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She's Not a Baby Anymore!

Early spring saw some immediate changes in how Ellie carried herself and our dressage work started to truly improve.  There had been times last year where flat work felt like a fight and I wondered to myself if she was ever going to just relax and listen to me haha.

Thankfully, as the title suggests, Ellie has suddenly grown up in front of my eyes.  We have had some really stellar lessons lately, where I feel like I am suddenly able to make things click.  We also had an incredibly frustrating dressage lesson a few weeks ago where Ellie was in rip-roaring peeing heat (not normal for her) and we worked through 45 minutes of her refusing to bend right.  So, ya know, as much as she is improving, she is still an opinionated redheaded mare!  ;-)

But, I have to give her credit because she is really working her little butt off for me!  Sadly, I had not been able to schedule in a jump lesson before our first three-phase, which led to me riding her ridiculously backward at a slow trot the entire …

More Lesson Recap - This time with VIDEO!

Ellie and I had a great lesson this past Saturday and while I know this is incredibly boring blog content, writing this stuff down for ME is really the reason I started this blog in the first place back in 2008.  So feel free to skip haha.  ;-)

We started by doing a lot of walk warmup, which really seems to help her right now.  She starts every ride, at a lesson or at home, by hurrying along in this really crap walk (think running down a hill with a wheelbarrow full of rocks haha) and looking around halfheartedly for things to potentially spook at.  It is annoying but it is just where she is right now in her training and in her baby mind, so I just focus on regulating her walk and making her do schooling figures all over the place.  It helps settle her down to "get to work" because she is just not going to start out on a long rein and mosey around for a few minutes just yet.  Thankfully, being thoughtful and methodical with her walk warmup means that within five minutes, she is asking to stretch into the contact, focusing on our ride, and taking my input haha.  Beth and I were talking in the beginning of the lesson, so while I walked longer than perhaps I normally would in a lesson, she commented at how much better Ellie was after a longer walk time.  And she encouraged me to just embrace it for now (which I totally do at home and will at shows, too).  I even found the nerve to ask her to video our canter, so it has been really helpful for me to see what the canter looks like right now.
Here, have a really crappy screen shot!
Once we picked up the trot, we worked a lot on keeping control of her shoulders.  I had absolutely ZERO control of this mare's shoulders when I first got her last fall, because obviously she was super green and had no idea what I even meant haha.  We were lucky to go forward and stop in the early days!  Now she is MUCH improved and understands to a point, but she's still learning.  I need better control of her shoulders to keep her straight (especially in the canter - more on that later).  I already do a lot of spiraling/leg yielding on a circle at the trot, which definitely helps her and will always be a part of our routine.  It is a great suppling exercise and helps me engage her hind leg.  But I liked how Beth also had me try moving her haunches off the circle while keeping her shoulders on the same track.  There is a difference between spiraling out by using a leg yield versus keeping her shoulders on the 20 m. circle track and pushing her haunches out slightly.  It helped me control her shoulders and helped Ellie understand subtle cues.  She is a thinking mare, and once she understands what I am asking, she tends to offer that same thing.  It took time for her to understand that leg can mean forward AND sideways.  Now the focus is on teaching her that my leg and rein can also keep control of her shoulders. This is when I really start loving the intricacies and subtlety of dressage, unlike when I was younger and just wanted to jump all the things haha.  Don't get me wrong, I still want to jump all the things, but I appreciate dressage and dressage theory way more now.  It is rewarding to ask and have the horse respond; it is even MORE rewarding when you are the one who installed those buttons in the first place.  

