Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In the Arena #70 - Something's gotta give...

Wow. Such a busy week, I haven't had a moment to post unless I wanted to cut into sleeping time. Not. Spring is in overdrive and suddenly there aren't enough hours in the day. Lots to catch up on.

Let's see... I spent two afternoons pulling Val's mane. I had tried to simulate the proper look with my trimmer a few weeks back, but ended up with a raggedy mess and several hair chunks missing from his neck. Time to bite the bullet. Val calmly munched on hay while I went to town. It's still not as short as I know my trainer would like, but I think it's a good compromise - no more yes I cut this mane with scissors / three stooges blunt cut anyway. Still working on it when I took these pictures....

Oops, forgot my barn shoes...

halfway through...

Apparently Val and I have exactly the same color hair - mane and head... (the dentist pointed this out after her session with Val when I was giving him a ton of kisses that he couldn't resist due to sedation) ;)


We got a decent ride in on Friday. Started off struggling with basics. Once again, the next door neighbors were an issue... plenty of hollering (cursing), dogs crashing through the woods, and super loud radio blaring yards away from the arena. This required some remedial desensitizing, but we got it done. We ended up with some good trot work, and Val's attention back on me for the most part. Finished on a good note and celebrated with a cookie fest in the most scariest spot where the dogs invaded from. Cookies make everything better!

Did someone say cookies?!


Saturday - we finally got our breakthrough! We were forward, we had nice bend and we were riding through, not cutting, our corners. We achieved flow. No bogging down in the changes of rein or the corners. Beautiful figure eights. One really nice square halt. What a blast! Val was on the bit.  He totally enjoyed himself, was salivating to beat the band, and carried himself for a good part of the ride.

What I figured out (re-learned, forgot, need to remind myself of....)

  • My stirrups were still too long...
  • I have the weirdest bad habit of swinging my right leg back too far behind the girth. This has certainly worsened my turning issues, if not outright created them. Thinking it might have to do with my wonky hip...
  • It is prudent to skip a lengthy warm-up if we start off in sticky-land (where many arguments begin). Move on trot work asap. Trot, trot, trot! Forward solves most problems. Go back to slower work, straightness and transitions after getting forward.
  • Don't forget the resting part of posting... like a tiny half halt. Use leg on the up phase...
    • Val has been bored. Seriously. And not worked hard enough in a long while... A bored horse looks for ways to relieve his boredom, and getting over on me is one of those ways. I have been aware of this for a while. No more arguing. Now I have the tools, mostly the confidence, to address this boredom / resistance. 
    • Leg - leg - leg!!! If he ain't reachin', you ain't drivin'!!!
    • After using my legs to drive, I MUST give Val somewhere to reach to... soft, even, continuous, elastic contact. 
    • Outside rein, outside rein, outside rein! 

      My game plan for the next month or six weeks is simple. Major trot work. Wet saddle pads. I will change rein and school figures often, and keep us moving forward. I will focus on my leg, position and use of for driving, as well as providing reliable, trustworthy contact for Val. We will both build endurance and stamina, as well as more muscles. :) If yesterday is any indication, I should probably stock up on epsom salts. Very sore today - in a good way.

      My boarders' mom kindly took some photos for me. Pardon the fuzziness that not even photoshop could cure - a fingerprint got on the lens at some point - but there were a couple that aren't too bad. (I was losing my stirrup in the shot where my heel is so not down)  ;)

      Val got to finish off the day with a lovely scrubby bath, including his "area' which was disgustingly filthy and full of beans. I realized, thankfully at the end of the bath, that the well pump was on the fritz. Several hours later Dad and I had it fixed up. It was such a beautiful day, and my ride was so rewarding, that I didn't even care.


      Day off for both of us today. I did remove last years stall fan and put a new one up. If anyone out there uses Lasko box fans, there has been a recall!! Val was very helpful, inspecting the ladder and snuffling on my legs while I was up on the ladder. He loves his fan! Happy Easter everyone!


      I'll catch you... if I'm not alseep


      1. Too cute! I love the last picture and caption. :)

        Sounds like you made a lot of points I had to tell myself a lot when I was taking dressage lessons lol.

