Re-Tuning The Engine

Now that we’re past WEC, the weather is starting to get a little more mild, and Francis is totally recovered from his heel grab, we’re starting to get back into the swing of things with a bit more consistency. Homeboy and I both thrive on consistency, so I’m really happy to keep the learning train going.

We had a fantastic lesson over the weekend that ended up being entirely flatwork-focused and included some basic pole work, and it highlighted some really useful things for us to focus on moving forward.

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Someday I’ll learn to stop sniffing mane (or not). Photos all unrelated but my friend sent me some from WEC 🙂 PC – K. Borden

The big one right now is getting that self-carriage back into play. I haven’t insisted on it for a while since I’ve been in toodling mode, but everything gets so much easier when I have a balanced powerful creature under me. Go figure. Luckily we’re starting at a different baseline than last year – this time around, he already knows the game. He’s just pretty sure he doesn’t have to play the game and would really rather not thankyouverymuch.

His walk has always been very forward and full of movement and he’s gotten much happier about continuing that fluidity on a contact, and he’s had an absolutely lovely canter since day one (and now that we can collect more, it’s just gotten lovelier). It’s the trot that has given him the most trouble with forward, straight, and round. To work on this, we’re doing a lot in the sitting trot. Since that trot is his worst gait, having me sit deeper and wrap around to help pick him up is majorly helpful. It’s much easier to help him find that softness and roundness from there and carry it into our posting trot than it is to build that straight off while posting.

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Part One of the PowerPose sequence. Bigs and Littles all invited. PC – K. Borden

We also threw in quite a bit of lateral work to keep his brain engaged and I have to tell you, a busy-brain Francis is an amazing creature to ride. It’s like when he’s bored he kinda tunes out and drones around, but giving him something challenging to try gets him fired up and incredibly tuned in. Trotting leg-yield zigzags gave us some really lovely trot work and helped correct some problems we were having with the bend. Working on some canter half-passes was a downright magical button where suddenly his canter got a thousand times more powerful and light in my hand. I’m certainly still working on how to ask clearly for that, but he was right there delivering when I got it right. I’m still kinda riding the high from those few correct steps.

I also think I’m going to switch back to a driving rein for a while. At this point I know how to squeeze him up and forward, but I’d like to give him somewhere a little more elastic to go in my hand. The way he needs to be ridden has certainly shifted as we’ve both gotten more educated, so I’d like to respond to that and give him a chance to raise his own bar a bit.

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Part Two before heading to the show ring with a VERY skeptical mare. PC – K. Borden

As much as I loved getting to learn from Belle at WEC, I enjoy working on the flat with Francis SO much. Obviously he’s a beast over fences and I love flying with him and jumper ring 5ever. But raising the ante on the flat and gaining more and more precision and control of our movements is downright addicting, especially with how willing and teachable he is. I can see why you dressage folks are so passionate about it.

It’s funny, there was a tweet lately that simply asked: “how do you cue for the canter?” There were tons of responses that were super detailed – sit deeper on my outside seat bone, scoop with my abs, steady outside rein, etc etc etc. Like, REAL detailed. And I realized that at this point I have no idea how to respond. That’s not to say I don’t know how to cue for the canter, obviously. I just have no idea how to articulate what I’m doing. I just kinda do it. And that’s the case for a lot of what I do with Frankie. Obviously I’m doing something right at some points, because it’s working. But isolating and articulating what each part of my body is doing? Hard. It’s simply not how my brain learns and processes, I need the visual and feel much more than I need the words.

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Part Three EVERYONE PULL IT TOGETHER THIS IS SERIOUS. PC – K. Borden

I was trying to explain what a half-pass is to my non-horsey father. Eventually I was able to adequately explain the movement (I think, though he may have just humored me and said he got it). He asked how I ask Frankie for it. My super detailed answer? “I just kinda…push. Over. Like, off my leg. But also my other leg. And my seatbone is there too. Both seatbones really. But one more than the other. And my hands. They’re there.”

So detail, much explain.

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Someday I’ll learn to jump the center of a fence….or not. PC – K. Borden

There’s a reason why I’d be a terrible coach and why I’m not that good at telling people how to ride my horse. You’ve seen my instructions, they’re literally just to kick and take a feel and everything magically falls into place. I have a sneaking suspicion that there’s more in play there. Just don’t ask me to articulate it.

