Tuesday, June 29, 2010

6/28/10 Goofing Off

I gathered up Ransom, in a bareback pad, and his twisted wire bit.. Half chaps, helmet for me.

No warmup, no side reins, just hopped aboard and got down to it. Most of the work was collected, yes. I barely cantered, just a circle or two each way. 98% of the focus was on his walk. Forward, pushing, stretching under. Some trot, but since I can't sit a really nice forward trot on him yet, I didn't want to reinforce short strides.

Being silly, I also did some turns on forehand, turns on haunches, and some side passing. My goodness can Ransom side pass! Funniest thing! No clue how he learned that, no clue why that was ever useful in his life, but he's good at it! Also rode some leg yields at the walk, up centerline, and yield towards the rail. I tried shoulder in, but only got a step or two - makes me thinks I'm not asking right for it.

We goofed off for about 45 minutes. He got crabby towards the end refusing to halt pretty, so I kept him at a collected walk. Loosen the reins every time he'd relax, then ask for halt again. If he tossed his noggin, back to short reins, release a little bit by little bit, down to a halt. I got a handful of these pretty, and called it "good".

I'm all for focus and intensity.. but I'm also all for flat-out goofing off, too!

Lyrics of the Day

Heard this one on the radio driving to work this morning. ouch, but yet appropriate...
Glitter in the Air - Pink
Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, "I just don't care"?
It's only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning
The breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?
Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You're whole life waiting on the ring to prove you're not alone
Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?
Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?
It's only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table
The walk before the run
The breath before the kiss
And the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?
La La La La La La La La
There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee,
Calling me sugar
You called me sugar
Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Coming tomorrow - score comparisons. I'm a little surprised. It looks like ittie bittie p-r-o-g-r-e-s-s.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hearthstone Training Test #2

1. Enter working trot, halt at X, salute, proceed working trot
6 = straight entry but drifted left before halt.

2. Track right, circle 20m
6 = needs bend & stretch to outside rein. tight in back, steps short.

3. Change rein working trot KXM
7 = little better stretch to bit and use of hind legs behind.

4. Working canter left lead between C & H
7 = needs better bend in corner but obedient

5. E Circle Left 20m
7 = some tight rein needs more freedom in canter

6. Between E and K working trot
7 = fair balance

7. A medium walk
6 = could be more supple

8. FXM Long free walk down the diagonal
6 = some stretch over topline. but hind legs need to step under

9. M-C Medium Walk
6 = short steps

10. C Working Trot
6 = rider fumbling with reins, causing horse to be unsteady

11. Circle Left 20m
6 = needs bend & stretch into outside rein. longer steps

12. Change Rein working trot, down the diagonal
6 = straight on diagonal but somewhat tight in back

13. Between C and M working canter right lead
7 = prompt

14. B circle right 20m
6 = rider needs better suppleness but sit into horse.

15. Between "B" and "F" working trot
7 = 8 for balance

16. Down "A" centerline, halt, salute.
7 = fairly straight

Rider comments
Gaits = 6
Impulsion = 5 Horse needs to use hind legs to push himself forward
Submission = 6
Rider = 6 At times perched. need to sit in saddle

Nice pair. Continue working toward improved engagement and stretch to bit.

HearthStone Training Test #1

I was actually not in some frame of mind like other tests. I had warmed him up on side reins for about 7 minutes, 4 left, 3 right. I hopped on to ride for another 5 minutes - all three gaits, mostly all left work. He felt a little short, but collected, and a little tighter on the bit. A little stickier than I wanted, but still really good. The show barn was a bit higher class than others I've been to - I wanted to make a ridiculously good impression. One that screamed out, "LOOK AT ME! My horse ROCKS! See us? We were on TV!" *giggle* Okay, that's a mind game. I really just wanted to do well, and feel better than previous rides.

1. Enter working trot, halt at X, salute, proceed working trot
7 = fairly straight, needs more energy

2. Track left, circle 20m
6 = needs swing through back, stretch to bit.

3. Working canter left lead between K & A
6 = some loss of balance at A
Let me tell ya here - Ransom picked up his canter, then in the first corner, dropped about three strides to trot. *giggle* I got him back, but "loss of balance" is a compliment...

