Monday, November 30, 2015

Ride Journal: Nov 23-29

Wow What A Week!!

Nov 23:
Partners in crime...
We rode in the arena for this ride. I remembered that I wanted to work harder on suppleness in the traver, so I kept that aim high in my mind. We did a lot of lateral work, shoulder-in and traver. Pig was super good. He was half halting right into my hand. All it would take to collect more was tighten my abs and think "put those hind legs UNDER." Boom. He was there. We rode for only 35 minutes, and he was a dream.

While doing some last minute grooming; blanketing; and apple feeding, my phone rang. I had interviewed that morning, and was being offered a full-time job! Success!!
Such excite!
Nov 25:

A friend and I went for a medium length trot/canter conditioning ride through the surrounding hills and fields. We were gone for approximately an hour and spent 1/3 of the time at the walk, 1/2 of the time at the trot, and 1/6 of the time at the canter.

We practiced cantering very, very collected -- trying to match our warmblood friend's big canter. And we practiced trotting extended and connected for a long time. Pig really got into the extended trot. It was hard to hold him together. He would get a little disengaged and his tempo would break down. It almost felt like he was pacing. A solid half halt put him back into a good tempo, and we would try again. I think it helped him figure out his extensions and half halts a bit better.

Afterwards, both horses were drenched in sweat. We used our fancy new barn to the fullest. Pig received a warm water bath and enjoyed hanging out under the heat lamps for a bit. However, it was 60 degrees, so he ended up getting turned out while still fairly wet.
Don't lie. You're jealous of our warm water and lamps... I also won't lie. I had forgotten this was an option and considered just giving Pig a cold bath with the regular hose, like we would have at our old barn!
Nov 27: 
So much fun...
I started this ride outside with some brisk trots and quiet canter/gallops. It felt like the right way to celebrate the beautiful weather and holiday weekend. Pig must have felt great after his conditioning ride and the quick and fast warm up. When we hit the ring, he was 100% ready to work. We did a lot of changes of direction to get him listening to my half halts and my weight.

When we were seamlessly changing direction, I moved on to 20 m circles at the canter. I wanted him to sit and engage more, while keeping bend. Once we were dancing the line between loose engagement and tense trying, I took him off the circle to do half pass and a single flying change. I repeated the exercise in the other direction. This was a hugely successful exercise. I started on Pig's difficult direction, and it was nice to end on the good direction and with clean and prompt changes.
It was nice to have a photographer/videographer for the day, too!
Nov 28:

This ride is when Pig was starting to feel the week's exertions, I think. He felt a little stiff and a little reluctant in the contact. I was stiff in the hips, too. That didn't help. I kept things light and easy, trying to remember to stay dispassionate in my training.

We did a lot of stretches, shoulder-in to the tough direction, and changes of direction. I asked for simple change canter figure eights, which may have been too much. I tried not to nitpick them too much, and quit when we had a decent one.

Nov 29:

Another iffy ride. Pig was again very stiff, only this time I could not establish a consistent half halt. He felt very tight behind, and kept leaving a hind leg in the trot and canter. I had to nag his arthritic back right a lot to get it to keep up.

All was not lost, however. I did a lot of experimenting in this ride. I tried to really notice where Pig was putting his haunches in each direction. In the walk and trot to the right, he wanted to push his haunches in. When I would then ask him to bend that direction, he would throw a fit. He was blocking himself with his own shape. When I pushed his haunches out, he was freed up to be able to step forward and bend. His frustration would vanish, though he did not want to push his haunches out.

Cantering to the left, I had to take care that his haunches did not curl in. That would cause him to lean and destroyed our ability to half halt. My right leg was too strong in the left lead canter, and I needed more left leg to keep the bend appropriately.
I give you: The View from the Back of the Red Dragon
A lot of these issues were probably due to my imbalance in the saddle-- not weighting my right seatbone enough when going left and not weighting my right leg enough when going right. Obviously it is time for me to get back to yoga bootcamp again...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ride Journal Nov 16-22

So far, this experiment in accountability is going well. I've been thinking a bit more carefully about my rides. And I've been taking a few more photos!

