Thursday, January 26, 2017

Finally a lesson

On Saturday we finally had our lesson.  I was really torn on whether to have a dressage or a jump lesson, we haven't done any real jumping since fall and we have been working hard towards dressage.  But MC was suggesting taking a jump lesson over a dressage lesson, oy oy oy.  In the end, I put my jump saddle on and asked for a 50/50 lesson.  Some flat work and then some jumping.

We warmed up while the previous lesson finished up.  Mia was very heavy and fast through the warmup so I dropped my stirrups and did our handy dandy haunches exercise to really get her butt moving.  And it worked so well, Mia stopped resisting my hand after the third haunches in/out transition and stopped running and started working.  Every time I picked up my stirrups, Mia wouldn't respond as well so I figured I would just ride sans stirrups.  I mean, didn't start January with Saddless January for no reason!

Stirrupless dressage lesson in a jump saddle? Sure!
The clinician came over and we chatted.  I told her she was sick and had practically 2 months off, we weren't at full fitness but are working hard and currently focusing on laterals to get her to bend and to work on straightness.  That we hadn't been jumping at all and I would like to focus on flatwork and jump after that so she could evaluate my position and saddle and what not.  She was game to that plan so off we went.

Little bit o half pass
She immediately said Mia needs to go in a lower frame, she needs to stretch down into the bridle more as she is bracing against me.  Yep, I would agree with that. We did a lot of shoulder in and confirmed that while Mia's right is weaker than her left, a leg yield to the left is harder because she isn't stretching left shoulder as easily.  We focused most of the ride on laterals and the clinician said she could see that we have worked on this.  Win!  She said Mia went right to work and while some of it was hard, she accepted it when I asked.  She then asked if I was okay cantering without stirrups.  Uh....yeah!  I am an eventer.  I am supposed to be the crazy person (no comments confirming this!), of course I can canter without stirrups.  So we did.  A lot.  We found Mia's weak spot is true straight while cantering, so we have some homework.  The clinician said Mia has been doing laterals like a trooper but when we tried straight, Mia went "ARGH!  HARD MOM!!" Haha!  Trying to keep her balanced in her right lead canter while going truly straight, vs haunches slightly in, is almost impossible right now so more strength and more practice.

Of course we can canter in a lesson w/o stirrups
After the "straight" exercise we went over a couple of jumps.  I kept messing up the distance (go figure) BUT Mia was waiting when I asked instead of chipping or taking off long.  Guys, she was actually waiting LIKE I ASKED.  This is huge!  Celebration time!!  My mare is starting to ask my opinion with jumping!!  It may not be a big thing for a lot of people, but it is huge for us.  When I got her to the right distance, Mia was awesome and the clinician said she jumps beautifully.  Almost hunter like, so that was cool.  She said my position looks good and my saddle looks fantastic for me.  It fits me well, seems to hold me well in position over the fence and my angles work very well in it.  So yay!
Dat tail though....
The bad is that we fell apart when trying to simply canter on a circle, going over a little cross rail.  Mia is having trouble keeping her canter after the fence.  She wants to GO and not stay in her collected canter.  When we made it easier, she wouldn't just trot the crossrail and wanted to launch over it and canter after.  Yes, clinician, I know it is probably a weak spot.  We haven't been jumping to practice!
So comfy, this saddle
So my homework is really developing straightness in Mia.  I need to ride with my hands lower, even lower, no, lower some more.  I went from the crotch hands to now apparently way too high.  I didn't think so, but the lesson pics look good so apparently I was keeping them too high.  I need to work on Mia's canter over a pole and then apparently.crossrail to force her to keep her balance over them, this will make stadium much easier and hopefully XC as well.  Homework is now set, let's see what I can get accomplished!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Corralling the crazy

I got to ride with people over the weekend, I went to the barn during the day and 2 other boarders showed up.  YAY!!! I love riding with others, I really miss it and it so rarely happens.  Almost exclusively on weekends and it seems it is every other weekend.  There are a total of 6 boarders and 2 owners at the barn but I only see the 2 owners occasionally and only 2 of the boarders with any normalcy.  On Saturday, I tacked up and tried warming Mia up but she was lit up instead.  She had way too much energy to focus and was taking any excuse to spook.  Trailer outside being parked?  Spook.  Someone dropping a brush in the aisle?  Spook.  After almost 10 minutes of trying to get any  kind of work out of her, I hopped down and put her on the lunge line.

She was a freak and galloped around for a long time.  But at least I got to see some of her big trot, now imagine that packaged up a little better, boing!  After she cantered around for 10 minutes, she voluntarily walked so I hopped on and she was so much better.  Much more relaxed and willing to listen.  Phew!  Mia was nicely forward but not super rushy and was responsive to my lateral requests.  I had to convince the other boarder that I had power steering and brakes, she could ride down with me, I think she is a nervous rider but she came down and we rode nicely together.  We then showed off some of our lateral movements and even threw in a 5 meter canter circle!

