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 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

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

Road to Bronze 2016

My training journal for this year’s efforts toward my USDF Bronze Rider Medal can be found on the USLF Journal Collaborative under members.  Here is the link to my page:

https://lovingourlipz.wordpress.com/members/cheri-isgreen/

The USLF Lovin’ Ours Lipz Journal Collaborative is open to all United States Lipizzan Members and their registered horses.  The blog is available for all to read.  It is of special interest to those who are interested in Lipizzan horses, ride dressage, & train young horses.

X halt salute

X halt salute

 

Road to Bronze Oct. 14-25, 2015

I went out of town in mid-October to spend time with my husband and daughter for her 22nd birthday.  On the way to Ft Collins, we dropped Monarch off with my trainer, Deborah Hindi.  She said she would work the canter.  When I returned the following week, I would spend the night at her house and ride Monarch for 2 days before bringing him home.  We focused mostly on collected canter in the 10M circle.  Deb straightened my asymmetries, we worked on the half halt to improve engagement, so he wouldn’t break to the trot.  A few days later, Deb came to Montrose for an intensive clinic focusing on biomechanics, problem-solving, and continued training for all the Montrose riders.  The format was a riders’ retreat with lots of discussion, lecture, and q&a.

For Monarch and me, the clinic was a huge breakthrough.  Two days later, I am still walking on air:

Monarch and I finally figured out how to step through the rein to create more engagement in the 1/2 halt. On Saturday we worked and worked, but it wouldn’t come through. I told Deb, “sometimes he just needs to think about it.”   On Sunday, we started right where we left off on Saturday. It wasn’t long before he could take the 1/2 halt at collected walk, so we moved into turn on the haunch. Riding with the analogy of “walking on ice,” I used the 1/2 halt to keep him connected & engaged, and I used the corridor to keep him balanced by diagnosing when the rein got uneven and using my leg on the side of the heavy rein to push him back into the light rein to reestablish an even connection & balance. When that went well, I took Monarch into collected trot on the 10M circle. This is where everything fell apart on Saturday. Now with clarity about what I was asking, he began to step through the rein into an engaged, collected trot. We worked on fine tuning my timing, so the corrections became smaller and smaller, as I caught him sooner and sooner. As that improved, we finished with medium to collected trot transitions on the big circle. Again we worked on Monarch accepting the 1/2 halt and stepping through the rein into engagement, and on me being able to refine my timing so the 1/2 halts became invisible.  The trot work was amazing because he truly gave me his back. There was absolutely no bounce in the medium and it was easy to sit- this is the first time ever that I could sit a HUGE trot comfortably without using a ton of muscle to hold myself into the saddle. Now I understand how riders can sit those big movements. The key is establishing engagement and trust. I’ve learned that the work we do with our horses pays dividends beyond my wildest dreams.   …..While we worked on “turn on the haunches,” I had the most amazing experience- When it became correct, the clarity and the feel was beyond astounding.  I felt Monarch sending me intense, powerful feelings of clarity and understanding from his spine into mine.   Through the connection, he was saying- “Here is the feel, here is the feel, here is the feel….” in this very rhythmic, correct way.  I was so overwhelmed, I began to cry because he gave me such an intense feeling of generosity and connection.  I had to quickly pull it together to continue with the lesson.  It’s true what Alois Podhajski said, “ our horses, our teachers.”   I am lucky to train with Deb, as she has become my interpreter to what my horse has to teach me.

Here we are in July riding a lengthened trot.  From my expression, you can see that I really had to focus to sit the big movement.  All the bounce disappeared this weekend, when he engaged and lifted his back to truly carry me.

Here we are in July riding a lengthened trot. From my expression, you can see that I really had to focus to sit the big movement. All the bounce disappeared this weekend, when he engaged and lifted his back to truly carry me.

Road to Bronze training journal- 10/6/15

DATE: 10/6/15

GOAL: re-establish a “hot off the leg” response to improve quality of gaits and transitions, focus on RHYTHM- base of pyramid before schooling any 2nd level work

METHOD:  use Jane Savoie’s “Forward” strategies-

  1. Give a light leg aid
  2. No response, half-hearted response, or delayed response
  3. Correct him by sending him forward
  4. RETEST
  5. 100% response (99.9% isn’t good enough!)
  6. Praise

For more information, visit http://www.janesavoie.com/how-to-make-your-lazy-horse-more-energetic/

OUTCOMES:  Walk is much improved with the alternate leg and swinging seat to encourag a walk that overtracks  in the warm-up and later in schooling.  Moving into the trot, Monarch was very behind the leg.  He gave me the half-hearted response; the correction (step #3) with the leg was a “ho-hum” response.  The correction with the whip resulted in even more behind-the-leg response with a humpy back and threatening to buck.  I continued to tap with my whip, which did result in a buck.  Wrong answer; I continued to calmly tap with my whip- more humping and irregular trot steps, then finally a committed trot.  (Please note- he was not spanked.  I tapped until I got a correct response.)  Knowing that step #4- Retest- is the key to retraining, I retested by bringing him back to walk, then asked for trot.  Again the “ho-hum” response, correct with more leg- lazy response, added the whip taps, more humps and bucks, then finally a correct trot.  This continued for a circle or two, until finally he decided to trot off from the whip in the retest.  Continuing with steps #1-4, we finally got to steps #5 & #6- 100% committed trot from a light leg aid and then praise.  As he got better in the walk-trot transitions, I was able to ask for transitions within the trot, with nice collected to medium trot steps.

REFLECTION:  As Monarch grew light to the leg aid, his connection improved and he became engaged.  With engagement, he moved right up the pyramid t0 impulsion.  To test straightness, we began to school laterals.  Beginning with leg yield, it was easy to gauge and correct his straightness.  As the leg yield improved, we moved into shoulder-in and tranvers.  With impulsion, straightness, and collection developed from the laterals, I was able to begin canter work.  From tranvers, his collected canter work was rhythmic and relaxed.  In the serpentine, his right lead counter canter was brilliant.  He began to tire, as we had been working for 50 minutes, but  I wanted to test his left lead counter canter before we ended.  In the left lead serpentine, he broke during the counter canter phase.  To his credit, I corrected by asking for counter canter along the rail, and he picked it up quite easily.  As we came around the curve into true canter, I could feel his energy increase, as the movement became easier.  Since he was tired, I decided his good effort was a good place to end.  We rode up the lane to cool out.  Goal tomorrow will be to continue working the light leg aids and increase strength for the left lead counter canter.