Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yet Another Wonderful Lesson

Yesterday my little wondermare put in yet another great performance in our weekly lesson. We did a LOT of work on the trot. The last two weeks we focused a lot on the canter and now we are back to focusing on the trot, which has been our primary focus for the flat work. We worked on getting her to go on the bit and stay there with slight contact. It took a while, but once I got us both in the right place it really improved the trot and once the trot was steady we began working on getting the head set back to the right spot. Just as with everything else with Satin it was much easier to the left than the right, but we finally got some nice stuff to the right after quite a few times around.

The main focus was getting my hands and body in the right spot in order to get Satin in the right spot. Once this was achieved it was easier to get the trot where we wanted it. Renee has me take a slight contact with my hands touching her neck so I was not tempted to want to move them or do too much with them. I also have a tendency to let my right shoulder get too far out in front going to the right, so we also had to work on adjusting that, which we had worked on last week.

After we finally got what we wanted to the right, Renee had me turn around and try it to the left one more time. Well, if we got good trot to the right, we got fantastic trot to the left! I could feel it before Renee even said a word. She put herself into perfect frame and stayed there. She also had a wonderful pace and was coming up from behind perfectly. Renee and I were both beaming as she just kept repeating "There", "That's it", "perfect". It was what Renee called a "flat class winning trot". Our homework is to keep doing those trot exercises and achieving that "flat class winning trot".

As far as the jumping, that went very well too. Renee had moved some of the smaller, interesting jumps from the indoor outside changing the course up a bit. We started with a simple 4 jumps course, all jumps we had done before, 2 singles and a diagonal line. She went over them all no problem, just slight hesitations on my part. It takes me longer to warm up for the jumping than her! LOL

Anyway, after that we worked on a single line we had done before, which went okay except for a long spot. Then we did another course starting with what Renee called a "stile" jump. It was a narrow 6 foot wide jump coming off the standard of another jump. I am not a fan of the narrow jumps so I was a bit hesitant, which translated to Satin. That plus not having her straight enough, since it was a diagonal jump coming off a turn, caused a couple of stops. I straightened her out, lifted my seat, and attempted it at the trot and she popped over no problem. Then we went right back to it at the canter and she was perfect. Then we continued the rest of the course which was the diagonal line around to two single jumps. It was our best trip ever up the diagonal line. She got the striding and distances perfect.

We finished up working on the one stride which was a cross rail to an oxer. Well when we cantered around to face it, Miss Mare did a double take and slowed to stop. She gave a look like "Um guys, do you know there are 2 jumps very close together here??". We attempted it a few more times, including at the trot. We finally got her over the cross rail than she cut out on the oxer. Renee came down and took the cross rail down so we could do the oxer on its own. She stopped once than realized "oh it's just one jump now, okay" and then went over the oxer fine. We did the oxer on its own a few times and once she was comfortable put the cross rail back up. We put her through the one stride a few times and she got some really nice jumps. In the end Renee and I were quite pleased with the little wondermare.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Last 2 Lessons

My last two lessons since the horse show have taken the wondermare to a whole new level. In our lesson last week following the horse show, we did a lot of work on the flat to improve some of the things Renee and I noticed in the flat class.

We started with the walk, continuing some of the exercises we had been working on for the walk and adding to it with a different foot position when using the spur. After we got that where we wanted it we moved on to the trot. She started a bit pokey so Renee had me stop and start over bringing her into a tighter frame to push her up then letting her stretch her head down into the position we want for showing.

After that we did a lot of work on the canter. We wanted to improve the headset, as well as, get her to use her hindquarters just a bit more. We started with using the new spur application method, while also using a subtle half halt where I move the hands almost in a circle going with the motion of her shoulders. This helped us achieve the goal of getting the hindquarters and resulted in a lovely canter. We did make some progress with the headset with this, but not enough.

The next exercise we did, we worked on getting her to stretch her head all the way down, past where we would even want it at the show. Renee says you should get the poll to flex 5 or 6 inches in either direction from neutral, which is about where we would want it at the horse show. I would half halt for 5 strides, then let out the reins an inch and leave her alone for at least ten strides, then repeat. Renee wanted us to eventually get to the point where I was just about parallel with her neck in position and had my hands down to about my knees. We did this a few times each direction until I was able to get her head nice and low. By the end she was about 6 inches below where we would put her at the horse show which is just what Renee wanted.

