Sunday, 28 June 2009

Prelim 18.................

First the video!!! Watch and it see what you think! and then answer my countless questions at the end! hahahaha!!!!

Well not quite sure how I feel about today!!
we were weak in all the areas I already knew, but I feel I achieved my goal, which was to get out there again, get our confidence back and to get a 'benchmark' of where we are.

Antsje was fairly attentive today, and although I could tell at times she was desparate to go into full friesian alert ie, head up, ear up my nose and pogo stick trot, she did really try hard to listen but the upshot was she wasnt quite relaxed enough, and I felt she could have been a little more forwards into the bridle than she was. Canter was interesting!! Not too bad onthe left! but picked up incorrect lead on the right :-( But on the whole I didnt think it was awful.

I was dissapointed with our score though - 56.67% We had a lot of 6's and 7's and one 8! but 3's for right canter which took the score down. I was also a bit dissapointed by the free walk mark but id like people to have a look at the video and out of interest see what your score would have been? Maybe Im not seeing things correctly??

The main comment was Antsje acceptance of the bit - we had not happy in the mouth and fussy in the mouth a few times :-(

So Questions..........................

1. Antsje has ALWAYS been very mouthy! doesnt matter what bit, or what kind of contact, she will fuss even on a loose rein. She was like this when I bought her and Ive never really been able to solve it fully. Some of it is how she shows anxiety, some of it is because she runs into my hands, some of it is because my hands / seat connection is not yet fully independant particularly when antsje is being resistant. So! what do I do? Put her back in the flash? Live with it? I dont know how I feel - obviously the flash has done no long term improvement as she is just as bad now as she was before.

2. The canter - I am loosing faith of my ability to crack the canter esp the right lead. Im never quite sure if she is coming up correctly and cant seem to influence this at all! Should I just give in and send her away for training? though god knows how I can afford this! but I do worry about who to send her too!! Is there ANY improvement there? PLEASE be honest ;-)

3. Another contact question, but more the working forwards into the hand - im sure the issues of Q no 1 has a bearing on this problem, but Im worried im loosing my way!! I have a seesaw problem - Antsje WILL stretch into a longer frame and work more forward into the bridle but in my opinion she easily becomes on the forehand and looses the engagement of the HQ's and it shows in downwards trans as she collapses into them as she is not properly engaged behind. When I collect her up a little, then we have beeter engagement, better upward and esp downward trans, but she is always prob about an inch shorter through the neck than I would like.

So, should I continue to work on the engagement and hope the forward into the bridle will come, or should I let her lengthen her frame and loose the HQ's? This is primarily test riding im talking about as I do work both ways when schooling - contained to start, and stretching to finish. I realise it might have helped her stretch forwards if I rose all the time - BUT - I do find it easier to contain her by using my seat in sitting trot - she may not look it, but she is very onward bound, and once she gets 'tramming' then you are DOOMED to forward and straight and handbrake turns lol!!
4. Free walk - what was so wrong about it? yes, I do realise she could be a bit more consistant, but was it sooo bad??
So - am I loosing my way? I am missing some instruction and I havent had a lesson now for 6 months!! Plus we have only been back to it in earnest for the last few weeks as we only moved to this yard mid May. We really wernt as ready as we could have been, but its easy to get stuck in 'never readiness' or at least it is for me!! Fraught perfectionist and all that hahahaha!!!

I do often wonder if ive bitten off more than I can chew with Antsje - or at least with the available recources I have to spare namely time and money. I KNOW part of my personality keeps battling with things long after I should have let it go - more then a couple of times to my detriment!! So I do worry that this is a similar situation. I know I shouldnt compare, but I look at people and see them improve and progress and I am genuinely thrilled for them - but I also feel frustrated that my own progress seems so goddam slow!! Patience is not a strongpoint of mine lol!! So, bearing in mind my limited rescources - am I fighting a loosing battle here? Am I improving at all????? Is Antsje Improving???? Or am I just fumbling about in the dark going round in ever decreasing circles? ****sigh****

Dont panic people - Im not in a real 'down;' about it! A little dissapointed yes! but Im more philosophical than fed up, just musings of my mind!! Lucky for me, I am blessed with the personality of a weeble!! I might have a wobble, but never fall down completely lol!!! So please - honest opinions would be very much appreciated ;-)
I look forwards to your comments :-)

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Catching up!!