"The Week of Half Halts"

Nov 16: 
This place is seriously beautiful...
I started this ride with a light trail ride. After the rain of last week driving us indoors every day, I figured both Pig and I could use a break in scenery. After hacking out to a nearby field, however; I decided to just do our dressage school in the field.

We worked mostly on half halts. Pig has a bad habit of stiffening to a half halt, rather than taking a bigger step and simply rebalancing. The stiffening puts him behind my leg, and really destroys the usefulness of the half halt. This whole ride I worked on really sitting into a half halt, and not moving my seat when I needed to use my leg. I've gotten a little sloppy in my aids. When we have a good half halt, Pig is very consistent and light in my hand. When I don't, he gets stiff and backs off. I can't give as much as I do in these moments, I need to be firmer with my request to half halt and really drive his hind legs under him.

- When doing turn on haunches to left, let the right shoulder pop a little bit. Controlling it is stifling the forward motion and the bend right now. We can fix the shoulder issue later.
- When half halting, really think "push the hind legs under" with my hips. I have to change the way I'm sitting to get him to give in his back and bend his hip. At the same time, don't stop sitting.
- Flex to break up tension in the neck, but don't be too quick to give. He needs to relax into the bend.

Nov 17:
Morning light is the best light...
Tuesday I wanted to pull the goodness out of Monday's ride and add to it. We started in the field again, just warming up with forwardness and a round back. We did a little stretching and a little bending out there. Then, we moved to the arena.

I kept the focus on half halts during this ride, but I upped the difficulty level by throwing in some of our 3rd Level work. I did some half passes and a little shoulder-in, just to test the throughness of my half halts. Pig tends to rush these movements when he loses his balance, and I wanted to be able to half halt without losing the quality of the movement. Success.

After this we moved to Megan's walk to medium trot exercise, which should be called The Exercise of Ugly. It is so very, very ugly. I was extremely happy I had a forward horse, as that helped me get into a moderately forward trot from the walk. I only did this exercise twice, but it did help me get a lot more push in my mediums and figure out how to ride the forward without losing the connection. I also was happy to realize I still felt the half halt in Pig's back.

Nov 21:
Stand the horse on an uphill to make him look more... uphill?
After three days off, I wasn't sure how Pig would respond. Sometimes he stiffens up with too much time off. While a bit stiffer, he was very willing and lovely! We rode in the ring, and rode pretty much every movement from 3-2, though not intentionally.

After a long walk warm up, in which I focused on a driving half halt and a supple and stepping hind, we moved to trot work. We schooled the half pass, especially to our tough left direction. Pig tends to lose the bend, stiffen and lose the rhythm, or rush horribly in this direction. I focused on keeping a good half halt. When Pig would stiffen or lose bend, I lifted my left hand to keep the flexion and half halted with my seat. During this half halt, I asked him to move straight (with bend). Once he was collected again, I asked him to move over. I tried to be very careful about watching the right shoulder and nagging at the right hind to stay under us. Sometimes he steps wide with the right hind, which makes the half pass feel impossible. With extra attention, we ended the day with a left half pass that was just a nice as the one to the right.

At the canter, we did the same schooling of the half pass to the left (same issues). We also schooled a lot of counter canter. The first time we came off of a half pass, I made the turn at the end of the ring so that we ended in counter canter. The second time, I tried to do the same, but lost my seat and ended up flubbing my cues so that Pig started to change instead. I sat deep, and instead of getting flustered and auto-changing, Pig sat and walked. Good boy! The next two times we came around, I cued properly for the change and got one in each direction. They aren't perfect. The mirror showed he's not really late behind, but was kind of quickly kicking off with both hinds at once, instead of stepping into it more. I'm not sure what to do about that. To the research!

Nov 22:
Dat neck, doh.
For this ride, the focus was half halts, check the suppleness in traver, and no changes. We started with a lot of supple walk work, during which I really had to nag Pig's hind right to stay under us. He seemed to be stepping slightly short in front, too. That worked out by the end of the ride, but I'll be watching it.

