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Course Brook Farm Horse Trials - July 28, 2019

After a successful first-ever horse trial with Ellie in the spring, I decided to try a new-to-me venue for our July horse trial.  I also felt we were definitely ready to move up a level, from Introductory 18" to Elementary 2'.  Honestly, could we jump higher and do a more difficult dressage test?  Yes.  But I am a firm believer in setting my horse up for success by not over facing her, and knowing this would be a true cross country course through the woods, I didn't want anything to seem hard or scary to her.  I wanted us both to feel confident by having a positive experience.
Ellie and I traveled down to Course Brook Farm in Massachusetts on July 28, and while it was a long trip there, Ellie unloaded and settled in easily. Traffic had been heavier than I anticipated, so while we were not running late, I definitely had no extra time once we arrived. I did not realize this venue was actually A LOT bigger than I imagined, with 160 (!!!!) horses competing that day.  Ellie had…

So many lessons!

OK, only three so far, but I am loving them!

Despite my Sunday lesson having to be cancelled due to icy roads, I was able to reschedule for Wednesday since we are on school vacation!  Ellie was MUCH better this time about arriving at a new farm and after only a few moments of looking around with wide eyes and a small bit of walking around the barnyard as I chatted with the barn owner, I was able to tie her right up and get her brushed and tacked up.  

I got to the indoor about 15 minutes before my lesson was to start and she was so calm on the lunge line that I got on within ten minutes.  Just as I got on, another rider came into the ring, who was only planning to ride for about ten minutes.  Normally I would expect Ellie to not care, as she is generally calm about horses in the ring with her, but for some reason she was obsessed with this horse.  Like every time the other horse got close to her, she started to jig and swing her haunches around, almost as if she wanted to go meet this other mare.  This was a new one for me with Ellie, so apparently she wants to make sure I am on my toes.  I almost threw her back on the lunge, but had this been a show situation, I would have had to ride her through it, so I just sucked it up.  I don't want to baby her and she needs to get this experience now in order to make her into reliable and sensible horse eventually haha.


All media is completely unrelated, but at least we have improved the whole sn*w thing
After some tense and tight figures at the walk, Ellie finally decided she would start listening to me a bit.  She is still not at the point where I can start a ride moseying around a little on a loose rein anyway, so I put her right to work doing circles, half circles, and figure eights at the walk.  We picked up the trot and even though she started out with her neck braced and wanting to watch the other horse, she found her brain fairly quickly.  The other horse left and she didn't seem to notice, which was good.  

Ellie still wasn't ready to start listening to my aids and the trot was kind of crappy.  Opening inside rein, inside leg, steady outside rein, and some spiraling in and out on the 20 m. circle and she FINALLY figured she would accept my input haha.  She started swinging more in the trot and settling into the contact.  I was impressed that really it didn't take THAT long to get her settled, though at first I was like OH GREAT this ought to be a fun lesson.  Instead of having to spend tons of time working with a tense horse, she went to work and we were able to accomplish something.

Beth had me work on transitions within the trot, which was excellent for Ellie.  She is becoming smart and sensitive enough to my aids, so she was willing to step right into a fairly balanced medium trot from her working trot and then would come back to what Beth called "almost a jog trot" since we are not really looking for a collected trot yet, of course.  It is nice to see she is going to have adjustability despite her size. It was also really cool to feel her engage her hind end to sit into the smaller trot, and I had to laugh when Beth said, "YES!  That is going to be a passage someday!" Hahaha I had told her my goal is Second level someday and she is already like oh we'll get her to FEI.  I do like that she sees potential in my horse, but I am way too practical right now lol.  I'm in the mindset of let's get her going walk/trot/canter for a Training level test, so it makes me giggle and feel slightly terrified when Beth says nice things about her haha.

