Monday, June 28, 2010

two rides

Sunday I had a regular ride, in which we did pretty much the normal, expected things. She's very much in season and we still had issues in the canter departs, especially left. But we're doing much better on the stretches. I think.

Today we rode just walking the hills. I remind myself not to "work" on anything else by not even putting my half-chaps on for these. And I didn't lower the stirrups (since I use the boss's saddle, I usually put the stirrups down a hole and a half . . . but only a half-hole if I've got on my tall boots). And we had fun. It is this sort of work I think will be best for her actually, where she can stretch her nose out in front of her a bit and not curl herself into a ball, etc. I've begun asking her to stop on the downhills, just a thing to help that idea of getting her hind legs under herself. And after the hills we did pick up canter in both directions, in almost a forward seat, in the back arena . . . with no problems I might note. Reins fairly loose, head low and nose forward. She trotted a bit fast especially into left lead but *that's how horses start doing it when they are learning it* and I've almost decided that that is where she is. Really green in other words. I should perhaps treat her like a youngster in what I expect from her and also in how I ask her for things. A very stiff and somewhat weak youngster, but hey.

Show the 10th. T-2 again. So I'm working mostly on the strength hoping that will improve the quality of the gaits, thinking rhythm steady, big accurate circles, and for the show I will think forward. In fact, I think forward will be the key to getting the canter transitions.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

easy ride

It has been so hot, and she's a black horse. The tractor was hooked up to the bushhog and the manure spreader was full(ish). And so I brought horses in, fed, threw the only two day turn-out horses out, and rode. And even at that, I didn't ride too hard. I didn't even ask for a canter. We concentrated on the slightly lateral work we've been doing at walk and trot interspersed with stretches and transitions. Then we left the arena and walked the hill a couple of times.

On our way out of the arena, a horse and rider fell down. It was, well, odd. He, the horse, just lost focus and fell down. No one was hurt. But it was interesting. It was funny how we didn't mention it for the most part the rest of the day -- one doesn't want the insecure riders being more insecure because then they are more likely to fall, not less. And yet you have to understand that it is always a possibility. And the best thing, the very best thing, would be to have each and every rider practice falling, learning how to fall well. Which the woman who was on the horse did by the way -- she handled herself quite well. Anyway.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


off for a week. Stuff happened, including a foal death and lots of thunder too. So I went in this morning to ride. I could tell we'd both been off a week. It wasn't bad. Still trying to be very deliberate and plodding, while maybe asking for just a touch of lengthening occasionally? I've been reading Riding Through by Debbie McDonald and so had her ideas in mind too. I spent a lot of time at walk, transitioning from walk to shoulder fore to circle to stretch to walk to stop to walk etc. Then some of the same at trot. I'm still thinking her rear end isn't reaching across but just trailing behind in the lateral work at trot . . . but I don't know that. At trot I worked several times (not just at the end of the ride) to get her to stretch (this mostly came out of Debbie's book, the ideas for it -- shoulder fore to get her on the bit then ask for the stretch after she's securely on the bit) -- which she did some. Still some problems with the canter, particularly left lead. Today I think she cross-cantered that lead once. Dianne pulled in right as she was doing it and I asked her if she was bucking or cross-cantering because it felt downright weird. Very up and down like bucking and yet different. Except if she has an issue with the hind end, why would she do the correct lead behind and wrong up front? Am I so unbalanced asking for this? What is going on? So I asked Dianne, not really joking, can I please ride your horse one day, just so I can feel a different horse. Friesians are so . . . Friesian. They are not straightforward to ride. At all. There is not a more beautiful horse in the world than Rolinette but she's interesting. So anyway, I did several canter transitions in each direction, interspersed with more walk work. She felt very strong in the canter but not relaxed. Sigh.

Coming up on a horse show. I'll try T2 again I'm sure. I would hope to score a 60 but who the heck knows. Remember those coefficients. Ride accurately. Do our best. See what happens.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

not much

I didn't sleep well last night and was very tired today. I knew Cathy planned to come by to ride and I decided that if she did, I would ride with her, and if she didn't, I wouldn't ride. Well, here I am writing so she did!

Now, this is three days in a row for Rolinette so I didn't want to do too much. I think the canter weirdness the other day was her heat cycle again as she definitely was winking today. So I mostly worked slowly and laterally. I need eyes on the trot shoulder fores/leg yields as I can tell when her fore is crossing over but I'm entirely unsure what is happening behind. I miss shoulder-in-ing toward a mirror! I felt like she curled a little worse today (should I say lack of forward?) I didn't really ride her very long at all -- as hot as it was she was barely hot but did get a cold shower anyway.

Cathy is a blast and I think Julie and I will be going to FENCE at the end of the month to visit with Andre and Kay and watch all the fancy horses!

Monday, June 7, 2010

ride with ladies

Rol and I took a spin with the ladies and Star and Adonis today. I tried my best to plod along (just kidding although I really did concentrate on rhythm and not once on forward . . . well, maybe I did ride a diagonal a little, um, steadily). We did a good bit of mini-lateral work (shoulder fore, leg yield) in walk and trot. I had some trouble picking up canter leads again today which is somewhat unusual when I'm not in a class. But especially that left lead -- it felt like if I had the bend, that that was when she picked up the wrong lead which makes no sense at all. Well, next time. We also tried to ask for a little bit of bend often. The bend asks her to step under herself and that may be just exactly what she's objecting to in canter.

