Monday, March 31, 2014

Field Trip Update

Loading Licorice into the trailer - Check
Riding at a different arena without dying - Check
Riding an actual dressage test - Check
Taking pictures - Not even one!

We started on Friday with hooking up the trailer and working on Licorice's loading skills.  After water-skiing out of the trailer, down the ramp and thirty feet on the mud, it was decided he needed the chain.  This meant that when he changed his mind, I only water-skied out the trailer and down the ramp.

Licorice was reluctant and it was POURING rain.  But I have a very patient trainer and I stood in the trailer coaxing Licorice in, while she stood outside asking him to move forward and keeping him somewhat straight.

We enticed him with his favorite thing in the world, hay.  Even carrots are no match for a flake of hay.  It took about twenty minutes, but we let Licorice take his time.  As long as he was facing the trailer and not pulling me out, we sat quietly.  He was a bit worked up when he got in, but he got in.

Then he shoved me into the wall and spun around, trying to get out.  I was able to (with a whole lot of yelling and cussing that was totally not effective but made me feel better) get him turned back around and backed him out quietly.

Then we asked him to go in again.  This time, his hesitation was only about a minute.  We let him stand and eat some hay.  Then we backed out.  Rinse and repeat.  The fourth time, he marched right in and grabbed his hay so we called it a day.

Saturday I got to the barn bright and early.  Though it probably didn't change much, I lunged Licorice at home for a few minutes to make sure he didn't have any crazies built up in him.  Since he got so hot last time, we left his blanket off for the trip.  This time, he got to go in the trailer with two other horses.  He quickly made friends with Keiron, who was first in the trailer. 

The trip was uneventful and Licorice unloaded easily.  I walked him around and he was very high headed and stiff, but otherwise okay.  I did have to remind him to not walk in to me please.  Seriously, we still have much work to do on ground manners when it comes to pushing people around with his shoulder!!  I've got a rope halter and though I'm not super awesome at it, I'm going to try to do some work with him next weekend.

Licorice and I were the first to ride, so we tacked up and went into the small arena/round pen to lunge.  Again, he was totally fine.  Then we went to the big arena.

The whole barn was gorgeous and the arena was huge.  We had to put out ground poles to mark out a dressage size arena because this arena is longer and wider than a dressage arena.

I hand walked Licorice for a few laps and was trying to take some deep breaths.  I heard my trainer tell one of the girls to go get her helmet so she could get on Licorice first.  Something snapped and I thought "Oh hell no.  My horse is not even doing anything.  I'm getting on first!"  So, I did.  And he was tense and looky and had a few moments where his back dropped out, his head went up and I thought he was going to go for it...but he didn't.

For most of the beginning, what he did do was call for his friend.  He whinnied and whinnied and whinnied and Keiron whinnied back.  They were pathetic.  Later, when Licorice had to wait in a stall while Keiron was in the arena, Licorice screamed without stopping.  Until I gave him some hay and then he was perfectly quiet.  I knew the minute the hay ran out because Licorice went right back to screaming.  I'm going to have to bring more hay next time.......

We had a lesson and though it wasn't our best work, we held it together.  Then we rode Training Test 2 and you know what?  We wouldn't have scored great because our circles were sometimes half triangle, half oval and Licorice was above the bit, behind the bit, looking to the left.  BUT, we got EVERY transition in time.  When it was time to trot, we trotted.  When we were supposed to canter, we cantered.  When we had our halt, he may have drifted five steps to the right and flipped his head up, but he halted.

Someone asked me afterwards if I had a good time.  The answer is no.  Which seemed to surprise my friend, but for me 'a good time' was not my goal here.  That's asking too much.  I feel satisfied with our progress and proud of myself for doing it.  I know that the more we do it, the more I will move from satisfied to having a good time.  I also know that's not likely to happen right away and I'm okay with that.  In the meantime, I'll ride the high of knowing I successfully rode my horse in a dressage test in a strange arena.

Side note:  I must have been gripping the living daylights out of Licorice with my calves because I have hardly been able to walk the last two days.  My calves are just aching, which is a part that has NEVER been sore before.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Post Lesson Re-Cap

It turns out I was pinching with my knee all the time, it just became more noticeable once I started sitting.  So we focused on keeping my knee pointed out while I'm posting.  I had to over-exaggerate a bit at first.  I was fine on a straight line, but as soon as I had to multi-task my knee pinched in with a death grip.

