Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lesson: Lean Back

Tonight we worked on figuring out and fixing some of the issues I had during my practice rides this week. 

Issue #1:  Louie raised up his neck when I tried to leg yield.  The "monkey bars" think didn't help.  Solution:  I was leaning too forward and getting into my knees.  I need to lean way back, sit the bend, and keep my inside rein open out to my knee.  We also discovered that I have issues with my left hand/wrist- I constantly want to pull that hand up toward his withers and extend my wrist.  Doing this shuts the door on the left hind and doesn't let him bend and use that leg properly to step under himself, so I need to really keep that left hand wide and toward my knee when doing lateral work or bending.  So, I didn't even need the monkey bars, just lean back, tuck my butt way under, and open my inside (especially left) hand out away from his neck and push with my leg/whip lightly.

Issue #2:  I wasn't able to move my inside seat bone forward/up for the canter cue.  I had this problem primarily tracking to the right. We initially thought this was because my right stirrup was a bit shorter than my left.  But Julie hopped on today and discovered that the reason I can't move that hip is because Louie instantly becomes crooked and throws his haunches to the outside the second I quit asking him for the bend.  Solution:  keep Louie really bent, almost thinking haunches in, lean back and get my pelvis tucked way under, and keep my sacrum constantly in the saddle.  This not only let me move my hips, but also, my sitting the canter was eons better than it has been, and the canter, was therefore much improved as well. 

Those are really the two main things we worked on today.  To sum it up, I need to lean way back, keep my butt tucked underneath me (think: sacrum into the saddle), and be sure to open my inside rein way to the inside for any bending or lateral work. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lesson: Riding To Music

Sorry I've really slacked on writing about my lessons.  I think it's time to get back to a little bit of that, as it helps me retain what I've learned better. 

So tonight we rode to music!  It was fun, but rather challenging.  It was hard to keep Louie slow enough to match the rhythm, but maintain his "motor."  My favorite song that we rode to tonight was "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" by Queen.  It had a nice swingy rhythm and wasn't overly fast.  It was a perfect song to think of while riding the sitting trot.

We worked a lot on leg yielding at the sitting trot.  Louie tends to lift his neck and lose his "roundness" when I put a leg on to ask him to go sideways, so I've got to insist that he says round (if his head comes up, my hands come way up and wide (but SOFT) like I'm holding onto monkey bars or a big Harley.  Then I relax them down and ask him to reach down and take up contact.  I need to do this before I put my leg on, just to remind him that he needs to stay round.  Then I use a light intermittent leg, with maybe just laying the whip behind my calf to help keep him going.  I need to stop the sideways motion and direct him forward a few times on each diagonal too to make sure he isn't just running sideways and not staying between the aids. 

We worked a little bit on stretchy trot as well, with the same concept of lifting the hands if he lifts his head, and then lowering them and asking him with the leg and whip to come up over his back and into the hand.  Another thing we did was slowing him down with the whip- not very intuitive, but when Louie would start to rush, I would add a little bit of calf, and lay the whip behind my leg (then use more outside leg to prevent him from throwing his haunches away from the whip), a lot of stomach and a fair amount of hand up high and wide.  Julie said it is okay for me to use my reins to slow him down (think: create a boundary) if I've got the forward aids on as well- to push him into the front boundary from the hind end and maintain the engagement and contact. 

Our half halts were pretty good tonight.  We've been trying to keep really light aids with the half halt coming from my epigastric area, not my entire abdomen.  I've been doing light repeated half halts to get him to slow down and halt- and this is helping a lot with keeping his head low and into the contact during the halt and downward transitions. 

After we mastered the sitting trot shoulder-in and leg yielding work, we worked a bit on our canter.  We got a couple of really nice moments in the canter- one super prompt depart right with my inside seat bone, and two times we had a very night right lead canter from sitting trot (which lasted about 5 strides before Louie broke into two pieces, got heavy on the forehand, and I started my "wiggly back). 

Overall it was a good lesson, we had some really super moments and made some improvements!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tanbark Cavalcade of Roses

Sorry I have been neglecting this blog of late.  The past few weeks have been spent in preparation for Tanbark horse show.  Tanbark is the biggest, most prestigious Saddlebred show in Minnesota.  It is held at the state fairgrounds, at which Louie had never shown before. 

Well I have to say, Louie was a really good boy.  He was such a trooper as I clipped, bathed, and trailered him to the show all by myself.  Then he was stabled all by himself, locked in a stall for 3 days, and was really very well behaved.  It was really hot all week, and it was good that we were stabled right by the wash rack, Louie got baths several times per day.

Our first class was the Saddlebred Hunter Country Pleasure class, which did not go that great for Louie.  It seemed to be good in the first half of the class, and we got through the left lead canter without issue (which we had been struggling with over the past few weeks- Louie had been changing leads and quitting on me- naughty boy!).  I think I kindof let my guard down and the second way, Louie kindof took over and started making the decisions for me.  He was charging so fast in the trot, I felt completely out of control.  In the canter, he switched his hind lead on me going around a corner, so I pulled him up and re-started him.  He took one stride of the right lead, then completely changed to the left lead (well, he did a 1-tempi!).  It took me about 1/4 of the ring to get him re-started on the correct lead.  And, it happened right in front of two of the judges.  Naughty boy!  Additionally, he was cutting the corners, and would not get into the gate-side end of the arena at all.  I think all of my trying to push him to the outside may have contributed to the lead change issues.  Well, that was our "throw away" class as we had planned.  We placed 5th out of 6. . .

We had a nice schooling ride the next day, and I worked on controlling him at higher speeds and getting into the corners.  Our second ride, in the Saddle & Bridle Hunter Seat Classic went much much better.  We had two tiny bobbles in that class.  Once he broke from the trot and took a stride of canter (when I tapped him with my whip for cutting the corner- I saw my opportunity to fix that issue and I did!  never had a problem after that, so it was worth it).  Then in the right lead canter, I was trying to slow him down and make him canter a little "nicer" and he broke to the trot for one stride, then hopped right back into the canter.  I don't believe the judges saw that, but we had overall a much nicer ride, and I rode smarter, finding more space for myself in the ring and staying away from the other horses much better than in the first class.  We still ended up 3rd out of 4, but I was happy with his performance.

Our final ride was the Saddlebred Hunter Country Pleasure Stake class.  Louie did a phenomenal job and I couldn't have asked for a better performance out of him in this class.  The only thing he did that wasn't ideal was that he took a few steps back after the reverse.  Our extended trot could be better, but I think it would have been better if I hadn't had to run him off his wheels the whole time to keep up with the others.  It's hard to get a good extension in comparison to a trot that is already almost at the edge of his capabilities.  His hand gallop was great, though the ribbon girl suggested that I sit down in the hand gallop (what?  no. . . ).  Overall, this was a really great ride, I had fun, and could not be more proud of how Louie did in this class.  We still managed to place 4th out of 5. . . I wish the judges would have liked us better, but I think the big difference in the horses who placed was a more flashy trot.  Oh well, we had fun, it was a good experience to show at a big show and I'm glad I can say I did it at least once in my life. 

Here is a video of our Stake class (nevermind the section of the extended trot that gets skipped as my dad turned off the camera- partial video is better than no video!).  Good boy Louie!