Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Thursday, December 8, 2011

In the Arena #93 - And then rainbows came flying out of our -----

After a brief cool down, we were blessed with another week of unseasonable delightful warmth and sun. Yesterday was likely the end. For real this time.

I cleared my schedule by early afternoon, and got Val ready for our ride. The horses were surprisingly calm considering that tree trimming guys spent half the day clearing my property around the electric lines with power tools, and then disposing of the cuttings in a giant, deafening wood chipper...

Cat crossing property nowhere near arena = horse eating monster
Wood chipper screaming and whining next to arena - not so much...

I recently have been experimenting with reintroducing some on the buckle warm-up work before we move on to the trot - 'cause I'm stubborn like that. Apparently yesterday I crossed the line into tediousness, and Val acted up... refusing to listen to my aids and getting super choosy about where he wanted to work. After a bunch of head tossing, a spin and getting bucky with it, I gave him a stern "NO" and a little smack with my dressage whip. Instant attitude adjustment. It was so awesome! :)

Believe me, I have traveled a long road leading to the point where I can reprimand my horse and feel okay about it. Too often in the past, I let Val get away with this type of behavior. I made excuses for him, and ultimately I was afraid. Afraid of how he would react, and afraid I would lose my cool.

His tack fits, his teeth are good, he's not in pain. He tests my resolve because he can... because I let him get away with it for so long - ie I trained him to do it... because I can be inconsistent and inaccurate with my aiding... because he's smart and easily bored... and because he's conservative with his energy pretty lazy sometimes.

The best thing is that the confidence I got from giving that correction, letting it go immediately and moving forward, will likely help keep me in the frame of mind that heads off this type of situation in the future. Sometimes a little spanking is a good thing...


So on to our ride, post correction. Simply our best yet. We got on the bit quickly, with Val carrying himself so nicely that I could have sat the trot all day - which I didn't, as my posting is coming along but still needs lots of work so I can get to where I don't have to think about it every stride. Besides, sitting the trot right now feels like a sinfully delicious treat, one that I'm not sure I've quite earned yet, or maybe might contain too many calories...

We also did some serpentines, baby leg yields and rode deep into our corners. I focused on using my core, especially for downwards transitions, as well as making sure I banish piano hands, and aiding from my elbows, which stay at my sides. There was some big marching walk after the trot work, and tantrum free on the buckle work as well. We finished up as a cold rain started falling... winter's calling card.


I miss lessons with my trainer... besides the info and supervision, I miss the barn time, companionship and watching lessons with people who are as obsessed with dressage as I am. Nonetheless we are making progress. And ironically this break from instruction is the reason. I have had to accept responsibility for our training.  I stepped up, took responsibility, and found out I'm plenty capable. At least, I'm not going to ruin my horse. Total surprise to me. 

Now I'm contemplating the canter - stay tuned...


  1. I know what you mean about missing the camaraderie. I've spent a lot of time alone this quarter (with people all day but on your own=teacher hell) and I miss hanging out with my "horse friends" here (that's the two-legged variety of horse friend, not my four-legged horse friends)!

    You feel too guilty when things are going well, girl! I can say this because I resemble that remark myself.

  2. Great work with Val again! I like that the correction gave you the confidence that you can do it without dire consequences. He seemed to take you seriously afterwards and you got exactly what you wanted, a horse who listened and worked with you. Nice job.

    I miss barn friends too. When we boarded we had such a good time with everyone, now it's just us. Maybe in the spring we'll start going to shows and clinics just to see other horse nuts.

  3. Another great ride! I know what you mean on the reprimand front. When Jackson starts hopping and bucking and getting a little too happy, I have started giving him a tap and sending him forward - yes, forward! Yipes! There was a time when that would have petrified me -- but it works now. Isn't it great when we can see our own progression as confident riders??!

  4. What a stinker! Glad he responded so well with a correction. He was like "haha sorry mom!"

  5. I know very well about not having that human companionship, since I have never boarded my horses. But I can tell you that I think it will make you a better rider and horseman. You know you have to take full responsibility for all training and care. It gives one a sense of 'if I don't do it right no one will. I think I try harder, study more and get farther because of it. You really get to take the time without distractions to really figure yourself and your horse out. Lessons are great but I think too often they replace the own riders ability/responsibility to think for the self. When you know that you have to work through something on your own it gives this sense of determination to not only do it on your own but to do it right for you and your horse. I can tell you that your confidence issues will quickly start to disappear. All of us can do something when we have a trainer standing there telling us where and when to use every aide but the confidence comes when you work through an issue on your own, just you and your horse. Then you start to realize you CAN do it, you can think for yourself, like you said and not ruin your horse. I am actually very excited for you and VAL to start this new journey. I think you will soon see that the benefits far outweigh negatives.

  6. So glad you are feeling confident and enjoying Val these days!!

  7. Sounds like a good ride. I love the banishing of piano hands. I need that.

    Val is a great horse. Love the photo at the top.

    I hope you are wrong and winter is only dropping in for a brief holiday chat and then in whisked away quickly.

  8. My QH kept breaking out of a walk today. Just wanted to go at his own speed. I finally gave him one swat on the neck and you know what... he was perfect.

    Now, I DON'T plan on doing this often, and usually I say "You want to trot?" and we trot until he doesn't want to trot anymore... and then we trot some more.

    Maybe he just caught my mood of "I'm not very patient today" as I usually am. My QH is actually a pony (14.2) so I have a bit of pony stubbornness to deal with as well.

    I see below you are working on ground tying. I am to with both my horses. Did you ever do a post on HOW you go about doing this? I'd be interested in it.

  9. Sometimes I wish for more like-minded dressage enthusiasts (nuts) to ride with. Harley and I would enjoy you and Val's company, for sure! Your style matches ours.

    Great work being assertive!

  10. Fetlock-
    You are so right. When things seem to be going well (in the arena) I reflexively can't handle it... I'm working on that. Photos and video help :)

    I hope you and your daughter do get out this spring! I'm looking forward to hearing about you two healed up totally and back in the saddle :)

    Golden the Pony Girl-
    Val did give a sheepish look when I called him on his b.s. ;)

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    Thanks billie!!

    I'm in winter denial these days...

    I will do a post on our ground tying experience - good idea!

    I wish we were much closer. I'd come get lessons from you in a heartbeat. I agree that we're on the same track re dressage.

    I'd also be willing to take Val out on the trails with a rider like you. Oh well... blogging will have to do. ;)

  11. I totally could have written the first part of this post about Gabe and I! I too made excuses for him...and let him get away with too much! Not any more!

    And I know exactly what you mean about missing the company of like-minded folks at the barn. Sometimes, it really gets old riding by myself.

    Happy Trails!


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