Thanks to all who have followed my training in my quest for the USDF Bronze medal. I now manage the USLF Training Collaborative website, where all my training is posted, along with other Lipizzan enthusiasts. To visit my recent training, please use this link:
Monarch and I will see you on the “other side.” As pictured on the bottom right photo, we have earned our USLF Silver Level while working toward our USDF Bronze level. The beautiful blue saddle pad with silver embroidery was awarded to Monarch and I for our 2017 training.
2017 TRAINING LOG DAILY GOALS:
8/10-11: practice straightness (see journal 8/9/17)
8/8: review 2nd level movements
2017 JOURNAL ENTRIES
Minutes of Training: 75
Goal: Training/coaching with Susan
Methods- be specific, give details: Suppling-circle, push inside hind underneath belly, open inside rein; when horse releases, send him over the back, into the bit. Feel thrust of hind end in my hand- horse gives increased contact. Rider keeps this contact for horse to keep his balance.
Straightness- work in shoulder fore on the 1/4 line- horse has no wall to lean on. Test his straightness by taking the whole package in shoulder fore to the wall with leg yield .
Reflection: Contact- Monarch is very light, but he needs my support by holding the contact he gives me, so he can come through . I need to remember to hold this contact. When I have this feel, I can do very small corrections to keep him balanced and supple.
Straightness- on right rein, Monarch gives a very firm outside contact- left is his stiff side & right is his hollow side. Even though he feels “good,” he is actually not straight straight. Shoulder fore on quarterline & leg yield to wall in shoulder fore test the horse’s straightness.
Next Steps: practice straightness; add shoulder-in & travers on 1/4 lines in trot, also canter work shoulder fore on 1/4 lines.
Goal: Coaching with Susan; overall goal to improve engagement through asking Monarch to step under his belly with his inside hind leg. We began by focusing on releasing the base of the neck to increase his stride and thrust. Then we worked on fluency through change of direction- walk and trot.
Methods- be specific, give details: warm-up: release base of neck with a suppling inside rein on long side and adding inside leg at girth asking Monarch to bend and move his barrel to the outside of the bend in the corners. After each release, I rode him forward into the contact.
Trot- same work in walk. As he stiffened on the long side, take Monarch into a supple circle- 20 M at first and smaller as he became more supple. then back on long side. Be vigilant to catch the horse beginning to stiffen, so correction can be quicker and more subtle before he loses suppleness. Avoid a big correction by giving many small suppling aids.
Aids to supple- Support neck with outside rein, bringing inside rein away from the neck. In the beginning, this required resting my inside hand on my knee. Later, the supple aid was much smaller. In the bend- circles/corners, put inside leg/inside spur on before opening inside rein. (Goal is to teach the horse to release as soon as he feels the inside leg, before the inside rein is needed.) As soon as the horse releases his neck, bring both hands together and ride forward into the contact. Feel for the difference the horse gives in each rein. The stronger the hind end becomes, the more even the contact will be.
In the walk-trot transitions, the horse must keep neck long and relaxed as he pushes into the bit through the hind end.
Part Two- fluidity and strengthening: begin a circle in walk or trot. Keep inside leg on to encourage the bend in ribcage and step of inside hind to step under and over. Feel for the horse moving laterally, as in a leg yield, as he steps under. Support with a suppling inside rein as needed. As we approach the center of the figure 8, change the bend with new inside leg/spur. Supple as needed. If horse takes most of the circle to change the bend, do another circle before asking him to change the bend.
Exercises- 10 M connected circles down the centerline A-C in walk. 20 M connected circles down the centerline A-C in trot. 20 M trot serpentine- begin at A in both directions, so work is equal on both hands. Leg yield zigzag rail to centerline on both hands. Leg yield zigzag centerline to quarterlines on both hands. Halfpass zigzags. Work zigzags in both walk and trot- aim for fluency and engagement
Reflection: After training for the past 3 days, I realize that when Monarch gets tired, he loses rhythm and fluency. This takes great strength and needs to be built slowly and consistently. Monarch needs lots of rest when he is working deeply. Intersperse work with straight and forward in first position along the rail and big circles.