        His mane looks great and that is so cool that your hair is the same color as his mane. :D

      2. You have had a busy weekend! Love the matching hair and mane - both very beautiful... :)

        I had to smile when I got to the leg leg leg thing - I am constantly focusing on that too - but on using LESS leg!

        If you are using more leg b/c Val isn't forward enough I highly recommend Jane Savoie's method of working w/ this issue. You'll end up getting more from him with much less leg and overall quiet, elegant aids. It worked on the half-Shetland pony... :)

        Happy Easter! It is HOT here!

      3. billie-

        I've come to the conclusion (as did my trainer) that when I got Val he was not very responsive to the leg. I haven't made much / any progress on this front so far - probably due to being a bit scared of really getting forward. I'm ready for that now - I saw how happy Val was yesterday!

        My plan is to be more conscious of this aid, get real responses to it, and then I'm thinking I'll be able to back off to a much subtler aid. It won't take long - We made a ton of progress yesterday.

        Heading over to Jane's website later :)

      4. Great pictures. That's so cool that your hair and his mane are a good match. Seems like you and Val are making good progress and have a good plan for the next six weeks. I know I've got to get on the ball here and start doing some real work.

        Hope you had a Happy Easter.

      5. Ha! Well, if he's asleep he'll at least break your fall :)

        I need to look at my fans, but that brand name sounds so familiar...

        Glad you had such good rides. I think Paula gets bored, too, and I really need to improve my riding skills to address it. I also had to shorten my stirrups one more notch during the last clinic. I think it's neat how many similarities I see between what you and I are working on, even though I ride western. :)

      6. I love Val's (and yours?!) mane colour!

        You had a busy weekend! My instructor has me working on everything on your list. And, it appears you and I are riding the same horse! :-)

        Epsom salts in a hot bath and a vodka soda are my magic combo for sore muscle relief. :-)

        Happy Easter!

      7. Sounds like things really clicked with Val. Yeah! I can appreciate how great this feels, when they finally go forward.
        Love the mane / hair pictures. You match so nicely :)

      8. His mane looks wonderful. How much time did you put into that? I've never done a mane pulling and I'm curious about how difficult it might be.

      9. GHM -
        Let's spur each other on!!

        It seems like the most important parts of riding transcend disciplines :)

        I've thought the same thing about our horses when reading your blog!

        More forward please!

        Muddy K-
        Mane pulling basically thins as well as shortens the mane - and you literally pull the hair out. It took a couple of hours total, and some horses don't tolerate it so well. Val is great - I'm so lucky. I think my version is still somewhat long :)

      10. Love the matching hair! What a great ride! sounds like lots of fun.

      11. I would wonder if he's not responsive to the leg b/c it has been overused in the past - and if that's the case, I think Jane's method would work wonders for you and for Val. It operates on the idea that to use more leg on a horse that is already dead to it just reinforces what is already happening. You go instead to the light touch and teach to that. (of course this assumes the rider can control the leg and not overuse by accident)

        I have the complete method on her DVD set "Happy Horse" but I also know she has published it somewhere online - google and see if you can find it, and if not let me know.

        It's a wonderfully consistent method that either teaches or reminds your horse to go forward from the very lightest "butterfly touch" leg aid. You can also run through the sequence with voice aids and seat aids so that the horse will respond to the lightest version of each one.

        After the first year of me riding Keil Bay, needing him to notch down a bit from being in front of the leg, he got behind the leg - which was exactly what I had taught him to do with my "trot but not too big or fast" cues. I needed a very clear way to re-train him to be sensitive - because at that point I could actually ride it!

        Best thing I ever did - no nagging, no struggling. And so easy to do as a quick refresher in the warm up at any point.

        I know there are different schools of thought on the driving aids - some do focus on "riding every stride" - but to me that's not classical and not what I want to spend my riding time doing. Jane's method aims for invisible, light aids and a happy horse/rider.


      I love, love, love my readers, and knowing that you've stopped by - it really makes my day.

      However, to avoid the new illegible blogger word verification, I've added comment moderation. Lesser of two evils.

      Please don't let this stop you - keep those comments coming!! :)

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