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CNER Eventing D Rally - October 6, 2019

I almost didn't attend the last Pony Club rally of the year, because I wasn't sure if I wanted to show in the dressage show on Saturday and then the rally the following day.  But seeing as this rally with Central New England Region (through Atlantic Pony Club) is only for riders at the D level, and my plan is to earn my C-1 next year, I knew that this was my one and only chance to compete.  I also figured Ellie was more than capable of doing two Training level tests the day before an event.  And as a D-3 rider, I was required to do BN Test A and jump 2'3", which seemed like a perfect move-up opportunity.
Of course, it was an early morning adventure to get to the Groton Fairgrounds in Massachusetts, a place I had never been to before and is 2.5 hours away.  I left the house at 4:30am (OUCH) and luckily had a super easy drive down to MA.  It was only 29 degrees when I left, and it wasn't much warmer when I arrived at the grounds just before 7am.  There was still fros…

More Lessons, More Learning, & a Helping of WTF Are We Doing?!?

Overall, things are going well in Ellie land.  We had a dressage lesson last week and then both a dressage lesson and jump lesson this week.  

And we've been trail riding too!
Our lesson last week was probably one of our most challenging rides as we did a lot of work on transitions within the trot and promptness in the upward canter transition (and really, promptness for ALL transitions).  Ellie is a weird combination of lazy and forward right now, as she definitely doesn't think she needs to be prompt about ANYTHING yet she also sometimes gets it into her head that Fast is Beautiful.  She seems to have a basic understanding of half halts, but the transitions within the trot were hard for her.  She's such a sensitive mare that I have to be tactful with my seat when asking for a bigger or smaller trot.  She started to understand what I was asking her, and we were able to correctly hold the differentiation in gait for a few strides.  This is definitely something to continue working on.  It wasn't pretty and it felt chaotic to me (probably felt more chaotic than it actually looked haha).  


there is no media of any of these lessons, so here is a random vertebrae in my riding ring #wutintarnation 

Her canter transitions required a few well timed pony club kicks (Beth calls them D-2 kicks haha), which is frustrating but necessary right now.  Beth remarked that there is no anticipation for Ellie when I set her up to canter and it is almost as though she is perpetually surprised when I ask her to lol.  I had taken off my spurs for the show at the fair and had neglected to put them back, so that definitely did not help.  I am the type of rider who asks nicely too many times (and would feel horrified if I kicked her with spurs...heck, I feel horrified I had to kick her on at all, but Beth reminds me we are not hurting her and she definitely needs the wake up call).  Beth said I am allowed to ask nicely/correctly/like an adult exactly ONCE, and then the D-2 kick came out.  It definitely helped and while we did not get any transitions where she stepped into the gait correctly, she was much more prompt and didn't trot shuffle for six strides before cantering.  I only kicked her in two transitions and she was like OH YES CANTERING NOW GOT IT.  We were able to canter within 2-3 strides which is way better than where the lesson started.  Beth reminds me I need to have intention in the canter transition, which is a good way for me to think about it.

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This week's dressage lesson was one of those lightbulb moments where you go OMG NOW I GET IT.  I don't know why I suddenly got all crazy and forgot how to ride properly, but thankfully this is why I take lessons so I can get my head put back on right haha.  I told Beth in the beginning of the lesson that I felt as though our bending was falling apart and I was constantly fighting Ellie to bend and stay in the contact.  When I opened my inside rein, instead of lifting her inside shoulder and bending properly, she was bulging out the outside shoulder despite having a solid outside rein and collapsing her inside shoulder.  Something just wasn't making sense to me and it started to really get worse after our prior lesson.

She had me walk in a 20m.ish circle, drop my inside rein, and turn Ellie into the center with just my outside rein and a tiny bit of inside leg.  I was thinking uhhhhhhhhh whut to myself, but instead I just commented that I did not want to bring my hand up and cross the withers. I said this as I started asking Ellie, and LO AND BEHOLD, Ellie turned in towards the center.  Like with barely enough outside rein to even consider crossing the withers. 

Huh.

Beth giggles at me when this happens but is kind enough not to say "I told you so" haha.  