4. B Circle Left 20m
7 = no comments.. :)

5. Between centerline and B working trot
6 = fell on forehand needs better prep and energy

6. C medium walk
6 = needs longer steps behind

7. Long free walk down the diagonal
5 = needs more swing & ground cover

8. "A" working trot
6 = obedient but needs greater push from hind legs

9. Circle Right 20m
7 = encourage more ground covering strides & stretch to bit

10. Working canter right lead in the corner
7 = prompt but falling in at C

11. "B" circle right 20m
6 = falling on forehand

12. Between centerline and "B" working trot
6 = needs more swing through back

13. Down "A" centerline, halt, salute.
6 = haunches right then corrected in halt

Rider comments
Gaits = 6
Impulsion = 6
Submission = 6 Needs to stretch through contact
Rider = 6
Accurate test. encourage horse to horse his hind legs more to push through to bit.

The week of 6/ 21

The week of Ransom. *giggle* Yeah, that's a little cocky, isn't it? :)

I rode Tuesday & Thursday. Tuesday Jen and I bundled up a sweet little lesson. I gathered a few things --
Never repeat the same pattern of riding gaits & orders more than twice with that horse. He gets in a habit, and then gets crabby when the pattern is broken. We rode mostly canter work Tuesday. Is his canter bad? No... but he was in a habit of "Canter & done", which needed fixing.
Keep the reins super super short. Don't let him think for even a moment that he's breaking until he's really done.

Thursday, I took a vacation day from work. For this, I rode very early in the morning. The air was still humid & overwhelming. He was a good ride - nothing spectacular, but nothing terrible either. I rode the entire arena, which is something I'm trying to do more of. Can't ride a dressage test just on a circle, so I have been taking whatever improvements I can get on the rail and on circles in other spots in the arena.

Saturday, we all loaded up super early, and departed the house at 5am. We were heading to a new show barn, all our gear in-tow. Bring on the Show! =)

The Rest of Life Interfering

Wow, this whole keeping up with my rides thing, you'd think I'd be better at it. I mean, honestly. Since the last BRM ride, I've been riding every other day. Why can't I keep up with this? Well, a few reasons.

#1 My job has become consuming. That's a nice way to say - nobody leaves me alone long enough to even type up a Word .doc and copy/paste.
#2 Other things at work have been miserable. I haven't felt particularly good at my job lately.
#3 The rest of my life, well, haven't felt real good at that lately, either.

Simply put, I think I've been battling some kind of depression. I find too often, I'm sitting at home, thinking, "This is it?!" I worked soo hard in school all six years, earned that extra degree, at the expense of social interactions & friendships. All I focused on was that good grade, on one more test, or one more lab gone right. One more paper written well, and one more event skipped to write it well. I spent two years in South Carolina that, frankly, I'd rather forget and skip in my memory.

Now, I'm here in South Texas. My job still pays well, I'm making a few friends, R is there quite often, and is involved in all my insanity I call normal. I am riding my butt off - let's face that right now. I am riding less often, but when my tail is in a saddle, it's w-o-r-k. (And as ya'll shall see in video to come soon and judge's remarks, it's paying off.) Socially, I'm making lasting friendships, and reconnecting with old friends that I had no idea cherished me like they do now. My family and I, well, don't speak much anymore, for a lot of reasons. That's probably a large part of my problems. They blamed me for a lot as a kid, and probably still blame me now. Things I didn't do and things I didn't cause. I've been saying for 30-something years now, "Just ignore it". It's not working as well as it used to. As if all that just isn't enough, well, my church life is a mess. I've gone through all the things the leadership has asked me to do, "Jumped the hoops, done the dance", and I feel like I'm jumping up & down in the corner screaming, "Pick me! Pick me! I'll do it! Pick me!", only to see someone else get the stuff I want. I don't think I'm getting a Godly "slap in the face & lecture to be patient." I think God's saying, "in My good time, kiddo. Sit tight." So I'm trying. Ain't real good at it, but I'm trying.

