Wednesday, July 29, 2009

heat wave!

These last days, the Pacific Northwest have been having a pretty hot weather for the area, hitting close to a 100 degrees (Fake degrees, real degrees: 38-ish). The barn has been feeling like a sauna, everything is so hot.

Monday I did not have lesson, and when I came to the barn I decided it was too hot to ride. I wouldn't get anything useful done. Odin, I think, fully agreed with me. He was wet with sweat under his fly sheet, both is croup and chest were wet. I gave him a bath and took him grazing in the shade, nice and relaxing. No more fly sheet, have to deal with the flies.

Last night, Tuesday, I had a lesson. Odin was still a bit damp on the chest just standing around, yuck. We really need a good thunderstorm to get the humidity out of the air (but this is no Florida, but the heat is so unusual. Not like there are fans in the barns!). My whole lesson was in walk, we did turn on the haunches. Very interesting to work a whole lesson on medium-free walk transitions, collected walk and the turns. Took him a bit to be marching forward to the bit, but we got there. By the end L. said he had a foot overstep in the free walk. Nice feeling!

This morning, it was a bit cooler due to the time, so we could work on some more things, I was still sweating like crazy though.
I worked on getting his hind legs to track up and under and his back to come up, for Odin to be truly on the bit. Since we have been working on getting more forward without getting longer, L. called out that when I take my reins in one hand (to use my whip effectively - otherwise I end up nagging a lot), he gets above the bit, and pulls me forward. She then used this as an illustration of even if I have his neck curled up in front of me, both of us a leaning so much on the bit/reins, so he is not really together at all.
I then went on to have no stirrups, and a lot of forward, give hands forward, take reins in one hand, where Odin should stay on the bit and not rush forward and go downhill, and I should not balance on the reins and hunch forward as soon as I gave on them. Hard! But I did get a nice feeling of his back being up under me, more than I have had before. Nice to know what I am looking for. It helped doing it with no stirrups so my butt stayed in the saddle too...
It is a bit hard to get to that point, for now to make it happen I have to get Odin fired up a bit. He really doesn't want to do it, and usually I need a bit of an Odin tantrum before it gets there (kicking out, jumping up in canter or out in trot, jigging along...). Part of it is that we still need to figure out the communication, he needs to know what I want, then he can relax, I need to know how to ask for it. Part of it is just his personality, I am sure... Some times he acts like a 5 year old who doesn't want to go to bed when his parents tell him to!

happy to get some riding in, L. is training him the next two days, with what she can do in the heat.
At least I now Odin is drinking lots, and S. keeps filling their buckets. (Yay for having 100% confidence in the barn management!).

Monday, July 20, 2009


Since my last update we have been to 3 (!) shows. A one day show in May, and 2 3 day shows in June and July.

Last weekend we went to Dressage @ DevonWood, which is a huge show, with very experienced judges. DevonWood is just south of Portland, OR, and it is a very, very pretty facility. I was very impressed, the footing was impeccable too.

The shows were all fun, but we didn't get a lot of high scores. I did First level tests, which means I have to sit the trot, and this is really still a huge problem for me. When I have Odin forward enough (which is starting to happen), I just can't follow is trot. Lots of lunge lessons and no stirrup work to come, I suspect.

Just before this last show I had a lunge lessons where L. told me to feel like I am posting with my abs, even when sitting. Another thing she said was to feel like my body was dribbling basket ball. Both these things really help me to understand what I need to be doing, but it is really hard for me to do when trying to ride Odin too! I used to think if I just could relax my seat I would be good, but it is more than that.

I also need more experience for the whole showing thing, how to warm up, how to not be too nervous and tense. The first day I ride too stiff and braced usually, I don't dare to ride forward.

as always we are a work in progress!

This year, USDF removed the citizen requirement for the Regional finals, but we didn't manage to qualify. Still happy the requirement is gone. Maybe next year!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Half halts and balance

A few musings on the half halt from tonight's lesson.

We worked on my tests, and on balancing to do the movements. I realized I needed to do the following continuously:

Balance, forward, collect, forward, repeat.

Then I realized that this is the ‘balancing half-halt’ and the ‘collecting half-halt’. But it makes no sense trying to think of it as a half-halt. I have always thought, oh, I need to do a half-halt, and ended up just slowing Odin down, or tensing up my body. Tonight I didn’t think half-halt, I just thought, ‘I need to balance him and them push him forward’, or' ‘I need to collect before starting the stretchy circle’. I thought about what result I wanted from the half-halt, instead of just doing a half-halt.

It made me think that maybe the half-halt is a bad name? It feels more like ‘all the little things we do to make the horse do actual dressage’.

Or maybe it just is me that needs to think about it this way, but I now know I need to focus on the result of my actions; how do I want Odin to go? How do I get there?