Inside leg to outside rein, and you turn with the outside rein.  OH RIGHT, I KNOW THAT.  But for some reason, I was still asking Ellie to turn/bend on a circle with the baby aids of inside opening rein, steady outside rein, and LOTS of inside leg.  And she was like WHUT I AM BENDING so here let me fall onto my face and pop my outside shoulder and swing my haunches out because I trying to do what you say, mom!  And because I was overriding her, she was overexaggerating with her body and then it all felt shitty and I was super depressed that we would never go beyond Training level and I suck at life.  (lol yes I am an overthinker, why do you ask??)


a recent rainy day and my smallest child asked me to make him halters for his bulls and a goad stick for the little man hahaha

So we go into the trot and Beth says, "What will happen if you just drop your reins? I want to try something" and I reply, "Uhhhh I don't know, she will put her head up and run off into a faster trot?"  Which she did for basically two strides and then suddenly she is stretching out, searching for the contact, finds it, and settles into it like magic.  Beth reminds me to NOT touch the inside rein and just squeeze/release on the outside rein.  Like not even move the rein (my elbow) back.  I don't mean I threw away my contact, I just wasn't allowed to nitpick and override with my rein aids.  And minimal inside leg, don't keep pushing her haunches OUT so much that I am making her pop her outside shoulder and drop her inside.  This is hard, because I want to micromanage every stride with an opening inside rein, solid outside rein, and tons of inside leg.  And I was totally not GIVING enough with my reins.  It was all take take take take.  I don't know why I wasn't releasing and expecting her to anyways; she released into the contact when I RELEASED.  How did I forget how to friggin ride???

Suddenly we have this lovely connected trot for several 20m. circles.  She is bending, there is no issue with her shoulders, and as long as I stayed out of her face and stopped overriding like a monkey, it was the nicest trot I have ever had with her to date.  I could have cried.  Beth kept telling me, "You have done a wonderful job training this horse and now you have to TRUST yourself and your training."  I have to ride her like she is actually trained and knows something, because she DOES.  I honestly do not know why I wanted to micromanage and override her and use these HUGE aids and not give an inch; bless that little mare's heart, she was TRYING so hard to do what I was asking but I wasn't asking correctly for what I wanted.  So, of course, this is why it fell apart.  

We brought this same concept to the canter, and while it wasn't as beautifully lovely as the trot because it is a harder gait right now, it was amazingly helpful in setting her up to canter.  She wasn't waiting to be micromanaged in the face and instead of using big half halts and releasing to steady her tempo once cantering, I used more SEAT and a more following hand. Ellie is sensitive enough that just using my seat was enough to keep her cantering at an appropriate tempo and to come back to the trot.  

HUH.

I know all these things.  I don't know why I let my basics fly out the window.  Now to get back on track and put the pieces together!


I bought new boots trees for my new boots!  Yay!
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I also had a jumping lesson with Babette again this week.  It was a great lesson in learning to control her outside hind and her overall speed.  Our two previous jump schools have been to do "all the things" in the XC field, once with Daryl in a clinic environment and then two weeks ago with Babette in a "get to know you" lesson.  This week's lesson was more nit picky and we only schooled over a few small crossrails.  At first I felt a little bummed out, like but I wanna jump all the fun XC things! and immediately I realized that while that is fun, that is not what will help us improve our jumping right now.  This was a real lesson lesson.  

I warmed up Ellie before Babette was finished with her previous lesson, so it was nice to already have her working in a decent frame and tempo.  I was able to recreate the lovely trot work from our dressage lesson in the first fifteen minutes and I worked hard to not nitpick with that inside hand.  It felt good!

Babette started having me really work on not allowing her to swing out her outside hind, which totally related to our previous troubles with bending.  As soon as I started making her travel straight and not just lose her hind end, we lost the good connection and suppleness.  Uggg.  But as Babette kept saying, we have to work on this like a puzzle, one piece at a time.  Right now the priority is keeping her outside hind underneath her and having control, while being connected to the bit is second in line.  We got it easily in the walk, as I was able to keep her bent softly inside, connected through the aids, and with her outside hind aligned.  The trot and canter is MUCH harder for her right now, as when I use my outside aids to control the hind, she wants to come above the bit and counter bend her neck.  I could eventually get a stride or two where it all came together, but then she couldn't hold it.  That's OK.  That is our homework.  But it was good to be able to FEEL the correction with her outside hind and get it underneath her properly.  She wants to fling her right hind out more so than the left.  And even when I am not overriding her and using too much inside leg (because I am not letting myself get in that trap again!) she still has a tendency to swing her outside hind out.


not super impressed as we tacked up for our jump lesson

As far as jumping, we worked on controlling her speed to the fences.  She doesn't rush, she just doesn't take any input (half halts) to allow me to rebalance her before the fence.  She chooses the tempo and when I try to slow her/rebalance her, she ignores me.  It is funny because she doesn't do this in a ring, only out in the field.  We only jumped out in the field during the lesson so it became hugely obvious immediately, and I have noticed she does this with me at home in my jump field (the front pasture) but not in my ring (dirt paddock).  Huh.  Something about open spaces I would guess.

