Monday, December 4, 2017

Wonderful week of training in Louisiana!

The ponies and I returned to Lubbock Saturday evening after traveling 1200 miles round trip. That was my first long haul solo, and it went just fine. Dakota loaded like a trouper at both ends. Both kids are great travelers, not even seeming to stress much. It was fun to be able to see them munching on their hay nets via the wireless cam.

I took lessons on both horses every day for four days, except Wednesday when I just rode Clair. We introduced Clair to the double bridle, and it could not have been less of a big deal. She is such an oral horse; two bits actually make her happier, I think. She'd probably take another bit stuffed in there for good measure. I'm still refining my technique of holding the reins in the French method. Clair has also gotten extremely sensitive to my outside leg in the left lead canter, so we experimented with where my right leg should go to not trigger her irritation. We made good progress and got many happy left-lead circles. Quirky mare.

Further proof that Clair has an oral fixation? Here's what her trailer tie looked like when we arrived in Louisiana:

Dakota worked his little butt off. He showed off shoulder in, haunches in, baby half pass, and trot lengthenings. Suzanne was thrilled with him in every way. He may go third level before too long as well! Sorry I have no video, but my videographer/husband had to stay behind this time.

Coming up on Sunday -- another Blarney Stone dressage schooling show. Trainer Gwen is judging, and Suzanne is coming along to give me a couple lessons while they're here. Woo!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Beautiful butt rope, captivating camera, double debut

The key to consistent loading by Dakota? The butt rope. I don't know why I didn't pull one out sooner. The first attempt with the rope he lashed out with double-barrel back hooves a couple times, then jumped on board. The second attempt he jumped on board as soon as he felt the rope touch his back legs. The third attempt he took one look at the rope lying on the ground and just walked on. As long as we have it out so he can see it, he now loads quietly. Sometimes the old methods are the best.

My amazing husband got me a wireless camera so I can see the horses in the trailer while I'm driving. He thought of this gift, purchased it, and installed it all without me even knowing. It's AWESOME! So comforting to see quiet ponies on a nine-hour drive. It also doubles as a backup cam that helps me see the gooseneck hitch and the ball in the bed of the pickup. It ALSO has night vision. I love it!

[night-vision pony butts]

Dakota, Clair, and I had an uneventful drive to Dubach, Louisiana, Monday. We got a late start and arrived around 9:30. Trainer Gwen helped me unload, unwrap legs, and tuck the horses in, and also helped get the hay and grain bags situated. I was in bed by 10:30 and slept like a rock.

Yesterday we introduced Clair to the double bridle. The Weymouth bit I ordered is a bit too wide, and we need to punch a couple holes so the bits ride higher in her mouth, but even so Clair took right to it. Suzanne has me holding the reins in the French method, with the snaffle rein running over the top of my index finger and the curb rein running under my pinky and up my palm, with my thumb over both reins. This allows me to use the bradoon to elevate Clair, and then while she's up, if she needs it, I can lightly apply the curb to ask her to give in the poll. It worked like magic. We didn't work her too long, but I got nice walk, trot, and canter with no resistance or stress. She had crazy amounts of foam, too, which she doesn't usually. A splendid debut!

Dakota, too, was wonderful today. He was a little tense with everything going on around the farm (many lessons in multiple rings, and a pony named Truffles shooting by the arena randomly). Also, Clair and he were hollering back and forth. Even so, Suzanne was thrilled with his progress. She said he's really showing a nice trot lengthening now, which we've been working on, and we even did a little half pass. Mustang got skilz!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Louisiana!

On Monday I'm off to Louisiana for a training week with Suzanne. Clair will definitely be coming along, and I'd love to bring Kota if he'll get on the trailer. I have been sadly remiss in his remedial trailer training. I worked with him today and got both front feet on board -- gave him some soaked alfalfa to eat as he stood like that, and called it a day. I'll work with him again tomorrow. He's supposed to get trailered to the vet (along with Clair) on Friday for their health certificates, so if he doesn't get on the trailer on Friday then he's not going to Louisiana, which would be too bad. My fault, though, for not working on this all year. I need to start taking the truck out when I work the horses, hitch up, and make Dakota get on every single time I'm out. He's not one that you can pressure into getting on. He sulls up and the mustang in him comes roaring out (tight spaces are not his thing -- BLM trauma). I need to give him him the time to let it be his idea.

In other news, Clair LOVES canter poles. If she gets up a head of steam as we head toward one, she always leaves out a stride and leaps like she's jumping the Grand Canyon. I've been moving away from approaching them on too long of a line. We did have one exciting day where I set up three canter poles together. She left out a stride and threw herself over the first one; I got a little left behind and bumped her in the back, so she bucked over the second pole, and then during the buck she farted, scared herself, and bolted halfway around the area. I rode it out in front of the pommel. Another time she overjumped the pole by about three feet and I ended up hanging off the side. She politely stopped and let me pull myself back up. I'm keeping at it because I can get the flying change to the left about 85% of the time over a pole. The change to the right is starting to feel smooth as butter. I need to work on canter half pass -- that'll probably help the change to the left too.

I just ordered a double bridle and bits for Clair! Having it shipped ahead to Louisiana so Suzanne can help me fit it. The double is optional at third level and required at fourth, so it's time to introduce it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Updates

Dakota's situation has changed. His previous leaser, R, gave up the lease at the end of October. We will both miss her! R hooked us up with a possible new leaser, J, who rides Dakota very well. She has an extensive riding background in h/j with a sprinkling of dressage. J has taken a couple lessons from me that went great, and she has ridden Kota on her own a couple times. She has to have a medical procedure in a week that will keep her from riding for a month or more, but I think there's a good chance she'll pick up at least a half-lease as soon as she's able.

I've been riding Kota quite a bit, and he's just delightful. He's very sensitive and reacts honestly to everything the rider does. Shoulder in is very good, and travers is coming right along. I've started working on walk-canter-walk. He's starting to get the idea of lengthening the stride in trot. Canter lengthening is great! Canter in general has improved so much in the last few months.

I've been working hard on canter with Clair as well. The left lead has always been the weaker lead, so I've been doing my best to strengthen her on that side. We don't have a reliable flying change right to left yet (I'm sure that's due to my lack of experience putting in changes). On the plus side, the change left to right is basically confirmed! We need to improve our extensions in both trot and canter. Will we be ready to try to get our third level scores in April? Fingers crossed!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Wisdom to ride by

  • From nothing comes nothing
  • Don't hold more than you can drive
  • Leaning back is a false driving aid
  • Fix it forward
  • If you don't like what you're getting, change what you're doing
  • Give the horse a chance to show self carriage
  • A half halt is not complete until you give
  • Bend in the body leads to giving at the poll
  • Keep hands close together
  • Keep toes in
  • Transitions test throughness