February 20, 2019

Really Listening to My Pony

After I had my breakthrough lesson with Kate and Megan, I came home and put it into practice.  Immediately, I felt a change in Connor.  He was more free, more forward, and the work was amazing.

A few weeks later, all that had changed.  He felt like he didn't want to move, and I had to work for a long time to get him forward and on my aids.  So I gave him some time off, and then my lesson last night was my first ride in a while.  Once again, that first ride back after a break was incredible, as it always is.  On a micro level, sometimes I wonder if he doesn't like Dressage, or if it's his hocks, or if buying more Back on Track will help (lol), but on a macro level, a pattern is appearing.

Not drilling things

So what's going on here?  Well, when I got home from California I wanted to drill my new position and REALLY ingrain it.  I also was only able to ride in the indoor for a long stretch, and lost touch with where I was heading in my rides. 

Combine that with the feeling I've gotten for a long time that Connor gets progressively worse the more Dressage rides I pack into a week, AND the fact that his breeder has always told me you especially can't drill a Welsh Cob, and I'm starting to realize he's expressing a preference here that I've been ignoring.

Maybe he's telling me, hey lady, it's not that I don't like Dressage, it's that I don't like doing it over and over.  And you're not the most creative at putting rides together.  So when it's new and exciting and we haven't done it in a few days, I like it, but by day 2 or 3 of that, I'm expressing my displeasure in the only way I know how - by being obedient, but not really into it.

I've felt stupid for a long time for thinking we progress faster the less I ride, even though it really feels that way.  I've tried to schedule my weeks to where he has one jump ride, a couple of stretchy/lateral work rides, and a couple of collected rides.  But maybe he's telling me that in order to be a willing participant in this stuff, this isn't the right schedule for him.  And even if something sounds crazy to me because that's how other, more experienced people do it, it's not right for him.

I don't have any firm ideas on this but...this is where my brain is heading.

February 18, 2019

Go Home Winter, We're All Sick of You

Things have been quiet around here lately because we are deep into the worst month of the year: February.

My brain where horses are concerned is a mishmash of "Can I pull my brain off of work long enough to ride?" and "I'm so tired of it taking 15 minutes to get dressed in my 17 layers" and "But champions are made in the offseason."

Wet bird still gets his baths in winter, just with the space heater turned up!

I'm not sweating it.  Connor is feeling a little burnt out on Dressage lately after feeling amazing for most of January (my fault, definitely), so a break is good.  I'm still out there almost every day, I'm just not putting a solid ride on him every time.

As for me, I'm celebrating the home stretch of winter by getting the heck out of the Midwest thanks to work.  Five days in the Bay Area this week, followed by a (really) quick Denver trip the following week, followed by five days in Vegas the first week of March.  A break followed by lots of trainer rides while I escape to some relative warmth sounds like just like what we both need to survive the last few crappy weeks of winter.

February 13, 2019

Lesson Wrap-Up: Jumping Breakthrough

I've told my trainer in the past, don't ask me if I want to jump or wait for me to tell you I want to jump, just tell me we're jumping.  So she did.

Armed with my new canter and my newfound biomechanics cues, I was hoping this jump lesson would be good.  AND IT WAS AMAZING!

Happy post ride selfies

For the first time, I felt how much of a difference it makes when you jump with a tight core and your lats engaged (thanks Megan).  For the first time, I really understood what Mary has always meant by "feel like you're riding the hind legs up to the fence."  And for the first time, I took my uphill horse with his snappy hind end to the base of the fence and felt seriously confident.

Side note:  This was my first time using the Equisense's course feature.  Pretty cool!

That's not to say I was confident from the beginning.  My trainer put the crossrail up to an 18" vertical on the sly mid-course, and I felt my wimpy amateur brain shrinking into itself as it told me how big it looked.  But then I remembered how wrong my wimpy amateur brain had been about that 85# clean and jerk on Saturday in CrossFit, and how I put that weight back on my barbell on Monday night and ripped it off the ground like I meant it, and even added a few pounds for good measure.  In my head, in that moment, that jump became that barbell and I got aggressive instead of wimpy.

My head is a weird place sometimes.  But it works!

Canter stride frequency taking a huge leap forward in the jump lesson

Connor is very used to landing on his forehand and taking a few strides to mentally check out while I'm regrouping on his back.  When my core and lats aren't engaged, I just follow him down to the ground, which makes for an altogether awkward jump and makes it hard for me to regroup quickly after a fence.

Finally did a respectable amount of canter in a ride

Even though we have a long way to go until that lifelong habit can get undone, I could feel how much of a difference it made to hold firm in my upper body and not just follow him like a ragdoll.  I had a lot more influence, and was able to regroup quicker and send him on quicker.  It made a big difference in my ability to put him back together after an awkward jump.

14.cm!  Wow!
We have such a long way to go, but I felt some serious glimpses of jumping feeling easy, and I want more of it.  Never thought I'd say that again!

February 12, 2019

Lead Ropes

I have to admit, this feels like a weird post to write.  I'm crowdsourcing lead rope recommendations.

I have had two lead ropes break in the past few months.  One died a traumatic death when Connor was spooked by gunfire or cannons or artillery fire or something when my trainer was bringing him in for dinner.  I don't know the whole story, but I found it in pieces in the field, so yeah, it's dead. 

Definitely have no idea what you're talking about, lady

And then recently my backup lead rope, the thumb piece broke off somehow.  And that's the second lead rope that's happened to me on!  Clearly, I'm buying inferior lead ropes.  Anyway, I'm tired of having to wedge my fingernail into the clip to get it off my halter, so it's time to go shopping.

Here are my only demands:
- It needs to tie tightly and well
- No slick lead ropes
- No flat leather lead ropes (I already own one)
- The longer the better, but not ridiculously long
- I really want this one to last because buying lead ropes is just a boring way to spend a dollar, so if you've had one that's lasted forever, I want to know about it.
- No chain
- No bull snaps, unless it has the tab on the side that makes it easy to get them on and off with gloves on

So tell me - what's your favorite and why?

February 11, 2019

Equisense Being Useful

I don't have any current media to prove that my efforts to reform myself at the canter are working, but I do have data:

This graph represents Connor's front end elevation at the walk, trot and canter over our last 20 rides.  The purple line represents the canter, and each point represents one ride.  

The dotted line is on the lesson in which my trainer really worked on this concept with me, and you'll notice that we've been on an upward front end elevation trajectory since then.  Every single ride since that lesson has been 1-3cm higher in front end elevation than the ~15 rides before this point (and more than that - that's all I can see in this one snapshot though).

I don't really take the Equisense data as gospel on a day-to-day basis, but when it corroborates a larger trend over time like this, it's super nice to have.