3 Jan

First Ride of the Year

And here I said I was going to ride more as part of my New Years Resolutions. I was suppose to go ride 2 days ago and didn’t because I let family and other obligations circumvent my ride.  Oh well, I still have a chance not to break my self made promises.  Today, I went out without a clear plan.  I just needed to see where we were at after so much time off for various health related issues this last month.

Just like always when I got there Coco whinnied at me when she saw me. She does like her treats.  So I went and got her out. Of course she had crusted dirt all over so grooming was a good scrub with the curry comb and clouds of dirt coming up.  I ran my hands all over.  Of course her hind legs were stocked up. This has been quite common for her when she’s left standing.  I noted that I do need to call my farrier out to get her feet done. Coco doesn’t need her feet done as frequently as my quarter horse. She actually has pretty good feet.  Last year I did have the chiropractor tell me that I should keep her shod all the way around because she had a tendency to wear down the outsides of her feet.  That was getting her out of balance and causing some minor problems.

I started out with 15 minutes of walking to warm up.  We walked twice on the rail both directions. I gradually picked up the reins and asked for her to bring her back up underneath me and accept more contact.  Once I started picking up the bridle and asking her to come through over her topline, we started doing walk to halt and then doing a turn on the forehand.  I did several of these going both directions. Coco was pretty good about it. She didn’t try to speed through it like she usually does. I tried concentrating on making these turns as correct as I could. One step at a time like my trainer tells me to do.

She was a little heavy in the bridle so I started walk – halt – walk transitions. She did pretty well but not as good as she has done previously.  Since this was her first real day back in a month, I got the best I thought I could get.  Sometimes I think acceptance of almost right can be a positive thing.  I know I’m guilty of occasionally (well ok not occasionally)  drilling my horses. People criticize me for wanting to wear a watch when I ride but sometimes that’s the only way to stop myself. Otherwise I don’t realize exactly how hard I have been on my horse.  This is something I need to improve, recognizing when enough is enough.

I moved from there to walk-trot-walk transitions going both directions.  Since she offered to halt from the trot, I decided to accept some halts.  They were actually pretty good. I could still feel her back lifted underneath me and her barrel swell under my legs. I went back to walk-trot-walk transitions.  I varied the transitions from 10 steps to an entire arena side.  I know that I wasn’t really driving her forward and “riding those hind legs” as my trainer put it.  Maybe I’m making excuses but I decided I needed to know I could get some of what we had before and I felt like I did get that. She offered to come through and I accepted it.  She was still heavy in the bridle so we did quite a lot of transitions until I felt her relax and release the bridle to lift her front end up.  Afterwards I gave her a walking break on a loose rein.

I moved into circling and bending.  I know I was having some rib issues so I kept insisting on the rib.  I remember once last year feeling like her rib was a sponge under my leg.  I’m still working on getting that feeling. I’m also working on making sure I can feel when she doesn’t give me her rib and “ribs me off”. “Ribs me off” is something I have been telling myself to identify when she’s not bending properly for me. I did some circles around the barrels in the arena. They make great centers for circles.  I did some sitting trot circles to smaller circles back to larger circles.  I gave her another walking break on a loose rein.

For my last exercise, I did the adapted needlepoint exercise from 101 Dressage Exercises which I reviewed last month. We did it twice in each direction with a rising trot on the big circle.  I then remembered that my trainer had me doing a stretchy big circle. I worked her two more times with the stretchy circle. I do feel she wasn’t really doing a good job on her stretchy circle. She just dropped everything and wasn’t really stretching over her back.  I will need to work on the stretchy trot some more over the next few weeks.

Afterwards i walked around like I do before and after we work. I like to do that to let them know it isn’t always about the work. It’s an old habit from my racehorse days.

31 Dec

Anybody Else a Type A Rider?

Today was not a good day to go ride my horse.  I had a temporary crown put on my tooth which has of course this evening popped off. It’ll have to be recemented onto the tooth. And of course the weather just sucked today.  Threatening to snow all day and the brutal winds going through my clothes just stopped me in my tracks.

So I was going through the 101 Dressage Exercises book. It’s actually a second copy because I gave my first copy to my dressage trainer. Low and behold the Needlepoint exercise popped up when I let the book fall open.  It’s an exercise that my trainer actually changed for Coco and I to practice.

In the book the Needlepoint is performed at one end of the arena.  On both sides you do a teardrop and then a 15 meter circle at C.  My trainer changed the teardrops to full circles and the circle at C into a stretchy circle. We’ve even gone past that and turned it into a canter circle. It has a lot of transitions between sitting trot, rising trot/stretchy trot and of course the canter.

I don’t know how many of you out there are this anal retentive about everything. It took me a very long time to do a lot of trot to canter transitions of any sort for my trainer. Coco started off with  kicking at my legs  Yes, the mare that cantered and jumped and barrel raced did not want to canter depart for me in a timely balanced manner.  I remember getting so frustrated with her.  After chiropractic work, I just kept repeating it until she actually started doing what I wanted without an argument.