Another crappy screen shot!
We moved to the canter and it was more of the same: control the shoulders.  Her canter transitions were a bit more prompt, thanks to a little nudge of spur (which I had not been using all winter/spring) and because she is definitely starting to understand the cue.  To the left is definitely her harder lead, and she is still wanting to lean like a motorcycle like last fall.  This is where keeping control of her shoulders become important.  Even though at times she was slightly bent to the outside, it became secondary to the idea that using that outside rein to keep her straight in her body.  She wants to lean to the inside and zoom around; as you can hear in the video, Beth is encouraging me to ride her straight because we can fix the bend later.  She has to travel straight in the canter before she can properly bend (and not fall in) anyway.  I love that she is like me in being methodical and thorough, in that you fix one thing at a time, and by fixing that first thing (straightness) it usually fixes the secondary issue anyway (correct bend).  Beth told me NOT to be bummed out when I saw the left lead canter video, because it really isn't that bad for a "kindergarten canter".  She reminded me again what a great canter she has and that it is only going to improve.  It is definitely already improved and it is already pretty darn good for a green mare with only about ten canter sessions under her belt, so I am not bummed out in the slightest.  The first time I cantered her she only held it for 6-10 strides each time and it took her 10+ trot strides to even pick it up lol.  So watching an old canter video from September and then now, I am really happy.


The right lead is easier for her anyway, and I can see it in the video in her shoulders.  As much as it is fun to have media for the blog and Instagram, having video to SEE what is happening is really helpful to me.  I am such a visual learner anyway, and I don't always have the most natural feel/timing as a rider, that it has been good to watch and rewatch these videos.



We ended the lesson by running through Intro B and C, which is where I felt we should start this show season and I was happy that Beth felt the same.  It is funny having a regular instructor again because I have made my own decisions about training for soooo long.  I mean, I rode for years (twice monthly) with an instructor when I was training Dreamy, and I kinda just did my own thing in terms of showing.  My former instructor is LOVELY and I miss riding with her, but she doesn't have an indoor and because it is just a private farm, there is no "barn family".  I chose Beth for many reasons, but having the indoor and a big barn family to show with eventually is what made me go with her this time around.  Plus, there are monthly schooling shows, which is perfect for Ellie.  

So instead of my regular lesson this coming Saturday, we will be doing the two intro tests on Sunday right there at Beth's farm!  It will hopefully feel like a regular lesson day for Ellie.  We have walked up to their outdoor arena a few times to scope out the judge's booth and such, but sadly they hadn't set up the actual dressage ring as of this lesson.  Ah well.  She can see it for the first time on Sunday and we can just cross our fingers haha!  Honestly, this year is not about scores and ribbons, it is about providing Ellie with good experiences in the sandbox so hopefully she learns dressage showing isn't a big deal.

Comments

  1. Yay for video! Such a good tool. I think you guys look great! That is way better than my kindergarten canter (which I have been too wimpy to try haha).

    When I was reading about the "crap walk... looking for things to spook at" I was like omg did you steal Henry :P

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    1. Hahahaha omg baby horses are a trip! Glad to know you feel my pain with the crappy walk and spook haha. Embrace the canter, my dear. You can do it!

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  2. Ellie is the cutest best baby. I am writing this on several people's blogs, but it's true.

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    1. Awwwww, thank you! She really is, even though she is really not always easy!

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  3. I saw your instagram of her canter and she looks just lovely> Really coming along. Good luck this weekend. Is Intro B or C the one where you halt in the very beginning of the test? I thought that was so odd for a youngster/greenie test to have that in there LOL. You will be great. And I love her color. She is definitely a very deep chestnut. So cute and that mane :)

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    1. Thank you! You halt at X for both Intro B and C, which I actually like! It is Intro A that is the WORST test imo. You trot in and walk at X and have to walk around the turn at C. I have found in the years I have introduced greenies to the dressage ring that it is MUCH better to trot through that "scary" bend near the judge than walk. The walk gives them too much time to be nervous and looky and dream up ideas LOL!

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  4. There's a lot to like about that canter already! Opie is debuting at Training because I think those tests are less confusing than Intro!

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    1. Yes!! I just read your post! So exciting!!! :-)

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  5. aw i love lesson recaps and video stills <3 so glad she's doing so well!

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  6. You'll never see me complain about a lesson recap! I learn just as much from everyone else's lessons as I do my own!

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    1. Oh, good! I am the same way, but sometimes I wonder if this type of post is boring to others haha.

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