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. : )

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