Road to Bronze 2017 May 14-25, 2017

The past two weeks Monarch and I worked on lateral exercises.  I feel his balance and response to my inside leg are much improved.  Through our training, his lateral reach is becoming longer, more rhythmic and fluid.  Today in my lesson with Dr. Susan Schneider, I had a big breakthrough in my understanding of engagement and throughness.  I now understand how the horse “pushes off the bit” to recycle the energy and come through.  In my daily goals, I was unable to develop a through canter with Monarch unable to make connected transitions between gaits and within the canter.  Today’s lesson gave me the missing link.  The feeling of riding a connected, through horse is highly addictive.  I look forward to taking my lesson from today even farther in our training.  Despite the spring winds and rain, I plan to train tomorrow.  I received a big confidence boost to meeting my training goal and earning my last qualifying score at Second Level.

JOURNAL ENTRY

Date: 5/25/17

Minutes of Training: 75

Horse: Monarch

Goal: Lesson with Dr. Susan Schneider: improve horse’s way of going by refining rider’s timing & feel in the suppling aids

Methods: 1. Begin on 20M circle in walk. Monarch was very tense today with an inverted neck, high head, hollow back, and ribcage against my inside leg. It was very windy, and he was not tuned into any of my aids. I shorten my reins and lengthen my arms. I can only move my hands by initiating the movement from my elbow. I hold the outside rein just in front of saddle, resting my hand on the wither. I open the inside rein and rest my hand on my inside thigh. I wait until my horse releases his neck and gives. This can take awhile at the beginning of the ride. I need to wait and continue to ride rhythmically, even when the feel gets strong as horse figures out the release. (If I release too early, I teach my horse that he is in charge.) My inside leg is used in the rhythm of the gait, to move my horse into my outside rein. I hold the reins quietly, (never massaging either rein), and as lightly as he allows, but as strongly as needed. As soon as he releases, I release. If my horse jerks the rein, I hold firmly with my core. The holding rein always comes from the core, not the fist. In the beginning when he is tense, I will release by bringing the inside rein about halfway back to the neck. (I never bring either rein backwards. During suppling, I move the inside rein out.)
2. Early in the suppling process, I need to re-supple every few strides. At this point, I continue to adjust and release as the horse releases. This is why I don’t bring the inside rein all the way back to the neck. My timing needs to be sensitive, quick, and proactive before he gets too far out of the bend and stiffens against me. I also need to pay attention to where in the arena he is most concerned. This is where I need to proactively begin to supple about a stride before he starts to stiffen.
3. As he begins to soften, I ask for the trot through the suppling inside rein. Again suppling needs to be sensitive, quick, and proactive. The rhythm of the trot with the suppling inside rein relaxes and connects my horse to me.
4. As my horse begins to relax and connect, I am able to hold both my rein close to the neck. My suppling rein only needs to move a small distance from the neck to supple. I need to continuously monitor and supple my horse. When he is connected and relaxed, I can do this with smaller, sublter aids. As my horse connects, he will push off the bit, recycling the energy and coming through. At this point, the contact gets stronger in a pleasant way. (Hard to explain this feel, but when you have it, you know it.)
5. I leave the center 20M circle at B or E, by using my inside leg to send my horse sideways on to the track to go large. This movement is a bending line, like a leg yield with bend. I can take into shoulder fore down the long side with a bending leg yield at each corner.
6. Repeat in both directions.
7. Return to the 20M circle in trot between B & E, and ask for canter. Again, supple through the transition. Repeat the supple steps in canter. Go large when the canter is supple and through. Ride shoulder fore on the long sides. Repeat in both directions.

Reflection: Suppling is the key to all qualities on the training scale. When any quality is lost, return to this suppling 20M circle. As we practice this, Monarch will become more confirmed in moving into the outside rein from the inside leg and the inside suppling rein will become more subtle. I need to monitor each stride and supple proactively to keep him in balance and through.

Next Steps: Practice these steps until they become ingrained in my modus operandi: this is how I reconnect and relax my horse when he becomes tense, looses balance, disconnects. Through practice, he will become confirmed in suppling to produce connection, engagement, and thoroughness.

DAILY GOALS:

5/22, 23, 24/17: horse- continue to develop & refine laterals- build strength & suppleness for thrust and reach; tune up collected canter  rider- focus on lightness & effective aids using Beth Baumert’s aids: shape, listen, act;  comments about training: when I focus on my effectiveness/lightness of aids, Monarch is much better.  Exercises: leg yield; shoulder-in; sh-in to travers; travers/renvers  in walk & trot; canter- 20 M circles trot/canter transitions; working canter/collected canter transitions.  lesson tomorrow

5/15-21/17: continue suppleness/laterals; balance/canter
comments about today’s training: add travers to exercises tomorrow; work canter transitions- working/collected (if Monarch doesn’t hold canter, work trot/canter, then collect for a few strides to walk canter transitions) Rider- focus on light aids

 

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.

Using the Training Scale to Target Daily Training

It’s been a challenging spring bringing my Lipizzan back into training after having the winter off.  The big take away lesson for me is that I can’t count on an “open” winter, even in these times of global warming.  I need to line up an indoor training space because inevitably my arena WILL freeze, and the work I can do will be limited.  I found some exercises focused on winter training based on limited footing.  Since I found these after I got my arena thawed and cleaned, I will put these into use next winter.  The exercises focused on the base of the Training Scale- RHYTHM at the walk.  In the meantime, I also discovered some SUPPLENESS/RELAXATION work I can do in the winter to keep the 2 foundation elements in place when riding is limited.  (I can get a 3 day/week riding slot in a beautiful Cover-All arena that stays quite warm, even in the bluster of a stormy day.)

 

Training Scale, aka "Pyramid of Training"

Training Scale, aka “Pyramid of Training”

Because we didn’t have the indoor this winter, I was traveling so much, and I didn’t have the winter exercises, I gave Monarch the winter off to hang out in the pasture and just be a horse.  While he probably enjoyed his long winter vacation, it was quite difficult for him to come back after so much time off.  We had to start back at the very beginning in March with Rhythm, just like a green horse. (Click on the Training Scale to enlarge to read the directives below the labels.)   It wasn’t so much that his rhythm was compromised by a lack of balance as a young horse newly saddled would experience; instead he lacked ENERGY & TEMPO.  His regular, even rhythm was so slow, it was not effective.  Without energy, nothing can happen.

To rebuild strength and stamina, we did lots of groundwork, (long lines, in hand, longeing, etc), as well as work under saddle, with lots of rest breaks.  It was slow, careful work……at times frustrating because I had to maintain a sense of foresight in my goals, instead of getting impatient.  We began working with Deb Hindi again, and she helped to clarify that sense of vision: where we needed to be to get to where we wanted to go.  Consider the TRAINING SCALE as your roadmap as you travel along your path to brilliance.