Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Looks like ...

... my ride days this week are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Bleh; I'd have liked to ride last night, but work and life conspired, as they do. Fortunately, I have no other such conspiracies brewing this week! I might even get to ride tomorrow, but only if I get to work really early. It's my goal to ride tomorrow too, so we'll see.

So what I'm working on this week is still contact, but achieving it through less fussing than I had been doing. I want to keep Rev's neck long and stretched from wither to poll, and I want her to lower her poll. I will work to do that through consistent, soft contact through the outside rein and little gives and takes on the inside rein -- unless, of course, she hangs on the right rein, whether it's inside or outside, and in that case, I'll give and take on the right rein until she stops hanging. The other part of this equation is keeping her moving forward, getting her hind end pushing through. This I'll work to accomplish through non-clumsy leg aids and then seat aid. When she responds, I stop asking. And I'll keep an "eye" out for her haunches and shoulders falling in and out (depending on which direction we're going) and work to keep those in line with leg and weight aids backed up by rein aids.

*nodnod* Yes. This is the plan.

AND ... I had wanted to save more money for this, but ... I will end up spending a good bit of my tax return money on putting Rev in full training starting May 15, so MT can take her to Golden Spike in June. Good grief, JUNE? Not far away! Anyway, I'd thought I might get a Point Two airjacket, but ... I think investing in Rev's training (and my own) is a better safety measure in the end. I'll get a Point Two eventually, but not right away.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Not so much progress.

Bleh. This last week wasn't really my week, riding-wise. Work interfered for several days, and when I did ride, Rev was a PITA. Mares and their heat cycles, ugh.

Turns out I really wasn't doing things right, even though I thought I was -- heh, this is why I take lessons! So MT rode Rev on Saturday, and then on Sunday he started her and I rode after. I was really, really disappointed with my ride on Sunday. I just wasn't clicking, kind of like I'd mentioned in a previous entry. And to make it worse, I started having asthma symptoms in the middle of the lesson. Sigh. After I hit my inhaler, things got better immediately, but still. I hate that. It makes me feel weak and incompetent.

So given that disappointment with myself, I'm going to ride lots more this week. :) I need to work more, period, and work more steadily at it. So every day but Wednesday this week I'll be at the barn. I have a lesson tentatively set for Thursday evening. I'm looking forward to it -- I hope we can do a little jumping! There's a cross-country clinic this weekend that I'm planning on going to, so jumping a little before we start that would be good. :)

So yeah. I had a discouraging day of "I am the WORST rider on this entire property" yesterday, but yknow, we all have them sometimes. Right?? Right? I just need to keep at it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oh my, progress!

I'd not realized that while I wasn't riding, my rein callouses were going away. I suddenly realized this yesterday when I discovered that I have rein blisters. Alas. :)

However, this is a good thing, in a way. I'm working at the consistent, soft contact with Rev, so her neck gets long and relaxed from her wither to her poll and uses the muscles along the topline instead of the bottom of her neck. So I have a lot more horse in my hands than I used to, at least until she softens and comes down and round. Then I don't have to have much in my hands at all, until she starts to change the contact, try to come off the outside rein, or try to hang on the right rein (whether it's inside or outside).

And what's cool is that it's WORKING! I had a great ride last night. I'm able to get that contact and that long round neck more quickly and keep it for longer, especially in the walk. We're getting to the point where I can do the walk pretty well. And toward the end of the ride, I was able to get her to come down and round in the trot, too! It wasn't nearly as consistently nice as the walk was, and it took a lot of transitions, both from walk to trot and from short trot to longer trot. But eventually she came down. Hooray! Even when she wasn't long and round through the neck, I still had contact, just ... not the kind of contact I wanted. Practice practice.

So the thing I'm working on moving to next is getting her to stay that connected through the outside rein through transitions from walk to trot, and then in the trot itself. Things I've noticed are:

* That this all works best when my seatbones are balanced correctly. This seems obvious, but hey. Gimme a break. What I really notice is what "balanced" actually feels like. As soon as I get out of balance, things fall apart wit' a quickness ... so more and more and more practice on balance.

* When she's in good contact, it's much easier for me to drape my leg adhesively, to keep my leg position correct, and to use my leg correctly. Whether this is because of the balance of my seatbones or the upper body position having her connected demands I be in, I don't know, but there you have it.

* It's easiest to establish contact in the trot if I start in a slower, shorter trot. Which makes sense, seeing as the first step in our workouts these days is a slow, very controlled walk -- it translates into trot well.

* MT pointed out that when I give a leg aid, I often forget about my rein aid. Yep. From Rev's reactions as I work through transitions, that's exactly it. (Unsurprising, since MT is the expert ...) So I'm working at keeping contact through the transitions.

More riding! MOAR! :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Didn't get to ride last night -- my evening turned into a bad shoulder day suddenly, so I took pain medicine and conked out early.

However, looking forward to it tonight. :) Looking forward to practicing contact again and making progress. Note to self: if I'm having trouble at the walk, go ahead and go trot. MT mentioned this at our Saturday lesson, that if I'm having too much trouble and getting too much fight from Rev at the walk, going to trot can help resolve the issue because there's more push off the ground. From there, I can work at the contact and do lots of transitions -- walk to trot, trot to walk, back and forth between bigger and smaller trot, et cetera.

Yay horses! :)

I'm scribing the first Test of Choice night tomorrow night, which will be fun! I love scribing. And then this weekend I'll be scribing a bigger dressage show with a judge I've never met before. That'll be fun too!! I've got the scribing abbreviations stuck to my cube wall so I can learn them better.