Balance & showing

We are going the the first show of the year next weekend, a one-day show on Sunday. We are doing First level 1 and 2, it will be interesting to see how that goes. Since the schooling shows earlier got cancelled, this is the first show since I showed in August, so I am pretty excited/nervous.

First level means lengthenings, legyields, 12 m circles in canter, a halt, and of course sitting the trot. The last part is such a general problem for me, I still feel like I am bouncing around like crazy, or tightening up my whole body to keep my butt in the saddle. L. did tell me that she though Odin had a relatively big trot, and if I learn to sit that, I will be able to sit most horses trot. Not sure that makes me feel better…

Otherwise we have been training a lot of balance. Keeping Odin forward and balanced has been the idea, usually I can get one or the other. Every time he goes forward he wants to go on the forehand and pull me out of the saddle (see, the sitting thing is connected). We have been working on training him to this being unacceptable, but it is hard for me, since I have to stay in balance and help him being balanced, so that I don’t give the reins away either and let him stay on the forehand. I had a bad canter-trot transition where Odin slipped and feel to his knees (no one got hurt), so it really drove the point home about balance, so we have been working on this quite a bit.

When I get him balanced, the lengthenings and legyields are so much better, and actually possible. I did a nice canter lengthening in my lesson yesterday, where I really could feel him push from behind. The trick was to keep him balanced and together, then he could do it.

We have also been working on straightness, but mostly forward & straight, without thinking that much about balance. Doing all these things at once is hard, but they are all so connected.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What is new?

I got kindly reminded that I don't really update here anymore, and I should.
If nothing else, then to keep track of our progress for my own sake.

Well, March held 2 cancelled schooling shows due to snow (one of them we actually got up, loaded the horses, drove down there, turned around and went back. Not fun, but Odin got some trailer training - he rushes out of them, dangerous).

We have been working on forward and on the aids. Lately on shoulder-in and renvers, about how to get him between the aids, outside rein, inside leg. Usually it is either-or. I can get him forward, but he falls out. I pick up the outside rein, he stops moving. Sigh. I find it quite complicated, and Odin finds it hard.

Also, bits. I use a Myler bit on him, and I like it, Odin is not fuzzy about it, but it still doesn't give him a lot of opportunity to hang on it. However, they have squarish edges instead of round, and he had been getting a little rub from it on the side of his mouth. I changed back to regular 3-part snaffle, and it doesn't rub him, but he will totally ignore the bit. I think I might try some bit guards.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A whole new horse!

We put Odin back to work Monday, and the difference is amazing. He is much more willing to step under, to bend, to go forward. I feel bad we didn't do this 6 months ago! I think it is hard to pin point these things which progressively gets worse, you keep thinking that maybe he is just not ridden supple enough, maybe he is getting old, maybe, maybe, maybe! It was good to see him flexed and see that there was a problem, and we can now feel this is much better. I still have to keep an eye on the back to see if it still is sore (I find it hard to poke hard enough to see the soreness, though). L. also suggested that I should have him flexed a year from now, just too see if he might need another injection, as this sneaked up on us.

Another great thing, last night L. told me to not let him hang on the reins and not hold him together by force. She explained it in a new way, half-halt, forward, let go. Keep doing this until he stays forward and up in the half halts, without me holding him there. This really helped! He felt so much lighter last night and today when I did this. I think I hadn't gotten a good feel for a light contact while he stayed in balance before. The 'let go' is the important part to remember for me, but I need to also remember than he can't stay up if he isn't forward.
That is another thing, he needs to be more forward than I am used to when I do this. I think it is a better speed overall, but I really need to get used to it. I instinctively want to slow down :).

I think between the injection and the oats, I have a whole lot more horse, yay!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


The vet was there yesterday, and she flexed Odin's stifle, hock and fetlock. IT was clear that he was not 100% OK on the right, he wasn't limping on 3 legs, but not a clean flex.
NH (the vet) said that she would call the hock a '3', the fetlock a '1-2' and the stifle a '2'. She said he was 100% clean on the right.

She thought that the back pain and possibly the fetlock pain were secondary to the hock, the stifle might be too. She recommended that he got injected in the stifle and hock on the right, and I agreed to that. She did that last morning (I didn't stay to watch the sedation and needles - work & chicken), so now Odin has 5 days off. There is a small risk of infection (and joint infection would BAD), but she is a really experiences vet and has never seen complications doing the procedure.

We talked about doing the left as well, but as he looked clean, it might be better to try this first and then if we then see issues to the left, then we can consider it. In that way it is easier to pinpoint how effective the different things are (all it will cost is the farm call and sedation - and 5 days off).

he got injected in both hocks 1 1/2 years ago, and it was a big difference, so I am hoping for similar results.

It was interesting to see the flex test, and how she did the different joints. Odin was being really patient through the whole thing.