Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Funny

Shamelessly stealing this post idea from L. Williams, enjoy this priceless video:

Bretts first Grand Prix
Going to a competition? You might recognize Brett Kidding's thoughts as he's riding his first Grand Prix at the Dressage Convention ;) Have a nice Sunday!
Posted by TRTmethod on Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Sunday's Schooling

I had the above set up in the arena for lessons on Saturday, so out of laziness I schooled it with Kat.

We started with four trot poles set about 5 ft apart and focusing on very square turns to and from the poles, making sure I had a nicely forward trot and allowing the poles to set her back a little bit. I then raised alternate ends of the trot poles so she really had to lift her legs. She was unthrilled the first time and casually leapt over all of them before returning to the trot, so I rode in a very slow trot to the poles the next time and she started to figure it out.

Then we looped around the jumps as shown. They were set very low (12") to start, focusing mostly on keeping a straight path to the jumps, a quiet lead change over the fence, and maintaining our tempo around the ends of the arena. After it was good and consistent, I raised both up to 2', and repeated. Then I set one to 2'9" (I know, slow progression, right?) and left the other at 2' and looped around the exercise enough to see how she felt over a slightly bigger effort.

Once I felt like she was totally warm, on my aids, and ahead of my leg (which could be the subject of an entire extra post. This mare has really been struggling with staying in front of my leg), we switched to just jumping the oxer. I again focused on swinging the shoulders around the hindquarters, setting her up well for the effort, and actually releasing. Because... I have serious release issues right now.

After two good efforts at each height I'd dismount and put the rails up. I don't like jumping above 3' often in my arena because the footing is a touch hard, but it's really good for Kat to see big jumps once in a while. The above is the highest we went and the first rail she pulled.

Being a super careful mare, she only had to learn that lesson once.

Kat put in very consistent efforts, and she's learning to use her head and neck better as I'm learning to half-halt with my body so I'm less afraid of her just taking off with me after the fence. I love that we're getting to a point where I can sit in her and add leg and she'll move up, rather than back off when I really sit down on her. Getting there, one day at a time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wherein I meander around various topics

With Vegas National coming up, I've been putting myself under a tremendous amount of pressure. I want to be riding my best to represent the horses as well as possible. I want to learn everything I can from JM in order to serve the horses. I've been thinking and re-hashing each of my rides so thoroughly that I feel I can recite every step to you of Kat's last few training sessions. 

This has been good, as the horses are going very well. This has also been bad as I think that I'm reaching the upper limit of what I'm mentally and physically capable of for the time being. I was supposed to ride Kat today but instead groomed her and pat her and put her away. 

Omeprazole for stressed mare!

It's funny because I want to document the good things (see photo below) and yet know that what I find most valuable in this blog is the procedural writings. Or perhaps when I dig into my processes and write it up.

The past 60 days have been a whirlwind: a new horse purchased and brought into full training, a new horse purchased and unloaded completely lame (sound now, thank god), moved into a new house, officially ended a long term relationship, plans kicked around and finalized for a trip to show in Vegas, several new clients in the mix, etc.

I've also been studying Brene Brown's book Rising Strong. She writes about the process of putting yourself out there, being vulnerable, putting your best effort forward. This most recent book is about being face-down in the dirt and getting back up. It feels ridiculously poignant for me at the moment: how do we come out of this stronger, kinder, more compassionate? How do we push ourselves to the point where every moment feels tremulous and uncertain and still be forging a stronger rider, trainer, mentor?

Basically my favorite shirt ever

I'm feeling my way through it. Just carefully. 

James Clear published an article about how research shows that writing about your values is a more powerful mood-balancer than simply writing about what's good. 

Robin Sharma wrote about the greatest people he's ever met and how it's a call to live more intensely.

Thank god for focused dogs

All this rambling to write this: I'm learning so much right now. I'm playing with bend and balance and tiny canter-in-place and finding the limits of each horse's strength and flexibility. I'm trying to open up to my clients and let them know that look, I'm struggling right now, but I'm more committed than ever to making sure that every day you have more tools to help you improve. Every day we can take one step closer to our ultimate goal.

And this adorable pony who makes this face every. single. time. you squeal "AREN'T YOU ADORABLE" at him

Thursday, October 15, 2015

4, 3, 2, holy crap horse!

I set up an oxer on the rail and did a lot of dressage in today's ride with Kat - we're doing much of the same thing I'm working on with Matheo in order to integrate it better. Can you lengthen? And stay light and connected? Can you shorten and come more through? Can you yield off this leg? How about this one? Can you lengthen the canter and shorten?

These are normal questions, yes, but the 'yes'es I'm giving her have to be much higher quality these days...

back at RDLA where the footing is so beautiful and eyecatching

Anyways. So there was this oxer on the rail at about 3'3 and every time she felt balanced and on my aids I came around and I took the fence. The first four times (I'm not kidding you guys) I started counting down, 4, 3, 2, and then she'd just HAIL MARY JUMP IT. So the first time, okay, fine, she wasn't ready or sitting enough. But the second time? No half halts? Really? The third time? Are you even capable of riding? Is your eye functioning? The fourth time I finally got unseated enough to actually have to ride to the stupid fence so we had no flyers after that.

A nearly-accurate representation of today's jumping efforts...

Despite my dubious riding it really was a lovely ride - her counter canter is getting very strong and balanced and the connection is getting very honest and over the back.

I posted a teaser yesterday but I'll write more about it today: The Las Vegas National Horse Show... back in August I rode a friend's horse at the JK Presents show at Woodside.