Bringing it back to where we started talking about our lesson, I can’t tell you exactly what’s going on with my body, but I can tell you that it’s working. Even getting it wrong is fun with Frankie – if I’m getting it wrong, it means we’re trying something new and eventually we’ll figure it out. I just love getting to work with him and I love how engaged and eager he is to learn.

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Much love for the best team ❤ PC – K. Borden
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My Horse is a Prince and My Life is a Lie

We’ll start out with the part where my horse is a prince and get to the lying later on.

We had our first lesson of the new year! I hadn’t ridden in almost 2 weeks (one brief hack in there doesn’t reeeeally count), but one of our junior riders flatted Frankie around for me while I was out of town. 10/10, would recommend barn rat usage to all people. So the only one feeling flabby and out of shape after the holidays was me!

Naturally, Trainer had me do a decent amount of no-stirrup work. She said “sorry” at first, but I told her to take that back, we both knew she wasn’t sorry. Lots of circles and changing rein and changing the bend helped keep my mind off that oh-so-pleasant burning sensation in my legs and core.

We also played around more with our shoulder-in which has developed very nicely, and then worked on that leg yield exercise I told you about before, where we leg yield diagonally down the long side. I’ll wait here if you want to review the professional diagram I made of that.

This exercise has come a long way! I’ve been able to keep his haunch in off the wall and give little corrections to keep his body straight. I still have to exaggerate my aids a bit, but they get a reaction more crisply and more quickly. My homework is to continue working on our lateral work and get that shoulder and haunch more precisely where I want them. We’re really happy with how well Frankie is retaining and progressing with these movements- he may be solid bone between the ears, but he truly is supremely trainable and wants to please.

No crazy canter exercises in this lesson, just a couple large-ish circles and extension-collection exercises to get us tuned in and listening. He felt absolutely fantastic in his canter work- up and light in the bridle, round over his back, listening well. We kicked it up into a hand-gallop for those extensions but he still came right back to collect. Good pony!

We warmed up over a crossrail end jump a few times going to the right….and every single time we landed the left lead, no matter how strongly I asked for the right in the air. So we cantered it and angled it to ask even harder for the lead, then went back and trotted it again. Bam. Right lead. He just needed a little louder message on that one. Of course, he then proceeded to land the right lead after EVERY jump for the next 5 minutes, but we’re working on it.

We built up our course in pieces, here’s the diagram:

jan_sturns

The first exercise was trot in 1, canter out 2 in a bright five strides. Not much of a story here- we had to be nice and forward to the first jump in order to kick up for the five.

Next was 3-4-5: trot in the end jump, hard left for the yellow, then s-turn to the corner vertical in a balancing 5. The key was looking over 3 and leading with that left rein to get us looking where we were going, and then holding out and shaping to make 4-5 fit in more evenly.

Next we did 6-7-8: canter up the quarter line, bend out in a waiting 5, then down the single gate. The five was a little tight but not terrible when this exercise was done alone, but it got much tighter when this was at the end of the course. Single gate was….a single gate. Not much to say there.

Then the jumps went up and we put it all together! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Corner vertical bending up the outside in a balancing five (now cantering in), then immediate left over the end jump, hard left over the yellow oxer, s-turn out back over the corner vertical in a shaped five, immediate turn up the quarter line oxer, bending out in a collected five, and ending down the single gate.

Overall, I was very happy with how this rode. We were able to get a nice conservative distance to one, which set us up to rock back for the five. The turn to the end jump came up fairly easily, and once I remembered to look where I was going and start the turn over the jump, the yellow oxer came up nicely too. We shaped out for the five and jumped the left side of 5 to give us a little extra room to get to the quarter line, and sat back for the bending line. And then the single gate continued to just be a single gate. Whatevs.

We did end up doing 4-5-6-7 one more time to practice that turn from the corner to the quarter line- once I got back with my shoulders and sat my butt in the saddle like ze Germans this rode up really powerfully and I could feel Francis jumping the heck out of that green oxer. Of course then I was excited and galloped out in four, but we made it work.

Overall, a fantastic lesson to kick off 2017! We did discuss bumping up to a slow twist- not because we want to slow Frankie down, but because we want a titch more responsiveness for those turns. Now that my legs are stronger and Frankie has developed some of that jumper-fiery-fitness, we’re going to play around so I can be lighter with my hands.

