Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lesson 18

This day's lesson was quite good! I think I had some little milestones.

One thing that finally clicked was the fact that I need to support the horse with the outside rein. In lessons before I would not keep enough support. So, Helena found it all too easy to run through it and go off about her business, ignoring my cues (I still had issues with her wanting to go her own way in this lesson, but hopefully it's getting better). In the past I was always scared to use too much contact, but I think I'm on the verge of finding that happy spot where I am able to keep contact while still being flexible/elastic and going with the horse's movement.

And with support on that outside rein, I was also able to get her collected and keep her there for longer. Outside support, wiggle inside, nudge with both legs, and that seems to get her collected at the trot.

I was on the lunge for the canter, and that is seeming to get easier each and every lesson. It seemed as though I only had to apply my aids precisely but gently to get her going in the canter. Perhaps I've been thinking too much and trying too hard! My transitions down are improving as well. I seem to be able to get her down from the canter into a comfortable trot instead of a fast, slightly rough trot faster. I concentrated on not allowing my body to rock so much with the horse's movements but trying to sit deeper and letting my lower body go with the movement instead of my entire body.

I still need to improve on my overall position quite a bit. My hands tend to go into piano hands- I need to keep my thumbs up and pointed to opposite ears. My hands also tend to go too low and too close- they need to come up a little and in line with the horse's shoulders. We did some wide arm excercises in which I spread my arms WAY out. That actually helps quite a bit, because then it feels weird if my hands get too close together!

All in all, good lesson.

Maintain: Outside support on rein, collection, transitions up into canter.
Improve: Transitions down into trot, position of hands.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lesson 16

A good lesson and another video taken!

I don't have too much to say about this ride- it was decent. Through the video I can see that my posting is improving. It is getting softer and more natural. My position has also improved. I still get a chair seat at times, however my leg is staying back much better than in weeks before.

I also learned that it's ok for my heels to NOT be visually shoved down as so many riders seem to believe. Yes, my weight needs to be in my heels and my toes should not be down, however after some research it seems that it's the Hunter/Jumper crowd who believes your heels should be shoved down. That said, I still need to improve my leg position.

In the canter, I tend to rock my entire body too much. However my transitions are improving.

Maintain:Soft post, leg position, confidence.
Improve: Canter transitions.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

First Actual Show!

Sunday, September 9th I had my first show! It was the Zia Paint Club (a small  horse club I'm apart of) Made in the Shade show. I only did two classes just to get a feel of showing and I think it was a great experience.

However, I was very nervous. Star, my friend's paint mare, was VERY ancy. She was understandably nervous and I had a hell of a time getting her to just chill and stand still. She had to keep moving her feet. I was very worried about this since I was doing a halter class and a walk/trot Western Pleasure class, both of which require to horse to stand at one point or another. My nerves were not helping the situation at all.

Yet somehow, the two times we went into the ring we somehow pulled off not making a fool of ourselves. In halter she was responsive and stood without doing weird things with her legs. She wasn't square, but it was acceptable I felt for both of us. We placed 2nd out of 3rd in that class.

When our Western Pleasure class was about to roll around, the arena opened for schooling. She spooked a little, did some sidestepping, and was a little nervous. It was right before our class too... yikes! Soon they called all the riders who were not in the class out and it started.
Again, somehow she cut out her nervousness and was very responsive. Still a little nervous, but manageable. Nice slow trot, good walk, nice turn around. We could have been sharper in our transitions (I think we waited too long to transition down from a trot once and broke gait once) but I was more than satisfied. We placed 3rd out of 4th.

We didn't do too hot, yet I was VERY happy given the situation. Nervous horse with a more or less inexperienced rider (that would be me!). I'd like to think I handled it great and had success in not placing last. I was honestly expecting the worst, which is why I was quite please.

I hope to show more if possible! Getting through the day without embarrassing myself and looking like a horrible rider was a great confidence boost for me.

Tobiano Halter Class - Photo taken by a friend

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lessons 9, 10, & 11

Whoops! Slacking off on documenting my rides! I blame work tiring me out...

In the past three lessons I have been progressing moderately. I'm concentrating on keeping my lower leg back to prevent a chair seat and on making my knee not so tight! My posting has been better as I am working on not flopping back down in the saddle. Something that really helps is thinking that my belly button is moving forward and back instead of me trying to stand up and down from my seat.

In one lesson, I found a slight solution to fighting with Helen when she doesn't want to go left. I have been holding constant pressure on the rein- she tends to ignore this as I naturally have pretty soft hands/contact. Instead, pressure on-off-on-off of the bit gets her attention and gets the point across better.

On this last lesson (September 11, 2012) I was put back on the lunge line. My instructor feels that I need a few more sessions on it to get a better feel of Helena. I agree, however those constant circles on the lunge line sometimes make me feel unbalanced. My stirrups were also made even longer! I admit I am once again struggling with keeping my heels down and my irons from flopping everywhere, although fortunately and surprisingly I didn't loose them once!

My hands are decent, but sometimes I do weird stuff with my wrists. As long as I remember to keep my thumbs up my hands are decent.

