Monday, March 28, 2011

Clinic Review

Despite earlier protestations that this would not become a weight loss blog, I have some serious thinking to do after seeing 2 pictures from the clinic-thinking, mind you, not anything crazy like taking action just yet;) Yes, I was heavily padded because that arena was fricking COLD on Saturday, but still, I don't like the way I look on my horse, bottom line. Only 2 pics for now; I know Judy took more, but she's a busy girl so I'll post them as I get them.

Headless! I really like the light here, though. Early in our ride, before Miles' engine went full speed ahead.

Still, if I work even half as hard on a semi-regular basis during our rides from here on out as I did on Saturday, it will help tremendously. Miles just tries so damn hard and is such a sweet boy, I want to make our work as pleasant as possible for him. Though, he looks pretty happy here, no?

Grrrr, still working on those arms/hands. Smiling like a goober, for sure.

He's so damn cute I just want to put him in my pocket. He is happy in his work, he tries hard for me, he's very sound and sane and really, everything I would want him to be. Throughout most of the clinic, I felt balanced and effective as a rider...the best was hearing Cheri's corrections (post to your hands, hold that rein, half-halt NOW!), executing them, and getting immediate feedback from my horse that it was all working. I was so HUNGRY for feedback! She said she saw real potential in Miles as a dressage horse and myself as a rider, and encouraged us not to throw out the idea of using a bit yet (she recommends KK bits; hello $$ we don't have!)-even if it takes a year or so. She also said we would "make an impression" (ha ha!) if we wanted to show, but of course you can't show dressage in a bitless bridle:( I loved hearing all of it, naturally. Yet, we have real work to do, oh yes we (I) do. A summary:

Outside rein-though I try to ride "inside leg to outside rein", I've not been doing it correctly. The outside rein anchors us to the rail, and allows us to ride our corners and circles with wonderful stability and connection. I've been throwing it away too much and once I rode effectively with it, our ride improved 100%. Though we never got to do any canter work, he felt so wonderful and straight and connected I feel sure there were times during our ride when I could've asked for that right lead (we worked a LOT on our right side) and we would have had no problem at all. Something to try this week.

Oh my broken wrists. I need to double check myself every so often and ride holding my whip horizontally with both hands, to train my muscles what straight wrists, thumbs up feels like (damn hunter training). I also need to close my fingers, and I knew this-particularly in the beginning with Miles, I kept my fingers very loosey goosey, as he was most comfortable this way. Now that we are working into contact, I need to not do that. Also, my whip is not ideal-I dunno how long it is (longer than a jumping crop yet not long enough), but I probably should invest in a proper dressage whip. That's IF I want to carry one at all-I actually was much more effective with my hands without it, and Miles does not need it to go forward (Whee! Such a motor he has!). What we may need it for?

Lateral work. Our couple leg-yields we attempted were absolute crap. When Cheri learned we've never done turns on the forehand under saddle (Oops-honestly it's not really occurred to me) we worked on those. This was....challenging. Between the bitless bridle and my stubby leg, Miles had a hard time giving me even a couple steps at first. It's 100% my fault, as I've not done this sort of work with him before. So, we sort of blew his mind and I felt like a shit, backing up my leg with the whip when he wouldn't move. Of course, because he is a smarty pants, he got it after a little while, but when I finally asked him to go forward he was very tense and...yeah, he was freaked out. I've never hit him behind my leg before. I hated it. I don't want to do that anymore-yes the instruction was coming from Cheri (and she's right-he needs to take my leg seriously in all instances, whether we are trotting or at a halt), but I wish I would have prepared him better. So, I'm going to do more groundwork on this with him, and use my fist as my leg to help him understand what he needs to do, and work on it under saddle as well.

After our turn on the forehand work, I allowed Miles to walk forward; his head was high and his steps were short with lots of tension-there was that sitting on a powder keg feeling I loathe. Cheri recognized it right away, of course, and immediately had me send him forward into the trot. After a couple minutes, this turned into our best work yet:) We spiraled in and out, 20 meter circle, than 15, than back to 20, than 10-I've never felt so connected to my boy. I'm so glad he forgave me and let the past 10 minutes go, to work with me and for me.

When we were done, he was sweaty and tired, but happy. He hammed it up with Cheri, totally charming her, and she called him a golden retriever:) I felt great.

Yesterday I gave him the day off, but he was fine-no soreness or anything (wish I could say the same!). We took a walk around the barn property and I let him graze for a bit. Can't wait to get back on tomorrow.


  1. Sounds like you really got a lot out of your clinic. Great clinic notes, and looking forward to more pictures. You and Miles look great together! :)

    I believe that the dressage whip is like a hearing aid... "oh - you didn't hear my leg, I'll make my aid little louder." I find with Val, who makes an audible gasp when I use the whip, that a few times when his response is sluggish, and I don't even need it for the rest of the ride.

    I have a spare County dressage whip that I would be happy to send to you. Email me if you are interested. :)

  2. I have wrist issues too. A nice lady at the horse expo told me what I was doing wrong and it might be your issue too: I was bending my wrists out. That made my thumbs drop and my elbows stick out. Keep your wrists straight or slightly bent in towards the withers- it helps a lot (if that's your issue).

    The groundwork will definitely help him yield the hindquarters- it's worked like a charm with mine.

    You both look adorable in the photos!

  3. I mostly use my whip as a tickle ... saying "Excuse me, please engage your hind end now." I rarely have to whack him with it anymore, although I did in the beginning when I needed him to know that legs mean go NOW, not when you feel like it. My Morgan used to get VERY upset when I used the whip. He would get tense and offended and would not relax. Hampton forgives me right away and gets on with life. So if Miles is one of those who thinks he is in trouble and gets upset, maybe a spur would be better?

  4. I use a KK bit (yes, serious $$$) and Jackson loves it. He hated taking the bit when I first got him and now he happily opens his mouth and chews away. He also doesn't "need" a whip but I carry one. It's a good arm extension when I want to touch him someplace I can't reach. Just a tickle really, to help clarify: "I meant move here."

  5. I have a KK bit (loose ring) that Izzy doesn't totally love. She's into the cheap knock offs that Korsteel makes which are a lot thicker and cheaper. Can't argue with that.

  6. So adorable! I'm jealous of how productive this sounds. I don't think we accomplish this much in a year.