Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The last few weeks in photos ... or Wordless Wednesday?

 I'm swamped like you can't believe for the next couple of weeks, and posting will be difficult. So here is a quick recap from the last few weeks, in photo form!

Ring Stewarding for a local USDF show! Got to watch an acquaintance blow her 4th level debut out of the water, and see a ton of great riding! It was also very, very sloppy. Ew.

Lyra met her döpplegoater...

Operation Wear Out The Animals happened. Often. It was a success.

I ran off to a schooling event at my old barn to support some friends. Much eventing was watched.
Pig and I showed 2nd level at a tiny schooling show. We ... won the warm up. Oops. But damn, his braids look fancy. No?

Shopping for dog food ... ;)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Conquering the Canter

With all my work going towards improving Guinness' connection and collection in the trot, his canter has felt  pretty neglected. The few canters we schooled last month felt disjointed and flat, not the norm for my horse.

So I resolved to spend part of August improving the canter, starting with those damned canter/walk transitions. In the past, the canter/walk transition has been pretty abrupt. Our troubles with this transition fall in one of two categories: 1. Guinness is behind my leg, falls into the walk, and often takes a strong aid to pick up the canter. This ever stronger aid often results in a bucking leap. 2. He is not through, and he blows through my half halt, taking a ton of short/quick steps. His neck will shorten, and the transition will often not happen. Instead, a we will execute a beautiful transition into a choppy, up-and-down canter.

Two months of solid work on our thoroughness and connection has set the stage to solve both of these problems. I now feel like I can reliably get my horse in front of my leg, and keep him from getting too short and stiff in the neck. Canter/walk go time.

I started off working on this by getting a forward and connected walk. The walk is often not as marching as I would like, but I’m learning to let it go. We’ll get there eventually. The important thing is that my horse is in front of my leg without stress.

Then, I test my half halts. I shorten the strides of the walk, while keeping Guinness flexible and forward. We’ll do this shortening for a few steps at a time.

The rest of the transition is up to me. I sit deep in the saddle, and make sure I didn't take my calves off when I asked for a shorter walk. Then, I lift my inside seatbone, slightly sitting to the outside. I put my inside seatbone forward, while keeping my inside leg stretched out long at the girth. (This is extremely hard for me.) If Guinness is truly on my aids, this shift in my seat is often enough to get the canter. If not, I will ask for the jump with the inside leg.

It’s important for me to remember to keep my upper body from falling behind my arms, and the movement. This takes a lot of ab strength, but more importantly, memory skills. I’ll often forget to follow the canter jump with my upper body. As a result, I’ll fall behind and the next couple of canter strides will flatten. Not good.

Must. Keep. Upper. Body. Forward.
I manufacture the walk transition in a similar way. I shorten the canter. To me this means exaggerating seatbone aids for cantering, keeping my calves on, and relaxing my lower back. To walk, I will breath out and change my seatbones to a walk rhythm. I often have to manage the contact during the first few steps of the walk, lest my horse stiffen.

As Guinness is more likely to slam on the breaks when coming to the walk, staying up and forward with my upper body is even more important during this transition.

To my delight, these transitions are coming easier and easier for us. The thoroughness really is showing up in all our work right now. I’m so excited!

I was able to score a brief video of Guinness and I schooling the counter canter depart from Second Level, as well as some other basic canter work. It’s not the most difficult movement in the world, but it’s been so challenging for us. I’m happy to see it coming together like it is.

One thing that really impresses me about this video? It was a bad day. You can tell from all the nervous hot-horse lather on Pig’s neck. He wasn't playing the relaxation game, but still pulled out some quality work for me.

Love this horse.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September Goals | August Analysis

Pig examines the ground after a typical August evening ride.
August Goals
1. Keep rides fairly stress free for Pig.
Success. While some rides were fights, for the most part I kept things simple and focused on getting some kind of quality work out of him and quitting. No rides really drug into the night due to a fight, and he rarely shut down due to stress. That said, we can still be an argumentative pair.

2. Focus on balance and straightness in every ride. Get that before moving on to something else, and reestablish it when it's lost instead of moving on.
Success. I feel like I finally have a grip on how to start with a supple and relaxed horse, and how to go back and get him when I work so hard I leave him behind.

3. Start adding in shoulder-in/travers more often.
Yes! The last two weeks have been full of travers/renvers/shoulder-in. It hasn't all been show quality, but it doesn't really have to be yet. Best of all? It's been fairly low-stress.
These sunflowers only appear for one week out of the summer. They were strangely florescent this year.
4. Work on the medium trot again. He is starting to get it now that he's straight. Push for more.
Yes! Starting to really get this! In pushing for medium trot, I realized I need to work harder on getting a smaller trot first. The same goes for the medium canter development. The ability to collect results in the ability to extend. It's so simple, and obvious. Obviously, I missed it.

5. Carry over the straightness and balance work into the canter. It's weaker now.
DING! I managed this in two rides. This horse is so naturally good at the canter. Just, wow.

6. Canter departs need more sit. Downwards need more push. Work it.
So much. Better. More on this later...

August Personal Goals
1. Heal foot. Ramp running back up.
Foot = Healed. Running = Not ramped up. The heat got to me this month, and my running took a severe hit. In the process of ramping back up now.
Puppies haven't complained about the slack in running. It's been too hot and humid for them, too!
2. Don't eat too much peanut butter while off of running. 
Partial success. I limited my peanut butter jars to approx 1 a week. I think. Maybe? I plead the 5th!

3. YOGA. Minimum of 30 min continuous once a week with 3 other sessions of quick stretches.
FAIL! I did yoga a total of three times last month. #thetruthhurts

4. Graduate school ... so that's a thing.
Yep. Getting there ...
Took the dogs hiking at Turkey Run State Park. Much fun was had by all.
September Goals
1. Straighten the shoulder in to the left, and flex it to the right. The angle is good, but I'm trying too hard in places. Sometimes I just need to relax and ride the movement.
2. Better explain renvers to the right to Pig. Right now it takes 3/4 of the long side to get the bend. I need that faster.
3. Improve turn on haunches at walk. Keep hind end sitting and walking through at least 1/2 of movement.
3. Work the super collected trot -> medium trot transitions, and do not lose my seat!
4. Improve 2nd Level 1 score into the 60% range.
5. Debut 2nd Level 2, completely all movements, score 58% or better.
6. Get Nancy's opinion on our improvements.

September Personal Goals
1. Get running mileage back up to 15 miles a week, minimum, by the end of the month.
2. Yoga twice weekly.
3. This month is super busy, and so is the next. I need to get back into a daily schedule and stay on top of finances to make it through alive.