Another week behind!

I’m reading a really great book right now, and it’s interfering with my writing, haha. I’ve also been sick, which means I haven’t been barning or thinking as much.

So, the past week!

Monday was a break.

Tuesday I cranked down the side reins, as Michele advised, so that her head was at the vertical. Wow, does it change her frame a lot. After we struggled through some longing, I got on her (with the side reins loosened, but still on) and we walked and trotted around. It was definitely a weird experience.

Wednesday I went to Connor’s football game. Another break!

Thursday we had a crappy o/f ride – Rob just would not jump…she kept running out, and I couldn’t get a good canter for the life of me. I started the ride with a lot of harder dressage work, and Carolyn said she had been running around in her pasture all day, so I think Rob may have just been tired. I certainly hope so. As much as I love dressage, I really really want to event, and I know I would terribly miss jumping if Rob decided it wasn’t for her.

Friday I had a lesson – my first lesson on the longe. Robbye got side-reined, and I was told to put my reins away. EEK! Overall, it was a great lesson, and I got a serious workout. I learned two main things:

  • I really need to stiffen up my upper body. Maybe I should start doing crunches or something. Without the reins to help stabilize, I am floppy.
  • My legs still need to come back. I did discover that I was confused about which muscles to use, so hopefully that will help in the future. I’m going to start working out said muscles, once I can find relevant exercises.

Saturday Rob got the day off. I took her portrait so I can add to her confirmation comparisons.

Sunday we did some serious longing. I set timers so that I could really make sure I was pushing her:

  • 5 minutes of warmup – very little work, mostly trotting with a little cantering, and no side-reins.
  • 10 minutes to the left with the side-reins fairly tight. Lots of transitions at all three gaits and to/from a whoa. I’m trying to teach her verbal cues and workout her self-carriage at the same time!
  • 10 minutes of the same as above to the right.
  • 5 minutes of cooldown – no work at all, side-reins off, walk only. She looooves to stretch her neck at this point!

I felt like the longing was actually very useful, and I think I’ll continue longing a bit before rides, if only to reinforce the verbal cues!

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Lesson, Crappy Ride, Jumping Clinic

Had a greaaaaat lesson Friday. I knew I should have journaled earlier, because now what I learned in my lesson is blending with what I learned at the clinic. Anyway, here are my notes:

  • I need to work on yielding along the wall. No new notes or strategies – I just need to practice.
  • Lots of transitions – especially hard ones, like trot>halt>trot – will help Rob get rounded and on the bit.
  • My upper body needs to be stiffer, with more “starch”.
  • I need to really crank down the side reins so that Rob is at the vertical, and longe her that way…and then ride her that way, too.
  • GAH I’ve forgotten everything. Hopefully more will come back to me as I ride.

Saturday I wanted to get on a make a quick and easy reinforcement of the contact and roundness that we achieved on Friday, but Rob was being a total butthead – nose out, poll up, back hollow. It was a horrible ride and I don’t even want to write about it!

Sunday Kathy, Julie and I took our horses over to Yellow Springs for an informal clinic with a Centered Riding/jumping trainer. I didn’t really learn a whole lot, but the things I did learn were nice little breakthroughs:

  • I need to relax my chin, neck and jaw. This will let Rob relax her chin, neck and jaw….and let her drop her head! Just what we were working on on Friday.
  • My stirrups were way too long for jumping. Other than that, though, Adriene really seemed to like my seat. Success!!
  • THE BIG THING – When I go into 2-point, I need to think less about moving forward over Rob’s neck and more about…pushing my butt up and back. I know this isn’t the correct way to achieve 2-point, but it’s the visualization that works for me. This helps me fold instead of throwing myself forward.
Rob was just great at the clinic. We did some lines that I didn’t think she could do! Her canter was so malleable, which I’ve never really noticed before. When I asked for more uphill, she gave it to me. No one could believe she was four years old.
Hopefully we’ll be taking regular lessons with Adriene soon!

Driving, Bareback Ride

Robbye is such a star!
Monday I had to take the day off for an evening work meeting.
Tuesday we hitched Robbye, then walked and trotted her around the farm. She did have a little freakout, but was overall very good. I’m hoping to take her off the leadline next time.
Wednesday I had to clean all three stalls and it was my anniversary, so I took another day off.
Thursday I rode Lizzie and Robbye. Lizzie was pretty good – Kathy wanted me to practice trot>canter transitions and cross rails. I had to pop her into the transitions, but she did do them. The jumping was great – she didn’t consider running out. When she offered a long spot and put a lot of effort into a fence, I quit for the day.
Robbye I rode in just a halter and lead rope while I learned my dressage tests for the upcoming Standardbred World Show. Robbye isn’t going, but I’ll be showing Albert in dressage and ground poles. Should be awesome!!
Tonight is my lesson, and I can’t wait. Tomorrow I hope to have a chill jump school. Sunday is our jumping clinic!

