Road to Bronze 2017 July 11-July 30, 2017

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.

Road to Bronze 2017 June 20-July 10, 2017

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.

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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