NK Lesson Wrap-Up: "Oh My Gosh, You Have a Half Halt Now!"

A while back, a barn I'd never heard of before posted that they were having NK, my other trainer, in for a two-day weekend "clinic".  Since NK never teaches on the weekends and I hadn't seen her since October (she winters in FL), I jumped alllllllll over that.

"Where am I?  And why am I tied to the trailer?"

On Saturday, we started out by essentially level-setting.  I described what we worked on over the winter, what was working (counter canter!), what wasn't working (canter-walk transitions) and what our show plans were for the year.

Then we got to work.  A few minutes in, she squealed "Oh my gosh, you have a half halt now!!!!"  From that point on, it felt like she became a different trainer.  Last year, it felt like she was teaching me to teach Connor the words, and after she realized I had a half halt on Saturday, it felt like we started putting sentences together.

No media from this, so here are some more shots from the KPG ride
Photos by Leah

We moved from there onto leg yields, where it was obvious to her that (paraphrased) I thought my legs were in contact with his body, but they really weren't.  It manifests itself in so many seemingly unrelated ways, but basically, when my right hip is rotated down (my feeling, maybe not what's actually happening) my leg is correct.  My natural inclination is to do the opposite of that and even though my leg is touching his body, it's not making contact, if that makes sense.

NO SERIOUSLY, EXACTLY THIS!  See how my right side is contracted and my right hip is pointing up?  If I think about rotating my hip down, it fixes this and we can, y'know, actually do a leg yield.

After that, we moved on to the canter-walk transitions.  After watching a couple of canter transitions, she gave me another "it's not him, it's you" talk.  Summary: "He does need to develop some strength, but he's never going to be able to do canter-walk if you don't get out of his way.  You're pitching forward and losing your position from the moment he steps into the canter, and then you're bracing through your body for the downward.  You need to relax around him and sit on that hind leg, not brace."

Compare pitched forward onto my pubic bone...

To sitting on my butt...

To...sigh, yep, intentionally posting a less-than-beautiful moment to illustrate that he's never going to weight the outside hind unless I clean my act up.  This picture makes it really obvious.

Then came day 2...

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Heartland Recap: Getting Used To Second

Prefacing this post by reminding everyone of my plans for this season: we're taking a year off of rated shows because I know we're not ready to show rated 2nd, but schooling it like it matters is really helping us.  This is the year of schooling 2nd and accepting that we're going to see the comment "needs more" a lot!


I'm grateful for friends that keep it real, haha.

If you'll remember, last July I took a kamikaze run at 2-1 at a schooling show.  We squeaked out a 60.000%.  It was fine, but it was tough.  See the screenshot above for how that felt!

I FINALLY got stabled in L barn for the first time in two years, and celebrated by parking my trailer 15 feet from my stall.

Even though we weren't going to score a 70% last July, in retrospect doing that test at that time was a great decision.  Knowing what those movements rode like in July helped inform the way I trained over the winter.  And it gave me a great baseline to compare Saturday's test to.  TL;DR: Lots of progress made and lots more to go.

Hey girl, I heard you need me to be clean today.

Connor warmed up very much like he started out at the KPG clinic unfortunately.  I can make some valid excuses for it, but it doesn't matter - gotta ride the horse you've got, and luckily I was able to draw on how KPG had me handle him at the clinic to stay chilled and get his brain on me.

Yeah, so that happened.  This is our area's first show of the year and there were a ton of green beans screaming their heads off the whole day.  Connor thought he needed to reply to them during our test - although he didn't come off my aids and managed to scream while doing his 2nd level work, so, good lung capacity, I guess?

We ended up with a 60.152% on Saturday. Our scores ranged from three 4.0's for every single canter-walk transition in the test with "took trot steps" as comments, to a single 8.0 for the free walk because Connor loves the free walk.  I completely expect the trot steps scores/comments with where we are right now, although they don't tell the whole story.  Saturday was the fewest trot steps he's ever taken in the canter-walk transition, so that's definite progress even if it's still not correct.


The words "needs more engagement" stick out from the comments, which the judge wrote next to 6 different movements and a 7th time in the collectives.  I am hyper aware of our lack of hind end engagement already, but seeing it laid out like that drove home the importance of developing strength and coordination this year.

Connor says "2nd level is exhausting, guys."

I get the impression 2nd level is about a lot more than the sum of its parts.  I can rush it and accept my 60%'s in order to advance more quickly, or I can lay down a foundation of strength, engagement and rideability that I'm going to need for 3rd and beyond.  I can take my time here, or I can spend time filling in holes later.  I choose the first one, even though it's definitely the less exciting option.  Get ready for a lot of transitions and hill work this year, buddy!

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Throwback Friday - One of My First Lessons and a Blogger Connection

I got a late start with the whole riding thing, so it wasn't until late high school that I had a lesson here or there.  The woman in these photos, Cindy, gave me my first real lessons and my first Dressage lessons.  

(Fun fact - a few years after these photos were taken, Leah would buy her broodmares from Cindy!  Mares I actually knew, handled and groomed in high school.  Small world!)

The horse in these photos, Mr. T, was a saintly Appaloosa who had done everything under the sun, including being used as a search and rescue horse.  They were both great teachers for me and I find myself still thinking of things Cindy taught me to this day.

Thanks to my mom for taking and digging up these (scrapbooked) photos!





I was terrified of cantering for a long time, can you tell?






Good to know I've always been crooked, I guess?


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Up Next!

Up next for Connor is doing 2-1 at the local "Dressage and eventers knock the rust off" schooling show at the HHP this Saturday.  And for the first time in years, my barn is going with me. 

Ahhh, the good old days on the 6 horse head to head.  May of 2013.  Doing some throwback Thursday pictures today.
At the old barn, we used to have a big group that competed and trained together, and over the years it fizzled out for various reasons - injured horses, life changes, people moving away.  Then I changed sports and moved to the new barn and was really flying solo for the first time, until my trainer moved in at the end of last season.
Mandatory XC schooling the week before an event with the team - standing rule of my trainer's for safety reasons.  You don't school XC the week before with her, you don't get to run XC.  This was...2014?

But this weekend I'll be stabled with seven barnmates and getting a trainer warmup for the first time in...years.  It'll be different, and it definitely won't happen that often since they're all eventers and don't normally go to Dressage shows, so I'm going to enjoy it.

Because we don't do this anymore.  Sometimes I miss it, but I don't think Connor does.  May of 2015, Penny Oaks.

The plan is to do 2-1, go back to the barn, strip his tack, let him relax, and then go back to the warmup ring to do 2-2 for practice.  We haven't done two tests in years and this is the perfect opportunity to help him remember we don't always just do a single test per day.  Plus, I need to practice 2-2 in a standard sized ring.

Connor all the time at horse shows.  "Wait...you want me to do what?"

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WW: My Best Friend


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