The traver was quite stiff to the left. This is the harder direction, but it took more than normal leg and rein to keep the bend. A few 10m circles (which I am realizing I have neglected a bit too much recently!) helped loosen things up. Our next few attempts at traver were much better. I'm going to need to keep at this to be able to maintain a powerful one. It's a bit weak right now.

From traver work, I moved on to work shoulder-in to renver, without losing the connection or stiffening behind. This went super well, and I was very impressed with it. After every ride this week I had been practicing a stretchy trot, sitting. During this, I worked on changing bend and direction off my seat. I think that work is bleeding over into our collected work, as this transition was 90% off my seat and very relaxed.

At the canter, I worked counter canter hard. I asked for a lot of half halts in the counter canter. This caused a few breaks, but no offered changes! The breaks were 100% okay, too. We are starting to tilt the balance point back further at the counter canter, which often feels like living on the line between canter and break. I'm okay with that, because it's making things better. My half halts in the counter canter have often been a little haphazard, so feeling like I can half halt without a change or a break due to stiffness is great!

Next week? Keep up the suppleness work at traver, watch the front legs for issues, do more 10m circles, and do a conditioning hack.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Saddle Work

I bought my saddle (a Cliff Barnsby (AVG) Anky van Grunsven) on Facebook a couple of years ago. Though it was initially very wide on Guinness, I didn't have the ability to do much about it. So, I padded it up and rode in it. Amazingly, Guinness started putting on muscle and weight around his withers almost immediately. Six months after I purchased the saddle, it was no longer a horrible fit for him.

Prescient saddle buying? Is that a thing? 
The saddle the first day I had it. So wide it ate saddle pads...
It's been a long time since I purchased that saddle, and I have been dying to have it looked at. I have felt like the fit is still off slightly, plus it needed new billets. Thankfully, my fellow boarding friend had Annette from Hastilow Competition Saddles out to look at her own saddle. I grabbed Annette and asked if she would mind looking at mine, too.

Annette was awesome. I didn't think the fit on my saddle was that terrible, and I told her upfront "purchasing another saddle is out of the question." She completely understood and told me she thought what we would have work fine with a little help.
The saddle at the end of August. Fit looking okay, but could be better.
After taking tracings (which I've never had done before!), she looked at the saddle. She determined it needed a little more flocking in front (which I agreed with heartily!), and was slightly horrified by condition of split billets. She also suggested we change my billets from standard configuration to a point billet set up. Again, I couldn't have agreed more. She packed up my saddle and promised to have it back in three days.
Saddle fit from the front, prior to refitting. Just a little too dipped down in front. 
As someone who once waited over a week for the Amish guy in the next town over to put three stitches in my bridle, I was floored by her timeliness. Amazingly, she even had the saddle back a day early.

I can't rave about her work enough. The saddle looks lovely. The point billets have made a huge difference in how it sits. No longer does it try to shift forward or cause the girth to pull awkwardly. The new billets are also sturdy and lovely. The reflocking is noticeable when I sit in the saddle. It's easier to sit up and keep my seat in the right place.
Looking great today!
I think I'll keep this saddle around a bit longer. Though, I'm still lusting after a fancy Custom with a super deep seat...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Ride Accountability/Ride Journal

There's a lotta money in this photo...
I've been struggling to keep my horse's training/conditioning plan in mind recently. With the time off for his broken splint, I'm kind of floundering. Part of the issue is not keeping a good enough record and reflection journal of my rides.

So that's where you guys come in.

For the next couple of weeks, I'm going to try to do a weekly ride summary on the blog. If it seems to work for me, I'll keep it up. In the meantime, let's call this a trial period.

Ride Journal | Nov. 9-15
"The Week of the Eye Injuries"

Nov 9
The barn is closed in the mornings, so I ended up riding in the late evening. The barn indoor was much more crowded than I am used to. There was one lesson, one training ride, and up to 7 other horses in there at one time. Everything from a training level horse toting around his rider to a rider working on passage was happening around us. Moments like this make me incredibly thankful my little red horse stops and turns on a dime.

Pig started off very stiff and not terribly forward. It was raining and windy, so I wonder if he was a little bit cold. Still, with a little bit of asking, he started to loosen up and give a bit more. We cantered for all of 5-10 minutes, but didn't ask for any real collection. Being late, I didn't push the stiffness issue. We finished up when he loosened up enough to give me a decent shoulder-in in both directions.