We took a few walk breaks and Beth commented on the huge improvement in her walk since the first lesson.  I worked hard all this past week with that walk and I thought we had made progress!  Ellie was really happy to reach into a free walk after working within the trot and I like that she is confident enough in the contact to do so.  
Hacking in the field
The canter is coming along well, too, though I have some habits to unlearn.  We started with the right lead, and I have a tendency to counterbend her slightly without thinking, because that is how I had to ride Dreamy in the canter transition, so Ellie picked up the wrong lead a few times.  We did get the right lead several times once I fixed my position and Beth had me slightly lift my inside (right) hand.  It is going to take time for me to remember how to ride the canter transition, since I can just ask her correctly and stay in the correct bend haha.  Beth recommended that I could also start by trotting a 10m. circle and asking at the halfway point, which makes sense because it will force me to ride the transition the right way.  Ellie still isn't prompt in the transition because she is not totally sure about the canter aids anyway, but I think we are getting there.  It feels to me like she's running into the canter, but Beth assures me she isn't.


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Our third lesson was this morning, a beautifully sunny spring Saturday (FINALLY!).  Ellie was still a little excited when we arrived but nothing at all like she has been.  I love that she is adapting to being a grown up horse who can travel somewhere new without losing her marbles!  She's been great about loading, trailering in general, and stepping down instead of launching herself off the step up haha, and beyond the training we are getting from lessons, just the act of taking her out and about is helping her grow up.

We worked a bit on transitions within the trot again as well as the canter.  This time I got my act together and we actually got the right lead each time I asked, so that's a plus haha.  Beth reminded me today that it is OK for me to start asking for more from Ellie and that is she really not a baby.  That is good for me to hear, because sometimes I think I give her too much leeway.  For example, we might be trotting along on the circle and Ellie goes OH LOOK OVER THERE! and throws her head up.  I tend to be too subtle in correcting her, almost like I am thinking ohhhhh it's ok, here can you please maybe sorta stay connected and stay bent around my inside leg please?  Beth encouraged me to be more direct with my aids, not to force her into a frame or anything, of course, but to expect more out of her.  I just need to be more forward thinking, so I really focused on keeping my inside leg on her and using my opening rein in a little more proactive way instead of reactive after she's already trotted five steps with her head flung up to look at something.  It made sense, because as soon as I started assuming and anticipating I would need to correct her, my timing was better and she didn't get a chance to lift her head and avoid contact.  We got some really lovely trot work that I was so happy with! 

Ellie even kept her brain intact when an upper level horse/rider came into the indoor and started doing extended trot, passage, and canter four tempis (with some naughty bouncing around in the meantime).  It was perfect because the rider was only there for 20 mins but it allowed Ellie to have the experience of a horse coming in, doing weird things she wanted to watch (instead of paying attention to me), and then leaving her.  Besides being interested and wanting to look, Ellie really didn't put a hoof out of place.
Round two in “learning to wear things on one’s legs” was front dressage boots the other day.
Besides the hilarious Spanish walk thingy she did out of the barn, they thankfully were a non issue.
Next we’ll try the hinds, which possibly may elicit bigger feelings haha.
A few things to work on right now: softening my left rein when it is the outside rein and more prompt canter transitions.  Beth complimented my outside rein in both directions, but said I tend to slightly "hold" the left outside rein too much at times.  So, for example, let's say we are trotting right and Ellie goes to look at something, so I use my opening right rein.  She comes back down into the contact, but is just restricted enough by my left rein that I am almost not quite allowing her to fully bend right.  I don't need to even move my outside left rein, just relax the elbow (it's that subtle) and she bends and accepts the bit.  Once I started paying attention to this, she went along SO MUCH better!  It is amazing how a small tweak can improve the horse so much.  THIS is why I am taking lessons, because while I feel confident to ride and train her on my own, I also know I need someone to help me develop this horse.

And while Ellie obviously isn't confirmed yet in the canter transition because she isn't completely aware of the aids yet, she was totally blowing me off today to canter.  She understands a kiss noise on the lunge line means to canter, so I still have been using my voice as well as my leg/seat aids.  But as Beth reminded me, it really shouldn't still take half a circle for her to canter.  It sucks because there is waaaay too much mud right now (big surprise) in the area that is flat and large enough to canter here at home, so I have not been working her in the canter at all (it has been since last fall!) besides the three lessons we have had this spring haha.  So I cannot complain, since I know this is just where she is at right now, but I feel as though if I could canter her here at home, we'd be further along.  PATIENCE is not my best virtue haha.

