Struggle Bus

I can’t seem to do anything dressage related right lately.  Not even a little.  

The more I pushed Joy for forward,  the stronger my hands got.  The stronger I got,  the more Joy ran through the bit and acted out in frustration.  Then I got frustrated and pushed harder! 

We fought.  

It’s entirely my fault. I don’t understand why my arms have to become steel rods of tension.  Ugh! 

I decided to only focus on keeping Joy’s head right in front of her shoulders while I worked on circles and bending exercises.  This mentally helped me relax my death grip and helped Joy relax. 

Once I had Joy less tense, I tried the forward/back exercises again.  I wanted to try to keep her as truly straight as possible on the forward part,  so that we had a better chance of actually getting the hind involved directly under us (not side to side,  like she likes). However, my arena is the size of a 20m circle.  Not much room.  She’s small though,  so I was able to get a few, short straight lines where I felt like she stepped up through the bit.  It was just for a few seconds here and there… but it was all I could get for the time being.  I tried forward on a curved line,  and I just can’t keep her shoulders or haunches from either popping out or swinging in.  

My little arena is not so good for straight lines. The noticeable slope doesn’t help either.  

It hasn’t stopped snowing for days.  We have at least a foot of snow now,  and another 10 inches projected for the next 2 days.  It was 50’s and beautiful last week.  Now its 25 degrees and there’s a shit ton of snow on the ground.  
I had hubby plow out the arena so I could ride.  Poor hubby froze!  🙁😨

The footing wasn’t as good as i had hoped, but the more we rode over the same spots,  the better the footing got.  Still a bit slick in areas.  We may not be able to do much at the trot or canter for the next several months,  but we can at least work on bendy lines and some basic stuff.  

Might also be a good time to work on our trail riding skills again,  since a fall into a foot of snow probably won’t hurt too much.  Haha

Other things:

Before the snow… We worked on picking up the canter from Shoulder-in going left,  and haunches-in going right.  This gave us decent departs from light aids.  I was very encouraged by it.  I am suspecting that a large part of our canter issues are due to tension.  The more tense Joy gets the more her hind end swings left.  Keeping her in either SI or HI seemed to help a lot.  She wasn’t able to hold the canter,  but for about 5 strides it was really nice!   The other benefit was it kept me straight and more aware of where my body was. I realized at one point that I was attempting to launch my body to the inside in a desperate attempt to shove/drag her into a right lead canter.  

Totally elegant and immensely productive for dressage.  /sarcasm

The take away was that I need to focus on keeping her relaxed,  and when she gets tense I need to move to something else to do rather than keep hammering at the canter.  Also need to stop throwing my upper body around when I ask for the canter. 

List of things i need to do:

Stay off her face,  keep her in front of the leg,  keep the hind end under us,  keep her head and neck in line with her shoulders,  keep the shoulders straight, keep my upper body straight, keep Joy relaxed and soft… And voilà, we’ll have great canter departs!!

Nooo problem!  lol! 

We’re working on walk pirouttes,  and I think they’re coming along nicely.  Left is easy,  right requires a bit more finesse to get her bent.  We can do quarter turns on a smallish circle without losing the rhythm or tempo (usually).  Half circles are still a bit beyond us at this time. Everything kind of falls apart if I ask for more than a quarter turn. 

And totally unrelated to dressage, but when i hop off she no longer shuffles around and backs up as if she lost her balance and had to scramble to catch it.  Always made me feel like a fat ass when she did that.  Now she’s just “Get OFF tubby! ”  and stands solidly while i dismount.  

I’ve got a line on a trainer not too far from me who said she’d give me some lessons this spring.  I wanted to take Joy to my regular trainer,  but the pony doesn’t haul well,  and the 2 hours each way is a bit much to ask at this stage.  Especially since I have no idea what I’ll unload at the other end.  She could see a new place and have her mind implode. I have no idea what to expect…  But this local trainer is nice,  low key,  and has non-traditional horses,  so I won’t have the added (irrational) fear of being judged for showing up with a mutt pony and horrid riding position.  It’s less pressure on me. I can just focus on getting the pony through the lessons in a new place as best as I can.  

We’ll see.  It’ll be an adventure! 

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Joy was feeling rambuncious yesterday.  Made for a pretty picture.  I rode her right after taking these pics and not even one little step wrong.  She’s such a saint of a pony.