Road to Bronze 2017 Apr 24-30, 2017

More crazy weather.  I woke up to 4″ of snow Saturday morning.  Between the thunder snow earlier in the week and the snowfall this weekend, it was no wonder the horses were spooky, the wind howled, and all my joints were achey.  Photos show the morning and then later in the afternoon.  I’ve been doing a lot of arena work with my footing.  With such a wet snowfall, I was able to harrow and get my footing in good shape.

DAILY GOALS:

4/30/17: test lateral work from last lesson in walk and trot
comments about today’s training: I rode bareback this evening. Monarch only needed a light touch from the spur to move laterally off my leg both on the circle and on the centerline in walk and trot.

Date: 4/27/17
Minutes of Training: 120

Goal: Lesson with Susan

Will you continue this goal or make a new goal for next training?: yes, we need to confirm a soft inside leg to an outside rein connection.  Monarch must yield his ribcage to make room for my inside leg.

comments about today’s training: We spent most of the lesson working on true bend, getting Monarch to move his rib cage with a check on the outside rein and touch with the  inside spur. When this happens he is “through.”   He engages- steps under himself himself, takes the weight and thrusts forward with the hind end. He is truly connected from the inside leg to the outside rein and able to flow softly forward or laterally. We need to continue this work until he willingly lets my inside leg fit inside a softly bent horse, instead of pushing my leg away with his ribcage. Over the course of the spring, we have first released the blocks in his neck, then his poll. Now we are working on his ribcage.  All this basic supple work will produce a very soft, balanced horse.  With “thoroughness,” he will be able to easily perform the movements required at 2nd level with all ingredients of the training scale.  Spending time on the basics will yield dividends later this summer.

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More from last week: a few days after this wild day we had a thunder snow!   Lots of thunder and lightning that upset Monarch.  After one large crack of lightning, which sent Monarch bolting to the other end of the pasture, the ground went from green to white in 60 seconds!  

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Road to Bronze 2017 Apr 18-23, 2017

SUSPENSION

Monarch very animated earlier this week.  It took me an hour to catch him, because I did not want to trick him with treats; I wanted him to choose to come to me.  Eventually he did allow me to snap on his lead and we practiced 2-year old stuff- leading, halting, and backing.

Date: 4/23/17

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: – practice timing and position of whip whispers all 3 gaits.
– test effectiveness through horse’s response, (does he improve? how?)

Methods- be specific, give details: Through my lessons with Susan, I have developed 2 strategies for my warm up with Monarch. Problem 1- horse is very spooky at C end of arena, particularly R-M-C, but some days in both directions S-H-C-M-R. Today, I began immediately with neck supples on the long side as soon as he began to shy. I noticed that right away, he gave his neck and began to chew. From there, he allowed me to connect, so rhythm, suppleness, and connection improved right away. Problem 2- In the warmup, Monarch has no rhythm when we go to trot after the loose walk. He is quite behind the leg, and uses a funky evasion of jumping in the front to canter while dragging his feet and slow trotting behind. Some days it takes quite a long time to get him engaged. To develop an energetic, rhythmic trot from the beginning , I used the rhythmic whip whispering on inside hip/croup in the moment of the sit in posting trot. When the horse lost rhythm or impulsion, I posted quietly, ignoring any resistance, and quietly kept the correct beat with rhythmic taps in my post. (I did not post harder, use my spur or whip to get more impulsion.) I also counted out loud 1-2-1-2, giving the aid on the 1 (sit) beat. Like the neck supples, the whip whispers corrected the problem quite quickly. We were able to begin the schooling part of our training much sooner, as he quickly warmed up with this new routine.
Here is the exercise:
F-R marching walk, long neck, suppling poll with flexion;counter flexion. R-M neck supples- opening inside rein, release/test, supple again, until horse relaxes and releases. Through corners M-C-H, 1/4 circle supple: (inside spur in rhythm of walk asking horse to step up and over, outside leg guarding bend, opening inside rein asking horse to unlock neck, light check outside rein only if horse falls or shies). H-E-V, trot with whip whisper on sit (1) beat. V-A-F 1/4 circle supple in trot.

Reflection: test effectiveness through horse’s response: does he improve? yes!
how? horse became more engaged, increased impulsion & lightness

We accomplished our goal quickly with this routine, so we took a nice hack outside the arena.

