Road to Bronze 2017 Aug. 1-7, 2017

From my journal:

Date: 8/3- 7/2017

Minutes of Training: 60

Horse: Monarch

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.

 

8/7:  same

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

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.

IMG_4804

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

Road to Bronze 2017 May 1-6, 2017

JOURNAL ENTRIES:

Date: 5/4/17

Minutes of Training: 90

Horse: Monarch

Goal: lesson with Susan to educate horse to be prompt to inside leg and connected to outside rein.
Rider- improve feel, clarity & timing of aids
Horse- improve suppleness, connection, & straightness

Methods- be specific, give details: Use square exercise to diagnose and address holes in training.
1. Begin in walk using a small square. At the corner, stop forward movement, turn off inside leg- horse must remain straight, (yield his barrel) and cross with hind leg. Rider gives halt on outside rein to stop forward movement. Aid to turn, (yield) is given with inside spur. Outside rein may be needed if horse tries to evade by moving forward. Inside rein may be needed if horse evades by counter- flexed or -bent. Release aids and send forward on the next leg of square. When horse understands the exercise, use turn on forehand to blend the directions while horse continues to step.
2. in trot- make square larger- across short side at A,up 1/4 line to B; turn at B toward E, back down 1/4 line, etc. At each corner, transition to walk/ turn on forehand.
3. in canter- make square larger- 1/4 lines at V & P. Canter on 1/4 lines, transition to walk turn on forehand, trot across short side, transition to walk turn on forehand, back to canter down next 1/4 line, etc.

Reflection: We experienced the typical stiff left/hollow right errors/evasions. The exercise improved my clarity and timing and Monarch’s obedience. At first the aids were very strong. As Monarch learned the exercises and what I would accept- (Susan insisted on excellent turns, straightness, etc), the aids became much lighter. I am learning not to be so afraid of strong aids for teaching, because it allows the horse to understand what you are asking, and the aids become quickly much lighter. When the aids are clear, (even if temporarily strong), it is actually more comfortable for the horse.  When the horse is evading or confused by vague aids, (even if given lightly), he is corrected more often, so the aids become more constant and noisy. This is another paradox about training. Strong at first is the quickest way to light.

Next Steps: practice, practice, practice with intention toward excellence.

when under saddle, channel this energy for power, expression, and brilliance

Date: 5/3/17

Minutes of Training: 40

Horse: Monarch

Goal: improve lateral suppleness and submission through lateral work:
using Susan Schneider’s lesson directives; Uta Graf’s exercises in Section 1 “Effortless, but How” of Effortless Dressage; & exercises in Janet Foy’s book, Dressage for the not so Perfect Horse

Methods- be specific, give details: in walk; later in trot:
Leg yield across diagonal, head to wall, tail to wall in both directions (Janet Foy)
Leg yield out of circle on long ends, leg yield and supple through corner ridden as 1/4 circles (Susan)
Vary movements and exercises, ride forward, and encourage stretching in long frame- longitudinal stretch/look for horse to chew reins out of hand (Uta Graf)- after one section of leg yield, rode up the long side in forward trot or into a stretchy-chewy circle or did some forward canter work interspersed with collected canter in the circle.
As horse become fluid, work on flow from one movement to the next (Susan)
Shoulder-in- test fluidity, connection to outside rein, bend, submission, contact

Reflection: leg yield to right is weaker. I need to be very aware to keep my inside leg back so haunches do not fall out. This is particularly important as we get close to the rail, as he will stop effort and suck his shoulders to the wall, 2-4 strides before haunches. 

I also need to keep still with weight in the direction we are traveling and insist with good rider position/taps. When I try to muscle the movement- I lose my position (Jane Savioe)

Next Steps: Repeat lesson- focus on rider position. Spend more time on flowing from one movement or direction to the next. This was coming by the end of the lesson.

LOG ENTRIES:

5/1/17: Rider- practice relaxation, as described in Uta Graf, section 1/part 3
Horse- practice leg yield and other suppling exercises from same section & from last week’s lesson with Susan. Continue to develop quick response to light aids
comments about today’s training: lateral suppleness is coming. Still some spooks by M. Used the neck supple to connect to outside rein, which works well. Also, relaxed rhythm through rhythmic taps with whip or pulsing with inside leg work well to create a forward, relaxed horse. Strategies from both Susan and Uta.

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.

go

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!  

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.

FullSizeRender

spring shenanigans!

 

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

FullSizeRender

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.)

photo 1

my talented horse, Monarch