Monday, August 22, 2016

There's a Hole In My Bucket

I finally mastered my warm up by mounting up for a lesson five minutes late and then waiting for an hour and a half for my trainer to arrive. We wandered the ranch, got used to the covered arena, played with free walk/medium walk transitions, and worked on our mirror selfie game.

Spoiler alert: I have a lot to learn
I also am SO DISAPPOINTED because I brought my Polaroid Cube to videotape the lesson. The video quality wouldn't be anything to write home about... but I would have been able to transcribe the lesson and therefore not forget everything before the next lesson!

But alas I instead took a photo of the ground and a photo of my face and didn't actually record anything. Next time!

Since we'd struggled so much with getting true left bend (and the judge at the show actually pulled me up and said, "so I know you're working on that left bend") I brought spurs along and asked Tracey if she thought it was a tool I should use. She shrugged, asked why not, and so I put them on.  I nearly immediately regretted it: Kat interpreted every movement as an aid and we spent five minutes or so having a discussion about the difference between trot on and sideways. I know I'll want the spurs eventually but she's so sensitive about everything that I figure there's no reason to ask her to tolerate the spurs until I know I'm steady enough to use them well.

In the trot Tracey reminded me to land softly to the saddle -- this appears to be a keystone concept for me and for Kat. When my lower leg is underneath me and rotated inwards, I get this sensation of sort of melting to the saddle and sproinging back up, and when I add the engagement through the hip and outer thigh... my horse instantly, immediately, functionally slows down. And we're not talking flattens out slows down we're talking dressage slow. I am taking the horse rather than the horse taking me.

It's magic.

And it's hard.

And when Tracey asks me to think about other things I forget to focus on it because it's not yet habitual, and then my horse starts squirting forwards or backing way off and it's precisely because I'm not in control of my body.

So that's the biggest thing that I have to change in myself so it become 100% habit, and I am practicing. Oh man I'm practicing.

Then our trot was apparently good enough so we were sent off to do some leg yields from the quarterline to the rail.

First of all we'd come onto the quarterline and sort of fishtail a little, I'd let the shoulders keep coming around too much and we'd lost the hindquarters. Tracey told me to really think about connecting her to the outside rein, but what got me the most praise was paying attention to how I used the inside rein. If I made sure I went quiet on the inside about halfway through the turn up the centerline she didn't fishtail and stayed straight down the line.

Thank goodness I still have photos Megan took because otherwise it was all mirror selfies for you guys today

In the leg yields, you position your legs a little like in shoulder-in. The inside leg stays a little forward and the outside leg stays a little back. You let the shoulder lead, but only a little. 

Kat carried herself forwards quite well on the long straight lines and the sideways was acceptable, so we graduated to coming down the centerline and leg yielding to the rail. Harder, but still doable. Long straight lines are awesome.

We continued to work on my sitting trot into the canter, and focused so much on keeping me the same through the transition. As in my core remains engaged, my hands remain still, I keep facing the same direction, and I don't shove/hover with my seat. It's just an aid: and then she canters.

HAHAHAHA EASIER SAID THAN DONE TRACEY but I did see her point quite clearly as the quality of the canter is much higher when I ride it that way.

In the downward transition... oh, the downward transition. So many things to work on.

First: I lift my hands up to make her trot.

Second: I lean way back and dig my seat bones into her back.

Third: I completely stop breathing.

The result?! (This is going to be really shocking.) She trots, sure, but she also trots at ten thousand miles an hour and isn't honestly connected to me at all.

How do you prevent yourself from doing those things so that you can have perfect downward transitions all the time?

Beats the hell outta me, but here's what we're trying:

Wait that's not a dressage photo...
Keep the hands low. And soft. You can close the fingers but that doesn't mean tense them upwards. Just shut your hand.

And then stop cantering with your butt. My reaction to that tidbit was to shove like hell, but I don't think that's the correct reaction.

I thought about that wall, that glass wall that you press your upper body against in order to keep bearing down evenly, and I thought about staying completely leaned into that wall. It wouldn't let me tip too far forward, but it sure prevents me from coming behind the vertical.

And then softly, the seat stills. (Ideally the horse trots here but instead we went around the circle a time or two before she hesitantly offered trot and I praised her a lot but then got scolded for letting her trot around at mach 10 before coming to a balanced trot).

At the end, we got it a few times and I could feel how there's a difference between going still and riding like a barrel of fish with glazed eyes and a vague hope... but we'll keep tackling it.

If you're curious, the title of this post is because after this lesson I filled a bucket of water to give to Kat only to discover a rat had eaten a hole in the bottom of the bucket and I spilled all over myself in an attempt to give her water. Then I drove home and sang the song the whole way home. "There's a hole in my bucket dear Eliza, dear Eliza..." (You're welcome.)


  1. i always want to be so busy about up and down transitions for canter. so so so busy. like i need to actually physically pick the horse up and throw it into the gait or something. and that works about how you might expect lol. love your descriptions for how to quiet it all down and smooth it out!

    1. Ugh it's so hard though but I really think I'm making progress. We'll see what T says tomorrow!

  2. The photos Megan took are so so lovely! I prop my phone on the thermometer in the arena to record myself...usually it tilts or falls off... so my recording luck is not great either haha! You'll get it next time :)

    1. :( I really hope I succeed this next time! haha

  3. Gah, she is a gorgeous mare. And all of that sounds like some serious hard work. And all the same stuff I do and need to work on!

    1. Megan's photos help highlight how pretty she is by a LOT! :) It's so hard ugh but so rewarding

  4. The takeaways you guys get from Tracey are awesome, such wonderfully insightful & detailed options to help solve issues.

    1. I pretty much wish I could install her to watch me ride all my different horses so that I can learn more maximally from all of them... but Kat's benefiting so much that she's the only one I take to Tracey right now.