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CNER United States Pony Club Dressage Rally - May 11, 2019

Our very first ever PC rally was this past Saturday at Apple Knoll Farm in Millis, MA. It kind of cracks me up that I joined PC for the express purpose of access to more jumping instruction opportunities, and my first mounted experience is a dressage rally hahaha.  

But honestly, it was so much fun.  Maybe it is because I am so used to showing alone or maybe because I love the show prep and set up just as much (if not more) than the actual riding, but competing in a PC rally is now one of my most favorite experiences.  And I cannot wait to do more!  I think the only thing different for this show was having to label EVERYTHING with my name.  Otherwise, my show prep was just the same as normal.

Sadly, our original team of four riders ended up dwindling to just two, as one young rider ended up sick with a 103 fever and a barn was quarantined because of a horse with EHV-4 so none of the PC members from that large boarding barn could attend. Therefore, my remaining teammate and I were split …

A Weekend of Learning - Part 2 (aka the bucking canter)

After a great in hand lesson a week ago Saturday as I wrote about here, a week ago Sunday we went to Beth's for our regular dressage lesson.  It was cold (five degrees colder up north at her farm than it was at mine!) and windy when we arrived, and I struggled with keeping Ellie's saddle pad from blowing away as I was tacking up LOL.  Needless to say, she was a little tight and reactive when I first got on down at the indoor.  I spent time walking her around, asking for changes of bend to get her to relax.  I asked for a trot and she was still tight; it was obvious that despite the fact she was listening, she was looking for any excuse to spook.

Beth arrived to the indoor and I started feeling like maybe this was going to be a stressful lesson lol.  Ellie isn't an inherently spooky horse in my opinion and she has a good brain, but she is sensitive.  I chatted with Beth a little and just stayed relaxed, and we started working on getting Ellie to really stretch out to the contact in the trot.  She wanted to stay tight through her back and neck, but I just remained quiet and kept asking.  Beth encouraged me to let her trot just a liiiiiitle bit bigger, which of course with Ellie's current state of mind, seemed counterintuitive.  But it worked.  Of course it worked.  She needed just a smidge more forward impulsion in order to reach out towards the bit instead of balling herself up into a hot mess of winter weather excitement haha.  True impulsion has nothing to do with speed.  She may have been moving forward at a fast pace but she wasn't in front of my leg.

Side note: At home I do a bunch of lateral work at the walk during warm up, which helps set us up to be in front of my leg and better connected through the bridle.  I find we don't do this at lessons and therefore it takes that much longer until she's working properly.  Sometimes it isn't until she canters at a lesson and then it all falls into place.  Now that I am writing this out, I feel as though I need to ask Beth about this haha.
can I just say I am loving the new training pyramid from USDF?
rewording for the win!
Anyway, my point here is that I was so impressed with Ellie's ability to go right to work despite the fact she was definitely a bit more up that morning than she has been in a long while.  This maturity is so nice to see and shows me that she's willing to meet me halfway and do her job with me even when she'd rather be tense and spook.

Once we started working and she finally decided to breathe haha, we moved into the canter. We had some of our best ever canter work in this lesson.  

Now, let me back up here.  The prior week at our lesson, Beth gently scolded me about Ellie's canter transitions still being too slow.  I ask, Ellie does a lot of active thinking and S L O W L Y gets her body ready, and then we finally canter about five trot strides later. So she had me pony kick her and REALLY MEAN IT.  I have to get this fixed (and it is totally on me as a rider), and predictably, Ellie bucked when I pony kicked her.  It made me giggle.  She bucked again on our subsequent upwards transitions, but it was improving.  Working on prompt upwards canter trainsitions had specifically been my homework.

So back to our current lesson. I had been working hard at home, some rides it seemed like she bucked out more than not haha, but I knew the promptness was coming together.  She was starting to just step into the darn gait instead of bucking.  It was lovely.  

And in our lesson?  NO BUCKING whatsoever.  Beth was impressed.  "I like my riders who do their homework!" she told me.  This is not the first instructor who has praised me for this haha.  I am diligent and want to improve.  The transitions, both up and down, were light years better than they ever have been.  In fact, I felt to myself they were the best we have ever done and Beth acknowledged this aloud.  She still likes to get rushy the first 3/4 of the first circle, but we are getting there.

After some really GOOD cantering, we took a walk break and then picked her back up for some lengthened trot.  We started by doing it on open end (towards X) on a circle at either A or C.  The first time I asked, she sat right down and cantered.  And by cantered, I mean stepped into a lovely balanced canter without rushing forward.  Like the best canter ever, even more than what we had gotten before the walk break.