So that's where I just sort of end up sitting too quietly and going "oh, OK, here Ellie, you are headed towards the jump so I'll steer and point you at it and you jump".  This needs to change now.  I don't have her in front of my leg and instead of using half halts and then closing my leg over the fence, she ignores me so I don't use my leg aids at the base (because she is already taking me to the fence or so I think...).  It cannot be HER decision, it has to be mine.  As Babette said, Ellie has shown us that over small fences she is fine "on her own" up to a certain height, and then when she feels "abandoned" and wants my support/input, she just stops taking me to the fence.  But I wouldn't abandon her in the first place if she would JUST LISTEN in the first place haha.  So it is a cycle that I need to stop.  When I try to give her input before the fence, she just tunes me out.  Babette said if she is ignoring me and we are a few strides out, instead of just hanging on and winging it like I have done in the past, I am to halt and MAKE HER LISTEN because she can walk over the tiny cross rail.  We did that twice and Ellie was like OH RIGHT YOU ARE UP THERE MOM GOT IT. 

We were able to finally get a few approaches where I felt as though I was in control and could half halt and then close my leg at the base.  The lesson was over way too soon (only 45 min slots) but I feel as though I learned how to fix this issue and that I CAN fix this issue.  Ellie clearly doesn't like this new way of being told she has to jump, but it is absolutely necessary for her right now.  It was one of those moments where she just wants to eat cookies and I'm like NO YOU NEED TO EAT YOUR VEGETABLES, CHILD.


more cookies plz - Ellie, definitely
after our jump lesson
Babette remarked that Ellie has all this confidence, but I replied, "No, it's really fake confidence because if it were real confidence, height wouldn't be an issue."  Babette laughed and agreed it was more like cockiness haha.  "You know, we all know a guy like that and when he can't do something or fails, he is a douchebag!"  I laughed so hard when she said this and added, "Yup, and blames everyone else instead of himself!"  So really, Ellie is being a frat boy d-bag.


She reminded me it is more of a personality issue at this point and that I need to practice this at home over small fences at the trot.  Once I feel as though I have half halts and a horse who is willing to communicate with me, we are to try it at the canter over small fences.  Our next lesson with Babette is mid August, so we have three weeks to see how much progress we can make on our own.

Essentially, I have some work to do.  None of it is insurmountable, none of it cannot be fixed, and all of this is why I am taking the time (and money) for lessons right now.  I want this horse to have solid basics and I cannot do that alone.  Hell, I clearly lose my mind, override her like a monkey, and need to be told to pipe down and ride her properly hahaha.  I also know that if I just put her into training instead of doing this myself, all the issues would resolve much faster, but where is the fun it that.  I want to be able to train her myself and know that even though it took twice the time it would take a professional, it was all ME.  Now it is just a matter of me getting my act together and Ellie taking a bit of my input!  


how Ellie feels about all of it
(oh, and more cookies plz)

Comments

  1. I totally know what you mean. I enjoy the process of bringing them along, even if the horse doesn't get trained nearly as quickly. If we don't enjoy the journey than what are we doing!?

    Sounds like your lessons are going really great! Lots of great nuggets in there for me to digest in my next ride too.

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    1. This entire thing is about the journey, for sure. That is why I have always wanted (and craved) to do the training and work myself. That doesn't mean I don't have my moments of frustration haha where I think I will just put her in full training, but those moments don't last more than 10 seconds!

      Thankfully the lessons are amazing as they are tough! Training a horse is friggin hard. *sigh*

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  2. Ah the joy of lessons. These sound like they are EXACTLY what you need right now. Morgan’s have a lot of go and lots of opinions and you are doing great eith her.

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    1. Thank you! I hope I am doing the right thing, but I do think we are coming along. I am so glad I decided to put the effort into lots of lessons this summer!

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  3. Mares...so many opinions in life! She looks really good though and is doing super well for this point in her training. You will get there.

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    1. OMG all the opinions all the time haha. Thank you for the encouragement!

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  4. That's a lot to practice, but it all sounds very good. Also good that both trainers are in agreement in how to tackle the issues and aren't contradicting one another.

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    1. YES! It is super that they are both so aligned with one another and it really helps! I think Babette being an eventer rather than just a jump instructor is so helpful because everything is a dressage foundation for her.

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  5. sounds like a lot of tough but really really productive lessons. getting through all that green stuff always feels consuming and never ending to me (uh, still), but the horses do eventually figure it out i guess haha

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    1. We progressed along so well at first and I was lulled into thinking, "Oh geez, she will be easy to train!" First mistake hahahahaha. The good thing is I know this isn't insurmountable training issues and if I can FIX ME, it will all be behind us soon and we can move onto the next training challenge haha!

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  6. Ahh the green horse life and making them "eat their vegetables" can be tough for sure! Sounds like you are doing great work with your d-bag frat boy :P

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    1. Hahahahahahaha thankfully she's only a d-bag frat boy about 30% of the time! ;-)

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