Now on to the whole “my life is a lie” part of the story. As I finished up my lesson, the following conversation ensued:

Me: Thank you so much for a great start to the year! And thank you for not putting the jumps up too high, I’m glad you’re easing me in after the break.
Trainer: …..you realize part of that course was 3’6″, right? You really have no idea how big jumps are, do you?
Me: HAH awesome. Then props to me for not being intimidated by 3’6″. Big progress! Less than a year ago, 3’6″ was the biggest I had EVER jumped, and even that was only once or twice.
Trainer: And look at you now, jumping 4′!
Me: ….you said 3’9″.
Trainer: Well the course overall was set to 3’9″, but some of those jumps were 4′.

So I officially quit. I give up. I completely give up on knowing how big the jumps are. From now on, I will no longer even attempt to estimate what we’re jumping unless we are at a show and someone officially tells me what the deal is. Because clearly I have no earthly idea what’s going on.

Womp womp. Extra big pats for pony for not even blinking and dealing with my ammy mistakes every day ❤

We have another lesson this weekend where Trainer said she would jack the jumps up, and all I want in this world is to get some media from it. Private lessons are great, but it means I haven’t been able to get pics/videos of our rides in over a month and I’d love to be able to review our progress! Maybe I can coerce a barn rat….

My question for you today: How do you get media of your riding when you’re the only one in the ring? I need your tricks!

Much Needed

As you could likely tell from my post the other day, I wasn’t in the best spot mentally. I also hadn’t ridden my horse in three days. HMMM I WONDER IF THERE WAS A CONNECTION THERE.

I showed up to my lesson this week and warned Trainer: “I’m probs rockin’ a low grade fever, and I may start crying for no reason. Just a quick heads up.” Being used to my various mental gymnastics, Trainer just rolled with it and said she would give me other things to focus on. She’s the best ever.

I was actually a little curious about what Frankie would be like when I pulled him out- he hadn’t been ridden in three days, hadn’t been turned out in two, was body clipped over the weekend, and the temperature had dropped by a lot. Kinda  perfect recipe for freshness. I knew he wouldn’t be wild because that’s not in his wheelhouse, but I expected a few small shenanigans.

 

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THE FACE OF A NATURAL BORN KILLER

And he offered such big misbehavior: he walked off from the mounting block as I was getting my stirrups, before I told him to walk off. WOAH THERE WILD PONY, CALM YOURSELF. No seriously though, he was absolutely perfectly behaved the whole time. Love love LOVE my steady Eddie.

We’ve been playing a lot with different lateral movements lately and how to adjust our contact depending on our needs, and we continued that work. Lots of shifting the contact from indirect/direct outside and inside reins around smaller circles, and how we can use that to encourage the bend through his whole body. Weirdly enough, when I managed a more correct, steady contact, he instantly rounded onto the bit and stepped under. Strange how that works, right??

We then started playing around with canter half-passes. And I say playing around because they were nowhere near an actual half-pass. But sucking at something is the first step at not sucking at something! We ended up taking a step back from this to work on our haunches-in at the canter on a small circle to develop that type of motion- lots of balancing on the outside rein, getting that outside leg back to push his bum over. Not perfect by any stretch, but we had our moments and I could really feel it when we got it. I think as I learn how to ask more accurately this will come together, because Frankie was really listening and trying to figure out what I wanted.

All this lateral work has been FANTASTIC for us. Honestly this wasn’t even on my radar, but Trainer has been pushing us and introducing these movements and it’s really noticeable in our jumping work- turns come up more balanced and I’m much more able to place his body exactly where I want it.

Next step, canter pirouettes, amiright? Seriously though, we’re getting some really nice dressage buttons installed on him and he’s been super trainable for all of it. Hooray for versatile pony!

On to the jumping work! We kept the jumps low and worked on a gymnastic type exercise, as seen here:

nov_gymnastic

We started by trotting in-cantering out each bending line in 6 strides (1-2 and 1-3). Then trotting in-cantering out each way in 5 strides by moving up to the base.