Still no media from lessons because all the barn kids were turning out horses and mucking stalls and the other three adults around were either riding or giving lessons in the outdoor.  :-(  I have the worst time asking people for favors. I seriously need a preteen child who loves horses and wants to come along to lessons and shows with me to take photos and videos hahahaha.
This is me and why I have no riding lesson media


Comments

  1. So glad you are getting to ride in lessons steadily now. Crazy how long this winter has been.

    And it is so funny but your insights riding Ellie are so similar to mine riding Remus but there is like 9 years or so between their ages LOL! We also canter on a circle and sometimes take the whole circle to get in the canter (OOPS) ;)

    Can't wait as she gets better and better. What a good Morgan horse she is :) And glad the weather is a bit better for you now!

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    1. It is amazing how warm(ish) weather and sunshine can make everything better! Not to mention riding lessons haha! That is so funny that Remus is the same way. Ellie is still pretty sure she knows ALL THE THINGS and her human's input is not always something to take into account. I hope once she learns the right way to respond to the canter cue (like, canter NOW), she will want to do the right thing each time haha.

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  2. Oh she's so cute... and has the best mane. This sounds like you got a lot of super productive work done despite Ellie not being overly cooperative in the beginning. Nice job!

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    1. Isn't she cute!? That sometimes helps her out when she's being an opinionated redheaded mare! ;-) Ellie definitely doesn't think she needs to cooperate with her human when she KNOWS SO MUCH on her own (hahaha - not). I don't think that sassiness will ever go away!

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  3. Gotta love sassy mares who know more than you do! Lessons are the best and I’m glad she is starting to understand the routine of going new places.

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    1. Oh, she's definitely in the throes of being a know-it-all teenager haha!

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  4. What a very good (and CUTE!) girl she's being! And very exciting on consistent lessons lately. Y'all are making good progress it sounds like - that canter will get better in no time. =)

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    1. Yup, just gotta be patient! She really is being such a good mare.

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  5. oh man, she really does sound like the coolest baby - and like she's really figuring things out! (even if she sometimes isn't convinced she's actually gotta, ya know, do the thing lol). also media for private lessons is so freakin hard, i definitely feel your pain. my best case scenarios are group lessons where a friend and i will each take video for each other, or if we have back to back privates we can try to catch snippets of the other's ride before or after our own. it's tricky tho...

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    1. She has the BEST brain! I love that she's such a thinker, even when it can get her into a smidge of trouble haha. ;-) Yeah, I am supposed to join another rider for semi private lessons soon, so that will help with media (I hope!)

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  6. Sounds like good lessons - and I am totally in the same boat as you when it comes to media, I have no one to help me out in that department and I always feel like a total burden

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    1. I need a personal photog, obviously haha. I feel like once I get to know my instructor and some of the riders, maybe it will be easier for me to ask.

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  7. Sounds like lesson are going well. I used to use my helmet cam placed the side of the arena to get some media from lesson when I lessoned by myself.

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    1. Oh, that's a good idea! My oldest son has a GoPro and just the other day he offered to let me use it for riding haha. I was like OH YEAH I FORGOT YOU HAVE THAT THING! I don't know though, I don't want to break his Christmas present from grampa haha.

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  8. Lots of good takeaways! It's so good to have eyes on the ground :) I have asked my coach to take a quick video for me a few times (so I can pick myself apart in my free time haha) so that might be an idea for media!

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  9. I think I should just ask Beth to video me for sure. I am too shy to ask, so I need to get over myself LOL! ;-)

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    1. It really is a good learning tool also! My coach is always telling me that I like to tip forward (and I was like "yeah ok whatever") and the video was eye-opening hahah!

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