Road to Bronze 2017 May 26-June 19, 2017

It’s been a busy month.  I’m teaching many art workshops, attended an opening of my newest show, and hung/delivered fresh artwork to three galleries.  I still managed to stay active in my training.  The highlight of the end of spring has been attending the Beth Baumert Dressage Symposium as a demo rider, June 3-4.  This symposium had sponsorship from the Dressage Foundation and the USDF.  Everyone learned so much.  As a rider and auditor, my understanding was deepened.  I will devote a full blog post to the principles behind Beth’s riding/training system, “When Two Spines Align.”  I highly recommend this book for personal, as well as group book study.

conework-trot    cone work 20 meter circlesmed-trot  medium trot- M to F nicely connected in shoulder forecanter-a

collected canter on 12 meter circle- exercise to develop engagement and connection

From my training journal:

Date: 6/19/17

Minutes of Training: 70

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Tune up Monarch for lesson with Susan. It has been 3 weeks.

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. Improve longitudinal balance for smooth transitions by riding down transitions with our skipping a gait. Instead of slowing the horse, ride horse forward with short, active steps.
2. Build stamina in canter and improve longitudinal balance in canter- shoulder-in on long side, strike off in the corner, ride collected canter on short side, straighten on long side- shoulder fore, then ride shallow loop in middle of long side of counter canter, balance through corner, circle at A 12 meters collected canter, straight ahead another shallow loop serpentine with counter canter.

Reflection: Monarch did not want to accept right lead in counter canter. We practiced many right lead canter departs around the whole arena. When he was confirmed in the right lead, I went back to the shallow serpentine. When he held the right lead, I praised him without stopping. I found this helped him get the right lead: in the preparation- right flexion and squeeze legs once, right flexion twice- squeeze with legs if he looses impulsion, then sit on inside seat bone, slide left outside leg back, cue canter with right leg squeeze, AND GIVE THE INSIDE RIGHT HAND FORWARD to allow room for the inside leading leg to reach.

Next Steps: Continue with these goals to strengthen and balance. Up the ante by skipping gaits in transitions and riding deeper serpentines. Test canter depart by asking along the straight line.

From my training log:  (As usual, entries appear in chronological order, with the most recent appearing first.)

DAILY GOALS:

6/16/17: improve canter: impulsions and connection, especially in the collected canter
comments about today’s training: improved connection through suppling exercise: leg yield to S or R from A, then 12 M canter circle; repetition helped. At first he didn’t want to “work that hard.” With repetition, he realized that I would hold him to a higher standard, so reorganization at the letter and repeating the canter circle, improved the quality. We were actually able to do nice connected 10M collected canter circles.
improved the collection and connection by doing 4 loop canter serpentines the length of the arena. After the first exercise, he was much better.
Walked down the lane to cool out as a reward. Nicely forward and connected in the “trot” section of our cool down.

6/14/17: supple- laterals
strengthening- hill work

6/12: show Marissa what we learned at the Beth Baumert Symposium
comments about today’s training: The wind is really strong today. Monarch was very reactive. I long-lined & lunged for 1/2 hour, getting him connected to my aids and to walk calmly past the chico brush. Then calmly trot and canter. After he was calm and safe, my 23 year old daughter, who grew up with Monarch, got on. I gave her a lesson based on the training we are doing. Both Marissa and Monarch were able to produce a throughness for 2nd level engagement and movements.

6/8/17: Practice exercises from Symposium for engagement:
1. Trot down long side first position. Change flexion/1/2 halt-Leg Yield head to wall 3 strides at R. Continue in first position around arena. Repeat leg yield at each RSVP letter.
2. Trot down long side in first position, at A down centerline. Leg yield left to S. At S, canter left 12 meters. Transition to trot at S, continue left in first position. MXV lengthen trot. At A down centerline. Leg yield right to R. At S, canter right 12 meters. Transition to trot after canter circle. SXF lengthen trot. Repeat.
comments about today’s training: Horse was very resistant on right rein today. Horse was behind the leg- rider did too much work to keep him forward. I need to remember to go back to supple work when he is resistant until he is naturally forward. When he feels like he is going to break in canter, don’t push. Reorganize, supple, ask again.  (Jane Savoie)   Rider- don’t lose position, don’t work harder than the horse- “sit like a princess.” (Deb Hindi)

6/7/17: review rider position and horse honesty/forward commitment from Beth Baumert Symposium
comments about today’s training: When Two Spines Align; It’s all about biomechanics. Part one- How Riders Work; Part 2- How Horses Work; Part 3 putting it all together. Just walk and trot today- too tired for more….tomorrow we can ramp up. The symposium made profound changes in my position that I have been searching for in my body for the past 40 years, or so… since I was injured in my teens and didn’t return to riding until I was in my later 30’s. That hiatus caused me to loose my natural seat and oneness with my horse. I was pleased with the photos from the clinic, and the connection & effectiveness I had today- able to reproduce what I had at the clinic. And all this while the Rotor Rooter was pumping the tanks next to the arena. What an amazing horse. He was resistant near the truck, but he never spooked, and he worked through his resistance after the warm up.

