Show Season

Show Season

Thursday, April 12, 2012


This cartoon pretty much sums it up!  So...we I have been working on contact for the past few weeks.  It began with halt, transition to walk, on to walking, transition to trot, and trotting.  And it has been going fairly well.  Some roadblocks along the way, of course.  And maybe yesterday was just a roadblock session and today will be totally fine.

But...I had a mental breakdown, which leads to me thinking all sorts of things and my very supportive husband trying to figure out what my problem is.  Then I try to explain how I am feeling and it comes out kinda sorta all wrong, but partly right?

Those of you who read this blog know we are green on green.  Neither of us have had consistant training until this year.  Riva turns 5 next month and I am not in a big hurry to advance her training, have no lofty goals, dreams, or aspirations.  I really try to remind myself of our progress and let what compliments come our way sink in.

So...what is my problem?  Working with contact is hard work.period.  I now know what it feels like to ride Riva when she is on the bit.  I also know what is feels like when she is above or behind the bit...and I don't like that feeling.  Yesterday, Riva went beautiful on the lounge in the side reins.  But when I got on, I could not keep that contact one stride in trot.  The more I tried different ways to keep the contact, the worse it became.  My normal 'ride away and relax for awhile' place is the front area of the property, around the pond - away from the barn and arenas.  Yesterday, I tried that and could not just relax and let Riva go.  When I would ask for trot and she came above the bit, I had to bring her back to walk.  I just could not stand the feeling of her dropping her back and hollowing out and for what ever reason, this made me more stressed!

When I struggle with a particular training issue, I most always turn to the internet.  I know there is a ton of crap info out there and I try and go to the recognizable names - Jane Savoie's comes up a lot.  I have watched some training videos of hers and like her methods.  I found 2 articles today that relate to getting and keeping your horse on the bit and another about suppling exercises.  They are easy to understand with clear steps and instructions.  I want to give these a try in our ride this evening.  I know this is the direction I need to keep heading.

But what went thru my mind last night and that I said to my husband, was that everyone keeps telling me what Riva needs, how I have to ride her...that she can't run around anymore with her head up, that she must accept contact, that she has to come round and use her back end vs her front end, etc.  The practical side of me agrees and accepts all that.  But the little girl in me knows all I ever wished for was a horse - to ride and enjoy - to brush and love on - to ride the wind on.  Will those two sides ever meet?


Emme said...

I know exactly what you mean, well I think I do anyway. Here is my fear; what if we train Pippi so much that she is not Pippi anymore? Does that sum it up?

I want to have a great competition horse, but I want that horse to still have the freedom to be , well, "free". Sometimes I wonder if I am asking too much of her, and I wonder why what she does naturally is so 'wrong." Like who decided that such head placement is "better." you know? And would we not enjoy our time together better if we stopped fighting to have her move and collect in ways that are not really natural to her? Another issue is; I actually like her head better when carried higher, and never is she more beautiful than when free in a field.
Schoolmasters are great, but where are they? My fear is that Pippi will become training robot horse, and that I will ruin my own enjoyment training for skills that really don't mean a thing compared to my relationship with my silly Pip.
Does that fit what you are feeling at all? Maybe these fears are common in people who have raised/trained their own horses from the ground up? IDK

SprinklerBandit said...

A couple things:

1) Riva is a wee baby. You are going to have these days no matter what you do.

2) If you're focusing that much on one thing, she may just need a break. Take a day and just brush her, take pictures, play with western tack, go for a trail ride, hop over some jumps, anything other than contact.

I think it will do you both good.

Mona Sterling said...

I also find it hard not to fiddle all the time to try and get them on the bit! My trainer had me set my outside hand on the saddle today and ride her into steady outside contact. Made a huge difference!

I try to be super clear about when we're working and when we're not. If we're not 'working', she's on a loose rein. If I want to trot on a loose rein, I try to encourage her to stretch her neck down which brings her back up and out of that hollow place, even though she's not in 'contact'.

Steph said...

I didn't get my first horse until I was an adult, but I had always wanted one so I know what you mean. I think what you have to do is keep it fun for both of you. Go on the trail, hack around bareback, pop over a jump or some ground poles if she likes it.
And at the end of the day, at least for me, my horse has a job just like me, and his is learning dressage. I ask him for 1 hour of his time a day for working, and the rest he is free to be a horse as he sees fit, or we groom or go eat grass. I try my best to be kind and fair in all of our interactions, and I think that's a pretty good deal, all things considered.

Emme said...

So Bummed that we did not run into one another ar EA. Weather was hard to deal with when in a wheelchair and worrying about a cast. Hope you had a great time.

Emme said...

I sent you a comment Sunday, but it must have gotten lost. We were at EA until about three Saturday. We had seen what we wanted, and the rain was making it hard with Miranda's cast and all. Looked for you everywhere, and I am so bummed we did not meet up. :(
Glad you enjoyed it. I bought new boots, thats about it. Find any good buys?

Speedy G said...

YES, you will if you are persistent. Just keep going. You can't not imagine how many times I thought I should just sell Speedy G. There was NO possible way that he and I were EVER going to get it. And then, POOF! one day I understood how to keep the contact steady ... with him. That doesn't mean he is ALWAYS accepting. Most of the time he's trying to think of a way to avoid, but I now have a few tools in my belt to keep him where he needs to be.

Can I offer the trick that worked for he and I? Speedy LOVED to throw his head high or drop way behind. We started walk to SLOW sitting trot. I kept my reins short, squeezed to trot and HELD my hands. I didn't let him root up. I didn't actually hold steady, but instead gently pulsed alternating hands while squeezing him forward. The first time he actually trot off while lifting his back was a joy! Now I know how to ride him. Not every horse will ride the same, of course, but he and I now know how to (mostly) maintain the contact.

It has taken us several years to go from endurance horse to training level. But now that the ball is rolling, I feel like we're finally making genuine progress. Keep going. You'll get there!

And frankly, I have to keep encouraging myself too as we have a very long way to go!

And I know I PROMISED not to have the last word, but thank you for your recent comment over at BD. I appreciate the support. :0) I'm adding your blog to my blog roll as I am rooting for you and will be checking on your progress with Riva.

Karen and Speedy G

achieve1dream said...

I'm with the others! I think it will help get rid of your stressy feelings if you mix it up and just do something totally different. You have to have a break or you both are going to totally burn out. Also keep in mind that working on the bit is hard work and her muscles may need a break. Think about weight lifting. Sure you only do it for an hour a day, but you still can't do the same muscle group two days in a row because the muscles need time to heal. Remember she is also building muscles in her neck and back just like with weight lifting. It sounds like you both just need a break (maybe even a day of no riding, like longeing, ground driving, hand walking, etc.) to give you both a break. If you can't stand riding her when she has her back sunken just do some ground work. I think I understand what you're saying though. I'm a total perfectionist so once I know how to do something the correct way I just want to keep doing and doing it (I was sooo bad about that with piano), but everyone needs a break otherwise you burn out and performance slips which just leads to a downward spiral (it does for me anyway). Don't think of one bad day as a failure, it's going to happen. Just look at me and Chrome. I was almost in tears because I couldn't even get him to walk forward LOL!!