Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Corridors and Canter Mechanics pt 3

Okay three days into posting about this lesson and I'll actually let you read about what the damn title says the post is about. This will be the last post on this lesson as I'll be getting another one the day you read this, and that lesson (plus a cross country outing with BOTH Tangoose and Fantastic Kat!) will carry us through next week probably as I'll be in Michigan.

As previously stated, Kat came off the trailer pretty well-behaved (if we pretend she didn't try to kick the hay net behind her and then drag me across the parking lot and almost over Megan while bridling her [I had her teeth done last week and I think that helped lol]) and warmed up un-spectacularly but I was feeling a bit sheepish. I'd done all this work on my position and I instantly felt more comfortable back in my saddle on my horse, but I didn't actually know if it had made one whit of difference.

I see it all the time: you made a radical change to a rider, and they work on it and think they're REALLY getting it because BAM it feels like home, but they come back to you and it felt like home because they'd reverted to how they rode at first.

So I puttered around waiting for Tracey to wrap up with her horse, I trotted some and attempted to convince Kat that the bushes weren't going to eat her (spoiler alert: we survived) and then trotted a bit the other way and tried not to allow my mind to get frantic.

Kate, keep your hands still, legs back, turn the toes in, is your core engaged?! OH GOD WHERE DID MY RIGHT LEG GO

Not exactly a zen master over here but I'm working on it, okay?

I was quite relieved when Tracey put the ears in because I'd completely given up on a productive warm up and had just dropped the reins and begun banter about who-knows-what with Megan in an attempt to keep Kat's chill attitude at play.

She sent us out on our circle, reminded us to stay on a circle and not a square, and complimented me on some improvement overall in my leg position. I was pretty stoked about that.

Then we really got into the nitty gritty.

I need to continue to remind myself to keep my feet underneath me, despite improvement:

This totally makes sense to me, as my vaguely chair-seat and camped out style of riding is a habit I spent years developing and there is no way to chase a habit away that fast. What did surprise me was some of the effects Tracey points out that it has.

When my right leg sneaks out, my right hand comes up, and I collapse a bit onto Kat's back. It's not a LOT, and I'm not a total heap, but it's enough to cause Kat to throw her head up/shoot forward/lean on me with her ribcage.  

I overbend my horse's neck:

It turns out that the horse doesn't need to have a ton of visible bend in their neck, rather, if you feel the bend through the horse, or they are connected well to the reins, that is pretty much sufficient.

I also fully own that this is a habit from previous trainers, and that traveling this correctly feels too-straight to me. But the change in Kat's hind-end is not something to argue with.

I also like to move my hands around too much the moment I feel Kat stiffen against my leg aids (my fault, don't know why, want to find out) and so especially tracking to the right Tracey had me keep my right hand perfectly still, apply the right leg, and move the left rein away from her neck for a moment. She wanted me to think of 'righting the ship' and getting the mare upright again before requesting correct bend.

Within the transition, I need to form a corridor:

With my core, my thighs, and my hands. A transition to the trot doesn't involve swaying with the shoulders or getting gushy in my core and waiting. I felt it only a few times during my lesson and am looking forward to practicing, but when I keep my hands very still and do my upward transition with my weight balanced in my thighs, I can feel the way she uses her body and ask for more straightness in the transition than I usually can.

We practiced this a lot. In the downward, I need to keep my hands still and allow the energy to continue forward even though we're transitioning to a new gait. All changes can be an addition of balance or energy and I can't allow Kat to just SLAM to the walk.

I also have to be more progressive with my aids so that when she flounces to the trot I do not get left behind. She needs to practice stretching the transition out so that she can step to the trot before we worry about stepping into a bigger trot. 

Writing about it and using language like "SLAM to the walk" makes it sound more violent than it really is, but developing the feel for what it could be and the focus it requires to improve it makes this language seem like the more apt.

Plus, what fun is a post where I put qualifiers on too many things.

From within the corridor, maintain balance:

When my feet are beneath me, my posting coming from my knee and thigh, and my core engaged, I can begin to allow her to take 'looser' steps. I must keep her slow, but I can carefully begin to allow her to take bigger steps. Absolutely not at the cost of balance though, as Kat will inform me quite quickly by taking the bit and plowing onwards if she doesn't think I'm correctly balanced.

