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 :-)


Friesianluv said...

Hi Vicky,

Its great to see you back on the 'scene', I find it fascinating as I'm out doing the same stuff with my friesian boy. Antsje is looking fabulous. I have the same 'onward bound' problems but instead of trying to contain him, which would result in a battle I would definitely lose, I let him go that bit more forward but do lots of voltes and serpentines and let the bending slow him. That way I win without pulling or exhausting myself. I certainly couldn't manage sitting trot for any length of time, kudos to you!
I don't know the answers to all your questions but there seems to be a common theme, 'contact'. When watching your video the thing that struck me was that your elbows were at your sides. Yes, I know that's where they are meant to be but I find it impossible to keep my elbows there whilst at the same time allowing my horse the freedom of his neck that he wants. In a few years time when he hopefully will come into a more advanced outline I imagine my elbows will be able to assume their rightful place by my sides. At the moment though I ride with arms virtually outstretched, I know that ain't right but I don't have any contact problems. Perhaps you could give it a go, surrender your elbows and see if it makes a difference.
My boy's right canter has eventually put in an appearance after two years of trying. There is nothing I can say to help you with this other than keep quietly persevering without making a big issue of it. Its infuriating but it will come of its own accord as long as worry and anxiety (hers) doesn't get into the mix.
The only thing I saw wrong with the walk on a free rein was that her head/neck could have stretched down and out more. In my last test, he did the walk on a free rein trying to scratch his face on his front legs for the whole movement. I am now thinking about how to indicate to him the appropriate time for scratching!
Keep up the good work.

Kate said...

First off - I am not a dressage rider, although I did eventing in my youth (a long time ago). Second, your horse is lovely! I have had experience with my mare on the contact/head position/hand and arm position that, looking at the video, seems to be at the heart of both your concerns and her way of going. You've got plenty of forward, which is a very good place to be. My mare Maisie used to be extremely fussy with her head and neck, and the bit - her head would be all over the place and I was never able to get consistent contact or engagement - she also wanted to rush forward. I attended a clinic with an amazing horseman who identified the issue as me - I was moving my hands around so much trying to find the right place that she could never rely on my hands to be consistent in their placement. When I concentrated on softly allowing the motion with appropriate movement in my shoulders and elbows, while keeping my hands as stable as possible, the problem almost instantly went away - she was able to accept contact and her way of going completely changed - because she could accept contact, she could relax her topline and engage her hindquarters. But I had to stop fussing with my hands. I think this relates as well to Friesianluv's comment about not restricting your elbows. I also use circles and serpentines to allow a horse that is rushing to rebalance, rather than pulling and creating a brace which just causes the horse to brace back and pull and rush more. Don't know if any of this makes sense or helps. Good luck!

Golden the Pony Girl said...

HI I Just found your blog- I hope you don't mind my 2 cents then. :) First off your ride reminds me so much of My horse and I! Save that your horse is a Frisian and mine is a draft pony! Big difference there. Please forgive me if you do not think this is a correct assessment but your mare seems very up and rushing and you seem a little stiff and clenchy as a response. I do the same thing. My trainer is always telling me to open up my shoulders and hands and really try and collect with my core muscles only. Like Friesianluv says Lots of direction changes and serpentines but try and lighten up with the hands and push her into the bit with your legs. How is she with leg pressure?
I think the judging was a little harsh. Your mare was obviously nervous and you handled it beautifully. If I was judging I would have given you high regards for your horsemanship. You guys look like an amazing team and maybe just need a little time to learn to relax during competition. I am really looking forward to following your blog now! Thanks for sharing and don't be discouraged you guys looked great!

HorseOfCourse said...