Next Steps: Continue the work for the next several weeks. To prevent injury, do cavaletti and hillwork to continue the work with variety to prevent injury and boredom.
8/6: strengthen hind end for increased engagement and fluency
8/5: goal 1-improve suppleness- release tightness at base of neck; goal 2- strengthen both hind legs to improve engagement for reach and thrust. When asking Monarch to step under his belly in bending movements he loses rhythm because of lack of strength to step so deeply. This will be our default goal for the next several days. Increase supplements to help build muscle & improve recovery.
8/3: coaching with Susan- (see journal entry above)
8/1: calm, straight, forward comments about today’s training: this classic goal from the Old Masters became the default goal after Monarch decided there were multiple wild cats and mountain lions lurking behind every bush and shadow just outside the arena. When he wouldn’t supple out of his tension from the saddle, I switched to longe work. This was a safety decision, and a good one. Discretion is the better part of valor. I was able to remount at the end android him safely calm, straight, and forward. When a horse is tense, it is impossible to straighten him, and he is never on the aids or in front of the leg.
7/30: rider- position and effectiveness of aids/horse- engagement
Getting hurt has been a blessing in disguise. Without the pressure of being ready for a show in two months, I have been able to focus on myself: my position, my seat, my aids; being effective and efficient as a dressage rider. After a few sessions at home when I was finally able to wear a boot to ride, I had a lesson with my trainer. She gave me tips on how to focus my rides on myself as a rider, so I was able to improve rapidly as if I were working with a trainer on the longe line. (See 7/13/17 below. This is a great strategy; I am so please with the progress I’ve made.)
I ride with paddock boots without the half chaps, so I get immediate feedback when my legs are not still as the stirrup will pinch my calves. This is caused by gripping with my legs, which makes my legs “shorten” or “creep up” on the saddle. I’m pleased that this work has lengthened my leg a full stirrup hole. In the beginning after practicing walk/rising trot transitions, I practiced sitting trot without stirrups. This allowed my leg to relax and lengthen. I am now able to keep weight in my stirrups at sitting trot at the new longer length, even mediums across the diagonal.
I’m also “listening” for where in the stirrup my weight falls- square over the ball of the foot or too far forward from my heel being “up.” Another point of feedback is my seat- am I sitting over my three points of contact or is my weight too much on my pubic bones? When I practice transitions, I put my intention in growing tall and feeling for a balanced seat. When I practice sitting trot, I focus on lifting my pubic bones and engaging my core. This gives me a workout similar to crunches. I get the same feeling in the saddle as when I do crunches on my exercise mat, so I know I am working those muscles. As I sit the trot, I think that each stride I want to land on my “back pockets” (de Kunfy) and that I am so loose and following, the horse is moving each joint in my body. This is a marvelous feeling, becoming one with my horse- very addicting! We practice collected to medium transitions in the sitting trot. The collected trot must feel very bouncy and active- not a slow jog-trot. The medium trot must surge when I put my leg on.
Finally, I am using conscious intention to keep my hands still and together in front of the saddle. At first I used a neck strap to force my hands from moving. Again, like the seat work, I improved quickly and don’t need props to get the feedback for improved position. I looked at some pictures from last month and did notice that my hands are fairly wide. I hope to have some new photos to post soon. I am feeling mostly healed in my foot and eager to begin training our second level work again.
FROM MY TRAINING JOURNAL:
7/30: rider- position and effectiveness of aids/horse- engagement
7/29: Fluency- aids/rider; gaits/horse comments about today’s training: 1st day back in regular training after injury. All the seatwork was very beneficial for effectiveness in riding movements.
Training strategy- transitions in all gaits
Began balky; resistant; with w-t transitions, worked through poor rhythm. He became very fluid and forward- especially in canter work. I tested his w-c transitions on long side to ensure he was listening to my seat in the up transition. To help position & get the right lead, I asked from shoulder in/walk. This helped give him the collection and lift for the canter transition.