So forgive my irregular posting. Be patient as I figure out how to get outta the funk that often consumes me, and leaves me reading other blogs, other Facebook posts, and watching other riding videos, grasping for a little hope to hang on to.

now, back to the riding, which was the whole cause of this silly website in the first place.

Monday, June 21, 2010

6/20/10 With an Audience?

Ransom’s last two terrible rides, I had an audience watching on. I gave him two days off to keep us in line with “every other day” leading up to a show we’re attending this Saturday (6/26). I was hoping it was just bad luck of having an audience watching our rides that were the second day in a row causing the problems.

Warmed him up 5 minutes each way on side reins, same as always. Very forward, very responsive. One trot to canter he even tossed his head & took off a little bit. *giggle* Silly monster…

Hopped aboard, and got down to business. Walk, to a pretty halt. Get that good, work trot to walk, pretty ups and downs. Then just a teensie bit of trot to canter. Again, really nice.

So I rode a modified Training Level test 1 to see how he’d do over a whole arena. It was pretty good. He didn’t stay collected tight the entire ride, losing it in the corners that were following a long side. What I liked, is I didn’t have to push for forward, and the long free walk came without fuss or bother. His trot to halt wasn’t so great, so I’ll keep working on it, but if it’s still stickie Saturday, I’ll go with a few steps of walk before halt.

Then back down to one circle. I tried some stretching-down trot circles, and found those absolutely fascinating! He’d stretch way down, but still came back to collected without tossing his head. Nice!

A little more canter-left, and I called it done. I told Ransom, “A few walk/halts, and we’re outta here.” Ransom said back, “We’re done now, and I’m going to try getting out of this by raising my head, poking my nose out, and generally test your tolerance today.” It took another 7 or 8 transitions before he gave in for two in a row heading left. Then I called it done.

About 30 minutes of good solid working work! A good ride. But it brought my mind to wondering – can we handle two tests on Saturday, or should I expect one to be no better than they’ve been? Is it reasonable to expect him to be great for two tests? Heck, is it reasonable to expect him to even work hard for two, or should I assume now he’ll be all across the board crummy, tired, and crabby for the second one? I’ve entered the show for two tests, so we’ll see if that plan sticks.

What I did learn? Ransom wasn’t bad for the audience – he met my mood rather well. So either his previous two incidents were directly related to the repeated days of work, or I was tense about being watched, and it slirked down the saddle straight to his noggin. We may never know ..

Friday, June 18, 2010

6/17/10 When No One’s Watching

Gathered up my Ransom after his supper & mine, as the day reached closer to a cooler sundown. The wind blew steadily for our work, which was really nice in the blustery heat summer has brought us.

He warmed up nice, and was slowing and stopping on body language, with no tug on the lunge line. I praised lavishly. He has also obviously learned what 5 minutes one direction feels like, slowing down as I was checking my watch. *grin* Habit critter!

I hopped aboard, gave him just a little time long & low, and gathered the reins slowly. We did only a few walk/halts, before I popped into trot.

Trying to keep it interesting, hoping maybe he was getting bored and thus a fuss head to work with, I asked for a few strides of canter, maybe 6 or 7 strides. He gave me this tiny little light canter, so I put him back down to trot, and when that felt good, back to walk. When walk was light, halt.

It worked, almost magically. I didn’t push for anything for a long period of time, just a little this, a little that. A few of his trot/walks were beyond fantastic. I would sit the trot, settle myself, squeeze my hands, and *think* “waaaallk”, and he’d settle into it.

Rode for only a half hour, with a boat load of long & low walk breaks. I stayed very tuned to his general movement, and if he felt sluggish, I’d take a break. If he was huffing & puffing, I’d take a break. At the end of the ride, he cheerfully walked back to the barn with me, slightly behind, but steady-on.