Nov. 10
Minor eye laceration. Nbd.
The minor eye injury notwithstanding, Pig was good for this ride. He was much looser than the night before, even though it was still raining and chilly. We cantered a solid 10 minutes during this ride, and he was happy to do canter/walk transitions. Lateral work was good, and connection was fairly stable. We rode for 30 minutes.

Nov. 12
This ride was out of this world. When we left the barn, it was pouring down rain. We explored a big powerful trot on a loose rein all the way from the turnout field to the indoor, arriving completely drenched. Still, no amount of water could dampen Pig's work ethic. He was happily forward into the bridle from the moment I picked up the reins, and very supple. 
At least it wasn't pouring on the way back!
The highlight of this ride was the canter. I stuck to a 20 meter circle, for the most part. After warming up the canter in a low frame, I asked Pig to come up with his frame, really collect the canter, and give me more air time on every third stride. To the left he gave me this amazingly uphill and lofty canter stride every time I asked. To the right he wanted to rush instead of sitting and jumping. By really sitting deep and being insistent with my half halts, I managed to convince him to put in a better effort to the right. We did a little canter half pass work, which led to me accidentally cuing for a change (and getting it, late behind). I decided to try once more and actually think about my aids, and we ended up with one balanced and clean change. The best part? He landed from the second change and just cantered off calmly. Feels like progress!

Another, more serious, eye laceration... 
After watching a clinic all day, I had this idea that my horse would come out and be as foot perfect as he was on Thursday. That was clearly ridiculous. Once I got down to business, it was clear that my horse was incredibly stiff, especially to the left. On top of that, I had absolutely no real connection and no half halt. Awesome

Though I'm not proud of it, both of us pushed each other's buttons for this whole ride. We fought like an old married couple. I had the thought (more than a few times) "this ride is going nowhere; I should just get off." But I never actually did.

Eventually, Pig and I did find some harmony. I started using both of my legs, instead of just one and at a time. I also finally sat up and started carrying my own hands. He never loosened up entirely (his back felt like a piece of twisted steel), but he relaxed enough to change his bend without completely dropping his brain on the floor. We were even able to school a touch of left half pass (at the trot), and work on keeping true bend.

Though this ride was terrible, it's good for me to remember we were able to work through it by the end. (Patience and self-aware evaluation always win over frustration. If only I could remember that more quickly.) There was a time where this ride was an almost daily occurrence, and I would have to just quit. Now we rarely have this ride, and I do have the tools to solve the issues.

Poor Emma  was visiting to audit the clinic, and had to sit through this ride. I'll let her describe how terrible it was from a spectator point of view.

Nov. 15
Despite Pig's newest eye laceration causing his eye to swell like crazy...
Now that looks seriously painful...
This ride was actually pretty good. Guinness started off stiff, and reluctant in the contact. A little bit of detached and patient work at the walk loosened him up and had him moving into the bridle. Remembering Saturday further, I made sure to install a working half halt before we left the walk.

At the trot/canter Pig was reluctant to stretch, but fairly easily convinced to give it a try. He eventually started swinging his back more, and was very willing in the lateral work. We did a little counter canter and a few up/down transitions. On a 20m circle, we also worked on doing a super collected trot for a couple of strides every 10 or so trot strides. That went extremely well. We didn't school that for very long.

I ended up handing Pig over to a friend to ride while I rode her sales horse. It was tons of fun to see him go around quietly with her. She even did a fair amount of trot half pass, something she just learned on her own horse! Schoolmaster moments make me proud!

More days like this and less of cold nasty rain, please! I'm getting sick of conditioning my saddle on the daily.
Pig is just coming back into full work. He's able to give me really good work for for only 30 minutes before he tires. We're back to cantering quite a bit, and schooling pretty much everything in 3rd. I'm limiting the work with changes until everything else is very solid. I need to focus more on relaxation in the warm up, but next week can do a bit more work on super collection at the canter and trot. I will need to keep an eye towards straightness and maintaining the connection in those moments. I also need to only school the super collection on every-other ride. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Introducing the 2015 Body Clip

I know you were all eagerly anticipating this, right?
Sorry for the lack of creativity and fun this year...
Okay, maybe not.