And the ladies and I had fun. And I think the horses too. We enjoy our little Monday romps.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

not a blank slate

I guess sometimes it is how something is worded. “What did you learn in your lesson?” If I’d answered that question, I would have said “nothing” but I took a clue from my brilliant son and answered a different question instead, with basically what I said on this blog about the lesson. It was a great lesson but I can't say I "learned" something because, to me, it takes more than that to learn something.

Then I was told that Andre had said privately, “I wish people wouldn’t use the term ‘forward‘ at all.” Well, since I’m the only one on the farm who ever talks about forward, I’m feeling a bit defensive about that one.

I don’t come to this thing tabula rasa, I have knowledge and experience and opinions and biases already, and one of the things I really really think is, you have to go forward. I know rhythm and regularity are at the base of the training scale, but I also know that you have to go forward to BE rhythmic and regular. I’m not a blithering idiot; I know that “forward” does not mean “faster tempo”. But people, a gate cannot be “pure” if it lacks forwardness (like a four beat canter); people cannot learn to post on a horse who is jogging; etc.

Ok, now that I’ve got that off my chest. I’m sure I shouldn’t take it personally. I'm sure I shouldn't take it personally but I swear I am the only one on that farm who ever says that word.

So, I rode today. I just saddled quickly and went out back and walked that hill three times. Then I cantered in the back ring. My thoughts were on fitness today, and relaxation, and doing something different.

I will ride this out, in Andre and Lisa's way. I recognize that I am riding by grace and that I am not autonomous. I'm afraid sometimes of wanting too much. I afraid sometimes of wanting too much to be good.

I will ride their way and take my own lessons from it.

But I am good, damn it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mr. not Pierre

Finally the day came to ride under Andre's instruction. In some ways it has been a long time coming -- I think Andre has wondered if I really ride at all! In others, I think it is a miracle that it can happen at all.

Andre is very different. My previous teachers were students primarily of Germans, or those of the German school. Andre is of the French school. German is strength; French is finesse, to oversimplify a lot.

Also, what he told me was in some ways very different than what I was doing. What is funny about that is that it doesn't make me feel like I've been wrong but like there is more than one way to skin a cat as it were. I suppose that goes back to horses being the one thing that I'm not apologetic about.

His emphasis was on rhythm. Not so much forward. He said big horses feel slow. So at times today Rol felt plodding. He says, rhythm first, then bend, and in that bend (and with fitness), we ask her to step more under herself with her hind end.

And that was sort of it. He corrected my inside leg position saying it was just a smidge (like half an inch) further back than it should be -- that little bit more forward gives her the post around which to bend. He said it was an unusual fault. He didn't once tell me to sit back and when I remarked on that at the end of the lesson, he said, no, your position is pretty good, and besides, where she is right now, you have to be forward a tiny bit.

In the finesse, he did say to sit back consciously when asking for upward transitions and to not sit back when asking for downward transitions.

We did a lot of riding the corners, deeper into the corners, and asking her to bend, and consciously and consistently riding through the corners. Oh, that is so much something I remember from my old MM days, those corners were so important! I have probably been slopping through them, and I've known I haven't been neat in them on Rol but I've focused on other things. So ride the corners.

We did some shoulder fore. He didn't use it with me as I've seen him do with others as almost an idea of shoulder fore (almost a way to be straight) but with me he did it more an only a slightly less intense shoulder-in. Rol is not very lateral (understatement). Lateral work asks her to step under herself.

Also, don't lean. I didn't even realize I was doing that and that is so bad!

After the lesson, when I was off somewhere else walking Rol out (she was quite hot and huffing a bit although I'd been so transported with concentration I hardly felt like we'd worked at all -- I was so concentrated that I literally felt like I was in a different world, a world that was just horses, just riding, just being perfect and in perfect partnership), Andre said to Lisa (reported later by Lisa); "She's a good partner for Rolinette; she's not too busy." You know what? I'm good with that! I know how to be quiet on a horse. I like that a lot.

Of course, I got off wanting to do it again tomorrow, wanting to do it again everyday for a week, wanting to do it every day period.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

just a ride

Just a ride and a preparation for the Andre lesson tomorrow. And a shirking of my farm duties too probably. And make no mistake, "just a ride" is a magnificent thing.

I can't think of anything spectacular to report about this ride though. She didn't buck into canter. Lisa had said that was probably about her being in heat. We did everything usual except we didn't go walk the hill because I don't want her to be sore tomorrow. She was nicely forward, for her, I think. I try to think forward when she tries to curl which seems to work better for me than more uphill. I struggle with shoulder fore with her and I know Andre will ask for lots of that tomorrow so we just might find out I've got it all wrong or something -- like maybe I'm making more than it is. Andre loves shoulder fore. I worked in 10M circles at walk and 15M circles at trot then asking for lengthenings -- today I think the lengthenings also involved quickening which isn't so good but she also lowers that head and stretches out some which is good. I tried to keep it mixed up so that I wasn't always asking for things in the same pattern because she's so smart, if I do the same thing twice, she anticipates it the second time. She stretched at trot ok.

I was looking forward to the lesson tomorrow with almost no dread until I got the ride times. I am so funny with that, that nervousness, that overwhelming desire to be good that is almost paralyzing and so you either overcome it or you can never be any good. I'm still looking forward to it.

But I think she is improving. I really do.