Saturday, June 24, 2017

Lessons Reports, and Weather



I had two lessons this week or so - one with Louisa, one with Tarrin. I was also supposed to have a lesson two weekends ago with Tarrin but it got rained out, much to everyone's surprise. Rain in June? In Texas? What is happening? 


Both of these instructors are complementary to each other in that they both have similar things to say about the horse, and the same ideas about how to get there, but with different (but complementary) ways of executing things. Louisa uses a lot of visual imagery, which is a learning style I process very well. Tarrin is excellent at pinpointing an issue and prompt to get you right to fixing it. Both of them are focused on me as a rider, because both know how much changing something in my body alters this horse. All of his issues are not really *his* issues, they are *my* issues. And when they fix me, it fixes him, automatically. This is why he is so completely priceless - he doesn't tolerate fools, and he doesn't give you any freebies whatever, but he's also completely safe. He makes you work for it, and makes you be correct, but the second you get it, he gives all of it to you.  


Dylan is shocked that old man Gringo (who wanders loose on the property) would come and steal *his* cookies right out of the tack room

In the lesson with Louisa, I started out with a really, really, really relaxed stretchy warmup. Up until a few months ago I was not able to post at all due to the pain in my leg, but during and after the last show at Tyler, I started giving it a try. Much to my delight I've been getting better and better at it, and with less and less pain. It sounds so stupid to be struggling with something so simple - I'm showing 3rd level and I can't freaking post? - but it truly was causing me pain beyond what I can even describe. Now though, with all my physical therapy, I'm posting mostly pain free and can now utilize that whenever I need to. 

Where I've been using it is in my warmups. I've been making so much more use of stretchy work at the walk and trot instead of doing warmups at the walk and canter (because that's just how you have to do it when you can't post). As a result, I'm able to unlock his back that much faster, and relax him that much more. He really does like to stretch, but he's just as quick to get short and tense at the base of his withers, much like every other Spanish horse on planet Earth. But when I start my warmups with a long, loose, stretchy walk and trot, it loosens all of that up and it warms my muscles up too, so that I can find where I need to be better and faster.

I put him back in the snaffle for our lesson and have kept him back in the snaffle. The pelham is getting shelved for the time being, because Dylan is just *better* with it. As always, the more I just pretend like I don't have reins, the better he goes. When I get to micromanaging his face, everything goes down the toilet. We warmed up at the walk and posting trot, just doing some simple bending and stretching. Then we got to more of the meat - cantering squares with quarter pirouettes in each corner. It's exactly the same thing - just forget about your reins beyond simple positioning, and move him with your body. In pirouettes especially, which I am just learning about, my first instinct is to tilt which makes me lose my inside seatbone. The second that lifts off the saddle, he's quick to spin through his pirouettes almost like he wants to be a reiner, and he'll swap out behind. But if I really sit down and think about things in slow motion, he is a thousand times better. I just have to think my way through them. 

There wasn't too much else that we were deeply focused on, aside from a few flying changes. He was a little slow to switch from right to left, but we edged around that by cantering down the long side in a bit of shoulder fore to the rail, and then executing the change on the far side of the ring. He's been so good with his changes that I honestly think he was more tired than he wanted to admit after doing the quarter pirouettes (or, maybe I was). When we got back home, Dylan also had a chiropractic appointment that showed he was much looser in his withers but had both hips out - so that also probably wasn't helping much!
Even though it wasn't too complicated of a lesson, the work was just so quality. It felt so good. It felt SO good. All of that stretching in the beginning meant all of the execution of things was just so fluid and so connected and just so good. If I can get that kind of connection everywhere.... that will be magical indeed.







