Monday, November 26, 2012

Leslie Law: Day 2

Today was a good day. Doc was hyped up out of the stall but settled nicely into his typical "holding" shape, as I struggled to improve him, Leslie asked if "he could have a sit on him." I couldn't get out of the saddle fast enough. "YES! Please! How many holes should I drop my stirrups?! Can I get you a tea?"(Okay, so not that last part, but...)

Doc made him work for it a little, too, but of course, he ended up getting some really excellent work out of him. He had him lifting and using his back and his back legs really flexing under him. After he rode him for awhile he got off and actually took my hand and showed me how I should be using my inside rein to supple him while pushing him through. That was absolutely brilliant for me. I need him to come over everyday and remind me how to do it.

When I got back on the change was amazing. Doc was very mobile in all of the parts of his body and super springy. He had me do a lot of giving and taking of the reins and then stretching- Doc would drop his nose all the way to the sand but still be "boinging" through his back. I hope I can remember the feeling and manage to recreate it effectively. I was able to actually ride with my hands UP! instead of pulling down and back! Wow! This I've been trying for forevvvver!

-Even though he feels like he's behind my leg, he's not- it's just because he's holding. It's not that he needs to go more forward, he just has to let go through his back and neck and then he will feel as though he's going more forward as he's stepping out more.

-Put him in the shape and ask him to believe it- until he does.

-Horses like Doc are like ducks- on top of the water, you just see a smooth picture, gliding along... but underneath his feet are paddling furiously away!

He liked Doc a lot. He was a little disappointed when I told him he was 11. :) Said he was a trier and had the right disposition- which is 50% of the battle. When he cantered him he remarked "oh, this is quite nice, huh?"

First exercise: same 5 9' poles as yesterday. He quickly raised the jump and Doc was very readable. The first time through the poles he wanted to charge through a little. The second time, he  charged over the first two poles and then balanced back nicely.

-After that, as Leslie said "That rhythm is carrying you to the first pole very nicely, isn't it?"

Next exercise: small vertical with a little cabin filler underneath, on the circle, to practice landing on the correct lead.  Practice opening rein to have him follow hand around on the circle.

-"You have to hold your body. It's okay to miss. We all miss. I miss a lot... but I don't advertise it to the world by tipping my body." So there.

Next exercise: liverpool with a small oxer next, again riding off a short turn on a small circle.

 -Short turns allow us to ride to a deeper distance, creating a better jump. Again with the leads, the horse following the our hand around on the circle.

-Everyone has straightness issues, its something you have to work on all the time. It just only gets as bad as you let it get.

Next exercise: short course of a 6 stride bending line around the corner, halt, about face, back to a 5 stride rollback turn (just like where we had our run out at MTPC!).

Doc was great down the first line, the second line I rode in a steady 6, landing, taking a step and then making a sweeping turn. That whole "land and do something" thing coming back to bite me! The second time I was able to open my left rein, make the turn and do it in an easy 5. The arena was freshly drug so I was able to see my tracks after I finished and actually compare the two rides.

My leg position was much better today- maybe not in the grid, but Leslie made mention of it over the other fences- I think when I rode I little more forward it made it easier for him to jump out in front of me. The late-night tidbit from Heather to shorten my stirrups a hole didn't hurt either. ;)

I got lots of good comments about the Docster from different people which was nice.

I consider myself exceedingly lucky to have ridden with three different 4* riders this year and have a trainer who prepared me to ride competently and represent myself well with all of them.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Leslie Law, Day 1

Ok, so, a brief rundown of things I took from LL today:

First exercise: five poles set 9' apart. Then last pole up to a fence.

Second exercise- simple placing pole, jump, placing pole. Spaced the same on either side, jumped up and then down.

Third- "Good" four stride line that ended up being tricky, riding in a short 5 or long 4 due to uphill, deep sand, "first line-itis" etc. Around to a four, to a two.

Everytime you put change something with a TB, it's like putting a cold hand on your back- their reaction is back down, head up, run. You have to keep at it until your leg "warms up" on their sides and they relax and supple.

