Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finally....A Ride

So, I rode on Monday night for the first time in about two weeks. About time, eh?

Pandora was, of course, very good. Definitely a bit lacking in the suppleness department, but that is always one of our biggest challenges. This is one of the biggest things I'm hoping to get out of dressage lessons: what can I be doing during my daily rides to help her develop more suppleness? Of course I do lots of bending and looping figures at all gaits, but it just doesn't feel like it's enough. The idea is that a few regular dressage lessons will kick us off this plateau we've been stuck on and get us improving again.

Our canter work is still on the verge of becoming good. She can canter without dragging me out of the saddle, which is nice. She can do smaller circles and not lean on my outside rein. We're starting to work on very very shallow serpentines down the long side: come off the wall maybe a couple meters by E or B, then back to the wall again. Hard but good for her.

I've started practicing trot-canter transitions on a straight line lately, which I suspect will be extremely useful for jumping. Oh, I never wrote about the jumping session I had a few weeks ago!

Basically, I set up an X on the 1/4 line and we schooled over it. For whatever reason - I did not have my head on straight apparently - we jumped to the left first. Now, the left is the lead that Pandora does not land on when jumping. I mean, she will, but not very often and not on a straight line. I almost always have to school the lead change, which as I learned in the Brian Sabo clinic, should be a walk transition then directly up to a canter.

Anyway, we jumped it to the left and of course she got the wrong lead. So I schooled the walk-canter and came again. (We were trotting the fence.) And again. And again. And again...

I tried to stay very patient and consistent in my ride. Even weight in both stirrups, even weight in the reins, I tried my best to get a smooth bend around the corner, and NOT lean for the lead but just cue lightly with my outside leg. Again. And again. And again.

Finally, FINALLY, she got it. I praised like she'd just invented the wheel and let her walk for awhile, trying to think about what she did. (Of course my mom had stopped taking video at this point, because I'd had to school it so many times. But, fear not! I got it again on video the next time I got the lead, and I need to watch it to figure out visually what was going on.)

It felt very different from when she took off and landed on the wrong lead. Almost like she shifted her haunches to the left. But what I suspect actually happened: she didn't shift her haunches to the right. You guys know that we have a consistent, big problem with left bend because she always swings her haunches out. So here is yet another aspect of that! I haven't jumped much since I figured out the left-bend thing, so now I know why she rarely lands on the left lead--she isn't traveling straight in the first place.

So we came again, and it only took maybe 1/3 the reps for us to get the correct lead again. Same feeling: I tried to stay very straight and aligned but keep a strong right leg to remind her not to swing those haunches out. It didn't work the first couple times, but then I felt that weird 'different' jump again and we landed on the left lead. I called it a day with that.

Lots to work on! I suspect this problem will be fixed much more easily by correct dressage work than by jumping schooling, but I will do my best to attack it from all angles.

Speaking of jumping lessons, regular Pony Club lessons start up again next month! I'm actually quite excited. I think I needed the break from Pony Club riding because I put so much work into preparing for my rating, but now I'm ready to start taking some regular jumping lessons again. It will really help Pandora get fitter, too - there's nothing like regular jumping to kick up her fitness levels. I need to do my part and jump more frequently at home, too.

We've got a neat schedule worked out for lessons in PC too. Each month we have one mounted lesson with our regular instructor, one mounted lesson with one of our upper-level members, and two unmounted HM sessions. We also have one clinic with Karen O'Neal each month. I haven't been riding in those lately because she works your tail off (really, SERIOUSLY works), but once both of us are in top shape I will go to those again as well because she gives very very good lessons.

We've also got our Winter Camp coming up this weekend, which is always fun. All the girls get together, we play horse management games like Tornado in the Tack Room (a good way to familiarize everyone with rally kits and what items go where) and Pony Club Catchphrase, which helps develop horse vocabulary. We're also going to inventory our fences to decide what new kinds we want, as well as learn about bits and fence types from other members.

Then, next month, we have the ABC retreat. I am REALLY looking forward to it! I learned so much last year and I love the in-depth knowledge they give us. We also have our annual schooling show on the 24th which I will most likely ride in. Remember that show? It was the first time I ever did a real course with Pandora! I can't wait to have my parents take a video of our round and post the comparisons from last year to this year :-) We did the 2'3 classes last year and she was great. The show is late next month, so it may be pushing it to be comfortable schooling 3' by then - remember I haven't really jumped much since before school started - but we can definitely do the 2'9s, piece of cake.

Plus we will have another schooling show on Valentine's day! It's my goal to do a 3' class or two by then. Ooh, speaking of goals, it's about time for me to work out my goals for the year again....

Then we have Quiz Rally at the end of February (woohoo! I had a great time at Quiz last year) and who knows after that.

I'm excited to get back into this again. If you guys look at my blog post history, it's pretty obvious that fall term is always a really tough time for me, riding-wise. I'm adjusting back to being in school, it's starting to get all cold and dark and awful outside, and it's just hard to ride (and write!) regularly. Starting into winter term, that familiar goal-setting boost of January helps carry me through the last bit of winter. I actually clearly remember that January was when I first started seriously schooling Pandora last year, with goals and everything. Fall term is over and I'm ready to get going.

We've come very far in a year's time and I am looking forward to revving up our engines again. See you in a few days with a goal-post of epic proportions!

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