Thursday, April 27, 2017


Since Cupid and I are maturing in our development, with less new revelations, I think recapping several lessons/rides will work best to capture our training. 

Friday - Flatwork, working in several elements from our dressage test.  There was a 2 person lesson in the arena, so I stayed at one end of the arena, close to the size of a short dressage court.  I practiced straight lines and 20 meter circles, and centerline turns and halts.

Saturday - We had a lesson in a slightly busy arena.  First there was a slightly exuberant horse jumping, then a group of beginner riders.  Cupid was a little distracted and quick, but I tried to keep my body relaxed and my posting slow.  We worked on square turns, and going to the right I think it went better at the canter than the trot!

Sunday - Day off.  I gave Cupid a good grooming and did some tack cleaning. 

Monday - Rode in outdoor.  It was very foggy, and the dressage boards and letters up for the first time since last fall, but Cupid was not distracted.  The footing felt great!  We practiced our circles, trying to make sure we only touch the rail not follow it.  Did a little leg yielding and shoulder fore.  Cupid was very good and felt great!  But I did feel like my leg was flapping around a little, I was in the flatter dressage saddle.  We cooled off by walking around the property.  Cupid stopped in front of a mat on the ground and snorted at it, which was unusual because he's never had a problem walking over them before.  But I nudged him on and he walked over it without further ado and was good over the rest of them.

Tuesday - Lesson, flatwork.  My trainer had me put my whip behind my back and through my elbows, that was very weird!  I felt like I had t-rex arms.  We worked on transitions between walk and trot, and trot and canter.  My legs didn't feel like they were flapping this time, but I was having more trouble keeping my heels down.  As evidenced by me losing a stirrup cantering on a circle. :/  Still have some work to do in that area.

Wednesday - My trainer rode Cupid.  She said she rode in the afternoon, and Cupid was pretty good about not getting distracted but did whinny once or twice.  She jumped him over a little crossrail a few times, then went up to a vertical.  Cupid knocked the vertical the first time, then started jumping really big, and getting a little excited.  They went back down to the crossrail until Cupid relaxed again.  Also did some halts after jumps.  My trainer said Cupid's balance felt improved. 

Thursday - Lesson, and Cupid was having one of those days when he is just looking for excuses to spook at things!  Nothing major, just a jump sideways here and there at things he normally wouldn't react to.  As long as he's not getting quick I don't really get tense.  After we warmed up, my trainer took down a grid, so we just had a crossrail at the first element and three sets of standards afterwards.  We were to go through and halt.  The first time Cupid did a little spook after the jump, perhaps because of the disassembled jump on the side, but the halt was good.  We went through a few more times, than added a pole one stride from the jump.  Then the pole became a second crossrail.  We kept going through and halting after, but had some issues staying straight.  Sometimes the whole line was a bit bent, other times we were straighter coming through the grid but got crooked halting.  My trainer said I wasn't keeping my leg on and that's why Cupid got crooked when I ask for a halt. Then we added a pole at the 4th standard, which was 4 strides from the second crossrail (perhaps intended as a big 3).  I tried to make sure to sit up after the jump, and we got the 4 strides smoothly.  Then we made the final element a crossrail, with the halt after.  It was hard to halt before the rail after the last jump, we got right up to the mirror a few times!  My trainer asked me to halt after the 2nd jump, before the 3rd and that was kind of a disaster where I ended up pulling Cupid up next to the jump in a panicked moment when I wasn't sure if we were going to halt, jump over, or crash through.  So she changed it to a ground pole and gave me a few extra feet.  It was still hard, I could not do it straight.  But it did get Cupid listening to me on landing, and not rushing though.  We put the last jump back up and went through a few more times, and ended with Cupid going through very relaxed and halting after.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter week recap

My trainer was gone at an event, so Cupid and I were on our own.

Thursday - I rode in the covered arena with one of the trial dressage saddles.  Our primary focus was on straight lines and square turns, including some square cloverleafs.  I also tried to sneak in plenty of transitions between gaits, including halts.  We did a little canter work, starting on the left.  I tried shortening a little on the short sides and pushing a bit down the long sides.  Also worked in a few 20 meter circles on the ends of the arena.  We cut through the middle of the arena for a trot change, but took more trot steps than ideal.  I probably should have redone it, but I didn't.  We did the same shortening/lengthening and circles to the left.

Friday - My knee was hurting because I took a clumsy fall off a curb, so we just did an easy hack around the property.  At the walk I tried changing from a long rein back to contact.  In the arena sometimes when I let him take a break and walk on a long rein, he sometimes gets a little cranky when I take the contact back up (ie. get ready to go back to work), but he was good outside. 

Saturday - Another hack day, but we trotted a few slopes and also did a few transitions between walk and trot.  There was a lot of activity going on around the property (including an ambulance and fire truck, hope everyone was okay), but Cupid was good.  A tractor was dragging one of the pastures causing the horses in the pasture to stampede, and Cupid got a little excited and wanted to go join them, but I kept him walking and he settled back down once they were out of sight.

Sunday - Happy Easter!  No riding today.  Got a text from the barn manager that Cupid came in from turnout with a scratch, but nothing serious.

