Sunday, April 29, 2012

2 Trainers

It has been an interesting week.  I had a lesson with my trainer on Tuesday evening and two lessons with Lex - Friday and Sunday evening. 

My trainer asked what I wanted to work on and how things were going.  We decided to concentrate on contact and circles.  She asked if she could get on Riva and see where she is as far as accepting contact.  As I watched her ride, she basically rode Riva that same as Lex does - inside leg and inside hand asking for the contact with steady outside hand and leg.  Some stronger taking on the inside when Riva would raise her head, while pushing her forward.

When I got on, we started with the 20 meter circles at walk.  I am doing fairly well at establishing and maintaining contact at the walk.  I still need practice on the walk to trot transition, but am able to keep the contact most of the time.  Once I am in trot is where I need the most help with maintaining contact. 

Well, Tuesday's trot circles with contact were a mess.  And it got worse as the lesson went instead of better.  I did post the one picture just to remind myself to get my elbows back and legs back!

Not an excuse but I was probably pretty frustrated by this picture.  No contact going on at this moment in time!

My trainer is great and has helped me with so many things in the time I have been taking lessons from her.  She is patient and encouraging.  But, I feel she does not instruct me to ride the same as she does.  When instructing me on riding with contact, she tells me to give light sutle cues...squeezes on the inside rein, opening and closing my fingers, etc.  Does not work with Riva at this point - I know this is what we are working towards, but it takes more than sutle cues right now to get and keep the contact.

So the frustrating part is seeing how she rode Riva and how Lex rides Riva - but her instructing me in a much different way. 

Lex was home over the weekend and rode Riva both Friday and Sunday evening, before giving me a lesson also.  Her instruction is much different and she does have me use the same techniques as she uses to establish and maintain the contact in Riva. 

Instead of drilling circle after circle, Lex had me ride a 20 meter circle to the right, then switch at X to a circle to the left. Then she had me trot down the long side, then a diagonal, maybe the next time move on and off the rail, then do another circle.  Lots of changes, keeping Riva's mind occupied, etc.

Walking back to the barn at CAF at the March show, with Lex as my trainer.

It is wonderful to have both trainers helping me with Riva.  Lex is learning from one of the best dressage instructors around, 5 days a week of riding under her, and is able to pass this knowledge on to me and Riva.  My other trainer has years of riding to her credit, takes lessons herself from the instructor that Lex is working under, and is a licensed dressage judge.  She is wonderful with position and biomechanics of horse and rider. 

So my challenge is to ride like I know I need to ride Riva while in a lesson with my trainer.  I do need to work on circles, but Riva does not handle continuous circles at this point. 

As I wrap up this post, that has no conclusion, I know I am blessed to have this as my biggest problem right now in my life.  A person who is important to our family is struggling with much larger issues and trying to stay strong for her children.  She is in my thoughts and prayers tonight.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Show Recap

First off, just have to say I love my pony and I no longer want to trade her in.

HHP Heartland Show as a success - we broke the 60% score and I could not be happier will how the tests went!

Friday night we arrived in Edinburgh about 7:30 pm to rain and cold temps.  No sense in trying to ride in that weather, so we left Riva in her stall at the park with her happily getting to know the very tall handsome gelding in the stall behind her.  She is such a flirt :)

Saturday never got very warm, and the sun did not appear till our drive home, but it never rained and the arenas were nice and dry.  Lex and Riva's Training Level Test 1 was at 9:04 am.  Lex took Riva for a hand walk around the park, after she had her breakfast.  She said Riva only jigged about once when they pasted a flat bed trailer full of dressage letters.

Lex got on about an hour before her test to have plenty of warm up time.  There were 3 dressage rings set up to test, with 2 warm up rings.  Lex's designated warm up ring was in the lower dressage arena at HHP, which Riva has been in before.  Riva settled pretty quickly into listening to Lex and working around the other 4-5 horses warming up.  Lex walked her out until time for her test. 

The test went well.  Riva did not stretch down much in the free walk but did offer some stretch in the stretchy trot circles.  She got her correct leads on both canter circles, and her right lead canter transition was especially nice - and no kicking out, bucking, boncoing like the show a month ago.

Lex was happy with how she went and ended up with a 57.5% and 5th place out of 10 in her division. 
                                                                  Lex & Riva
                                                (kinda looks like snow doesn't it?)

Riva got to hang in her stall after her first test and we watched the other competitors that came from our barn.  I took Riva out for another hand walk in the early afternoon and let her graze a bit.  She attracted some human admirers who asked her breeding.

I was not scheduled to compete until 4:21, the last test of the day, but did get to go a bit earlier.  The ring I was to compete in was running ahead and about 3 pm, show officials announced the judge would take any Intro B testers early.  Lex and I got Riva ready and headed to warm up.