Licorice was a very good boy for my whole lesson (when is he not, I mean really....) and tried his best.  We had some really nice sitting trot and even a few decent half halts in the trot.

I also added in stretching up tall and pulling my shoulders back during the sitting trot.  It's so easy to want to just slump there and absorb the energy, rather than sitting tall and adding to the energy.

Then we went to canter and though our falling apart is less...spectacular, we still fall apart.  Licorice gets all revved up and doesn't listen to my half halts and my hands come up, my legs and arms freeze and we circle around at Mach 10 until I can get us back under control.

Once in the canter, we actually did some lovely work.  We're still finding the balance between half halting within the gait and moving to trot, so when I half halt we usually end up trotting because I'm just not as organized as I should be to keep him cantering after a good half halt.

Saturday is our outing.  I'm trying not to think about it too much and when I do think about it, I'm just trying to think about it in positive terms.  It WILL be fun.  It WILL BE FUN!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

So Many Little Things

Sorry I'm so behind on my blogging! I'm hoping to catch up soon, but life is crazy busy and hasn't left much time for blogging. In no particular order, here's where we're at.

 Sitting trot: Looking good. So much that more people have asked me if I'm showing this year. SHOWING!!? However, my left knee on the inside has begun hurting after every ride where I do sitting trot. The last time I brought it up I was told that I was gripping with my knee. Ummm. Thank you Captain Obvious, but I need more direction than that. I have a lesson tomorrow and I'm going to be asking for specific exercises to work on not gripping with my knee. If you have any, let me know. At this point, riding without stirrups is out of my comfort zone. My barn doesn't do lunge lessons, so that's not an option either. Sigh.

 Spooking and Attention: After my ride on Sunday, someone was cleaning out their tack trunk. They had left their stuff hanging in various places in the aisle. I was dismounted and was attempting to lead Licorice through the arena gate. He looked. And froze. And the whirled away, almost knocking me over and backing up into another horse. Not cool. I made him back up and listen to me and then we went back to the gate. He took a look and walked through and then was fine. But I still struggle with keeping his attention and what to do when he freezes. In the middle of a ride, he'll see a horse outside and go all giraffe necked on me. Then he'll suck back. I kick him forward, but we usually are going slow with him dragging his head up to look. So then I revert back to grabbing the inside rein and hauling his head around. I really need to have a better plan and I'm frustrated that we regress so quickly. I will have a chance to work on all of this on Saturday because.... 

Going Off The Farm!!: We are actually leaving the farm on Saturday. We're taking the horses to a local arena where the show team is going to take lessons and do practice tests. And where I will attempt to not die of a panic attack or get run away with. I hope Licorice loads okay. I hope we have a good time. Can you ride with hip flasks in dressage? :)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Private Post

Is there a way to make a password protected post in Blogger?  I'm wanting a little feedback, but needing to keep it private so I don't hurt any feelings.  So far, the only thing I've come up with is to create a separate blog that is completely private and make a post there and give a link to it??


Monday, March 10, 2014

Clinic Recap

I had another great clinic this weekend.  Saturday we worked on not tensing up and asking Licorice to move off my leg.  Brooke pointed out that as a hunter school horse, Licorice probably was taught that when a leg is put on it means go forward.  For him, forward meant either walk, trot or canter.  The end.  So now, we're asking him to go forward but then we're also asking him to move off the leg laterally.  The poor guy is kind of clueless.

We did some leg yields at the walk, or attempted to.  Licorice freaked out and would try to trot off.  Then he would fling his head in the air.  Then he would stop and back up.  Finally, he started to get it.

Brooke reminded me that I'm his teacher through this process of learning about lateral movement and then different speeds within each gait.  Poor Licorice.  Sorry you're stuck with me for a teacher.  On the other hand, though I may not be the best in terms of timing, I am always willing to give my pony the benefit of the doubt and I'm not prone to over punishing.

Which leads us to Sunday's ride.  We worked some on his shoulder bulging issue and I was reminded that you MUST correct it EVERY time or it will remain a habit.  Ride forward and push his shoulder away from me.  Most of Sunday we were working on that.  I was a little frustrated that the thing I wanted to work on (our crazy freight train trot when I try to canter) didn't seem to be showing up.  Saturday our canter transitions were magical rainbow transitions, which was fun but not productive for teaching me how to work with what usually shows up when I'm practicing.

