Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Sunday, January 20, 2013

In the Arena #138 - Whole. 'notha. level.

Ride #1 -

Any thoughts that I'd gone overboard lately in the photo documentation department vanished after Wednesday's ride.

Look at enough pictures of chicken elbows, super long reins broken at the wrist and a horse politely (and not so politely) tolerating inconsistent contact while mincing about, and you're bound to generate a breakthrough. Not to mention double check that your leathers are even, and do your level best to sit in the middle in the saddle... and stay there. Progress through humiliation.

After warming up and taking up contact, I used every ounce of concentration I had to keep my reins shorter and maintain the feel of Val's mouth. And magically everything was easier. Transitions, turning, straightness. Another factor was moving straight to the whip if my leg wasn't answered immediately.

We rode for longer and did more trot work then we have in almost a year. Val was soaked, and so was I. We must improve our fitness as we (both) were sucking wind. Even though Val was tired, he stayed forward, and answered my leg. I posted with a smile glued to my face, and Val breathed deep happy rhythmic snorts.

Ride #2 -

As per usual, a ride full of progress is followed by... not so much. I invited A. over (my horse loving photographer friend) with tentative plans to get some video of the day's ride. The kiss of death.

Our warmup was difficult. I still haven't resolved the problem of Val gravitating to A. (or any visitor) other than persisting in asking him to go forward.

And then there was the end of the arena that Val wouldn't enter, no way no how. To the point of backing and even popping up a bit. I tried not to become irritated while pursuing other strategies. What eventually succeeded was inching our way down the arena with moving circles. Why, before we knew it, we had (safely) entered and exited the zone of death.

A few trot transitions to test the go button further, and we called it a day. Nothing video worthy to share - too bad for you guys! ;D

While cooling Val out I remembered that two nights before, howling winds had sent a large black garbage bag careening through the paddock. It fetched up on the electric fence - guess where - and was the cause of quite a scene the next morning when I came to feed. Mystery solved.

Ride #3 -

Another brief bout of stickiness in the warmup, with Val over-bending to the outside being nosy about some nonsense in the woods. Making sure not to give up my inside rein solved that issue. And again I kept the shorter reins and more contact. The feel of the contact is so much more, heavier, than I ever thought it should be. Val 's response told me what an improvement it was.

There were some cones set up on the perimeter of the arena like dressage letters. As we went round we circled or volte'd at every cone. Lots of transitions and changes of direction. The trot work was the best it's ever been.

If you look back through my blog I've said this same thing countless times. It has always been true, but this ride we sustained the work - the duration, the flow, as well as the energy. We did a fun school figure that was basically a three circle figure eight which took up the entire arena. Val was bending beautifully so the circles were actually circles. Round, while changing rein where the circles touched. Once again I smiled my face off and Val snorted happily all the way round the arena. Sublime.


  1. Very nice stuff - try not to think of it as humiliation - I try to think of it as "contact with reality"!

  2. It seems your good days outnumbered your bad day. And I think you've got a real handle on what exercises to do with Val to make many more great days. Don't be so hard on yourself. I feel that we're always learning and figuring things out and that's what makes it so rewarding when we get it right. You and Val look great in pictures, especially when you're smiling!

  3. Sounds like you have had some good rides :) Love the piccies :)

  4. Those photos don't lie, do they? My head is usually down and my feet pointing like airplane wings. The amount of contact to take was difficult for me as well. I still tend to give it away in the canter transition which results in Winston going all hollow and throwing his nose up. I've found that the amount of contact gets lighter as Winston learns to carry himself in balance. Our trot feels that way - very light with just a squeeze of my hand in the corners -- but at canter I still need to take what feels like a lot of contact.

  5. Annette -

    I figured that as Val balances and carries himself better the contact won't feel or be so heavy. When I had access to school horses the feeling was much lighter - it's been a year and a half since I've ridden anyone but Val.

    Also - anything feels heavy compared to no contact at all. I think I was trying to ride with the lightness that neither of us are ready for yet... classic cart before the horse. ;D

  6. You had lots of great stuff going on there! I agree that a camera can seem to make the ride go worse. Where were all those photo-worthy moments from yesterday's ride???

    Contact can be a tricky thing. Too much one way or the other sends things awry, but just the right about helps the horse recycle his energy. You will know you have it when he actually feels more energetic with more contact. This also helps keep them off the forehand if self-carriage is not there yet and when it is, the lightness you mentioned just happens. So cool!

  7. Sounds like you two had three great rides - even in the black bag evil zone! Smiling you snorting Val! Happy happy!

  8. Yay good rides!!

    bahahahah cone of death ;)

  9. It can be painful watching videos of me riding at times, I see so much that I don't want to see!! But I do learn a lot from it. Glad you had some great rides. :)

  10. I hate watching videos of me riding, but they do help more than almost anything else to show me what I need to improve. The great thing about owning your own horse and having him/her in your backyard is that there's always another day, no deadlines or hurry, so if things don't go so well, there will be better rides soon. Your chronicle shows that. And the smiles and love between you and Val speak volumes about how good you are for each other!

  11. "Progress through humiliation"! You are too funny! Just remember that progress is...progress! That's a good thing!

  12. CFS, You guys always take such great pictures together. You asked to be notified when my AHV blog went live, and it has done. Here you go:

    "Zone of death"! Hilarious.


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