Out of town next weekend, so no rides then, but I'm thinking I'll ask MT to put a ride on Rev on Saturday. She can have Friday and Sunday off, I suppose. Hmph.

Still, life's looking good.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh, THAT's what you mean!

So I had two rides this weekend. Saturday's was not particularly great. I'm not sure what my problem was -- I'm developing a sinus infection, so that could have been it, or maybe I was just holding my mouth wrong -- but I wasn't really clicking with Rev or what MT was saying. So MT hopped back on Rev after I rode to finish her out and leave her with some instructions she understood and could follow successfully, rather than confusion and resistance.

Sunday, though, went way better. We didn't do anything but walk, but at the same time, I had several light bulb moments. I finally realize how much I need to have in my hands to achieve contact, and I started to be able to respond to her changes appropriately and more quickly. Suddenly I understand better what "correct" feels like, what contact feels like. I am really, really looking forward to this week's rides.

And I need to get back on my disciplined gym schedule, do penance for the week of vacation eating mode. :/ I really need to increase my core and quad strength, get back on the weight loss track. I have motivation, so yay! Going to be a good week. :)

Meanwhile, back to work ...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More practice.

Had a decent ride last night. I'm still working on contact and developing timing and feel ... this is going to take a while. I was able to keep mostly good contact through a lot of the ride, but keeping it during transitions, especially upward transitions, is really challenging. I can keep contact during down transitions pretty well, but in up transitions Rev raises her head and tries to avoid the contact. I need to ask MT about this the next time I ride with him.

Another thing I worked on was shortening her step significantly, then lengthening, then shortening, then lengthening again. I thought at the time that I was doing okay, as I got the stride change I wanted, but on reflection later, I realize I wasn't doing as well as I wanted to. I took more contact and did a strong half-halt, which was effective in that she shortened, but it wasn't what I wanted in that her head came way up and she stopped carrying me. Head up is okay, if she's still in contact, but I think it wasn't right. I'll practice that more this evening, see if I can keep things more consistent through the shortening, then let her stretch through the lengthening. She's good at that, of course, and it really frees her up through her body.

An interesting thing that I haven't been aware of in the past came up -- I felt her inside hind not carrying. Intellectually, I know this is a problem of hers, but I'd never really felt it before and realized that it needed correcting. Last night, I felt that hind leg. I don't quite know how to correct that, though. Definitely a question for MT -- he knows. Shoulder-in, maybe? Or just rearrange my balance in the saddle to weight my inside seatbone a bit more, and rearrange the contact in both reins to be the same in each? Something to play with tonight, for sure.

I'm facing a little bit of frustration with my lack of skill -- I know she knows how to keep contact. I know she knows how to work that inside hind, even though it's hard. I know this because MT can do it with her. However, I can't -- I don't know how to affect those things strongly enough. I shouldn't be frustrated, because really, self, come on! MT has thirty years on me, and he's a natural talent besides. Skill + talent + practice = superb rider. I shouldn't feel too bad about it, just keep working at what he's teaching me and at learning for myself. Still, frustrating! I want to be better, NOW! :)

And it seems I pulled something in my left calf. *shrug* Don't know how or when, but it might have been Monday? There's just a patch about the size of my palm that's really tender to the touch, and there's a lump under the skin. It seems to be muscular, so I'm icing it, taking ibuprofen, and using a topical analgesic cream. If it gets significantly worse or doesn't change at all within a week or two, I'll worry then. For now, though, pain seems to be my lot in life. *grin* I'll cope.

Anyway, yeah. Riding tonight, and more work on consistent, elastic contact, correct leg aids, and seeing if I can't affect that inside hind better.

Incidentally, there's a new boarder at the barn who turns out to be very cool and very nice. She's awesome -- an F15 pilot, has a lovely TB she's taken Prelim, and is just generally friendly. She's closer to my age, too, which is cool. Nice girl. :)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Look, a second post!

I got to have good rides with MT this weekend! I'm still working on learning about contact, how to get a correct, balanced, soft, elastic contact and keep it, and then modify it as needed. It's all about the feel, and that takes time. I know Reveille understands it, because she's lovely when MT rides her, even though he doesn't have it perfect all the time either. Just orders of magnitude better than I can do. ;) So he's helping me learn how to get that contact and how and when to change it. We're also working on getting her hind end to push better and more consistently.

A few observations -- when I have the nice steady contact and a strong, pushing trot, she's super easy to steer. This is probably painfully obvious, but ... well, there you have it.

I'd been asking for more push through the hind end by giving her a seat aid, a stronger and higher post, basically. MT recommends that I not do that, at least not start with that, because if I train her to respond to seat aids primarily, any bobble in my seat or loss of balance becomes an aid. So start aids with the leg, always.

Start the ride off with just looking to establish contact and control each step of the walk, and don't worry too much about where she puts her head.

Careful careful careful about how I use my leg -- which part I use, how often I use it, and how quickly I use it. MT has Rev well-tuned to the leg, and I have a bad habit of overusing my leg. I need to be very aware of what my leg is doing and communicating, all the time. Instead of clamping it, I need to close the leg, then release. Slight bump, release. If necessary, short kick, release. Reward a response by just letting her carry me, offering no aids or corrections.

As I was working the contact, I'd try wiggling the bit, try closing my hand, try raising my hand, opening my hands ... what worked best was when I wiggled and then softened. She'd come right down. But it would never last, so I need to figure out how to maintain that good contact when it appears.

Looking forward to this week's rides and next weekend's lessons. :) Looking forward to rejoining the jumping lesson whenever MT thinks I'm ready.