Then we did this exercise in 5 strides cantering in both ways for the add step: 1-2-3-1, and 1-3-2-1. Like a teardrop pattern.  Then cantering in and doing all lines in 6. Hear that? We totally did the double add!! And it actually looked like we did it on purpose instead of landing and two strides later saying OH CRAP and hauling back and breaking to trot and then almost stopping and then lumping over the jump. Because, you know, that’s totally never happened or anything.

This time when I mashed him together, he actually came up rounder and gave some real collection of his stride without losing impulsion. And it made him jump more carefully, even over the smaller jumps. As Trainer says- he doesn’t care about the small jumps because they’re not hard, so we have to make him care by creating the impulsion and pushing him up to the base.

We’re working on adjustability no matter how we get into the line- it might not be the perfect distance in, but I have to keep my leg on and believe in the base and mash him together for the stride length I’m asking for. A common theme lately: recover faster after every jump. Still in progress, but it’s definitely improved from a few weeks ago.

I’m pretty sure that next week we’ll be schooling the liverpool for the first time in case we run into it at the show- here’s to hoping that isn’t the one thing that bothers Frankie! I’ll try to get media too, it’s totally a bucket list thing for me to jump that liverpool (Trainer’s is M-A-S-S-I-V-E).

Any tips as we work to install the half-pass?

Moving Sideways and Moving Up

Startlingly enough, I actually have a lot to say about the flatwork we did in our lesson this week. I know, I know, usually it’s “blah blah blah warmup stuff then JUMPS,” so this will be a bit of a departure.

I’ve mentioned lately that Frankie and I have worked a bunch on our shoulder-in. And it’s really come together nicely! He’s already well schooled on it- I just had to learn how to ask properly.

So we decided to switch things up and work on strengthening our leg-yields. We’re pretty solid at coming down the quarter-line and leg yielding out to the wall, so Trainer decided to switch it up and make it hard for us: bring his haunch in off the wall, and then leg-yield diagonally down the long side. As thus:

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Pretend that potato-looking thing is a horse, this is about the limit of my Paint skills.

So the wall is essentially blocking any attempts to evade forward. I set this up getting the counter-bend through the corner, asked his haunch to move over….and Frankie very promptly gave me a BEAUTIFUL shoulder-in (or should I say shoulder-out since it was towards the outside).

Like, he wasn’t confused or anything. He was very pleased that he knew exactly what he was doing. Except Francis, there are other things besides shoulder-in.

We came back to the walk and worked on communicating the whole haunches-in-straighten-your-body-yes-that-means-you-have-to-cross-over-I-know-it’s-hard-but-please thing. It took a few tries, but I could really feel him thinking, and we eventually got some great steps!

So we stepped back up into the trot (this was all done sitting without irons, so I could get a nice deep feel) and tried again. I’ll freely admit that at one point, Frankie bumped his nose into the wall because I wasn’t indicating “sideways” enough and he is such a pure soul that he tried to go forward through a wall for me. Dear sweet boy. But we got some good effort and a couple great steps! This will be a work in progress but I can definitely feel when we get it right.

Side note: all this sitting deep and pushing sideways had the effect of getting Frankie really up into the bridle. It felt great.

We did some regular canter work to get him moving- big circles and such, and he was feeling nice and light on my hand. Trainer had us start developing our counter-canter this week too, which is new for us. The key with Frankie was to keep his stride nice and collected, since he really wanted to dive down and get strung out off balance. He is more than happy to gallop around on the wrong lead- getting him to collect and balance for a true, nice counter-canter was a bit more effort for him.

To work on this we did a fun figure-8 exercise: Pick up the correct lead, then come across the diagonal to change direction while holding the same lead, come around the short end on the counter-lead, then go back across the diagonal to change direction and be on the correct lead. We did this in both directions and it went well! Frankie has a fairly easy change when you ask but it isn’t auto by any stretch. Which honestly, I prefer. This way I can choose exactly which lead I want him to be on no matter which direction we’re going, and can only ask for the change when I really want it.

Trainer and I are thinking that if I qualify for Regionals early enough, Frankie and I might go play in the eq ring once I’m not having to chase points. So we gotta get that counter-canter and lateral work polished up!

Trainer also made a great point- in the winter when we can’t jump as much, lateral work is going to help keep Frankie fit and muscled for his job. I also like this because it’s something I can work hard on between lessons when we’re flatting together.

