Thursday, February 21, 2013

When in doubt, look at the facts.

Hm.  An assortment of facts for this entry:

  • I want to ride tonight.
  • I didn't ride last night.
  • Or the night before.
  • I got to work late today.
  • If I stay in the office until it's officially quitting time, it'll be too late to ride.
  • I don't know if I have enough warm clothes in my riding bag - I planned it for yesterday, when I wore a warm thermal under my vest for work.
  • I would usually just ride in whatever I wore to work, but today I am wearing a white sweatshirt that I don't want ruined.
  • I need to ride, not just want: two days off is enough for both me and Apollo.
  • If I go home between work and barn, it's 15-20 minutes out of my way if I just grab an extra shirt, 30 if I change and get the dogs.
  • Things go better if I just go straight from work to the barn.
  • The corgis would benefit from some running around time.

Okay, given that assortment of facts, I think I've made my evening's plan: leave here at 5, go by home, change and get dogs, then go to the barn.   Getting to the barn at 6:30 won't kill me.  It may even make me stronger.  ;)

Plus, after yesterday, I really do need to ride.  I had gotten maybe 4 hours of sleep the night before, work was irritating, and I was generally so out of sorts that I was liable to pick a fight, or at the very least frustrate my poor horse and end up with a bad ride.  A book, a few tacos, and some horizontal time took care of that, and now I'm itching to ride again.  I bet Apollo would like to be bothered too, seeing as horse-bothering tends to come with plenty of carrots.

I really need to take more pictures, make this blog more interesting!   I'm just not the photo sort ... 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fumbling toward a new thing

I got the opportunity to have a lesson with TD yesterday -- apparently it was some kind of holiday, and apparently everyone in the world wanted to have lessons with MT.  ;)  Anyway, TD was able to find room in her schedule for me and Apollo.

And I am so glad she did.

We worked on the same basic things that MT works on with us -- contact, connection, straightness, flexion, and push -- but in a very different way.  Instead of being concerned about working to bring Apollo's head down, TD worked much more on my contact and position.  She had me bringing my left shoulder back when tracking left, dropping my right shoulder down away from my ear, and paying close attention to keeping my leg under my hip, not behind.  And sinking down through my legs more, keeping them long instead of letting them contract.

The entire feel of the lesson was different than I get from MT.  Definitely not bad, definitely moving toward the same goal, but different.  I really enjoyed riding with TD!  I came away feeling like I was doing something right, but ... I'm not entirely sure how to replicate it or work on it on my own.  Like there's this Concept! or Idea! that I'm on the edge of and need to understand better.   It's a very cool feeling, actually.   For us what like to learn, a puzzle like this and the feeling that the breakthrough to understanding is juuuuuust out of reach is downright awesome.

So yeah.  Apollo and I are both processing the lesson!   Any bets on who'll come out tomorrow understanding better?     Nah, me neither.  He's unburdened by all this human brain crap, so he'll have absorbed way more, way faster.  :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Productive Valentine ride

I suppose I need some prodding to write every day.  :)   Sprinkler Bandit is my appointed prodder, but apparently some kind of sickness?  Busy-ness? is consuming her life.  Pfft.  Not like I ever have that going on!   ;)

Anyway, in all seriousness, Apollo makes a pretty good Valentine.  He's sweet, funny, and accepts gifts gracefully.  He also doesn't give it up easily these days -- what I get, I work for!  Heh.   Last night was more focus on connection through that outside rein, lengthening his neck from wither to poll, and transitions.   And thanks to ME, we got to work through the horse-distracted bit too.   I had a moment of understanding the idea of seeing challenges as opportunities; I realized as I was putting my tack away that I could have responded to Apollo being a bit up by freaking out and just walking or quitting early or whatever.  That didn't even occur to me, though.  Which is a bit surprising, but there you have it.  Instead, I kept working on getting his attention and really working through it, focusing and making sure that I didn't crash into ME and Grayson.  ;)

We had good moments, especially toward the end, when I remembered that I need to be quite a bit more assertive with my inside leg when we track right and that I need to keep him on the bending track in a circle without overbending his neck.  Straight on the track, whatever that track is.

I also used the methods MT used in the lesson to get Apollo to stretch and lengthen his neck: a tiny little leg yield in the beginning of the ride, keeping the step active and not too much angle; then having a long rein and encouraging him to stretch down and forward; then taking up on that outside rein and making sure that no matter what, it was connected.  And connected firmly until he gave to it, through little gives and takes on the inside rein.   Working on the push all the way through.

Something I am suddenly aware of that I need to fix: keeping a straight line from elbow to bit.  Instead of pressing my hands down and flexing my wrists down (with my thumbs still on top, oddly), I need to remember to flex at the elbow.  Elasticity from the elbow, not the shoulder?  wrist?  some odd combination of joints.   I think a bit of duct tape on my wrists will help here, actually: put a strip on the top of my wrist to the bottom thumb joint.  That will be even when I have my wrists in the right position, but as soon as I press my little fingers down like I do, it'll pull and remind me to not do that.  :)    I'll give it a shot.

So a productive ride last night, if not our most beautiful!   ME pointed out that Apollo doesn't have the muscle yet to really hold the longer neck/rounded back position for long periods of time, but that he does go there, so we're making progress.  :)   And of course, the only way to get those muscles is to keep doing this.

Yup, good horse.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Direction! Focus!

I really missed being in regular lessons.  I get so much out of weekly lessons -- seems like an obvious statement, but there you have it.  Focus, direction, and feedback are so critical for me.

Last Sunday we worked mostly on getting Apollo to lengthen his neck from wither to poll and drop his head,  and that was my one piece of homework: keep working on the stretch.  It's kind of funny, because stretchy is Apollo's favorite thing.  However, when one of us gets distracted for whatever reason we lose that.  Lessons distract Apollo, and practicing with other horses in the arena distracts me.   Fortunately, Apollo and I both work out of being distracted in lessons.   It's the human brain that causes the problems, as usual!

So I worked at it, and this Sunday showed improvement.  We continued work on stretching, which came easier this time.  MT asked me to do it a different way than I had been while practicing; I suspect my reins are too soft in practice.  Then again, Apollo does relax and stretch well with that soft rein contact, so I will work on the new way and see how it develops.  Then we moved into both improving the push from behind in the trot and making smooth walk/trot and trot/walk transitions, maintaining contact all the way through.   Apollo has this habit of coming to a crashing halt at what I think of as my half-halt; he had been trained to respond immediately to a very small tummy-tightening move.  What we're looking for is a more balanced walk transition, more like prepare - sit up - close leg - walk without falling on his face or falling into a lethargic walk..  And that's this week's homework: practice finessing those transitions.  Not just making them, but making them smooth and connected.  Like butta.

We worked in the canter some as well.  Not much, but enough for me to foul up the aid a few times and stop myself, fix it, and try again.   I think working on Apollo's relaxation through his neck in the canter is on the list  for things to work on in the near future -- right after getting the canter transitions sorted, which won't take too long, I think.

Anyway, yes.  Good lessons, and it's so nice to be back in them!   Still having fun with my sweet TB guy.  :)