Lex got on Riva first and then stayed in the ring to coach me when I got on.  The warm up we were assigned to was very large, with only about 6 or 7 other horses working - so Lex was allowed to stay in with me.  Once I felt comfortable and that Riva was listening to me, we headed over to test.

                                                                    Kelly & Riva

I was happy with how our test went - she was forward and pretty focused.  I was especially happy with the free walk, in which she streched and did not try and break to trot.  My circles were small and need more bend - I need to keep my elbows more back and bent, but we had some good moments.
Both halts were square.
                                                                   Kelly & Riva
                                                               (final halt and salute)

My score was 61.25% - a personal best for me!  Note the smile when we posed before beginning to load up and head for home.  I placed 3rd in my division.

                                                                Happy Horse Mom & Diva

Lex and I did run in to fellow blogger Amy of slowandsteadysmilerwinstherace at the show.  I was so bummed that I missed her test and stadium jumping.  But she recognized me - coming out of the restroom with my hairnet and show clothes - probably with a terrified look on my face :0  Next time, Amy, we will have to make time for an adult beverage!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bloggers have The Best advice!

I have said it before, but I have received so much support thru my blog and I appreciate every one of you!  From just starting the blog, thru Hennessy's injury and decision to euthanize, to my ups and downs with riding and training Riva; the comments I receive have helped me tremendously.  Thank you all!

I went in to my lesson on Tuesday with an open mind and optimistic attitude (which is really not my nature, sadly).  My trainer first asked me to set a date that we will begin working on canter in lessons - I told her next week's lesson, April 24th, to which I think she was surprised that I did not put it off longer.  I told her I am getting more relaxed in canter, but I am nervous when Riva gets fast and strong.  We then talked about my issue with contact - that I am so confused over how much contact to take up and what I should be expecting to get from Riva.

We started off with a walking 20 meter circle on the left lead (which I wanted to work on since last lesson was spent on right lead circles).  She instructed me of how much rein to take up and then keeping the contact - which I saw that I had been taking up much more rein, while working on my own.  Riva quickly responded to this contact, dropped her head nicely and reached for the bit.  After we established keeping her on a 20 meter circle in a nice swinging walk, we moved up to trot after taking up slightly more rein.  Again, Riva quickly went into the contact with moments of her back lifting.

At the end of the lesson, I went thru my Intro B test.  While no where near perfect, my trainer says it improves every time.  My biggest problem was getting her to trot down the centerline and turn left at C - Riva was being a princess and did not want to trot thru the mud puddle at C in the outdoor arena.  After the lesson, I spent about 15 minutes trotting the Diva thru that puddle!  Chances are we will encounter standing water at the show this weekend - forecast is calling for rain in our area Friday and Saturday.

Which leads to my ride last evening...get ready for it...

   1)  we cantered

   2)  we had fun (yes, Riva told me she had fun!)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Equine Affair!

Saturday was spent in Columbus, OH at Equine Affair.  We packed up Friday after work and spent the night in Dayton before traveling on to EA.  Arrived as they were opening, which was great - good parking still available and the crowds had not yet arrived.
My overview of Equine Affair Ohio vs Hoosier Horse Expo Indy:

     *  Equine Affair was much bigger - more vendors
     *  Equine Affair had more demos going on and more spectators watching the clinics
     *  Equine Affair had more English tack, clothing, and supplies for sale than Hoosier Horse Expo
     *  If you are looking for BLING, cowboys, and Western gear - go to Hoosier Horse Expo

We have attended HHE for the past 6 or 7 years and it just seems to go more Western every year.  It is close for us and fun...we see people we know.  We always come away with purchases, don't get me wrong, but when you are looking for Dressage and or Eventing stuff you have to seach and usually not find.

Lex and I went with a list to EA and came back with everything on it.  What we bought:

    - White Tuffrider Full Seat Dressage Pants for Lex (for shows only, girlie!)
    - White Kerrits Sleeveless Shirts for Lex and myself (with the stock tie loops)
    - White Stock Ties for Lex and myself
    - Black Dressage Coat for me
    - Fun, pretty blue Tuffrider Schooling Dressage Saddle Pad for the Diva
    - Green full wrap, with velco closures, tail bag for Diva (to keep the poop stains off her tail when    traveling to shows)
    -  Lex bought herself a belt buckle and lanyard

We plan to go again next year and hope to attend for two days.  We didn't get time to watch clinics, except for a few minutes here and there.  And I was very sad that we never ran in to Emme & Miranda of ipickcrazy and hard-2handle.  I feel like I know this mom and daughter team and so much relate to them, through reading their blogs. 

Much fun - crazy busy!

Working thru my frustration

First off, thank you to those who commented on my last post and offered wonderful advice.  I appreciate all my followers and never dreamed when I started this blog all the help I would receive.  I read other blogs more than I post because I always take something away from all of you.  And comments are always welcome!

