Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Old Students

I have a student visiting from one of my old barns, and it's absolutely wonderful to have her here. She's a great rider and we have a wonderful rapport, so it's nice to work with her again. She's worked hard while we haven't been working together and I'm delighted to see how much she has progressed.

Then I made her jump Danny.

Heh heh heh.
Danny actually looking like a jumping horse

The subsequent jump
She did really well, and tomorrow I'll have her approach some real oxers with him rather than just verticals. We have to get him ready for boot camp, after all. 

Danny says "NO"

Danny says "fine."

The resulting leap.

Danny almost says "NO"

Then Danny says "okay.... fine."

Danny doesn't know how to jump

But he can pretend, right?


Friday, August 22, 2014

These rides are why we stay in the sport

Today Tango was a dream. Not an ounce of tension in him, and he was totally through. He recieved an aid and said, "sure, I can do that!"

The ride did not resemble this:

Nor did it resemble this:

Instead, I felt like this:

In the nitty gritty, we rode Training Level Test 1 after a quiet warm-up, and he felt really good. Our canters were smooth, he moved away from my leg without fuss, and then we even did some shoulder-in both directions, and he felt good. Mostly he cantered super quietly, so that made me happy, as per above.

Knock on wood, but things are looking up with him!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tongue-tied Thursday

The following is a terrible knockoff of Wordless Wednesday:

A student learning to not leap out of the saddle

It has been freeeeeezing in the mornings and then hot in the afternoons

Tango went for an adventure walk and decided trees were scary
An uninterested kid learning about walking up and down hills
I put on a dress after camp and felt really pretty as a result
I think this is cool.
I also think Tango is absurdly adorable.
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

EAH Blog Hop: Equestian Wardrobe

I want to know about what you ride in and why? Show us your Equestrian Fashion choices and tell us why you wear them!

Yes, I make my living teaching horseback riding. No, I do not always look like a professional.

Purple Henry Halls and SmartPak Solstices and a no-name athletic t-shirt
The above is a pretty common outfit because I for some reason like the purple and neglect to remember that while I love riding in them, I hate walking around in them because it chafes. Badly.

I'd like to highlight that although they look like black breeches, they are in fact running pants.
The tall boots make them look like long pants and not just capris.

I honestly couldn't tell you what's happening in this photo. However! I am wearing my other favorite combo of jeans and cowboy boots

No-name athletic t-shirt and my eBay ribbed breeches
Okay -- an aside about the ribbed breeches. I think they look RIDICULOUS. I actually scorned people who wore them. And then I picked a pair up in a lot off eBay, and now I kind of love them. They're so stretchy! OHMYGOD so stretchy and comfortable. I'm not sure I'll purposely buy another pair, but they're surprisingly nice. 

I own the Kerrits Aerator gloves for riding, but I'll admit I don't wear gloves for riding very often. 

These suckers look as ridiculous in real life as they do in the picture, I promise.
Let's hone in on a few of my pieces of gear. First, my helmet, the Tipperary Sportage:

It's great to ride in, I love the way it feels, but it makes my head look ridiculous and pointy. I know I can't have everything, but I'm sad anyway. 

Second, my ALL THE TIME BOOTS, SmartPak's Solstices: 

I wore these boots for two months straight this summer while teaching summer camp. I've schooled, taught, jumped, and run around in them. I sort of adore them. I have no idea if they're actually waterproof, but I honestly don't care. I like them. They clean up easily. They're cheap (ish) and so I don't feel all that bad about beating the crap out of them the way I do. Major downsides? They gap at the knee because I have weird calves. I had to size up because of the weird calves, and therefore they're still causing me rubs on the back of my heels. Hate that, but the boots have paid for themselves because just by wearing them to coffee shops and grocery stores I've picked three clients up. Hah hah.

I splurged on the Horseware Bella jacket, and I love love love love love it. It's a tiny bit tight through the shoulders but I'm okay when jumping in it and I think I look super professional and awesome in it. So I don't care that I spent $140 on it. My boss says I have to wear it every day for 20 years to make it worth the cost, and while that may be true, I live in California. It's just not that cold that often. But when it is! I have this amazing jacket.

I bought this Alexus vest on sale, and I really wish I'd had it monogrammed. That aside, it's freaking warm in that thing! It's nice for my weird and mountainous farm where I'm freezing to death at 9am and by 11 want to be wearing shorts and be rid of my tall boots.