NOW we can talk about the jumps. But you don’t get a Powerpoint diagram today because that whole Paint diagram thing took all my artistic skill for the day. I’ll recover soon. Probably.

But really, we didn’t do anything crazy course-wise. A couple diagonal jumps, a bending line in four short strides, a one-stride combo then bending out in three strides. Trainer did put the jumps up pretty high once I was warmed up, so that felt great. And I’m not sure what “pretty high” means to be honest- coulda been 3’3″, coulda been 3’6″, coulda been 2’9″ for all I know. They looked bigger than what we usually do so I’m guessing around 3’6″? I’ve learned not to ask.

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Big enough that the Beast had to put in an actual effort to get over it

But I really do prefer the bigger jumps on Francis- when he puts in more effort, I find it a lot easier to keep my leg tight and stay centered. Like his motion pushes me into the right spot.

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Well maybe not the right spot. But a BETTER spot.

We discussed how I need to recover a lot faster after each jump- I tend to take a full stride after landing to recover and that’s like 16′ into a line. Not OK. Trainer wants me to think of standing up in my irons as we land- not sitting back down in the tack, but stretching up. This is the first time in my life that I’m jumping big enough that there’s a “landing phase” instead of just putting feet down so it’s going to be developing muscle memory. I plan to watch a lot of Beezie and McLain to see how they move their bodies on that larger scale.

I’ll wrap up by confessing to you that I’m a liar. I’ve been telling you over and over how we’re on show hiatus for the winter to save money. BUT. BUT. Trainer has some one-day rated shows she’s willing to go to so I can get points for Regionals early in the season before classes get huge. And the one-days are so much cheaper than the week-long ones (obvi). So this will save money in the long run!

We haven’t picked which one (or two or three) we’re going to do, but it looks like the move up to 1.10m is going to be in December or January. I’M SO EXCITED TO JUMP BIG JUMPS WITH THE FRANKFURTER.

What are some fun lateral-work exercises you like to use to keep your horse fit during the winter?

Haunches-Out and Outside Leg

No political discussion from me, guys. All I’ll say is this- I have seen so many people reaching out to each other today to express love and support, and that gives me a lot of hope.

Let’s talk about happy stuff though- I got to ride my horse for the first time in a week! I can’t even tell you how happy that made me. AND it was a lesson, so we were able to really buckle down and work hard.

We’re continuing our pursuit of stronger lateral work- for my last few lessons, Trainer has had me drop my stirrups and sit the trot so I can really get deep and drape around Frankie more as I ask for these movements. Our shoulder-in has progressed and is much more consistent (though there’s still a ways to go), so we’ve started working more on our haunches-out.

To do this we’re practicing a lot of true counter-bend throughout his whole body- it isn’t enough for me to ask for the bend in front of me (seriously Olivia that’s not bend that’s just crooked). We’ve been doing circles on the counter-bend and asking him to push his haunches to the outside and it’s hard!! Frankie is eager to please, but making him move his body in these new ways is tough for him, and he generally tries to evade by speeding up. It’s taking a lot of core strength to pick him up and say, “no friend, we move sideways now with tiny powerful steps.” We got a couple good efforts from him last night, and we’re going to keep working to develop his sensitivity to my leg and ability to isolate his front and hind ends.

Our canter exercise involved a lot of circle work: canter a large circle, BALANCED sitting trot small circle, canter large circle, BALANCED canter small circle, repeat. When he stayed round and balanced and up off my hand, this worked well. When I let my leg get weak, he decided that breaking to a giant trot was easier than continuing a collected canter. Frankie really is such a tattle-tale: he will put in exactly as much effort as I put in.

My key takeaway here was to make sure my outside aids were present and pushing him around. I needed that inside leg to shape the circle, but he needed that outside leg to push his body around and channel the energy around the turn. And at all times, I need to sit up and get deep in my seat- Frankie needs that support right now and he doesn’t get that when I hover up out of my tack.

Then the jumping part! We warmed up a couple times over a little vertical off a diagonal turn, focusing on finding the right track out of the corner and channeling him straight to the base. Once we were feeling that, we started building up our course:

nov_bending

Our first exercise was 7 to 2 in a bending 7 strides. This was still pretty much part of our warmup, but Frankie was nice and forward and responsive so this came up nicely without having to go back and make any fixes.

