Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bella - Working on Bending Hind Legs More in Canter

I had a wonderful session with Bella this afternoon! We've been building up slowly for the last couple of weeks after a winter of doing very little. We've just been doing in hand lateral work and ridden lateral work mostly in walk but we stepped it up a bit today.

I've been dying to try an exercise I saw on Jane Savoie's Dressage Mentor. To teach the horse to bend its hind legs more in canter she has the rider going from a walk pirouette straight into canter, and then ride straight out of the pirouette to begin with as, obviously, it would be unfair to expect a canter pirouette from a horse who is still learning how to bend its hind legs in canter.

I really wanted to try this with Bella, to help improve her canter, so today after warming up we gave it a go.

All I can say is, OH WOW, Bella is AMAZING!!! Although her walk to canter transitions are solid and her walk pirouettes are fairly well established I was not at all sure she would be able to get into canter from the pirouette. I use a very discreet 'cuh' sound, along with the normal rider leg position, to cue canter and she sat straight into an instant and lovely transition. I clicked the transition and treated and made a huge fuss of her to show her how impressed I was, then tried again.

I intended to carry on in canter out of the pirouette after the transition before I clicked this time and she took me totally by surprise when she just repeated the canter bounce on the spot for several strides. I had to make one of those instant, gut reaction decisions whether to click or not and decided against as it wasn't what I had in mind or was really asking for. It did occur to me immediately after my decision that I might have made the wrong one and maybe Bella was trying to continue in the pirouette and I should have reinforced her enthusiasm for such a difficult feat!!!

Anyway, it was too late by then so I went back to plan A, did a little bit of ordinary canter to show her that I wanted her to go forward after the transition, then tried the exercise again a couple of times on each rein with great success, and we ended the session delighted with each other!!!

I love Jane Savoie and learn so much from Dressage Mentor. I love the way she splits everything down into the basics and simplifies everything, and her enormous excitement and enthusiasm when her students get something right, even the tiniest improvement. I do avoid any of the videos relating to getting the horse forward off the leg, as I know it won't be the way I want to do things, but I love the others and Jane's personality.

I watched a video yesterday where she was working on improving a horse's canter. She shouted "YES, that's BEAUTIFUL, pet him, pet him!!!" when the horse sat into the transition. Doubt was written all over the rider as the horse had gone slightly above the bit in the transition and Jane picked up on that without a word being said and told the rider "Did you feel how uphill he was? Didn't that feel amazing? I don't care where his head and neck are at the moment, we can easily round that off later - he's SITTING into the canter, that's all that matters for now!"

Another thing I loved on this video was that she said that the exercises develop collection but the rider then has to hold the horse in collection with their core - not the reins.

Bella + clicker training + Dressage Mentor = SO much FUN!!!! Xxx

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Lightness Summit - Dominique Barbier

I loved the interview with Dominique Barbier on the Lightness Summit and want to make some notes of some of the things he said that I most want to remember. He came across as a lovely, warm, kind man with a great love of horses and huge enthusiasm for sharing his ideals for classical dressage and correct training.

Dominique said that lightness is destroyed by the wrong understanding of contact. He said if you feel tension in your hand and so you kick with your leg and push with your seat you kill all that you want. Why? He said it's like a bubble of soap; the bubble appears very beautiful but as soon as you touch it - poof - it pops!

He said that with a strong contact with the rein and leg and pushing with the seat you are trying to push and hold the horse and do all those things that you physically can't do.

He said that the secret of training the horse to balance himself lies with shoulder in, haunches in and pirouette.

Work in shoulder in and drop the inside rein when the inside hind leg is underneath the horse, work on both sides and the horse is light on both sides - instantly!

Lightness comes from the rider, from opening the fingers and giving, saying I don't want a strong contact.

He said that Francois Baucher said there are two kinds of resistance - resistance of weight and resistance of forces.

Resistance of Weight - caused by the horse being unbalanced and running on the forehand. These horses need shoulder in and then they cannot be on the forehand.

Resistance of Forces - caused by the horse pulling on the reins because the rider is pulling on the reins. If the rider keeps pulling the horse will defend himself and pull back. It will never change unless the rider changes. Cure - walk six strides and halt, walk six strides and halt - touch the rein like it is an electric fence - touch but don't grab.

If the horse is trained correctly he will stay in position on his own, without you. You won't need to touch the rein. Repeat to yourself "You stay there and I give you (the reins), you stay there and I give you" over and over again. The contact should be the weight of the leather of the reins. The horse will be light because you are light.

Descente de mains, descente de jambes - when everything is right you take your legs and your hands off the horse so they are not doing anything and suddenly horse and rider are one. A centaur. Start at walk and look for tiny moments which will become longer.

Go for simple methods of training - basically shoulder in and haunches in. Have a clear picture in your mind of what you want and train the horse in this way to carry himself. Become a master of simple things and suddenly you are a master of everything!

If you think it's hard then it's over! It's simple, it has to be simple, like all the good things in life. You don't have to fight with horses, you can train them without force. The horse has to be happy and he can only be happy if he is relaxed.

Monday, 2 January 2017

2017 - Making it the Best Year Yet!!!

I decided to start a new blog this year, to cover what I'm working on with my horses and share the posts to my Facebook pages, as it makes it easier for me to navigate older posts. Then I found this blog already set up, which I'd totally forgotten about (I am a serial blogger!!!), so I'll resurrect this one.