Hi Epona!
I just found your blog. As I am a dressage nerd myself, I took an instant liking ;)
What a gorgeous horse you have got!
As you asked for comments, I hope you excuse me if I put down some lines, even if your blog is new to me?
First of all, don’t despair!
At the base of the German training scale is:
1. Rhythm
2. Relaxation, and
3. Contact
Your horse moves very well with a good rhythm, but I believe you have problems with the second post on the list, which again gives problems with contact.
I took a quick look through some earlier posts. It seems to me that you are well aware of where the problem is, and that you also are doing a lot of correct work to try and solve it.
As she is tense over the back and in the poll, she is also difficult to sit on, so it is easy to get stuck in a negative spiral.
So what to do?
One of the dogmas in dressage riding is that you need to work the horse in a form that is the opposite of where he wants to work naturally.
As your horse wants to work in a high form, I would concentrate on working her round and low for a month, and keep the focus on relaxation. I know that you are aware of the danger of getting your horse on the forehand; but I believe that your horse is strong enough to keep the balance if you help her. Combine it with some flexion work to help her to get rid of the tension over the back and poll.
Give it a month. Be clear and consistent with her. She might find this work hard, so you might experience some evasions here. If she collapses in the downward transitions, don’t ride the transition but ride on again and make a new try.
Focus on keeping her relaxed (and concentrated) at all times.
If you get through with this, the other problems will also be solved. As the tension goes in the poll and back, a correct contact on the bit will come. She will move even better(!) and she will be much easier to sit on.
And you know, nothing beats another pair of eyes on the ground ;)

Jane said...


I’ll try to answer in order. But on the basis that I know you and A, my judging may be somewhat more biased than usual! Plus it wasn’t the best good angle or pic, but I’ll score it anyway! I’d have given you 6/7s for the first bit of trot – it’s not great when you sit, but she relaxes through much more when you rise. It was pretty calm and a very good rhythm.

The left canter would have had 5’s. Its not truly 3 time, and that comes from her tension and the tightness and height of her neck. She really desperately looks like she needs to canter for months long and out rather than up and in… and I know that’s what you are working towards, but you may have to allow her to go forwards more to do it.

I agree with what previous poster said about letting her go on more then using other things than your hands to get her to balance herself. My gut instinct is that it looks like you are trying to collect her to balance, but she is such a big horse she needs to balance in her own shape to start. And IMHO unless you are totally independent and can stop her from your core, any attempting to collect to rebalance her will mean you using your hands, thus shortening her neck more and tightening her back.

Walk, fell to walk from the canter, it’d probably be a 4 or 5.

Free walk, very active steps (good) but still tension, an attempt at stretch but not consistent, it would have been a 5.

Right canter, not performed, so anything from 0-3 depending on the judge. Marked higher if it had been corrected, but you didn’t show any.

Re fussy in mouth - your hands, esp the left were moving. I know this is due to you trying to absorb the movement, but it just can’t come out through your hands…. So the fact that your hands are moving is just a symptom of a problem in your core which needs fixing – just trying to sort your hands will never work. (Been there, done that, bought the teeshirt as you know!)

Also, you don’t look as balanced as you have done – your lower leg is more forward which means you can’t balance independently of her, and will have to use other things (eg hands) to do so.

So, in answer to the questions:

1. No, I definitely wouldn’t put a flash on. It’s a shared issue – she is unbalanced as she is fighting your hand, and is too tight and bouncy, and so your hands move (vicious circle). As you well know, PK etc like the horse to chew the bit, so you won’t get marked down as long as it isn’t resistant…. I’m afraid the only way to change this long term is to get you to the point that you can balance on her no matter what – THEN start teaching her to go better.

2. I wouldn’t send her away for training – I believe in you and you should too! Just to get the canters how they are there compared to how they used to be (non existant) is huge progress. I do feel that if you are considering sending her away for training then you should spend the money on giving yourself some lessons (without A if nec as this will take the stress out of it and you can concentrate on you). If you can find someone to ride her where you are who will ride how you want and you can oversee, then fine…. But I don’t believe you really want to go down that road….

To be continued...!

Jane said...

Continued waffle!

3. This is going to sound brutal, but IMHO you are complicating the issue. If you watch her trot/canter round in the field, she is balanced? Yes? Or she’d fall on her nose. So all you have to do for Prelim, and Novice for that matter, is have her in balance and self carriage – all this talk of engaging HQs and stuff is just clouding the issue. I would try to ride without hand or leg, and certainly not both at same time, and get her to go round in her own balance whilst you concentrate on yours… it seems to me that you are trying too hard to use dressage “tricks” to achieve what they aren’t going to achieve. I certainly feel from your writing that you are trying to use things that are beyond both of you at this moment in time… (and I know that sounds REALLY mean, but collection etc is STILL beyond me at the moment and I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you! I can just about half halt without changing my hands now, and it needs 100% concentration to do it!! Until we as riders are balanced and can truly control their footfalls from our body, we are just going to use our hands as tools (as we both have done) and therein lies the problem….)

