Monday, March 29, 2021

Lesson 28, jumps, and saddles

Since I am not 100% sure which number we are on, we'll say that the last one was 28. I would only be off by 1 if I am wrong anyway. Lesson 26 was an AMAZING lesson. In that lesson, we worked on getting Mia forward, soft, and working. Through the winter, we have done all sorts of new things. Really focusing on the shoulder in at all gaits, developing a true medium trot, 10m circles in the canter, canter/walk transitions, even some baby passage steps! Lesson 26 showed what Mia could be as a big, bad dressage horse and I don't have any media from it! We actually felt like we knew what we were doing and it was amazing.

Mia's topline change from Mar 2020 to Jan 2021. Beefy!

Lesson 27 was okay at best. There were a lot of interruptions, I was trying to get video with the Pivo but it kept following the other rider who was not being respectful of my lesson. There was lots of talking with others and lots of breaks, it was frustrating got me after coming off of such an amazing lesson 26. I was pumped up, wanting amazing, cool things on video and instead it was a hodgepodge of stuff and I didn't feel we were super successful at much. We did, however, talk about the upcoming show on Apr 25 and are now starting to work only on elements of the test to really fix some of the weak areas of it. 

So much snow. All winter long.

Lesson 28 was all about elements of the test that we need to work on. The two biggest problem areas of the test are the 10m half circles of trot at the beginning and the canter/canter lengthenings. I am very happy to say that it turns out I knew how to fix the canter lengthening to canter transition problem, I just didn't realize it! The issue is that Mia throws her haunches in during this transition, way more than she throws her haunches in normally. While this past year has made her canter be straight 80% of the time, this transition will always bring her haunches in to an extreme. The solution? Shoulder in during the transition. It sounds super easy, sometimes it is/sometimes it isn't, but it is working! With our new-over-the-winter ability to do canter in a shoulder in, doing it in the transition is now possible and works to keep Mia's haunches where they belong. Win!

Hay where it belongs, in a net! 

The other weak area? Our 10m half circles of trot. After entering down the centerline, you turn left. At E, there is a 10m half circle, changing direction at X to do a 10m half circle to B. The first circle is always fine, the second circle to the right is always bad. It is off of Mia's bad side and off of my bad leg that Mia ignores, we almost never get a nice, round circle. It is my homework to really work on the right circle, so fingers crossed. I have a bunch of tricks to play with to find what will work best. Luckily, the rest of the test I am pretty confident about. Under A's direction, we have made tremendous improvements in all aspects of our test and there are times that I ACTUALLY feel like we are a serious contender in dressage. A wants, and expects, us to get a score in the 20's (OMG), I'll be happy with low 30's. 20's? I can't even.... That is an App score, not a Mia score!

Sweaty mare is a happy mare

Yesterday I jumped real jumps for the first time since lesson 18 in October. I've gone over cavelletti for a few rides to help strengthen her ligaments, but this was the first jumping I've done and it was done outside. While super duper forward, at times way too much so, Mia was very good. She refused to actually jump the 18" crossrails and would only trot them, so I had the 3 jumps as an 18", 2', and 2'3" verticals. We did lots of bending lines, angles, and jumping with adjustability in our striding with these 3 jumps! At the end, I even went over some of the small to medium XC logs which Mia absolutely loved. She turned her power up to 100% for those jumps, there is zero chance A would have yelled at me to get more power from her! HA! 

That's not what you want to see on your new saddle
Using the lines on the wall as a guide, that left panel is not right

In other news, the first saddle I had on trial was a big fat no. The tree was twisted. The left panel was almost 3/4 of an inch back further and down more than the right panel and they were of very different shapes. I had seen it immediately on the pommel, but it was even more obvious when you looked underneath. Boo! I have an 18" coming tomorrow. It is a 2008 like my current saddle, but supposed to still be in almost demo condition. Fingers crossed this one works! 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

New outlook, new saddle, new plans!

2020 hit everyone hard, and for me, it did a great job of knocking my motivation to basically zero. If I didn't have a lesson, I really didn't feel like working which was a first for me. I am very goal oriented and highly motivated and with nothing to do and constantly getting bad news, what was the point? 2021 started better, but then the extreme cold hit. And the constant snow, where it snowed in some fashion every day for 3 weeks and we ended up with over 26" of snow. That stayed around for over a month. And then the indoor arena lights kept going out until we were down to 5 lights in the huge arena when there are supposed to be 30. 2/3 of the arena was literally in the dark at night, and I can only go out to the barn at night during the week. During the weekends, it was either much too cold, much too windy, or there was snow/rain that kept me from riding outside for almost 2 solid months. We also determined that my new dressage saddle was too small for my butt. The entire month of February was without a lesson and we struggled.

March hit and things have started looking better. The weather started to improve! I rode outside for the first time in a long time. I had a chiropractor/acupuncture therapist work on Mia, which made a huge difference in the swing of her walk. The barn got a light up in each of the corners of the arena that had no lights, so the entire arena was usable again. 

I love the Trilogy I finally got in January, but the seat is really just a touch too small. After a couple of months of trying to make it work, I had a Trilogy rep come out and I sat in a bunch of saddles. We found that I needed an 18.5" (I could go 18" if needed) seat for the Verago and that I also needed a MW tree, and not a W, for Mia. And by moving up to an 18.5, I also needed a short flap ugh! It was SO nice sitting in saddles to find options and not having pressure to buy a new saddle! It is so hard to find reps to come to this area anyway, it was quite refreshing to have this rep come up and let me just find what works while just charging a consultation fee. I have a saddle coming in on a trial, fingers crossed that it works!

Lessons picked back up in March, I think we are on lesson 26 now? Or 27, I lost count :( I now have aggressive plans for this show season and my first show is Apr 25 as a Combined Test (dressage/stadium). This year is "it" for me, I need to know if our work in dressage will pay off. I need to know if I can actually do Training level and win on our dressage score or if I will only get by on our jumping efforts. Our trainer says we are working solidly in 3rd level dressage work and there is no reason we can't beat the pants off of big warmbloods and TBs. My long backed, upside down necked, slightly downhill mare has all of the heart to do it and there is not reason that we can't (as long as I keep my head about me). I even bought an entry to a USEA recognized show at a charity auction! 

I want to document my lessons more, so fingers crossed I get back into the habit. I suddenly have SO much to talk about and very little time. With only 4 weeks until our first show, it is time to really buckle down and get to work! I am feeling much better mentally, Mia is sound and fit, we are going to do this!