Next was 1-2-3a-3b-4. Outside vertical, end-ish jump, four forward strides to the oxer into the combo, one stride to the itty bitty skinny box out, hard right over the other end-ish jump. The first jump came up nicely- we motored out of the corner and homeboy carried a nice pace up and over- then I needed to hold that outside leg to push him across 2. The four stride was a bit gallop-y, but that set us up for a decent combo. Luckily Frankie is super point-and-shoot, so the skinny was very straightforward for him. Then it was lots of right leg to push him out the the corner and give us more space to make the turn to 4.

Next part: 5-6-7-8. Diagonal vertical, rollback over outside (going between 2 and 8), back up the white gate, and bending out over the wall in a forward bending four. I had to look through that rollback so we didn’t get sucked out to the wall, and motor up out of that turn. Then again- we had to motor up out of the rollback to the gate. Then it was holding my outside aids in the bending- left leg to push him over on the track, and left hand to straighten him out once it was in view.

Then we put it all together! 1-2-3a-3b-4-5-6-7-8. The only different part here is 4-5, which was a bending 4. Nothing crazy there as long as I landed looking through my turn to set us up for the rollback.

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This was the hilarious last jump on course. Pic was taken from Frankie’s back so perspective is a little off, but this was about 3′. I giggled when I saw it.

Overall I was happy with this course. Some takeaways:

  1. Ride the frick up out of the corner. Yes, we need to package and balance into our turns. But then it’s time to hit the gas and get him to dig in and power out of the turns up to the jump. When he has that power, we can make pretty much any distance work.
  2. Outside leg 5ever. Two legs, two hands. All the time. Outside aids are what get him straight, and straight means power.
  3. Use our power to push across the jumps. Yes, even from the short tight spots. This was such a noticeable difference- when he had a bit of fire in his step, he jumped so much better, which allowed me to maintain a stronger position and land galloping.
  4. On that note- land galloping when we can. Obviously if there’s a combo or set striding we have to recover quickly off the jump and balance, but when possible we want to land and immediately rev the engine back up. That way we don’t have to build our pace and power back up from scratch every time.

I really feel like we’re making great progress- sometimes I get discouraged by how much difficulty we (mostly I) have with certain exercises, but then I realize that these exercises are much harder than what we’ve done in the past. Of course we’re going to struggle more, this is difficult stuff! I’m so proud of how far and how quickly Frankie has developed a lot of skills that are new to him, and it’s getting me really excited for our future together.

And lucky for me, work has slowed down enough that I can get back to my usual routine of riding 6x/week! Frankie might not be thrilled about the extra work, but I sure am.

What are some exercises you use to develop haunches-out?

Fancy Flatwork and Curvy Courses

 

How many of you guys watched Harrisburg this past weekend? Man, the course diagram looked fairly simple but it did NOT ride simply.

pessoa_medal_course

Not a ton of jumps, but those end oxers were TOUGH, and the bending combo too. Plus getting the same strides from 5/8 to the combo in both directions. This course seriously asked some hard questions and the kids who ended up on top had to work their butts off to get there.

Naturally, my trainer returned from Harrisburg inspired to inflict this same course on her students. Which brings me to our lesson this week. Which I am still sore from.

For a change, I’m actually going to talk about our flatwork for more than 10 seconds, since we worked on it a LOT this week. I mean, we always do, but this was some next level stuff.

Trot work: I have gotten better about offering a consistent, steady contact to Frankie, and now it’s his job to take that contact and meet me halfway. It was interesting- he’s always been stronger at connecting to the outside rein going to the left, but I felt more connected going to the right this week. My suspicion is that my monster right leg is the culprit here- it’s so much stronger than my left leg, it isn’t even funny.

Trainer had me drop my stirrups and work at the sitting trot for a GOOD long time to help me sit deeper and develop a better feel for Frankie’s movement. Lots of big circles, small circles, counter-bending to the correct bend, shoulder-in down the long side. I’m still working on keeping more still and connected when asking for that shoulder-in, but Frankie was very obliging about giving it to me when I asked properly. Now I just have to ask properly more! We focused a lot on straightness, power from behind up into the bridle, and getting him moving off my leg.