And now, the canter:

Tracey said that we would do a few more transitions and then she wanted to see the canter. I looked over and gave her a bit of an awkward smile. It was half 'yes!' and half 'oh crap!'. She then asked if, for some reason, she shouldn't want to see the canter, which I laughed off and replied that our transitions aren't exactly controlled but the canter itself is nice.

My biggest project has been relearning how to "sit up" because I spent many years riding in a slightly hunchy not-full-seat and not-half-seat so I've been doing a lot of work on sitting up/leaning back, what have you.

Kat and I moved to the canter and I immediately knew I wasn't correct. It wasn't that anything was different from any of the times we've ever cantered before, but I just knew, in a Satori-moment, that this wasn't what the canter was supposed to feel like.

Tracey pulled me to the halt and explained some things about cantering that are going to change a lot for me once I totally get it.

You never want to get behind the vertical, especially as the hip opens up when the horse's forehand is on the ground, so if you get behind the vertical you're essentially driving the horse's forehand more into the ground. Not our goal. So we need to strive to stay at or ahead of the vertical.   

We need to begin to feel as if we are resisting that forward and downward surge in our hips, our hip flexors and core coming out to play in a way that feels like you're trying to resist gravity and pull the saddle away from the shoulders. Sort of saying to the horse with your body, hey, don't go down that far.

And as the shoulders come back, we send the hips back, pull the knees up (without moving them, obvi, we should imagine that they are connected to one another through the horse's ribcage) and allow space for the shoulders to come back as much as possible.

Then the saddle moves forward and down again, and we allow the hips to open again - but only some. We don't follow that motion all the way forward, lest we get out of sync with the rhythm and our shoulders get whiplashed around.

And repeat.

This is hard, hard, hard work. I got maybe three strides of it somewhat correct the first time around and Kat and I both just fell from the canter into the walk. I was gasping for air (no exaggeration whatsoever). Tracey said something along the lines of, "good, there it was, it's so hard for the horse they tend to break from the canter" and I'm just thinking, 'nope, we both couldn't hang with that'.

Tracey said to me that I was right, her canter is good, but it is large and long and that will take us a lot of time to teach her to manage.

And I took that to mean that I have a lot of time in any given canter stride to think about this crazy action of the hips, to soften my elbows and work correctly with my arms, and I decided to take this big canter that will take a long time as a very beneficial thing while I learn this new way of riding the canter. 

We did it again, and came to the sensation where I could feel her shoulders suspended before me again, and although I felt too-rigid as her shoulders came down, I knew I was starting to get it.

I need a lot of practice and I'm excited to get more feedback on it, but with how massively sore my hip flexors have been... Maybe I've dug myself a weird rabbit hole this last week and maybe I'm just barely making some progress.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Corridors and Canter Mechanics pt 2

"They mirror us, both in our rightness and our wrongness. Also, they know our bottom line - how determined we are, and how little effort we will accept. When you change, your horse changes, and you are the key to evasions, limitations, and attitudes that many would attribute to him alone. The impact you have on him is far greater than you realize." -Mary Wanless
September 2015

Do you know where your seat-bones are right now? Did you know that they are shaped a bit like sled-runners, and that when you have your pelvis in a neutral position, you're balanced on the back half of those sled-runners?

Cobb Cycling's photo borrowed 100% without permission

Of course you did. Sorry for asking... but I have found myself asking this question of myself nearly constantly since my lesson with Tracey. You have to ask yourself what your own body is doing from time to time (or all the time) in order to keep track of all those pesky body parts.

I'm approaching this a little like mathematics. I'm re-learning dressage addition right now because I never totally learned it. Eventually I'll be able to 'chunk' movement patterns I'm training, but right now I have to track the variables down one by one and put them back in place. Stuff them back in place. Angrily stare at them until they go back where they belong. Beat them into obedience.

Wait, it's just a hand that floats and a foot that jams itself forward.

Okay, so you've located your seat bones (I'm sitting on my bed with a textbook under my butt for this one) and the seat bones are neutrally pointing straight down. Now tighten your butt muscles up, but slowly. Feel the muscle engage, then surround the seat bones, and eventually "pop" over the seat bones. You're now too-toned and popped off. Now repeat this whole process until you reach a place where you are toned and engaged and up but not popped off. 