Now, we have worked on trot lengthens and she understands them.  It wasn't a big deal that she broke into the canter.  The big deal was HOW she did it and the fact there was no fussiness, no bucking, no rushing.  I could see Beth's wheels turning, but we let it be (other than her remark of "Well, that was interesting...") and we worked on a little lengthening.  Once I was more prompt with my half halts to remind her that yes, we are just trotting, she motored into a lovely trot lengthening.  We also moved off the circle and did it down the diagonal as well.  She stayed on the bit into my connection and it was really really good stuff.  We called it quits on that.  Ellie had worked hard.

As we were walking around and cooling out, Beth and I talked about that lovely and "easy" canter transition I had when I first asked for the trot lengthen.  I carry a lot of baggage in the canter gait as a rider who retrained Standardbreds, and I need to let that go.  It became apparent when I wasn't overthinking the entire thing that Ellie was 10000000% more relaxed and willing to maintain contact/connection.  This is not to say that I have to trot faster and faster in a trot lengthen to make her canter, because obviously that is not what she meant, but we are capable of cantering without any theatrics for either of us haha.  Since the bucking canter has turned into a pretty respectable canter in a week, I am feeling really happy with that.  

Of course, this is now the season of winter, meaning our training and improvements are coming to a grinding halt.  I had to cancel my lesson this past Sunday because our driveway is an icy mess and not safe enough to get my rig in and out.  Uggggg.  Here's hoping that time off and hacking out all winter won't set us back too far, and she will retain most of what she learned by the time we start legging back up in March.

We did have a nice ride in the field instead, and the footing wasn't horrible.  She even cantered nicely on both leads haha.

how quickly we went from this... this in just under a month. đŸ˜¢


Amy McKenna said…
Oh boy, I totally feel the whole "baggage at the canter" from standardbreds. I went through pony club on a standardbred and the canter was the hardest thing to get out of him.

And now it's all come back to haunt me with Gwyn too. Plus I have this fear that she just doesn't have a quiet canter cue.

Hence the lessons for both of us. But boy does that resonate with me.
TeresaA said…
I am not ready to be done either! I'm hoping to get to an indoor a few time. I can really overthink a transition and CArmen lets me know that she does not appreciat it. :) It sounds like you will be ready for First next year!
Liz Stout said…
Isn't that always the way, you have a big breakthrough with so much promise right ahead of you and the weather/life steps in to prevent you really cementing the knowledge. All the same, it sounds like a really good lesson with lots of super promising things right ahead! Her bucking made me giggle. It's like she's saying, "I'm on my own time and I'll transition when I - OW. Woman! WHY? Kicking? Oof! FINE. I will canter NOW."
I loved training my Standardbreds and even showed up to First 3 with Dreamy (and could school all Second movements), so I really never would have thought I had canter anxiety LOL! But apparently I must! This is just reason 585654 why I am happy to be taking lessons, too! :-)
L.Williams said…
Though lessons may be over with, that was definitely a good last one to have!
I am glad I am not alone haha! Usually I am really ready for a break by this time of year, but with Ellie I just want to keep progressing! A little time off is never a bad thing, but I feel so motivated! Oh well. Patience is hard haha. I don't know that we will start the year at First, but definitely will be doing Training level, give T3 a few tries and then see about how First 1 might go! I am excited!

Yup, life/weather/whatever haha always seems to have a way of messing with your plans in your head. I am going with the idea that she is smart enough to remember everything in her down time. And ohhhhh my lord, that is totally Ellie's attitude hahahahaha. You have her pegged! She definitely has her own mind and is not pleased when I call her out on that haha. At least the bucking has stopped (for now haha) and she has agreed to work with me. :-D
I would have to agree 100% percent! Let's hope sassypants mare remembers all of her training for a few months!
Nadia Novik said…
Super interesting! June loves to buck in the canter and I’m not quite where I can laugh at it, but it’s definitely an “I don’t want to” move and it’s getting old. So, for different reasons than you, I now have canter baggage too!
emma said…
What a cool lesson!! I kinda love it when we are doing one thing and the horse somehow for some reason effortlessly volunteers something else that has been a big deal when I actually ask for it. It’s always really eye opening to try to figure out why, and how to harness that good feeling but actually intentionally lol
Ugggg canter baggage sucks! I have found in a year of owning Ellie that her bucking or other naughtiness is quite halfhearted, hence the reason I can laugh at her. Does June buck during the canter or just if you insist during the transition a la Ellie?
It was SUCH a good lesson to end the year with. We may squeak in a few more here and there, but who knows. Hahaha you summed it up quite well and now to have the patience to wait until I can consistently ride in a way that will harness all that good canter transition karma! ;-) THAT is what is killing me about winter arriving so soon lol
LiveToFly said…
I’m not ready for winter either!
I am NEVER ready for winter! ;-)