I didn’t notice any time when he felt over bent. A few “strung out” moments, but I don’t expect those to go away any time soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Burfday Flowers

6/15/10 His very Own Big Boy Bit

Got home from work, R was there, birthday surprises in-hand. The best of which – Ransom’s own snaffle mouthpiece boucher bit. YAY! Got that on the bridle, apologizing to him for the loss of his little French link cheater-mouthpiece. Poor pony..

Lunge line side rein warmup was pretty nifty good. He was light, responsive, and only stiff. I hopped on, and he got crabby cranky. For just a while, the collection was there, his work ethic was good, as was his mood.

Twenty minutes or so into it (including warmup), he started the head-tossing nonsense game again. R walked out to the middle of our circle to watch. And he started calling out.. “Ahead, behind, just right”, lining his words up with what I hoped was Ransom’s bending at the poll.

I’m not entirely sure R got it “right” all of the time. When it felt good, and Ransom was giving me his back, he was calling out “behind”, or “inside”, suggesting Ransom was over-bent. We did this for a good ten minutes, with mostly walk/halt, trot/walk work. There was plenty of time spent at the steady posting trot, R calling out head position.

So I wasn’t real sure if I was over-bending him (*Gasp* Rollkur! Gosh I hope not!), but I know his noggin was all over the place. Total work, nearly 50 minutes under saddle. Way too much, way too long, but some knowledge exchanged and some progress made… I think.

Monday, June 14, 2010

6/13/10 Patterns

I’ve picked up on a Ransom pattern – one day good, one day bad. One day great, one day terrible.
Sunday evening, after mowing the arena, fixing the fence, and getting some other Sunday-norms accomplished, I was ready to ride. Ransom’s side rein warmup was good. A little slow, but good. I chalked it up to a hot day, and the fourth day of work.
Hopped on. Asked for walk. Spent some ten minutes bickering with him about walk/halt without some sort of fussiness. Head popping up, total lack of collection, and generally crabby. If he would come halt real pretty, he’d go back to walk really really ugly. One or two strides nice, then head up in the air, being generally nasty.
Asked for trot, searching for lameness or soreness. None to be seen. On any collection, he’d be short strided, but if I’d let him reach out on the reins, he’d lengthen his stride & be nice moving again.
Back to walk. And right back to ugly. Finally frustrated and refusing to spend all night until dark waiting for a nice halt, I put the side reins on him, and hopped back on. (Yes, dangerous, I know, but he’s normally such a calm critter.)
I quickly realized – the side reins were loose. Flapping loose, as a matter of fact. I barely had the bit reins in my hands, barely asking for more than direction & a little pressure at halt. He was incredible. Gentle, nice, paying attention. I kept them that way for about 10 minutes. A tiny bit of trot, but 98% walk/halt. The walk/halts became as magical as they were Saturday.
I took the side reins off, and went back to the circle walk/halt. Much improved. Still not fantastic, but improved. I settled for two in a row each way, let him stretch it out, and ended the ride there.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

6/12/10 Hope

Grabbed up the big monster early morning again, hoping to get my ride on before the heat settled into the day. A gentle wind kept the true heat at bay, for which I was thankful.
Spurs, side reins, lunge line, gloves, off to the arena we go.
Ransom warmed up as if he’d reconsidered from the day before. He had obviously decided being good was much easier than being as ugly as Friday. The warmup was beautiful.
Hopped on, and let him walk loose a little. Then I pushed up to collection. Still no issues. A little arguing, but nothing the spurs & gloves didn’t fix. Walk/halts were pretty again. I sent him down the rail, off our comfortable circle we’d been on. Even heading straight, the walk/halts were nice.
Back to the circle, up to a trot. More nice work. Considerably less leaning on the forehand than I’d had the previous week. He was making much more effort to hold himself together. Circle looking good, back to the rail we go. It was nice work again. A little more attempting to lean on the forehand, though heading straight I didn’t expect perfection. I let him walk on each short side, and tried to not force him deep into the corners on the rail. Nice work.
Finally, finishing up on the circle at the canter. No straight line canter work yet. I’m still not 100% comfortable with his circle collection. Not much straight line canter work at the training level 1 & 2. No rushing to get there..

