The arenas were freshly dragged on Friday which inspired me to pull out some trail equipment. I haven't shown trail yet this year, it looks like the end of June will be our first chance. I plan to show in Rookie trail at the Region 1 AQHA in August and maybe Novice as well. Trail has always been one of my favorite classes, I love the technical challenge as my brain never really has time to get in the way. Grace loves it too, when I rode her into the arena with the obstacles set up she kept drifting towards them during our warm up. We worked on lope transitions which are coming along quite nicely and then I worked the gate to let her catch her breath.
My first experience with Trail Class was with Penny Jones. She taught me to take my time when schooling an obstacle. This is where you see me stop and adjust my jeans. If I rushed the horse while schooling the horse would then rush and anticipate in the show ring. One of my biggest challenges is keeping Grace's focus and getting her to wait on me.Working the gate itself has never been an issue, just like a trail bridge she is always willing to just power through it. It is the finesse that we've been working on. One thing I discovered yesterday is that I also struggle with taking my time. When side passing poles I became frustrated with Grace who was kept taking a step forward and a step back. I finally took her off the poles took a deep breath and tried again, this time slowing myself down and of course it was 1,000 times better. Sigh.
Speaking of poles remember when last year loping over poles was kind of a big deal? I think we've come though that now. The thing I love about this clip is that even when the distance isn't perfect, Grace carries on like it isn't a big deal. A year ago a missed distance would have caused her to tuck her butt and run. Grace is becoming a joy to ride on pattern, she does this new thing where she waits on me. This also means that I actually have to show up and ride and be the leader she is looking for. I plan to start throwing poles out in the arena on a regular basis for the summer. Working the obstacles is great but I know that the improvement is a result of the homework we've done over the winter without them.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
For the last month I’ve worked on being “less vague” in the saddle. This new focus has allowed me to keep my horse between my legs and my hands consistently. I am able to catch issues like a drifting shoulder or dropped back on the first or second stride that it happens and not halfway across the arena. My new go to aid is my leg with a goal to push my horse up to my hand. The result is a softer, happier, suppler horse that is less prone to take over. I had one of my best horse show patterns earlier in the month, yesterday was the true test of my work when we had our follow up lesson with Mario.
Sarah told me that at the last Mario lesson that I wasn’t really present that I had gone to the place in my head that I go to at horse shows. He had started that lesson with a pattern and watched us ride a like a judge would and yes I more than likely went to the Bahamas. I was determined not to let that happen this time. Mario entered the arena while I was warming up, after a quick hello I ignored him so I could go back to focusing on each step. When the lesson started he asked me to repeat the counter canter pattern we did at our last lesson, he said he was sure I had practiced it at home and he wanted to see it. No pressure or anything! This time I rode each stride of the walk up to the lope transition and had an uneventful departure. From there the pattern was smooth; I made sure to use the arena keeping my circles big, leads changes were clean, counter canter was steady and downward transitions were purposeful. Mario complimented me on the big improvement over last month. He was pleased with how steady Grace was with her head compared to last time when she was all over the place. The only thing he critiqued were my arms which tend to turn inward. It wasn’t the worst case he had seen but it was something I needed to work on.
Sarah brought a different horse to this lesson so instead of working on the pattern Mario worked with her on lope transitions, he told me to pay attention. Again he talked about the importance of riding each stride up to the lope transition, winding up the coil and then releasing it for the transition. He gave Sarah a series of things to do which all involved timing. I have to admit it was great to see her struggle a little as she admitted that she understood what he was asking for but it would take her a try or too to get the timing. This is exactly what I go through when she throws new things at me so it was wonderful to see that my trainer is human after all! By the end of the lesson the horse that Sarah was on not only had a much improved lope transition but his lope over all had improved dramatically.
When Mario asked me what I wanted to work on I told him I wanted to do the same lope transition exercises he was doing with Sarah and that one of my goals it to improve my lope departure on pattern as I know how important it is. Again the focus was riding each stride up to the lope transition, I kept getting this moment where my horse would get fussy and my reaction was to separate my hands. I had no idea I had been doing this until it was pointed out. The new reaction was to keep my hands together and drive Grace up to the bridle. Within in a few transitions I had what Mario called a 0 score lope departure. This was a big improvement over the negative scores I would have received for each previous lope transition. This led to a discussion about scores on a pattern. Mario said that at the amateur level most people receive negative scores on their pattern, that if you think about walking into the show ring with $70 in your pocket and that with each negative score you lose a dollar. He went on to say that if you consistently scored a 70 for the entire show season you would win quite a bit at the amateur level and that people give it away in the negative scores. This changed the focus from working to get a +1 maneuver to focusing on a 0. This made a lot of sense as he talked about the idea of pushing a horse that can consistently score a 0 to score a +1 puts you at greater risk of making a mistake of now going negative. This is why I love riding with Mario; he not only has the trainer perspective but the eye of a multiple carded judge who watches thousands of patterns a year. I have plenty of homework to work on between now and our next lesson. Mario left me with the reminder that from now on each lope transition counts, which of course means I have to ride each and every step to get there.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
The neighbors are using their turnout pastures now that the weather is good and the grass is tall. One of the pastures shares their fence line with Grace's turnout area. I usually keep her in when I see that they have a horse out. Grace can be rather alpha with other horses and I didn't want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt. I missed it the other day when I had Grace out and they turned out one of their horses.When I went out to put Grace back in the two mares were getting along fabulously. The other mare is a 4 year old German Warmblood. She has the sweetest personality and a calm energy about her. She will come and visit Grace at the fence and then spend her time grazing along side her. I've never even seen a pinned ear between the two of them. It is really refreshing to see Grace play well with others!
Monday, May 6, 2013
Grace and I went to a show on Sunday. I was lucky enough to have someone film my patterns with my cell phone. Instead of picking apart everything that needs improvement in this ride I am going to take a moment to stand back and appreciate it. The mare waited on me, listened to me, did not throw in any of her extra credit lead changes and was almost a tad slow! We are so much more relaxed than we were a year ago.
I only did 4 classes at the show, the footing was recently replaced and it was a bit deep for my liking. It made for a nice day as I left the house at 7:30am and was home at 4:00pm, the show grounds is 40 minutes from my house. I cold hosed and poulticed all 4 legs when we got home, I will have a better idea tonight if Grace is sore from the footing. Hopefully it settles more before the next show.