And of course there are people out there who can just ride fantastically, but mainly they don’t know the tiny pieces of the jigsaw, they think they do “nothing” when they do lots, so they tell us to relax into the movement, when what we really need to do is strengthen on top of the movement! Etc etc.

“or should I let her lengthen her frame and loose the HQ's?” most definitely. This lady is not ready for “engaging” IMHO…. And that might be me being backward but I truly feel if you can fix you, A will be amazing without any work from you (apart from what you have to do to yourself!)

I can understand containing her to start – but as long as in your head you realise it is not improving her, it is just firefighting – your aim should be to get to the point where you don’t need to contain, she just will stay with you. Forget power etc for now, she has plenty, you can get that back anytime! And test riding is nearly always firefighting anyway because rider is more tense, horse feels it, different situation/atmosphere etc…. My test riding has come on soooo much since all I think about is my little mantras that I need to obey, and forget what he is doing.

Stop sitting the trot – again that’s just firefighting – you need to get balanced enough to rise and let the back swing – your sitting is too hard on both of you and achieves nothing at the mo (except anchorage, which is necessary sometimes I admit!) :-)

4. Walk – the actual stride length was good, but the tension and inconsistency would definitely let you down.

Overall, I’m going to be brutal again (sorry!) and agree with you - I do feel you are losing your way, I feel you are overanalysing everything and trying too hard. I feel you are MORE than capable mentally and physically of achieving your goals with A. You have both improved SOOOO much since I’ve known you, you are both a credit to YOU. When I first met you, I would have said you were a novice rider…. Now I would put you as an experienced rider, with many tools in her “skill” box, but just lacking the lid to keep it altogether! YOU have done that, and in the meantime you have also brought on a VERY complicated horse to become the amazing creature she is today. You should be incredibly proud of both of you!!

But to move on from here, the basic issue of your ability to balance on those MASSIVE paces needs fixing – without that keystone, you will forever be a fraught perfectionist!!

BUT – don’t give up, you are doing great…. I’m just feeling your frustration as I’ve been there and I want you to be able to ride your way out of it too!

Take care, and cut both of you some slack… with a little bit of help you pair will be unbelievably awesome….!

epona said...

Well!! Im SO grateful for all your comments and would like to thank Golden the Pony Girl and Horseofcourse for their interest and input :-D

You have all confirmed my worries that things are not quite right!

A couple of points of convo:

Is she balanced in the field? In trot yes, in canter getting better but initially it was scary to watch her and she has literally fell over on a number of occasions!

Relaxation – its hard! She can be quite an anxious horse, she tries too hard to please! As do I! So we can both end up a bit tight and rigid GAH!
Her answer to most questions is to rush, when she rushes she becomes unbalanced and ‘strung out’ and I am not strong enough to deal with this without the use of the reins, and by using the reins we shorten the neck and lock the back which is just what we don’t need. It is a re-occuring problem and im struggling to address it. Its all down to me of course – that much I DO know ;-)

Hind Quarters: The breed has a natural tendancy to trail the HQ’s, without some sort of engagement of the HQ’s she will never build up the correct strength to carry herself properly. Again, it comes down to her ‘staying with me’ through half halts to prevent her getting longer and falling on the forehand. I haven’t as yet found the best way to keep her with me without over use of the rein which then sets off our normal viscous circle **sigh**

On a good point, Jane is coming over on Thursday to give me some pointers!!! YAY!!!!!! A report will be forthcoming lol!!

epona said...

oh btw - the walk mark was a four. Maybe not too far off in retrospect, but I was quite surprised at the time!

Friesianluv said...

I agree with a lot of what Jane has to say. If what you have been doing in the past is not working, then why not try something different? There are many roads to Rome and if the one you are on is not working out, perhaps another route would be better.
If you can't slow her without using the reins and too much rein contact is making her tense then you need to look for another solution.
My boy is very forward and his answer to everything is 'more forward'. To be honest, I haven't given any thought to engagement of his quarters. I have concentrated in getting him to go forward on a nice contact in a good rythmn and to hell with everything else. I taught him a 'steadying' word and when he rushes I just keep turning him, using the steadying word until he slows down. The turns engage his quarters and he has to slow. I don't have to pull and its not tiring for me.
I take charge of the rythmn, pace and direction and he is responsible for carrying and balancing himself. I try not to interfere with his job and he is not permitted to dictate mine.
This 'method' is working for us, so far anyway. I hope you manage to find the key to her - it will be so worth the search, you just need to keep looking.