7/18-7/19; 7/23-7/24: seatwork
7/20/27: Monarch gave lesson to Tilly today; his goal is to build fitness and communication while longeing comments about today’s training: we worked on her seat- same ideas as I practice. Then I gave her reins, so she can start to learn how to coordinate aids for steering. Inside leg and outside rein was a big eye opener, so Monarch didn’t fall on his shoulder in the turn.
7-15-17: Renee and I took Monarch & Sonny out to Mary Pat’s. I love how cool the covered round pen is (even in the 90 degree heat), and the footing is perfect! It was “old home week” with many riders out who used to board there. We all enjoyed seeing each other again. I practiced my seat goals. This has become quite easy. Monarch is very forward to the leg and willing. My leg has lengthened a full stirrup hole longer. With the longer stirrup length, it is very easy to monitor when I begin to grip with my leg:) I am able to quickly diagnose when my leg starts to clamp and when my pelvis rotates on to my pubic bones. When my pelvis rotates, I am quickly able to bring my seat back over my seat bones. I am also getting good feedback, so I can feel the horse’s movement moving my joints. My elbows are soft and loose and my hips are open. Getting hurt was a blessing in disguise, as I am able to focus on improving my seat and rider effectiveness.
7-14-17: seat training from yesterday’s lesson
7/13/17: first lesson with Susan since being hurt. Because my broken toe affects how I ride, we decided to work only on my seat- position and effectiveness of a balanced, deep seat. I am working with and without stirrups. I will maintain a deep seat using core muscles to maintain a balanced, vertical position through up and down transitions. I will use my seat to effect down transitions, and a long leg (and/or light touch with whip or spur) to effect up transitions. My hands will remain still throughout the transition. To train my hands to remain still, I will hold a neck strap with one finger of my outside hand, which prevents the outside hand from moving. To train the inside hand, I will consciously touch knuckles with my thumbs up and wrists straight, but relaxed. I will give with my elbows to follow the horse’s movement in walk & trot, but keep hands very still through the transitions. We worked in walk, collected trot, medium trot, and all transitions halt through medium trot. Very quickly I was able to still my hands, open my hips, and follow with all my joints while maintaining a deep seat. Monarch was an angel- very cooperative and willing with this work. I think he enjoyed the bond we created- very good communication.
7/12/17: First ride since being hurt- Rider: position & effectiveness of aids; Horse: position effectiveness of balance
7/11/17: groundwork & longe- suppleness, stamina, and strength training comments about today’s training: With his shoes off, his stride is shorter- worked on lengthening- especially in walk and trot. Ended with walk-canter transitions. This is hard for him; I think he lost conditioning from being off since I’ve been hurt.
Sometimes life gets in the way of our goals. When that happens, we regroup. By getting hurt, I was able to focus on auditing 2 amazing trainers: Kasey Nillson from Northern Germany and Debbie Reihl Rodriguez, USDF S judge from Colorado. A week of auditing gave me the chance to reflect on my training and riding. I realize that I am on the correct,c classical track with my training, and that the position changes I made from the Beth Baumert clinic are definitely a critical component to rider effectiveness. I also learned that one cannot push the body when it is healing. A week after breaking the toe, I was stung multiple times in my right hand by a wasp, resulting in a bad reaction. One needs to get plenty of rest and keep one’s spirits up despite disappointment. I will not be healed and ready to show over Labor Day at the recognized show in Grand Junction. At this point I think I will take the year off from showing and concentrate on improving the quality of all second level movements. I have begun training half pass and renvers for 3rd level. Until the counter canter is really confirmed, I don’t want Monarch practicing the flying change.
7/10/17: suppleness horse & rider- walk/trot
comments about today’s training: Monarch was not sore from the trim and pulling of shoes. I was able to put weight into stirrup after toe break- will start lessons with Susan on Thursday. Plan to lunge this evening to help him build his stamina.
7/6: 1st day back in saddle- test ability to balance and bear weight. Was able to walk and trot. Today Monarch gets his shoes pulled with barefoot/mustang trim to help promote growth in prolapsed frogs (front feet) He will get the weekend off as we are leaving town for a wedding.
