Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dressage Lessons: Two in a Row

What a whirlwind of a 24-36 hours! I had a lesson with Cindy in Athens at 11 on Monday, then had to work the overnight in Athens, then had another lesson at 1 on Tuesday. But it worked out well.

On Monday we rode and it got a bit busy in the arena because of the weather (rain and more rain and cold... shocker right?!) but Dan was actually pretty good. We worked on not letting him get behind my leg and getting a forward canter. We worked on soft supple downward transitions. And we worked on me. A LOT! Cindy pointed out that when he gets stiff and won't get off my inside (especially tracking left) leg, that instead of trying to pull him back to the rail, I need to ride proper like and do it right. That means that I need to sit up, lift and bring back (caudally) my inside shoulder and elbow, and put my inside leg into his girth and move him back to the outside rein. If that doesn't work, then I need to leg yield him into the middle a bit (or turn him to the inside) and then leg yield him back out. (Oh hey... like what Julie Z was having me do with Fleck.. yield him out... yield him out). This way I'm teaching him that there's no way around the bend. He must bend and give his ribcage to me. The bend is more important than the geometry of the arena at this point. She also pointed out that I'm tipping my head to the inside and not looking where I need to be. It was amazing how Danny would really follow my eyes. I mean.. he really went to the trail when I looked just outside the rail. And did all the other things like lift and bring my inside shoulder and elbow back, etc. ;) But he gets it! 

On Tuesday we worked on the same stuff but took it a bit farther. When he got stiff in his shoulders, I would just leg yield him in a few steps and then back out. And oh.... he would just get off that shoulder, yield his ribcage and go into the outside rein with a nice supple bend. :) Yay! Of course it doesn't last but a few steps, but it's getting there. I also focused on my head position with much better success. And he was a bit more forward. Of course I also put my spurs back on. I was tired from the day before! ;) We worked on the canter a bit more and Cindy was saying that he's so long legged and long strided and short backed that we needed to allow that lift. To do that we need to let him go big first before we worry about shortening him. And unfortunately my way of riding his canter was to come down just as he was reaching his peak, effectively putting him on his forehand. She wanted me to ride the stride forward and to encourage him to reach just a bit longer with each stride. So my seat had to go forward and up. I'm not sure I was accomplishing it but apparently so. She described his canter as a wave. I was getting just ahead of it and bring it crashing down. Instead, she wanted me to get just behind it and push it forward more. I likened it to riding an actual wave at the beach. If you get ahead of it, you get nowhere. But if you get just behind the motion, you catch the energy and can ride that wave all the way to shore. :) So yep.. like that. But man is his stride long and big. 

It was a productive two lessons. We worked hard but he was still having fun and we made progress from the first to the second lesson. Both of us! I was able to get better about my head position and my evil left side and Dan was more ahead of my leg and listening to my leg yielding cues better. :) 

After the lesson, he had to hang out at the Academy while I adjusted two. He made friends with Santo. :)

It's funny how he's teaching me as much as I'm teaching him. Fleck is great, but he knows all my faults and just... carries on. Dan doesn't know but he also is trying. However, if I am telling him something wrong because my body is wrong, he doesn't know how to correct it and fix it, like Fleck does. Which is great!!! It's helping me become much more aware and hopefully I can fix it quicker because of that. :) 

So yep.. glad I braved the weather and lack of sleep because it was two good rides. :) 

The good one...for a change! ;)

 Dan is a hoot. The weather has been awful so we went for another short hack with Judy and Cash. The trails were miserable wet and smooshy and the weather was frightful. So no pictures. But these were so cute they needed to be shared :)
We did have a fun ride with Judy. Despite the ickyness. We mostly walked but when we got to Twix and Tween we had a little trot. Judy let me go first. Then I asked if she was up for a canter because Danny was a little up and felt like he needed to expel some energy. And the footing there was pretty decent. Judy is normally game but she dropped her stirrups so I wasn't sure if she would be up for it. She was and it started out just fine. Danny started to get a bit bigger so I pulled him back a hair. Right then I heard Judy casually say "so... we're gonna need to stop here in a second". I turned around and Cash was porpoising and ready to buck and bolt! I managed to pull up Dan pretty quick and she got Cash under control. Hee hee. CASH!! That's so unlike him. Judy rode well and all was fine. But goodness! However, I was super proud of how Danny handled it. He was quite calm despite Cash's antics next to him. Maybe he was just surprised that someone else was being a fool! Hee hee. 
So then we got to the big field and Judy wanted a little canter round to prove to Cash that he had to behave. I let Dan graze and I don't think he even noticed or cared that Cash was cantering around. I figured I wouldn't let Dan have a turn because he was already a little up and the footing wasn't great. So we headed back in and there was no more antics. 