I'd like to acquire a few more pairs of breeches. We'll see what I decide to buy, this blog hop is giving me LOTS of ideas. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Expert Opinion: Halting

There's been a delightful theme in my posts, centered largely around weird canters and lack of speed control. On occasion I go on hunts through my extensive library to round up what everyone has to say on a subject. It's like asking all my friends for advice except that these are people who've gotten to the upper levels of the sport. Today's expert opinion round-up is on halting. The following are a combination of summaries and direct quotes.

Let's start with the less-expert: I teach the following steps.

1) Bear down* and check your spinal alignment.
2) Make sure you have a light contact with the horse.
3) Squeeze the reins like you're squeezing the water out of a sponge.
4) Keep bearing down and slowly increase pressure until the horse halts.

Erika Prockl: Practice first quarter-halts, then half-halts, before attempting a full-halt. It's important to keep your feet relaxed (don't push down with your stirrups in order to "grow tall"). She refers to blocking the impulsion with your hands, but it remains unclear what she means by that.

George Morris: "To use the hands, one closes on the reins as if squeezing a lemon. In basic, slow work, it is wrong to pull back on the reins." He encourages teaching the riders to back up first, as a way to establish coordinated versus clashing aids. He then discusses getting a horse on the bit...

Anna White-Mullen: "A good transition is smooth, with the horse's hocks engaged." and later, "Transitions are important at all levels of riding, for they demonstrate the degree of the horse's obedience and, consequently, are a means of assessing the rider's safety." On the quick horse, she adds, "half-halts reprimand the quick horse, but halting is even more effective because it requires the horse not only to slow down, but to obey to the point of immobility."

Mark Russell: In-hand, "In an educated halt, the hind legs come forward and stop in balance under the horse. Pulling back on the rein actually interferes with the horse's effort to balance himself and is apt to create tension. Instead, closing the hand and fixing the rein on the withers allows the horse to step underneath his barrel; as he steps into the rein, he stops forward movement and halts. Fixing the rein, once the horse understands how to release to it, helps the horse maintain his balance."

Andrew McLean: Have a contact first, then brace your back (by keeping your shoulders above your hips.) Push hips toward stirrup bars. Don't pull back, but keep your elbows to your ribcage and close fingers to make a fist. Hold until desired response is achieved. "The rider should imagine making the lower back broader and positioning his pelvis straight downwards." Close the thighs to stabilize lower body. At the canter, the correct time to apply downward transition aids is when the hand moves backwards.

Jean-Claude Racinet: "A careful adjustment of the reins is an absolute prerequisite." While properly adjusting the reins, your arms might move about a bit but "as they act, the hands should never come closer to your body)... The hand must remain immobile. The action is provided either by the fingers (clenching), or by the torso (reclining), or by both." JC then says that a common error is to recline the torso but give the hands forward while doing so, essentially not saying anything to the horse. He also says that "a slowing down is nothing else than an uncompleted halt.... if we call the action of the torso by which we have stopped the horse going a slow walk a 'unit of stopping', slowing down a horse from a high speed will require several of these 'units.'" JC is adamant that all aids are pulsed for their required result, "the action should not exceed one-half second."

Anne Kursinski: "To come back to the halt, first stop any driving aid you may have been using with your legs. Then increase the feel on the reins the same amount you increased leg pressure at the walk (just closing your fingers more firmly should apply sufficient backward contact). As your horse slows and begins to stop, decrease your hand pressure to tell him he's doing the right thing. Repeat the increasing and lightening until he halts (you should need just a couple of squeeze-releases for this simple transition)." Anne explains the importance of not allowing the horse to change your position as you halt, as well as deepening the seat. I particularly like this image in regards to not getting an uneven contact: "the feel of elastic contact is the same as the one you need to pick up and set down a full bucket of water without spilling a drop. If you jerk the bucket, you'll spill the water; if you're limp, you'll never lift it at all."

Franz Mairinger: Education of the horse is making him "go as quickly or as slowly as you want him to." The outside rein must check the horse from the canter, and the inside leg keeps him going. Be subtle, and do not allow the horse to speed off at the trot. Do not allow the horse to change his flexion. "How do you go back to a walk from your trot? All you have to do is sit down with your weight in the saddle and stop the forward motion of your hands. Give the horse your weight and he will walk. You must have contact or else he will run away. If that is not enough at first, use both hands into your seat. But sit down first, then use your hands." Then at the end of the chapter there's this delightful summary:
"To check from canter: Outside rein increases pressure but not to pull his head out or change his flexion. Inside leg takes over and holds him forward into the trot. The first steps after a transition are most important. He must go smoothly into a true trot, and should not shorten the stride of his canter.
From trot to talk: Put the weight down into the saddle, and stretch a little more. Stop the forward movement of the hands. Have contact but do not pull."

