Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Monday, May 16, 2011

In the Arena #75 - Reading is "fun"damental...

When I very first started studying dressage, a friend kindly recommended some books... My Horses, My Teachers - Alois Podhajsky, Centered Riding - Sally Swift, Riding Logic - W. Museler and 101 Dressage Exercises For Horse and Rider - Jec Aristole Ballou.

I devoured My Horses, My Teachers and Centered Riding immediately. I need to give Riding Logic another try - it was way over my head at the time. Today Val and I cracked open 101 Exercises.

A hundred and one?!!!!!

We dove right in. Before I knew it we had ridden for well over an hour. Why the heck didn't I do this sooner? This book gave me the structure and focus that I had been struggling to find working without my trainer, and relying on my imagination.

We tried three exercises. Large oval with big and little trot, go and whoa, and turns and forward movement. Basically focusing on getting on the aids. Coincidentally, our contact was excellent today. I found it much easier to concentrate on accuracy, my aids and Val's movement, when I didn't also have to plan / decide on our school figure at the same time. The book is designed to be brought to the arena, with large print and simple, well explained diagrams. A fun session - and a great tool for riders who often have to work on their own like we do.


Over the weekend we also did quite a bit of groundwork. Ground tying is something I've been wanting to accomplish with Val since I got him. We had two extended grooming sessions where he was ground tied the entire time. Initially he tried to walk off. Each time I stopped grooming, (patiently) moved him back, and then continued working.

I got some good insight into Val's coping behaviors during this session. First he tries to walk off. Then he tries what I like to call "hammer-heading". (His head met my elbow several times) Next comes lippy grooming which can turn into nippy clothes grabbing. More elbow. Finally there is extreme head tossing. I had seen this behavior when I met him at his old barn. Once he ran the gamut, which took about fifteen minutes or so, he finally stood calmly, eyes closed and bottom lip dangling. The second session he just stayed put from the get go... what a good boy!

We also did more trailer loading practice. Val self-loaded numerous times, so I think that's confirmed now. I couldn't be happier. I should elaborate - I'm sure that Val self-loaded before I bought him. I haven't taught him anything. A few bad loading experiences when we first got together unfortunately set us back. So really, I'm the one that needed the trailer loading work. I think I've got it down now ;)

Finally, we had an amateur massage session. I worked on Val's poll and neck. He has some very tight places on either side of his poll, and further down his neck as well. I guess it was okay because Val stayed put, and did a lot of stretching and yawning. We have booked a real massage session with someone who practices the Masterson Method. She is located on the other side of the state from us, but happens to be vacationing here in early October. Lucky Val!


  1. It all sounds very productive, and good book recommendations!

  2. I'm not sure I've read Riding Logic but that doesn't mean I haven't and have forgotten it. One of my favorites is My Horses, My Teachers which I've read a few times. I really like the 101 Dressage Exercises book too, I need some structure or at least a plan when I go into the ring by myself or I'll ride around aimlessly. No focus...could be the start of Alzheimer's?

    Good work with ground tying and trailer loading. You two are really working hard. Lucky Val getting a massage.

  3. Take riding logic a little at a time. If you try to read it cover to cover you will jump off a bridge. When I am having a problem or looking for a different way to do something I just leaf through it until I see something related and then read that section, sometimes several time. It is always great insight. I have used it for years and years this way - I'm sure there are whole sections I have never seen.

  4. I love the 101 Exercises book too - haven't used it in awhile but it always gave me good ideas.

    Salina got massage on Friday - she is back in her monthly routine and this time she got so relaxed she almost buckled to the ground!

    You and Val sound like you're in a really good place - so good to hear!!

  5. Love the 101 Exercises book. Such good ideas :)

  6. I need to get that book. It really sounds like it has good exercises if working without a trainer. I don't have a nice ring to work in, but maybe I can adapt.

    I like your ground work session. Val sounds like a lippy-love bug I know named Pie.

    I am jealous of your trailer loading story. I don't have a trailer yet - I have trailer fears and I don't want to pass that along until I get over it. Self-loading is the best - oh, I wish that would magically happen for me!

    And...sooooo sorry I have been absent from commenting recently! I have been reading your blog and I caught up commenting, but my comments didn't appear on your blog. I hope this one goes through!

  7. Great reading suggestions! I dislike reading a book cover to cover but with the pictures and exercises this sounds like a good book for me and Steady. Thanks. You and Val sound like you are happy and working well. What a good place to be in.

  8. OH I too could NOT post comments last week..there was some kinda problem with actually said i could "Read only" that was so frustrainting!!

    I come tom read (thinking to catch up)and this post alone- is soo totally much going on, in all good directions!

    I am lookimng at my Riding logic book..right now- not that i am reading it, but it is here on my desk with a page marker in it..HA! Page 154...GRERAT STUFF! I love that 101 arena pages all slickifed for use in any kind of arena-in or out! We used that last year before my mare could not take her saddle any more. Val oved that, I bet. Always some new pattern and new ways of doing something in that handy book!

    Hey, love to see video of Val "self loading"..that would be neat. And good for you on the ground tieing. Seems like I have so much to concur in the saddle, I wish not to take on the ground tieing. After we ride she will but before, with her brushing dislike...oh, maybe someday. Val sure gave you a go..but you were so good to keep with it! He is so smart.

    Wa mare gets her massage therapy Wedsnesday! You learn so much from a good therapist..and they should teach you your "Homework" for the in betweens. I have quite an arsenal of moves now..I love to be able to do that for the mare. Glad you got that Apt!!

  9. I loved hearing about your foray into massage. I want to try it with mine and also a bit of aromatherapy! I want to hear all about the session with the pro guy too! :)

  10. You've inspired me to ask for 101 Dressage Exercises for my next birthday :). Sounds great. I use Riding Logic as Barbara does - to try to understand a specific issue. It's too much for a cover to cover reading!
    Great recommendations. Glad things are going so well with Val.

  11. Adding something else to my reading list. The title seems overwhelming, but I'm also a baby. Thanks for the recommendation!

  12. I have all those books too and completely agree that "Riding Logic" is rather hard to digest. I have "Anatomy of Riding" too, that one is even more difficult.

  13. Sounds like you had a fabulous day. :) I've heard the book is good so I'm glad to hear you like it too. I can see it possibly having a place in my future since Chrome and I will be schooling alone for the most part. :)

    Good job on the ground tying! Chrome stand loose for me to groom him in the pasture. I never really thought about that being the beginner stages of ground tying. I'll have to work on that too.

    Lucky Val getting a massage from a Masterson masseuse. :)

  14. I'm going to look into those book selections. I have a couple of them, but I can't find my arena exercises book and I think it would be so useful! Thanks for the tips.

  15. The exercises book is great! I used to work with it a lot. I kind of stopped because we shifted more into just trail riding and the many adventures that entails for an old thoroughbred who has never really been on trail. We'll have to start again though.

    How funny -- Eagle and I have been working on ground trying as well. I also have been treating him to long massages. He probably would like me to pay for a professional massage... I have to think about that first. I have never had a professional massage myself. Maybe we can each get massages on the same day, haha.


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