Such a good baby horse really!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Creating more room

Okay.... so I love Danny. I do. And every time I ride him, I have a blast and know he's going to be something special. BUT... there's a little part of me that almost feels guilty for loving him because of Fleck. And again, Dan is amazing, but... Fleck... well, Fleck is... Fleck!! We've had 10 years to bond and create our partnership. And it's Fleck. My soulmate. Now, don't get me wrong. I realize that I loved Roany excessively too. And if I'm being honest, I think that's what I'm afraid of. I still love Roany to pieces. But right now, she and I don't do much together. We snuggle occasionally and I will groom her occasionally. But I pretty much just feed her. I think that I've been guarding myself just a little bit with Dan out of respect for Fleck. I don't want to replace Fleck with Dan. (I mean I do... literally... he is supposed to be my Fleck ride replacement). But I don't want to have Fleck become like Roany. And I know that Roany is not a snuggler and never was. Even when we were riding all the time she was never really social or wanting to hang out. She more just tolerated me. :) So I don't think that Fleck will ever just end up being a pasture ornament who gets occasionally groomed. But I'm just a little afraid that he'll slowly get "put out to pasture" and ignored and cease to be as important in my life. And I don't want that. Not for me or for him. So...perhaps I've been guarding some of my feelings for Dan. And that's not fair to Dan. 

I need to realize that there is plenty of room in my heart for ALL of my special boys. And sure, while I love/d all my dogs, certainly Dusty dog is the one that stands out above all and probably will. And maybe Fleck will be that way too. That would be okay. He's pretty darn amazing. But I shouldn't not give Dan the chance to be just as special. Right?!?

And he really is a special guy. Partly because he's so similar to Fleck. ;) But he's pretty amazing and we're having lots of fun. It's probably a blessing in disguise (in so many ways) that Fleck pulled his hamstring and is on vacation for a little bit. It gives me time to focus on Dan and spend some quality time with him. He's kind of like the older kid who never gets any alone time with the parents because the younger kid is always around and who feels like a third wheel. I mean, sure, Dan and I did lots of stuff but it was almost always with Fleck. We rarely went anywhere without Fleck. And he's a good kid. He didn't mind. But I think he's enjoyed his alone time with me too.

Anyways, the weather has been awful the past week and when I did ride Sunday I really only had time for one and ended up hopping on Fleck instead. So it's been quite a while since I've ridden Danny. And I was a little worried that he would be a hoodlum with the cold weather and the time off. But he was excellent! I lunged him a bit but he was really unimpressed. So after two trot circles both directions, I just got on. We warmed up and did a little bit of work in the ring. He was excellent! He wasn't super forward but never got behind my leg really. So yay! And we had two beautiful leg yields in BOTH directions and from center line to the rail even!! And his canter work was nice and he was much less twisted in his head. Whoo hooo. 
 Then we went for a hack to stretch our legs. We ended up at the lake and the goof charged right in up to his knees and started pawing and splashing! EEEKS. It's like... 36 degrees Dan! I got him turned around and we headed back and met up with Missy and Zhar. Danny was so bad... he kept harassing Zhar and wanting to get him to play. But we had fun. It was super cold though so we cut it short and both headed home. I let Dan canter in the big field and he was happy enough to do so. He started to bulge back towards Zhar but I closed my leg and my fingers on the rein and he went straight. :) We did some more trotting and cantering to stay warm and headed in.

I love this little goober! He really is turning out to be something special. :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Stepping up to the plate

I really did get super lucky with Danny. He really is a GOOD boy. He's talented.... I've had more than two trainers tell me he's quite lovely and quite capable and can take me far. He's kind, he's fun, he's goofy, and he's SOOOO easy! Seriously... for someone who has only had trained horses and has never done a baby.... he's so easy! I'm so blessed. 