Severyn R. Kulesza: "To decrease the pace or to stop the horse, the rider acts with his hands. He pulls the reins in a straight line towards his elbows as strongly as is necessary. As soon as the horse obeys the order, the rider stops pulling and immediately returns to the previous passive contact. Never start pulling with your fingers, because you stiffen the tendons and muscles, and the horse feels hard pressure in his mouth... then the horse will feel soft pressure in his mouth and will not resist." He does make an interesting comment about when the horse is resisting us: "(when the horse resists) we them stiff, but only of one hand. The other stays soft and relaxed. Then the horse cannot pull our hands. He meets an unpleasant hard rein on one side of his mouth and punishes himself. In other words: when the horse resists--we resist also, but only with one hand. This is the only moment in riding when the rider makes his hand stiff. As soon as the horse's resistance vanishes, the hand immediately returns to its passive contact."

Major Anders Lindgren: "Never get stuck in the horse's mouth." Step 1) Squeeze the rein, and positively reward every slowing by a yielding of the rein. Be prepared to repeat. Step 2) More regulating influence is given when the rider repeats step 1 and angles his wrist, turning the palms to the sky and moving the pinkie towards the bellybutton. Step 3) "If the horse still resists: Repeat steps 1 and 2, and now - if necessary - the rider for the first time uses his elbow and shoulder joint."

Paul D. Cronin: Cronin recommends a check and release program for the horse first learning about the rein aids. His first phase of training allows the horse total freedom of the head, with contact only being taken for turns and halting. The check and release should be soft but increasing in intensity until the horse has responded.

Reiner Klimke: "To begin with we should let the horse take its time before coming to a halt. Slowly we improve on this until we can halt at a prescribed point." The aids for a halt and half-halt are the same, but it is unclear what those aids are. He describes it being necessary to have a "pliable wrist" and employ the use of the restraining weight aids.

And there we have it! I've skipped a great many books in my library for fear of not finding a definitive answer or because they're primarily showjumping books and Tango needs more dressage skills (yes, there are some pretty awesome show jumpers up there, but Anne Kursinski is notorious for her love of dressage), and all of my Mary Wanless books are currently lent out, which is why we don't see her here. I've also lent out my book by Thomas Ritter, and countless other dressage-y books that might help. Alas! So let's put my 'friends'' advice into practice.
*Bear down. To teach an easy way to activate deep core muscles, Wanless had a rider clear her throat so she could feel the push against her abdominal muscles and the tone in her back muscles. Bearing down enabled her to match the forces the horse's movement exerts, giving her more stability, control and better half halts. - See more at: http://dressagetoday.com/article/rider_biomechanics_081809#sthash.Y9LX889O.dpuf

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Slightly more than Mid-August check in

Jimmy's all "hey gurrrlll"
I have ridden Jimmy twice, both times to leap about a jump course because he was being difficult for a student. 

I had a client put spurs on Bert to practice turns on the forehand, and I think it helped? I'll still need to get on him to confirm. Especially as my goal was four times this month... and at this point we're still at zero. Oops.

Tango is... mostly cantering quietly. He's given a few lessons at this point, but he went into racehorse mode for a little while yesterday:

I'm having a grand ol' time with Camou, although I disocovered that my unfolding at the knee problem is worse than previously thought. I also figured out that he'll pick up the correct lead if you counterflex him headed to the left. This was a difficult thing, but hopefully we'll get it more consistent and he'll improve.

A working student longed Harley in the Chambon yesterday and he started to relax a bit... he'll need a lot more work before he actually starts to come over his back. I'll try to take the time this week to massage him and see if that helps a bit.

Danny hasn't been properly worked... at all. Shhhh summer camp is so hard to work around.
And there's my check-in!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Soccer coaching for riding coaches

I read pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I am an avid reader, I believe it would be fair to say.