AMAZING lesson, bareback and bridleless, trail ride picnic

My last three rides have been amazing!

Friday I had a super lesson. Apparently Michele has decided that my position is good enough to really buckle down and work on Robbye. We did some exercises to encourage her to start stepping under her and rounding her back. Here are my notes:

  • My arms are now side reins. My hands are motionless, my elbows stay at my sides, and all give and take comes from my shoulder and elbow angles.
  • Lots of good transitions will encourage roundness – both walk/trot and halt/trot. This is something I can really work on!
  • A ToF at the walk will encourage Rob to step underneath herself and really reach with her back legs. This is hard work for both of us, but we can do it.
  • Our big exercise of the day was a leg yield on a 10m circle. Circle inwards, yield outwards. We really didn’t seem to make much progress on this during the lesson; I feel like it’s going to be a lightbulb moment for us.

My favorite part of the lesson was that it really turned into a workout for me. At one point Michele told me to sitting trot and then…never told me to post again! Until this lesson I didn’t really understand why dressage took so much core strength, but I’m definitely starting to see it now. A couple notes about my position:

  • I need to keep my body a little more rigid in the sitting trot. This is something I can easily work on, especially bareback. I need to find the happy medium between arched/tensed and floppy.
  • ARMS ARE SIDE REINS!
  • Still need to make legs back part of my muscle memory during the canter.

So that was an awesome lesson. I still get on a bit of a high just thinking about it.

Saturday I had a great bareback ride out in the outdoor…with no bridle! I did use a halter and leadrope reins…and Robbye didn’t seem to notice that she didn’t have a bit. We did some big cantering, and her brakes and steering were very much intact. Wow.

Sunday Julie, Kathy, Kathy’s mom and I took Robbye and Yogi on a rode ride/drive down to a nearby town, and then picnicked in a cute old cemetery. Rob was great, if a little poky. I let her graze untied while we ate, and it was really nice to not have to worry about her. I’m so glad I didn’t get an OTTB!!!

Dressage Test Practice

We’re coming up on our last show of the season – we’re entered in the BN CT, the BN jumpers, and the 2′-3′ Gambler’s Choice at Serenity Valley Farm’s October show at Twin Towers Horse Park. I think the show is going to be really awesome, and I want to do well! To that end, I started working on our dressage test last night (bareback!). It’s the same test as last time, but I’d like to polish it a bit more. I think our transitions and geometry can be a lot better; those aspects of the test are a lot easier to fix than, say, engagement, or even equitation.

Our practice last night was pretty good. I ran through the test twice, making sure to ask for energetic gaits and prompt transitions. Our cantering was bad, but that was probably because I’m scared of cantering in the indoor.

Overall, I think we’re 100% better than we were two months ago. We’ve made some huge progress this summer.

Jumping in the Heat, Hitching!

I think we’re definitely back to making progress! The bucking and being-a-fart phase seems to be over, for now.

Friday there was an awful lot of shooting going on by the outdoor, so Julie and I asked if we could ride in the front field, which is rarely used for anything. Robbye and I had a great dressage school, made more exciting by the new setting. The field is rolling with a couple mature trees in the center – it feels like an old-school hunter course! I really want to set up some fences and pretend we’re in a derby 🙂

EW! Rob bit me, the little brat.

Saturday we did some long courses, like earlier in the week, but with the fences much higher and with much more fill. And ultimately…it was pretty bad. By the end, she was breaking out of her canter and running out over and over. At one point I was afraid she was sore, because she wouldn’t keep her canter around bends on her “bad” side (we’ve have minor problems with her socked leg before), but ultimately I think she was just very hot and ready to be done jumping. When I finally got her over two large fences in a row, I galloped half the arena then let her stop. It wasn’t a great lesson, but it was a great workout, and it helped me see what we need to work on.

Plus, the line we were trying to do was really pretty hard. It required a tricky lead change through 2-3-4 that was really just…past us, at the moment.

Notice the lead changes through 2-3-4. Just too hard for us at the moment.

Sunday we took a break. I was having an exhausting weekend, and she had worked so hard on Saturday that I thought she deserved a shorter work week.

What a star!

