Thursday, April 9, 2009

Goals Progress

To start, here's a video of one of my courses at the clinic on Saturday. After my first round, where I backed her off too much and flailed around a little bit trying to see my distances, I got a gentle scolding, got my head on straight, and let Pandora come forward to the fences. It was a really fun ride.

I see some things I need to fix. I'm pumping a little too much with my upper body, and I jumped ahead the first time I took the brush. And I'd prefer a longer release. But all in all, my position is *so* much better than it was earlier this year. Sometime I'll post pictures from when I first started jumping so you can laugh ;)


I want to write an update on my goals with Pandora for the year, and check in with you guys to see how you're doing.

My goals have changed a little. For one, I've decided that it's simply not in anyone's best interest to sell Pandora this summer. The option is still there for a possibility in the future, but for now, there's no reason to sell her - she's doing well, I'm learning a lot riding her, and it's nice to have two horses so my mom and I can ride together.

Second, though our goals have pointed us toward Inavale's Horse Trials, the expenses for the summer (camps, small shows, clinics) are adding up fast. To me, $200 is way better spent on 3 days of eventing camp with several lessons and a lot of learning, than spent on one eventing competition. I know I need to get out. I want to get out. But I think my money this summer is best spent on learning as much as I can.
That doesn't mean I'm not going to the HT. But I might not, either.
If I don't go, my focus point for my goals is probably going to be either my C-1 rating in September or, if Inavale puts one on, a schooling HT in September. We'll see.

Here's my evaluations of monthly goals so far.

End-of-January goal: Relaxed w/t/c with established half-halts, working towards lightness and pushing from behind in all gaits. Good lateral work. Transitions downward should come from a steadying seat and lightly closed hand, not from pulling.

Evaluation: First part: success! We have a steady and relaxed w/t/c. We occasionally get glimpses of that coveted hind-end push, but most importantly we are coming up off the forehand.
I haven't spent much time on lateral work, but she does maintain smooth bend. I need a pair of eyes on the ground to check my leg-yield and shoulder-in, so maybe I should check that this month.

The half-halts are truly coming along nicely. I can get a trot-halt with a light request, and we’ve begun to incorporate half-halts into movement. Overall, a good month.

End-of-February goal: Going smoothly through grids, jumping single fences easily at 2’9, and developing a steady canter.

Evaluation: We have not schooled grids (shame on me, I know). We have not jumped single fences at 2’9, except for once at a clinic at the beginning of the month. We are, however, developing a very smooth and steady canter – it’s getting nice, especially to the right.

End-of-March goal: Coursing smoothly over 2'6 with a calm, smooth, and balanced w/t/c. We should be able to significantly control our rating at all 3 gaits.

Evaluation: We are certainly getting somewhere. I have ridden a course set at 2'3 to 2'6 pretty smoothly and am developing an understanding of what it takes to maintain a smooth, steady pace around course. Rating at the walk and trot is there, and I can FEEL the beginnings of canter adjustability. We can do a tiny bit of lengthening and shortening without falling on the forehand or breaking gait. I have a tiny half-halt at the canter without breaking gait. It just needs to be developed!
I spent more time working with grids this month, and jumped single fences.
She was fantastic at the Rally and proved to me that she will jump scary fences even when she is frightened, AND that she's willing to put the effort out when I ask her to push her comfort zones in terms of speed and tight turns.
Overall, I think I can declare this month a success.

Current [April] end-of-month goal: Schooling consistently over 2'9+, riding calmly in the open at w/t/c (gallop if we can find the space). Willingly walk through water. Create passable dressage tests at Training level.

As you can see, we've pretty much been meeting our goals every month, except the month I didn't school what I wanted to. I'm working hard toward my April goals - a couple days ago I rode out in the big mare pasture and got some w/t/c in, though it was too mushy for galloping. I've ridden down the roads alone, and she was fantastically well-behaved. We also have an eventing derby this weekend - my first real cross-country experience with Pandora. Hopefully I don't get run away with! There's also an eventing clinic the 19th, which I'm very excited for, because the instructor is very well-liked.

