Friday, December 16, 2011

Or.....maybe not....

I'm rethinking my big dreams of trying 1st level. Lets just say that schooling hasn't been going very well since our "lightbulb" day.

A few issues that I've run into this week include:

- Mare has decided that she enjoys the "lengthened" portions of the test a little too much... meaning it's REALLY hard to quietly come back down to a working gait.

- Mare has decided she is NOT a fan of that darned magical whip. I am having issues managing my reins and the whip and it seems every time I go to shorten my reins, the whip wiggles a little and then our relaxation goes out to the window and falls into a heap of locked jaw.

- Mare now thinks that we should always lengthen across the diagonal which results in very poor transitions from trot to canter at "X". Darn that locked jaw again!

- The canter loop is a complete disaster. Who would think coming off the wall to the quarter line and back to the wall would be so difficult but apparently according to "The Mare" we must try for multiple flying changes (Hmm... Maybe one day we *could* do tempi changes!?!) the one direction or fall apart into a discombobulated trot the other way.

LOL Oh the fun of moving up a level! I'm thinking we might be better off sticking with what we know! LOL


  1. Sounds like she's too smart for her own good. But to tackle this or any other jump to another level you need to break the test down and focus on a particular exercise each day, and don't expect to tackle too much...pick a particular obstacle and spend time on just that. Don't ride the test movements but rather incorporate the elements into your regular schooling.

    Start to ask for trot lengthenings across the diagonal, but once she's stepped up, shorten her back to working. If she doesn't respond NOW, turn her into a 10 m circle, until she does. Then continue the diagonal. If she ignores your aids, turn a 10 m circle the other direction. If she continues to be either hot or strong, ride a series of figure 8s in the 10 m format until she is soft and supple both reins before returning to straight line work. Whatever she does, don't pull! When she locks her jaw you must immediately address it, and not try to muddle through the movement. Use soft flexions to either side (not sawing!), voltes, or even a little lateral work to get her to yield. A good exercise for horses that pull that particular trick is to ride a few turns on the forehand in both directions as part of your warmup. Then set off at a trot, and if she locks her jaw, return to the walk, ride a turn on the forehand to the outside until she is soft again, and then return to the trot. But make sure that it is all softness and in no way a punishment for her. We want her to associate your halfhalt with a soft flex to the inside along with an energized inside hind leg. Turns on the forehand are also good for improving the leg yield.
    Also try the spiral exercise in which you slowly spiral in from a 20 m circle to a volte then gradually leg yield out back to the 20 m, all the while keeping the correct inside bend and contact. This exercise is a good one to use on all three gaits, tho' it takes time and effort to work up to the canter in it.
    You may find that many days it seems you have to spend most of your time in a volte, but it does pay off once she starts to respond to your seat better. While you may start the leg yield with a stick on the offside, ultimately she should do it off weight aids alone. See my post regarding the Phantom Limb. The difficulty with relying on a whip aid is that you also give a rein half halt everytime you use it, and this can destroy connection especially in a sensitive horse.
    Frequently horses that are good at the changes do so on their own. This is nice at times, but in dressage horses are not supposed to think for themselves. First, abandon riding any flying changes for a good bit. Then, while riding a true canter 20 m circle gently ask her for some counter bend then true bend, counter, true, etc., until she is soft and even on both reins and willing to let YOU position her head without fuss. Once she is supple then try riding the entire length of the arena, again softly asking for a few steps of counter bend and true bend alternatively. This is deceptively difficult, and may take several sessions to achieve. Once she can do this, then attempt the serpentine, but make it very shallow, not even as far as the quarter line, thinking gradual changes of course, more like a soft drift to the inside track and back out again without being too picky about riding to the letter. Once she's quiet about that you can start riding the serpentine as it's written.

    Is that enough homework for you?

  2. Thank you! Just what I was needing! I will put all of your advice to good use! You hit the nail on the head when you said she's "too smart", she's very much a thinker and do-er and wants to do something immediately when she thinks you're asking her something and then gets a touch frazzled when you say "noooo come back, that's not what I asked". I quit schooling flying changes this spring because it was giving us lots of anticipation on everything from our circles to the diagonals, though sometimes it seems like that flying change is really ingrained in her!

    Have you ever read the CADORA tests? (Canadian Dressage Owners and Riders Association) Those are the tests that we will be riding this weekend. I'm really not a fan of them because they seems very abrubpt and squeezed together, kinda like boom you're doing this and then right away boom doing that. Test A we can do quite well but test B is where we ran into the majority of our issues. Perhaps this weekend we will stick with Test A so we don't try to do too much.

  3. yeah - what Robin said! I hope it all works out for you!