Next Steps: with this much engagement, I’d like to practice walk-canter-canter transitions. I will do the exercise in Uta Graf, part 1/section 2: 10 strides of each. Goal- make it effortless/drink coffee

4/21/17: practice whip whisper in all 3 gaits: timing and position for rider; response & engagement from horse
comments about today’s training: excellent response from horse; horse is now obedient & not reactive. Both the training and the familiarity with the sheep, (they are lambing next door & increasing their numbers each day), have helped him to resettle. Rider- timing is better on left side in trot after practicing on the right side first.

Date: 4/20/27

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: lesson with Dr. Susan Schneider

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. warm up
a. walk: poll supples on 2nd track, then use small supple circle to engage inside hind
b. trot- develop swinging trot with poll as highest point and chest open so shoulders can step through; when horse goes above the bit- hold rein with set hand on wither just in front of the saddle while sending horse forward with inside leg/never pull back with rein; release immediately when horse gives. (This is like a long half halt, 3-5 seconds until horse regains balance and releases.) Post with swinging hips and loose legs- don’t drive horse with strong post and tight legs. When horse gets too quick, also use set hand with inside leg. Horse will rebalance and find a better rhythm; can also achieve by holding core and posting more slowly.
2. Teach horse to engage core by stepping through. Begin exercise in walk, then go to trot, then canter.
a. in the walk, working on a 20 m circle, supple as leg yield with inside leg/soft spur asking horse to step under and sideways. Keep the contact. Next, teach horse to step through with hind end to the bit. Shorten reins and lengthen arms. Whip will encourage horse to push from behind/engage motor. Whip: inside hand with pinky closed, thumb on top, rein lengthened and open for whip to touch croup. Whispering taps with whip in rhythm with walk. When horse stops, he is stuck; he needs to sort out how to step through to the bit. This is a new feel, and he is not sure how to move into the contact. Don’t drive horse when he is stuck; instead just keep riding quietly in rhythm, and he will figure out how to step “through”; stay on the 20 M circle.
b. trot- begin as in walk, (leg yield on circle to supple and activate inside hind.) Next a whip whispering to his croup in trot rhythm. Post and touch horse when rider sits. When circle is good, go large.
c. canter- when trot, supple and move into canter from 20 M circle. Continue to supple keeping neck soft, poll highest point, rhythm relaxed. Then engage inside hind in rhythm of canter- stride 1- very softly on croup. When circle is good, go large. Keep the rhythm regular and relaxed.

Reflection: This lesson mirrors part 2 of section 1 of Uta Graf, “Effortless Riding.” Very timely to have this lesson today; very helpful to practice my timing and softness of aids today.

After such a reactive beginning to the week, this lesson was a reminder of what a treasure my horse is. He works hard and wants to please. He enjoys the training as much as I do. I believe the emphasis on rhythm in this lesson, (along with suppling), helped to steady and reconnect Monarch to my leadership, after his electric and wild affect earlier this week. (I wore my full seat leather breeches today because I was not sure how much bucking I would have to ride. It turned out that he was solidly on my seat the whole lesson and did not offer even one buck!)

Next Steps: Take Monarch away from the sheep next door, so we can focus on these concepts can confirm the feeling of stepping through to the bit, (horse), and timing and lightness of aids, (rider).

4/18/17: Practice flexions for lesson on Thursday; light aids
comments about today’s training: another wild day. Monarch regressed back to 2 years old. Sheep came in to the ranch behind us, strong spring winds, birds building nest in barn, blackbirds in the chico brush. Monarch was very worked up when I went to tack him up, so I turned him loose in the A end of my arena, with a rope from V to P to contain him. Then I let him blow off steam because he was not going to be caught. It took an hour of sending him out before he let me approach him; I used the join up method, looking for licking as a sign that he would let me approach. I finally began to “free longe” him, asking him for transitions- walk-trot-canter- halt. All this was fine, as long as I didn’t try to approach him. After an hour, he finally let me touch him with a cookie. After talking to him, petting him, and many cookies, I attempted to snap on his lead. By then he was 80% calm. We spent the next 30 minutes practicing leading, as we did 15 years ago when he was a colt.

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spring shenanigans!

 

Road to Bronze 2017 Apr 18

Current Book Study Report: Uta Graf’s Effortless Dressage Program: (Order your book today- it is a gem.  This book aligns well with the work I do with my trainer, Bronze, Silver, and Gold USDF medalist Dr. Susan Schneider.  It also aligns well with Beth Baumert’s book, “When Two Spines Align.”  I will be attending her tow-day riding clinic with GVDS in June.)