Today we had our lesson with Beth. She said that we needed to fix some holes in his training. Ha! He's had so little training and there's already holes. Sigh.. ;) But I knew that. And it's my fault. It's hard to not baby him because he's a baby but also not push him too much because he is a baby. But it is time to start upping the ante. Not with stuff like jumping courses (or really anything else until he's at least 4!), or going on the bit necessarily, but.. with stuff like learning balance and straightness. He's learned the aids and he steers, stops and has a go. Now we need to start finessing it. 

Todays lesson was working a lot at the canter. Oooohhhh... that's hard work! We warmed him up and then Beth put down a single pole on a circle. She wanted me to start off by trotting him on the circle and letting him get over the pole. I wasn't supposed to help him by adjusting him so his striding was perfect, but to ride the trot. And in riding the trot we were focusing on straightness and connection. I was to take an actual connection and keep it. No matter where his head went or what it did, I just followed with a steady connection. He didn't have to go "on the bit" or be "in a frame". And quite frankly, his head could be up or down or in the middle. But it had to be straight. And sometimes that meant I had to counterbend him and sometimes it meant I had to flex him to the inside. Going to the left I really had to remember to bring my left elbow back and keep the inside connection. Going to the right, I just had to remember to keep my elbows elastic. It was nice though because he actually was fine with the connection and when I got his head between his shoulders with an even steady connection, his balance was soooooo much better and he almost automatically fell into the proper place with the rest of his body. Yay!!! 

Once we got the trot we moved pretty quickly to the canter. It took a few tries but baby boy was figuring it out! He really is a smarty pants. We got some nice work and oh man!!! That canter!!! That canter that is so lovely when he's not put together gets ever nicer when it is! There were some nice moments of him actually sitting down in the hind end and lifting in his shoulder and wither and......*squeals!!!!!* it was nice!! 

Of course there were some efforts to avoid the hard work too. He's a super star but he's not dumb. We had to work really hard to get him to counterbend tracking right. Then going left, when he was starting to figure out that it was hard work, he then threw his shoulders to the right and leap off the circle. The first time he swapped leads because he had to skip over the pole. Fair enough. But then he realized "Oh hey...... I can get out of if this way" and tried a few times just for fun. But once I got him back on track he quit trying. Towards the end he started to get tired. And I know because when he's tired he curls his head down and tries to hide behind his knees practically. So we pushed him for two more circles just to build his strength and get through it and we let him quit. Beth mentioned that when he does that (more so when he does it just to do it rather than when he's tired) to not throw away the connection, but to keep the rein contact and just kick him forward. She said if I throw the connection away he'll learn that by doing that he gets rewarded with no connection. Aha! Good to know. And then when I made him stay in front of my leg and kicked him into the connection he tried another tactic. He started running and almost holding the bit. Silly boy. Of course he's so responsive to my seat that I was able to slow him down. Sneaky little boy.

But really.. he was REALLY good today and we got some lovely work. That head tilt of his is disappearing. He almost seemed glad to have a connection. "Finally lady.... jeez!". :) 

It was so exciting I didn't really get any pictures, but he was most handsome and proud of himself. :) 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

So much FUN!!

Danimal is such a superstar! I really did get lucky with this kid. He's just so easy! He hasn't been ridden since our lesson on Sunday with Kelly. So today I hauled him to Ashland and tacked him up. I did a "crouching tiger" both ways and backed him up a few steps and got on. There were no antics this time. We headed up to the stadium ring with Peri for some riding. He was the teeniest bit rowdy starting out but really not bad at all. We worked on our homework - not falling behind the leg, paying attention to me by changing direction a lot, baby counter canter serpentines (And I mean VERY baby... like barely yielding out), and connection. Oh, and our downwards. He was super good. He was pretty forward and the few times I closed my leg, he went. :) He is getting the connection idea. And he gave me a quite decent little counter canter serpentine too! We just weaved slightly in and out of the poles, but it was quite balanced! We also worked on that head. He likes to hold it cockeyed at the canter especially. But I also realized that he throws me to the outside, so if I focus and sit centered, and use my inside leg to my outside rein... viola! He comes into the connection almost proper-like and starts to have a much nicer canter and a much less crooked head. Yay! We cantered a good bit today and worked on our downwards too. Yay! And Peri was jumping around and he was only naughty a time or two. Pretty impressive feat for a 3.5 year old. 

