Sunday, February 12, 2017

Lessons, Lessons Everywhere

I've been having a ton of trouble with my internet lately... we have crappy satellite internet here and most of the time it won't connect at all. Kind of hard to post when I have no internet! So this post has been really delayed because it has been written but not able to be posted. It's driving me nuts and unless I go to a local spot with WiFi, I'm out of luck. Anyway...

I WAS lucky enough to have not one but two lessons last week with both of my favorite instructors! How awesome is that!

On Thursday I trailered out to lesson with L. It was 80 degrees on Wednesday, but 35 degrees with howling wind on Thursday morning. (Why? Because Texas.) I actually had to break out my quarter sheet for the first time all year - I used to use it for every ride when I lived up north, but in Texas it only makes an occasional appearance. It's a bit small for Dylan - looks kind of like a mini skirt really, although don't tell him I said that - but it does what it needs to do. 

Does this sheet make my gut look fat

Same quarter sheet, same height of horse, but decidedly daintier animal!

L and I discussed show season and where I want to start. We both think that going out at Third is a wise choice, since I've never done it and it's all easy stuff that isn't a problem for either of us. It should be confidence building before we step out at 4th. The main thing is keeping both of us relaxed - if we can do that, it's no problem. If we can't, everything falls to pieces. 

Most of our warmup work tends to be doing lateral stuff, unlocking Dylan back and front. It really gets him thinking outside of his body, and warms him up with stretching and strengthening work. We went both directions on a 15m circle at the trot, alternating between spiraling in and out, and doing travers and renvers on the circle. That's especially hard for me, as I can't always remember which is which, and doing them on a circle is doubley as hard. I can't physically do much if any posting at the trot, so we try to make sure his back is supple before we start up working. (Side note: kind of concerned about how little posting I am able to do without wanting to fall off and die with pain. My leg cramps up and I'm totally screwed if it does. I am not sure what to do about this.) Either way, my leg was really bothering me during this lesson. Lengthening my stirrups another hole really made a difference for me, but it still hurts sometimes. 

We went from there to doing some lengthenings and mediums down into almost half steps. Dylan knew exactly what the half steps were even though I haven't had much experiene with them - I asked K later and she says he has piaffe started, so he understands the concept well. (Another side note: play with that during lessons.) We were thoroughly warmed up at that point, so we moved into test work, practicing Third 1. Third 1 is simple - it has shoulder ins and fairly shallow half pass at the trot, half pirouettes at the walk, and flying changes, along with some other various things. We ran through the test without issue, with L calling out various things that needed improvement. One of the main things I need to focus on is making my half passes shallower. Dylan is completely capable - and willing - to throw in Grand Prix steepness into his half passes. He is like a freaking crab that can scuttle sideways. For Third level though, you only do very shallow half passes - and that's hard for me to judge. I need to get into a full size arena and just practice practice practice! I was really pleased with the lesson, even if it was freezing cold. 

Dylan after his lesson.... hanging out with his old man friend. This old guy wanders the property loose and likes to come share Dylan's hay. I think it's good for Dylan to have to deal with these kinds of distractions, as long as they're done safely. He knows this is an old gelding, so he's not really bothered by him. 

On Friday, I worked all day long, and came home just in time to hook up my trailer and run off to my lesson with Tarrin. She comes up to our area on a somewhat regular basis, and every time she does I try to get on the list with her. By the time I got there the sun was setting, so we had another lesson in the light of the arena, which I wrote about last time. We started by talking about the changes made to the new Confederation of Working Equitation.... or something like that. I am slightly less confused about all of these organizations after she explained it to me, but it's still crazy. Apparently, WE United is still doing its own separate thing, but WEIAUSA and whatever the other organization was came back together and created this conjoined Confederation. I got a membership card in the mail recently - I'm apparently already a member automatically, because I was a member of WEIAUSA. The Confederation is going to be running most of the shows around here, while WE United is doing most of the shows on the west coast... or something like that. It's weird and complicated. I admit I can't altogether make it out still. 

Anyway. The point of all of that is that the levels have changed now. All of the organizations have come together under one set of rules, and they also changed the levels when they did that. There is now Intermediate A and Intermediate B, instead of just one Intermediate. (There are still Amateur and Open sections of each one). Intermediate A has all simple changes in it, and Intermediate B has all flying. That's right.... no more simple changes through the walk at ALL. Before, Intermediate level riders had a choice - you could pick the simple or the flying, depending on your horse and their strengths. The more difficult flying change would score higher if executed well, but it had to be executed well. Now, the changes are separated out into the two sections. Dylan is clearly in the Intermediate B level, but the flying changes are sometimes really HARD for me! In the EOH phase, there can be up to like 30 odd flying changes, which is crazy. 