6/27-6/29: audited clinic with Kasey Nillson at Susan Schneider’s
6/30-7/1: audited clinic with Debbie Reihl Rodriguez- so hard not to be riding at this time
6/26: broke knuckle on left pinkie toe. unable to wear a shoe or boot; painful to walk. No riding for awhile.
6/25: review 2nd level test one- practice quality of canter section Movements #9-20
Lots of resistance today. Tomorrow: check canter on longe line, esp Right lead. Practice canter circles & transitions- walk/canter/walk/canter On long lines- practice collected canter sequence, especially counter canter
6/24: practice at Mary Duke’s- preparation for Debbie Reihl Rodriguez clinic next week. test quality of gaits and movements. Improve quality by focusing on relaxation and engagement, specifically prepare for turns and transitions with flexion and 1/2 halts. He was amazing today!
6/21: received bodywork yesterday; focus on rider position, based on bodywork
6/20: same as 6/19 journal entry; lesson with Susan was cancelled
It’s been a busy month. I’m teaching many art workshops, attended an opening of my newest show, and hung/delivered fresh artwork to three galleries. I still managed to stay active in my training. The highlight of the end of spring has been attending the Beth Baumert Dressage Symposium as a demo rider, June 3-4. This symposium had sponsorship from the Dressage Foundation and the USDF. Everyone learned so much. As a rider and auditor, my understanding was deepened. I will devote a full blog post to the principles behind Beth’s riding/training system, “When Two Spines Align.” I highly recommend this book for personal, as well as group book study.
cone work 20 meter circlesmedium trot- M to F nicely connected in shoulder fore
collected canter on 12 meter circle- exercise to develop engagement and connection
From my training journal:
Minutes of Training: 70
Goal: Tune up Monarch for lesson with Susan. It has been 3 weeks.
Methods- be specific, give details: 1. Improve longitudinal balance for smooth transitions by riding down transitions with our skipping a gait. Instead of slowing the horse, ride horse forward with short, active steps.
2. Build stamina in canter and improve longitudinal balance in canter- shoulder-in on long side, strike off in the corner, ride collected canter on short side, straighten on long side- shoulder fore, then ride shallow loop in middle of long side of counter canter, balance through corner, circle at A 12 meters collected canter, straight ahead another shallow loop serpentine with counter canter.
Reflection: Monarch did not want to accept right lead in counter canter. We practiced many right lead canter departs around the whole arena. When he was confirmed in the right lead, I went back to the shallow serpentine. When he held the right lead, I praised him without stopping. I found this helped him get the right lead: in the preparation- right flexion and squeeze legs once, right flexion twice- squeeze with legs if he looses impulsion, then sit on inside seat bone, slide left outside leg back, cue canter with right leg squeeze, AND GIVE THE INSIDE RIGHT HAND FORWARD to allow room for the inside leading leg to reach.
Next Steps: Continue with these goals to strengthen and balance. Up the ante by skipping gaits in transitions and riding deeper serpentines. Test canter depart by asking along the straight line.
From my training log: (As usual, entries appear in chronological order, with the most recent appearing first.)
6/16/17: improve canter: impulsions and connection, especially in the collected canter comments about today’s training: improved connection through suppling exercise: leg yield to S or R from A, then 12 M canter circle; repetition helped. At first he didn’t want to “work that hard.” With repetition, he realized that I would hold him to a higher standard, so reorganization at the letter and repeating the canter circle, improved the quality. We were actually able to do nice connected 10M collected canter circles.
improved the collection and connection by doing 4 loop canter serpentines the length of the arena. After the first exercise, he was much better.
Walked down the lane to cool out as a reward. Nicely forward and connected in the “trot” section of our cool down.
6/14/17: supple- laterals
strengthening- hill work
6/12: show Marissa what we learned at the Beth Baumert Symposium comments about today’s training: The wind is really strong today. Monarch was very reactive. I long-lined & lunged for 1/2 hour, getting him connected to my aids and to walk calmly past the chico brush. Then calmly trot and canter. After he was calm and safe, my 23 year old daughter, who grew up with Monarch, got on. I gave her a lesson based on the training we are doing. Both Marissa and Monarch were able to produce a throughness for 2nd level engagement and movements.
