Those rides where it all goes right

I’ve been working on walk/canter transitions the past couple of months, but our canter/walk attempts have been HORRIBLE!

I got the BEST canter to walk transition today! It was… a big girl canter to walk trans! Balanced, engaged, and she just walked forward into the transition.

I was so floored and happy I immediately hopped off and quit. I figured we couldn’t possibly top that today.

Ultimate effort from this pony!

She’s just amazing!

New photos:

As you can see, we’re still too short in the neck. I get more moments of longer neck, but not consistent (yet).

Leg Yield

Joy’s First Real Counter-Canter

Now that I can get the haunches in at the canter, i thought I’d try a real Counter-Canter with her. Last time I tried (last year), I couldn’t control the shoulders and haunches well enough to keep her on the lead.

I was only going to try doing a bendy line from B to the far corner , but she was so easy to steer from my seat that I thought I’d go for a half circle in counter-canter.

Check out how it went (you may want to mute the sound):

She got unbalanced on the last part of the half-circle, but not bad overall for a beginning.

The left lead counter-canter wasn’t going as well. A little too weak and unbalanced to hold it around a full circle, so I’ll have to work on that. However, really thrilled that I was able to pick up which ever lead I wanted regardless of which direction I was going (she picked up the left without too many issues even though we were going to the right).

I really liked her leg-yield here:

I was just really thrilled that the canter is getting more balanced! Only took me three years!! LOL!

However, I can NOT for the life of me, put this all together into a good lower-level test ride. I tried to ride a First Level Test 1 last week, and it was shit. Couldn’t get the canter at the letter, our circles were football shaped (what do you mean that’s rider error?!?!), no lengthens to speak of, I couldn’t get a stretchy trot to save my life, etc. etc. It was terrible.

I think I’ve been too lax by not riding more precisely.

To help with that, I now have… ** drum roll **

ARENA LETTERS!!!

WOO HOO!

My wonderful husband made them for me.  They’re kind of hard to see in the pictures, but they look really nice in person.

The dressage arena is really starting to come together!! Yay!

That thing I couldn’t get

I’ve owned Joy, the pony, since 2015.   If you want to read about when I got her, go to I bought a…

Anyway… I FINALLY got her to do haunches in at a canter!!! Woo Hoo!! And it was pretty darn decent too!

Seriously, I have been working on this for YEARS. Granted, we’ve had a lot of time off over the years, but I wouldn’t have thought it’d be that hard to get this. I never had half the issues getting haunches in at a canter with any other horse.

This one.. whew.  Struggle bus.

Anyway, I was so thrilled.

Now I can start working on counter canter! Yay! lol!

Still working on the canter

We had some fun adventures yesterday!

I rode Joy. I’m still working on the canter.

Her canter is horrendous. Just God awful to ride. Feels like she’s in four separate pieces and they’re all going different ways. It’s the weirdest canter I’ve ever ridden.

She canters with her hind legs close together, like a bunny hop type canter, when she gets the least bit unbalanced. The front end is always flying off in front of us. The hind end is always waaaay out behind us. It’s terrible. Hard to ride, and pretty much everything I’ve tried has either made her a hot mess, caused too much tension, or overall simply made the issue worse.

So, my latest idea is try more forward! When in doubt, add forward! Ha!

This was our June canter (I have nothing past that), which was rather decent for Joy. She doesn’t look too relaxed about it though. Tense. Tail swinging around. We’re fighting.

 

And this is today:

Nothing super big, but I was happy she was more adjustable and I could steer with my seat. That was cool.

A big THANK YOU to my super generous, and awesome, hubby for video taping the canter last night.

Who Rode My Pony?!

I swear someone snuck in and trained my pony while I was gone. I don’t know who, but when I find out….

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I came home after a week away to a pony that canters.

AND I can steer at the canter.

AND she’s picking up the correct leads with correct bend both ways (most times)!

It was…. weird.

Happy! But, weird….

She cantered so well, that we actually tried our very first simple change of lead. It was awful, but we trotted when I asked, turned, and she tried really, really hard to offer up the new lead.

Overall, I was thrilled!

I had dreamed of this day! I thought it would never happen!

We have a CANTER!! WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The rider relief is evident…. hahahaha

I think I may have even cried a bit…..

