Boot Camp: Robbye II and III

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Once I had a base built via Hollywood (the GP schoolmaster) and some fun installed via Tonka (the retired pro barrel racer), it was time to meet back up with Robbye and show each other what we learned! Here are some notes from the first two full lessons I had on her after a month of separate boot camps:

  • Forward forward forward. Now that she actually responds to leg, I can get forward when I want it, and I can insist that it’s the amount of forward I want! Walk is still a bit tougher, but trot and canter – it’s magical. I love Robbye’s trot.
  • No more “wiggling” my hands to ask for roundness. Like I asked on Hollywood, Robbye responds better to a gentle pulling side to side – it’s more like I change the bend in the neck until she gives in her jaw. Once she gives and rounds, I can play a bit smaller to maintain the roundness.
  • THOSE STOPS THOUGH. When I ask for a halt like I’m riding a barrel horse, Robbye really sits on her butt and stops.
  • When we get into an argument – especially about roundness – I need to immediately get on a circle. 20m is okay – 10m is better. This gives me the advantage because she can’t use her favorite weapon – bracing into my hand.
  • Speaking of bracing and hands – I really need to cut that habit. When Robbye feels my bracing arms, she responds (understandably!) by bracing back.
  • I also need to remember my releases. I’m trying to teach self-carriage, and in order to do that I need to let her carry herself.
  • It’s time to start practicing lateral moves! She has baby leg yields and shoulder-ins!
  • She really needs a haircut. We’re playing a fun game of how-high-can-Robbye’s-mane-grow-before-falling-over.
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Boot Camp: Hollywood V

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My fifth ride on Hollywood, and my first after having ridden Robbye. I went into this ride knowing that he was teaching me things I would take back to her.

  • I DID A CANTER PIROUETTE! It was awesome. For Hollywood, you just push the shoulders into a smaller and smaller circle until he sits on his haunches and pirouettes. It felt very weird. A lot like Robbye’s canter when she doesn’t want to move forward.
  • I practiced test 1-3. It was a really nice way for me to see everything I’ve learned. I had to maintain bend – especially during the counter-canter – maintain roundness, leg yield off of the wall, get a confident canter transition without losing my seat, and (of course) pay attention to geometry the whole time. It was a really really fun exercise and not easy even on a very knowledgeable horse.
  • I need to be even more consistent about my left bend. It’s really an issue for me.
  • I also need to be more vigilant about my core/trunk position – I like to twist, and that’s silly. I also like to get popped out of the saddle. I think this is going to be any easy change for me to make, as soon as I focus on it. Goal time!
  • I’m gaining so much confidence. I warmed up by myself doing shoulder-ins, leg yields both onto and off of the wall, and checking my own straightness and bend. I couldn’t have done that a month ago.

Boot Camp: Tonka II

I’m so sorry for the lack of media for this lesson – I really want some photos of me running the barrels, but my normal picture-taker is recovering from surgery 😦

How awesome is barrel racing?!? IT’S SO FUN!

I was pumped for my second lesson on the barrels, but it, again, started slowly, with some fear with me. Tonka’s navicular makes his right lead canter really off-kilter, and that, combined with the western saddle and my natural fear produced a whole lot of perching on my end.

And for Tonka, perching means go.

Luckily, Tonka also has nice brakes. So I’d ask for the canter, get it, get scared and perch, get more scared because he was speeding up (like I was asking him to!), and then whoa. Nice, Annye.

But you know what? As soon as Kim coached me through keeping my butt in the saddle, we got quite a nice canter – controlled but forward – and I wasn’t scared at all.

(I like cantering. It’s my favorite gait by far. This damn fear from my stupid accident just has be completely discombobulated.)

The key for me is that I need to keep my seat in the saddle during the canter transition. I caught a glimpse of this revelation during my rides on Hollywood, but I didn’t really feel it until Tonka wouldn’t take anything but.

So that was my first light bulb moment. The second came as we were attempting to run the barrels at a slow canter. Tonka kept getting more and more upset, I kept getting more and more tense, and our runs kept getting slower, messier, and scarier.

As I get tense, I brace. I think I’m half-halting – I’m trying to half-halt – but really I’m leaning on the horse’s mouth and transferring all of my tension there. And that really doesn’t make for a happy pair.

Instead, my half halts have to come from my core, not my forearms. Of course I knew this, but I didn’t really understand the difference between my bracing and a nice half-halt until Tonka kicked my ass at my lesson.

(I went home and stumbled across a really cool show-jumping round where the rating from the rider was so obvious – and he was doing it all from his seat and core. No bracing! It was a great emphasis to my lesson learned.)

I ended on a super-fun run around the barrels that made me feel accomplished and proud. I’ll tell you what – these lessons are doing wonders for my self-esteem, as I encounter timely aha! moments and grow more and more confident.

On to the next one!