With Pig back in "full" work and the weather in Maryland much more temperate than what we've been used to in Indiana, I felt a full body clip was warranted right off. Poor pony has been sweating just standing in his field, and probably feels much better in his newer, svelter, coat.
"Wait. Why am I back in this barn? 'Just to dry' you say? Don't lie to me!"
This year I approached things much like last. I used dormosedan to take the edge of Pig's nerves, gave him a bath, and sprayed him down liberally with show sheen. The only difference was in the blades I used. This year I bought a faux body clipping blade, the wide Oster 10.

Unfortunately I realized the wide blade doesn't cut quiiiiiite the same as a regular Oster 10, as noted by the awful clip lines. I also barely made it through Pig's whole coat with one blade. I need to find a place that sharpens blades ASAP.
"Guys. I am so drunk right now."
Even drugged it was a pain to get near Pig's ears. This horse is weird. I can do his bridle path with zero issue on any day of the week, but clip on his neck in the same area? All out war. He also gave me a hilarious impersonation of a drunk old man kicking. It was so slow motion, I had to giggle. He held his leg up in the air for a minute as if to say "Hey! Come over here so I can hit you with my foot!"

Sorry horse. Nope.

A quiet night at the barn...
Overall I'm pleased with his clip. The warmer days of the last couple of weeks have made my timing seem right on. Hopefully he doesn't get too cold over his back as it gets chillier. That always makes him very tense.

Of course, my first ride after clipping him was sans saddle, as I had sent my saddle off to be flocked and repaired. Thankfully my creature was just as calm and good as ever.
"Lady, I am perfection incarnate."
Anyone have issues with post-clip shenanigans?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Clinic Report: Jeremy Steinberg (The long and detailed version)

One of the benefits of boarding at a huge dressage barn, is the constant influx of trainers and clinicians to audit. You guys know I am a huge fan of auditing, especially since my budget rarely allows for me to spring for a riding slot!
Another benefit of boarding here? This gorgeous view...
Jeremy Steinberg, the one-time USEF National Dressage Youth Coach, stopped by the farm for a few days, and his clinic filled up with riders from First to FEI level. While I didn't get to sit and watch all weekend, I was able to sit in for a few lessons, and grab some great insight into Steinberg's teaching style and philosophy. I certainly wouldn't mind riding with him some day!
As all my photos from the day are terrible, I shall illustrate some concepts with photos of Pig and me. You're welcome.

Overall Observations
Throughout the clinic, Steinberg lectured about his methods. He is a strong believer that the "looseness of the lower back and hind leg activity sets the shape of the horse." This meant he was insistent that the riders kept their horses moving actively behind.

He also prefers riding horses as far "up" as they can for their training level. He made sure to explain that not every horse can be ridden "up", and that warming up lower can be a great thing for accessing the backs on most horses.

Steinberg stressed, as you go up the levels, a horse must lift its frame and really lift and extend its shoulder, requiring a higher frame. When the horse is ridden with its neck too low, the angle of the shoulder is pushed back and down. Describing the horse's energy as jabbing down into the ground, Steinberg asked "why would you want to ride with the parking brake down?"
See how the shoulder can only rotate up so far here? As you ask the horse to engage more, you have to bring him up to give his front end more room.
He suggested riding most horses up for a portion of each ride, just to get them used to the idea. This made me think of how a runner might add a sprint to the end of a long exhausting run, to train the body how to move quickly even when tired. Muscles can't learn to work differently unless they are used that way. It makes sense that if you ride a horse low all the time, you cannot ride them more up on a whim. It must be practiced and worked on.

While Steinberg explained the nuances of this idea with each rider and horse combo, he did say that the lower back is the key to good dressage. He said he tries to ride each horse in the frame their temperament, conformation, and relaxation requires.

Lesson Specifics
The first rider I saw was on a short-backed younger warmblood gelding. This horse has training issues that are similar to Guinness, namely reluctance to take weight behind and a tight back. I took a lot away from this lesson.

