Saturday, 25 January 2014

Lesson [25.1.14]

Early mornings are made all the more worthwhile when you have pretty skies and a gorgeous face to see to! 

I finally got round to booking a lesson (only taken me 2 weeks!) and I'm so glad I did! We worked on me using my body more rather than just reins and legs and forgetting the rest as Pea is more of a negative thinking horse  (or as I refer him to -  a kid - gets bored easily so messes around!) and therefore I need to get him moving more forward so he stops thinking about going backwards and being naughty but without the negative reinforcement of using my reins and legs all the time! 

At first we worked on me using my seat to establish going forwards and stopping. Cathy explained that when we're moving forwards I need to sit nice and relaxed and move with him but ensure that he is going forwards so I had to use my leg a bit to keep the walk active as he tends to 'mooch' around and not walk actively but near the end of the exercise and the lesson he was being more active which meant I didn't have to use my leg as much! She then explained that when I want to stop, instead of applying pressure on the rein that I need to simply stop riding! At first, poor Pea didn't get what was going on and so ambled on a bit but I could tell he was thinking about it so I used very slight pressure on the rein to reinforce that I meant stop and after a few goes he was really starting to get it! 

We then moved onto trot and coming down to walk was the easy part! We trotted round and Cathy kept shouting at me to get him more forward and keep him moving and I think I have gotten so used to his trot that it seemed crazy to get him more forward and I think Pea questioned it a bit as well as he had a few stops and tantrums but he would also go into canter willingly which Cathy commented on saying that he's happy to canter and picked up correct canter lead each time he did it, he just needs to learn to be more free and I need to ride more like a blanket, as in that I relax and go with him rather than tensing and expecting the worst or putting pressure on which makes him start to think backwards. 
His "I've not been given breakfast and you want me to work?" face!

After this, we then worked on 'weight aids'. No idea what these are? No I didn't think I did at first until she explained them, then I realised that I had an idea of what she was explaining, I had just never put a load of thought into it, nor had I heard them being called as 'weight aids'. Basically, it is using your seat to turn. So when you want to go to the right, you put all your weight into your right heel , lifting your right hip slightly (I think...). Cathy explained it as when you go ice-skating or roller-skating. So, as you go to move, you push your right leg forward which lifts your right hip and bum as your left hip moves back and bum cheek goes down (yes, I have just pretended to ice-skate around the room to figure this out and remind myself! Feel free to try it out yourself!). 

We tried this out a few times in walk before moving into trot. I actually found it easier in trot as I think in walk you have more time to think about it and are also more likely to use the rein! However, I soon got the hang of it though I think more works needs to be carried out in order to be able to do it without thinking so much about it! 

We then spent the last 10 minutes or so of the lesson looking at his canter. Cathy noticed that on the left rein, which is his better rein, I sit much more relaxed and just go with him so I need to work on this a bit more on the right rein (though it was a bit hard with him trying to buck every now and then in a strop) and instead of using my spur/heel to push him forwards to use the top of my calf - another thing to think about! She asked what he's like cantering out hacking and I told her that he's happy to canter out hacking and moves forward easily and I don't have to use my leg as much so she thinks it's slightly more that he associates the arena as a slightly more bad place and so switches to his backward brain. I also mentioned that out hacking I tend to get off his back more for canter where as in the arena I sit in the saddle so she has suggest that out hacking, once he is moving forward in the canter that I sit in the saddle to help him associate better and that in the arena if he's working well (i.e. not in a strop thinking about bucking me off) then getting off his back for a few strides so that he opens up more. 

Overall, I need to ensure that I keep his work entertaining and fun for him so playing around the arena just letting him go and also doing more pole work which he enjoys. I'm also going to study more top riders and evaluate how they use their body and how it helps the horses to move better! Poor Pea hasn't had to endure an hour lesson before though, however it didn't feel like an hour and we had regular breaks so he continued to work quite well. I'm feeling more positive after this lesson so hopefully we're finally heading in the right direction! 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014!

2013 seems to have flown by so fast! It seems to weird to be in 2014 already, and no doubt there will be moments that I forget we're in 2014 and say 2013 instead! 

2013, as with most years, has been one with ups and downs. Pea's schooling seems to have come on in some regards, but the canter has been our biggest issue that we still haven't resolved but hopefully we are slowly chipping away at it! It can be quite disheartening to think I am still having issues with his canter and cannot do a simple, nice canter around the arena like most people, however I am hopeful that with him regularly having chiro treatments and the help of my new instructor we may finally be able to crack it this year! 

During 2013 I had aims of:

  • competing in Intro and Prelim UK Riders Final
  • Riding at Novice level and hopefully doing a test
  • Hiring arenas for jumping and getting more confident
  • Doing a jump cross lesson and taking him out cross-country again
Unfortunately I have not necessarily been able to complete any of these. We did not go to any venues that did UK Riders qualifying tests as we mainly went to Houghton Hall at the beginning of the year and instead qualified for second round Trailblazers again for 2014 so we have that to look forward to. We also qualified at the Houghton Hall Winter
Championships where he came third so I was happy with that. As for the novice dressage test, with his canter issues we obviously haven't been able to do this although we have occasionally had the odd go at one or two novice level movements whilst schooling. I have been unable to get out and hire and jumps, though we have a great set at home as the yard purchased a new set with fillers that we can use all year, rather than the Academy ones which are only used for mentoring and competitions (I am no longer a member). We have increased our confidence and managed to jump some bigger fences every now and then up to 2ft6 and are slowly getting over our filler fear, however I have not jumped as much as I used to so still a lot to work on! As for the jump cross lesson and cross-country schooling, I realised this year that I need a new body protector as mine has been stuck in a box for a few years and now is all bent and I doubt it fits any more! I may purchase a new one at some point, but for now I don't feel the need for one and do not have the funds to afford one. 

This now brings me onto my aims for 2014 which are quite relaxed:
  • really get his canter sorted and be able to do some nice Prelim tests without losing marks for his canter
  • try to jump more regularly
  • volunteer more
  • get fitter
2014 is a big year for me, with many things happening such as my dissertation, graduating university, hopefully getting a career job, my sister is getting married and it is my 21st! Plus various other family big birthdays and anniversaries! I would like to try and jump more regularly as I only seem to pop over a fence every few months, and yet show-jumping used to be my favourite and is what I wanted to do before. I would like to volunteer more at events, as Equestrian Event Management is what I am hoping to be able to get into once I graduate University. During 2013 I did not get round to doing as much volunteering as I would have liked due to work and university, although I did get to spend a week at Blenheim which I loved! Therefore, this year I am hoping to be able to volunteer more such as doing some dressage writing, more fence judging and anything else! I would also like to get a lot fitter for riding. I used to run when I was younger, and keep picking it up every few months only to stop again after a few weeks due to leg pain, so if anyone has any ideas on how I can get fitter then they would be greatly appreciated!

Hope everyone has a lovely 2014!
Thanks for reading, 
Laura & Pea x