Monday, November 30, 2015

Drill Team

Obviously not us...yet
I have to say that I’ve never been particularly enthused about riding in a drill team. I’ve always loved watching drill teams ride but never thought that I would get that much out of it. So when I initially found out that my barn would be forming a drill team on Thursday evenings I didn’t sign up and was just trying to figure out how to schedule my rides around the arena being closed during my normal ride time on Thursdays.

Then I had a lesson with L and she strongly encouraged me to ride. She said that it would be a great thing for Katai and help me to break up my dressage specific rides especially without the ability to trail ride now that it gets dark so early. She said that she knew I would gain things from it too but that mostly it was just a fun time. What finally convinced me was actually the social aspect. Now that I live where I’ve been wanting to live for the past 10 or so years and have big chunks of my life figured out I’ve made it a goal to do more social things and try to make more friends. It was tough when I always sort of felt like I had one foot out the door since I planned on moving but now that I don’t, I need to make this a priority.

So I signed up to ride.

Some additional history about drill team is that most of the people at my new barn have moved with the barn manager. She used to manage a huge facility that was very close (within) the twin cities but when the owner of that facility passed away she needed to look for a new location and found this one. Because of this most of these people know each other very well and there are just a few of us that are new to this group. They’ve done drill team for the past several years and so joining this group seemed like a great way to get to know my new barn mates better.
I did my first drill team ride in October and it was amazing!! It was nice to be focused on big things and just let Katai take care of herself. The most rewarding thing for me though was that I finally have a horse that I can do things like this with! I’ve had so many years of green baby horses that to be able to ride in something like a drill team is such a fun and rewarding experience. I feel like I’ve finally got a horse to ride and not just a horse to train.

I also felt like it was very beneficial to Katai. Something that she struggles with is allowing me to regulate her speed. She wants to find a speed and settle in. Once she’s done that she can’t be bothered to speed up or slow down but in drill team that is so important! She was actually nearly climbing up the butt of the thoroughbred ahead of us a few times and when I slow her trot much more than that she wants to just walk. This helped me make my intention to her clear enough that I was able to get a more rate-able trot then I have in the past. It definitely still needs work, but it was better than it’s ever been in lessons. I also felt like it was really healthy for her to ride so close to other horses. That’s never been something that I’ve worried about or had any sort of anxiety over since we used to basically act like we were riding horsie bumper cars when I was growing up. Our horses and ponies were always well behaved in close quarters and I remember multiple trail rides where our horses were pretty much joined at the hip and we clinked stirrups for miles. Of course Katai hasn’t had the same experience because I normally ride alone or with one other person in a big ring so it was great for her.
Already planning my outfit
During our first practice, with four horses, we worked on the basics of the of the maneuvers. L is the one that is organizing/coaching our drill team and she knew that I hadn’t done it before so she broke down the movements and put me behind a more experienced rider so basically I just had to follow. I learned to watch where my "partner" was along the other side of the arena so that we met up appropriately, or missed eachother as needed, and other then one mistake where I almost went to the inside instead of the outside it went really well! Now I just need some additional practice on these and to add more maneuvers. Then during our second official practice we had six riders which was ideal! Katai and her roommate are at the end and paired up and they are so cute but sassy with each other that it makes it even more fun :-)

I’ve been looking forward to drill team this week since two Thursdays ago L was busy and unable to coach and then of course last Thursday was Thanksgiving. H is invited to spectate and so I may possibly have photo or video proof that I don't just ride in circles!

For anyone who is considering signing up for drill team I would highly recommend it!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Back on Track: Lesson Recap 11/29

I had an amazing lesson today.

Let me just take a minute to squee about my pony! She was so wonderful today, she was listening and thinking rather than just reacting. Somehow between my mood, my pony's mood, and L's instruction everything just worked perfectly tonight.

It's been a rough couple of weeks on the pony riding front. Katai has been crabby, speedy, and just not herself. I found a place on the lower right side of her neck where she was a little reactive so I'm hoping that that's all it was. That lump is getting smaller (maybe she was kicked?) but I'm having the saddle fitter/horse massage expert come out to check and likely reflock my saddle since it's settled a fair bit since I got it in July.

I'm not especially good about being motivated to write when things aren't going well. I tend to sort of withdraw into myself and have a tough time putting it down on paper or journaling it on this blog. It's something that I'd like to work on since those are the things that will probably be the most interesting to go back and read someday but it's tough to blog when that motivation isn't there. At any rate my New Years Resolution is going to be about blogging more regularly next year.

Anyway, back to the lesson today!