Phew!! Time flies when your having fun!!

We have had some really nice moments this last week or so and Antsje is becoming far more attentive to me and my seat is definately getting better ;-) No where near perfect mind!!! BUT at times, when we are together, I am most definately being able to influence her with my seat which has got to be good!!!

So, we have been pretty much been working on the same issues as before, both in hand and ridden - and that is Antsje 'being with me'. I am testing this by the use of continual transitions, changes within the gait and school figures. It is very interesting that when you have to perform movements at required times such as in a dressage test, just how much you realise whether you are together or not ;-) And it is hard work physically and mentally for both horse and rider to remain in balance with each other for continued periods of time!!

I am concentrating very much on the quality of downward transitions, and it seems that if I am constantly mindful of if I could perform a crisp balanced downward transition at any point in time, THIS is what being in balance is all about!! Im lucky in that I dont have a problem with forwards per se, other than Antsje using it as an evasion!! *****rolls eyes**** So I can focus on Antsje 'waiting' for me and using reinback and downward transitions to prevent her from 'tramming' without having to worry about loosing impulsion ;-)

I have also been working on the canter!! When I am compeltely and utterly focussed I can get the most beautiful upward transition on the left rein, and not too bad a downward one although I have to be very strong in my core to do this.
I have made a mini breakthrough on the right rein canter inthat I can tell now if we have come up on the wrong lead, and I am getting better at getting her to strike off on the correct lead if not first time, on the second attempt. The right canter is still quite unbalanced, but it is coming, slowly but surely :-)

At the end of the sessions I have been asking her to stretch down into the rein in trot to really get her back swinging and loose after working in a more contained manner. Iam pleased with this as she is begining to be able to do this without loosing her balance and getting faster and plunging onto her forehand. I am also becoming stronger with my position and can influence the trot with my rising better so it means I rely less on the rein which keeps her stretching forwards :-)

I have no idea how things will go tommorrow in our dressage test! we are doing Prelim 18 and if we both can get into the zone and dont become distracted by the whole show atmosphere then I think we have the potential of producing a nice test! Of course, if we both get into 'rabbit in the headlights' mode, then we are doomed hahahaha!!!!

Half of me is crapping myself as I know we are far from perfect!! The other half is relishing the challenge of 'test riding' as it is a whole discapline in itself! Being able to get into that mental state where everything else becomes purely background noise and you are completely in the moment with each and every stride is the most FANTASTIC feeling EVER!!!

So wish us luck!! And as a bonus, Amy is coming to video me!! YAY!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Its all in the mind....................

Hers and mine!! Focus and calm.............Focus and calm.............

Another couple of good sessions!

Saturday we rode in the outside school as there was lessons in the indoor – there was also a lesson in the outdoor!! But it was a good opportunity to work on Antsje’s focus as we had a double whammy of outdoor school and lots of horses!!!

In fairness, on the whole she worked well. We did similar exercises as I have been working on in hand to get her attention on me and my seat aids. This consisted of balanced and submissive walk / halt transitions then moving onto walk / reinback / walk / halt transitions. She was very ‘sticky’ in reinback on the right rein to start with, but one great thing about reinback I have found is that it really does seem to unblock her and release her back and neck after a few goes. We then moved onto Shoulder-in in walk and really focussed on getting the postioning from my seat. If she started rushing, we were back to the walk / halt / reinback transitions which now we have been using for a few weeks seem to serve as a good cue for her re-focussing on me.
By the time we had done all this, she felt really nice and loose and supple and we moved up to trot. I am still concentrating on walk / trot / walk and then halt / trot / halt transitions. She has NEVER had any problems trotting round and round so I don’t think this work is going to cause any problems with her forward thinking lol!! But what I hope it will achieve is better balance and better focus on my seat aids, which has always been a bugbear of mine. I really do think that downward transitions are a real indication of engagement and balance, moreso than upward transitions! Antsje is actually quite good at soft balanced upward transitions now, but it is interesting for me to realise that she looses this balance quite quickly once in trot, and when I ask her to come back down to walk, she is not sufficiently balanced / engaged / on my aids to make a nice soft transition and often collapses into walk – as do I!! **blush** so I must also be sufficiently balanced / engaged / and ‘with her’ when making a downward transition.
This was very apparent in the work as when we were on a circle and doing lots of quick transitions, my seat was better, and Antsjes balance and engagaemnt was better – but as soon as we came off the circle and rode the long side, I could feel her start to ‘tram’ again and I lost that lovely feeling of ‘togetherness’ as we became out of sync with our tempo. I am almost positive it is mainly a strength issue and that she is just not ‘there’ yet on straight lines and she misses the support of the circle. I do also think she looses ‘focus’ mentally on a straight line too and becomes more ‘gawpy’ and we get moment of the Friesian Full Alert high neck / tense back / pogo steps lol!! Still I do think it is crucial to keep mixing the two together and keep extending the length of ‘straight’ line she can do without loosing the balance / focus.