6/8/17: Practice exercises from Symposium for engagement:
1. Trot down long side first position. Change flexion/1/2 halt-Leg Yield head to wall 3 strides at R. Continue in first position around arena. Repeat leg yield at each RSVP letter.
2. Trot down long side in first position, at A down centerline. Leg yield left to S. At S, canter left 12 meters. Transition to trot at S, continue left in first position. MXV lengthen trot. At A down centerline. Leg yield right to R. At S, canter right 12 meters. Transition to trot after canter circle. SXF lengthen trot. Repeat. comments about today’s training: Horse was very resistant on right rein today. Horse was behind the leg- rider did too much work to keep him forward. I need to remember to go back to supple work when he is resistant until he is naturally forward. When he feels like he is going to break in canter, don’t push. Reorganize, supple, ask again. (Jane Savoie) Rider- don’t lose position, don’t work harder than the horse- “sit like a princess.” (Deb Hindi)
6/7/17: review rider position and horse honesty/forward commitment from Beth Baumert Symposium comments about today’s training: When Two Spines Align; It’s all about biomechanics. Part one- How Riders Work; Part 2- How Horses Work; Part 3 putting it all together. Just walk and trot today- too tired for more….tomorrow we can ramp up. The symposium made profound changes in my position that I have been searching for in my body for the past 40 years, or so… since I was injured in my teens and didn’t return to riding until I was in my later 30’s. That hiatus caused me to loose my natural seat and oneness with my horse. I was pleased with the photos from the clinic, and the connection & effectiveness I had today- able to reproduce what I had at the clinic. And all this while the Rotor Rooter was pumping the tanks next to the arena. What an amazing horse. He was resistant near the truck, but he never spooked, and he worked through his resistance after the warm up.
6/3-4/17: Beth Baumert Symposium; “When Two Spines Align”
Demo rider comments about today’s training: practice ideas from this symposium. Will write a journal and an article when I find the time. Monarch & I learned so much- Beth gave me the tools to make profound improvements in my effectiveness as a rider! I’ve had many great learning opportunities in my dressage career; this could possibly be the best.
6/2/17: symposium prep- flexions from Beth Baumert’s book, When Two Spines Align (see pp 177-180 flexions & p181-186 First Position)- symposium tomorrow
6/1/17: symposium prep comments about today’s training: Monarch was very tense today. I spent most of the time suppling. Used exercises from my trainer, Dr. Susan Schneider, Uta Graf’s book, and Beth Baumert’s book. For years I mistakenly believed when Monarch was ‘behind the leg” to my aids in the warmup, his response was due to laziness. It became very clear to me today that this is a response to tension. I will need to clear all the chico brush where the feral cats live next to the arena, as he has gotten quite reactive/resistant in these two spots.
5/28/27: test honesty to leg; desire to go forward without spurs comments about today’s training: Beth Baumert’s book, When Two Spines Align & Uta Graf’s book, “Effortless Dressage” both help getting him forward through suppling and laterals. He lacks engagement in left hind: unable to hold bend in travers left/cannot accept weight on that leg for reach and thrust. Also not consistent in Right Lead canter strike off, (left hind again.) I will address this with Beth Baumert at the Symposium
5/27/17: Symposium practice at site facility: beautiful facility; very excited about next week
The past two weeks Monarch and I worked on lateral exercises. I feel his balance and response to my inside leg are much improved. Through our training, his lateral reach is becoming longer, more rhythmic and fluid. Today in my lesson with Dr. Susan Schneider, I had a big breakthrough in my understanding of engagement and throughness. I now understand how the horse “pushes off the bit” to recycle the energy and come through. In my daily goals, I was unable to develop a through canter with Monarch unable to make connected transitions between gaits and within the canter. Today’s lesson gave me the missing link. The feeling of riding a connected, through horse is highly addictive. I look forward to taking my lesson from today even farther in our training. Despite the spring winds and rain, I plan to train tomorrow. I received a big confidence boost to meeting my training goal and earning my last qualifying score at Second Level.