Saturday, June 12, 2010

6/11/10 Alternate Plans

According to the “master schedule” Jen created for us, Ransom and I were scheduled to take a walk down the road. A plain jane trail ride of sorts. Nothing phenomenal, no hard work, just a loose rein dirt road walking exploration.
To prepare for rides like these, I usually ask Ransom to walk and halt in the side yard. This to make sure his mind is on me, and not on running down the road. I hopped on, let him walk loose a little, and asked for a halt. Head popped up, back strung out, and he leaned hard on my hands. Of course, he catches me on a day I’m not wearing my spurs, and I’m not wearing gloves.
More walk/halt in the yard it is. Repeat repeat repeat, argue, repeat. At one point, I was simply asking him to drop his head and stand still in the yard. No doing. Side pass, walk forward, back up, prance, repeat. It was horrid. Thankfully I had my helmet on, because he took a few hops in complete argument there a while.
We spent 30minutes in the yard, on walk/halt. I tossed in a tiny bit of trot, to see if he was hurting. Short strided & ugly, but not “off” that I could tell. Generally a huge grouch. Best I can guess, he’d worked so hard on Thursday, he wanted NOTHING to do with being good on Friday as well.

Friday, June 11, 2010

06/10/10 Lesson

Things we learned – lunge line is good, side reins on 8s is good.. Ransom was a little stiff to start, but settled into the side reins & collection. 5 minutes each way.

Then I hopped on. We did probably 20minutes of walk/halt. Some were good, some were absolutely terrific, and some not so good. Lots of “almost walk” before he’d lean on the forehand, or pop his head up, so I’d squeeze him back forward, only allowing halt when it looked and felt good.

Up to trot. The trot/walk work was nice. Jen and I talked a lot about “is this trot good?” as I rode through. I got Ransom in a very steady trot forward with nice tight collection. Rode some of it sitting, but most posting trot, easing some of Ransom’s workload.

Finally, a little canter. About two circles each way. Unfortunately, we did canter-right first, Ransom’s stronger side. His canter-left was in no way terrible, but it sure wasn’t spectacular either. Jen suggested more work canter-left, and try more often to start with canter-left, maybe even sometimes leaving canter-right out.

Plenty of long & low walk breaks. Plenty. We let Ransom really dictate the ride. When he started feeling tired, walk break. In each gait, we’d let him tell us if he wanted more or not. End result? About a 45minute ride total. Longer than they had been, but he was truly spectacular for the entire lesson. No ugly, no fussy, no incredible amount of angry disregard. Just general agreeability.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

6/7/10 Dressage-Power

This entry title is the new keyword for my renewed focus on dressage. I’m thinking about changing some blog formatting and titles and such as well this weekend, when time permits. While I love the idea of jumping around a course clean and pretty, I also have found this focus on dressage to be incredible. It’s almost exhilarating.

I hopped on Romeo in my dressage saddle for just fifteen minutes of slow work last night first. I am hoping that he and I can improve some collection & general communication through some basic work at walk & trot. On the trail, he’s nearly a saint. In the arena, he’ll be fine, if it’s on his terms. A loose rein, a verbal whoa, and generally “staying out of his mouth and out of his way.” There are days I would like to “test the lesson” from Ransom to Romeo. With Romeo, it’s a light bit, and if I screw up the cue, what’s to be lost? I’ll still have my trail partner I can go goof off on..

So, Romeo and I quickly got down to it. I gathered up my reins rather short. He fussed & fought (the disadvantage of only owning one flash noseband), then realized that I wasn’t releasing until he found a “new right answer.” The walk to halts were really nice. What wasn’t so nice, was the halt to walk. He wanted more than green cookies for me to release as I asked him to walk forward – exactly one of those little nitty details Barb corrected. Barb corrected me to “quit releasing as we go forward”, and instead push Ransom forward into the collection. Romeo got the idea, at least I think. About a dozen or so take-offs, he quit backing up and instead pushed forwards.