Does it require a lot of focus? Which side is easiest to hold the tone or the padding and which side pops over more easily?

My right seat bone likes to pop first. This makes sense as I brace this leg forward using those same muscles.

Paul Belasik tells this story in his "Riding Toward The Light" wherein he reads about the ideal seat and essentially wears himself bloody, trotting stirrupless up and down this road hoping to reach "the possibility of sitting on a horse in a way that a rider could follow every movement and be practically glued to the horse without relying on grip." He didn't have a guide at the time other than the words in this book he borrowed from the library.

I felt a mental version of Belasik's journey when first thinking about this 'up versus down' rider. Tracey threw it to me almost as an after effect - of all the things we worked on, this we spent the least time on.

But it bit me, as ideas will, and here we are.

Being an "up rider" means that you carry yourself and your weight within your frame as much as is physically possible. Being an "up rider" involves a stable & engaged core, seat bones that don't jam into your horse's back, balance that allows you to carry the horse up with you and settle down to them.

So Megan took these really awesome photos and I'm going to keep them forever and eek them out one by one to you readers for selfish media hoarding purposes. <3 you all

You might ask yourself what the benefit is of being an up rider. I will allow Mary Wanless to answer:
"[The rider's] ultimate aim is to become a suction device that can draw the horse's back up under her, thus influencing his carriage."
Hey - I like that goal. Riding in a way that brings the horse's back to me just from the influence of my seat alone! No rein fiddling or butt driving or any of that nonsense... and therein lies the challenge.

Tracey first fixed my basic alignment, enthusiastically and often reminding me that my legs had drifted forward. Basic physics would state that I cannot resist gravity if I do not have my feet underneath me. Then Tracey encouraged me to bear down more effectively, to become less gushy in the middle.

She touched on building this muscle pad around my seat bones, but I did more research in quite a few books to build my conceptual understanding of being an up rider. There's a lot of different language to describe the ideal rider, but stillness appears to be one of the most fundamental underpinnings, as does a "braced back" or engaged core, and in experimenting with the feel these authors have described, I believe that the discussions of the back also are part of this muscle padding around the seat bone, just without as much anatomical detail. 

All of this to say: my understanding is that an up rider is one who first carries herself, and then carries the horse up with her. She cannot lose her balance and force the horse to carry her, either by collapsing on the saddle or pulling on the reins. She cannot carry herself without tone in her core, her back, and her pelvis. She cannot 'shove' with her seat or have more movement than the horse is actually moving.

By being still (relative to the horse), carrying herself with high tone, creating a seal of her seat and the saddle, she is able to influence the horse more clearly and help to bring his back up. After all, who wants to engage those long and powerful back muscles if the rider is only going flump back onto him, or cause him to tense his neck and upper back because his face gets pulled on.

And in this infinitely complex journey, let us continue tomorrow with walk-trot transitions, and some cantering. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Corridors and canter mechanics pt 1

I have now had two lessons with the dressage trainer Megan recommended. She's pretty great. Actually - revise that - she sees more things and knows how to change them than anyone I've ever met. She is a genius-level trainer.

Here are some things I really love about her lessons.
  • I feel an entire world of possibility before me that I did not know existed previously - meaning specifically that I think she makes me feel like it is possible to ride VERY well, I don't have to luck into it or be born that way or just wait it out or whatever: make these changes and you will ride better. Make these (very HARD) changes, and you are on your way to being the sort of rider you admire.
  • If I start to 'get' something, she's willing to remain dogged on it until she's certain I understand.
  • I don't get a free pass for being a 'trainer' or riding a 'difficult' horse. The horse is now ready to be trained. I don't ride all that great even though I'm good with kids and teaching low-level stuff.
  • Her guidance is going to allow to me to be a much better trainer than before. 
 Right off the bat I could feel how much the work I’d been putting into my leg position had helped me - this was actually my first ride back in the Neidersuss on Kat since my first lesson with Tracey. I am at home in that saddle because I’ve spent more hours on it over the last year than other saddles, but because Tracey pointed out how my balance was off in the saddle I’d been doing some experimenting.