I've been having fun for the last few weeks with Natasha Altoff's Make 2017 Your Best Year Yet. I haven't joined her program as she's a bit more organised than I'd even like to be but I love her energy and enthusiasm and have been very inspired by her free videos on goal setting. I tend to be a bit too laid back and inclined to procrastinate so I need to sharpen up my act a bit for 2017!!!

So, with that in mind, I'll list where I am now and my goals for this year, and beyond:

Now - we have fairly solid passage (still can't believe I can say that!!!), piaffe is coming along and her canter is better than I once would have ever dared to hope! Trot half pass is coming along well. All her lateral work in walk is very well established, and, with the exception of half pass, all the lateral movements in trot and canter as well. Thanks to clicker training she is almost always one hundred per cent on side and motivated to give everything her very best (the only exception being very occasionally when she's really rampantly in season and just wants to stop and gaze at the boys!!!)

Goals - working on improving everything further, especially her canter work, and starting working
towards tempi changes and canter pirouette. Getting piaffe well established under saddle and improving expression in passage. Getting half pass really solid in trot and working on canter half pass. Keeping everything fun for her (and for me) by doing lots more liberty playing around, pole work (which she loves) and anything else that takes our fancy. Last year I was a bit too focussed on ridden dressage schooling and, although she didn't seem to mind, I think I was in danger of losing the fun element a little.

 Now - Rico is now nearly five and a half years old and so far I have only sat on him a few times in the stable but I do think it's taken him until now to mature enough mentally for me to be able to hopefully back him safely and without incident (fingers firmly crossed!!!). Now he's turned out near the barn I lead him in and out on his own which means we do a little bit of clicker training twice a day on the way in and out. He understands how to stay calm and concentrate, even when other horses are galloping about. He has learnt to offer shoulder in on both reins, which he does very elegantly, and will stop, start and rein back on a loose lead, copying me. He has also taught himself, as a product of shoulder in, to tuck his nose in and draw himself up through his withers, to tempt me to click and treat him, so we already have the beginnings of collection

Goals - After much deliberation, and much as I'd love to stay bitless, I am going to introduce Rico to a bit and see how he feels about it. I have just found with Bella, after much experimentation, that a bit makes obtaining and maintaining correct bend and flexion so much easier. The small amount of in hand work I've done with Rico so far has been in a bitless Micklem, and he's been very light and responsive in it, so if he really hates a bit I'll go back to that, for now anyway, but I will give a bit a try. 2017 will be the year when I start riding him properly and continue introducing him to all the lateral work, in hand and ridden, all taught with the clicker, of course!!!

 Now - Jack is my other Dales and Bella's half brother. I've had him since he was an unbacked three.year old and he will be sixteen this year, a year older than Bella. He was born with a slightly deformed eye which he only has partial sight in and he has always had confidence issues, particularly when ridden. I haven't ridden him for quite a few years now as, although I got him to the point where he was pretty confident and happy working in hand, I always felt he was too anxious to ever really relax and enjoy being ridden so eventually I stopped. Jack has always been the master of lateral work and has always found it easy, and whenever I forget how to do anything in hand I always get him out to teach me again!

Goals - Recently it occurred to me that I can't remember the last time that anything spooked him when I'm leading him around, he is so calm and confident these days, so I thought maybe I'd give riding him another go and see if I can get him to enjoy it now. He is lovely to sit on, so much bigger and more powerful than Bella, and he's such a personality I have always loved him to bits and been sorry that I couldn't seem to find a way to get him to really enjoy being ridden. Maybe now is our time!!!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The Stars of my Blog.

Bella, Grace and Jack - my Dales Pony Family

My Superstar - Daloumie Arabella

With Supporting Stars - Waterside Grace

Daloumie Crackerjack

Escaro Novillero (Rico) PRE

And occasional appearances from other family members - Halstock Romeo, mini Shetland stallion

Bybeck Eees Away (Merlin) Fell Pony

Holly, Dartmoor Hill Pony

Kobe, miniature Shetland mare

                    And last but never least, Dougal, miniature Shetland gelding.
Apart from Grace all my horses and ponies joined our family as unbacked youngsters. Bella and Jack have never been ridden by anyone else. Bella will be 13 this year (I cant believe it, it seems like only yesterday we brought her home just before her first birthday) Jack will be 14, Grace 19, Merlin 10, Romeo 8, Rico 4 and Holly 2 years old. Dougal will be 5 and Kobe will be 15 years old this year.

My passion, along with eponies, is classical dressage. My training methods are based on clicker training and making everything as much fun as possible, for me and for them.

My biggest influences so far have been Alexandra Kurland and Jane Savoie. My greatest inspiration as far as my idea of perfection goes is Anja Beran and her beautiful horses. That's the look I strive to achieve.

My dream is to train Bella to perform all the Grand Prix movements, along with a few extra classical movements, such as levade. And then, when Bella and I have managed all of that, along with having fun progressing with the others, there's the serious project of young Rico coming up behind!!!!  

Bella and I begin this blog and 2015, after a winter of very little training, with piaffe and passage starting to become a reality as seen in these videos from last autumn.    

      Bella - Diagonalising the Walk - Beginnings of Piaffe