…………

Trot work was O.K. Not great. Not terrible. I need a bigger area to work on getting her connected.

We’re always turning. I tried pushing her forward, and she kept breaking to canter. I think I need a long, straight track to trot her on for awhile.

I love this pony’s walk. 🙂

Photo Bombed!!

I set up two ground poles to trot over. Joy apparently thought we were doing a different discipline instead.

She caught me off guard and I bumped her mouth. 😦

Our haunches-in is getting better!

And more jumping!

I just want to mention that we’ve been doing trot poles for over a year with no issues, but today… these were jumps! Haha

I’m really looking forward to starting lessons in another month or so.  I think the trainer can fix up my riding so Joy can do her job better.  And then, maybe, I can start thinking about entering a schooling show later this year (fingers crossed).

5 minute training video of ride:

Left Lead Canter

I had the best left lead canter depart I’ve ever had on Joy before!  It was almost like a grown up canter depart!!  Not only was she correctly bent,  but she stepped into it from the right hind.  It was awesome! 

The right lead canter depart was very good too,  but that one has been coming along fairly well.  This is the first time for the left lead.  First time off a straight leg aid canter cue (no voice cue),  first time with correct bend,  first time not launching herself from the forehand…

It was so good I just halted her and got off.  

She’s getting stronger!! 

Pics of Joy,  ’cause she’s cute. 

Not so cute here…


My two second braid job… Wanted to see if a running braid would stay in while working. Worked okay. 

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! 

. . . . . . . . . . . . 

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.  

Joy the Wonder Pony

Rode Joy last night. I had low expectations.  Mainly because I currently don’t have any goals for her…  other than I’d like to canter around in some semblance of balance and with the the correct bend.  

We’re headed into winter where riding will probably cease from December to March.  Next spring I’ll freak about how we’re no where near ready for even Training Level… STILL

I found if I shorten my reins to the point where I feel like there’s 2 inches left, then Joy feels more connected in the bridle. As if too much slack leaves too much room to squiggle and question. 

We’ll see how this works long term.  Doesn’t appear to be hurting anything, yet. I still can’t get a true connection from hind legs to bit yet.  I feel like i’m getting really close at times,  and other times we’re no where near it.  I think I’ll need professional help to achieve it.  Hopefully I won’t have ruined her too badly by then. 

I’ve been working on developing left hind strength.  A big Thank You to Alli Farkas for the suggestion.  It seems to be working!! I have some research on exercise that I’ll post later. 

Another thing I found that helped was if I do trot work on the box and kick her hind end over when going to the left that she is better able to pick up the canter relatively straight.  I have to do shoulders going to the right.  The haunches continually shift way left when going left.  The shoulders pop left when going right. If I don’t kick her butt over going left,  then she gets in her own way and bucks. 

Every issue I have right now is straightness related. Some rides I never get even slightly straight.  Some rides I do.  When she’s straight and pushing from behind I get a wonderfully soft,  balanced canter in either direction.  It feels awesome. It feels like a big horse canter.  It feels very uphill and adjustable. When she’s not straight … It’s an utter wreck.

We’re usually not straight.  😂 

I have no idea how the canter actually looks when she’s balanced.  I can’t seem to pull it off when I video myself. I’m just going to keep pretending we look like Charlotte and Valegro cantering around being magnificant. 😉 

This little pony is a try-er though.  She might get frustrated,  but she doesn’t quit on you.  She keeps trying.  She doesn’t blow up,  she doesn’t refuse, she just expresses her confusion and if you break it back down then she’ll try again.

I love that about her!

The Left Lead Canter

I almost biffed it. 

Lost my stirrup. 

Not the most elegant rider. Ha!

She’s not trying to be naughty. Alright, maybe a little… but she thinks when I say “Good” it means immediately stop. So I tapped her with the whip. She didn’t appreciate it. 

It’s the only times she bucks… when I tap her with the whip. I didn’t do it hard, just wanted to get her attention quickly as soon as she broke to trot… didn’t quite go as planned.

I lunged her today. I want to see if I can help her balance better without being on her. I don’t have any side reins. I’m a little leery about using side reins anyway. I haven’t used them since 1992.

Were you even born then? 

It was that long ago….

I’m not sure I remember proper usage. I need a refresher course.

