Sunday, 26 June 2016

Pony has Hops!

I often use cross rails in training a young horse. It is helpful in getting them accustomed to the feel of the saddle in big movements in a very green horse. It can be a useful trick in early canter work and is a fun change for a horse if you are working on fussy posture work.

This feeling.  <3

I attempted jumping Savvy many times in the past, mostly on the lunge and a couple of times under saddle last year as well. Lets just say she did not present as much of a jumper - more of a step over or knock it down kind of girl. That was fine with me. She showed such great talent at dressage right from the start that I was happy with her 'career' choice.

I have been missing jumping though and just wanted to try again.

For those of you who jump big jumps, humour me in my excitement over a cross rail. It was a BIG DEAL for me! A big deal that she actually jumped instead of her weird step-over manuever, a big deal she was happy to just approach a jump for the first time, trust me and just do it without being looky, and a big deal I approached that jump with a smile on my face and no thoughts of "oh my god, will we live?" in my mind whatsoever!

This is what a year's worth of hard work and steady progress can do -- instill confidence in my wonder pony and in myself. What a great place to be.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

The value of a good coach

My last lesson focused on straightening the wonder pony and learning to address the position of her shoulders (left shoulder in particular) in a more consistent manner. Basically, Savvy and I are doing alright, but coach thinks Savvy is ready for me to expect more from her.

Connection is slowly becoming more consistent, although still lots of head bobbing moments.
I have diligently been doing my homework, practicing shoulder in and haunches in, as well as shoulder in on the 10 meter circle. I could only do riding at the walk this past week as it has been raining a lot and the outdoor arena footing is questionable - not that Savvy and I were ready to trot any of this yet anyways. There were good moments and then some more awkward moments where Savvy would throw a fit and do a mini lipizzaner jump. She is definitely not one to supress her opinions.

 I must say Savvy felt really good this lesson. I thought I had good inside bend and her trot work was relaxed with a lovely long stride.

It was all going well until coach asked us to do a bit more complicated exercise at the same time the farrier showed up in the barn. Combine the distraction of sounds in the barn and the increase in difficulty and I basically had a high-headed, hallow-backed mare who was acting like she simply could not.

Finally has a thinking and working frame of mind after a little help
 from a training ride by my coach.
Coach asked to get on (yay! I love when she offers!) and started asking Savvy for inside bend and to ignore the farrier. When she moved up to trot, Savvy gave her the "I simply cannot" trot that is more of a strange shuffle with her head high. It did not take long though and coach had her bending, lengthening, and fully on task. I love a coach that can help you out with a mini training ride.

20-meter circle with left bend - asking her to 'almost' leg yield outward
to encourage that left hind foot to reach.
I really just wanted to sit back and watch coach make my pony be amazing for the rest of the lesson, but instead she gave her back to me to try again. This time I upped my expectations. I just watched Savvy totally do the thing she had convinced me she couldn't do.

I learned something interesting today: Knowing it is in there (seeing my coach asking for more and getting it) made it much easier for me to expect a better result from her. You really have to believe it to make it happen!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Can't we just go right forever?

My weekly lessons are becoming more about addressing Savvy's shoulders and that incredibly underused left hind foot.

There has been no doubt about the struggle bending left right from the beginning. I have been working on it to some degree, but it was never the major focus as Savvy was so green we were looking for forward resposiveness and basic yeilding to pressure (and I was really just happy with her feeling broke!). Now she is ready for a bit more attention to detail.

First correct bend, then shoulder in on a circle. I can see where we get
it correct a few seconds at a time, here and there!

Tracking left, Savvy will throw her weight in on her front left shoulder, try to tip her head out and avoid stepping under completely with her left hind. Tracking right, the left shoulder will bulge and she will over-bend to the inside.

It turns out correcting a bulging shoulder is a much easier fix than lifting a dropped shoulder. Ugh. I spent much of my lesson wishing we were tracking right so I could stop working so hard.

We are addressing it, bit by bit. I have to remember patience and kindness for my girl. Asking her to track left with straightness and balance is like asking a right-handed person to write an essay with their left hand.

One exercise I will be using is shoulder in on a 10-meter circle. This well help me to lift her shoulder and help Savvy develop the coordination required to use her weaker hind left by stepping under.

Shoulder in tracking right - may not look like much, but felt awesome after all the struggle trying to accomplish this going the other direction. 