Kat also came off the trailer a bit quieter than the first time. I’ll talk about this now because I find it fascinating, but it really has nothing (or everything?) to do with the lesson. When I bought Kat, I think a HUGE part of her challenge with normal work was that she constantly guesses. You’d shift your weight a bit and she’d move around and maybe decide that that was a cue for something, but then when you tried to keep her straight while changing your balance the next time she’d be pissed because you changed the rules on her.

A significant part of bringing her to this point was just teaching her that there are some things you can safely ignore.

Now Tracey is taking my position and moving it to somewhere more secure than I had previously imagined (I will expand on this...) which means that I am physically more consistent than I have been able to offer Kat in the past.  I’m finding that Kat comes out calmer each day than the day before and seems to come into me very quickly as I work on myself, my security, my basic position.

I have some theories on this. I think Kat is finding me safer and less confusing. I think she is SO sensitive that I made her uncomfortable any time my balance wasn’t right. I’m excited to see how this develops because I know I still have a long way to go.

I’ve written before about how Kat sometimes tunes in to me so much that I over-aid her - notable mostly when jumping and she starts to come back to me and all of a sudden I ask for a smaller canter and we’re trotting. Currently Kat is coming to this level of connection after only a few minutes of moving about and this is allowing me to calibrate myself to this level of sensitivity. This is echoing out to my other horses too... and before you jump me for writing about these seemingly awesome changes that are occurring a mere two lessons in, trust me, I’m wondering if there are other variables. Maybe there are. But I honestly think turning the eye onto me is making all the difference.

These lessons are mostly about what I’m doing. Where I’m holding myself, how I’m using my body, the way I’m talking to Kat. Kat is transformed into a schoolie and I am the fumbling beginner. She is as much my trainer as Tracey. Megan has aptly summed it up with this: OH MY GOD (while you’re grinning, ecstatic, full of amazement.) ... ohmygod... (while the horror and enormity of this undertaking creeps in.)

I used to make all these excuses for myself, "well, the horse is going better each week," or "she's so sensitive that she has a very specific way she wants to be ridden..." And maybe that's true, but I can better ride her the way she wants when I am in a more correct position.

When I met Ivan from Running In Systems we had a conversation about good mechanics being attractive because, on a fundamental level, if you move correctly you will outlast the tiger. This subconscious recognition of beautiful movement doesn't translate to being an automatic movement coach as biomechanics are complex, and other such challenges.

Denny Emerson writes about good position not being about "prettiness" or any of that, but as being derivative of actually effective and safe position. These rides that Tracey has helped me to have and the rides I've had since (it's been 14 days since my first lesson, so between all the horses I work with that's a good number of rides) are proving to me, with the horses in agreement, how important it is to get this stuff right.

With Tracey, I've yet to hear her say that something looks good. Instead she tells me that my mechanics are better, or that I've gotten closer to her goal for me. It comes down to learning to be more mechanically effective in order to better influence the horse. More on that later.

Jean Luc Cornille writes EXTENSIVELY about how the horse will protect kinematic abnormalities because 'it feels normal'. Horses don't understand why we're asking them to move differently or use different muscles, so we take them to a place of better balance, lose that place, and bring them there again. Eventually the horse learns to avoid bring brought there by staying there, even though it is harder than "normal". This makes sense to me. What I'm learning, however, is how much faster it is when the horse has only taken a single step out of balance before bringing them back. Previously the horse would start to lose balance, I would follow, then I'd struggle to get myself back and then, finally, bring the horse back.  

When I wrote this post, I continued directly from this lengthy discussion with myself into a more detailed lesson recap, but I think we'll split it up to spare you from both philosophical musings and technical riding details in one post.

Tomorrow, we'll delve into what it means to be an up vs down rider. Or my broken, shallow understanding of the matter.

Friday, July 22, 2016


to examine carefully and in detail so as to identify causes, key factors, possible results, etc. 

I have a massive lesson write-up forthcoming, but I thought I'd share some of my analytic process as I attempt to improve my riding. 

I can get super down a rabbit-hole and nitpick myself to death, ESPECIALLY as I learn new positional changes. Like, dangit body, you literally just learned this a week ago why isn't it old hat by now?