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The book is not written in chapters but divided into sections and subsections. Our book study group has completed the Preface and is working on SECTION I: EFFORTLESS- BUT HOW? Part II

Preface gives an overview of the book and why riding should never be work.

Part 1 of section I “The Independent Horse” gives many examples of the need for balance, straightness, activity(forward), & connection. Uta outlines many exercises and strategies to develop these qualities, plus strategies for teaching your horse to be independent.

BALANCE

  • ride on the 2nd track
  • practice “stretchy-chewy” in trot and canter
  • stop the exercise as soon as the quality is lost; reestablish supple & forward from the circle
  • practice leg yield & shoulder in in stair-step pattern- every 5 meters switch from lateral to straight ahead the full length of the arena

INDEPENDENCE

  • test often to make sure the horse is doing the work/take away the driving aids; drive with very light pulses
  • ride in “stretch” position in all gaits with weight on hind end, long neck & open through throat latch

STRAIGHT

  • continually monitor rider position
  • monitor horse position on curved lines- neither shoulder or hind end should fall off the line
  • ride frequent transitions between and within gaits
  • ride should fore every corner
  • ride shoulder fore and shoulder in on the center line, straighten for a few strides, and change rein.  Hind end must stay on the center line.

ACTIVE

  • walk warm up- focus on activity of horse/no rushing and following by rider/leave the horse alone
  • pulse aid lightly; immediately relax leg when horse responds.  If horse does not respond, increase aid, then test with a light aid.  Light aid should produce a surge forward.
  • expect transitions to be prompt- train through practicing transitions often skipping a gait and within a gait
  • train outside the arena; use hills
  • always incorporate variety

CONNECTION

  • practice überstreichen in trot and canter
  • develop feel- know how it feels when poll is in the highest position; how pushing/carrying power feels.  Ride many transitions and tempo changes- focus on feel.
  • correct inversion, (when head is down/neck is curled) by riding forward to the hand

In Part 2- “Allow the Horse to Work Under You” she discusses the Circle of Effortless Riding. This is worth the price of the book. Page 36- check it out. She also discusses timing for rider effectiveness, how we can learn from para-equestrian riders who can’t squeeze or spur with strong aids, (less is more), and her 9 Steps to Drinking Coffee (while performing a pirouette.) This last part breaks any movement down to 9 steps to make it effortless using training exercises, the actual aids to perform the movement, & strategies to refine the movement after it is learned.

 

Road to Bronze 2017 Apr 17

 

JOURNAL ENTRY:

Date: 4/20/27

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: lesson with Dr. Susan Schneider

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. warm up
a. walk: poll supples on 2nd track, then use small supple circle to engage inside hind
b. trot- develop swinging trot with poll as highest point and chest open so shoulders can step through; when horse goes above the bit- hold rein with set hand on wither just in front of the saddle while sending horse forward with inside leg/never pull back with rein; release immediately when horse gives. (This is like a long half halt, 3-5 seconds until horse regains balance and releases.) Post with swinging hips and loose legs- don’t drive horse with strong post and tight legs. When horse gets too quick, also use set hand with inside leg. Horse will rebalance and find a better rhythm; can also achieve by holding core and posting more slowly.
2. Teach horse to engage core by stepping through. Begin exercise in walk, then go to trot, then canter.
a. in the walk, working on a 20 m circle, supple as leg yield with inside leg/soft spur asking horse to step under and sideways. Keep the contact. Next, teach horse to step through with hind end to the bit. Shorten reins and lengthen arms. Whip will encourage horse to push from behind/engage motor. Whip: inside hand with pinky closed, thumb on top, rein lengthened and open for whip to touch croup. Whispering taps with whip in rhythm with walk. When horse stops, he is stuck; he needs to sort out how to step through to the bit. This is a new feel, and he is not sure how to move into the contact. Don’t drive horse when he is stuck; instead just keep riding quietly in rhythm, and he will figure out how to step “through”; stay on the 20 M circle.
b. trot- begin as in walk, (leg yield on circle to supple and activate inside hind.) Next a whip whispering to his croup in trot rhythm. Post and touch horse when rider sits. When circle is good, go large.
c. canter- when trot, supple and move into canter from 20 M circle. Continue to supple keeping neck soft, poll highest point, rhythm relaxed. Then engage inside hind in rhythm of canter- stride 1- very softly on croup. When circle is good, go large. Keep the rhythm regular and relaxed.

