Sunday, February 25, 2018

Cavaletti's and Epiphanies

Yesterday was SUCH a pretty day. It was a great day for doing Beth's cavaletti clinic. And while I'm a smidge sad that I wasn't showing at the horse park, I'm glad. Because we aren't quite ready. Not sure if we'll be ready in two weeks at Chatt, but at least that's two more weeks. And the cavaletti clinic was super helpful.

We were in a group with Peri and Gail and it was fun. We started out by trotting about 15 poles in a slight circle. We had to collect and slow the trot so that they had to actually engage and use their hocks and sit, rather than just using momentum to swing over them. It was hard. Especially because Danny was tired. So I had to close my leg and hold which is hard for me too, as I was also tired. ;)

Because it was on a slight curve we had to focus on the bend too. So... tracking to the left I had to almost leg yield him out and tracking to the right, I just had to slightly leg yield. Then we had two poles that were for cantering set a couple of paces before and after. So we started with just one of the canter poles, then down to the trot for the trot poles. Then we reversed it and did the trot poles with the upward to the canter poles. Then we put the whole thing together. It was helpful. Hard! But helpful. But I got an AMAZING EPIPHANY out of it!!! Beth had mentioned that we had holes in our jumping and she had a plan to help us fix them. And I think this fixed a BIG HOLE! I'm so excited to see how it translates. So... when we first started cantering the poles I was having a hard time getting the right distance to them. Same thing at the last clinic. I would get close and then see a long spot and so I'd just relax and almost give the rein to him so he could reach for it. WRONG. Beth has been saying this for awhile I'm sure, but again, with me... I have to hear it repeatedly and for some reason it clicks in my brain at certain times... But she said that I have to own my elbows but be soft in them. Feel the connection through my elbow. It was hard. It was the opposite of what I wanted to do. But I did it. And it worked. I don't really fathom how it works.... but it does. When I kept the connection, he somehow magically got to the spot like a normal horse instead of having to leap and knocking himself off balance. HMMMMM.... Wow! And I know.. I'm not a total dummy. I know that by keeping that connection and getting him balanced and rocked back, he is able to balance the canter and shorten his stride so that he meets the poles in a good take off spot. Just like jumping. AHA!!! LIGHTBULB MOMENT!!! Yay!! And I had to really focus on keeping my body position upright and my core strong and engaging my trapezius muscles in between my shoulder blades. I had to keep my elbows at my side but elastic. But it works. Like... all the time. :) Or at least all the time that I do it right.

And it applies to the downwards too. When I made the trot transition in front of the poles, I had to really use my elbow connection, keep my core straight, and immediately get that soft suppled collected trot. Otherwise we went scattering through the poles. Beth mentioned that her pet peeve is people that do a downward and take 20 strides to get the trot back. And yep. I always admired Peri's transitions because they were so seamless and he stayed right there. It wasn't like he was a freight train for a few strides and then got collected again. And speaking of, Peri made a good point. She reminded me that even though I was working hard and doing the exercise and we were both focused and working.... I still needed to make sure I got a good downward transition from the trot to the walk when we were done. I tend to just finish the "job" and then let him collapse and plop. And that's just teaching him that it's okay to do that. I need to get a good downwards transition and a good walk and then reward him with dropping the reins and contact.

I had another good epiphany too. Beth said to think about pulling my bellybutton towards my spine. But... That doesn't make sense to me. So she changed it and said to think about pulling my bellybutton to my shoulders. AH.... I don't know why that makes more sense, but it did. It made me engage my core, lift my sternum and shoulders and sit tall. :) (At least I hope it did).

We finished well but Dan was giving me the wrong lead a few times. I think we were both starting to get tired and frustrated and Beth told us to just ignore it.

(Okay... sidebar rant/vent here..... I'm going to try VERY Hard to make myself behave this year. I know that as Dan is going back to full work I'm going to get frustrated. I wanted this time off to be productive for us, for us to fix all the holes and come back even stronger. I have noticed that like I did with Fleck, I'm getting frustrated. And it's totally not fair. Danny is 6, almost 7. He hasn't been professionally trained. He will have had 8 months off before he's back to eventing because of his injury. I am not a professional. I made mistakes. Many mistakes. Even when I think I'm trying super hard and fixing things, I'm usually doing it wrong and making it worse. So.... when I start to get frustrated that we aren't coming along as fast as I wanted.. or that we're behind others... or that we aren't getting something we should be... I REALLY HOPE that I can remember to stop, breathe, and remember that it's not Dan's fault. He's not trying to be belligerent (well, usually... sometimes he is and then it's okay to whack him).  He just doesn't understand and/or it's hard for him. I don't want to work that hard either. So... I really hope that this year I can remember and carry on and be a better trainer and help him become a better horse and be become a better rider).