Monday was the most exciting day – Robbye got hitched! To the carriage, that is – and with minimal drama. She walked around the indoor with me at her head and Julie driving. She was a little confused about pulling at first, but I really think she had a lightbulb moment about driving, and decided that she didn’t mind so much. Julie had also fixed her blinkers, which I think made a huge difference. They had really been bothering her.

The cutest thing – when Julie asked for a smaller circle, Robbye crossed her legs over like a pro. Dressage training truly does help a horse in all disciplines.

Robbye is becoming so multi-talented! I’m going to go make a bucket list of things I want to try with her…

The Past Week

It’s been a crazy week and a half, and I always find it so difficult to catch up on my journal once I’ve fallen behind! So, short snippets of what I’ve been doing:

Last Tuesday Robbye and I had a great dressage ride. We had our first moment of “reading my mind” – I was trotting down the long edge, thought, “I should ask for a yield off of the wall here”, and…she did it! AWESOME!

I then jumped Lizzie about 2’6″. She was great, with no hint of stopping or running out.

Last Wednesday I rode bareback with no bridle. I started out with just a neck strap, which was great until the moment Robbye realized she could totally push me around…at that point I got off and put lead rope reins on her halter. With just the sidepull, she was absolutely perfect. Great steering, great whoa. I think it would be reasonable to make tackless riding a goal for next summer, especially since I’ll have the wedding looming, and so won’t have as much time for “serious” riding.

Last Thursday we had a great jump school. I really tried to encourage moving out and galloping. She did take a while to catch on to what I wanted, but once she realized I wanted her to move out, she was very eager to. She never got out of control (not even close!), but she definitely moved up a gear. Of course, this made jumping easier for both of us – imagine that!

I also insisted that we do longer and more technical courses, including angled and curved lines, rollbacks, and weirdly placed cavaletti. After each course, I made sure to make at least a half lap of the arena before trotting or stopping. It’s time to get in shape, and not die after every fence!

Best of all, Robbye started offering lead changes. They were ugly and dirty, but now I know she can do them. Woo!

Last Friday we did the same jump school, with the same results! It was great. We ended on a really nice gallop up one of the long sides. That girl has some power.

Saturday and Sunday, Julie, Kathy, Yogi, Lizzie and I headed up to Columbus for SPHO-OH’s Grand Circuit Classic. Some highlights from the trip:

  • I rode the resident star of the Standardbred club, All American Legacy (Al or Albert), and totally swept. We won 2 larger equitation classes and a very big ground poles class, along with a ton of other ribbons. He was great.
  • Kathy and Lizzie had a very successful debut as a pair. Lizzie really knows her job in the show ring, which was awesome to watch! Kathy’s only blue came from a class of two where the other horse fell over, which was…hilarious.
  • Yogi earned Reserve Champion driving horse. The Ride and Drive class was particularly awesome, as usual. He and Julie also earned a really great ribbon in a large pleasure class.
  • Kathy, Lizzie and I did the costume class, and it was awesome. We should have won.

And some lowlights from the trip:

  • Julie has decided not to show Yogi in harness, maybe ever again. He always shows lame in harness, even though he doesn’t seem in pain.
  • Lizzie has decided that she likes to run out of fences. Even I couldn’t get her through the 2′ course.
  • I missed Robbye!

Monday we were feeling a bit lazy, but I wanted to work with Robbye. I rode for a short while – we worked on canter variability by making a line 5-8 strides – and then…we harnessed Robbye! I ground drove her around the farm, which was a ton of fun. She figured out her job very quickly.

Tuesday we wanted to hitch Rob, but she was not having it. She knew what we wanted to do, and she wasn’t in the mood. We fought with her for a while, and then finally gave up. Instead of hitching her, we pretended to by pulling the carriage right behind her. Maybe next time!

Wednesday I rode bareback (with a bridle). I asked for some big canter/gallop, which was so fun to ride. It’s so weird to think that six months ago I was scared to trot in the indoor, and now I’m jumping and galloping around the outdoor. Of course, Robbye has made the same incredible progress.

Thursday, yesterday, I stayed home like a lazy bum.

Today I’m hoping to ride again. Nothing fun planned for this weekend (except for wedding dress shopping), but I want to do another gallop/jump school and a dressage school, since I’ve been neglecting dressage lately.

At the moment we’re registered for two really cool events: a jumping clinic on the 22 with the trainer I hope to take lessons from, and the Serenity Valley Farms CT and Dressage show at Trail’s End in October, where we’re entered in the BN CT, BN Jumper, and 2′-3′ Gambler’s Choice.  Hey, maybe we can make some money!