Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rally Report! (Plus extra training thoughts)

Well, I have a little less than a month to go before the Mega-Rating where I'll take my C-1. It shouldn't be too terribly challenging, but it's more of a challenge than my D-3. The real question will come if I decide to take my C-2 next spring, because the level of riding and knowledge expected for it is more than what I have right now. But, you know me, I love a good challenge.

I really had to DRAG myself out to the barn yesterday. I was very tired from the rally. But, I did it, and I had a great ride. Pandora was on her best behavior and we rode in the outdoor - it was the absolute PERFECT temperature for riding, and there was a beautiful sunset too.

With all the hard work we've put in, Pandora has become much more responsive to lateral work. We still are just not getting that left bend at the trot - she tilts her face to the outside and leans in over her inside shoulder while swinging her haunches out. I have also noticed that in halt and reinback, she tends to blow her haunches out through my right leg/rein. So it's all symptoms of the same problem, and I just need to figure out what the problem is. Strength in her hind end, I'm guessing - the right leg since it's the one she ignores, or the left leg since that's the one she swings out to unload? Don't know.
Either way, the more lateral strengthening work we do, the better it will get, I'm sure. In fact, I think general strengthening will be a big help. I'm hoping to make it over to Elijah Bristow, a state park with horse trails about 10 minutes from our barn, to do some riding and conditioning. Event horses need to go over terrain, after all, and there's nothing for building strength like riding over hill and dale.

On the plus side, she can hold the correct bend at the walk. So we do a lot of walk-trot transitions on the 20-m circle, trying to hold her in the bend as I transition up. I can actually feel her lean into my inside leg as she makes the upward transition. It gets worse as she gets tired, but I'm thinking that maybe if I do this, I will be able to hold her in the correct bend for a few strides, so both of us can at least understand what it feels like to do it right.

She gets excited about the canter transitions too. But, I got some good ones. I am trying everything I can think of to keep her engaged and working hard off her hind end, like a 20-m circle with transitions from trot-canter-trot-canter-trot-walk-canter-trot-canter-walk...etc. It gets her a little riled up, but she carries herself better. Walk-canters are hard, but Brian had us doing them at the clinic I went to last weekend, and it really helped my half-halts and Pandora carrying herself. I struggle with that, because we're not near good enough to do proper dressage walk-canters, but even our attempts are helping with strength and carrying...chicken-and-egg, I suppose.

Anyway, lots to work on. There's a nearby dressage trainer I want to try taking lessons with. A friend's ridden with her before. If all goes well, I'm hoping to take a lesson every other week for several months throughout fall and winter, if I can swing it. We are just at the point in dressage where I don't know what to do next, as I've mentioned several times before.

Then, I was thinking about maybe trailering to Inavale for stadium and XC lessons with Brooke as we move from winter to spring, because I could certainly use some of those, and I click really well with Brooke no matter which horse I'm riding. Brooke is $40/hour for a private lesson, and the dressage lady is $35 for a private lesson (don't know how long it is). I think I can do it, it's only an extra $70-80 per month if I don't overlap too much with the two kinds of lessons.

I'm funny about lessons. I take a bunch and learn a lot, but if I go on too long, I develop this overpowering need to go home and work on things on my own. I need time to take what I've learned and digest it by myself, working through the exercises and awareness that I've taken away. I did that for most of the summer - I took a LOT of lessons early summer and then I really needed to go home and figure some things out for myself. It's been good for me, because focusing so hard on how to fix this left bend has made me incredibly more aware of what Pandora does with her body and why.
But, now I'm at the stage where I want and need another round of lessons. I'm at the limits of my experience, so I need a pair of educated eyes to help take us to the next level. I think with some quality, one-on-one instruction this year (I've found consistent, individual lessons seem to help much more than group lessons with rotating instructors, at least for what I want right now), I should be able to easily meet my goal of competing Novice next year and maybe taking my C-2.


The rally was wonderful. We got 8th place riding-wise (an E for one of our riders on XC really hurt us, plus a few stops and time penalties here and there), but we got 3rd place in Horse Management! I was extremely proud of our team because that's certainly the best we've done since I've been a member. I told everyone on the team that I wanted to do really well in HM, and they all got psyched about it - everyone chipped in to help keep our tack room clean and organized, stalls picked, etc. As the weekend went on I think we all got tired and let some things slip, which may have cost us a higher placing, but oh well!
It was my first time as Stable Manager, so now I know a lot more. I learned that it's easy to drop a lot of needless points on safety checks, as they will dock a point for a not-quite-tight-enough girth, a crooked noseband, a strap not through its keeper, and the like.

Still, I had a great time. The facility was gorgeous - it is the same place where the Mega Ratings are held. She has 78 acres there, wow. Lots if it is in a big open field with BN through T sized fences, and I really hope we get to go in THAT field for the rating next month instead of the little field we did the rating in last time!

I was glad I wasn't riding, because it was much easier to take care of all the riders than to deal with my own horse and equipment, but I admit I was itching to get out there on XC. There were some Training-level fences that looked like a blast to jump, including a section of trunk on a huge fallen tree. Next year, maybe!

Okay, enough for the day. I am writing the clinic report (probably even as you read this!) and it'll be posted tomorrow.


SprinklerBandit said...

I like your approach to lessons. I don't even know how many "riders" I've watched who only ever ride in lessons. They never practice, and as such, they never really improve. If they go to a show, they completely fall apart because no one is telling them what to do. It's so much better for your riding to learn something and then practice, and then try to move on.

Plus, it's cheaper. What's not to love?

Albigears said...


And I looooooove Elijah Bristow- what a beautiful place to ride! Rivers everywhere. I miss it.

You're lucky to be able to school at Inavale. My dream is to ride my horse there- complete a BN course...!

Cara said...

Lessons where you take something away to work on are always better!
I think you have a strength problem with the left bend thing. That just takes lots of time. Transitions are great for strengthening, they are like weight lifting. The head tilt and barging shoulder and hindquarter drift sound like she is not moving off your inside leg. Leg yeild should help that. Remember, leg yield is a training tool more than an end in itself.
Remember, also, that this is advice from someone you don't know anything about who hasn't actually seen you ride, so it's value is limited.

Candy'sGirl said...

Hey, I don't comment much here, but I read pretty frequently. You might like the book "101 Dressage Exercises for the Horse and Rider". I just got it and its fantastically well written. There are different sections in it for whatever you need to work on with your horse. I've got a 4yo that I'm just starting to seriously train (I've been on him for about a year, but we've not done anything terribly challenging just yet) and the book is awesome. Obviously it doesn't take the place of eyes on the ground instruction, but the $15 for the book is certainly worth if for your between lessons periods.

I'm like that too. I like to do clinics and lessons for a little while and then go home and see how far I can get. Then I get stuck and go for another round of help.

manymisadventures said...

Cara - I did, and sometimes still do, a lot of leg yield to get her stepping under herself and thinking about the proper response to my aids. Without all the work I did on leg yield, for example, asking her to move her haunches would be much more difficult.

As it is, the more I strengthen her, the more I find we're able to do. So I am glad to feel that we're on the right track :)

Candy'sGirl, I will have to check that out. I think I have 101 Jumping Exercises, and maybe 101 Longeing and Long-Lining Exercises, but not the dressage version. I'll take a look.

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