So anyways... Beth said not to worry about it and it'll be fine and will resolve itself. And I think I did okay with it, but I could feel my frustration level rise a bit. I was aggravated because we were tracking left and it felt like Dan was falling to the inside, leaning to the inside, and way overbent. Beth was telling me to increase the bend... so I got confused. She wanted me to leg yield him out, but he kept flinging outside and even flung himself out of the poles. So luckily she told me to stop and showed me something. She pointed out that he wasn't bending at his ribcage and withers. Okay... That I understand.. it's just usually the other direction. Argh. So she said that I needed to soften that outside right rein so that he could bend, use my inside leg to get him bending at the withers and barrel, not just at the neck. I told her that I was hanging onto the outside rein so much and she said not to throw it away but to soften it a hair. I still had to use it though to help keep him from flinging out. I asked if closing my outside leg a bit and thinking a little haunches in would help. And she said yes, but that was a little too much. But when I did that, a LITTLE bit, she said "Good!". So... ;) . We managed to get the correct bend and I actually see what she meant about the withers and the visualization helped so we quit on that. Sigh... Hard work!

Short Video of today

But it was nice because Gail said she saw him start to sit and work and push off his haunches and Peri said that he had come so far and was looking so good. So that was nice to hear. : )

Friday, February 23, 2018


Danny was in rare form today. We were both grumps. tough lesson. had to argue a lot. Danny was kicking out and bucking. Went after Aurora some.  Finally got good work.

Right shoulder fore both ways, but.... he needs to be straighter tracking left (not too much bend at the next), and needs much more bend tracking right. Right rein needs suppleness but connection and contraction of the right body. Got it but it was tough, especially in transitions to canter. He's throwing right fore leg laterally.... rather than underneath himself.
Hard leg yields today. :( but decent shallow serpentine.

LSD and Speed

 1.5 hour walk with Kelli on the 4 mile loop. Then trotted and cantered the 4 mile in 25 minutes. Barrel horse dan... no knees harmed.... #illegalgalloping #sorrynotsorry . Then walked 2 miles to creek to cool down. Then home. 

Dressage.....ugh.. it's hard

hack and then dressage.... not quite ready for zig zag leg yield

Sunday, February 18, 2018


 Oh what a pretty pretty day!!! What a good day!

Danny and I picked up Gay and Cherokee and hauled to Silverthorn for lessons. I made Gay ride first so Dan and I could get a quick hack in to warm up. It was SOOOOO Pretty out!! What an amazing day! 

 Danny was a superstar today! Seriously, he felt amazing!! This morning when he trotted in for breakfast he had this super animated bouncy trot. And I feel like I got that in my ride! Kelly helped by creating forward impulsion by encouraging him from the ground with the lunge whip. That allowed me to focus on myself and my aids rather than having to nag him to get him forward. I was able to focus on the other things. We started at the walk with a nice relaxed leg and even connection in both reins. Then we moved to the trot. It's funny how twisted my brain gets things. But it's nice because I'm starting to figure out some of the self-sabotage. (Well, that's too harsh of a word...but I'm creating problems rather than solving them). So... again, tracking right.. Today!! TODAY we did NOT feel like he was falling in or leaning. Today he felt awesome. He felt a little bit like he was flinging to the outside and a few times I thought we were going to go through the arena chains. But Kelly and I talked and hashed it out. She said that in an effort to really reach under and push off with that inside hind, he has to sit and push. Which means, he will feel a bit like he's fishtailing out. So I have to embrace that a little bit. However, he also was a bit too straight and not bent enough, so when I created more inside bend and got him soft, and added a bit of outside leg a bit behind the girth... it was perfect! It kept him from flinging to the outside quite so much, created more bend, and helped shape his body well. Yay! He was still hanging a bit on the right rein, but when I thought of keeping the weight of the connection in my elbows and shoulders vs my hands, it helped. 

 When we tracked left, he was really hanging on the right rein still. So.... we talked and my brain is really figuring it out. Yes, he needs to shorten that side of his body, but.. I also need to allow a bit of stretch on that side too. I think that in an effort to keep him from overbending to the inside and to shorten/constrict that right side of his body, I'm just grabbing and holding that right rein. So.. it helps to ride shoulder in and Kelly added in to really focus on creating more connection on the inside rein. So yes... true classical dressage would be inside leg to outside rein. And the inside rein should have a lighter connection, but it is a lightER connection... So if it's a 10 on the outside, it should be an 8 on the inside, not a 2. So she almost had me ride outside leg to inside rein some to help get a true connection on the inside rein. Then I could play with the inside leg. So a bit of a balancing act to get him balanced and straight and then once we get that, we'll go back to classical dressage. So... tracking left... I still need to soften the outside rein at times so that we don't get stuck hanging on each other. And I still need inside bend, but I can use slight counterbend to get him straighter and more even in the connection. Kelly said to think of it as degrees of bend and to use all the degrees to keep him supple and soft. But we got some really nice stuff!!
Then we did one canter session in each direction and got a really nice uphill canter. Same thing as in the trot really. He felt fantastic!!!!

So yep... such a beautiful day and Dan was so good. He cracks me up. He was watching Kelly and had this look of ... awe, reverence, and slightly annoyed but kind of not... on his face. I think he really kind of enjoyed today. I know I did. :) 

And it's always nice to hear that he had improved from his last lesson. :) :) :) YAY!