During the warmup, Steinberg suggested this type of horse (short back/reasonably long neck) could benefit from being ridden lower to start. He suggested the rider keep the horse low, until the back was relaxed and really swinging. He said when he rides long and low he likes to be able to really drive the horse forward, not feel like he has to constantly say "whoa, slow down." That means keeping the horse engaged behind and listening to your seat. "If you ride them down, you have to get that hind leg faster," he reminded.

While the horse looked good in the beginning, Steinberg pointed out that the short back of the horse was misleading. While the horse looked like he was accepting a lot of weight behind, he actually wasn't.
The king of looking like he is stepping under, but actually is being tense and blocked.
"The canter to trot transition is very telling as to the relaxation and use of the back," said Steinberg. "Not enough people school the canter/trot after 2nd level, which is silly." His point was well taken, as the horse's initial response to the downward transition was to tighten his back and shorten his step behind.

Steinberg encouraged the rider to drive the horse into the downward transition. The rider was not allowed to take her legs off, as the moment she did the horse stopped stepping under. Instead, she had to rely on her seat to get the transition. If the horse ran through her aids (this happened a lot, especially at first), she was to put him into a severe lateral movement to get him to trot.

As she was working on a 20 meter circle, the later movement looked like she was trying to do a leg yield on the circle. The horses's head was to the center of the circle, and the haunches out. While the lateral movement disengaged the back legs and disrupted the canter rhythm (leading to a trot transition), the horse stayed engaged with his hind legs and up through his back.

Almost immediately after warming up, Steinberg had the rider play with bringing the horse's frame up. He asked the rider to lift the poll and get the horse quicker behind, but not allow the horse to get faster. The horse showed some tension when asked to come higher, and Steinberg said this is normal, and you have to teach the horse to work through the tension and blockages in the higher frame.

"There's a huge hiding place when the horse is super round [but isn't actually working]. They feel good, but brace when you bring them up. You gotta deal with that brace. They have to become comfortable up there." He suggested riders teeter the balance between the neck up and down to find where the point was between the horse being comfortable and being tense. He suggested riders then work that point to encourage the horse to stay loose while being ridden more up.

To get through the tension, Steinberg insisted horses must be ridden forward. However, he reminded the audience that this requires a horse to be comfortable taking contact and going forward into the hand. This means you can't start riding the horse up until they understand contact and are properly warmed up and moving into it. (This is especially applicable for Pig, who will back out of contact if not properly warmed up and put into it.) 

"Fluff the frame," Steinberg encouraged. When the horse lifted, Steinberg wanted him to reach up and forward with his front legs. The rider was encouraged not to lean forward or back during this work, but instead to keep her weight solidly in the saddle to encourage the horse tuck his hind end. To keep her from getting tipped backwards when using her seat strongly, Steinberg encouraged her to bend her knee and bring her lower leg back. This gave her a good counter balance.

By the end of the ride, the horse had lovely moments of tucking under and really lifting his front end. While the picture wasn't perfect (tension was evident in these moments), it was obvious-- through more work and conditioning-- the horse would easily become more comfortable in this new way of moving. Steinberg was clearly pleased with the improvements.
So cool, right? Dressage = ugly before it's pretty
He suggested the rider remember this feeling, and continue to ride the horse with the expectation of this energy and frame. "Ride the future," he said. "You want to ride the horse according to how you want them to feel, not how they used to feel, or how they feel today. Ride their potential, and they will rise to it."

One of the other riders was a junior, riding an older schoolmaster. This horse clearly knew his job, but was going to try every evasion in the book to get out of working. Once Steinberg and the rider called him on his evasions, he sharpened up and really put in the effort! As a plus, the clinician seemed to be in his element, lecturing to the junior about dressage maxims. This made for excellent listening.

One evasion this horse exhibited was a tendency to get very heavy. Steinberg reminded the rider that when we want to say "get off my hand" what we really need to do is "attack the hind legs." He said "the more I get you [the horse] in the rein, the lighter I can get you."

