Connection

I find that understanding “connection” in dressage is the hardest part. Like, I know that we should have communication with the horse through the reins, that the horse should seek the contact, that the horse should happily follow wherever i want to put the bit…

But that doesn’t really encompass what connection means. That’s just a small part of the mechanics of it.

You also have to be straight. But that means supple enough that you can get the horse honestly straight, and that’s hard.

And then you need forward, but not TOO forward. It has to be balanced, sharp off a light aid (but not too sharp), and listening to your seat.

Calm, yet loaded with energy.

And the horse needs to be strong enough to stay straight and forward consistently, which always seems to take a while.

And once you have all those pieces in place, then you can somehow mix it all together to get varying degrees of connection.

The “connection” I mean right now is the one where the horse is powered up and forward, balanced, supple, straight, and you can *feel* the power and balance in your hands and your core. It’s spring loaded and yet easy to wait. You can go any direction, at any speed, or halt, with just a thought.

This is the second horse I’ve gotten to this level of “connection” with any type of consistency. And yet, here I am, struggling to teach it to a 3rd horse. It always feels like dumb luck that anything remotely correct happens.

Midget Fury

I always feel so ridiculous when i have to get after a horse. Here I am, swatting at their knees (because that’s as high as I can reach) while this big oaf is desperately attempting to avoid my ineffectual slap.

Big being a relative term…

Finding Levi

No, really.. he’s not in the pasture.

A tree fell on the fence a bit ago and squashed the 4 strands of wire straight to the ground. Levi made his escape and I found him happily munching the (definitely much greener) grass on the other side of the fence.

This is my first “escapee” since owning this property, so of course my heart is pounding through my chest with fear. What if runs off?? What if he runs in the road?? What if…???

Joy never even tried to leave the pasture. I called for her and she came running up to the barn.

A moment later, Levi comes galloping down the fence line (quite majestically) and comes to a halt right in front of me.

We clear the tree, fix the fence, put the horses back in the pasture.

Next day, while working from home and on a meeting, I peer out my window. There’s Levi, munching grass, right off our back steps.

It takes me a moment to process this… and then rip my headphones off and sprint out the door to catch Levi.

He was unconcerned about the whole ordeal and let me slip a halter on without issues.

Another tree on fence line. But this time, it didn’t squash the fence much. Fence was still a good 3 foot high even where the tree lay on it. I was perplexed about how he escaped.

Cleaned up tree, went to tighten up fencing and realize the second from top strand had snapped. Was that how he got out? Did he just shimmy his fat bod through this narrow gap?!?!

We fixed the fencing again and I turned the horses back out on the pasture. We had just sat down on the back deck, and suddenly here comes Levi!! Trotting up the fence line – OUTSIDE THE PASTURE.

I’ve had mares on this property for 5 years, with the same fencing, and not once had any of them escaped. Not once. Even when trees fell on the fence.

I get ONE (1) gelding and he’s gallivanting around like some kind of escape artist. smh

I caught him trying to rip the chain off the gate yesterday. Grabbed it with his teeth and pulled with all his might. He is too smart for his own good.

So now we have to string up a line of electric around the fencing to hopefully keep Mr. Dora the Explorer in his home.  Hubby says I have control issue. I’m okay with that.

Unfortunately, we ordered the electric fence charger online and it’s lost in shipping currently. In the meantime, I’m giving Levi supervised pasture time like some kind of convict.

Supervised free time
Joy’s not happy with her grazing muzzle

Update on Training

Levi

Levi’s steering has greatly improved. He’s beginning to understand the outside rein/leg aid. Now he’s finding new ways to evade being straight. lol

I started teaching Levi shoulder-in and haunches-in about a month and a half ago. At the walk, I can get about half the arena length of SI both ways. To the right is more difficult. He has more difficulty with HI to the left. I assume right hind is weaker. Which jives with what I see when he’s loose in the pasture. His left hind tends to be center mass.

Levi’s leg yields are coming along, but going from right side of arena to the left is still crooked. He wants to lead with his shoulder’s and I struggle to get him straight. I’ve been working on a few strides of leg yield as straight as possible, and then forward, to try to get him more straight. Seems to be working, but it’s a slow slog of progress.