The trot work, well, was a struggle. Again, he’d be more than tickled pink if I’d settle for him just being neck-level-with-the-withers. I got a few strides at a time with real collection. The funny thing? It felt more animated in my seat than his uncollected trot work. My hips were moving more when he was collected. Strange thing..

Ransom galloped to the side yard, frantically realizing that his Little Brother had stolen the show. I unsaddled Romeo, praised him with cookies for trying to learn something new. Then Ransom and I got dressed, and headed to the arena.

Ransom’s work on the lunge line was better - side reins at the same length. Five minutes each way as usual, and it looked better. Calmer, neck raised, bent at the poll 90. Looked good.

Our saddle work was inverted from Sunday’s ride. His walk to halt? Horrendous. Ugly, snarly, nasty, argumentative. His trot to walk? Nice. Canter to trot? Fantastic! Shoot, his trot to canter was even pretty until he got tired. I did a LOT of walk to halt, and settled for a small improvement, though nothing like I had Saturday or Sunday. I’m still not real sure what it was all about. We’ll tackle it again tonight, perhaps more walk to halts on the straight line on the rail rather than on a circle. Keep the trot and canter work on a circle, but maybe walk to halt without the bend will improve it.

One change – It’s hot, it’s nasty out, but I will go back to using my gloves. When I got Ransom untacked, showered, and headed inside to wash my hands, the warm water burned my fingers. I’ve now removed any excess skin I had on my fingers holding the reins so short. So even in the nasty heat, it’s back to the gloves, to protect my fingers from further skin wear and perhaps even blisters? Ew…

Monday, June 7, 2010

6/6/10 Testing the Theory

I gathered up myself, got dressed, donned my spurs, and grabbed my horse. Ransom was so willing walking up to the trailer, the poor guy. He had no idea what was coming.
I got his front legs wrapped, saddled, and snuck the side reins on. He wasn’t paying attention, right? I slid the boucher in his mouth, and slowly adjusted the flash. Oooh, now he’s getting cranky.
Out to the arena, side reins on, oops, go up a hole shorter. That’ll be a good starting point. Leave them there a week or so, see how he holds up. At first, he walked out, trying to fight the bit and realized quickly that wasn’t happening. I asked him verbally to whoa, asked with body language, and finally tugged on the line a little. OOPS! He tossed his head as he realized that first off, I meant “whoa” for real, and secondly, yeowie! That really IS a bit in his mouth. Lunged out five minutes each way, walk, lots of trot, a little canter. I wanted him to realize that bit was there, and the contact would be solid.
Hopped on, and started right off on good contact. He tossed his head in protest, so I shortened my reins a bit more. A lot of walk, halt, walk, halt, walk, halt, Any time that his adorable head came up and he refused collection, I’d add leg & push him forward. Leg was a whole new situation as well. If he refused to listen to seat, then calves. Ignore the calves, add spurs. Whoop! For a while, I swore Ransom was swishing his tail at the bugs. Then I realized that was me. He was NOT happy about the spurs. But he didn’t squirt out from under me, and in a few cases, he definitely increased his forward momentum.
I got a little canter in, but not much. He could hold about a circle at canter before dropping down. I left it go all but once. The final canter-left, we argued about the up transition, so when he did get in it, and tried to break, I forced another six strides before allowing a trot.
Speaking of trot, when it was “on”, it was magnificent. Light posting, and a lot of sitting. He didn’t try to racey-chasey, but often leaned on my hands. Tug Tug leg leg, and release. He’d pop his head up, but then settle back down collected. Anytime I had a nice steady trot and light hands, I’d praise him verbally & give him a quick pat. We ended pretty enough, with as many as five strides in a row light.
You know what they say about dressage horses LOVING the notion of the long & low walk? Now I know what they mean. Ransom was eager to take his long & low walk breaks, stretching waaaay down into the bridle, holding tension all the way to the buckle. I gave him many of these, but not for long periods. He’d get about a circle (usually even less) of long & low walks, and then I’d gather him back up & get back to work.
Total work was 10 on the lunge, 30 solid work, ten walking to cool out. A nice start of our serious dressage focus.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

6/5/10 I Loves Me a Day At BRM

Or more endearingly titled, “He can do WHAT?!”

