Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

In the Arena #134 - Ain't nothin' gonna break-a my stride...

So happy to report that we are sticking to our new - taking dressage seriously - work schedule. Five rides, and five non-riding sessions since the last post. (!!!)

One of the unmounted sessions included practicing for our Christmas card picture, which was super fun, as well as a very thorough massage and an intermediate trim session where I practiced my hoof knife skills getting after Val's bars.

My horse is a hoot... seriously.

Another day I intended to ride (dragged ring and dressed) but just as I began to groom, there was crackling from a midday, midweek brush fire next door. (why p-i-t-a neighbor, WHY?) With not a hint of wind, the sound of the fire was extremely loud and incredibly close. This sent Val into the stratosphere. Instead of schooling, we spent several hours on leading work, longeing, finishing up our interrupted grooming, and then a spin around the arena bareback with the halter. Fear banished. It wasn't in the plans, but very productive nonetheless.

After two pleasant bareback rides, I bit the bullet and pulled out the saddle again. I had developed a weird superstitious ridiculous mental block about this, but a conversation with my former trainer got me over the hump. Thank goodness! It was time. We've had several of our most effective rides ever since saddling up again. It seems that Val appreciates my improved balance.

Some high points of our best ride - we had the loveliest warmup on the buckle, with a smooth transition into contact. Our work on school figures - accurate - check. I focused on feeling Val's mouth through my elbows and contact - check. Next I asked Val for a bigger walk. What I got was happy, swinging trot from a minimal aid. Forward - check! Full school, figure eights, working over the back - check! Best of all, I even knew when to stop.

To say I was elated after this ride would be an understatement. Never fear, today's ride brought us right back down to earth. Very good, but I wasn't as even in my seat, and Val reflected my crookedness back to me. The takeaway - nothing new. If I sit in the middle of my horse, am clear in my aids and offer him smooth, elastic, consistent, following contact, the sky's the limit.

This spring we had begun to school the canter depart and did some sitting trot work. A bad fall led to a series of nervous rides with a distinct lack of brakes and security. Summer made the arena almost useless. I decided to work on my balance riding bareback, and rode out in the open to address the steering and brake issues. Basically - we've recovered the ground we lost over the summer - my seat and my confidence are stronger. I am over my period of discouragement. Learning dressage on your own is not for the fainthearted.

Part of our progress is due to Val is feeling better. I suspected that Adequan wasn't doing the trick for him. He spent a lot of time cocking his hips this summer, noticeably increased, seemed uncomfortable during trims when we worked on his back feet and was reluctant to move out sometimes. After considerable research, I switched him to a new medicine - Pentosan Polysulfate - which I will share more about in another post. If the one tempis he did down the fence line yesterday, and his repeated offering of the trot unasked are any indication, it's working. :D

After our ride today, I spent the afternoon on a free two hour teleseminar with Jane Savoie. It was simply packed with useful information. I took extensive notes which will also appear in an upcoming post. Now I just need a few more hours to devote to blogging. At least I'm spending as much time as I can with my horse because horse time = happy time.


  1. Sounds like things are very much heading in the right direction . . .

  2. Thanks Kate - they are. I'm thinking a lot about your posts on softness these days. :D

  3. Sounds amazing! Looking forward to upcoming posts. . .

  4. So glad the rides are going well. I love love love Jane Savoie. She trained with Cindy! (Sydnor)

    It's on my list to talk to my vet about pentosan - for Salina, but maybe for the Big Bay too. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Ill be interested to read about that new med. We've about given up on Flash's hock issue. I love the bit about feeling Val's mouth with your elbows. I notice the same thing. Good work!

  6. yay I am really glad that your riding is going well and that you feel better, I am glad that you are happier

  7. Nobody's gonna slow me down, oh no!

    I listened to that web seminar too, but I was at work so I couldn't take notes. Fortunately it's available until the end of the week. I'm wondering if there's a way to download the audio. I can't wait to try the valium exercise on my two.

  8. glad things are going well!

    jealous of your sun light!

  9. Wow! Go Val!

    It is tough to stay motivated when there are so many things to do. I long for regular instructions some days and other days I am glad to be left along to tool around on my horse.

  10. It sounds like you and Val are really working hard and achieving quite a lot.

    I love that Christmas picture of Mr. Handsome! He's a character alright.

  11. Love that holiday pic of Val! :-) I admire your focus and tenacity. "Basically - we've recovered the ground we lost over the summer - my seat and my confidence are stronger." Well done! Congrats on your great rides. Giddy up!

  12. Hi,
    It's so good to check in and se where you are. I'm SO impressed! Just a little feedback - you note a great ride followed by one that wasn't as good (although you id'd what you needed to do). Just wanted to say my teacher recently drilled into my head not to expect Rogo to consistently give me his new improved work. He made a real leap forward, but I had to learn that he'd go back and forth with this for a while.
    I'm impressed and jealous with your smooth transition from free walk to contact. I work on that all the time and STILL get jigging or high headedness.
    You are doing amazing, especially since you are doing most of it on your own. Good for you and Val!

  13. Sounds like your dressage work schedule is paying off big time! Way to go.

  14. Horse time = happy time --- I love it - would make a great bumper sticker! Glad you and Val are having fun together.

  15. Hi,

    I am a student of Erik's. When I get to "missing" him I search the internet for anything he has written/said. Thank you for posting his articles. Good luck to you and your work. Its nice to be reminded I am not alone.

  16. Hi moonlitmare-

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the reprint. I haven't been able to make it to one of Erik's clinics in a while, so reading has to do for now.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. :D


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