Canter work: homeboy doesn’t get to take a couple flail-y steps to move from the walk to the canter. After a couple sloppy departs, we were able to sharpen these up. We also worked heavily on our canter-walk transitions, with the intent of stepping under and moving into a nice flowing forward walk.

We still have a ways to go to get these truly sharp, but there’s definite progress there. We used to coast down half the long side and ooze into a shuffling walk and we’ve definitely cut down the time it takes. I need to remember to sit tall and engage my core when asking for the downwards so Frankie can’t lean on my hand and dive down.

Here’s a clip of some of our flatwork:

Some things I need to work on position-wise that will help Frankie out, but super proud of my boy for putting his thinking cap on and working so hard!

On to the jumping. And guys. It was a doozie. Here’s the diagram:

oct_medal_course

First course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3. Overshooting the turn to 2 and slicing that left to right gave a little more room to the turn to 3. Barely. Woof.

Second course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3, bending 4a to 4b in one stride, out over 5 in two strides.

This added a challenge over 3- I had to stay very straight so that there was room to turn to 4. Then it was a big one-stride, so we had to cowboy out of that turn to gallop out the 1 to the 2. Still woof.

Full course: 1, turn right over 2, hairpin turn left over 3, bending 4a to 4b in one, bending out over 5 in two, immediate right turn over 6, hairpin left over 7, up 5 the other way, bending in two to 4a, then two strides to 4b, turn right over 3 the other way, then loop back over 2 the other way.

HOLY BAJEESUS. The first part rode the same, then 6 and 7 came up decently. It was a bit gallopy from 7 back to 5, then had to really shape and press for the 2 strides to the combo. Then fitting two strides in there was HARD. We really had to shape that combo.

The first time through I accidentally put 3 strides between 5 and the combo, which made the two-stride much easier to fit in. Apparently that counts as cheating though, so we had to go back and make it a two to a two.

So yeah. A very challenging course modeled after the questions asked in the Harrisburg course.

Thoughts on the jumping: my auto release is getting there. It still isn’t muscle memory, but it felt like an improvement from last time. I also felt stronger in my leg- again, not completely where it needs to be yet, but progress. Frankie is jumping more cleanly when I support him better and get him to that tighter spot. Overall: we’re making steady progress together.

What needs work now is my mindset. If the distance isn’t coming up easily, I have a tendency to kinda give up and say “Frankie take the wheel.” I need to trust myself more and MAKE the striding happen. Frankie isn’t always right. He might not be thrilled about the tighter spot, but that’s what we need to jump powerfully and cleanly. He’s not going to get offended or fussy if I ride more actively, so I need to be a nosy pepper. Imma get jalapeno business.

And then best boy got a bath because apparently 82 degrees in October is a thing this year.

october_bath
He might actually be a moose instead of a horse, need to get the DNA test done.

A few side notes as we wrap up here:

Send manfriend your questions! He’s really excited to share with all y’all. You can also feel free to send questions to me directly, on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Which brings me to some fun news:

We now have a Facebook page! That was pretty much the last thing on the social media to-do list for the blog, so go check it out and follow along for yet ANOTHER way to get your daily dose of Francis. Also please tell me what you usually share on Facebook and how you manage all your social media accounts and general tips on time-management and how to be an adult OK thanks.

What kind of lateral work do you like to incorporate to get your horse moving off your leg?

Upperville Envy and Homework

Hey gang!

Sorry about the pseudo-radio silence this week, my browsers have been acting up. I was saying that it was my internet acting up, but I’ve been reliably informed that my internet is just fine, and it’s just that all my browsers decided to go on the fritz. Oh well.

Anywho, this week has been super great in some ways and super sad in others. Let’s get the sad out of the way so we can focus on the good.

The entire farm is at Upperville. Sob. They’ve been absolutely kicking butt and grabbing tons of satin with their awesome ponies, but I’m not there with them. Instead, I’m watching the livestream during my lunch break when my stupid internet browser is working. This also means no lessons this week, so I only got to jump little tiny jumps instead of doing big fun courses.

Poor me, right??? HAH.

On to the good! Addy and I had two super productive “homework rides” on both Monday and Wednesday- we were both sweaty and out of breath by the end. We worked on similar things both days in different ways- accepting the contact and collecting.