Getting more detailed he explained, a horse will be heavier in one rein than the other for one of two reasons, both having to do with being engaged behind. First the horse could be not stepping up directly with the hind relating to the heavy rein (the opposite hind). For example: horse is heavy on the right, due to note being engaged enough on the left hind. Nag the hind left to get him off your right rein. Or the horse could be not taking the other rein enough, and not stepping up enough with the hind related to that leg. In this example, the horse is heavy on the right, but isn't stepping into the left rein. So you would actually nag the right hind to get the horse more into the left rein. That takes some finesse to feel, and probably a ground person at first.

With a heavy or a young horse, Steinberg suggested teaching it how and when to be lighter. His method was to get the horse where he needs to be (forward and in balance), and release when he gets there. With enough repetition, Steinberg said most horses will figure out how light they can actually be and will "believe you". However, he warned against confusing lightness with being behind or off the bit.

When it came to instructing the rider, Steinberg worked on getting her more aware of her seat's influence on her horse. "Connect the horse to the seat," he said. He wanted the horse to really read the rider's seat, and pay attention. "I want my horses to go when my seat is accelerating. Bend when my seat asks you to."

He continued tweaking the rider's position further, demanding she stay loose. "You have to stay loose, because you the horse to be loose, too." Squeezing the horse forward is ineffective, he explained. "Transitions have to come from a loose and relaxed back." He used the whip as a bit of an encouragement for forward, but was an advocate for not causing the horse to tense up from the aid.

On Stretching the Horse
Steinberg ended every ride by having the riders stretch the horses at the trot. Though he disagreed with the stretchy trot's placement in the Training/First tests, he said it was a very valuable tool. He thinks the tests ask for the stretch too early in the horse's training, before they are consistently forward and on the bit. He thinks this causes horses to get dumped on their forehands in an attempt to get a bigger (though false) stretch.
Ex #1: Horse dumping on forehand...
Instead, Steinberg suggests asking the horse to stretch once they are moving forward off the leg and have relaxed and learned enough to follow the riders seat. Most of the time, he asked the riders to sit this stretchy trot, saying "sit into the stretch trot to teach the horse it can stretch and relax into your sitting." He suggested this would improve the way your horse moved under your sitting in the other work.

Other Misc Thoughts:

  • When it comes to loosening the horse, Steinberg said the horse should feel better after every break. "Every day the horse should get more relaxed with the work." He suggested when the relaxation level starts to level off, it is time to add something new to the training, either a new movement or a higher difficulty level. If the horse comes back to work more tense, something has gone wrong in your work, and it is time to reevaluate.
  • The quiet sort of cruising around and fiddling done in these lessons is easy on the horse. There's very little detriment to the bones and ligaments; it's just cardiovascular fitness. You can go for a long time without a break. When you are schooling super collection like pirouettes or piaffe, you have to take a lot more breaks.
  • Steinberg likes to let a new idea "sit in the horse for awhile." He'll introduce something new (shoulder-in, renver, etc.) and give the horse six months to a year to just think on it before he asks for anything more complicated. That means the horse will learn the shoulder-in and not be asked for more engagement, more forward, or another movement until the movement is completely absorbed by the horse. Don't make things harder and more stressful for him.
  • If a movement is too hard for a horse, don't push it or try to improve it. Just keep riding it so he learns to relax in the movement.
  • When it comes to hard work, the horse doesn't learn by immersion. He learns through getting used to it little by little. He doesn't need drilling, just to stay relaxed. 
  • Horses have 2 ways of spooking: hearing and vision. Hearing is the #1 relied on sense for the horse. They can hear much better than they can see. Watch the ears to see what your horse is concentrating on. Sometimes you'll notice they are pricked a bit too far forward, and he is not paying enough attention to you. Try talking a little to get that attention back on you, or try a little wither scratch. Interact often to keep the focus from drifting.
  • If you know your horse is going to spook at something, put a bend in him. Think of it as the opposite of getting tight. Use the bend to get leverage while keeping both he and you loose.
  • When working in hand, don't let the horse overreact to the whip. Take your time and acclimate him to it. In addition, never let him step backwards or in the same spot when you ask him to pick up his legs with the whip. Everything is always forward.
  • Steinberg believes riders overall shut down the flight instinct too much in their horses. The horses are held back too much, which reflects in their performance. The horse starts to withhold their own athleticism, and doubt their own movement under saddle. Pay attention to yourself and your horse. Demand your horse give you the most amount of forward and looseness he's capable of giving.
I even got to see a little of how you put on a piaffe!
Needless to say, even though I didn't ride in this clinic I still got a ton out of it! I hope I get another chance to either audit or ride with him. If you get a chance, he is definitely worth the money to ride with, but stick around and audit all day, too. Just don't forget to take a big notebook!