Minutes of Training: 75
Goal: Lesson with Dr. Susan Schneider: improve horse’s way of going by refining rider’s timing & feel in the suppling aids
Methods: 1. Begin on 20M circle in walk. Monarch was very tense today with an inverted neck, high head, hollow back, and ribcage against my inside leg. It was very windy, and he was not tuned into any of my aids. I shorten my reins and lengthen my arms. I can only move my hands by initiating the movement from my elbow. I hold the outside rein just in front of saddle, resting my hand on the wither. I open the inside rein and rest my hand on my inside thigh. I wait until my horse releases his neck and gives. This can take awhile at the beginning of the ride. I need to wait and continue to ride rhythmically, even when the feel gets strong as horse figures out the release. (If I release too early, I teach my horse that he is in charge.) My inside leg is used in the rhythm of the gait, to move my horse into my outside rein. I hold the reins quietly, (never massaging either rein), and as lightly as he allows, but as strongly as needed. As soon as he releases, I release. If my horse jerks the rein, I hold firmly with my core. The holding rein always comes from the core, not the fist. In the beginning when he is tense, I will release by bringing the inside rein about halfway back to the neck. (I never bring either rein backwards. During suppling, I move the inside rein out.)
2. Early in the suppling process, I need to re-supple every few strides. At this point, I continue to adjust and release as the horse releases. This is why I don’t bring the inside rein all the way back to the neck. My timing needs to be sensitive, quick, and proactive before he gets too far out of the bend and stiffens against me. I also need to pay attention to where in the arena he is most concerned. This is where I need to proactively begin to supple about a stride before he starts to stiffen.
3. As he begins to soften, I ask for the trot through the suppling inside rein. Again suppling needs to be sensitive, quick, and proactive. The rhythm of the trot with the suppling inside rein relaxes and connects my horse to me.
4. As my horse begins to relax and connect, I am able to hold both my rein close to the neck. My suppling rein only needs to move a small distance from the neck to supple. I need to continuously monitor and supple my horse. When he is connected and relaxed, I can do this with smaller, sublter aids. As my horse connects, he will push off the bit, recycling the energy and coming through. At this point, the contact gets stronger in a pleasant way. (Hard to explain this feel, but when you have it, you know it.)
5. I leave the center 20M circle at B or E, by using my inside leg to send my horse sideways on to the track to go large. This movement is a bending line, like a leg yield with bend. I can take into shoulder fore down the long side with a bending leg yield at each corner.
6. Repeat in both directions.
7. Return to the 20M circle in trot between B & E, and ask for canter. Again, supple through the transition. Repeat the supple steps in canter. Go large when the canter is supple and through. Ride shoulder fore on the long sides. Repeat in both directions.
Reflection: Suppling is the key to all qualities on the training scale. When any quality is lost, return to this suppling 20M circle. As we practice this, Monarch will become more confirmed in moving into the outside rein from the inside leg and the inside suppling rein will become more subtle. I need to monitor each stride and supple proactively to keep him in balance and through.
Next Steps: Practice these steps until they become ingrained in my modus operandi: this is how I reconnect and relax my horse when he becomes tense, looses balance, disconnects. Through practice, he will become confirmed in suppling to produce connection, engagement, and thoroughness.
5/22, 23, 24/17: horse- continue to develop & refine laterals- build strength & suppleness for thrust and reach; tune up collected canter rider- focus on lightness & effective aids using Beth Baumert’s aids: shape, listen, act; comments about training: when I focus on my effectiveness/lightness of aids, Monarch is much better. Exercises: leg yield; shoulder-in; sh-in to travers; travers/renvers in walk & trot; canter- 20 M circles trot/canter transitions; working canter/collected canter transitions. lesson tomorrow
5/15-21/17: continue suppleness/laterals; balance/canter comments about today’s training: add travers to exercises tomorrow; work canter transitions- working/collected (if Monarch doesn’t hold canter, work trot/canter, then collect for a few strides to walk canter transitions) Rider- focus on light aids