R, Jen, Ransom, and I arrived at BRM about 35 minutes before my lesson was to begin. R and Jen cheerfully unloaded Ransom and prepared him for his lesson while I checked in with Barb. The barn was bustling with people, something I always love about BRM. Always busy, always full, always cheerful.
We all finished dressing my superstar, I got changed, and off we went to the arena. I confidently hopped aboard without lunging first, and let Ransom walk around a little while. There was some horse wire fence laying in rolls outside the arena. Ransom looked long & hard at it. All I could do was laugh. Everything else at that end of the arena he’d seen before, but apparently not that wire. Silly man.
Barb said, “Warm him up like you normally do.” So I did some walk circles & bends, and some trot circles & bends. Nothing fantastic. She said to me, “I saw your Facebook from yesterday, we’re going to work on those transitions a bit.”
We brought Ransom up on the bit, and started working on walk to halt. He did the same from the day before – ignoring the bit, charging straight through it, and popping his head up. It got better with repetition. Then we tried trot to walk. A total disaster, and a repeat of the day before. Barb said, “If you’ve got time for me to change, let me hop up there & school him a little bit.” I was fascinated! I hadn’t seen Barb on Ransom, ever. This could be really awesome!
And I was nowhere near ready for what I would see next. She teased me as she got aboard, “You could get him out of the baby-bit you know? That’s a bit for green babies! Not old show horses!” We talked a little about a more suitable bit. Barb said to Ransom as she got on, “Hi old man. Yeah, it’s been a while. Let’s get to work.” Immediately, she pushed him up collected into a frame I never knew he had. He looked just like a dressage horse!! He was collected, with that beautiful framed arched neck, and he was going somewhere! She transitioned him up to a trot, and asked him to trot just a bit before bringing down to walk. He tossed his head in sharp protest. I laughed. Barb asked me to put her spurs on, with some minimal complaining, “You make that look easy! Gosh he’s a lot of work to put together!” I grinned a little to myself. See, Ransom, compared to Chewie, is easy to push forward. Just a little leg, and he’s cruising. Apparently he still requires more than average effort. *grin* Okay, if she says so.
Barb rode him through quite a few walk/halts and trot/walks, before he finally started agreeing with her a while. What came next, was stunning. He had the most beautiful canter, again, better than I’ve ever seen him do. I had no idea he’d compact his big self into such a tiny stride. At first, I didn’t even realize he was at canter – until I saw his foot falls. I thought to myself, “Holy crap! That’s a canter! Good grief he’s slow!”
They continued together for a total of about 10-15 minutes. It was amazing to watch.
More amazing, was what I got as I hopped back on. I felt Ransom let out this HUGE sigh, and I said to him, “Yeah, you’re not done yet.” Barb walked off to get another bit – a boucher. Single jointed, and a neat looking contraption. She switched bridles (yeah, as I sat up there, thinking, “good grief don’t spook, ‘cuz I gots nothing to stop ya with”) and told me, “He’s going to fuss about the flash, he’s going to be unhappy with that bit, but he’ll get over it. Just be prepared for him to be bad before he is better.”
What I discovered – He was light, responsive, and really ready to do whatever my little legs wanted. If I squeezed with any effort, poof right up into the next gait. When I sat deep and settled the reins on more contact, he’d slow down. We did lots of transitions, but actually progressed out of just walk, into some great trot work, and even some canter. In the canter, it’s tug tug release on the inside rein. Tug Tug to remind him to collect & bend, but release immediately, before he starts to lean. Same work at trot, but more release – get him off my hands.
After lots of transition work, and even some canter that felt magical, Barb reminded me to sit up! Yeah, I guess I’ve gotten that bad habit back again, slouching like I’m on the couch at home. When I did sit up taller, legs felt longer, and shortened my reins (again), he felt incredibly put together. I was at trot, sitting deep, and seriously felt my hips only moving with him. The rest of me felt loosey-goosey relaxed. It was incredible!
Ransom and I have some serious homework!
*use the borrowed double jointed boucher bit, flash noseband
*transition, transition, transition! Lots of walk to halt, and trot to walk
*tug tug on the reins, use some force, but then release! Let Ransom realize I won’t be there to hold him up, I can guide, but he can’t lean
*side reins are back! Five minutes warm up each way on shorter side reins & the lunge line. Stretch him out before any serious work
*Short rides! Nothing over a half hour, due to the heat, and his muscle development