Any thought in particular stand out to you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Splint Update

It's been awhile since I've done an post featuring Pig's broken splint, and subsequent huge splint bump.

As a reminder, this was it the day he went to prison on stall rest.
Holy huge bump, Batman!
And this is the unsightly lump today...
Improvement, ahoy!
Overall, I'm incredibly happy with Pig's pace of healing. He's sound as can be, and the lump is going down far faster than I anticipated. He did lose some hair at the injection site of the bump, which is weird. That may be due some to a little rubbing, though.
Sorry for this super dark photo.
The best part? The bump hasn't been responding negatively to the increased workload for Pig, or to his turnout shenanigans. It's staying off the suspensory, and overall seems to just be a blemish for now. I'm still playing it very cautiously, however. Guinness will remain in boots for turnout (a friend's Dalmars) and for riding (DSBs). I don't want to take a chance that he'll whack the site while it's probably still laying down new bone.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

First Ride Back

With Guinness successfully reintroduced to field board, it was time to start putting him back to work...
"Are you my mare?"
Of course being the safety-conscious owner of a notoriously dangerous OTTB (ha!), I forgot to grab my saddle from home and ended up doing our first 20 minute "under saddle" walk sans the actual saddle. Oops.
Bareback rides, for when staying on your rehab schedule is more important than your personal safety or avoiding butt chafing.
Other than being a little extra alert, Pig was absolutely foot perfect. He seemed quite cheerful to be getting back to exploring the world, though much less excited when I asked him to put his walk together for all of 5 minutes.

Sorry, buddy. You are still a dressage horse. The nightmare continues.
Double bridle, front boots, and bareback. Because with withers like that, you know staying on isn't as big of an issue as having brakes. Let's not talk about how my #daintyhorse would actually fit in small DSBs.
Unfortunately, Pig has lost a lot of muscle tone. His rehab is going to be pretty long and slow. It will be a long time before we are back to our old level of fitness and dressage work. I don't see any work on flying changes until maybe Christmas, which is not ideal for next show season. Hopefully he's been thinking about the great work we had done before the rest break.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Freedom x2: Your Monday Photo Escape

A happier horse never was...
After a few days burning off energy in individual turnout, I finally felt it was time to introduce Guinness back into his regular field board pasture.
Including these two monsters...
I didn't want to stress his leg too much at first, so I arranged to turn him out all day with the boys and to be brought in at night. Figuring the temptation to play with his old buddies would be very strong, I planned to have Pig booted in front to protect the splint.
I also led him out with a chain. Because ... sick of his bad behavior.
Good thing I did. The play was epic, and exuberant. Enjoy...
Trotting out to see the boys...
"Well, boys. What have you done with the place for the last month?"
Such stallion. Much squealing. So wow.

May the games begin!

"See! I am taller than you!!"
"Nevermind! It seems you are also very large!"
So fun!
Now let's be fancy for a bit!
And play "bitey face"!
Another round of "who's taller", which it seems Pig is winning, through sheer athleticism.

Such fun!
And now I am bored of you...
Both days, the three boys played hard for 10-15 minutes before settling back grazing and snuffling each other. Pig's leg showed no changes, so I had him returned to 24-7 turnout on the third day. Though, he will still booted during the day for now. 

The two bay geldings are an extremely tight pair, which works fine for Pig. He likes to be off doing his own thing, while those two enjoy their brotherly love-fest. The mare has been removed from the field for the moment, and the whole pasture seems to be okay with this development.
Peaceful and free. The way they like to be.