Wednesday, January 15, 2014

3 rides; one ok, one awful, and one fantastic!

Naughty mare!

Always so alert ...

Somewhat reluctantly obedient

Ahhh, horses.  So blessedly inconsistent!  That's both bad and good.  Bad, because you never know which horse you're going to get.  Good ... because it's like having 4 different horses, lol :)

Last Saturday, S was out at the barn and snapped a few pics.  Jade went through her typical thing; started out ok, progressed to not so good, ended up well.  I'd decided to put a little more pressure on her, and ramp things up a bit, so I set up the "circle of death" with poles.  (4 poles on a 60 foot circle at 12, 3, 6, and 9.)  My only plan was just to trot those poles.  I set it up in the jumping ring, and she started out pretty stiff and tense.  I spent plenty of time at the walk and walked her over the poles in all different directions.  When she did that well, I moved on the trotting the circle.

Sadly, things spiraled downhill.  She began to THROW her haunches to the outside, blowing by my outside leg, and trying to pop her shoulder and drag me around the poles. She began to rush them, jump them, and became just generally unreasonable.  I took her to the opposite end of the ring and worked her down, growling and spinning her until she shook off her "witch" persona.  Brought her back to the poles and she was better, but still unhappy in general, so I hopped her over another teeny crossrail off a short turn twice and ended there.

The following Wednesday, she was awful.  She just felt peeved off to be working.  I was even riding her in her "favorite" ring :(  Not sure what was going on, it was a very unproductive ride.  I had a few random poles set out to trot over here and there, but no specific "pattern" or anything.  Didn't canter, just trotted one of the tiny crossrails and she again tried to blow off my leg and wanted to lose her haunches.  I ditched the jump and focused on some lateral work for a few, and finally she VERY grudgingly did what I asked.  For the first time, I quit not feeling like I'd accomplished anything.  It was an unproductive AND an uncomfortable ride; my back was killing me afterwards!

Over at the eventing barn, I rode a LOVELY Morgan/Tbred cross I'm in LOVE with named Spellbound.  I rode him in the indoor, and trainer was pretty happy w/ the fact that I'm getting w/ her program:)  I'm holding my hands correctly, using my seat more effectively, and not getting so still in the arms.  She didn't have to tell me to sit back ONCE ... AND I lowered my stirrups 3 holes.  Success!  Today, I rode another lovely bay gelding, Ricky Bobby (yes, lol!  that's really his name).  I realized I'm feeling what it's like to have a horse be REALLY engaged and lifted through the back and on the bit.  Poor Tiki never really got there, probably because I just never rode horses that went correctly.  Ricky Bobby was very responsive to my hands and seat, and my confidence in my dressage skills is increasing daily.

Fast forward to my ride on Jade today.  I'd already ridden RB, so when I got on the mare, I rode her exactly like I did him.  Shoulders back, elbows on top of hips, leg on, supporting outside rein.  I used my seat ask her to lift her back, and my leg to push her up into my hand.  She. Was. Wonderful.  The BEST ride I've had on her ever!  She didn't get fast, she kept her hips behind her shoulders, she didn't root on the reins, she didn't curl up behind the bit, she was on the aids and working perfectly.  I didn't spin her once, she was fabulous.  I think she was so shocked to be ridden ON the bit, she didn't know what to do w/ herself, lol!  I've never honestly FELT what a real dressage horse is like.  I thought I had, but really I hadn't.  ALL the horses at the event barn go exactly the same, it's so cool.  I rode Jade like she was one of them, and it was great :)  I jumped her a TON over both normal sized crossrails, and a super tiny little brush box.  I made long straight approaches, short turn approaches,  AND I did 2 as a line, trot in/trot out.  Her canter after the jumps was fantastic; relaxed, rhythmic, and not hauling on me at all.  She doesn't overjump at all, but she does leave a little long sometimes.  I always work to get her right to the base, nice and slow.  She didn't rush, she didn't get crooked, she was great.  I think I am going to ride her after the event barn all the time, I think riding those beautifully trained horses are helping me tremendously.  GREAT day!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Post holiday recap!

