Sunday, December 25, 2011

Bad Indoor Photos, and Good Ride Recaps

The last couple rides have been quite successful. We’re starting to have our little breakthroughs again, and we can pretty much do everything we were doing before, even with our minimalist approach. Which is all good.

Thursday I changed up my warmup a little, and instead of going right into the trot after walking on a long rein, I picked up the reins and did a little bending work in the walk. Sofie did well with this, and was listening to my hand and bending nicely. This led to a fifteen minute walk warmup. After getting a nice circle in both directions we started trotting. In a slight reversal she was better to the left, at least when bending was concerned. It was hard to keep a consistent bend at first, which is typical for us now. I just worked a little on bending in between straight line work, rail work and transitions. Sofie did well throughout.

Toward the end of the ride I worked on rein-back, something I’m hoping will help strengthen Sofie’s hind end. I’ve never been able to give the “proper” aids for rein-back - using leg as well as a slightly restraining hand - because Sofie would always think “forward” and just blow through my hand if I ever touched her. Recently she’s begun to understand me better, and I’ve been able to cluck to her and have her still go backwards. So as I was asking her to step back with the usual aids - hand and a little seat - I decided to experiment and lightly closed my legs. She rocked forward a little, so I closed my hand again, keeping my leg on, and she went backward! Even better, she seemed to get rounder and use herself more. I praised her, and soon I tried it again. While she did step forward once, each time she listened quite well and I was able to get a very nice, correct rein-back. Using my legs, I could put a little more energy into her backward steps and get her to lift her belly a bit. She was much rounder in front and gave me a very nice feeling. I was super pleased.

Near the end she was much more connected, and she did some very nice, light turns with no issues at all. It was a great feeling.

Saturday (aka Christmas Eve) I found that Vicky had left us a little gift bag of sugary treats for me and Sofie! Sofie’s treats were quickly re-gifted (Sofie doesn‘t do sugar. I, on the other hand, have been mainlining it this holiday season). I did give her a hay snack, though. I’m not that mean. I forgot my watch this time around, so I wasn’t able to monitor how long I rode or how long I warmed her up (note to self: Do not forget watch in future. Watch is very, very helpful!). She was a bit of a grump for whatever reason (although she still did everything I asked with no real protestation, so clearly it wasn’t all that bad). When I first started trotting she was kind of rushing and she was rather stiff. I think maybe my warmup that day was inadequate. She also has no opportunity to run around outside, because the ground is all icy and it’s been that way for the last week, at least.

After the icky warmup portion, the rest of the ride went well. The only slight issues we had were occasional drifting in (which was easily fixed) and some wobbliness when we were supposed to be going straight. The usual suspects. Our transitions were all of nice quality, with only a little bit of a slow response time in one direction. Circles were a bit wonky, but she did do two nice ones for me, which is really all I need. Later in the ride, she was really solidly establishing contact, moving along in a good rhythm. I practiced lengthening and shortening the reins in trot, which she did awesome with, staying really steady. I did some more rein-back work, and discovered that when I do it off the rail, she gets crooked. She likes to swing her haunches left, probably compensating for something. I was able to correct it, and while it took a bit of stopping, repositioning and starting, I was able to get several straight steps from her each time. She should get stronger if I keep up on it.

I finished up with a nice sequence. First I trotted her down the rail on a light rein. Then in the corner I turned her across the diagonal, mostly taking my aids off. She stayed nicely straight, and when we turned the corner I asked her to walk. She made a nice, prompt transition without sticking her head up in the air. Yay! Good girl!

So, my immediate plan is:

-Remember watch (‘cause it’s helpful to see how long I ride, and how long I spend on each part of the ride)

-Do longer warmups

-Do massage/stretching whenever possible

-Perfect the rein-back

-Improve straightness and self-carriage

-Lots of connected transitions

-Don’t forget walk work

-And most importantly, remember to think. Remember to learn. True success, really, is to be kind, and never deviate from that kindness, no matter what happens.

I think Sofie will teach me that this winter.

These are from the icky warmup portion, and the quality is quite poor. But here it is, photographic evidence of our mad bareback-and-bitless skills!

Yes, I may have enjoyed playing with "black and white effects" on my computer.

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