Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Great Juggling Act is Over...at least coming to a close for now!

Whew! What a crazy hectic life I have had lately! While I try to only write about horsey things on my blog, sometimes other parts of my life have to be written about as well. My seniors had exit exhibits, finals, graduation, and Project Grad within the last two weeks. Holy stress! At least now they are done and I am slowly catching up on my sleep. Project Grad was overnight on this past Sunday night. Our two hour cruise on Lake Winnipesaukee was great fun, but the seven hours in a large white tent with no heat was AWFUL. Just simply awful because the "coordinator" of this event did not do a good job with details! We played cards and listened to music....for 7 hours! And mind you she gets a rather large stipend to organize Project Grad. Hmmm......and I got nothing but a "nice job" for organizing prom. But I digress.....

So I was awake for 22 hours straight with 53 very crabby seniors. Yeah, not my idea of a good time. I was able to sleep five hours on Monday morning and then I rode my horse. It was actually a really good ride, if only because I kept my expectations small and she easily exceeded them. LOL! Then I was in bed both Monday and Tuesday nights by 7PM. Last night I finally felt like a normal person again and got to ride. So it seems like I am back to my old self. :) I am supposed to be in school until June 19, but I had to take a personal day seeing as I will be at a show in Skowhegan from June 19-21. So my last day at school is June 18! YAY! Tomorrow I have been asked to chaperone a field trip to an amusement park (tough life I know) and then I only have four days to work next week. I have to finish cleaning my room and organizing for next year. Then it is off to show for three days and my summer has officially begun! Here is a photo montage I made of my kids.....if you are interested.



Also of note in the last few weeks is that my son graduated from PRESCHOOL! YAY! I am so proud of my fabulous little boy. He is entering kindergarten in the fall and I am so proud of him. Photos here in my FB account...

So now, how is Dreamy!? She is actually doing very well. For one thing, I think she looks the best she has looked since I started her under saddle in 2006. She is finally well muscled in all the right places, her coat looks great, and she is at a good weight. She was really overweight when I first got her, having stood around for many years, and then last summer I think I got her too thin. Not that she was thin as in ribs showing, but she is easy to get fit and literally be all muscles and no fat. I think that makes her look too angular. I am very pleased to see how well her stifles look this year. I know that one of the keys to developing her canter is to strengthen her stifles. Thankfully she was never injured in her stifles as a racehorse, so it has never (knock on wood) been an issue. She is not lame in her stifles, nor does she have any issues with them. But I knew that in order to strengthen her canter I needed to focus on strengthening her stifles. I got the chance to hear Jo-Ann Wilson speak at the ME Dressage Society's banquet in January of this year and one of the articles she passed out was about stifles. I will write a blog post at some point about what I learned from that article, but not right now....

But anyway, her stifles look stronger and are definitely more developed than a year ago. Plus we have come so far in her training. Lately we have been working on developing the connection to the bit. I really think Dreamy should be a western pleasure horse, as she rather have no contact at all. LOL! It was easy enough at Intro level to "fake" it, because she can look the part of being on the aids, but really she wasn't. Now that I am asking her to do more than just walk trotting around, she needs to be on the contact. It has been a struggle that really sparked back in October when I had that clinic with Susanna Hamilton. For the first time, we really made Dreamy come onto the bit. She was not pleased about it!

But I can see that consistent and CORRECT work has not only developed her muscles properly, but also our under saddle work, especially the canter, has improved dramatically.

Our latest work on connection had me feeling as though we were having "bad rides". She seemed to get REALLY heavy in my hands and just not at all where I thought she should be. After my last lesson on Saturday June 6, I asked my instructor Judy about it. We were in her barn and her mare Locket was on the crossties. I took Locket's lead and made Judy hold one end while I held the other.

I asked her to show me how much contact she wanted me to have with Dreamy's mouth. It surprised me that it was so heavy, seeing as "normally" my horse wants to travel with feather light (if none at all...) contact. Hmmm...OK, well this is better than I thought.

