This is a good post because not only did I finally realize that A: I am 100% a dressage queen, and 2, despite his faults, my horse is the best.
Monday was presidents day, so I had a fabulous day off to spend with the ponies. I think I mentioned it in my last post, but it was a good ride, despite some minor, typical shenanigans on L’s part.
I’d mentioned to JM he’d been a bit stuck, so she suggested we work on just moving out for the week, and that’s what we worked at.
Tuesday was a day of straight lines, and L lived up to it perfectly. We’ve been working on our trot to canter transitions more then the walk to canters, it’s a little less stress and I’ve been ignoring them so time to brush up on them. We also practiced the “Canter till I say stop” exercise. I’ve mentioned it before, L has to canter X many laps with no help from me, and canter until I say he can stop, no breaking on his end and no help on mine. It’s a good exercise to fall back on, and I think I need to do it more. Ideally, I shouldn’t have to be adding leg on every few strides to keep up the motion, and he is fit and he knows his job, this is just him getting away with it. He was peeved track right, and kept breaking. I started originally with 3 laps, but then dropped it back to 2 because the right is his less strong side and honestly, he was getting frustrated with me. To the left, it was easy peasey for him, and we called it there. It was also 50 degrees out and I was not cooling out a hot horse at 7pm that evening either.
Wednesday I channeled the same, and thought to myself, relaxation and forward. No picking, no going too crazy, just enjoy the ride. I got to ride with JM for once, which was super cool because we don’t often get to ride together, especially on H and L. No circles other then canter circles from the trot, no crazy lateral work, just some shoulder in or small leg yield here and there, and called it quits. JM said he looked super relaxed and happy, so I count it a win.
I’ve also been practicing my trot canters down at C and A instead of on a 20m circle at E or B. I’ve always been taught dressage tests are good training outlines, so I’ve been incorporating parts here and there in our workouts.
Thursday we had some snow, and we were unsure what the weather would be for the next few days. My lesson is usually Fridays, but with the snow, who knew if the horses would be in or not, if it would be bad enough to not drive. If the horses were in, that also meant one of the boarder horses would be turned out in the indoor, and that makes our small indoor even smaller. So to be safe, I popped on L and just walked. Nothing major, a little lateral work here and there, but just walking. If he had Friday off, it wouldn’t be the end, and if we did have a lesson, I’d have at least gotten on him.
Friday was the fun day. This is how I A: know I might be a dressage girl for life, and B; know I’m finally getting better.
The snow continued, which meant the horses were in, and that one horse was turned out in the indoor. JM and I moved our lesson to Saturday, so I still had to get on L. There was enough room in the indoor for us to work, and it would be good. Not enough to do a lesson but enough for a ride.
L was good, a bit wary of the horse loose on the other side of the temp fencing, but holding it together. Then, a horse in one of the stalls spooked, spooked everyone in the stalls, and the horse in the temp turn out. L heard the running behind him and went “NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE.” And scooted left. Pulled it together, started down the next long side, he saw an imaginary boogie man, and went nope again, spooking the turn out horse a second time, and making it worse for L. So now, I had a very hot spooky reactive horse. JM was going to pop on him after me, for funsies. She walks over and goes “Did you break my pony already?” Note, I’ve only been on L for maybe 10 minutes max at this point.
Then, my lovely L decides that his mother is spook worthy, and spooks at her. Now, this is no longer “The world is eating me” spooks, its “I’m trying to spook to get out of work” spooks. I put the pedal to the metal, and just started asking for things and boom. I had the most reactive, forward, off my aids, amazing horse ever. He was snorting like a TB heading for the gate, but oh my gosh everything I asked for, boom right there. You want a canter, just drop the outside hip, boom, picked it right up. Oh you wanted a walk canter, fine boom, right there, perfect. Sure there were a few more scoots, but it was fun. The best part of all of it, I was laughing the whole time.
Finally, I got him back to using his brain cell, walked to the flatscreen, dropped the reins to the buckle and looked at JM and went “Okay, now it’s your turn!” And then L was perfect for her, as always.
There was another rider in the ring while L performed his shenanigans, a girl I’ve known my whole life and has watched me ride since I was a kid. I was untacking L and I said to JM, “Wow, 6 months ago I would have been freaking out and crying and wanting off, and today I laughed.” The girl looked at me and went, “Yeah I thought you’d be freaking out after the second big spook, but instead you start giggling like an insane woman.”
Saturday was our lesson, and after telling GJM my Friday adventures and how I was very proud of myself for holding it together, we got to work. Her comment was “Once you know their habits, it’s easy to manage and work through because they rarely deviate, especially at this age”, which I totally agree.
We worked on relaxation and suppleness mostly in our lesson. Really waiting for L to relax into the contact and relax into transitions. Which resulted in a lot of small reset circles. GJM was very happy with how fast I was catching L’s mistakes and fixing them, so fast she couldn’t get the words out before I was making the correction by myself. She brought attention to it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get the movement, it matters that I caught the error, and corrected it in an effective manner.