This morning we did in-hand work in the indoor school and she is really ‘getting’ the focus work now. We only had one ‘walk through me halt’ and it was the first one we did. After a quick reprimand and backing up, she was perfect for the rest of the session. Her reinbacks were also a lot less resistant right from the start although they can still be a bit faltering and not diagonal at times. Im wondering how do I encourage diagonal movement in reinback or will it just improve the stronger and more confident she gets? I will have to do a bit of reading and see what I come up with! So after the same walk /halt / reinback transitions we did some girivolta work and the leg yielding to the long side and then shoulder-in up the long side, into a circle and giravolta again on both reins. She is getting much better at staying with me through all of this now, and I with her. I can now feel the beginnings of the ‘rushing’ before we actually get it and can therefore rebalance before she gets to the point of ‘lala land’ hahahaha!

We then finished with a little bit of lunging work with very short transitions between walk / trot / canter. I was very pleased with this as her reactions on the downward transitions were very good, particularly the trot to walk. After she had cantered a few times I had to get her to re-focus again on trot to walk but it only took a couple of attempts for her to become calm again which was very good considering how exciting she finds canter!!

So I am feeling quite positive about the progress at the moment. Yes, we have a LOT to do, and we are still doing such very basic stuff – but until this is completely confirmed, I know from experience there is little point of doing anything else ;-)

I am now thinking it might be a good idea to do this ‘in – hand’ focussing work in the outdoor school. I wonder how much of it is the indoor school ‘confinement’ and how much of it is her now being mentally in the zone when she works in here. It will be interesting to find out.

Friday, 12 June 2009

When she is good.................

She is VERY VERY good!!!

Had a couple of really good sessions with Antsje this week after completely loosing my patience with her at the begining of the week!

I always feel really horrible when we fall out, but it seems to have done the trick as she has come back from LALA land and is far more attentive to me both on the ground and ridden.

She has this habit of just rushing straight through you, whether it be on the ground or through your aids when ridden. Some of it is due to her being anxious and some of it is an evasion from working properly. The trouble is she is such a powerful horse it is hard not to get taken over by her! So after her keep rushing ahead in hand on Tuesday, I really got quite insistent with her that she listen and do as she was told and quit ignoring me!!
We did lots of backing up, walking, halting , and if she didn’t halt as soon as she was asked, we backed up and repeated the process again…………….and again……………and again!!!
We also worked very hard on stepping over with the HQ’s in Giravolta and Shoulder-in in walk so when I asked her to move over I got an INSTANT reaction.
Sometimes she can seem so DULL to the aids, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms to her ‘rushy’ behaviour, but even the rushing is dull to the aids as she just isn’t listening!

At the end, I could walk round the school and when I stopped, she stopped IMMEDIATELY and not because she had come to the end of the leadrope lol! So after a frustrating session we ended on a good note.

Last night I rode in the indoor school. Whether it’s the apparent confinement of the indoor or not, but she does seem to focus much better in here than the larger outdoor school where she seems to get very onward bound!!
We carried on the groundwork techniques to the ridden work and did lots of walk / halt / reinback work to get her listening to me. We then progressed onto lateral work in the walk to get her really listening to the aids and bent around my inside leg.

Then we did some trot work concentrating on transitions. She can fool you with the trot and you can think she is working well, but try and make a downward transition and you can see she is not really ‘on the aids’ but doing a controlled ‘tramming’ along! Working on just a few strides of trot and then making a transition to walk and then moving on to trot halt trot trans really worked wonders! I was really pleased with the work and she felt VERY good and very strong and balanced.

