It doesn’t seem to matter how hard you plan for this time of year – the time when Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas things are ALL in the stores at once. (Can’t we just have one holiday at a time, people?!) But everything ALWAYS seems to blow up in your face. At least for me it does. I’m sitting here kind of shocked it’s already November 2. I mean, where did the year go?!
Also, congrats to everyone who participated and completed and won and got top 5 in 2ptOber! You guys are awesome!
Tuesday we had a great ride. I had determined to change my schedule a bit when I ride. I’m a bit set in my structure, and she knows it. Amber is a busy-minded horse, but not in a bad way. She very much wants to please you, so if you’re not careful and give her something to do (AHEM MANDY) then her anticipation levels go out through the roof. She gets tense, fast-legged and behind the movement while simultaneously managing to trot me out of the tack.
For the most part, she’s very good at waiting for me to ask. And I think she’s just such a sensitive horse that my position and my developing defensive riding and then the movement of cues from western to English are all confusing her at this time. I needed to be clearer. I needed to get myself together. I needed to do my part so her part was easier.
So, I stepped into my full seat breeches. I mean, I had bought them for dressage, but after a few rides found that I couldn’t post. Oh, hey! Cue lightbulb lol. Second, I implemented longer stirrups, and canter in our warm up as well as a few other movements. I usually do trot work, pause and walk, and that’s when her nerves heighten. I know we’re going to canter ma!! Because, yes we are lol. Also in her walk, I focused on shoulders up, not speed, as well as little haunches-in here and there. I actually think the haunches-in has really helped her understand how much she’s feeling better. This gave her something to focus on and succeed, and really helped her to relax. Third, I had to be clearer about contact. She’s used to contact telling her where she needs to be, then the contact is released. I have to be clearer to her that contact is okay, and that when my hands are still that’s the right place, not when I release. That one is challenging, but she’s already showing improvement.
And it worked into a very successful ride. (And I don’t want to go back to western now for the show lol). Because I “couldn’t post”, she couldn’t launch me out of the tack as badly. I’d had shorter stirrups because otherwise I flailed when I’d post, but the shorter stirrups hurt my leg position as well as my body position at the canter and walk and even consequently the trot that I couldn’t sit. I could get my leg longer now, keep my thigh and knee in the proper place despite being in a jump saddle. And that helped me use my calf, not my spur as I had been, to ask her to bend around that. And she took to that so much better. With my position less moveable, she could actually feel my seat – not the bumbling mess it had been before. OMG magic lol.
And since I did the canter in the warm up – oh, she just flowed into it so nicely. Her left canter was pure magic. Aaaaand then she got tense and anticipated, and we couldn’t get it again quite like the first time, but I was able to do better. The right was better, but I can tell she still compensates and lets her ribcage fall down while trying to pretend to be “up” by lifting her poll. Not working little girl. But I took what I could get Tuesday, working on cadence and pace and at the end another epiphany! I’m not sure why it resonated with me, but I was slowly figuring out what I needed to sit her canter well. And I just shouted at myself “omg Mandy sit with your abs!” And miracle of miracles it worked. I just bore down with my abs, still keeping tone in my thighs, and it was like my midsection grew, my arms stilled and worked with Amber, and Amber said “oh, this is nice I can lift and canter and be soft to this”. And I quit before that failed lol.
I was on air after that ride! So, I was super determined to do the same things Wednesday. And it was even better. I was a little more hit or miss in my position cantering, but I just have to find that magic sweet spot of ab work and keep working on it until it becomes habit. But all we did Tuesday worked wonders. She was actually too slow in the trot work, and I had to encourage her a little more. She was out of contact more because she was a bit behind, but we had so much less tension that I didn’t make it a big deal. But she was moving better and understanding the outside rein better. I was very amused though because while Tuesday she was super responsive to my calf, my calf had way less meaning Wednesday lol. So I had to use a bit of spur. And then she started to realize it’s a bend around. And I think she’s realizing too that she doesn’t hurt anymore. At least I’m hoping!
We worked more on that right lead, really trying to get her to lift her ribcage up. I think of it a little more as raising her sternum, but she was pretty resistant for a time. Just seemed difficult for her, but once she could do it a bit, I could sit better, and I think by the end she realized she could do it. I’ve also been working on trying to still my seat bones to cue a downshift, but that has not been so successful lol. I should wait on that one, but we are doing better in our down transitions. I’m trying not to use my verbal cue because then she just drops her sternum into that trot and we want to work on keeping it up.
This also must be the week of epiphanies because I also had one in her left canter. She seemed to understand I was not upset at her but at myself after realizing that whenever she starts to waver in a certain area of the arena to the left I get extremely defensive. My hands move funky, my weight is STILL shifting to my right hip bone, and my rib cage collapses to the left and my shoulders hunch and I stare down at her neck. Ick. So we paused, I got my bearings, and while we were cantering chanted to myself “hands forward, don’t be defensive, calf, look up you idiot, sit with your abs for god’s sake” and you know what? It worked. When my position went wonky, she couldn’t do her job. And that included lifting that shoulder for herself. I swear angels sang. I actually felt that for a few moments we were actually dressaging. How about that.
I was so proud of her. She was really listening to me, really trying, and we felt so much more in sync than before. I can’t wait to ride today. I’m also sad that I’ll have to practice western soon. As much as she’s a very good all around horse, I think it’s a little hard on her to have the back and forth. I ask her to be in a dressage frame – not really a hunter frame. Which then when we western a lot of times she’s like “oh hey wait I am not pushing into a bridle anymore and hold on I really need to hold myself and I can’t yet”. And while it’s good to switch every now and then, I’ll be glad when the show season is over and we can really dive into eventing. I just think that while the back and forth is good, between shows we don’t have enough time to really get it confidently. When we start really getting the English or the western, then it’s time to switch back and I think that’s where her confusion is coming from. So one last show (maybe only one western ride before so we can keep our English mojo going) and then it’s forward!
Also, today begins dogsitting for my sister in their new house. Which is great but they don’t have internet yet lol. So I will try to get all my blog posts done next week!