6/3-4/17: Beth Baumert Symposium; “When Two Spines Align”
Demo rider
comments about today’s training: practice ideas from this symposium.   Will write a journal and an article when I find the time. Monarch & I learned so much- Beth gave me the tools to make profound improvements in my effectiveness as a rider!  I’ve had many great learning opportunities in my dressage career; this could possibly be the best.

BB symposium
BETH BAUMERT WITH CHERI & MONARCH  JUNE 2017

6/2/17: symposium prep- flexions from Beth Baumert’s book, When Two Spines Align (see pp 177-180 flexions & p181-186 First Position)- symposium tomorrow

6/1/17: symposium prep
comments about today’s training: Monarch was very tense today. I spent most of the time suppling. Used exercises from my trainer, Dr. Susan Schneider, Uta Graf’s book, and Beth Baumert’s book. For years I mistakenly believed when Monarch was ‘behind the leg” to my aids in the warmup, his response was due to laziness. It became very clear to me today that this is a response to tension. I will need to clear all the chico brush where the feral cats live next to the arena, as he has gotten quite reactive/resistant in these two spots.

5/28/27: test honesty to leg; desire to go forward without spurs
comments about today’s training: Beth Baumert’s book, When Two Spines Align & Uta Graf’s book, “Effortless Dressage” both help getting him forward through suppling and laterals. He lacks engagement in left hind: unable to hold bend in travers left/cannot accept weight on that leg for reach and thrust. Also not consistent in Right Lead canter strike off, (left hind again.) I will address this with Beth Baumert at the Symposium

5/27/17: Symposium practice at site facility: beautiful facility; very excited about next week

Road to Bronze 2017

Today was amazing.  I was able to reproduce all that we learned in our training session with Susan 3/23/17 and problem solve when the training started to get labored.  To review, visit training journal 3/23

3/25/17: GOALS:Soft rider aids; review exercises from Thursday lesson; light horse

comments about today’s training;: we were super today- I was able to remember to only give soft aids, and he got progressively more engaged and lighter. When we went from walk to trot, he did his usual balky trot. I caught myself almost immediately – that I was working too hard to get him forward, so I tactfully used the whip as Susan insisted. Within one circuit of the arena, he was much better. After we had worked the exercise in both directions using the full arena, he was engaged, forward, and connected. (This is the exercise I came up with combining all the concepts and elements we practiced/learned in my lesson): use the shallow circle to supple, turn on 1/4 line, straighten & leg yield to wall; at B or E supple circle in trot 15M, back on 1/4 line, leg yield back to wall to next shallow corner into the short side, and repeat. After one circuit of the arena, change direction through the long diagonal, (change the whip correctly over the hand), lengthen stride without a change in rhythm. Repeat on other side.)photo 2

Road to Bronze 2017

FullSizeRenderIn the last post I updated my log entries, which are short notes describing my goal and how my training went.  In this post, I will update my journal entries, which are detailed records of training goals, strategies, adjustments during training, reflections on the training, and next steps.  Again, the most recent entry appears at the top.

2017 JOURNAL ENTRIES

Date: 3/23/17

Minutes of Training: 2 hours

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Lesson # 2 with Susan Schneider:  step up and under for solid connection; refine rider aids

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. supple circle- step up & under on 6M circle- make sure horse brings inside hind leg up, then under his body, taking full weight. This is almost a lateral move. Rider gives soft spur in rhythm with the walk; leave spur close to horse to quickly give the aid in the next stride instead of bringing foot back to “home;” rider must be quick, light, and sensitive to aid horse’s balance. When the horse gets “stuck” in the neck, he cannot move his feet. Give horse an opening inside hand to lead the head and neck in, hand low and still at the knee. Wait for the horse to figure it out/release; (same as Uta Graf, Ch. 1). When horse releases neck, rider releases aid; (return hand back to “home”).
2. Trot work from 6M walk supple circle to 20M trot circle. Use opening inside rein as needed to unlock neck.
3. Trot full arena: for a dressage test, ride the corners as 1/4 of a supple circle with inside leg to outside rein. Tap spur to encourage inside hind leg to step up and under taking full weight. Come out of corner in shoulder-fore, (or whatever movement is required; horse will be set up.) For schooling, ride the corner more shallowly: use elements of supple circle to yield haunches to wall; use opening rein as needed. Down the long side, if horse gets stuck- circle in trot with suppling aids & opening rein. Back to long side when horse releases. If horse gets strong, rushes, goes on forehand- circle and supple. Feel him come up & under, become light.
4. Build on trot work: after corner, ride on 2nd track and leg yield to the wall. When the work gets hard & horse slows down, use the whip at the leg to keep the rhythm. In leg yield, use the opening rein to help release neck so horse can step under himself.
5. Changing the whip in the classical way.
a. put both reins in outside hand with inside rein on the bottom
b. push whip down if using a double-balanced whip without the top knob
c. flip whip up
d. reach outside hand on top of inside hand and grasp whip
e. pick up inside rein