Yesterday, I tried our first SI in trot. I was able to get a few strides of shoulder-fore to the right. Yay! Considering I couldn’t even turn 6 months ago, I’m pretty happy with this.

We’re struggling currently with bend in trot. Either I have a miscommunication about canter aids, or cantering crooked is easier than trotting with body bend, but he keeps popping into canter every time I ask for bend at trot. I felt like the shoulder-fore at trot for a few strides was a huge win yesterday.

Levi’s still hit or miss on canter leads. If i set him up absolutely perfectly I can usually catch the correct lead on the first strike off. If i miss that correct lead on strike off, i have to go back and set him up perfectly again. He gets anxious and tense if I try to force the correct lead. Since the issue is balance and strength, I don’t mind the issue right now. It’ll correct itself over time as long as I make sure my aids are clear and he understands them.

He’s also beginning to slowly accept the bit and contact. I can now get brief moments at the trot where he starts to lower his head and neck and seems happy with my hand. Brief moments. Walk is better and he’ll allow me to follow him down and pick him up without over reaction.

Thought this was a pretty pic

Joy

Joy’s lateral work is coming along. Our half-pass trot is getting easier and can hold it for longer. She feels more even under me as we half-pass and I can adjust the trot more.

Our canter is not great. Same issues. Either barreling around on forehand, or too collected and we stall out. I really think I need to just take her to the field and gallop her around for a few weeks until she’s really thinking forward, then work on collection again.

I’m also struggling right now with Joy, because I can feel she’s not quite straight, but I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if it’s a left or right issue. I feel like she’s not weighting the right shoulder as much as the left, but when i push her over on to it, she pops it slightly and I can’t seem to recapture it.

We need a lot more work on counter canter and a better quality canter. And I want to start half-pass canter soon. We also need a TON more work on medium trot and canter. There’s a LOT of work to do before 2nd/3rd, and all of it requires the rider be fit and precise… and lately, i just want to be a sloth that slouches around. *sigh*

Pandemic Pandemonium

The neighbor’s new horse, Yogi, has settled in well.

Levi was not happy about the new gentleman intruder hanging around Joy. I had to separate Joy from them. Which was fine, because she really shouldn’t be on spring grass anyway. Last year I made her wear the muzzle and she hated every second of it. 😂

For the longest time, the two geldings just picked at each other. No real blow ups. Levi was big man and would push Yogi off the hay.

And then recently, Yogi realized he’s quicker and more athletic, and he decided to put Levi in his place.

The Battle

Yogi’s kick to Levi’s ribs was so loud I though someone broke something! As soon as I could, I raced over to Levi to check him over. He had a very visible hoof print at the girth area and I touched it (gently). As I’m focused on the side of him, Levi reached over and bit me in the butt!! Little turd. So I half-heartedly smacked him and sent him off to go be a brat with Yogi again.

I think that incident was all it took though. The boy’s are finally getting along now (for the most part).

Levi’s fine now. Tiny spot of hair missing. Sore for a day. And Yogi was no worse for wear. Whew!

With the whole pandemic closures up in the air, I’m struggling to know how to plan out the rest of the spring. Do i try to reintegrate Joy into the herd? If it’s only another two weeks, then why bother? Or will we be quarantined until middle of summer? How much hay will I need to buy?

I hate ambiguity. It causes me stress. 😎😎

And then there were three

Things have been going well here (I better knock on wood). Levi and Joy have their own little special bond and everyone knows the routines. Life is good.

Yeah, there’s a pandemic, and the world is crashing, but my little sphere is safe and happy.

The neighbor messaged me last week. She bought a horse. All of the boarding facilities are closed and she has no where to take it. Can I board him for a while?

I say yes. Of course.

As soon as I said it I panicked. What if it’s a monster? What if it gets hurt here? What if it hurts my horses???

What if it dies??

Aaaccckkkk!!!

The horse will be here some time between 6:30pm and Midnight. It’s being shipped from several states away. It hasn’t even been picked up yet.

I woke up at 4:30 this morning. By the time it actually gets here, I’ll be too tired to give a shit. Ha!

Fingers crossed it’s a small horse with a good brain. Not sure I can handle a nut job with everything else going on recently.