Yesterday I rode with Tarrin again in preparation for the scheduled show today (stay tuned for an update on that at the end of the post). There are rules in the Confederation for WE that state that private instruction from a judge ahead of a show is not legal, but a clinic held by that judge right before a show is, which I think is really great. We rode at 8am, which I was very thankful for given the fact that it's about 113 degrees outside right now with high levels of humidity. Tarrin asked me first thing what I was wanting to work on, and I talked to her more about the last show and what I think went wrong. She pointed out his one major flaw - he likes to lose his haunches out towards the right. He does this in both directions and it's something I don't always really realize is happening until it's too late. To combat this, she parked herself in the middle of the dressage course and held one end of the garrocha pole, while I held the other. I had to go around her in walk, trot, and canter while holding the pole in one hand in both directions. I was not supposed to move her, or move my hand - the pole was supposed to stay perfectly balanced in the same spot between us. Talk about HARD - it completely relies on use of your body while trying to keep the horse on a perfect 10m circle, including through transitions.

Dylan's first inclination in that exercise is to drift his haunches toward the right. And as usual, this is mostly something I allow him to do without realizing it - I'm stronger in one direction than the other, so if I am not definitive enough with my outside leg and seatbone, I lose the haunches. It's not something you would even really see if you were watching us go, because it's very minor - but this exercise highlighted it. And it's not something that makes too much of a difference when we're doing simple things, but it gets amplified during changes or pirouettes. By the end of the exercise, I was so much more aware of the problem than I had been before. And it makes total sense.


From there, Tarrin had me ride my entire dressage test one handed. Now remember, I have almost no experience with real one handed riding, much less one handed dressage. Dylan does not neck rein. Or well, he sort of does like the rest of my horses do when we toodle on a long rein on the trails - they just sort of pick it up but it's certainly not like actual western horse neck reining. I wasn't really sure how it would go.

To my surprise, it went much better than I expected. What a surprise... when you ride with your body the horse goes well, who knew right!? He had no problem whatever with walk half passes and walk pirouettes - they were just as good as with two hands, which surprised me. The trot work wasn't stellar, more like not-quite jogging, but he leg yielded well and was responsive. I had some trouble with my reins getting too long, and had to adjust them a few times. Tarrin said short reins are my friend - that way I am never tempted to pull back, only to lift upward slightly if I need it, and make small adjustments left or right. The canter work started out a little funky, as I was struggling to figure out how best to keep him straight, but once I got a little more organized the canter instantly got better. If I just stay out of his way with my reins, he's got it, but the second I get a little too one sided or a bit heavy in the contact, he's all kinds of crooked. I have a tendency to be a little heavier on my left rein when I ride one handed, and Dylan made that perfectly clear when I came in for my first flying change from left to right... and he kept counter cantering on the left. He was just doing exactly what I asked even though I did not mean to ask for it. We tried again, I got organized and sat in balance, and he had a perfect change. Our next two changes were also perfect and not only were clean, but were straight and with the same good cadence coming out of them as going into them.


I actually really enjoyed riding one handed. I felt like it forced me to be better because I didn't have a choice, I didn't have the crutch of reins. Not only that, but the horse became perfectly soft and round in front as soon as I had full control of his body.

I am an awfully long way from going Advanced even though it's just the next level up, but I'm starting to feel like... maybe I could do it. (Although, if you look at the dressage test and imagine riding that with one hand... might be awhile before we ever get there.)




It was a good lesson and it wasn't actually too heavy on the workload, which was good because at 8am it was already a billion degrees. We got our coursemaps for the show, looked them over, and then headed back home to finish prepping for today.


And then today actually happened.....

What the hell!?


I was awakened at about 1am by a house shaking roar of thunder. Not surprisingly, after wave after wave of deluge, the show was cancelled this morning and rescheduled to November. So that's the second time in a month that Tarrin drove up here to Decatur and then got rained out. Damnit all!


Out of two planned clinics and a show this month, I only got to ride in the one clinic. Boooo. Next month I also have a clinic (with Tiago) and a B-Rated show at Haras. Both of those places have indoors so they shouldn't be cancelled unless there is something dire happening! I need to go back over my show schedule beyond that and confirm what I really want to be shooting for in the fall too.




2 comments:

  1. Oh no! What horrible timing for that storm. Sorry your show was canceled :(
    At least it sounds like you had a couple of amazing lessons to prep!

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  2. Man what weird weather for you! Sucks about that, but at least the clinic/shows at a place with indoors should be safe!

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