So I used cavellettis. Went suprisingly well, considering it’s rainy, cold, windy. My hubby is using the chainsaw to cut trees down near the driveway (above the arena and just out of sight). Lawn mower with cart is being used to drag brush past the arena. Lots of noise, lots of reasons to be a spastic idiot.

She was amazingly unaffected by the crazy pile of brush lumberingly slowly pasy her in a cart, nor did the chainsaw affect her. It’s always the cats. haha

As soon as I asked her to trot over the cavallettis she settled down. Then we worked on trying to canter over them. Wasn’t really working, so I modified it to trot through, pick up canter, trot through, pick up canter… etc. That worked rather well even though they were spaced for canter. 

It was very tiring for her, so I didn’t lunge very long. 

She has a nice canter to the right. Almost balanced, good reach, even footfalls. 

The left is like a drunken duck trying to play hopscotch. 

She picks up the right lead going left, then does a flying change/buck to switch leads. 

Sometimes she does a flying change, comes to an immediate halt and rears. It’s a movement of beauty and grace, and makes me think higher levels work is attainable with her…. in the far future. And then she nearly falls on her face picking up the left lead again. 

I think making her think about her own feet and how to balance herself is what she really needs right now. I can’t seem to help her undersaddle to the left. She lets me help her to the right, but not at all to the left. She locks her jaw, barrels down on the bit, and speeds off in a forward falling spree of “Get it over with!!” canter. 

Any suggestions on youtube videos, or articles, for proper use and technique of side reins? 

Spring Excitement

Yesterday, I was leading Ava, and the footing was uneven so my whole upper body went rigid in an attempt to stabilize myself. The second my upper body went stiff, Ava reared, wide eyed, throwing her head around.

I had to consciously relax my body and pretend I was a wet noodle before she would quietly walk next to me again.

Horses… way to perceptive.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I have finally started riding again after nearly 4 months off.

I am floppy.

I’m amazed at how much Joy has retained training wise. It’s all still there. She’s still a bit out of shape, but the buttons are there.

Last Sunday was the first time I’ve been on Joy’s back since Dec 26th. That Sunday I lunged her first. I hopped on expecting the worst! The only time Joy bounced around a little was when the cats decided to jump on top of the metal pile and make it crash and clang next to us. Joy gave a short hop, but that was it.

Next day, I hopped on Joy without lunging first. She was a doll. We w/t/c around. Even got the correct lead both ways.
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Yesterday, we did a bit of short trot/canter work. Got both leads again. Would’ve gotten the right one with bend on strike off, but I messed it up… I was impressed she offered it. That lead is always going to be tough for her.

We have absolutely no balance in the canter. I can only hope that the quality improves as balance improves. I think it will, but the other half of me is like “What did I get myself in to?!?!”

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Funny thing yesterday, after we got done with the arena work, we went for a short trail ride (by ourselves). Joy hasn’t been out since maybe early Nov. It’s been a long while.  We get 10 feet from the barn and there’s a dark patch of dirt we have to walk over. Joy gets one foot on it, brakes hard, and starts back-peddling manically. I could not convince her to walk over it, so I finally hopped off and had to show her it was just dirt. She very cautiously followed me over it. Rest of the trail ride went smoothly. We didn’t go far, she was hyped, but sane.  Coming back, we have to cross the black dirt again… Joy takes a sniff, and walks over it like it’s nothing. Yay!

Ava had a tough winter:

  • She had two boughts of laminitis,
  • her feet look horrible,
  • she got a nasty case of thrush that no over the counter medication was killing,
  • vet diagnosed her as IR (insulin resistant).

On the plus side:

  • She’s lost a lot of weight,
  • she’s sound again,
  • thrush is nearly knocked out,
  • she does not have cushings,
  • vet says IR can be managed without medication at this point,
  • she’s back to her old bossy self again

I forgot how much fun Ava is to ride.  Joy feels like a race car, Ava is a muscle car.  I started riding Ava in the pasture since the previous time I rode her she tried to toss me off. We walk/trotted a couple of small laps around the pasture, then headed outside for a short walk loop around the back field.

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Ava March 2016.jpg

 

I haven’t seen any detrimental effects from riding Ava. Hoping it stays that way.

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