Then this morning we did in hand work again, confirming what we did the last two sessions and she was FAB!! Really tuned in and halting when I did, and moving away laterally from just my body positioning. Was a nice short and sweet session as she worked hard last night.
Got to keep up with this work now until it becomes second nature – we both need to sharpen up a little and become more reactive to each other. I have a BIG smile on my face today – she feels AWESOME when she is working nicely :-)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Feeling Brave................

28th June 2009!!!

I have decided.....................I am going to do Prelim 18 ***gasp*** A nice way of getting me a benchmark and some feedback! and im telling you lot so I dont wimp out lol!! I havent done a comp now for nearly a year and Im finding it too easy to make excuses not to do one - so that means its time for me to get out of my comfort zone ARRRGGHHHH!!!!

So I better get practising lol!!!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Annnnnd we're OFF!! Again!!

So off we go again, on my journey to be a better rider and trainer to my long suffering horse!!

We have done so very little since we left our Full Livery yard down to the winter / no facilities / personal crap! all getting in the way. So really, I am just starting again ****GROAN**** to re-establish all we learnt last year and to get us both back to riding fitness.

Despite this major setback, Antsje feels **very** well indeed - to bloody well sometimes lol! And we are back to her 'focussing' on me in the moment rather than her mind and her body being a million miles in front of what Im asking her to do! She finds this hard - I find it frustrating, we are both going to have to find a balance between this chasm that lays before us and I MUST HAVE PATIENCE!!! ARGH!!!!
So we are doing very basic stuff, lateral work to start to get her submissive to the inside bend and to become more 'in hand'. Then moving up into trot and doing lots of transitions and changes of rein whislt remaining IN BALANCE and also plenty of stretching work over the back and through the neck while remaining in the SAME Rhythm! Hmmmmmmm - that is more difficult - how she LOVES to T-R-O-T! And how hard I have to work at my OWN balance to help her keep hers! I ought to have a 66 pack by now lol!

I MISS my lessons! I really could do with some eyes on the ground, but for now I'll have to content myself to bumbling along on my own! I hope to persuade someone to do some video for me so I can try and have a look whats going on and work on things that way until I can afford some lessons again. Of course, I will be relying on critique from my trusted followers to keep me on the straight (Sheeesh!) and narrow lol!

Now I have a school again I hope to make much more regular deposits onto my blog!! Hope you all havent nodded off!! - *****pokes you all with a big stick*****

Theres no place like (a new) home......

So a couple of weeks ago we moved to HIGHCROSS EQUESTRIAN CENTRE which is a livery yard / riding school / unaffilliated competition centre. We have settled in really well and I cant tell you how much I am enjoying having facilities again!! YAY!!!!!

The horses on their first time 'out'

Ch Ch Ch Changes.....................

Kinda sums up this year so far!!

Havent really had the energy or inclination to blog recently, but things are starting to settle and I am getting the 'urge' again to get back on track...............or 20m circle lol!

So after a painful 2008 and having to make some very hard decisions, I am now back in control of my destiny Mwwwaaaaaaaa Haaaaaa haaaaaaaaaaa!!!!

So what have I been up to you ask? Well now Im a single gal, I've had to make some drastic changes in the name of survival. The last and hardest one was letting Barney go :-( Waaaaaaaaa!!! BUT! He has gone to such a fantastic home to be a Happy Hacker to the end of his days, I cannot help but feel happy for him and his situation - which makes my pain bearable ;-)

I have also decided to move Antsje to a 'competition' yard allowing me to sell my 4x4 and trailer and therefore reducing my overheads significantly and still being able to do the odd dressage competition :-) Plus the facilities are to DIE for! Indoor and outdoor school, XC course, on-site comps for jumping / dressage and eventing (YeeeeeHaaaaaaaa!)

Of course, Antsje has a new Fan Club - how can resist her 'regal' looks as she prances around her field making sure everyone notices hahahaha!! She likes to help me make friends easily and she is a very good talking point **rolls eyes** although most think 'she' is a 'he' lol!

I am still DIY but the yard offers Livery as and when you need it, just great for when you go on holiday...................

And going on holiday we SHALL!!! As I have just booked a week away in Menorca for me and the kids. I think we all deserve a break and a big treat for getting through this last 12-18 months. I have to admit, I am SO looking forward to a rest - I have been running on pure adrenelin now for too long and im feeling a bit frazzled now most of my 'To Do's' are done!

All I can say is thank god for family and friends who have been a source of constant support :-)xxxxxxx