"But this is how the contact feels now," I told her, as I literally pulled against her hand. She told me that was OK. It is definitely too heavy for where we WANT her to be, but it is a LOT better than where she is (feather light to none). As Judy told me, we need to get too strong of a connection in order to then back off a bit. And when she felt luggy or heavy, she wanted me to do a transition. I felt SO MUCH BETTER after she told me this. So even though here I have been thinking we are having "bad rides", in reality we are having great rides! Dreamy is finally starting to be steady in her contact with the bit, staying right there where I want her to be. I know this has taken FOREVER, but Dreamy really rather NOT work towards self-carriage, thank-you-very-much. And realistically, her conformation does not lend itself to self carriage. She has a large heavy shoulder and a smaller back end, because a pacer just plows along on the forehand and trails out the hind end. And heck, the overcheck keeps them from falling on their faces! LOL! So I have to sometimes look at the big picture here and remind myself that there can be no time table for her training.....but let's face it, I totally want to do that.

So yesterday's ride was fantastic. I have been doing lots of broken lines and figure eights to work on getting her warmed up in the trot and ready to work. She came right down onto the bit, soft and steady. I started asking for slight leg yields, pushing her haunches over through the turns. She stayed soft and bended easily in both directions! Yay! She seems to have a harder time bending to the right. This is also her harder direction in the canter. I moved her shoulders over for shoulder fore and even a few steps of shoulder in. I worked really hard to activate her inside hind and also make sure she did not drop her inside shoulder. We did counter bending at the trot. We had some of the best trot work we have ever had. I mixed in some canter/trot/canter work and she stayed soft and supple. Only once to the right (instead of EVERY time) from the canter to the trot did I have to put her onto a small trot circle to regain some semblance of bend. For a long time, she became stiff and crooked after the canter, so putting her onto a small trot circle helped. I am proud we only had to do that once yesterday, and it was her worst direction.

The canter to the left was great. I only asked three times, and she responded with three lovely transitions, true steady canters, and then soft and precise transitions back to the TROT. No pacing. The right lead has been a bit of a mess lately, with bad transitions and four beat unbalanced canters. After such a nice canter at NEDA, with 7s on transitions, I was freaked! Instead of completely freaking out (I only freaked a little...) I tried to trust the process. Yesterday I was rewarded with two genuinely balanced and upward transitions. That was nice! It seems that Dreamy disliked having to keep contact in the right lead transition, so I used to literally drop my inside hand to give her "room". That was fine for a while, but as soon as I started to actually ask for contact in the canter depart, she fell apart. Not pretty. And of course, then my position would fall apart (more so than it already does...) and suddenly we were pacing....and it was just not good. Blech!

So I was pleased to find that I could find a happy medium for her. I still gave her a teeny bit of rein, but literally it was just a teeny tiny bit. And she rocked back and hopped into the canter! WHOO! I prepped her with excellent bending and lateral movements so she would not be falling on the inside shoulder. I tried it once more and she did it perfectly again. It was the transitions from NEDA! YAY! And the canter I got was MUCH better than that of late. It fell apart about 2/3 around the circle, but what the hell. Small steps.

So I am hoping tonight's ride goes well. I think I might go out on the trail so I can do some hill work, but we will see. I want to jump, but the footing might be too soggy for that. We have had three days of on/off rain. Tomorrow she gets to have off, seeing as I am getting back from the chaperoning trip at 8PM (no one mentioned THAT tiny tidbit when I agreed to go...) and then I have a dressage lesson for Saturday morning at 10AM.

So here's hoping life is back to normal...whatever that is! LOL! :) And it is time to start prepping for our exciting show at Skowhegan where we will pretend to be a hunter pony! That should be interesting.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Sounds like you really work to find a way for her to learn and develop - it's really interesting to hear about your work with Standardbreds and what their particular issues are in terms of confirmation and natural tendencies - I've never had the chance (yet!) to work with one.