The last fifteen minutes of Sunday, all hell broke loose.  In other words, a trailer showed up and unloaded a giant mare and Licorice COULD NOT FOCUS BECAUSE THERE'S A GIANT MARE OUTSIDE THE ARENA!!!!  Finally, his spastic trot showed up complete with giraffe neck and dropping shoulder.  When I asked for canter, he went into his grab the bit and trot the fastest circle ever.  When I tried to move him off the leg, he just got faster.

Believe it or not, I was excited that we finally fell apart.  THIS is what I wanted help with.  Brooke had me halt him, no matter what it looked like.  It was one of those moments where she had to yell "There is a cliff in front of you.  DO NOT LET YOUR HORSE GO OVER THAT CLIFF!!!"  I ended up having to really sit deep and pull hard, but we did halt.  Then we trotted.  Then HALT RIGHT NOW!!! RIGHT NOW!!!!  Another ugly halt.

I was reminded that even though I needed to halt exactly at that moment, that I should try not to tense up my entire body when I did it.  That just created tension for Licorice to pull against.  So the next time, I tried to halt immediately but without tension.  No surprise, Licorice reacted by halting without throwing a tantrum.

From there, she would tell me to think halt and if Licorice didn't immediately react by slowing down she would have me halt.  By the second circle, we were half halting and having a decent time of it.  By the third circle, we got a lovely canter depart.

In the end, the big reminders for me are these:

1. - Correct and half halt without tension.  When you get tense, so does Licorice.  Relax your body while still staying firm in the aids.

2.  - Half halt MUST mean something.  If it doesn't mean something, HALT.  Licorice needs to learn what a half halt is and if you don't get an IMMEDIATE reaction you must get stronger right away.  Halt means stop RIGHT NOW.

3.  - Do not wait until everything completely falls apart before you start to do something.  I am so guilty of this.  I wait until it's a complete shit storm before I decide maybe I should half halt.

I was way less exhausted this time and my sitting trot is getting better which is nice to know.  And Licorice is just so honest about where he's at; I really appreciate it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Notes to Self

Super busy day today.  Great lesson last night.  I want to jot down the two most important things before I forget them.  Sorry for the weird, short post.  This is mostly a bookmark so I don't forget when I practice.

If he doesn't move off my leg, irritate him.  Don't use force, just ask lightly.  Same with whip.  It's not to be used to punish, just to irritate him into moving away from.

Praise by petting with inside hand when he does move over.

Keep the outside rein so he has a place to go.

If he's rushing in the trot, do walk/trot transitions while moving him off the inside leg.

There was probably more last night that I've already forgotten, but I think that was the main point.  Also, my trainer pointed out he's not so much 'running away' with me so much as he is 'barging around the arena' with me.  Details, details.....

Clinic again this weekend means I'll be cleaning and polishing tack and boots again on my Friday night.  Wheeeee!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Practice Doesn't Make Perfect

"Practice doesn't make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect."

I don't have anyone to attribute this quote to because it's attributed to everyone.  However, I would like to point out that if this is the case, Licorice and I will never, ever be perfect.  We had one of 'those' days yesterday.

Basically, we just bombed around the arena all tensed up and hyped out for 45 minutes.  At one point I called out to my trainer (who was giving another lesson) that I was looking forward to my lesson on Wednesday because my ride was not going well.  She laughed and said that it did look like we were having a hard time keeping it together.

So, I wrote yesterday off as having a good aerobic workout.  At the end, we were both sweaty.  I know some people will say I should have gone back to the walk, but our walk work is even worse than our trot work.  And there were a few non-embarrassing moments in our workout.  Probably five minutes in total, but I'll take it.  Some days are just like that and I refuse to feel bad about it.

I'm trying out a cheapy Wintec western saddle this week.  I would like to use it for trail rides and for when I feel like blowing off dressage and doing something different.  If I don't end up using it, it's cheap enough that I won't feel bad.  If I use it a lot, I may consider purchasing a Western saddle.

I tried a Western saddle my trainers have at the barn on Licorice.  He looked adorable and it fit him okay from what I could tell.  But it was about three sizes too big for me and felt like riding a cement slab.  Ugh.

Tonight is lesson night and I'm looking forward to doing something besides bouncing around trying desperately to establish some sort of rhythm and bend.

Mom, what IS this thing?