Once I was starting to get Savvy more balanced and bent correctly going right and then asked for the shoulder in, she literally could not stay at the trot. It was just too much for her to use her body differently and came down to a very clumsy walk through it. From past experience, when Savvy is faced with something new or complicated, her response is always to stop or slow down. She was really trying though. She definitely got extra cookies after this lesson.

Overall a great session with lots of little exercises to take home and work on.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wonder Pony and her Brain Vacation.

I had grand plans of jumping Savvy at home yesterday. She has been so wonderful lately and even though she is not all that great at jumping (would rather step over or knock it down than jump), maybe it would be a nice change for her.

So I set up one tiny cross rail in the arena and headed out to get my pony. She was out in the pasture with her two friends, munching grass and looking sleepy in the afternoon sun. Perfect! A great mood to be in for a fun little ride.

After tacking up and hand walking in the outdoor arena, I hopped up to get started and...nope. Savvy was literally prancing on the spot. What the heck? So I got off, grabbed the lunge line and decided to let her trot a bit and see if she just needed to get some nerves out. Nerves from what, I didn't know--it was just a normal sunny day in an arena she has been worked in for almost three years. After this she looked calm, relaxed and interested in just eating grass. Okay, back to it right? Wrong.

Me: "Can we ride?"
Savvy: "No."
Me: "But..."
Savvy: "No."
This went on for about half an hour. When ever I got on, she felt so nervous that she might flip out, or worse, over. I really tried to stay on as long as I felt safely possible, but each time I ended up having to get off and regroup. Finally I ended up taking her back to her pasture friends and got on there. This was to test if this was emotional or physical. If physical, she would be just as bad close to her friends, but if emotional, she would be better because of the comfort of being with the herd.

Luckily she was better. Completely better. So I took her back to the arena and just slowed things down. None of the focused ground work that usually makes her calm and focused had worked today so I decided to approach things differently. I took her over to the scariest corner and then just stood. I focused on my breathing, and was careful to aim my body away from her and look down at the ground. I relaxed and waited.

At first, Savvy could not keep still. She paced in a never-ending circle around me, but I just continued my breathing and stayed calm and relaxed. The only time I moved was to keep her out of my bubble--what she chose to do was up to her.

Finally she stopped. I rewarded her with scratches and then tried a new spot to 'meditate'. This time she just followed and stood with me.

Two hours after beginning this simple little afternoon ride, I was able to get on and walk her without fearing imminent flippage.

And today at our lesson at my coach's barn? A perfect little angel even with a bird trapped in the arena occasionally swooping at us and the neighbours constructing something and all the random loud banging from that.


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Clinic Day Three - So What Now?

Regular non-horse life has been very busy since the clinic. When I had the chance, I researched more about Legerete proper as well as reflected on what I had learned at the clinic. I wanted to see what was pure Legerete versus Muriel Chestnut's own style, which seemed to be a bit of a melting pot of her own learning from various styles.

I mentioned before the clinic how excited I was about seeing french classical mixed with natural horsemanship. Muriel had specifically studied Parelli which I have not delved into much beyond the seven games, level one on my own using a friend's dvd set. I am not sure what I was expecting, perhaps some education towards a magical blend of high level movements done at liberty? Instead, it was simply use of phases while applying the Legerete in-hand work. Makes sense, but I think I deflated a little.

Day three was much of the same as day two, and I particularly enjoyed watching everyone else throughout the day working on movements that were above my head to say the least.

I left the clinic wondering where to place this new-found information into what I already was doing. Would I take it on full throttle or discard it completely? Frankly I had no idea. I liked a lot of what I had learned, yet some aspects made me a bit uneasy. If you have looked into Philippe Karl at all, you might pick up that he is quite passionate about his training style and it is quite tightly controlled.

I am far from good at horses, but I have become quite open-minded over the years about training style. If you have trained more than a couple of horses, you will know that not all horses are the same and training goes a bit easier with flexability, creativity and a willingness to adjust to the horse you are working with.

I know for myself that I am happy to be the adult ammy, puttering around the sandbox on a horse I trained and I want that horse to be my athletic partner, my well-loved pony that gets too many treats, and a safe friend that can do some fancy when asked.

So with a bit of time to reflect, I am quite happy I dipped my toe into some new information. There is so much about this school of training that appeals to me.

For now though, I think I will take the few little tidbits I liked and add it to what I am already doing.  I will not be donning a Fedora and working on my French skills just yet.