One thing I try to do with myself is even when I find 12,345,894,984,001 things wrong with my riding, I do try to find at least one thing I really like or think is improved in every photo. Or moment in time - these screenshots I obviously don't take when mid-session. I've just grabbed these for your benefit, dear Reader.

I have an app on my phone that will slow videos out for me so I like to take a minute or two of video when Kat is working well and it feels good, then give her a walk break while I watch it, then pick one thing or 'cue' for myself to hook into, then back to work and see if it's improved. A good session will have two or three total reviews for me to work on improving my riding. It's a lot of stop and go, sure, but Kat tolerates it well, Tango tolerates it better, and Chente could literally give ZERO f***s about what I do while riding so.... 

I can over analyze ALL THE HORSES

I have a lot of improvements to make in my position and I think a lot so my approach to trying to solidify changes is predictably cerebral. This very intense check-in for myself slows down as I feel more 'safe' in my new position.

If you made it this far through all these spectacularly terrible screen shots, first you get a high five. Second, these screen shots do not for good media make. Third, you might be asking yourself what sort of corrections I'm making to myself -- and you get THOSE answers on Monday and possibly Tuesday because I'm not sure I feel up to subjecting you poor souls to a few thousand words on a single dressage lesson wherein I do not leave a 20 meter circle for long at all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


You can train a horse a lot of different ways, using varying tools and techniques and levels of pressure. 

You can also sort of hack performance together for any given level, but then you run into problems with incorrect basics as you advance up the levels. Megan has written about this and I find it fascinating - so I have been thinking about it with my teaching. 

I teach to develop an independent, thoughtful rider, so most of my progressive training is toward that goal. But maybe I'm shorting basics necessary for higher performance inadvertently because I'm not teaching right at the highest levels (keeping in mind that I am not at that level.) 

I wrote this as a "goal" in Jan 2014 - I've been thinking on my role as riding instructor for a long time

I think steering is the quintessential example of this, a lot of people are taught to pull the inside rein to steer the horse at first because it's simple, but then all of a sudden one day it's shape the horse off the outside rein and use your thighs to control the shoulders. Now, there's a lot to that, including the rider's balance and feel which takes time to develop....

These are my meditations today during summer camp.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Tangoose with Wings

I jumped Tango the other day because I had some time and I had a grid set up and (I have a bizarrely long list of justifications for jumping my own horse, perhaps that contributes to his labored progress in jumping.)

He was, and I don't say this lightly, a star. The more confident he gets in his own body, the better a jumper he becomes, and the easier it is to stay with him.

What are some elements of his growing confidence? I think he's gaining weight and muscle and that allows him to rebalance himself more quickly. I think with practice, he's figuring out how all this legs work. I think with practice, I'm learning to manage his desire to get low and fast and transform that into up and back. I think with better flatwork installed, the reactions necessary for sitting back are becoming easier. 

And we trust each other more every day.

Although I do admit sometimes when I cluck before a jump if I feel him waffle, he definitely replies with "OH SH** I"M OUT OF HERE I AM SO SORRY IT WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN" and that usually requires a few extra half-halts after the jump.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


June 2015, trucking dirt in
May 2016, trucking different dirt in PC: Jen from Cob Jockey

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dressage as you've always imagined it:

It's all in the details, baby.  (This post also includes photos that prove Kat and I can trot in not one, but TWO directions.)

Kat's been doing really well at home. We've mostly been working on basic things, like smooth and non-fussy transitions of bend and gait. I was feeling really good about heading into this lesson.

And this lesson was GREAT. Very cerebral. I have much to think about.

Internal rotation of thighs

I have a tendency to let my thighs rotate away from the saddle and my right leg especially likes to jam itself forward into this braced, off-the-saddle position. (Perhaps I crashed into one too many trees while skiing as a child. Or it's just bad habits.) I did not realize that the right leg was as much of an issue as it is. It was humbling and exciting to learn how much of an issue it is. I point the right toe out, then jam the heel forward.

So by physically rotating my thigh inward, allowing myself to think about trying to get almost the edge of my quad touching the saddle, this is the first step in realigning my balance.

Shoulder-hip-heel line

As mentioned above, I have a feet-out-in-front-of-me problem. I ride in a backseat that becomes ineffective. I literally can get left behind in a walk-trot transition. How's THAT for a fun thing to work on.