We started off warming up at the walk and L was working with me right away since she was running a little early. She gave us a few loops to warm up and then, pony was prancy, helped me get a more consistent walk before suggesting that I do some trot work before we had a blow up. Katai was hot to start out and really wanted to canter but she was also listening and not having a temper tantrum so instead of pushing her forward, like we've had to do for the last few rides, we were able to insist on the trot. It didn't take her too long to give in and behave at the trot and then we went back to walk.

Katai is pretty sure that the walk isn't a gait. In her opinion it's just a way to get to the faster more exciting stuff and we should just skip it, or come as close to skipping it as possible. She get's bored quickly and uses any excuse to go faster, ie. leg cues, and then tries to race off. She's very balanced, athletic, and convincing so it's been a tough gait to work on. Today though she was listening enough for us to do some trot/walk/trot transitions. L had me vary the number of strides of walk that we did every time so that she wouldn't start counting and after several to each side a had a pony that was finally in front of my leg. This has also been a struggle because pony is always moving so fast that she never really needs me to give her much of a cue to speed up so then she doesn't understand it when I do ask and gets all bent out of shape over any little squeeze of my legs. Tonight, once we did those transitions, she was AMAZING. I finally had the ability to work on half halts! Oddly enough everything just works better when your horse appropriately reacts to forward cues.

Who would have known!

I've gone back to reading the book Light and Easy Dressage which I reviewed previously. It makes such a difference for me and really helps me find and keep the right mindset. Pony is a mare, and mares need praise. She does not need me nitpicking everything she does, she's a perfectionist like me and is insecure about certain things and needs someone to encourage her and bring her up. I can praise her for even moving in the right direction and it gets better rather than worse since then she relaxes and has some confidence. This is something that I forget way too often but reading this book, a little every day, on a regular basis really helps me keep that mindset. Based on that I praised her through the entire lesson today and made sure that I made plenty of opportunities for her to do things right and get pats. I really believe that it's part of what made the huge difference in my ride today over my ride last week and is something that I plan to keep up!

Next week I'll finally get back to my five ride per week schedule although one of those days I may lunge and clip rather than ride. Katai has been getting too sweaty and although I took off a decent amount of hair she's grown a lot back and is just working hard enough at this point for me to remove a whole bunch more. I'm thinking that I'll pretty much do a blanket clip and this time I'll do better at documenting that in pictures!

Upcoming I also did a little black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping and bought myself a birthday gift from no other than my favorite store, Horze! I got four more saddle pads #saddlepadobsession (all in the $20 range and made specifically for dressage ponies) as well as a set of 4 cheap dressage boots in brown. I adore Katai's pink boots but I really need a second pair so that I can get these in the wash and still protect my little dressage star's legs. I plan on getting a set of navy from that same company but they are $90 per pair and that's just not in the budget right now so this set will work in the meantime and they'll match three of my saddle pads which will be nice! Supposedly the timing is actually supposed to be dead on and they're supposed to arrive right on my birthday so we'll see if that actually happens :-)

At any rate I'll try to be better at blogging this week and will certainly be better about pictures.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Have My Pony Back!

I have a whole post typed up about drill team and my amazing day at the Janet Foy clinic today but first of all I need to catch everyone up on what I've been doing recently. 

Two Wednesdays ago, more than a week and a half now, Katai had her feet trimmed and was abnormally sore afterwards. She is often a little tender, especially on concrete, after her feet are trimmed but normally it goes away in a few days and she is still very comfortable on footing.

Unfortunatly that wasn't the case this time and it took her really until today to feel comfortable. I had planned on giving her Wednesday evening off and then riding in drill team that thursday since it's really mostly walk/trot. Unfortunatly that clearly wasn't going to happen so instead I just went out on Saturday and buted her. I also canceled my lesson on Sunday but lunged and she seemed pretty good, just a little short on the front right.

On Monday I tried a ride and attempted to keep it to mostly walk/trot but pony was bursting with energy so we ended up with a little canter. She still felt slightly off but was never at the point where I felt like she was lame or uncomfortable at any gait. 

On Tuesday I had a rescheduled lesson and she was clearly more off then she had been on Monday which made me feel like a bad horse owner. Because of that we just kept it to a walk and worked on flexions at the halt as well as her neck position and balance at the halt and on transitions from halt to walk. This was something that we really needed to work on anyway so it was actually a great lesson! I gave her Wednesday off and then rode in drill team on Thursday and she finally felt pretty good. 