And what I really learned? Ransom is a dressage super star, he’s been holding out on me pretending to not be that dressage brilliant, and I can make him do the same things Barb did. Best of all? I’m back to loving dressage again. It doesn’t feel repetitive, and it is incredibly satisfying to get even a stride or two of collected sitting trot.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

6/4/10 Preparing for the Lesson

Wanting to have Ransom at his best for my lesson with Barb, I gathered him and his dressage supplies, and off we went to the arena.
Brief warm up at the loose rein walk, and then I went into bendy circles, serpentines, and changes of direction at walk. He was a little stiff & stubborn, so we moved up to trot, still on the bendy and changes of direction. As he began to loosen his muscles, so did his mind. A little canter on circles, and I gathered up the reins.
Ugly. Ugly were his up transitions until I got some force in my body & got a little angry. Then they cleared up. Horrible – the down transitions. I tugged hard asking for walk to halt. Finally he realized that walk to halt would be pretty. Trot to walk? Forget it! Not happening. Canter to trot? Now those were the most beautiful, but of course they were. It was hot & humid out, and he wanted more than anything to be done at the canter.
I put about 40 minutes into him before we both got burned out. He didn’t want to be working, and I got sore arms from arguing with him. He was leaning on the forehand at trot, and doing all he could to pull those reins outta my fingers. Too many days doing too little work.
I was concerned. Was it even worth the trip up there? It’s a two and a half hour drive! If he’s being ugly with a day’s turnout, how much worse will it be if I don’t let him do whatever he wants after a long trailer ride?
Nevertheless, Barb has always been polite & accommodating to whatever Ransom will give us. I loaded up my things, cleaned out the trailer, and got ready for Saturday’s trip.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

6/1/10 Drunk Sailors

At least that’s how it felt. Ransom and I tacked up dressage. By the end of the ride, I had reminded myself why I hate full seat breeches in the summer – stickie tackie stickie! Yuck!
Warmed up for about ten with long forward walk and trot. Quickly got down to business. I rode him through the basics with collection, all with good results. Posting trot for all the work. Again, I’m struggling to keep my legs long enough to hold my stirrups in the canter transitions – I know what I’m doing wrong, and I think I have a solution. Need a lunge-line holder for a set for dog & frog at trot. Once I did some dog & frog stretches at walk, and got my legs stretched out good, the canter transitions felt better.
Then we moved on to serpentines, figure 8s, and a few long diagonals. We were absolutely All Over the arena. It was beyond entertaining. Ransom tripped a LOT early in the serpentines, due to general laziness and not paying attention. Too many hours on one circle and at the rail – totally rider habit & error. After nearly ten minutes at a posting serpentine of varying sizes & shapes, I sat deep in the saddle. I very quickly discovered that sitting the trot through all the circular weaving pattern was easier. Ransom stumbled less, stayed collected longer, and didn’t fight the turns near as much. I can guess why – I was posting too high, too active with my legs, and not using my seat enough to guide him. When I was sitting, there was no choice but to guide him with my seat, using my inside leg only for collection, and my hands stayed more still.
A nice 45 minute workout, with some new variety. Tonight, my Ransom monster will enjoy the night off, and can enjoy his new clean coat. I cooled him down with a hose-out, and a soapy scrubby bath. Nothing’s much cuter than watching him stretch out & lean into the curry scrubber for a bath. Oooooh.. full body massage… I’m jealous!