Lesson Wrap-Up: More Cavaletti!

Let me start out with a still from last night's lesson that gives me ALL THE HEART EYES.  My horse has never looked like this in a canter still before!

For my lesson on Tuesday, I told my trainer I would like to use poles to help adjust the canter.  She came out firing with two exercises.

The first one was the circle of death, and she made it even harder by evenly spacing the poles but asking us to do 4 strides, then 5 strides, then 4 strides, then 5 strides. We were not very good at this at first, and started out not showing a whole lot of difference.

Then my trainer said, (very much paraphrased) "cowboy up and make the 4 happen or else".  And we got it - plus some overachieving ground pole jumping when we took a long spot, and also a lovely (for us, for now) completely accidental counter canter.

We didn't do much trotting in this ride, but when we did it felt really good:

After we'd started to show some improvement and differences in the top exercise, we moved on to the second exercise.  She had tiny verticals set up roughly near H and F, with ground poles an easy 4 strides in front of the fence.  She told me to go around the outside of the ring, taking the H line in 5 and the F line in 3.

The 3 was easy.  We nailed that every time, even if it wasn't super pretty:
The five though, we struggled with.  We stopped doing the three since clearly he got the message there, and spent the last few minutes working on the five.  This is not surprising, since shortening his stride in the canter is the most difficult thing in the world for me in general.  

That is NOT an average but a point-in-time snapshot of canter front end elevation, BUT 15.4cm is the highest front end elevation he's ever registered at the canter, by about 1 cm.

My trainer had me think canter pirouette when I picked it up, and that plus really thinking about putting my shoulders on top of my chest helped us finally nail the five.  As soon as I pulled him up I gave him pats and a long rein, to tell him he finally gave me the right answer, and we quit there.  It wasn't perfect on either of our parts, but we finally shortened his stride.

I'm not sure which one of us is going to be more sore or tired after this lesson!  All this cantering and my new position has my back really sore.  One way or another, today is a well-deserved rest day after three great rides in a row and two involving cavaletti.  Good pony!


Getting the Trailer Out of Hibernation

On Saturday I hitched up my trailer for the first time in a long time and took it in for its first annual inspection.  We're fortunate at the new barn to have a trailer sales and service place a REALLY easy 20 minute haul away.  And they had it done in one day!  How's that for service?  (Shoutout to Main Trailer Sales for being excellent so far!)

Poor truck got a bath a few hours after this was taken - I've just about had it with road salt season.

I probably looked a little silly taking my less-than-one-year-old trailer in for an inspection, but I'm planning on being diligent about preventative maintenance and having expert eyes put it up on a lift and look at it annually.  This thing better LAST!

My husband doesn't like trucks, so I tease him all the time by talking about "TRUCKS DOING TRUCK THINGS!"  He DGAF, lol.
I also want to do the following things before our first haul (...probably...or maybe after...):
  • Add rubber trim to the fenders (It didn't come with it and that's a safety issue)
  • Wash
  • Wax
  • Trim cleaner/protector
  • Grind off and put POR-15 on some tiny rust spots on the hitch and axles
Trailers are a lot of work but I'm not complaining!  Anyone else doing maintenance right now?


Playing with Cavaletti

When I got to the barn on Saturday, there was a jump exercise left over in the arena from one of the eventers gearing up for Heartland.  I thought it might be fun to treat it like a cavaletti exercise within my Dressage ride, so I modified the second element from a tiny oxer to a tiny crossrail.

This line was set up for a big moving warmblood gelding and the distances were wrong for Connor, which I actually liked.  There was no "right" for us in this exercise: we would either have to shorten or lengthen the canter - AKA what is really hard for us right now.
Side view

In the canter lately, I've continued to work on following forward with my arms better, as well as sitting more on the outside hind and using my seat to encourage him not to dump so far onto his forehand at the end of each stride, a la this Mary Wanless video my trainer sent me.

The girl on the left is basically me.

The coolest part about the exercise didn't really happen within the line itself, although it rode really well for us in both the short and long variations.  The coolest parts came in between.  I've never had great adjustability in the canter, and most of the time when we were jumping in the past, I'd have to either bring him back down to the trot to regroup the canter after a line like this, or cowboy up through the line a second time with a splatty canter.

December of 2016.  Splat splat splat SCRAMBLE jump WHEEEEEE
Imagine how cool it felt on Saturday then, when I was able to land, ask him to put himself back together, feel himself actually put himself back together, and proceed to do the line a second time with a quality canter.  It felt like he lifted underneath me and shifted his weight back rather than running along strung out like we were both used to in the past.

Equisense totally backed me up on that too.  13.5cm elevation in the canter is 1-2cm higher than our usual average.
For some reason, I can feel the inside hind better when I make the turn to approach a line like this too.  In between doing the line both directions, I played with counter canter and boy did he get straight.  We actually did the 20m half counter canter circle from 2-2 for the first time in its entirety on Saturday!

Bottom line: we need more cavaletti in our lives.  Super productive ride!


JenJ is Awesome

On Sunday this week, I had a kickass ride I was super proud of, and had written three blog posts based off of it.


And then I showed JenJ some video clips from said ride, and she was super supportive and positive, and also asked if she could give me some constructive criticism.  Of course I said yes.  And she proceeded to point out how that ride could be so much better with some changes to the way I ride and warmup.

I was SO EXCITED to get that feedback.  I needed to hear what she had to say.  I am so grateful to her for sitting me down and giving me some (really kind) tough love, and then some really good advice on how to improve.

"Too polite"

The truth is, I am in completely uncharted territory.  That "too polite" trot felt so cool to me, because I thought I had access to his entire body in it and could ask him for anything.  I've since learned that's not true, and I love that.  In riding, in my job, in my life, I love having my paradigm shifted like that.

Two days later

Someone who has gone further than me in Dressage knows that that "too polite" trot isn't enough for what lies ahead of us as we move up the levels.  And I am so grateful to have a friend willing to share her knowledge like that.  I don't know what I don't know, but I do have friends and trainers who know.

Working on forward and freedom
So yeah, needless to say I completely rewrote all of my posts for this week because I've learned a ton and had rides that were way better than that ride from Sunday, and I think that's pretty cool. 


WW: Highest Ever Symmetry Score!


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