We started the lesson by going over the new dressage test, which is virtually the same save for the fact that the simple change in the middle is now a flying change. Tarrin and I talked about how I feel like I've really sort of figured out how to keep Dylan relaxed, and how to sit him better so as to keep him engaged. It has really been an amazing learning process, figuring out how to sit back just a little more, or lengthen my leg just a little more, or raise my hands just a little more, and he just comes right up in front and is ready to go. I think he was as relaxed as she had ever seen him be. After we schooled our test a bit, and repeated some of the flying changes, we went and schooled the cloverleaf barrels. Before, I chose to do simple changes through all of those. Now, I have to do flying changes, and according to Tarrin, the best execution is to do a 3m circle around each barrel. 3m. That's less than half the size of a regular volte. At the canter. With flying changes! It was REALLY hard. I was able to get the first circle and change without issue, and the second one too, but the third change and circle eluded me every time. He would swap behind when going around the barrel, then swap back as we exited. 

We talked about why that was as we moved onto the next obstacle, the double slalom. To me, this is absolutely the hardest thing in the EOH phase. Dylan is this huge moving and powerful horse, and it takes a lot of skill to keep his enthusiasm under control. Which is not to say that I am a skilled person - quite the opposite, really - but I have an idea of how much strength and power it takes to keep him under wraps. He's different than you would expect though. He rides like as a feather in front if you just sit back far enough and lock your seat in. It's like he is so powerful that his power just has to go somewhere, anywhere, when he's moving. When you drive him upwards in front, his engine powers up, and he keeps his hind end engaged, and his front end light. If you're not riding him up in front with every single stride, then the power shoots out the back, because it has to go somewhere. This is why he swaps behind. When you lose the hind end, it just spins out on those tight turns. It's like he fishtails almost. 
In the double slalom, you have to do what amounts to canter pirouettes around each pole, then do flying changes between each one. With Dylan especially, I really have to think pirouettes, because if I just turn him around the pole, he fishtails and swaps behind. There is no simple turning with this horse... it's all riding, all engagement, all the time, every stride, or else you can't keep his power under control. It's like I have to forget that I even have reins. If I just pretend like I don't have reins, I can't be tempted to use them. If you pull on them backwards, even just a tiny little bit, you'll lose the opposite hind leg and he'll swap behind. Instead, I have to think about moving my hands up instead of backwards. This is something I've felt intuitively for awhile, but it's really hard to let old habits go. 

We had several good passes through the beginning of the double slalom. As long as I ride him up, up, up, every single stride, we do really well. Riding every. Single. Stride. Is really difficult to do, and the second I stop doing it, he tells on me. In that way, he keeps me accountable. 

By the end of the exercise, we were both tired. I told Tarrin it was really hard work, but it's only because we haven't done it before, and this is just leveling up. I think she likes my positivity. The last time I rode with her, she told me we would do really well, because I wanted it badly enough. And she's right. 

There is a show on the 18th that kicks off the yearly Heart of Texas WE series. I intend to go, if I can get everything in order! 


  1. I don't know why, but something about the way you write and the things you choose to write about always help me figure things out with Connor. Thanks once again for putting some ideas in my head!

  2. I can't wait to hear about you guys heading out at 3rd level and tackling more WE shows! I giggled a little about the new Confederation -- I feel like 75%+ of people involved in WE are Iberian people, and Lord knows they love to create an infinite amount of duplicate organizations to continue to complicate things.... haha. Although I definitely think the new organization is a step in the right direction. It's a shame WE United wouldn't play ball, but knowing who is behind that organization makes it less surprising for me. Drama drama politics politics. Blech! At least you shouldn't have to deal with any of that!

    1. It's funny you say that, because Dylan is literally the only Spanish horse save for one other stallion that I've come across in the couple shows that I've done. There is this HUGE variety of breeds competing at the lower levels. The upper levels might be predominantly Spanish though - haven't been around long enough to tell! Dylan tends to attract attention at all the lessons and clinics because he's the only Andalusian there.

    2. Yes, the upper levels are almost exclusively Spanish and Portuguese (almost, won't say all -- I recall a stock horse and a warmblood from AWC last fall). Most of the founders of the organizations are also Iberian people.

    3. I think that will change in the next few years. There are a lot of good riders coming up on QH horses and the shift in both National Orgs are also shifting the sport itself away from the underlying Iberian organization. That said, short backed, short coupled, quick on their feet horses will dominate in this discipline, regardless of breed.

      And, Yes, the double slalom is the most difficult obstacle there. I have to canter the turns with a change through trot (L3). It's tough.

  3. So cool about you tackling 3rd this year! I can't wait to follow you and Dylan's journey this year :)

  4. So many adventures! This year looks exciting for you. :-)

  5. Hes so handsome! Can't wait to hear about the first show