Reflection: *BE SENSITIVE & LIGHT! Release IMMEDIATELY when the horse releases. A light aid is more effective than a strong aid. When you find yourself giving strong aids, tap the whip to wake up horse. Then return to light aids. Keep riding through all challenges & spooks.
*A spook is a lack of connection on the outside rein. When you return to the spot of the spook, give aids for supple circle (inside leg, 1/2 halt on outside rein, opening rein on inside). Repeat each time you return to spook spot, until the horse gets over it.
*Use the whip hard enough to get the point across,(be tactful), then use soft spur. Baucher describes this at length; this classic can be downloaded for free on Amazon Kindle
*Practice changing whip until it becomes automatic

Next Steps: Practice and refine rider aids; strengthen horse horse to accept full weight on inside hind leg; supple horse to release neck


Date: 3/21/17

Minutes of Training: 60

Horse: Monarch

Goal: create a forward, honest horse

Methods- be specific, give details: 1. test fit of girth; is it too tight restricting movement or breathing? Lunge first with girth snug, then loose. No difference in movement. Canter departs were good; he had some difficulty holding the canter for a full circle. Is this a fitness issue?
2. Mounted work: supple circles walk & trot.
3. Shoulder-In: test connection on the 2nd track- directives from Susan, my trainer, & Ute Graf- (Ch.1). Shoulder in to E or B, then straight ahead with all ingredients of the training scale.
3. Canter on 20M circle and down long side
4. Stretchy chewy trot circle in trot/both directions

Reflection: 1. I have a comfort-shaped girth. A tight girth wasn’t causing the issue, but you always have to test all the variables. Lo and behold- it was an issue of balance. Ute discusses this at length in Ch 1. She discusses how suppleness is closely tied to allowing balance, and it is the horse’s job to find his balance. This will make a good discussion when we finish with the preface.
2. supple circles in the walk, then on to trot. I made the mistake of asking for the supple circle in the trot on the same 6M volte, as the walk. He lost balance, rebelled, & tried to buck. As to the old dressage maxim- “straight, calm, forward,” I took him back to the rail and sent him forward. Then I used Jane Savioe’s advice, “never leave a question with a correction.” After the strong aid to go forward, I brought him back to the walk, sent him forward in the trot from a very light leg aid. Luckily he surged forward immediately, so I could praise him. Then we redid the trot supple circle in 15M, instead of 6, so I could praise him again.
2. He became very balanced and connected. Again Jane Savoie, “you know they are connected when you feel they can do anything you ask in the next stride….”
3. Canter- lovely- light, jumping, willing, balanced. We repeated this on the other side, and it was nice in both directions. He got lots of praise and some peppermint.
4. We both enjoy, a good way to end on a very positive note. Lots of praise & some treats, too

Next Steps: Training with Susan Schneider, second lesson


Date: 3/1/17

Minutes of Training: 45

Horse: Monarch

Goal: audit training to see if Susan Schneider is a good fit for Monarch and I. In the methods section, you can read my notes from what I observed. This horse has had severe foot and hoof problems, was almost put down last year. He was also trained too hard and too quickly on the competitive circuit which fried his brain. With careful and patient work, he is slowly and surely coming back into the beautiful promise of his conformation.

Methods- be specific, give details: Warm up
Supple–
Circles with neck supple.

Leg yield- getting control outside of horse. 1/4 line to 2nd track- don’t let hrs lean on wall. Correctn- outside rein. Touch outside. No inside rein

Test sh-in

Develop engagement. Back on supple circle still At walk- inside bend small circle- trot out of small circle to
Big circle, then go large. Keep outside rein on second track. Spooking can b lack of connectn in outside rein. Correct spook with half halt on outside rein.

Walk–Step up & under sh-in on circle. Use inside spur in rhythm. Then back to trot. Unlock neck by opening inside rein. Invite him to drop neck and let go with rein. Arms longer- reina can stay short. Lightly touch with spur. In rhythm- forward & under. Allow him to push from behind when trans from walk to trot. If there is a question I’m horse should I trot – rider rises. Soft leg- don’t use muscle.

Down transits- if he lean, hold in rein only by leaning back- don’t pull rein.

Canter- circle in trot, work bend, sit on inside seatbone, be supple in transtn- canter off inside seatbone only. Aid with voice. Don’t drive with seat or body. Wrong lead is lack of connectn on outside rein.

Hard for horse to connect on outside right rein. – going to left. Horses are tight on right side. Establish outside rein, sit on inside left seatbone, canter to left.

After canter, more leg yield , sh-in, travers.

Long legs- high spur. Short leg- low spur.

Reflection: I am very excited to begin work with Susan. She has a great depth of knowledge and has much empathy with the horses. Her strength in understanding biomechanics to improve movement, remediate a horse’s prior bad training, or treat an injury/poor conformation is remarkable.

Next Steps: Get on her schedule with Monarch, as I bring him tactfully back into work.