On Sunday I rode in the jump saddle to test out the padding request by the saddle fitter, Mia did not like it at all.  She was very short and choppy in her shoulders and jumped very awkwardly over the little 2'3" jump.  I hopped down and took the pad off and she immediately moved forward much better, much more free in the shoulder.   Apparently adding a few shims in the front of a Mattes pad made the saddle fit unpleasant for her.  The saddle does need lifted up, I am going to try just the pad next time and see how well it works.  

We rode around a bit, getting Mia responsive before we jumped.  We jumped and Mia was only gallopy once.  We jumped a half dozen times before calling it a day.  When I hopped down, I peeked at the standards to see what height we were at.  Opps, it was at 3 foot??  The jump was set on 5 foot standards and it made the jump look so dang small!  3 foot was so easy for her and it looked small, wow!  I guess next time we have to go higher.

This week was a refocus on dressage to get ready for our tentative lesson on Saturday.  Lots of lateral work, which is coming along wonderfully, and consistency.  She is now moving her haunches in/out on command and is doing a SI like a badass.  Last night we even rode through BN A, BN B and N A tests.  The BN A/B tests were fabulous, I think we would place highly if we had our show right now!  She certainly isn't second/third level in dressage but I think we are on our way and in a few months, we will be close.  Our Novice test actually rode quite well as well, the weakest point is keeping her consistent in the bridle through all of the trot work.  I rode that test twice and she was great until different points in her trot, she would get heavy and rushing.  But when I corrected her, she was good for the remainder of the test.  I need to download N B so I can work on that test next as well, it has corners, and I think even the training level tests so I have something harder to work on.

I am really looking forward to our lesson on Saturday, I think we are actually ready for it.  I think we will be tired at the end of it, but I think we are both fit enough for a dressage lesson in the middle of January where it is cold.  Fingers crossed, one last ride tonight in prep for the lesson. Hopefully the ton of ice we got last night/this am is gone enough to make it there tonight.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

So Saddeless January is a bust, catching up

Saddeless January was going to be a thing.  I was going to ride all month without a saddle, get my thighs good and strong, fix my balance, it was going to be great!  And then I was told there will be someone giving lessons on the 22nd and I figured I should work on real, actual dressage work if I want the lesson to be worth a damn.  BUT I did ride 5 times without a saddle, so that is good right?

Bareback riding actually went really well, Mia and I did w/t/c each time and I felt 100% secure.  The last bareback ride was even a fitness ride, with 3 minute trot sets and 2 minute canter sets, and we were planning on upping a full minute for our next ride.  Oh well, I am very happy that my balance came back, I didn't try to fall off anymore and my thighs are stronger already.

Next we rode in the dressage saddle and Mia was, overall, pretty decent.  It was cold and wet, so very, very wet outside, so I had one very wet mare and took a long time to warm up.  Couple that with a short ride due to an unplanned circumstance, we didn't accomplish everything I had hoped for however Mia's canter was pretty good.  If her canter is good, I am happy because that is by far her weakest/hardest gait.  The first canter departure contained a small leap, a quick halt, a scolding and strong half halt into the transition reminded her that leaping was not appreciated and the second was awesome.

One night last week the barn brought in a (single) jump into the arena (!!!  No jump standards have been in the arena since May !!) so I laid out a set of canter poles next to the jump and we worked on consistency.  Over and over the poles we went, Mia had a hard time cantering over them without falling on her forehand and rushing out of them.  Especially when we go to the right, but persistent progress was made.  We were finally able to go over the canter poles 4 times, alternate leads each time, without a huge mistake so I popped her over the jump.

Mia looked at it, almost thought about ducking out (what mare????) and went over.  Hmm, that was odd.  We turned around and went again and Mia just attacked the jump.  Maybe I had surprised her the first time?  I hauled her to a halt, as she was all gallopy and heavy, and went over the canter poles again.  After 2 times, she had softened back up and popped over the fence like an educated, proper lady.  We obviously have some ground work to do before we go over fences regularly, Mia needs to remember to sit and wait and not launch over poles or fences, there is no need to be all gallopy after a fence.

This week has been all about dressage. Getting her softer, responsive and consistent as we have the lesson coming up.  And it is working!  Mia is much more consistent.  Last night she was pretty heavy in the bridle and we ended up doing a lot of lateral work which fixed most of it.  Lots of shoulder in, haunches in, haunches out, all on circles.  At one point she got so mad she just charged forward without paying attention, ran herself into the only jump in the entire arena, decided to deer leap straight up and over it and almost had me come off.  Nice mare, thanks....that was a bad mare.  She got a sharp boot to the ribs and we went straight back to work in the canter and low and behold, she was so much nicer.  Apparently she just needed to throw a tantrum?

This is what we ended with.  To the right, it isn't as great but that is her bad direction.  But you see?  An EDITED video?!  I am getting with the times and being all media about my posts.  In the last piece of news, I finally heard back from the saddle fitter, she is in FL for the season.  My concern is my jump saddle has compacted a little and is sitting really low near her withers when I am mounted.  She wants me to try shims in my Mattes pad and if that doesn't work, she is going to send me shims until she can come out when she is back in PA.  Crossing fingers, it rides soo beautifully, I want it to fit perfectly too.