Guyz. This ground is beautiful. Imma stare at it.
 She recently had surgery, but still really wanted to attend Vegas National in November, so she approached me about riding for her again. It's a very good opportunity, so I agreed, and as part of bringing me along we worked out a way to enter Kat.

And that's the abbreviated version of how Kat and I are headed to Vegas! We're entered in the 0.90s, the 1.0s, and (shh please don't tell Kat) a single 1.10 class since she's been jumping so VERY spectacularly. We also have a VIP table for the FEI World Cup Saturday night... I'm totally dying I'm so excited about that. Kat and I have a bit of work to do to get ready. I'm confident in my wicked talented little mare, and I can't wait to see how it goes! I promise lots of photos of completely random things: horses I don't know, stalls charts, trainers coaching, warm up fences, and my horse's ears.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When the opportunity presents itself

From just learning to jump

to becoming a real competitor

and now on to Vegas

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Fall Festival - Sunday

Sunday was collectively our best show yet. My clients rode really well, we were tacked up, warmed up, knowing our courses, we just pulled the whole thing off really smoothly as compared to other shows with the lot of us.

Kat was a machine. Even thinking back on the experience makes my heart feel light and chest constrict a little. Where did this horse come from?

Good god Kate what is happening with your hands. Say it with me now, slowly: release. Re-lease. Re- leaaaassseeee. But check that mare out!!!!

Kat and I had a few discussions about distances in the 0.70ms because the fences were small enough that she could just LAUNCH herself places and land in relative balance which I was not cool with. What's a half-halt? But we came out of the optimum time class with 74.4 seconds (the optimum time was 74 seconds) and just kind of laughing - we cruised through at a pretty good clip but I managed to take such long paths while we discussed the nebulous half-halt that we rode it in great time. The rider immediately after me rode it in 74.6 with a MUCH more aggressive track but he had this adorable hunter canter going on so we held onto first for that class.

We went in for the speed round and I experienced one of my favorite sensations. The buzzer goes off and I ask for a bit more power to get the horse front of the leg and then half-halt it down a touch before approaching the first fence. That's standard - what's incredible is when the horse responds with that super-coiled, "okay, I'll wait with you." feeling. We rode the speed round in 55 seconds, which I felt was pretty good. We're not balanced enough yet for the crazy inside turns, but I didn't even want to ask for them. I wanted her to have a very good experience.

I ran over to the dressage ring to do a little bit of coaching and I harassed GingerPony's rider through a more intense warm-up than the day before, really asking for the most suppleness we can get from Ginger so that her test rode a little nicer.

Just look at Kat's expression. She knows she's incredible.

Back on Kat for the 0.80s and two more clear rounds - I thought long and hard about adding her to the 0.90s since she'd done so well at that height the day before... but I realize that there will always be more shows and we could end feeling like partners and knowing what an incredible job she'd done or I could push her further and potentially damage that feeling... So I called it a day.

And then I did something stupid: Kat earned champion in the 0.70s and reserve champion in the 0.80s, and I decided I wanted a photo with my horse and all the ribbons. (Ugh, ego, right?) We hung a ribbon on her bridle and she shook her head a lot and tried to bite at the ribbon, so I suggested we just hang the ribbons on the rein.

Kat said HELL NO when one of the ribbons touched her shoulder and started rearing up and spinning around. I tried to dismount smoothly and ended up twisting my knee pretty badly when I landed. (stupid.)

And Miss Diva did admirably. She still didn't put any clean rounds in (silly mare) but gave us a lot of things to work on. She's just so ridiculously lazy over fences that she touches them all the time. I love her calm attitude but very much so want her to sharpen up. We'll get there. Grids! More grids! All the grids!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The EquiCube

What is it? From their website: The EQUICUBE is a core strength training tool uniquely designed to improve core strength, balance, and posture in the saddle.

How does it work? You hold the cube in with your reins, balance the top of the box so it's flat, and then keep it from resting on the horse's withers. It's surprisingly heavy, so the goal is to hold the cube in your core rather than your shoulders.

Does it work? Yes. I tried the cube with nearly all my riders the first weekend I had it and what I love about it is that the feeling of holding the cube is totally right brain. Some of the things I was able to tackle by just mentioning the cube: floating elbows, zombie arms, uneven hands, hands too low/high, upper body too far forward, yanking the inside rein to steer, giving the outside rein too exuberantly on circles... and more.

I saw this on some recommended post on Google Plus, I really wasn't searching this out. I checked out the website and watched the video but thought it was a little too expensive for a training tool, so I passed on it. It was also rather backordered, but then I saw they were offering $10 off if you ordered while they were waiting for the next shipment. "What the heck," I told myself, and bought it. 

And I'm really glad I did. Do I recommend it to the average rider? I'm not sure. It's a little expensive and unwieldy without help, but I know that I've enjoyed riding with it and the tells it has for me. If you teach beginners/intermediate riders I recommend it whole-heartedly. The cube gives the feeling for correcting some upper body issues, whereas when I just repeat myself a lot the riders are never quite certain of the feeling they're looking for.

What have my riders said about it? I've had the following comments from my riders:
  • It's heavy
  • My core hurts
  • It's really helpful so I steer with my legs more
  • Ugh this is torture
  • No, not the cube!
  • Can I try the cube to see if it helps me keep my shoulders even? (it did)
  • Oh, that's what you mean by bend my elbows!
  • This was really helpful, I can't wait to use it again
True facts.