Core engagement

I ride with my core and my back active, but this trainer wanted me to use myself in a bit of a different fashion in order to really lengthen my spine without becoming hollow. She said, "imagine you're crushing your rib cage down to your pelvis, but there's a brick of muscle so solid there that you cannot move the ribs down to your pelvis at all." (I'm completely paraphrasing.)

Don't post with your hands

Kat is green to dressage. Perhaps not green to 'being round' or 'being under saddle' or even 'jumping' anymore, but to real, honest to god, use your trapezius and ENGAGE yourself dressage. Kat is also spicy, opinionated, and tricksy. This means that I must give her a 100% reliable place to come into if I want her to honestly come onto the bit.

The above positional adjustments help with this. But I also have to keep a more independent hand in order to be totally secure in offering her the same place to come into all. the. time. My right hand likes to post with my hips. She had me place my hands down on the front edge of the saddle pad, then lift one for a few strides and focus on my elbows acting as hinges, then switch hands, continuing to really feel the hinge of my elbows.

Sneaky rein adjustment habit

I do this really super fun thing that is totally subconscious and I have no idea how to fix it without a trainer calling me on it EVERY TIME I DO IT. Instead of keeping my hands steady to shorten the reins, I do a funny release/spider crawl. I hang up on Kat, wiggle my hand around, and then try to continue the conversation. I am going to practice shortening my reins correctly while off the horse and try to rewire that habit.

Horse leans on right thigh

Based on all the warped things I do with my body in the saddle, it's not surprising that Kat leans on my right thigh a little bit.

Revisted circle geometry

Did you know that circles don't have straight lines in them? Also of note, it's hard to ride a really good circle when your shoulders and thighs are burning and your ankle things you're trying to twist it off because it's actually not-flexible-at-all.

Tempo control

Kat likes to come down to the bit, speed up a little bit, lose her balance, throw her head up. Wash, rinse, repeat. This is why when I feel her come into the bridle and connect with me, my immediate reaction with my seat must be to slow her down. Before she even takes one speedy or hasty step. And I have to keep breathing. And keep my elbows soft and hinging. And keep my right leg underneath me. And my left one too but less bad.


Also known as: this saddle probably doesn't fit either of us.

Pulling horse's back to me

When posting, you are apparently not supposed to just left gravity take over and collapse down to the saddle. (I am kidding, I promise.) I have to really fight gravity with my thighs and imagine not wanting to crush an egg placed on the saddle underneath me. (Spoiler alert: you cannot control your 'down' if your right leg is twisted out in front of you.)

Think about 'giving' in degrees of tone, not in a motion of the elbows

When Kat comes into the bridle and lowers her neck, when she takes a deep breath, I have to think and breathe softness into my arms. I can't change as much as I want to - I think I'm letting her know that's what I want, but instead that's changing the goalpost and making the bit an unreliable place to be. 

Hold the reins deeper in my hand for more softness

I hold the reins too much in the third joint of my fingers, out near the tips. I need to bring them deeper into my hand, nearer my palm, in order to allow the reins to rest in my hand and soften more truly. If the reins are in your fingers, you have to maintain tension in the arm to hold onto the reins. If the reins are better in my hand, I can release that tension.

The verdict?

The harder I worked on me (honestly I think there were too many things to focus on, which is AMAZING because it gives me a bunch to work on at home, but was mentally challenging during the lesson) the more Kat paid attention. It felt like she was almost asking me what I was doing, but the moments when it all came together and I felt the influence I had over her... I actually understood what Mary Wanless means when she says it should feel like you are taking the horse, but not carrying the horse.

We finished out with a different sort of engagement than I've felt from Kat in the past, and it was very cool. I felt so buoyant and joyful and light.  I have a lot I need to sort out for myself - which makes me so grateful I have smartphone technology to even get awkward fence videos to verify if I'm moving in the right direction and also that I have so many horses to practice on.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Toodling with Tango, A Tuesday post

Okay I'll admit that I don't really do all that much "toodling" with this horse, but I liked the way it sounds so I dug back to like February and compiled all the ridiculous things I've done with Tango when I want to get him out but don't really feel up to actually working on anything.

