Skip to main content

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 …

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 course.  I knew I was riding like a moron, so I have no excuse haha.  

However, we were able to get back to RABT for a jumping lesson the Tuesday after the Saturday event, which while it was a few days too late in a way, it was the best jumping lesson we have had together yet!

I told Babette I wanted to work on cantering fences, keeping an even pace, and stringing fences together.  As she watched us warm-up, she kept saying how impressed she was, since Ellie has certainly changed from the last time she saw her in October 2018!  We started with just jumping a few fences from the trot and were soon stringing several together at once.  Babette had me jump from the canter, and Ellie was listening so incredibly well.  At one point, I used my seat a little too much to half halt and she broke to the trot.  This is HUGE progress from last summer when half halts while jumping were nonexistent!  I didn't make a fuss over it since it was what I had asked for and merely had her pick up the canter again.

We jumped a bunch of fences in the SJ field at around 2-2'3", jumping our first oxer and even a sharp bending line.  Ellie got her lead changes a few times, and a few times I had to rebalance in the trot and ask for the correct lead.


Babette was so encouraging and the entire lesson really boosted my confidence!  In the end, we strung a little course together.  She had raised two of the fences to 2'6", which I did not realize until afterward haha, and Ellie was just so game and happy.  Babette explained to me that when I kept her straight, that is when we got our auto changes.  Huh.  I have worked so hard to keep her flexed/bent in dressage lessons, so this was a new challenge.  But it made sense, and I'll be damned, we did the entire course without any lead problems.  When I kept her straight, she changed for me!  Whooo!  I am so glad we took this lesson!
Two weeks later, on June 30, we were able to take a Pony Club jumping lesson.  Long story, but I joined a second PC group as the first one hasn't done anything since the May dressage rally, and it is still not looking like they are planning to do anything.  Anyway, no media from this ride, but it was another really good confidence builder.  I rode with one of the PC instructors here in Maine named Caitlin, and I joined a young rider who is planning to go for her D3 rating soon.  

Caitlin had us start out over ground poles on the centerline, followed by a pole to a crossrail, and eventually a one stride.  Everything was set around 2', and while I told her Ellie had only ever done a three stride, it was a good opportunity to give it a shot.  We cantered into the first crossrail, she put in a perfect one stride, and we went out over the vertical.  Caitlin laughed at me, "Are you sure she's never done this before?"  LOL I assured her that was our first ever one stride.  Ellie was so good and listening so well.  And I feel like I was riding her forward and correctly.  

We moved onto a course that included an oxer, a bending line, and the same one stride.  Caitlin set the fences up a bit to 2'3" specifically for the kiddo planning to go for her D3 rating, and she reminded me that anything that looked too much for Ellie and me could be out back down.  I thought everything looked doable.

I like Caitlin's teaching style and how she had us tell her what went well and what could be improved.  I appreciated instructors who make you think as a rider, not just tell you what to do.  I ride on my own at home a lot, so I need to understand what is happening and not depend on an instructor to tell me everything.  I feel as though I could ask her questions and understand her teaching.  One thing that stuck with me was the idea of putting my hand towards Ellie's ear, as a way of not hanging on that left outside rein.  It helps to tell myself to give towards her ear and I am less apt to just throw away the contact.

Ellie handled everything beautifully, though the bending line was a little awkward the first time through and we had a chip in.  Really, it was me not setting her up well (or bending her well!), so we did it again without issue.  Sometimes putting all the pieces together takes a lot of brain effort and I need a second try haha.

This lesson was held at a new-to-me farm and Ellie walked right into the grooming stall in the barn like a pro, stood to get tacked up, and had zero issues in the indoor where we jumped.  At the end of the lesson, after I had hosed her down and was gathering my tack, Caitlin asked the other riders to help her bring horses in, as a thunderstorm was headed towards the farm.  I jumped in to help, leaving Ellie on the crossties next to the pony from our lesson, and she stood like a polite grown-up while I brought horses into their stalls.  Again, like our lesson with Babette, a fantastic confidence builder and all-around positive experience for Ellie.  Now I feel it is time to work on our XC skills!!

--

We have also had some great dressage lessons where I am finally learning to not hang on the left outside rein and actually keep my inside rein short enough.  Even when I think it is short enough, it never is.  Beth is so patient with me, even when she has been saying the same thing to me nearly hundreds of times.  It is though I know it in my brain, yet to actually get my body on board with these changes has really taken some time.  I had to process it all and practice at both at home and at lessons over and over.  I had to ride through some serious resistance and stay patient and not give up.  I would ask for bend and Ellie would resist; at home, I would give up too soon, thinking that I was asking incorrectly.  Instead, I had to work through her resistance by gentle insistence and not give up so easily.  Instead of doubting myself and my riding, I needed to learn that I was indeed asking correctly and Ellie was responding to the fact what I am asking is hard work not that I was asking incorrectly.

A few weeks ago, Beth quoted Charlotte Dujardin: "Short reins win gold medals."  It made me laugh, but there is truth to the statement.  Granted, I am not remotely interested in winning gold medals, but it is a good statement to mutter to myself when I need to focus.  

My oldest son did take some video of one of my lessons recently, but the lighting isn't great in the indoor (it was blazing hot outside!) and a lot of it is blurry.  I tried to upload some clips to Vimeo, but it refused to play nice.  So here is a crappy screenshot of us working on trot leg yields haha.
cause what's a blog post without a crappy screenshot lol
--

Writing this out helps remind me that we DO make progress, even when it seems frustrating or slow.  Training is all about taking two steps forward and five steps back.  There cannot be a timeline or an agenda.  I am not pushing this horse to do things just to say we have done it or because I feel as though she is "behind" at age seven.  Could I push her through a First level test right now?  Make it around a BN course?  You bet.  But I don't care about the levels or the heights, I want her to be as well trained as I can make her (as an AA, let's be real here haha).  It is gratifying to know she is coming along without any holes in her training because I am constantly trying to fix those holes as we go.  This year is all about getting in as many lessons and clinics as we can, and so far I think that is working out well! 

Comments

  1. She is such a game horse! And I see huge progress with both of you. If you plan to sell then maybe how fast things progress is important. Otherwise I think we put too much pressure on ourselves.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw she looks really good <3

    ReplyDelete
  3. She is looking so awesome and grown up!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is so great! Yay Ellie!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thats a lot of happy updates! I'm glad she is maturing nicely and working hard for you. Its a lovely feeling when they decide to come out and give their all

    ReplyDelete
  6. She's so stinking cute! It sounds like she's making so big progress forward even if it might feel like baby steps right now!

    ReplyDelete
  7. She is amazing. If she disappears she is in Tennessee okay? :) I am so excited for this year now that she has grown up and is looking so great!! WOW.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Aww yay so proud of how far you and Ellie have come!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving a comment!