Envision It

I found an interesting article that kind of addresses some of the problems I’ve been having lately. Maybe it’ll be helpful to some of you also.

Riders Learn to Envision What They Want and Make it Happen; Robert Dover

I liked the rubber band exercise he describes. I’m going to have to try that with Ava this weekend.

On the second page, Robert Dover say’s, “Be certain of what it is that you’re asking for, clear with your aids, and envision the expected result in your mind. See the movie of your most grand vision of yourself—if you envision less than that, that’s all you’ll get,”

The article caught my eye because my trainer pointed out (several times) how I was blocking Ava during the walk/canter depart. I was expecting her to not respond. This is one of those instances where blind faith in your trainer is required in order to get past a training obstacle (my obstacle, not Ava’s). Bern said Ava will canter off a light seat aid, then by golly, Ava will! And you know what… she did. Sometimes the only way we can let go of our hang-ups is to allow someone else’s belief in you to override your self-doubt.

On a slightly different note… Bern had me try a different exercise last night in order to work on Ava’s degree of collection. The concept was to put the horse on a 20 meter circle, and ask for haunches in but with more bend then you would normally want. Do this for approx. a quarter of the circle, then ask for leg yield for a few steps (straighten the horse first), then ask for the haunches in again with the exaggerated bend. Repeat for a full circle.

We tried this first at the walk so I could learn where to put my weight and aids, and get coordinated. ha. Then we progressed to the trot. The first couple of times were… uh… yeah, not so good. But after a couple of tries (with lots of big “atta girls” to Ava for trying), we smoothly transitioned from haunches in, to leg yield, back to haunches in again.  And when we straightened and trotted off down the long side.. OMG, it was the best feeling trot EVER. I felt like those riders you see in the Grand Prix levels.  The power was intense, and it was super springy, yet soft at the same time. It was really easy to sit, but at the same time I think that was the most intense Ab work out I’ve ever gotten in my life.  My butt felt glued to the saddle, and my upper body just stayed there all upright and nice. It was an awesome feeling.

I want to mention one last thing that I’m beginning to really understand about dressage (or any discipline)… even though your trainer gives you an exercise to work on during a lesson, do not just keep doing that exercise as it was. Improve on it, break it down and incorporate different parts into other exercises, think about what makes that exercise work, what it’s intended purpose is, and extrapolate on it. With Ava, she’s incredibly smart, so after doing something twice she is quick to give you the same answer the third time. But by this point, she’s also found seven different way’s to evade actually using her inside hind while doing the exercise. When you have a horse like this, you have to be creative (and judicious) in applying an exercise that either teaches the horse how to carry herself correctly, or works to build up her strength to carry herself correctly.

Disclaimer: when I say “smoothly transitioned”, I mean smooth for us at our level of training. It wasn’t even close to flawless. 🙂 But it was a definite improvement!

Ava looking for treats after a job well done!!

I was also utterly impressed with Ava last night. She was very grumpy when I tore her away from her food. She’d been cooped up in a stall all day because of the nasty weather and it was past our normally ride time. Plus, she’s in heat. So she was Miss Grumpster!  And yet, that mare gave me her all last night. Even though what I was asking her to do was extremely hard for her, and made her use herself in way’s she wasn’t used to…. She still tried her hardest even when she didn’t understand what I was asking for!  I am so lucky to have Ava!  

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So Happy

OMG! Ava gave me the BEST canter depart today. I was so thrilled that I stopped her after a few strides, patted her up, and we called it quits for the day. xD

Let me back up a bit though… Last Thursday, Bern taught me how to do the leg yield along the rail to get Ava straighter between the reins/aids. |\ <– rail = | and horse = \. That started off really bumpy, and it took me a couple days to get my body and mind to cooperate, but it is really helping! It's so easy too (once I quit over complicating it).

Then Friday, my trainer let me ride one of the 3rd level horse’s (this one is for sale by the way, and he’s a doll). Bern gave me instruction on how to ride the horse correctly so I could feel how it was supposed to feel. At one point Bern tells me to ask for a canter depart from the walk. This horse makes these look smooth in his sleep. He’s an old hand at this. So I ask for it, completely did not expect to get it, and ended up bopping him in the mouth the first time. That was quite an eye opener to me. It was shocking how much I was inhibiting the canter in all kinds of bad ways just by mentally being prepared for the wrong answer. When I got the right answer, I was all discombobulated. Thank goodness the gelding I was riding is an absolute saint! Poor guy. But the second attempt went much smother, and less painfully for the horse. I spent a couple seconds after that just trying to mentally “fix” that feeling into my brain so I could apply it to Ava.

So today, I started with a few leg yields along the rail to get Ava a little better between my left and right. Then (after making it very clear she had to get off my right leg), I expected a smooth canter depart from the walk. I sponged the outside rein (which she was now on thanks to the leg yield exercise), and viola! I had a balanced, round, engaged canter. When I asked for the walk again, she was able to carry herself into a smooth transition. It was fantastic! That was one of those moments where you really wish you had someone there so you could cheer together. The main thing that caught me by surprise is that even though I had previously wanted to expect her to canter, I still didn’t, and my body said as much. When I was able to let that mental block go, then Ava responded with the correct answer because she could.