Friday, November 5, 2010


I've been more sleep deprived this last week and a half than I prefer to ever want to be. Finished the first wave of midterms with admirable grades and now I'm halfway through the second. After that it's all easy until finals week...right? Right??

Luckily, I'm still having a blast working on dressage with McKinna. This Monday's lesson night started like this:

1. We arrive at the barn and, as we drive past McKinna in the pasture, notice how admirably clean she kept herself despite being turned out without a sheet because it was so warm.
2. Park up at the barn. Change into barn clothes. Look up and notice McKinna rolling in the thick, thick mud just outside the nice dry layer of gravel by the turnout gate.
3. Walk down to turnout and grab her halter. Walk out to get her. Watch as she tosses her head (uh oh), then leads the other two mares on a merry gallop down to the other end of the pasture.
4. Walk halfway down the pasture. Watch as McKinna instigates a gallop back to the other end of the pasture.
5. Repeat step 4 a few times.
6. When McKinna has decided she's done, snag her with a lead rope while she's at the water trough.

We had plenty of time and she was obviously feeling good, so I was more entertained than frustrated by her self-designed workout. She looked great galloping across the field, too.

Then a very quick full bath, to deal with the mud from step 2.

At the lesson, Leslie had us start on some new techniques to get and maintain the topline lift and release in the base of McKinna's neck. I'm still a little hazy on the new stuff, but here's my best approximation of what I did understand:

So far, we've taught her how to release her jaw and not brace in her neck and chest in response to a fairly exaggerated lowering and widening of the hands. This has been useful and necessary in teaching her to let go, lift her back, and carry herself, but obviously we can't go around riding like that all the time. It also tends to make your arms stiff (since they're extended down and out) and pull on the bars of the mouth. With McKinna, it seems to lead to softness but not connection.

So now we're working on lateral suppling. (I think.) It involves keeping my hands much softer and more following with a bend in the elbow, going around a circle at the walk or trot, and insisting that she soften her jaw and neck to the inside. It's not overbending, though. Outside leg to keep her standing up, inside leg to keep her out on the circle, outside rein for connection and half-halts.

We did a lot of figure-8s with this, changing the bend, which was a really good measure of how she was doing. I've noticed in the past that when we change directions across the diagonal or in a figure-8, and I ask her to bend in the new directions, we'll often get sort of a straight fall-around-the-corner for a few strides until I can establish the new bend. With the new work we're doing, I don't feel that loss of control and bend when we change directions; instead, there's a smooth, easy change of bend through her body. (If I do it right.)

Leslie also had us do a shallow canter serpentine. Let's just say, uh, it'll be awhile until we can do a nice counter canter ;) I'm sure we'll keep working on it and manage to do the second part of the shallow serpentine without practically falling over.

Last night we went to a really interesting seminar on the 'new' deworming method, held at a local vet's practice. I took lots of notes and I'll write a post about it. Lots of good information, definitely with some questions still.

I am really excited for this weekend's Upper Level Assessment. I'm riding on Sunday, which means a bath for McKinna tomorrow! She is getting so fuzzy's like we never clipped her at all, except you can see how dang long the fur is under the saddle and on her legs where we DIDN'T clip her. I swear, she grows enough of a coat for three horses. I haven't decided yet when, but she'll definitely be getting another clip...probably once she starts getting too sweaty in our lessons again.

Blargh. Off to take notes in the Bio classes. I'll check in with a clinic report on Monday!


Stacey said...

Man I hear you on the being tired. I've had to work some 12 hour shifts on and off the past two weeks.

I like reading about your suppling work, gives me some ideas. Interested to hear what you learned from the worming clinic too :)

manymisadventures said...

Eurgh, 12 hour shifts does not sound like much fun! Props to you for actually fitting in riding after all of that.

I'll definitely let you guys know what I got from the worming clinic. Some interesting stuff, some confusing stuff. The guy was very knowledgeable - he's a DVM - but he was also a rep for Pfizer, so that always makes you wonder, you know? Anyway, I think we took away some good info.

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