So then we went for a long hack in the woods. He was good out there too and we mostly just walked. We hit the big field behind Halfshire and I mentioned that I was tempted to try cantering him in the open. Peri said I should since he had already worked in the ring and seemed pretty chill. And Tess was in heat so she was SUPER chill. So it was a good time, so I figured why not?! I had my dressage saddle on but thought that might be helpful. So I took him for a spin. He cantered quite politely even when I offered him more rein and was going to allow him to open up. Nope.. he just kept cantering politely. We went both directions. So then Peri took a spin or two and I decided to try once more and encourage him a bit more to open up. Hee hee... It was AWESOME! We cantered around and then saw that Peri was waiting at the top of the hill. So I turned him up the hill and asked him to move out a bit. And he did!! He opened up his stride, let our a few bucks, and then took off. Wheee!! It was fun but then I got a little worried I wouldn't stop him. I sort of kind of had to run him into Tess. Hee hee. Not really, but he wasn't stopping til he got to her. But he didn't get to open up completely. It was a blast though and he enjoyed himself too. 
Then we headed home and he walked on the buckle like it was no big deal. :) 

Oh.... such a good kid!! We're going to have so much fun together!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Baby's first Grid!

Today we had a lesson with Kelly Eaton. Julie and her Appy baby (also the same age as Dan) and I rode together. Julie wanted to do flat work over poles so I agreed. Kelly said that we could do grids and that it would be excellent for them. She said at the end that we would jump some little fences but that it wasn't any worse than them jumping around and acting like fools at home. And she certainly wouldn't do it more than 2-3 times a month, but it would be good for them. It also was a good way to work on their canter without fighting them at the canter. 

So much fun!!

We started out warming up and Dan was rowdy. :) Of course. But he settled down pretty quickly and was so excited about having a friend to "play" with that he didn't try to bolt out of the arena at the in gate. We got settled enough and had a little canter. Kelly said (a few times) how nice of a mover her was! But she did say that I should work on "making him dizzy". I needed to do lots of turns and direction changes, and even shallow serpentine loops at the canter. He was a little too tuned in to the outside world instead of me. So she wanted me to get him to pay more attention and have his little ears flicking back at me. So we did and it worked. 

Then we trotted through the grid with just the standards and one ground pole. They both trotted over it like superstars. Then she added another pole. Then she made a teeny little crossrail but the poles on the ground were set to invite them to trot into the first ground pole, then get a bouncy canter stride after to the pole. So we trotted in, focusing on straightness, and then closed our leg to invite the canter and over the "jump". She was saying that Romeo had a normal 12 foot stride and Dan had an 18' stride. hee hee. But it would be hard for both. And it was. They both got it but they had to focus and stretch out a bit to get the one stride out. And it was worse when they were wigglier. And Dan has a right drift. Tough for me because Fleck has a left drift. But at least it'll straighten me out. ;) 

So then, because they were getting it like superstars, we added one more jump after to make it the ground pole inviting the canter stride over the first jump, then a one stride to the second jump. And both were still pretty small, although at the end it was an oxer :) :) hee hee.. A teeny weeny little baby oxer, but still. It got a smidge tougher and Dan got a bit wigglier, but he was figuring it out. We finished on a good note with me being a bit more forward and helping him out by actually folding over the jump and keeping my leg on and keeping him straight. Such a good baby!!!

Danny's first grid and first real stadium "jump"

Oh, and it really did help our flat work. Kelly was laughing at him saying that he has one leg going every direction. hee hee. And after we cantered through the grid, as soon as I would close my fingers on the reins, he'd slam on the breaks. And tripped twice. ;) Doh! So Kelly said that it was partly him being a baby and partly me not supporting him. Although, he did need to develop his fifth leg. But we fixed the problem by having me keep cantering him after the line and riding him into the connection more and not asking him to come down to the trot until 5-10 strides after. And lo and behold, it worked. He was much more balanced! And he didn't slam on the breaks, he came down to the trot much more balanced and nicer. And no tripping. Yay! It even helped with the trot to walk. Yay. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Important life lessons

Today was another Cindy lesson. Since Fleck broke his butt (pulled hamstring muscle), Danny gets to go to dressage boot camp. :) Four lessons this month instead of two. BUT... I'm glad it is working out this way because I think I'm at a pivotal point with him. I keep saying that I am wondering if I'm going to regret not sending him to a trainer because I don't want to mess him up. But I also want to do the "journey" myself and I'm having fun! So.. this may be the perfect fix. Cindy is going to help me so that I don't make mistakes. She's already caught on to the fact that because he has naturally nice gaits, I tend to let him truck around in a less forward gait. So last month we worked on keeping him moving forward to improve his nice gaits. 