Reflection: This lesson mirrors part 2 of section 1 of Uta Graf, “Effortless Riding.” Very timely to have this lesson today; very helpful to practice my timing and softness of aids today.

After such a reactive beginning to the week, this lesson was a reminder of what a treasure my horse is. He works hard and wants to please. He enjoys the training as much as I do. I believe the emphasis on rhythm in this lesson, (along with suppling), helped to steady and reconnect Monarch to my leadership, after his electric and wild affect earlier this week. (I wore my full seat leather breeches today because I was not sure how much bucking I would have to ride. It turned out that he was solidly on my seat the whole lesson and did not offer even one buck!)

Next Steps: Take Monarch away from the sheep next door, so we can focus on these concepts can confirm the feeling of stepping through to the bit, (horse), and timing and lightness of aids, (rider).

DAILY GOALS:

4/18/17: Practice flexions for lesson on Thursday; light aids
comments about today’s training: another wild day. Monarch regressed back to 2 years old. Sheep came in to the ranch behind us, strong spring winds, birds building nest in barn, blackbirds in the chico brush. Monarch was very worked up when I went to tack him up, so I turned him loose in the A end of my arena, with a rope from V to P to contain him. Then I let him blow off steam because he was not going to be caught. It took an hour of sending him out before he let me approach him; I used the join up method, looking for licking as a sign that he would let me approach. I finally began to “free longe” him, asking him for transitions- walk-trot-canter- halt. All this was fine, as long as I didn’t try to approach him. After an hour, he finally let me touch him with a cookie. After talking to him, petting him, and many cookies, I attempted to snap on his lead. By then he was 80% calm. We spent the next 30 minutes practicing leading, as we did 15 years ago when he was a colt.

SUSPENSION

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4/17/17: Practice the 4 types of aids in Beth Baumert’s Book: When Two Spines Align
1. Shaping/prepare
2. Listening
3. 1/2 halt/balance
4. Action
comments about today’s training: I had every intention of practicing some book study concepts, (Beth Baumert’s book is very aligned with our Uta Graf book study, and I will be riding with Beth in June), but that was not meant to be. Spring weather in Colorado most likely does affect a horse’s behavior.  I could tell Monarch was going to be spooky with the overcast light and strong winds.  Usually I ride through his behavior on days like today, and I focus on suppling and connecting him. Today (after reading some book study ideas), I wanted to test him. I thought I could supple him in-hand if he felt spooky or stiff, but he was totally resistant, so I got out a longe line and did ground work exclusively in the spooky part of the arena. It took the better part of an hour to get him reliably connected. During the first part of schooling- about the first 20 minutes- he charged approaching the scary spot almost every time. Then he had moments of focus when he moved calmly, which instantly fell apart and he would shy, rear, buck, or charge again. I was so thankful I did not get on today. He is so talented, powerful and fit, it could have been dangerous. I’ve never seen him have such histrionics before. I’m certain it has something to do with the atmosphere and the season. I hope to ride him tomorrow. With all the connecting work we did, he should be an angel. We ended the session with canter voltes and frequent transitions- walk/canter. He became quite light- I could lightly touch him on the croup with the longe whip and he would collect, then canter. By the end, I felt safe enough to trust him working at W-C transitions about 5 meters away from him. (In the beginning of our session I had to keep my distance because his spooks were huge, as well as being aware of which direction he was charging, because he sometimes headed into the circle towards me. He wasn’t charging me so much as getting away from a perceived danger. It did take vigilance, and I was happy when he let me safely work close to him at the end of the session. At that point I felt very connected, even though I was not on his back.)

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my talented horse, Monarch

Road to Bronze 2017

monarch3WEEKLY JOURNAL ENTRIES:

4/15/17: practice neck supples, poll flexions, long neck/long arms/ short reins in all 3 gaits.

