Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Goals!

I'm back after a bit of a hiatus. I've been really busy studying for my GRE and riding a lot. I addition to regular lessons I have been doing monthly lessons with FEI judge, Janet Foy. She has been really great about encouraging me to take my riding to the next level and to try and get my qualifying scores for selection trials for World Equestrian Games. Also on the horizon, I am going to spend mid-February to mid-March training with Debbie McDonald in California and riding in my first Para-Equestrian CDI. Werther has been doing really well, Sarah is going to ride him one more day a week for a little bit, to help get him a little more supple, now that I am capable of establishing the forward on my own.

This is what I wrote to Debbie about my current training goals:

To improve my ability to ride effectively. I need to get my hands out of the way so they don't interfere with the forward but still have connection. I also need to sit further back, and rewire my way of thinking a little bit, when I get my self into trouble I get into to more of a hunter position, which is not effective when you are trying to do dressage!

To improve Werther's lateral suppleness. He is really good longitudinally and has really nice extensions but I have to work really hard to get him soft laterally. I am always looking for ways to improve his suppleness.

Increase Werther's responsiveness to the forward aids. Werther is by nature a quiet horse, which is good. I don't have the finesse to handle something really hot with my disability, but I would like to see more promptness in my requests for him to move forward. Some of this problem may be because my balance and aids aren't the same as a typical rider and he gets a little confused. For example, right now I am working on walk canter transitions and I have to use a little kiss voice aid, I would like to eventually get away from that.

Improve may ability to preform movements that challenge me. In the para-FEI tests, if I had to pick the three movements I am probably going to have the lowest scores on/and or most difficultly performing they would be the right lead counter canter, the turn on the haunches, and the walk canter transitions

My showing goals for the next year are:

To successfully ride a CDI (just halt to halt without any errors)
Get my 60% at a CDI to ride in selection trials
Ride my first freestyle (I have to have one ready for the CDI)
Move up to first level (i'd like to revisit training level test 4 and see how I score on that before I do)
Have fun!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Last Thursday's hack and Friday's mini lesson

I just did a really quick hack with Werther on Thursday. The extra training rides seem to really be helping Werther. He was much more responsive and round. The only thing I struggled with was the canter, it seemed flat to me and I just could not get the uphill quality I wanted. Sarah just found out on Thursday that she had a spot in the clinic, so with only one week until the clinic she wanted to put in some extra rides on Werther to get him a little stronger in his collecting muscles and a little more sensitive to the aids to do the 4th/ prix saint george work. Sarah came out on Friday, I groomed Werther. She got on and put him though all the movements you would see in a 4-3 or the PSG tests. She said he was a little stiff in the canter half passes, and she was having some issues with her rhythm in the tempi changes but not too bad, for a horse who has basically had a eight year break from upper level dressage. I got on him for a few minutes after Sarah was done and she gave me a mini-lesson. He definitely had more self carriage after Sarah rode him, but Werther was still a long way away from being hot. We got to start to play with lengthening and collection at the trot, and Sarah let me try the flying changes again, which were still a little late, but better than last time. The really cool thing about Werther is that most horses would be really hot to the aids after that kind of work, he never overreacted to anything I did, he was still very calm. It was a short ride for me, but very fun.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Exciting events on the horizon!

I had a mini vacation this weekend, I went to New York City to visit some friends. I saw Jude Law in Hamlet, a excellent production, I recommend it to any theatre junkies. Sarah worked with Werther while I was gone. She is going to be working with him a little bit more in the near future, Sarah's mare Sabrina is hurt, which really sucks. Since Sarah can't ride Sabrina in some clinic she was going to participate in, Sarah is going to take Werther, he is the only one of her regular rides that has the level of training to match Sabrina. The next one coming up is the Conrad Schumacher Symposium. She is definitely going to ride on Friday, and depending on if Conrad thinks he is a good demo horse, he will go back on Sunday. I'm really excited, it should be really cool to get feedback from such a well known trainer. I'm going to ride Werther in two three day Janet Foy clinics in October and November. I'm also going to attend (and hopefully riding a borrowed horse) a para-clinic in Maine at the end of October with Paulien Alberts. If Sabrina is still out of commission Sarah may also ride Werther in a Betsy Steiner clinic in November. I had a lesson on Tuesday, Sarah got on Werther again first. We were able to dive right in because I had the impulsion and roundness right off the bat. After a weekend off it took me a little bit to get into the rhythm of things but I felt like it was a pretty good lesson. We spent quite a bit of time practicing leg yields, it has been awhile since I have done those, I had a hard time finding a happy medium between being to restrictive with my hand, and still having enough contact to keep Werther round. I'll have to put these in regular rotation in my hacks, so I can get better.