Basically, we're progressing more smoothly than I ever would have thought possible. Maybe I've always made progress at this rate but I've only recently begun keeping very close track. Or maybe she's the fastest-progressing horse I've ever ridden.

I'm inclined to believe the latter.

She's making my job easy, pushing me to think hard. As long as she understands what I want, she'll try it, no questions asked. She never, ever says "no" just because she doesn't want to, though she'll let me know if she's nervous or unsure. Conversely, this means that if she's getting upset or resistant, it's pretty much always my fault. This keeps me honest and makes me a better rider.

She's polite in all situations. She's not "mare-ish," whatever that means, in heat or otherwise. She never pulls anything stupid, even if she's scared. She's always got my back - she meets every question thoughtfully, ears pricked, expression soft and curious.

I'm amazed that back in January, my only goal was to get a balanced w/t/c without falling on our faces - and I wasn't even sure if I'd get it. Now in April, at all times but her most tired, I've got an 'up,' balanced, and forward horse at all 3 gaits. When I sit her canter, I might have to work a little to hold it together, but it feels light and easy, not like holding up a baby grand piano going downhill.

Back in January, I could barely string a few fences together in good form (that's my good form and hers). Now, as long as I keep my brains together and ride decently, we can create a smooth and flowing course at heights from 2'3 to 2'6.

I look at my April goals and I know I can reach them as long as I get access to appropriate open riding areas. She's always up for trying something new. I think even the walk-through-water goal will be easy. When I was riding in the field, just to see if she would do it, I asked her to walk up to a large-ish puddle. (Just so you know - I'm not a big fan of asking horses to walk through puddles. They can't see, it's muddy and bad footing, and you don't know what's in them. Completely unrelated to asking a horse to go through a water complex while eventing.) She walked up. She made it clear that she didn't want to go through, but I could tell that if I was patient and pushed the issue, I could have made her. Instead we got some nice steps forward, walked around it, and left.

How are everyone else's goals going? Leah Fry, is Poco more comfortable away from his buddy? Stella, is your mare jumping and learning to tie and all the things you mentioned?

For reference, here are the comments with everyone's goals. How about everyone that didn't comment on those - what were/are your goals? How's the progress coming? Have you had to make an adjustment to your goals, like I did?

(PS: I added some new gadgets to the side table. You can now see our upcoming events and monthly goals for the year!)


Leah Fry said...

Ongoing goals: stay on, learn to sit a trot. Crap, I haven't ridden in probably 2 months because of weather, abcesses, having to move them, etc. Seriously, I just want to get better and have fun. This weekend, we're going to set up some barrels in the arena ans see what kind of mayhem we can cause.

Ha! I knew Pandora would be staying. Good for you!!

manymisadventures said...

Oh dear, sitting trot is something I myself need to work on!

It definitely sounds like you've had some rough horsey luck lately. Hope you're having a good weekend hanging out and just riding.

Stelladorro said...

I've been very lax in the jumping areas - but we've worked a lot of ground rails, and now have a solid walk/trot/canter, as well as being to extend and collect in each gait. I've actually been trying to teach her to neck rein, because I'd like to start taking her out in the park a bit this year, as my old mare really isn't up to all day trail rides anymore.

As for the tying - I tie her in the aisle way to the solid posts there, but still not out in the open. She'll stand there every day for a week, and then randomly rip back and try to break free. I think I just need to bite the bullet and pay a professional to deal with it, I don't want either of us to get hurt and I'm fairly sure that's what's going to end up happening if I keep trying myself.

I've also got a spot arranged for her at college, so she's coming with me 12 hours away when I leave this fall. I think I may hold off on the jumping till then, as they have many instructors and better facilities, so I'm sure we'll have a more positive experiance that way.

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