Thursday, January 31, 2013

A lesson to remember!

Since Pippi and I started lessons with BO, we have been working hard on the bend, and on getting Pippi to be more responsive to the aids. I have a lesson every two weeks, giving me plenty of time to work on our homework in between. It also give me plenty of time to become convinced that we are not getting anywhere.

This was the case when it was time for our lesson yesterday. I was convinced that BO was going to be disappointed in our progress, and that this would lead to our homework being more of the same. But lo and behold, BO was rather pleased with us, and when she started pointing out all the improvement she saw I was shocked. She is right, we are moving better, I am better at multi-tasking, Pippi is more responsive, carries herself better and she does bend a lot better. WE ROCK!

Now, why didn't I know that? Why did I assume the worst? Why was I beating us up? Do I do that a lot? Do I tend to underestimate mine and Pippis' abilities? Do I really need someone else to tell me I am doing great for me to see it?
And so a lesson was learned, beyond the great things BO taught us in terms of riding. I must keep an ear to my inner thoughts and pump myself up, and Pippi, rather than doubt our abilities. We do have a great work ethic, we try really hard, and by golly we are getting better.

Home work for next lesson in two weeks is to work on balance. I am to stand in my stirrups at a halt, then at a walk, and when I can do that around the arena, I am to work on standing at the TROT!!! No leaning on Pippi allowed, no hanging on the reins, just keep legs on Pippi and stand.
I tried that a bit yesterday and it was not as difficult as I would have thought. We walked about and I was even able to direct Pippi to stay on the wall from my standing position. We walked about half the arena, and I only sat down because BO asked me to halt.

My favorite part of the lesson was when BO told me how much she likes Pippi. She thinks she is a "really great horse," and that there is no reason why Pippi will not make a great Dressage horse. She even thinks that Pippi likes it, and pointed out to me while I was riding when Pippi was intently focused on me and when she was not. A few weeks ago Pippi was not at all focused on me, but now she is with me for the majority of the ride and she seems content. Having a Trainer that pays attention to that sort of thing is just fantastic!!

Monday, January 28, 2013

The oh so elusive bend to the right.

Pippi can bend to the left with no thought what so ever, she just goes forward and her bend is natural and soft. So the plan is to always go counter clockwise!!


Oh how it wish it was that easy. How I wish we could just say, well,........she doesn't bend that way.(Not that there is anything wrong with that.....) Sure we can go that way, we just can't bend while doing it. At this point it is a fight, and the moment I ask for a bend she dives inward, and throws her head. Kind of like a "oh hell NO!" moment. So we keep working on it. Lots of direction changes, lots of serpentines, lots of flexing, and lots of "oh hell NO!!" 

So thinking cap back on. What is the deal? 
Back to elementary school we go. GROUNDWORK. I hopped off after cool down, and decided to walk her around for a bit. On her left side, she walks forward with head slightly towards me, on her right side? Did not even walk forward! Bingo! New rule, Pippi is now only to be lead around on her right side. We walked around for a bit, and she seemed to get it, a human can also lead on the other side? Wow! The more we walked, the more relaxed she became, and I was able to tilt her ever so slightly towards me as we ambled about. 
Today, we will start on the ground with that, and see what happens. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Equestrian Pinball Machine.

As you know if you have been reading this blog, we are in the process of learning to bend. Bent is straight! Pippi has a great bend to the left, and not so much to the right.But we are working on it. Inside leg to outside rein. Got it! Trot Trot Trot. Inside leg to outside rein, bend bend bend. Okay!! No Problem!

I didn't really "get it." Sure, I understand the concept, and I did it, but I did not really get it. And in riding doing it is just not enough, you have to "get it" in order to project the right message to your horse. So I had some pondering to do.

I will take you down the murky road of my thoughts:
All energy is to be created in the hindquarters, that is where the engine is. In the engine is the pistons that shoot that energy forward. The hips and buttocks of the horse fire, and shoot energy forward....... Like a pinball machine!!! And then I got it.

The hips are like the levers, firing a ball of energy forward. I take the ball with my inside leg, and fire it across the shoulders and it hits my outside rein lever. Ping Ping!!

The next time I rode I envisioned this process. We were attempting to the get the bend to Pippis' stiff side, her right. I felt her hip fire by the movement of her leg, and I captured the ball and sent it across her shoulder and it hit the outside rein. This made me move my leg a bit differently, not a lot, but it was not just a push over with my leg, it was an over and slight forward push. And it changed everything. Pippis' entire spine moved and lifted and she was perfectly bent. I could see the corner of her eye clearly, and she stayed that way until the next stride when I reminded her again.
If this was a movie, the music would have hit a crescendo at this point! AAAAAHHHHHH!  I smiled from ear to ear at this point,  and Pippi was petted and told what a good girl she is. Sometimes great moments are a little less dramatic, but to me, it was HUGE!!! And I am so looking forward to making more crazy analogies to "get" more stuff  as we go along. What FUN!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Horse Junkies United" Used my Article!!

I sent the following blogpost to "Horse Junkies United" and they posted it today. You can read it here, or even better follow that link and read it there. It is a great website with lots of fun articles, and a great way to follow events in our sport.

Here is the piece they used:

Last night as I was tossing and turning, and my mind raced from topic to topic, and it occurred to me, I'm pretty sure I told the Doctor during that days appointment that "I had not been lame at all."
Now let me explain. I am suffering (read: irritated beyond reason) from tennis elbow, or severe tendinitis, in my right elbow and have been for a few weeks now. There is a knot on the tendon, and it hurts. Radiating pain into forehand, ahem, fore arm and fingers. So while laying in bed last night, and chuckling at myself, my imagination ran wild:

"Doc, could you please take a look at my Human? She isn't lame, and hasn't been, but seems to be favoring her right fore."