So, since last week, I have still been struggling.  I spoke with my daughter and her advice was to go back to halts and walks - the place I could get and keep contact.  I spent last Thursday's ride time just working on that - in the indoor (blah!), just the Diva and I.  And to says she was pissed would be an understatement.  There were some pretty loud kicks to the wall where I remained calm and just kept at it. 

Riva got Friday and Saturday off - we all went to Equine Affair in Ohio - will post about that later.  But much fun and shopping was the result :)

Sunday, Lex came and rode Riva for me.  She wanted to get a ride in before the show in Edinburgh this Saturday.  Shewanted to work on canter circles, since she will be riding Riva in Training Level Test 1 on Saturday.  Lex figured out she can get a decent transition to canter and canter stride by riding in a half seat.  Contact at canter will have to come later.  Lex had me get on for a short ride and she helped me with contact at walk and trot, and it went fairly well.  I understand what Lex is telling me, and I know the feeling I am try to achieve.  I kinda figured out that when I get that feeling, I try to keep it by holding...and it does not work.  Why does this have to be so hard? 

On to Monday...where I once again had a mini break down.  I was riding inside since we had a lot of rain over the weekend and our outdoor arenas were saturated.  We warmed up great - nice swinging free walk and stretchy trot.  All goes well until I start to work with contact - hit a brick wall once again.

My trainer asked me how it went as I was getting ready to leave and I went in to my frustrations a bit.  Glad I did, because she is an awesome listener and seemed to get what I was not saying also.  Because what she said after I blabbed on and on was 'I think you are ready to work on canter in a lesson'.  What???  I thought what it that going to accomplish!  But when I thought about it later, I think she is suggesting what some of my commenters said to something different, something fun, etc.  And that does make sense to me.

Lesson and Equine Affair to quickly follow!

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?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!

I am really far behind on my posts, with no excuse to chalk this up too...I was even off this past week for Spring Break.  All my catch up news is good and the Diva is sound and happy.  Whenever I start to get a bit discouraged about our training progess, I can look back just one year and see how far we have both progressed.  Getting Riva's club foot addressed and shod properly was huge...purchasing a saddle that fits us both...and getting back to regular weekly lessons (plus the added advantage of Lex riding her for me once a week) have made a world of difference. 

Taken during a lesson 2 weeks ago:

The smile says it all!

Since the April show, we have began to concentrate on riding Riva in contact at all times.  We do warm up with a stretchy trot on the buckle and walk on the buckle.  Otherwise, when the reins are gathered up, she is expected to work with contact.

We have also incorporated lounging in side reins - they do not crank her in to position...but encourage her to work over her back.  This really helps when I get on to ride.  She is doing well with the change - I get more and more times of feeling her back round and riding on a ball.  It is hard work for both of us, but the results are so gratifying.

At my lesson last Tuesday, my trainer had me go thru my Intro B test and then we chose some elements to work on.  She helped me with my turn on to the diagonal that immediately goes into free walk.  We worked on getting the turn sharp and how to get Riva to lower her head and really swing in the walk.  After working thru this, we concentrated on upward and downward transitions.  We found that Riva does much better when I sit the trot for a few beats in both up and down transitions - much smoother and responsive.  We also worked on the trot down the centerline and halts at X - we achieved several square halts with a lowered head.

I never knew just walking could be so much fun!  After our lesson, I practiced the medium walk to free walk back to medium walk by walking around the pond and front property.  I figured the more we practice with distractions - traffic going by on the road, dogs running around barking, birds swooping over the pond - the better we will be at a show.

Lex came and gave me a mini lesson on Friday evening and rode a bit for me.  She had me work thru an exercise of riding a 10 meter circle in each corner and on every second corner, ride an extended trot across the diagonal.  This was challenging for Riva and I - me because Lex pushes me to get Riva moving bigger in contact and really stepping under on the circles - and hard work for Riva because Lex got on after me and rode the same exercise.  I am sure Riva was relieved to get her normal Saturday off and a bonus holiday of Easter Sunday!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jumping Lesson!

Hah...not me and Riva ! 

Lex's trainer sent her and her daughter to a jump lesson at CAF last Saturday.  This is not out of the ordinary in itself, but 2 things were not the norm.

1.  Trainer had lessons to give at her barn all morning, so she sent Lex to the lesson in charge of her 11 yr daughter.

2.  Intrusted my youngest to drive her truck and 2 horse gooseneck trailer to the lesson.

Lex had practiced driving the rig a few times, but had not hauled horses before Saturday.  So...she called and asked Dad to come along for support :)

She did just fine - very careful driver.  Dad and I happily went along for the ride and to watch their lesson. 

Few pics from Saturday:

Lex is on Emerald - 5 or 6 yr old draft cross that is in training.  Only about the 4th time Lex has jumped her - and not since they returned from Florida.

I believe Emerald's owner is sending Lex to ride her in CAF's event camp this summer.