Date: 4/13/17

Minutes of Training: 2 hour lesson

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Continue to improve movement through freeing the blocks

Methods- be specific, give details:

1. supple circle is now very good. Blocks in neck are released- build on this by refining the suppling through poll flexion & counter flexion.
2. Free the shoulder, open the chest, and raise the poll to allow the horse to step through to the bit. When the horse dives,curls, or jigs- give a 1/2 halt with the upper body- (raise my ribs & chest; vibrate outside rein.) When the horse raises his poll, lightly touch him with both spurs to encourage him to step under and through from behind to the bit.
3. To encourage a long neck- lengthen arms to shorten reins. Hold the reins with the thumb on top of the index finger & open all the fingers. Play lightly with the reins to give aid.

Reflection: When the work is correct, the horse is happier and in better balance. Because it is easier for him to move, he tends to work harder. This is a paradox. When the work is correct, the horse works harder because it is easier!

Next Steps: Practice the 3 skills/strategies from this lesson. Get very comfortable with poll flexion to supple, moving the horse into the bit, and lengthening the neck. Continue to refine aids- get lighter by improving coordination. This will come from practice to develop muscle memory. Also Monarch is very good at giving feedback; he tells me when my aids are good, when they are too strong, and when they are too weak.

4/12/17: Test rider position, especially in canter; test horse response to aids.
comments about today’s training: We had perfect connection today.   Monarch was on my seat & light to the aids, so I must have been light & in time in giving the aids.  Travers was weak yesterday, (he evaded through avoiding the bend; more a leg yield).  To support the bend, we practiced travers in walk on the circle, then in trot on the circle. He was bent and very willing, but he lost impulsion. Maybe try practicing earlier in the schooling; also do other exercises to strengthen hind legs to accept the weight.

Date: 4/11/17

Horse: Monarch

Minutes of Training: 60

Goal: Improve rider position, particularly the left leg, for increased effectiveness of rider effectiveness. Also focus on giving the release immediately after the horse releases in 1/2 half, (outside rein), & the suppling rein. (inside rein.)

comments about today’s training: Monarch was super today . I was able to keep my left leg forward in the left lead canter and only use the spur every 2nd or 3rd stride to renew the jump. My timing is improving. His focus and understanding was very prompt & accurate. I am able to use the inside leg to the outside rein correctly in suppling and connecting my horse. I am able to put the spur on and off gently in the correct rhythm to create a lighter ride. I can use the spur and 1/2 halt, then release to create a very forward medium sitting trot. I am able to sit the big trot with softer elbows and following back.

next steps:  Practice canter-walk transitions on serpentine, then on center line with simple changes of lead.  Horse should remain relaxed and supple through transition.

Date: 4/10/17

Horse: Monarch

Minutes of Training: 60

Goal: Practice ideas/skills from lesson last Thursday: Use suppling circle to create balance and engagement in all three gaits. Focus on riding “perfect” circles.

Will you continue this goal or make a new goal for next training?: yes

comments about today’s training: Horse was very tense and resistant in the beginning of ride in the H-C-M part of the arena. Through patience and insistence that Monarch release his tight blocks in his neck, I rode many supple circles at walk until he was loose and relaxed in all parts of the arena. By the end of the session, Monarch was very loose and attentive to the aids.  We achieved our goals in all three gaits.
next steps:  work on rider position, test left leg independence in left lead canter

Road to Bronze 2017

WEEKLY JOURNAL ENTRIES:

Lots of work, travel, and bad weather:

I managed 2 days of training this past week.  My lessons with Susan are so amazing.  The canter is much improved, based on suppleness and balance which produced “throughness.”

4/6/17: lesson with Susan Sneider.  In my lessons, we haven’t been doing any figures or movements- we just work on beautiful circles: walk, trot, canter.  You would think this would be boring, but it is infinitely interesting, because she is helping me to unblock my horse and shape him.  The fine tuning is forcing me to be a much more sensitive rider, also much quicker, with lighter aids.  Even if we spend a whole year on the circles, I know that this will lead to setting him up for success in any movement.  Today the canter was just amazing, and it all came out of her system of suppling, aiding when he starts to lose balance/suppleness, and making those aids as small as possible, (but as much as needed.)  I am working the next 2 days at galleries out of town, so I can’t practice until  Sunday.  Judging from my experiences with Susan, I know I’m getting there….  Our horses don’t need training- we do!  My goal for Sunday: use what I am learning  from Susan “to increase the length of our perfect moments, which are coming together more consistently”………………quote from Chris Crowhurt

4/5/17:  practice for tomorrow’s lesson.  Rider- improve seat- sit on pockets; improve feel- look for the release  Horse- improve sensitivity/prompt response to aids