will try this hard once she feels she has reason to, then why not be patient?


And all the extra verbal "good girls" for every little thing?  Magic, I tell you. who knew my independent little pony cared about what I say? Yet, it seems she does and she gets quite proud of herself, too.

What can I say, I am a super slow learner. These are all such basic things, but I think I'm only now starting to really intuitively understand the concepts and how I can apply them in the moment. I feel like I understood before, but was more going through the motions, because I had read or been told it would work. Our flat work is honestly a bit of a mess at the moment, but the good is getting REALLY good, and the consistency of the good is improving with every ride. Slow progress is being made!

We have an EC clinic this upcoming weekend. I'm interested to see how the check in goes and what short of homework and feedback I'm going to get.


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15 comments

  1. oh man, i don't think that's slow learning at all, and it's awesome that you and B are kinda re-establishing all your lines of communication now that you're riding solo most of the time. this is basically exactly the same cyclical thought process i go through all the time too. ultimately, whenever i remember to step back and focus on riding the horse forward from back to front, everything just goes so much better and the horse is happier than if i can sorta get him into some sort of frame without the forward, as in front to back. and yet, i somehow still slip into those habits anyway...

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    1. I'm enjoying having a lesson break, because it's really forcing me to think for myself and pay attention to what B is saying. It's crazy how rushed I can get if I feel like it has to 'look good' for a show, or even a lesson.

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  2. I've been inspired by these videos too for my flatwork!

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  3. Thank you for sharing...this relates really well to Emi too!

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  4. love all that you wrote :) What a great partnership is forming :) I cant wait to hear how the weekend goes!! Great job!

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    1. :) Fingers crossed, I haven't "wrecked" the pony too badly in EC's absence!

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  5. I love how your partnership is coming together- you guys have come SUCH a long way. I struggle with this, too. I like "quick fixes" but there really is no such thing as that with horses. And I'm greedy. Once P truly started taking contact and moving forward, I wanted that feeling ALL the time so I started forcing it (ugh, hate typing that) with my reins and body. Doing WAY too much work, nagging every stride, etc. Always a work in progress!

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    1. I think a lot of us are in the same boat. 'm doing the exact same thing myself without realizing it most of the time.

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  6. I think you did exactly what you need to do. Trying to get the head down before Midge is truly pushing from behind will just close the door. In a perfect universe she will realize that with her swinging back and pushing from behind it's easy to stretch out her neck and take the contact. In not perfect world you may need to go back and forth to help her figure it out. I try really hard to not 'hold' Carmen in a frame- the exception being when she's being a giraffe and trying to look at everything. And that's because of safety. :)

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    1. Your description is exactly what I feel. I wonder if the disconnect I sometimes experience in lessons and clinics is that the rider/clinician of course has their horse in front of the leg and forward thinking, pushing as a matter of course. And Midge is very, very good at tricking people into thinking she's using herself as well as anyone could expect, when it fact there's a fancy dressage pony in there. So what they're telling me to do would result in a lovely collected trot on their horse. On B, however, there's a very fine line between that and "you only powered me up 75% and now you just shut the front door, oh well, I give up"

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  7. I love how thoughtfully you're approaching this and how many different professionals advice you're seeking out through videos. You two seem to really be coming together! And yes, isn't it crazy how much they like the praise? I tend to ride quietly, too, but am making efforts to praise more often and it always shocks me how big of a difference it makes! I can't wait to hear how things are going about a month from now - it seems like you've already begun to make some marked progress.

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    1. I feel like started with a year of amazing progress, and then the last year was pretty stagnant - B was getting a bit sour even going XC. I'm glad we're mixing it up a little - fingers crossed it works long term!

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  8. If that's slow learning, then count me on that bus right with you haha. B is lucky to have you <3

    "Don't get stuck going around in a less than desirable way or they will learn that it's an option, even if it's not a desirable one." This really resonated with me - reminded me of the clinic we took this past weekend.

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