I work part-time as a nanny to fill in the gaps left behind by, you know, being a horse trainer... so when I spotted the AYSO Coaching Guide hanging out, I read it because I had pretty much nothing else to read. Yay! So here are some notes, as loosely interpreted for riding/not translated to riding at all for your reading pleasure:

"Prioritizing development over winning does not reduce competition."

-focus on performance rather than outcome, which is not 100% under the rider's control.
-Coaches are: leaders, motivating, conscientious, fair and honest, dress smartly, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, communicators, observant, humorous, personable, confident.
-Successful coaches:
1) possess a wealth of soccer knowledge
2) prioritize athlete's well-being
3) have an ability to communicate knowledge to player
4) ability to observe, evaluate, and correct (in a positive manner) apparent faults

-Always prepare with a written training plan
-Set up your area prior to players and parents arriving - this sets tone and builds confidence
-Plan a smooth transition from exercise to exercise
-Find appropriate time to step in and avoid lengthy speeches
-Instructions should be concise, accurate, relevant, and demonstrated when possible.
-Ask factual (what), conceptual (how), and stimulating (why) questions

1) Say (explain skill/technique)
2) show (demonstrate)
3) do (player practice)
4) Review

Post-session: concise discussion (postivie comment/constructive feedback), review the training plan, and allow for coach evaluation.

"Coaching involves observing and evaluating player and team performance to determine what needs to be worked on in order to maximize development."

Training components (psychosocial, physical, technical, tactical) are then incorporated into a training session to improve player.

Organize to coach: sessions are composed (free play); warmup; activities 1 & 2; small-sided matches; cool down.
(Grooming/on ground handling; warmup; activities 1&2; dressage test/basic obstacles/jump course; cool down.)
-Principles of play should be considered and applied throughout
-Coach using sound methodology (say show do review)

"Youth players need to practice in a match-like environment, which provides numerous opportunities to practice and repeat a skill."

-Mistakes are markers for improvement
-progress from simple to complex and unopposed to opposed
-Players must first be successful with a technique before the activity is progressed
-Repetition is a key component to skill development; don't bombard players with multiple topics per lesson
-Encourage free-play as it will remind players of the fun and intrinsic benefit of practicing freely
-Don't spend time running laps because you don't run laps  in a game
-Eliminate activities that involved players waiting for their turn to play
-Keep communication positive, brief, and to the point

10-20 minutes before start, players should drink 7-10 fl oz of water
Break every 10-15 minutes
"Ask players to work on their own self improvement."
Develop a team goal
Develop a coaching philosophy

Reading through this it sort of would work for kids as well as horses. I typed this all on my phone so I apologize for any typos.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Here's to a fitness... plan?

I rode Tango yesterday for approximately 15 minutes. It was hard to incorporate everything I'd learned with him because he's a freight train when he gets going and it's hard to cyle all the thoughts through my head in order to organize my body properly. So that was rough.

I'm ordering an appropriately sized yoga ball to start practicing Erika Prockl's exercises on. I'd not only like to more thoroughly review her work, but I think pretty much anything has gotta help me get my abs on.

I have more books on how to be fit laying around than I like to think about, so I'm going to focus on just trying to actually work out off-the-horse more than once or twice a week. And not just running, although that's good for me too. I'd like to build some muscle, and the best way to do that is weightlifting and bodyweight exercises, right? Ugh.

So here's a goal: sweat (not from riding or standing around in the sun teaching) 4 times a week. At least ten minutes at a time.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Biomechanics Lesson #1

I took a lesson with Anne Howard today and it was delightful! I learned a lot and worked reasonably hard and came away with the following notes for myself:

  • Keep my head balanced over my shoulders by focusing on the alignment of my chin and sternum. She recommended focusing on the horse's fascinating poll for a while, at least until my habit isn't to turn my head so dramatically all the time. 
  • Imagine pressing my whole upper body against a sliding glass door -- I tend to suck back in my belly and lean forward through my shoulders, so this helps the alignment so my core can work more effectively.
  • Some things to remember that won't make any sense to anyone else: 1) Hip flexion
    2) Internal rotation at the hip
    3) Abduction
    4) Knee&toe up
  • Focus on keeping my internal rotation solid and posting off the front of the knee knobble
  • Post with more oomph up and land more softly
  • My bearing down has holes in it. Harrumph. I need to 'exercise'.
  • Keep my thigh narrow all the way up from my knee. 
  • I need to practice finding my seat bones, especially the back edge and the left and right edges.
  • Take a little more contact with my horse (yup... heard that before)
  • Focus on the feel of the horse's back underneath me. 
One thing I really liked was the question "so what's happening now?" because it really turned my focus internally and allowed me to 'see' things that I normally would ignore.

