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.

Advertisements

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 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.)

18010693_1331211993599764_4629372544183431809_n
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 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.