We played with a tiny bit of lateral work again, but most of it was working to get relaxation and suppleness in the transitions. L was being quite sassy when I’d ask for a transition, nothing major just a tense transition that usual ended up with him going way too fast, or jumping to a canter instead of a trot. Which we didn’t want. Once we solved those, we went back to walk canters.
GJM was super happy with our trot canters again, so we did walk canters and canter walks. It was the getting back to a walk and track right we worked on the most at first, L was popping my hand up by dropping his inside shoulder. He would lean hard on the right shoulder, and to try and compensate, my right hand would come up by itself. We spent a lot of time with my hand practically resting on my knee in that direction. GJM said many times, the quality is not where it’s supposed to be, he shouldn’t be this low asking for a walk canter, and definitely not for the walk canter, but we need to fix the shoulder today so keep the hand low. It took a while, but then we got it.
Track left, he was over bent, and racing into it. I like that tracking left, I can just shift my outside hip and he picks up the canter, but this time he was rushing and thinking every time I shifted my hips, I wanted a canter. We did some shoulder swirlies, a new term coined by me. It wasn’t really shoulder shifting, I wasn’t looking for the weight shift from the inside shoulder to outside shoulder, it was more of going from counter flexion to over flexion to straight, and doing circles if he wasn’t listening or flexing right. It’s more for when he’s blocking me.
L is built, and in one moment, he can block all my aids on one side so subtly and I don’t realize it until I go to use those aids and then I’m blocked. The swirlies are to get him to stop blocking, the shoulder shifting is sort of the same, but more for getting him to supple up. Which I guess both are for suppling, but this one is more to unblock the neck, and shoulder shifties are to unblock and supple the shoulders. Once I had him semi-straight, I could ask for the canter, but he was over flexing still, so we did a lot of swirlies before I got a few good ones. We had to call it before I had a phenomenal walk canter-canter walk like to the right. I had run out of horse at that point and he was too tired to really sit down and collect and do a canter walk. But a very good lesson and I was super happy walking out.
The best part of all of it, I did the whole lesson with two other people in the ring, and was able to steer. Which sounds so dumb, but it’s been a tiny anxiety tick. It’s actually the reason I usually ride first with GJM, and JM rides second, because on Fridays, it’s usually busier at 2:30 vs 1:30. And I’ve had some rough lessons with people with no ring manners in the past.
Rider 1, A, I trust very much, would do 8 lessons with her in the ring all the time. She’s super respectful, keeps her eyes up, and we rarely have issues. Plus it helps L is in love with her mare.
Rider 2, not so much. An older green rider with a horse with a major tude and a current habit of slamming on the brakes randomly and kicking out. Oh and she doesn’t really get the whole left to left thing and rarely calls where she’s going. It’s frustrating, and I usually manage to avoid it, but L and I handled it pretty well and were able to steer and avoid getting stuck or pinned. So more points to be proud of myself.
Sunday, I got to ride my favorite kid on my birthday! It’s actually kinda cool, I’m just 15 months older than L, his birthday is in May and he turns 21 this year, and I turned 22 on Sunday.
We braved the Shakey Tails on Sunday. L has some issues with saddlebreds, (termed shakey tails by JM) after being at a barn in his youth where they had all the contraptions on the horses, and the horses were loud with all their bells and whistles, and he gets a bit nervous around them. So do I, so it’s not always a great mix because it often ends with “Well she’s not driving, and I’m not driving, so who’s driving the bus???!!!” I had to mentally hype myself up and go, “Listen, if you were able to ride Friday and Saturday no problem, this will be a freaking breeze.” But while wearing ear plugs, he was perfect and I was able to breathe and work through it and both people were ridiculously respectful so it was all good.
Nothing against Shakey Tails, Lush is a Shakey Tail and I enjoy riding her when I get the chance, but Me + L +Shakey Tails doesn’t always end well for my anxiety.
We even had some really good walk canters. My favorite boarder, who is affectionately called Auntie Karen, asked me to show off and I was like, really? She was like, yeah show me what you got and I was like, okay sure. And L was like, hell yeah boom one amazing walk canter and hey, let’s do a pretty good canter walk too. I was really happy after that ride.
I also finally got my stickers in! A girl up in New York with her canadian designed these stickers, (@iron.pony.eq on insta, please check her out, her pony Fiona is adorable!!) and I’ve been dying for a good canadian sticker, and fell in love when she posted them. I got two for me, and one for JM. One for sure is going on my car, and JM got hers, but now we’re debating throwing the third on the trailer.
This was a week of conquering little anxieties and I was so pumped just to be able to deal with all the L shenanigans on Friday, everything else became a bonus. And honestly the shenanigans, there have been worse ones, but it was just how I handed my anxiety through it all made me super impressed and excited.