New Strategies

I keep meaning to do a big post on my last show, but I have to get the photos from my Mom. I had a lesson on Tuesday after the show. Sarah and I are trying a new strategy, she got on Werther first, and work with him for about 15 minutes. The plan is that she gets him really jazzed up and listening, so I don't have to spend half the lesson establishing impulsion and I can have a better feel of where Werther needs to be all the time. It really helped, because Werther was going forward I was able to make smaller corrections. When Sarah rode Werther one of the last things she did was some two tempis. Sarah let me try some flying changes on Werther in the lesson which was just a blast. I've done flying changes on Werther before, but this was different because I had been doing changes the hunter/jumper way. using opposing leg and hand. With the dressage change you ask with your leg and your hand on the same side. It is going to take a lot to get my muscle memory switched over! Thursday's hack also had some change in strategy, but nothing that was planned. I decided to ride Werther outside, and as I was getting on I dropped my whip. Now if I were to get off and get back on again, it would probably take me awhile depending on how cooperative Werther would be about standing. So I decided to try riding without my whip and see how it would go. Werther was really lazy without it. I did coax him into a canter, and got up to two point and got into the worlds slowest hand gallop in an effort to get Werther jazzed up. I went back down to the trot, and it was much better. I took advantage of some ground poles someone had left out and trotted and cantered Werther over them in a little course. Werther hasn't been jumped in a long time but he had a lot of fun with the ground poles, especially when I took a longer line, he really got his eye on the poles and got excited. While it wasn't my planned ride, it was a good lesson in how to work with what you have.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Last Tuesday's Lesson and Last Thursday's Hack

Last Tuesday was kind of odd, I was on too early for my lesson and Sarah was late because of a issue in the lesson prior to mine, so Werther and I walked for a long time before we got started. When Sarah got to the barn we rolled up our sleeves and got right to work. We started out with the trot, working on getting it really energetic. The main theme of the lesson was "quick feet". We don't necessarily need to be really fast, but the steps need to keep coming very quickly. We worked on this concept at the trot and canter, as well as using it for the free walk, really pushing to make him come through and over his back. After our break we ran through both Training Level Test 2 and Test 4. We talked about the four things I need to do in my tests: short reins, impulsion, connection, and quick feet. The tests went really well, the canter transitions have really come along nicely, I am still struggling with the serpentines though. On Thursday, I did a lot of transitions in my warm up to get Werther sensitive and then ran through my two tests again. I really liked the energy and impulsion of the tests, but I had trouble with the free walk and the stretchy circle. I just could not get him to come down to me. The stretch is always a challenge for Werther, but I have been making a lot progress on it lately, it is frustrating to have a set back.

One Year with Werther!

Shows always get me a little behind on this blog and regular programing will resume soon but I just wanted to take some time out today for my one year anniversy with Werther. It has been a wild (metaphorically speaking) ride. In one year I got a new horse, changed disciplines, and changed trainers. This past weekend was the last show of my first dressage season, and while I wasn't high in the ribbons, we had a blast and it was a great way to end out the year. I'm excited for the off season of the fall and winter, getting to work hard and a chance to educate myself more on dressage theory. First Level and Para-FEI are still in my sights for next year, but now I have a better understanding of how hard I will have to work to get there. Werther is just great, he has been a excellent teacher for me. He is always demanding precision, but not getting mad when I get it wrong. They say it takes a year just to get used to a new horse, now that we have had a year together getting to know each other, I think things can only go up from here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It is really nice when you finally get something in a lesson. The big thing for me in my lesson on Saturday was the 10m turn onto the center line. Werther was good all through the lesson, we did our transition work and did our trot and canter work before finishing with our centerline turns. It was hot and humid on saturday so Werther lacked some of the impulsion that he had on Thursday and Friday, but he was nicely round. Sarah had me do a exercise to practice the turn on the centerline which was to pick up the trot, and as you are approaching the long side of the area, make a 10m circle at every letter. Doing those little circles, so quickly back to back, you realize right away that you cannot make those turns with just reins alone. The posting, steering, and using your leg at the same time was hard in that tight situation, so I eliminated the posting. That helped the situation immediately. Then I was able to shift my weight onto my inside seat bone and Werther turned very easily underneath me, in fact at times I got circle too small. after practicing those 10m circles down the long side we went back to the centerlines which were significantly improved. The last thing we worked on was making sure to give a little half halt while turning onto the centerline so the horse can finished the turn in smooth and balanced manner instead of fish tailing with his hind end. I was really happy with how things finished out, I've gotten 8s on my centerlines before, I hope to see some more of those this weekend!