Thursday, April 1, 2010

Breaking Young Rider Bad Habits

SideBar - I started riding when I was six, came up through the ranks, fell in love with eventing, had a couple GREAT horses, (Mr. X and Take Notice) both of whom I owe a lot to...I wish I knew what had become of them...then along came university which meant like a lot of people like me who aren't fortunate enough to keep their horses through University had to sell them. So, there was a period of time when, get this, I didn't ride for about 10 years. Then one day I just sort of said, you know what? I'm going to start riding again. Well, almost 2 years after THAT, here I am, having successfully completed one season of eventing (Thanks Dandy, I owe you everything...he's an amazing horse I leased for 8 months to help me get my confidence back, see picture) to having purchased Chester 6 months ago and preparing for the upcoming season.
Wednesdays @ 7:00 p.m., enter The Boss.
After the success of the weekend, Joyce says to me 'let's work on some dressage, he is jumping great'. Super! (Too bad I didn't have my dressage saddle on...ugh, you try having a 'long leg' in a CC saddle, ain't happening.) The idea, was to get him listening to me more, understanding that a half-halt is really a half-go and just because I am asking him to use his butt and come into a frame, that doesn't mean he can lean on my hands, which in turn pulls me forward which leaves me 'balancing' with my hands: Bad, Bad, Bad. Joyce will constantly remind me to keep my shoulders behind the pommel and I always say 'It's so HARD to do that in this saddle'. We were doing serpentines with the focus of having a nice turn, have your moment of straightness, then changing the bend...all while maintaining a light, forward contact without his head coming up...oh yea...AND she wanted me to slow the trot down dramatically to almost walk over the centre line.
Honestly, it was the hardest thing I have ever done...because: I'll admit it, I have a couple VERY bad habits from when I was younger. They are namely: I use my hands to much, I don't have enough weight in my heel, I look at the top of pickle's head instead of where I am going, I ALWAYS have my left hand lower then my right (BAD), I don't connect my legs, seat and hands enough...Let me focus on the last thing I just said, because I had what was probably the biggest light-bulb moment of the past 2 or 3 months. To become more effective as a rider, I now understand that I have to learn how to connect my hands to what my legs are asking Chester to do and the leave him the hell alone when he does what I want and learn how to maintain that without pissing him off..i.e - move the bit in his mouth more effectively and not keep on him EVERY step he takes. Let me tell you, we were fighting last night like we hadn't in a loooonnnngggg time.
Joyce would like to see me get after him a little bit more when he starts to be a donkey and lean on my hands and pull me forward. She says "He is going to lean and pop his shoulder out on you because he doesn't like to work and carry himself, and you are letting him get away with it. When he starts to do that, put your leg on and say not a chance buddy."
Kelly was also there and she said something I should try is counting the rhythm in my head - so a constant 1,2,1,2,1,2 so I know he is keeping a nice slower, more engaged medium trot. If I have a goal for our dressage this year, it will be to get a 9 on his trot work...I KNOW I can do that.

Goals before next Wednesday - in which I WILL be putting my dressage saddle on: 1) steadier hands on my part = steadier, slower, more ENGAGED trot on Chester's part. 2) EVEN hands

Oh - and Joyce rode him last night!!!!...and (of course) he looked like a ba-zillion million dollars....I then threatened her that I was going to enter him with her as the rider at least once this summer...she then threatened my life, but secretly, I think I am going to do it, because I KNOW she will LOVE it.

It is Good Friday tomorrow, which means I get a day off!! Yay...which is also the day we have alotted to build some xc fences at the barn. Aaron, who is incredibly talented, can fix anything, is a plumber by trade and OCD will be helping (or taking over) the construction. He goes to me last night "Beer, chainsaws and power tools, how could I go wrong"...Someone help me please.

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