I also found that I can almost always pick up the correct diagonal trotting right. However going left, I have issues picking it up. I am also having a difficult time picking it up when coming from the canter. I tend to sit too long instead of posting right away as soon as we transition down. That said, my transitions TO the canter are improving. Not to mention I LOVE Helen's canter. It's not necessarily soft- in fact it feels more like a charge- however it is very fun and feels very powerful.

We also did a little sitting trot work, which I don't find too difficult as long as we are at a slow trot. I can tell it will be more difficult if we are at a faster trot.

I was told it was my best ride yet! Hopefully I continue to improve. I also need to remember to ask for another video to be taken... it was a lot of help.

Maintain: Improved trot, not loosing my irons, transitions down from canter.
Improve: Heels down, knees not so tight, thumbs up, picking up the correct diagonal going left, balance on the lunge.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

My Rising Trot - It Needs Work... Big Time!

After looking at the video I posted and posting a critique of my riding on the horse forums (here), it appears as though I have a chair seat and my rising trot needs A LOT of work. I couldn't agree more with that one of the posters said- shortening my stirrups and bringing my leg back and underneath me. Doing so will make posting easier and more comfortable for both me and the horse.

Goal: fix my legs, seat, and therefore my rising trot!

This is a quote from an article I found so that I may reference back to it as needed:
Problem: A Heavy Seat
Culprits:  Hunter Riders and Dressage Riders
"I often see riders posting straight up and down in a chair seat rather than forward and back, and that causes them to land heavy on the horse's back," says Scott. This position also makes it difficult to balance, which causes hands to bounce and jar the horse's mouth.

Cure: Stiffness is often the problem. For the hunter rider, pick up the posting trot, and with one hand grab your horse's mane about halfway up the neck (make sure to keep your shoulders square). This will pull your shoulders forward to the correct 30 degrees and help you feel how to land in the saddle softly. Maintain this position for 15 to 20 strides and then let go of the mane. Repeat if you fall out of position.
For the dressage rider, a stiff, closed hip angle is usually the problem. Think of the posting trot originating from a kneeling position instead of a sitting position. Your knees should point to the ground, and your hip angle should open as you rise and close as you sit. Think about someone pulling your belt buckle forward as you rise and then pushing it back as you sit. Don't let your knees shift around. Keep them pointing toward the ground as best as you can.
From Perfecting the Posting Trot

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Lesson 8

Good lesson today. The more comfortable I am, the more confident I am, the better I progress!

Today was mostly trot work off the lunge with a little canter work on and off lunge.  I was able to get a video of the first few minutes of my ride which was an eye opener...

Me feet REALLY need work. I they don't move around the horse like I thought, but I do need to keep the balls of my feet on the stirrup better and I need to keep my heels DOWN! Hopefully time and a constant reminder from my instructor will fix this. I'm also getting my diagonals better without looking.

Cantering right once again was no issue. I actually got it straight from the walk today and did it off the lunge. However going left I am still having issues... Walking is getting better, but when we trot and canter left, Helena likes to pull tricks. It's certainly not our favorite way! It didn't help that I was either not assertive enough or using the spur on that side too roughly. Poor Helena. Such a patient, forgiving horse for nooby me. I told my instructor that I would have thrown my rider off if I was a horse! I need to learn how to regulate how much pressure I put on the spur... I tend to go from zero contact to too much contact. So back on the lunge I went, where I found out it going into the canter going left is much easier than what I'm making it. I think I anticipate her being difficult that way so I over compensate. I'm finding that there is no need for over compensation- but I do need to stay one step in front of her!

Anyway, here's the video!

Maintain: Good trot along rail, keeping horse on rail, feeling my diagonals instead of looking at them.
Improve: FEET! Also, my hands need to be a little quieter. I don't think I'm tugging on her mouth, however my hands still don't appear to be very...still.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Lesson 7

Awesome lesson today! Rode Helena walk/trot off the lunge and was actually able to keep her on the rail (although I had trouble towards the end of the lesson, maybe due to my brain trying to process everything)! And while my feet did slip 'n slide, I'm improving in this area as well. I also had different spurs on than before (these were English Rowels..Rovels? I forget) and did well in those. I'm just happy my actual leg is quiet enough to be able to wear spurs without bumping the horse with them.

Then we did a little canter work. I admit, I got a little scared. It's not the canter that bothers me at all; in fact this horse's canter is quite comfortable. However it is the transition that gets me. The fast trot that leads into the canter is so jarring I often loose my balance and feel like I'm going to fall. Obviously this is my fault: I need clearer cues when asking for the canter. On a good note for that though, I did canter right along the rail without needing a lunge line. Going left (Helena's strong side) was difficult. This is where she decided she was going to be a little more difficult to keep on the rail. So, back on the lunge I went to canter left.

But all in all, improving more and more and it feels great!

Maintain: Good trot along rail, keeping horse on rail, heel down.
Improve: Feet still, keeping focus throughout lesson, canter left, clearer signals to canter more smoothly to avoid jarring trot.