Today was a nice warm sunny day and Cindy was teaching in the outdoor when I got there so I opted to ride up there too. Danny was pretty chill, especially after all his shenanigans the day before. We hacked around the edge of the property for a bit while we waited for our turn. I mentioned to Cindy how naughty he was the day before but how I had a problem getting him to go forward. So we started off at the walk and Cindy told me to stop kicking/nagging and to lift my toes and point them forward, rather than digging my heels into Dan. So then we moved on to the trot and it became more evident that Danny was getting behind my leg and being a putz. He wasn't in front of my leg and I was having to work way too hard to keep him trotting. Cindy pointed out that it was going to be difficult to canter up to a prelim fence if I was working that hard just to keep the canter. And that I would have a hard time asking for a lengthen or medium trot if I could barely keep the working trot. Sigh... She's right. And I HATE push rides... it's exhausting. And I don't think it's his fault... I think I created it a little bit. When he's rowdy, it's hard to push him on. And because we haven't really been working on connection, he's using that as an excuse to get behind the bit or slow down. 

But we had a plan to fix it! I was going to help him learn how to be the pony I want him to be so that he can stay! And it's in him. He's not really a naturally slow horse I don't think. He can be QUITE forward on the trails. :) 

The plan to fix it was to treat him like he was on the lunge. If he didn't move up when I asked politely, I would go to the whip. After a light tap if there was still no forward, I would get after him. Cindy said to ask lightly with my leg and expect him to keep a forward trot until I said otherwise. If he slowed down, a light squeeze and then a light tap with the whip. If that didn't work there was to be CONSEQUENCES! I was to move his feet! And quick! Articulate those legs. I'm not entirely sure it's exactly what she meant, but I basically spun him. The "crouching tiger" but with me on top. And once he started going forward in the spin, I could let him out and go back to happy trotting. It took a few tries (quite a few) as I had to figure out my timing and aids and figure out how to keep myself sitting tall and not fall foward and not give with my elbows in an effort to encourage the trot. But once I got the hang of it, he was able to understand and we started to make progress. Then Cindy had me tap him lightly with the whip a few times while he had a good trot to let him know that the whip tap meant I wanted the good trot. 

 Progress! I think now that I've been reminded of this, I'll be better about it and we can nip this problem in the bud. I'm really making an effort to solve/prevent/fix all of the issues that drive me crazy with Fleck. (No offense to Fleck!). Like for example, he will be forward. He will halt square. He will stand for mounting. (Okay, so that doesn't drive me crazy. In fact... I'm the one that gets impatient standing...). But you get my drift. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015


So yeah... Danny was quite the hooligan today! It was cool and crisp and windy and he had friends to impress! I was supposed to meet Kelli and Arwyn and Peri and Tess for a ride but walked out to another flat tire!! This was the 2nd one in 3 days! Ugh.... I was so frustrated! So after fighting with it for 20 minutes thinking I would change it, I opted to just call Peri and see if she'd come get me. So she did. And of course Fleck was pissy. :( 

But we got to Ashland and got tacked up. Danny was already fairly "up" because of the wind and noises he was hearing in the distance. And Tess was in raging heat and kept winking and squirting at Dan. So I got on after the typical in hand work of yielding both hindquarters and backing up. He didn't want to stand and I was making him, so he got fussy. He was doing the giant aggressive pawing and fussing. So I let him walk around and asked him to walk over the log in the parking lot and he did. Then suddenly he yanked his head down and went to bucking and rearing. It only lasted about 10 seconds but when he reared up, it felt like his hind end didn't hold up. I don't know if he just collapsed a bit or hit a hole, but he buckled slightly. And twisted. And hopped. So I ended up hovering above him with one foot out of the stirrup. I calculated it and tried to tough it out for a few seconds but then decided that I was probably just enough out of balance that it would be best to dismount. So I did. It was awesome. I literally just dismounted and landed on my feet, balanced, with the reins still in my hands. Then I grabbed the whip, which I had dropped, and smacked Dan with it. Unfortunately I picked up the wrong end and broke it. Sigh. But Dan stopped being a fool. So I got back on him and we went to work... walking, trotting a small circle and finally Kelli was on and we could take off. He was quite bouncy at first and jumped a few times. He let out a few hops and jumps. But we kept it together. We even trotted a bit after he let out a breath and he wasn't power trotting away. 