On the plus side, it’ll be nice to have someone else here to talk horses for a while. Now I just need to stop being weirdly awkward due to lack of social interaction. ðŸĪŠðŸ˜œðŸĪĄ

Camel Horse

This is my… seventh? horse I’ve tried training. Varying degrees of prior training on those horses, but majority were either unstarted or very green broke.

Why is it that suddenly I have no idea how to teach Levi anything?

I’ve resorted to youtube videos.

How do you teach contact on a 10 year old horse that is dang sure the bit means pain? I’ve never dealt with this before, not to this degree.

I think I’ll have the vet out to do a thorough check of his mouth. His prior owner, my friend, had his teeth done a few months ago… but maybe something was missed? He’s not having any issues eating. The beefcake has put on about 200lbs since he got here. Never drops a lick of food. Chews fine.

I’m really struggling with teaching him that contact is not something he needs to fear.

I almost asked for ideas on FB, but I’m so frustrated by the “Did you have his anus waxed first?” type of unhelpful comments that I didn’t.

Old owner did it all. Chiro, massage, teeth, etc. and he was doing the same thing for her as he does for me.

For the last 2.5 months I’ve stayed on the path of letting him sort out his head and neck while trying to shape his body into the correct form (or as correct as I can get). He holds his head as HIGH as he can, in what appears to be the most uncomfortable position possible, and he doesn’t deviate from it no matter what.

I tried a new idea recently, thinking I’d just tell him where to put his head. Push him up into the bit and limit his forward. I was thinking if I made too high uncomfortable, and rewarded for lower/normal height, he’d realize that was his happy place. He simply ducked behind the bit. A nice false frame lacking any actual connection.

I immediately quit that.

He dropped right into a false frame, like he’d been trained for it. I don’t want to encourage that.

So now I’m back to forgetting the head/neck and working the body. I’m not sure what else to do. It’s always worked for me before. The fact that it isn’t with him is driving me nuts.

Usually by this point I can at least get a few strides of softer going here and there.

Not Levi. *sigh*

I’m stuck at this point in our training. Our leg yields are progressing okay, he’s getting better about moving off aa light aid (not great, but better), he’s getting more comfortable about moving shoulders and hips around while I’m on him, and he’s starting to understand the outside rein…. But, I’m limited when he refuses to accept contact.

He has improved some at the walk wth contact. I assume it’s because he tires himself out from the camel position at trot. He’s starting to touch the bit on his own at walk, and relax down.

Maybe he just needs more time.

Luckily, we’ve got plenty of time.

October Lesson

The October lesson was supposed to be the “Big” lesson. The lesson where I finally, after decades of hard work and heartache, learn how to do a &^%$#@! flying lead change.

My truck broke.

crazy laugh

In a desperate attempt to not throw away $60 for nothing, I raced to the barn and asked if I could borrow a horse for the lesson.

Luckily, they had one I could use. A lovely Second Level mare.

Even with the horse snafu, it was a good lesson. The mare highlighted every bad habit, incorrect riding habit, I had.

Actuallly, the mare tattled on me like mad. It was embarrassing.

In my defense, the saddle was too big, the stirrups too long, the mare unknown. But the fact remains, I have some really illogical, unhelpful, habits that are holding me back. *sigh*

Like, why does my right hand have to pull back when my right leg goes on? I’m going to duct tape my hand to the pommel. Grrr

We had some good moments, but no matter how positive a spin my trainer put on the lesson, I felt like a bright light had been shined on my deficiencies… and suddenly I realized HOW MANY of them there were.

I left feeling… sub-standard.

Leave it to dressage people to say a lesson was good because all our flaws were exposed. God, we’re a sadistic bunch, aren’t we?

Marking Two Month Changes

Well, it’s been two months since I brought Levi home.

My little ugly-duckling is starting to look more like an actual horse. Might turn into obese horse soon if I don’t cut back on the feed. Ha!

I’m surprised how much muscle he’s put on since he’s gotten here (considering I really don’t work him very hard or long).

I chopped off his mane.

Before (from Aug 8th):

After (this week):

 

I think he’s starting to look like a real dressage/eventing horse! 😀