There is still one spot in the arena where she will occasionally have a hissy fit. A few tries and my trainer made a change to an exercise. We came to the conclusion that she feels fenced in and gets defensive about it.  So that is a work in progress.

I find that I need to be a little careful because I have a tendency to practice things over and over and over.  It’s not really a great feeling realizing that you need to count the number of times you do something and stop when things go right.  I’ve trained myself to do something as correctly as I can then move on when there is any kind of improvement.  I think Coco is much happier with that type of work.

30 Dec

Regrouping

As I think I mentioned before, I was out with a bad tooth and the flu most of the last month.  I always find it kind of weird to climb back on my horse after being off for that long.  Today was that day.  I took Coco to the arena which was freshly worked up.  We did quite a bit of walking.

I was sitting there on my horse thinking. Ok, what am I doing, where were we when I last rode my horse.  OH Yeah, we had started canter work.  Well given the weather and my own wobbliness, I decided to just walk and trot.

I did a lot of walk – halt – walk.  I wasn’t really feeling Coco lift her back up so we moved on to some slow trot to walk to trot work. 10 steps trot, 10 steps walk give or take a few steps. I really had to think through my body and my seat.

After walking and trotting, I called it a day. The wind up here was getting fierce and the cold getting bitter. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow or Wednesday. I’m thinking “WINTER SUCKS”.  Hopefully when we get really going again, Coco will revert to her “I had time off so I’m feeling like doing everything you want” attitude.  Otherwise she just tends to be a bit lazy.

28 Dec

Rounding in the Round Pen

Today was the first day of my new year and new goals. Since I’ve been sick most of the last month, I took Coco into the round pen for some general work.  I used my surcingle with the donut sidereins.

To start, I free-lunged her with just the surcingle. She has a tendency to play while she lunges so using a lunge line isn’t a good idea. She likes to buck and rear and generally play around. I’m pretty sure that I need to eventually do something about that jumping around. On a good note, if a rope gets around her leg, she’ll stop and look at you to get it off her leg. She’s sensible about most things.  Anyways the lunging went fairly well and she calmed down pretty quickly to focus on the work.

I put the sidereins on and we did a series of walk trot transitions. I spent a lot of time looking for her to drop her nose down and for her neck to stop inverting.  As soon as I saw the muscle on the top of her neck start to round up and that her back was lifting as well as her hind legs coming up under her belly, I knew I was on the right track. Well, at least I think I was on the right track. Someone might come along here and correct my thinking.

After I got her rounding up, I went into transitions: walk-trot-walk and trot-canter-trot.  I worked her for about 15 minutes on each side. Afterwards I let her walk around the round pen.  We called it a day and I fed her the scoop of Strategy that I’ve been feeding.

28 Dec

101 Dressage exercises – Review

I got this book years ago. Now I’ve bought it twice since I gave my first copy to my dressage trainer. She actually adapted an exercise from the book and started me doing that particular exercise.

As I’m reviewing the book again, I found towards the beginning a 6 day work schedule that Lisa Wilcox, the author, uses with her horses. I really wish I’d found it previously. Oh well, a 6 day work with one day for fitness training. I will have to start to incorporate that into my program for the coming year.

Most of the book are exercises to improve collection and stretching as well as building suspension. The book isn’t mean to go from the start to the end as a training program. Based on this years training and reading, this book is a series of exercises that you can use and insert into your training as you progress over time.

I like the book. It is definitely a good book to have in your training library. However, that being said, it needs to be used in a thoughtful way in order to help your horse and not make them tired and cranky.

27 Dec

Jumpstarting Dressage Blog

I decided sometime last year after I came across Karen’s blog Bakersfield Dressage that I would start yet another blog on another topic.  I’m probably nuts for adding yet another blog to try to take care of but this one is going to be more a diary of my journey.  I will hopefully be as devoted as Karen is to posting content but that is never a guarantee with my job, my side work and all the other stuff that goes on in my life.

To start off, I have been taking dressage lessons for the last year.  It’s been a journey that I had decided several years ago that I would take. It just took a while to get there and get the process started.  I started off looking for a horse that I thought I could use for dressage.

Coco when I bought her from Linda.
Coco when I bought her from Linda.

I found Coco, a grey breeding stock APHA mare. She was 4 when I bought her for this purpose. Things don’t always work the way you want them to work. I had my daughter riding my 4 year old quarter horse Lilo when I got to work on Coco. Lilo was not the horse for a 12 year old. She took advantage of my daughter at every opportunity. So in due course, a switch was made.  Coco became my daughter’s horse and my dressage dreams got put on the back burner.  Coco took my daughter through 4H, show jumping, hunters and even barrel racing.  It was a lot of fun until it ended.  My daughter is now grown up and has her own little girl ( a baby who will in the future be riding Coco).  Last year I decided that my dressage dreams were back on and Coco advanced to dressage horse in my string of 2 horses.  The featured image is Coco when she was 4 right before we bought her from Linda her previous owner.  THANKS LINDA!!! COCO IS A TREASURE!

And so, for the last year I’ve been taking lessons from my very awesome trainer Debbie.  I’ll get a picture up soon as I put some plugins into WordPress.