Lots of pats for a job well done!

Cool canter pic

I like this one :)

Perfect example of how "alert" she always is

Walking from round pen to ring

The holidays have kept me a little bit busy lately :)  My wonderful SIL was in town, so I didn't want to abandon her to go ride, but I DID drag her with me one day to take a few pics, woo hoo!  I haven't been to awesome eventing barn in a few weeks because I only have one day to go out, and with Christmas and now New Year both falling on that ONE day ... oh well, it's not going anywhere!

I did ride Jade Friday and Saturday.  She was a doll!  The waterford bit came in, and I actually love her in it (like I thought I would;))  I put that on Tiki's old 'hunter' bridle with a regular noseband, but still paired it with the running martingale just in case ... I LIKE my nose 'as is', lol.  The weather has just been fantastic, great temps and no wind, so I think that probably has had a small effect on Jade's behavior as well.

Friday, S was actually at the barn riding a barn horse and got to watch me ride Jade.  There was a lot of cacaphony going on at the barn, but she handled it pretty well.  I longed her in the roundpen first (with not much action) and mounted in there.  Both days, she stood like a statue and did not MOVE, good girl. :)  I rode her in the lower ring, aka her "comfort zone".  She began pretty well, with me only having to spin her a hand full of times.  From there, she actually tried to throw a little bit of a hissy fit, actually kicking up once or twice in protest to being ridden forward and on the contact.  I stuck it out, spun her around a few more times, and she decided to get her stuff together pretty quickly after that.

I tried to do some more rail work with her that day, so not so much figure 8ing ... she actually seemed like she got a tad anxious working around the entire ring like that; when I DID go to a few schooling figures, she really blew out a deep breath and put in some great work for me.  I was super happy with the trot work, I feel like we're making progress and holding pretty steady.  S has been able to ride her this holiday time, which is GREAT!  Went to the canter, and it wasn't even what I would call GOOD; it was just ok.  She holds the correct lead, which is great.  Other than that, it was fast, heavy, unbalanced, and just overall anxious.  I patted her anyway, though, because it definitely could be worse than what it was!  We ended with walking the little path around the pastures together; lots of spooks and scoots!

Saturday, I rode her in the upper ring with all the jumps.  Leaps and bounds better than the other time I rode her up there.  She didn't spook once.  She TRIED to, but I sensed the tenseness and immediately asked for shoulder in, then leg yield, then shoulder in, then leg yield, just trying to get her mind on ME and not what ever else she could think about.  I rode all around the jumps, making lots of circles, squares, half turn in reverse, trot over poles straight on, trot over poles at an angle, and I finally began to really make transitions.  I tend to get a little "stuck" in my trot work, just doing LOTS of trot all the time.  I did that with Tiki too.  I made her work on w-t-w-t-h-t-h-w, then added in canter. WOW, what a difference in the canter.  The left lead felt GREAT, I really worked on half halting pretty aggressively, then just softening and allowing her to carry herself; that strategy was pretty darn good if I do say so myself:)  Right lead wasn't too bad, but there was certainly some head flinging going on.  Went back to the trot, and was able to actually put my leg on her, and even clucked once!  WOW, lol.  I only had to do maybe 5 spins total with her that day.  In fact ... she felt SO good, at the very end I put her on a short turn, then out of nowhere pointed her at a teeny tiny baby crossrail.  She happily hopped over, making a nice jump for me, landed cantering, and seemed quite pleased with herself :)  LOTS of pats, loose rein, and all was right with the world.

Took today to catch up on some housework, I will ride her again on Saturday since I'm not working.  S rode her today, so hopefully she was a good girl!  Having so much fun, just happy to be riding again:)  Hope all y'all had a great Christmas and New Year ... I can't complain about mine :D