Tango's had three days off. But I turned him into an alien:

 Camou had a week of being a camp pony. But he loved it:

 Jimmy got ridden on the trails (not by me.) and then I showed off his 3' jumping skills for the camp kids. We also turned him into an alien.

 Danny was solely ridden on the trails. 

I'm not having a great week in terms of exercising/training my ponies. 

On a very good note, TANGO GAVE A DRESSAGE LESSON ON THURSDAY. Oh yes. And she worked on her leg yield. Boom. 

I'm aiming to take Tango and either Danny or Camou to JK Presents at the end of September. Training level for Tango, and First for Danny. If Camou goes, it'd be all on the hunter end.

That's a reasonable goal, right?

Hmm. First I have to exercise my core a little more. Off to the gym! (not. More like off to do thirty half-hearted seconds of planking before googling various core workout routines. I'm actually terrible at fitness.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

August Goals

So what it's the 4th? I have plenty of August left to work on my goals. I think in the future I'd really like to do goals for more of my students, but for now I'll include just the one I co-own a horse with.

On the horse front...

-Develop a quiet canter. As in... Every time I ask, I get a quiet canter. Not half the time, like today.
-Slow the trot, shorten the trot, relax his back.

-Work on lengthening and shortening the trot
-soften and develop better leg yields through spirals and other various exercises
-Get a real walk-canter down
-Maybe improve the shoulders-in? I have a mental block about that exercise, so we'll see.

-Introduce leg yields, because he has no understanding of moving off the leg... At all.
-Improve the lead issue
-Introduce the indirect rein as a method of turning

-Fix the go problem. His accelerator broke with all the kids riding him. I'd like to tackle this by training the crop independent of the leg as a go aid, then reinforce the leg using the newly trained crop aid.
-Alllll the leg yields.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

What are brakes?

I mentioned in an earlier post that Tango and I have a bit of an issue with brakes.

Tango'd rather charge about, stick his head on his chest, and fight the halt. 'Persistence,' some might say, 'just keep executing regular transitions.'

Others might say 'if he can't be controlled at the canter, only trot him for a while!'

Excellent advice. I mean that, it's very good advice. He's only been on the property for a week. Patience and transitions might really be the key.

Except for my ego. Brakes and trailers. I'd be lying to you if I said I had talent at much else. I can install brakes in pretty much anything in usually one ride, and it takes me 20 minutes to get the worst horse onto a trailer. It's what I've built my empire (hehehe) on. So six rides later and my douche canoe is still racing about like a NASCAR pony? Nope.

 This is where we'll recall that I have spent my fair share of time dabbling in natural horsemanship. Not parelli, no, one dangerous horse early in my career cured me of that. Mostly Clinton Anderson. He's so tall and attractive anyhow that watching his DVDs was a nice little rest in my day.

Enter: Cruising. Are CA's exercises progressive? Yup. Can you pick one at random and just see how it goes? CA might have a heart attack. But we did it anyhow.

Cruising involves letting the horse take over direction and all that, and the only thing you insist upon is that they maintain their gait. So with a few (four) transitions from the trot to the walk to check if we had any brakes at all, off we went a-galloping.

I wish I'd asked someone to tape it.

He RACED around that arena for what Em swears was thirty minutes while he heaved and his shoes clacked occasionally and I just hoped we didn't trip or pull a shoe. We think he ran 8 miles before he got tired and slowed down. At which point my out-of-shape self had quaking knees and a serious thirst to get out of horses.

Then we changed direction.

Eiiiiiii anyhow brakes were pretty decent after he was foaming over his entire body.

Check out the improved canter:

Silly kids and their vertical videos. I'm pretty pleased with the result, despite how hard it was on him. He's sound today, so that's a plus. He's going to get the day off anyhow. I am, too!

Another character for the show

I now own 1.4 Californian horses. The 0.4 horse comes in the style of Camou, for whom I have no pictures yet. I do have an incredibly crummy video. Camou is 6, 15.2hh, and dark bay. He's also sweet and quiet and super in your pocket. He strikes me as the quintessential surfer dude, just packaged in a thoroughbreds body.

He really is a thoroughbred, despite how he looks.

Have a video!