I decided to be cautious and gave her Friday off as well and then rode tonight and she felt great! Again, she was bursting with energy and had forgoten a few things like how to not freak out with contact from my legs so I'm going to post this again just in case she decides to read this blog ;-)

I have a lesson scheduled tomorrow and can't wait to ride!! I'm pretty sure that the pony will be like a stick of dynamite but I'm hoping that my ride tonight took the edge off. Next week I plan to get back to my regular schedule since the only thing I have planned in the evening coincides with her normal day off (Monday). It will be so good to be back at the barn, spending time with my girl on a regular basis :-)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Clinic Recap

As previously mentioned, Susanne Winslade was at my barn for a clinic from Friday last week through Tuesday this week. I was lucky enough to be able to audit (free so I took as much advantage of it as I could!) on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On Saturday and Monday I only saw a rider or two but on Sunday I was able to stay and watch four riders including P who recently moved to this barn but who I boarded with at J’s barn.


She worked on very similar things to Jennifer Truett and there was a lot of consistency there. She worked a lot on stretching the horse and helping them carry themselves properly as well as working a lot on rider biomechanics. She did use some gadgets which surprised me a little since I think she was the first clinician that I’ve ever seen used them. She did use them “properly” in my mind which was to show the horse/rider a different way of going and then remove them. I also liked that she does lunge lessons since that’s also not something I see with a lot of clincians. She was very kindly and had a great sense of humor. She also asked people to share how they were feeling a lot which I think was helpful since sometimes you can’t tell if the rider has the same understanding as the clinician. I was especially excited to watch this clinic since L wants me to take a lesson with her next time she is at my barn which I think will be early next year.


Honestly I wasn’t as impressed as I hoped I’d be. It’s really odd for me to feel this way and normally I’m impressed by every clinician I’ve seen. It’s not that she wasn’t making changes in horses she worked with but I guess the information just seemed so similar to what I get from L that I’m not sure how I feel about paying x5 the amount for even a small amount of additional improvement. I was also surprised by a few things that left me feeling a little negative. The gadgets was one, I’d be comfortable using something with her there but not sure I could replicate it appropriately once she left. I also felt like sometimes she did too much of one thing and not enough of another. For example she had one rider “nose to the wall” leg yield around the entire, regulation size, arena twice in each direction at a walk which just seems like a lot of repetition of something that is new, difficult, and taxing to the horse.  She also had a rider use a wall to stop a horse from a walk, trot, and canter and did this several times in a row at each gait in each direction . I can see teaching the concept but the drilling seemed like a lot in a clinic setting. I’m really not trying to be critical, just slightly surprised at my own reaction to the clinic and trying to understand why I feel the way I do.


I do think that I will take at least one lesson next time she is there since I think it would be good to ride with someone else and since we are in a much different place than the other people who I saw ride so will likely get very different advice that may feel more valuable when it is customized to what we need. Again, not saying that she’s not an amazing clinician just that I felt like I wasn’t surprised by anything she said. Ultimately probably a good thing but a very different clinic experience.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Hollow-ween: Lesson Recap 11/1

I have not been feeling motivated to do any blogging recently :-(

I have been riding regularily and still making great progress but just not writing about it. This week however I didn't get in as many rides as I wanted to. I took Monday off as usual and then had a bad headache on Tuesday and decided that it wouldn't be too big of deal to take that evening off. Then, of course, we were getting some rain/snow on Wednesday so after driving a couple of miles I turned around when it started snowing more heavily. I rode Thursday in Drill Team (more on that later) and Friday but then wasn't able to again on Saturday due to the clinic taking place in the indoor and the rain outside.

Today at my lesson, however, Katai was brilliant! We've been able to start off almost immediately  in a good place recently and although she was a little anxious since the other door on the arena was open she was listening and moving well. We started off with a bunch of changes of direction and L quickly diagnosed that she wasn't taking contact on the left rein. I realized pretty quickly once we started working that I've never had real contact on that left rein and it felt good to find another hole and start filling it in.

L had me start out by getting her on a 20 meter circle at the trot and getting a really good bend. Then she had me straighten her and finally move her into counterbend. We did this going in both directions and then worked on getting the correct bend going to the right and giving the contact forward and quickly taking it back on the right whenever she was leaning on the rein.Then we did the same to the left only now it was the outside rein that I was now giving forward and taking back. It wasn't that I didn't allow her any contact, I just was gently asking her to carry herself rather than just leaning on that rein. Once she had lifted more through the shoulders and wasn't just pulling L had me keep the contact steady on the right as long as she had equal contact on the left rein.

It was amazing how much of a difference this made! It was amazing to me how I've been limping along with her never taking real contact on that side and how after my ride today so many things were easier. Now to just get it consistant!

We did a quickly canter depart in each direction and L started to work with me on how to cue properly when we ran out of time and the clinic was ready to begin. I will do a clinic recap as a separate post soon!


With my current decision to move I didn't have to think that long to decide which barn I would move to if I could. The barn I'm movi...