Then we saw a deer and he hit the brakes hard. But fair enough. He started to be a little less brave then so Peri took the lead. And then we trotted again. Or attempted. ;) She was trotting. Danny and I were cantering... in place! He just wouldn't go forward. It was like he was mad about being behind and wanted to catch up but he was literally cantering higher than he was cantering forward. Sigh.. Goof! I did manage to finally get him moving in a canter and then a trot. 

We ended up by the lake and I let him in. He pawed and pawed and pawed and I finally got him out so we could carry on our way. He turned nutty then again and leapt a few times and I had to do some serious focusing work. I almost think he was refusing to leave the lake. Oh well. We managed to carry on. And then Peri wanted a canter in the field. So Kelli and I hung out and he managed to keep it mostly together. Then Kelli went and he kept it together. So then, since I had back up... I decided to give it a shot. I wasn't entirely dumb and circled around the two of them rather than just taking off, but we trotted. And then cantered. And it was the slowest laziest canter ever. I think I even said "Well this is no fun"! Hee hee. Not true, it was fun. But I was sort of expecting chaos. I thought very briefly about letting him out a bit up the hill but decided to be smart. So we pulled up (very politely!) and walked back to the trailers. 

It was a good day despite the antics. He definitely needs more group riding. :) 

Sunday, February 1, 2015


 Such a silly rascal today! It was a pretty busy day at Ashland. He waited patiently in the trailer while I rode Fleck. I got him ready and decided to join Kerry and Lauren with their ponies. Kerry has a red pony who is the same age as Dan and Lauren has a gray who is 6. They were going for a trail ride but warmed up in the ring. So I hopped on Dan and took him into the ring. Aha... this is where it gets interesting! Danny said "FRIENDS!!!" and was rowdy! I knew it was coming. He didn't want to leave Arwyn and Rasta who were standing by the mounting block. He threw in a few good bunny hops and tried to spin once or twice. Then I got him in the ring and eventually got him moving forward away from Stormy and Pierre. And he was definitely on his tippy toes. Not much forward momentum but plenty of up! I got him trotting in a circle in the far end of the ring and every time we hit the open side he would throw a shoulder and try to go back to the herd. Silly boy! But he wasn't awful. And he sort of eventually settled down. So then we went for the trail ride. He was definitely more interested in playing than paying attention but he wasn't horrid. Things were going pretty well and we managed to get around the lake and to the other side. I offered to let Kerry and Lauren jump the log on the ground. Dan was excited before they even did and as they did, he decided to rear and hop. I actually almost came off but only because when he dropped his left shoulder, instead of spooking to the right, like he typically does, he spooked to the left and twisted. But he came back pretty quickly and I stayed on. So then I made him walk and then trot the log like a gentleman instead of taking off like he wanted. He actually did both quite nice. Of course when we trotted it, he immediately landed and headed towards the ponies. Oh well. I let it go. Picking my battles for the moment.

So then the split off and went to the XC field to play. I decided that Dan was sproingy enough that I wouldn't test playing in the XC field today. I figured it would end with him taking off and dumping me. So... we'll bide our time before we attempt that. And he probably would have been fine just hanging out in the water jump with Pierre while Stormy played, as he's done it before. But he was just a bit up today, so... we were smart. We headed back and did some more trotting in the woods.

Oh, and... his oversize bridle with cob cheek pieces came today. And it fits him perfectly! Even the noseband works! Fleck's oversize one didn't seem to fit him right in the noseband, so who knows. :) He liked his wonder bit though I still tried to make it more of a loose ring. However I think I will need the slight leverage for jumping or cantering in the open field. :)