6-8 good steps and then a transition is far better than 21 steps that continue to decrease in quality.

Down transitions to fix the balance.

Lots of lateral work to supple them into your hand. Riding the head is no good because anytime you ask for a change- like... turn off centerline... you're screwed.

Placing poles to require the horse to place his feet correctly between each pole and maintain their own balance to stay out of trouble.

Eventers like to jump with the arc beyond the fence (for XC), so asking the horse to make the bascule correctly over the fence will keep the poles up in SJ.

Practice riding courses. "Any moron" can get into a grid and ride out of it, at the end of the day.

My lower leg still sucks- he had me raise my hands up- even though I wasn't balancing off of them, carrying them low still gives me some support through my reins, and lifting them makes me find another source- aka my lower leg.

I need to be able to think on my feet faster- if he's short to fence one, ride the smaller stride down the line. If he's forward and balanced, ride it on through.

When my position is better in the air, I will be able to land more organized and carry on quicker. Right now I spend the first stride after the fence getting my bearings and instead of making good decisions.

For my own reflection: I still like to be super passive on Doc. His canter is so balanced that often I just sit there and wait for the fence to happen. This happens most when it is an exercise requiring accuracy, I figure he'll sort it out. I need to ride off my eye and not just sit like a lump on a log. In the words of Kyle: "If you see a distance, ride to it!" "Maybe I don't see a distance?" "You're right too often to for me to believe that." JUST RIDE THE HORSE, LAUREN.

My wonderful group! Me on Doc, Becca on Merlin, Andi on (the other) Doc and Chelsea on Wally!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Are you where you thought you'd be?

S'bout time for my yearly blog post, don'tcha think?

Someone posted a thread on the COTH forums asking where you were compared to where you thought you'd be at this time, and it got me thinking. (Enough to post a blog, even!)

I think I spend a lot of time thinking about how I feel like I'm scrapping my way along and feeling somewhat sorry for myself that I don't have access to big $$ and nice horses and sponsors etc etc, but alternately, I find myself INCREDIBLY fortunate to be where I am. I have excellent students that I truly enjoy being around, very supportive friends and family, use of a facility that is lovely and beyond my wildest dreams and access to wonderful instruction.

Most recently, I was graced with the opportunity to own a horse that I thought would be way out of my league and I'm patiently (ok, ok, maybe not so patiently, but not because of him, just because I'm frustrated with myself!) learning to ride a much classier animal than I'm used to. Exactly the step I needed at this point in my career.

I have to remind myself that a VERY SHORT time ago, I had no eventing experience and would have been happy to make it around a BN event without an unlucky stop. (Oh, Ari...) I was lucky enough to take Ari novice and get around clean at his last show before lameness caused his early retirement, which, as devastating as it was, put me in a position to move on to a horse that could move on up the levels. Timing is everything...

Four years ago, I bought an unlikely eventing prospect out of a cow field in Amish Country- now I have an incredible horse who I've brought along myself who willingly drags my uneducated butt around training level events and keeps getting better the more I learn. She was just broke enough to start eventing about the time I had to give up my leased horse.

My leased horse was a mare who was far nicer than I needed and more technical than I probably could ride, but brave and honest to a fault and I was able to cruise around a couple BN and N learning the ropes with a horse who was not ugly or dirty. Exactly the ride I needed at the time.

I took Lyra to our first event in April of 2009. I've come a long way since then, in hindsight, including bringing another youngster up to BN level from scratch in a little less than a year, reminding me how much fun the early journey is, and encouraging me to keep improving the quality of the horses I'm riding.

It's a weird dichotomy, don't you think? Professionally, I'm so far ahead of what I thought I could ever have. Riding wise... on one hand, I have no standing goal of "Oh, I want to go to the Olympics!" or "I want to do a 1* by the time I'm 30." But on the other, I want to go as FAR as I can, as FAST with that I have available as I can without being dumb or dangerous. Every once in awhile I have to step BACK and look at what I've done and gained in a short time and the amazing opportunities that have come my way and know that it will all pan out the way it should....

*anxiously taps toes*