Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Back to some basics....

Yah, after lots of difficulties in previous rides, as nice as some moments were, I feel like we really need to learn and revisit some basics. I feel like I'm doing something wrong. We've never really touched on proper downward transitions or halting without tugging at the reins, and I worry too much about keeping her in a preconceived shape instead of letting her relax into the bit, which she will do at times. As far as the trot, it seems as if we are sacrificing moving forward and into the bit for just being a preconceived shape that ultimately has her bracing against my hands. The canter is still a work in progress, but I need to not let her get away with leaning on the reins and totally landing on the forehand. It's almost as if we have been taught the easy way out and not the slow and steady way.

Greta probably hasn't done hardcore dressage in almost 2 or 3 years, maybe more. It is my responsibility to make sure we continue with what we have learned, but to make sure it is done the right way so nothing is ruined for the future. We may not be round 100% or the time, but we'll focus on going forward and having Greta carry herself, not me forcing her onto the bit.

I don't really know what do as far as the canter, but I'm sure we'll get that down.... eventually........... hopefully.

Today's ride would've been much better if I had left off with a beautiful canter-to-trot transition Greta gave me. I felt her suddenly round up without any rein pressure, just my seat giving kind of a "downward shift" command (that I am far from mastering) and she just floated into the trot. I didn't bounce up and down and be forced to post, we just.... trotted. I started to walk her out of the arena, then I thought, "Oh, let's just do that a few more times!"

Well, nothing happens the same way twice. And it certainly didn't today.

So, as you can imagine, I'm a bit on the frustrated side in that I didn't do this much earlier when I felt some problems were arising.

I'm not erasing everything, just touching up on things that really need to be touched up on, particularly self-carriage and forwardness. I will be taking a long break from lessons so Greta and I can just slow down. We won't be doing any shows in the fall, I'm sure.

So as far with my sillyness as today's riding, yes, I'm frustrated and was tearing up on the way home that I couldn't have just ended things on a positive note. Yes, I cried over it hehe.

But I guess we did end it on a positive note, as Greta carried herself in the trot for several strides and make another nice floaty transition down to walk and a very light transition to the halt. I called it a day, and we cooled off outside the arena. We made it down the driveway without any refusal!!! YESSSSSS!!!!

So here is the plan, starting to tomorrow, based on what I've read and what sounds right, I suppose. Once again... I'm doing this DIY-style, so if something seems off, please let me know:
  1. Work on going forward at the walk and trot on a fairly loose rein
  2. Work on transitions between halt, walk, and trot and rely much less on my reins and more on my seat so our downward transitions aren't just falling into the next gait.
  3. Basic circles and diagonals and half diagonals and serpentines, both 2 loop and 3 loop
  4. Keep canter work to just having a controlled pace, loose rein as well. I don't really know much on how to activate her haunches in the canter....
  5. Go forward in the trot and have Greta relax into the bit. I haven't really had much luck with this either, but I'm sure we'll figure it out?
  6. I need to just soften my body: soften my eyes, breath more from my diaphragm, let energy flow from Greta's haunches through my hands and forward to her front.
I really hope this will work. We'll still be working on leg yields (which come in handy to get her into scary corners and making circles smaller and bigger) and anything we have already learned and learned right. Trot extensions I kind of want to hold off until we can just do it at the walk. I don't really know how to do that either.

I feel like I'm diving into choppy water. But the deeper I dive, the calmer it will get. Greta and I just need to dive back into some basics before we move on much more. I am so frustrated but I just know this is the best way: the right way.


  1. Do not feel bad about getting back to basics. Everything is the basics and the fancy stuff develops from a good foundation. In my opinion, experienced riders are always working on the basics whether they are schooling a flying change or a walk transition.

    I recommend that you look for a Connected or Centered riding instructor/clinician in your area. Someone who understands horse and rider bio-mechanics and, most importantly, can teach these concepts to the rider. Connected Riding and Centered Riding are not riding disciplines like dressage or reining, but a means of teaching.

    Give it a try, and I do not think that you will be disappointed.

  2. Thanks for the support. I needed it haha!

    Yeah, the more I think about the more excited I am to make sure things will be right. I'm stocking up on dressage books and I think this little venture will be fun... and probably less intimidating then I think it will be. But who knows?

    OOOH! I just a Peggy Cummings clinic in Boerne a week ago. It says they have a biomechanics lecture coming up in two weeks in Aubrey, TX (it stinks to be a dressage rider in Texas sometimes, because it seems most of the good riders are elsewhere, but when I take a look I really have quite a bit look at in the area) I'll look at the biomechanics clinic. That's the last time they'll be coming around to Texas. But I'm sure they will be back next year! Thank you so much for the link. It looks they give very productive, interactive clinics.

  3. Now that is cool!
    If you attend, I hope you will write a post about your experience. Good luck!

  4. Ive been a DYIer for a good portion of my riding career. its ok. Lots of reading and trial and error. getting back to basics iss essential. youll do great.

  5. @Rachel: yes, lots of trail and error and reading..... and it's only day two!

  6. Yes, basics are goooood. I am ALL about the basics! Mostly because my horse is arthritic and will not tolerate being "put together", and we have lots of time for basics until her hocks fuse, but anyway, basics are still good. :D

    As far as self carriage goes, what I've done with Sofie (and Bandit, the pony I leased and worked with for two years before getting her) is basically ride her on a loose rein or very light contact (the reins taken up enough so they aren't floppy, but they aren't really asking anything of her either). I can't really describe what I do, but just try to be steady, be PATIENT, and just feel out what works best for your horse. I don't have a trainer anymore, so Sofie is my trainer and I ride mostly by feel and what she tells me.

    Basically I've spent a lot of time just letting her be inverted, not really asking her to bring her head down, but all the while, I'm building up trust. By being steady, I'm teaching her to trust the contact and look for the connection. Transitions are good for this, HILLS are EXCELLENT for getting a horse to raise their back and use themselves without even thinking about it. Do lots of stretching and long and low, and if you want to improve the canter, do lots of trot work. If you improve your walk and trot work and your general connection and fitness, the canter will improve. Don't listen to anyone who tells you "Oh, the way to improve the canter is to canter a lot!" They are WRONG. Lots of cantering just tires out the horse and puts it more on the forehand. The pony I leased had an awful canter and hardly ever took the right lead, and over two years I improved his canter by mainly doing lots of long and low and trot work.

    /novel xD

  7. Yes, Greta has finally been fed up of being "put together". She is opinionated. She is a mare, afterall. Greta and all of the these books I have lying around and you kind people that comment on my misadventures will be my trainer. It's like having a million trainers!

    We do not have any significant inclines in the area.... it's mostly flat (note to self for my own stable when I'm older: it must have a nice big hill someplace!) However, the pastures do provide some nice uneven ground to work on balance. There are some nice gentle slopes, but they do not go on long enough to really be strenuous. But I think the driveway and one of the alleys between the pastures provides a very gradual incline, so that might be something to look at....

    But def utilizing those methods you mentioned!

    TBH you were kind of an inspiration b/c I saw how well Sofie was doing and nice she looked and I realized slow and steady does win the race!


Comments are greatly appreciated and, most importantly, Greta loves you for commenting ♥

Thanks guys!