"Okay, when did you first notice this?"

"It was right after I got her back in the saddle. I've been off nursing my own injury, bowed tendon, since early September, and we just started riding again right before Christmas. I gots to tell ya, that Human is hard to train, so I was just checking her balance in the saddle, by doing a quick few sidesteps to the right. You know, just making sure she was awake up there, and she did quite well, but I heard some cursing and choice words. Seems she thinks the hens spooked me, but I tell ya it was just a balance check, and then she complained about her elbow."

"Well, there is a knot right here at the "elbow." Which seems to make her pull back when I touch it. No heat, but I can tell she is also tender all the way up the fore here. Let me show you here on this graph what we are looking at."

See the tendon running on the top outside of the elbow? That's where the injury has occurred."

"How did it happen do you think?"

"Well, more likely it was from over use. I don't see any signs on trauma, no bruising, or lacerations, so..."

"Do you think she may have been kicked? Or is it from just being out of shape? Probably should have started her back slower huh?"

"I think it was more likely caused by non-equine activities. You know how they are away from the stables, you just can't keep 'em safe all the time. I have seen this sort of thing before, Humans just can not be relied upon to use good judgment and they sit in front of those screens causing these types on injuries by incessantly making that clicking sound on those weird little boards."

"Oh crap, I really thought this was going to be our year. Whats the prognosis? Am I going to have to look for another Human for the season, or is it even worse than that? Do I have to put her down?"

"Not as bad as all that, Pippi, but its gonna take some work. Please keep a steady supply of Ibuprofen in her bloodstream, give it to her with her feed, and then cold hose after activity. Don't over do it, and take lots of breaks, encourage her to stretch and flex fingers and maybe have her use her left lead more than her right. In a month or so you should see marked improvement. Call me if you have any questions."

"Allright Doc, I tell you, if its not one thing its another. Makes me really wonder you know? Maybe the amount of time I spend on her....... well, but I love her. She probably won't amount to much, but she's my forever human, so I'll take care of her and hope for the best. Tell me, she is 42 now, how many good years do you think I'll get our of her?" 

"Hard to tell Pip. With good feed and care, you could see a lot of good years, but it all depends on what they do away from the stables. And you can't control that."

"Well, ain't that the truth?"
"Humans, gotta love 'em."

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Trot vs Canter

When I first graduated to THE CANTER! I was super excited and decided what I felt the difference was.
I commented those thoughts on Bob The Equestrians' Blog today, and just wanted to share here as well.

The difference between the Trot and the Canter:

Trot - Human begs Horse "stay, with me."
Canter-  Horse shouts excitedly "COME WITH ME!!!"

That is how it struck me the first time I dared allow Pippi to take me with her........

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First lesson and we have Home Work?

I didn't know there would be take home work to do, but then again that was hardly the only new thing we learned. Pippi and I have a lot of work to do, but we are armed with lots of information and are ready to get to work.

This first lesson with Denise, BO, was everything I would have hoped for. Sure I could have wished that we, Pippi and I, knew more and had more skills.......oh, well, we have things to work on.

In Dressage everything is Forward, "even a halt, is a forward action" according to one friend. And we need to be "straight," I put that in quotations because it actually means we need a bend. A bend in both directions, not just a great bend to the left. According to Denise I need to see the corner of one of Pippis' eyes even when going straight. So Bent is the new straight! Being a Jumper, Pippi was not really trained heavily on this, nor did we really think about it as a goal.

This first lesson was actually an evaluation. Denise wanted to know what we knew, and what we needed to work on now that we are switching to Dressage. We found that as a Hunter Pippi has a lot to learn to be a Dressage horse, but she is willing and able, and so together we will get it done.
We started lunging, and Denise showed me some tricks and ways to be clearer. Pippi was pretty energetic with the cold air, and Denise was able to get her focused better than I could have.
Denise says "less talking," and that will be a challenge for me, but I saw how effective she was and I am ready to shut up.
Then I mounted up and Denise was quite happy with Pippi standing until I asked her to walk. And I was proud of that because that has been a goal these last few months. Denise loved my seat - THANK YOU!!!- and did not make any adjustments to me at all - THANK YOU!! She did switch my stick to a dressage whip, and that will take some getting used to. So I am not suppsed to let go of rein to smack? Hmmm. Okay.....
Other than that, it was all about the bend, and teaching me better ways to communicate; how to ask and when to reinforce. NEVER ask twice!!! Got it!
At the end of the lesson came a very valuable moment, and one that will allow me to get the upper hand. Pippi can be a very difficult and stubborn horse, and tends to get into battles of will. I needed a better way to quietly get Pippi to comply. She is much stronger, and perhaps even smarter, than I, but I know feel better armed. Denise told me to NEVER EVER EVER let Pippi get the last word. If I ask her to stand, and she creeps forward, make her back up. This seemed like such a small thing to me, but Denise really had a good point. And I really get it.

When I left Denise gave me my homework, and it is a signed copy of the book "Practical Dressage Manual" by Bengt Ljungqvist. He gave it to Denise when she attended one of his clinics at Meredith Manor Equestrian School when she was an Instructor there. The book was published in 1976, and I think it an eerie coincidence that Denise gave me a book written by a Scandinavian this many years later. I have read about 1/3 of it, and I highly recommend it.

So now I have two books to read, and another friend is lending me some Dressage videos, so I have lots of studying to do. Learn, practice and achieve. Those are my goals for 2013.