Pictured above, our getup for 4th of July. We walked all over the farm, awkwardly trotted some figure-eights, cantered mostly because I was like "I AM RIDING MY RUNAWAY OTTB IN A HALTER" and wanted to do it.

Pictured below is one of probably three dozen photos I took while trying to highlight Tango's dappled butt.

Does an off the property trail ride count as toodling? For an event horse, I'm inclined to think maybe not... but I have SO MUCH fun trail riding this beast so we're counting this one pictured below.  There were many others. I have a lot of ear shots of this horse at this point.

Oh, the first time I rode Tango in just a halter all over the property, documented as being in early February of this year.

I wanted him to stand on a log for no good reason other than I wanted him to do it. 

He thought maybe I should keep my opinions to myself. 

But he gave it a try.

And eventually he did it. I then rode him back to his stall, bareback and in just a halter.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Eventing Boot Camp

This summer I got an opportunity to run a camp of my very own. The farm owner offered me a whole week to run completely amuck, to cause my own chaos, to teach whatever I wanted. Oh, and to have some filtering over who got to join the camp.

I think we had a really awesome week. We totally ran out of time to do all the things I wanted to do. 

We had an awesome dressage clinic.

We talked about different lunging tools, how to use them, and when you might want to. 

We talked about ground manners and how to train them. 

We COVERED some horses in mud, and then I blindfolded the campers and made them team up to see which team could more effectively clean their horse while blind. 

  • We did yoga
  • We designed a jump grid for our individual horse's issues
  • We played around with drill team exercises
  • We did mounted games
  • We practiced dressage tests and talked about strategies for laying better-scoring tests down
  • We put together a model horse
  • We got to talk with a farrier about all sorts of things, and even got to try shaping a hot shoe
  • We calculated how many calories each of our horses are getting and discussed ways to make sure their nutrition is complete and supporting them
  • We ate ice cream
  • We clicker trained our horses to do a trick 
  • We figured out our horse's resting heart rate and compared it to after a dressage session
Basically, it was awesome. I loved it. I can't wait to do it again. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Latent Potential

Today I make the argument that Kat is a better Kate-trainer than Kate is a Kat-trainer. That sentence was hilarious to write and probably difficult to follow. Here's why I think that.
Things that I have trained Kat to do: 
  • Get in a trailer
  • Go through water
  • Canter instead of buck
  • Go on the bit, most of the time****
  • Jump things 
  • Probably some other things but honestly who knows
 Things that Kat has trained me to do:
  • Accept all her ridiculous shenanigans as 'just the way things are'
  • Accept some stranger's assessment that she's not very talented at dressage and so to focus on other things
  • Laugh at EVERY spook
  • Have a much better seat than I used to
  • Have the timing that SHE wants

****(Mostly meaning: when she's not busy doing other things)

During Megan's clinic with us, Lessee aboard

Comparing these short lists, generated in the last three minutes, I'd argue that Kat's been better at teaching me a way of life.

Jump schooling a few weeks ago

I'm kidding -- but only sort of. Kidding on the square. When Megan came out and worked with Kat's Lessee, she said that riding Kat is 'a bit like catching a fish.' in terms of how excellent your timing has to be to catch the rightness of the moments and help her know that we want more of that.

This statement REALLY stuck with me and I've been thinking about it a lot. Perhaps this is partnered with Megan's adamant insistence that Kat really IS fancy (I thought I was just biased...) but I think that Kat has trained me into accepting too little.

Yes, training is a journey, and yes, you have to ride the horse that shows up each day and yes.... so many other things. But the fact remains that Kat is a better horse than I am a rider and I don't want to make excuses for myself anymore. To remedy this: I've scheduled a lesson with the dressage trainer that Megan recommended for us. Today, in my schooling session, I asked for more from Kat than I have in a long time, in terms of really staying with me, staying awake, staying straight, staying round, etc. And she came to the table, despite the fact that there was construction in the woods and that was terrifying.

We worked on the fact that her hindquarters swing right in the halt, and we tackled the fact that when we serpentine she likes to drop her shoulder to the outside when we track left.

Maybe this is all very long-winded and doesn't say much. But it's my corner of the internet, you know? hahahaha