One thing I’ve mentioned before is that Addy will move off when I pick up my reins. Smart pony is too smart for her own good. So I’ve started picking up my reins and really utilizing our walk instead of letting her assume that walking always equals relaxing. She’s still not convinced, so she spends a lot of time prancing and wiggling, and I spend a lot of time half-halting. It’s the funniest thing- this bombproof horse that will jump the moon turns into a snorting fire-breathing dragon as soon as we turn the speed down. Lots of leg-yields, haunches-in, turns on the forehand, etc. as well as circles and serpentines to give her something to focus on besides jigging along. I’ve already noticed a difference in her willingness to accept this, so I’ll just have to remember to consistently incorporate more walking into our flat work.

Addy has gotten much more sensitive and responsive to our lateral work at the walk, so I’ve started incorporating that a bit into our trot work as well. She leg-yields like an absolute pro, and our haunches-in have improved by leaps and bounds. She definitely lets me know that she’s working hard by getting snorty and prancing, but she so clearly wants to please. It’s awesome working with a horse with this kind of work ethic! I’ve also been working on my sitting trot and maintaining the power through that- to make it easier to sit, I often just ask her to slow down and we lose power. Lately I’ve been trying to keep my leg on more strongly so that we maintain the power, and just package it up into a nice round bouncy trot. I need someone to film this! Pretty Girl seriously turns into a fancy dressage horse when I ask her correctly, and it’s gorgeous (from what I can see in the ring mirrors). We got some beautiful foamy horse lipstick from this work. I also had some trot poles set up so we could get her legs moving and stretching and take regular breaks from the collection and lateral work.

At the canter, I’m working a TON on our adjustability. We can hand-gallop all day long. She does not need to practice a nice open stride. She needs to practice a short bouncy stride. I know that’s very hard for her to do, so we’re doing it in short sets to help build the muscles she needs to carry herself more. Any line set on normal 12′ striding is too short for her natural step and I need her much more responsive to me so that I can tell her when to shorten or open up. We’ve definitely gotten much better at this that we were a few months ago, but if we want any success in the jumper ring then I need her listening to my cues to wait to the base of the jump instead of charging and taking fliers. Holy crap this takes so much leg. It’s always my instinct to take my leg off when I want to slow down, but oh em gee that is so not correct. When I add my leg, I can basically get Pretty Girl cantering up-and-down beneath me with very little forward motion. It’s a super cool feeling to get her so compacted and powerful and waiting for my cue.

Until she sees a jump.

Then, she absolutely loses her mind and runs at it unless I’m holding HARD. I do think that part of this is the 20* drop in temperature, getting rained on in turnout, and lack of jumping in the last week or so. But Beastly Unicorn ran right at those crossrails I set up and took off hand-galloping away from them. Never dangerous, but if you don’t particularly like going fast then you would have had a terrible time riding her that day (I had a fantastic time haha).

We tried two exercises with varying degrees of success. One was a single crossrail that we approached from both directions, first at the trot and then at the canter. As simple as you can get. I really wanted her waiting to the base and maintaining a steady rhythm instead of laser-ing in on the jump and blowing through my aids. I also wanted her waiting after the jump, but that definitely needs more work. If you check out my Instagram, you can see a short clip of Pretty Girl giving me exactly what I asked for!

The other exercise we did was a simple line set in a normal 3 strides. I wanted her waiting for the 4. As you may know, Addy is very comfortable doing a 3-stride in a 2, and getting the 3 means she has to a work a little. Putting in 4 means she has to work extra hard. She gave me the 4 when we trotted in, but got so excited cantering in that even getting the 3 was a struggle.

My suspicion is that there are a few holes in Addy’s training, and that if we can patch those holes we can go higher and higher. She loves jumping, but needs to keep her brain in her head instead of losing her mind and galloping at it. She loves having a job to do, but needs to accept the contact so that I can accurately communicate that job.

And if we always have rides like we did this week, then it’s gonna be AWESOME to patch up those holes. Despite the snortiness and the prancing and the goofiness, or maybe because of all those things, I had a ridiculous amount of fun on both rides. No frustration, no drilling of any one particular thing, just working together and building our strength so we can keep doing awesome things together. I adore this mare.

Maybe we can even get good enough to go to Upperville next year 😉

What has your “homework” been lately? What basic things have you taken a step back to work on?