Monday - Back to the ring, trying the other saddle.  I was a little short on time, we did about half an hour of walk trot.  This time we worked on bending, weaving around the jumps in the arena doing different size circles, loops, and changes of directions.  We had a few nice moments where I could feel Cupid reaching into the bridle!  We also did a little stretchy trot.

Tuesday - Flatwork lesson.  Continued working on my position, effective aids, and proper use of the outside rein.  Did trot and canter moving between working and medium gaits.  Then did a little lateral work; leg yielding and shoulder fores at the trot.  Early in the lesson, when I was getting ready pick up our first trot in warm up, Cupid sensed it and started getting a little crooked and balky so I reminded him with the whip to pay attention.  He was very good after that.  Much better than me having to nag him the whole time!  My trainer commented on how much my position has been improving.  She didn't notice until after the lesson that I was riding in the other saddle, the one we previously thought might tip me forward.  I still have a ways to go but the progress is encouraging!

I'm not sure which saddle I like more, they both feel pretty good to me.  I think the blocks do help me lengthen my leg, but I don't want to be too reliant on them!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tale of Twos

I've come across a few interesting dichotomies my last few rides.  I had one ride where Cupid was being a little lazy.  Our walk to trot transitions were not very good, it took about 6 steps.  But he went back down to a walk right away.  Then a day later he was much more energized, and our walk to trot was pretty good but I was having a hard time getting back down to the walk.  I know I'm a big part of the problem; if he is being quick I pinch with my knees and thighs and then I can't really sit deep in the saddle to ask him to transition down.  And when he's lazy I just nag him with little nudges instead of asking more firmly once.  But I especially need to work on relaxing when he is more keyed up, because that's the version I'm going to get at a show!

Then I have two dressage saddles I'm trying.  With the first one it seems to put my upper body in a better position, and helps me not lean forward as much.  Which is great!  But the other one has knee blocks and helps my lower leg stretch down.  I think this was the first time my trainer ever told me I don't have to push my heels down quite so much!  But in this saddle my upper body was not as good. 

Today in our lesson we jumped for the first time in almost two months.  Just a tiny crossrail.  We started with poles on the ground, which I did in my ride yesterday as well to make sure Cupid didn't think it was too exciting.  When my trainer was setting up the crossrail she commented that Cupid's ears were perked, and he seemed to know what was coming and was happy about it.

We just did the one crossrail on a large circle; coming in at the trot, landing at the canter, then coming back to a trot before the fence.  We started off going to the right, and it was going well.  We had one where Cupid jumped it kind of long, then landed cross cantering.  I did a trot change to get him cantering correctly and we came around to do it again, and it was another long spot.  My trainer then noticed that the pole in front of the jump had rolled forward, and Cupid was just trying to figure out how to maneuver it without hitting the pole.  So she adjusted the pole back to the correct spot and we had two very nice jumps.

Then we switched directions and it wasn't quite so smooth.  Cupid got a little quick; I think I was worried about getting the left lead, plus we were going towards the gate, and it was a bit tighter turn so I think all that make me more anxious and lean forward.  So my trainer had me circle before the jump and make sure he was bent coming into the jump.  She said that when I was coming in on the right I was smiling, and on the left I just looked anxious.  So something for me to work on, being more relaxed.

I was very happy with Cupid, how good and relaxed he was after not jumping for so long.  (Even though the jump was tiny!)  He was also very cute when we were starting out we trotted over the poles, then picked up the canter halfway around the circle before coming back to a trot.  After doing it twice he figured out the exercise and I barely had to ask him for him to canter.  He was smart enough to figure it out, but still was listening and not trying to take over.
No new pictures so an outtake from his stir crazy stall rest days

Being weird and eating bark off the tree - is this bad for him?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Back to Work, Refreshed

Cupid's wound is almost completely healed, though he still has a bit of a lump.  I've been putting his back on track wraps on, hopefully that thermal heat might help.  He is back in regular turn out.  The pasture has finally dried, and he is happy to be out with his buddies.  I observed him a little the first day, but it was after a lesson so he wasn't too active.  But a few days later he did have a little kick mark on his flank, luckily it didn't seem to bother him.
So happy to be back out with his buddies!

Almost healed!
After my somewhat disastrous first ride trying out the saddle, Cupid has quickly focused and gotten back to work.  He has been light and forward, I think he is feeling pretty good!  My trainer thinks he seems to like the saddle.  I don't know if it's that or the month off, but I'll take it.

We have kept is relatively simple as we ease back to work, not starting anything new.  This is allowing me to focus more on myself as I try to get used to adopting the traditional dressage seat.  My upper body is getting better, but I still need to get out of the habit of nudging up with my heels instead of squeezing with my lower leg.  And on not relying on my inside rein. 

We are increasing our training a bit, adding some additional lessons and my trainer will be riding Cupid more.  As a very self-sufficient person I've thought a lot about this.  I am very proud of how far we've come up to now, but I've pretty much taught him everything I know, this is about as high as my riding education ever got, so her riding will help both of us progress to the next step.

I couldn't resist, since he destroyed his old fleece