We also did another exercise where I brought her nose in as far I could until she dropped it and curled her neck. I would hold this for about ten strides then let her stretch back out. Renee said this exercise if repeated daily would cause her to build neck muscles and that I would see an improvement in just a couple of weeks. Well in the lesson that day it took quite a few times around the ring before she would do what I call the seahorse neck, but the next day she would do it within 4 to 5 strides and hold it longer.

We hadn't had an intense flat lesson like that in a while, but we sure needed it. In today's lesson we had a great walk right from the start. She was bit funny at the trot though, but it ended up being stiffness in her hocks which is typical. After trotting a little each way, we cantered once each way to wake her up and stretch her out. After that we did the trot again and did a lot of bending to help with the hocks. Then we did our canter exercises from last week. Renee was impressed with how quickly she took to what I deemed the seahorse exercise. She thought her head position had improved a lot and she was now beginning to naturally put herself in the headset we wanted.

We did a short course for the last half of the lesson, which included the bending line that I sometimes have problems with. Not today though! I kept my focus dead on and she went over it perfectly. The first time over the course we had our usual rough patches that result from my mistakes. We soon got into the groove and went through the course smoothly though it was a bit quick. We worked on my hands which often get in my way, doing an exercise where I put my hands out in front of me going to and then over the jump. This also made it easier for her to stretch her neck down while jumping and use her back more. We had a few mishaps with my changing position or losing focus causing her to get out after the first few times we did this. Then I got it together and we did the course a couple more times.

By the time she was doing the course quite nicely. The only issue was the final bending line, which she rushing a bit and taking the bigger distance. Renee said the issue here was I was changing my back just before the jump. We did the line a few times by itself to fix that and ended up with what Renee called a perfect line.

Wondermare Does it Again!!

This is a bit late because I have just been completely overwhelmed and busy, but better late than never. Last weekend I took my little wondermare to her first real show as a hunter pony. I was extremely nervous, especially because we had some few rough rides during the week before the show, including me taking a spill in the lesson that week.

I went to Renee's to ride in the indoor the day before the show because it rained. While my ride wasn't great, I was really glad I went because Renee gave me a big pep talk which ended up being just what I needed. When I got to the show I just kept thinking about the things she said and put them into action. I also gave the mare a pep talk on Saturday and apparently she took it to heart!

She was an absolute ROCK STAR at the show. We got there early so we could take our time and avoid some of the craziness that usually happens in the warm up ring. She warmed up perfectly. She went over every jump without even blinking an eye and at a slow steady pace. I got her over everything about 3 or 4 times, more for me than her really.

It was the first show of the season for that series so things got off to a late start. We went into the first course and she jumped around nicely, keeping a good pace. The only major flaw was going long into and out of the one outside line, which was my fault, but it was over all a good course. The second course went much better with good pace and good distances all around. The third was a bit rough. We were both just looking forward to being done and both got a bit sloppy. This lead to some rambliness on Satin's part which in turn resulted in a knocked rail. That was okay though because she was so perfect otherwise I could not complain.

I had a friend who knew I had been nervous come over to me and ask what I was so nervous about because it looked like I was riding a packer. I had to laugh at that one. My friend's trainer also remarked that I was setting a record with the oldest horse in the baby greens! LOL

Next it was time for the flat class. Her trot had a good pace but she could have used a bit more impulsion. Her canter had a nice quiet pace to it, though her head could have been a bit lower. The walk was pretty good after all the practice we had been doing. As we stood for the pinning in a class of 15 I didn't know what to expect. Satin had done well, though I could have pushed her for a bit more I decided to leave her be after such a wonderful performance over fences. I was very happy to receive a green ribbon in that class. To pin at all in a class of that size our first time out was a big achievement in my book.

After the flat they finally gave the placings for the three over fences classes. Again I didn't know what to expect. I thought my mare had done phenomenally, especially for her first time at a hunter show, but with a class that large and it being her first time my only goal was doing our best ribbon or no ribbon. I was extremely happy to receive a 4th place ribbon in our first over fences class. When they called the pinning for the second over fences class I almost fell over from shock. Satin had WON, yes I said WON, as in 1st place. I couldn't believe that not only had she exceeded my expectations for the show in performance, but had not only come home with ribbons, but WON an over fences class!! She didn't get anything in the third course because of the rail, which I expected, but after the blue ribbon I didn't even care.

I was do beyond proud of my mare! She keeps showing everyone that age is just a number! She rises to every challenge I throw at her and exceeds my expectations over and over. I shouldn't be surprised, she is the wondermare after all!