Friday, March 2, 2012

Gearing Up...

With the weather we've been having lately I've been feeling quite motivated, and so I've put myself and Spider into "Spring Training".  Show season will be upon us soon and, while I don't really have a plan for that, I do need to get working on some things so that we don't look like complete yokels when I do finally get my act together and show.  So, with that in mind I've stepped up the intensity of our rides.

I've also done some contemplation:  What do we need to accomplish our goals?  Well, I want to get through 3rd level this year.  Which means I really need to be schooling 4th level at home.  But what does that mean?  Honestly, I have no idea.....

Spider and I are really sailing into uncharted waters here, the type that you see on old maps with the label "Here there be dragons".  Dragons indeed.  My dragons are named "Collection" and "Lateral Work".

Image courtesy of USDF

Now, Spider can do the lateral work, and he can be collected.  But, we seem to really be having a problem doing those things at the same time.  It seems that when I ask for more collection, I lose my elasticity and suppleness.  Which is a bit of a problem, as you can see from that training scale up there. The training scale builds on itself, you need suppleness in order to gain true collection.  You need suppleness to do pretty much everything, actually.  I could spend an entire paragraph (maybe two) talking about the problem and why we're having it, but that would be boring.  So, here's what I've been doing to fix it:

Suppleness Exercise 1:  10 meter figure eights, at trot, in shoulder-in.  I mean an exaggerated shoulder-in!  Four tracks!  I hate this exercise, because it's hard.  But it does wonders for Spider's suppleness and for my aids.  It forces me to very conscious of my outside aids to keep Spider from falling out with his outside shoulder, and helps him to shift his weight back onto his haunches and release his shoulders.

Suppleness Exercise 2:  Changes of canter lead on a circle.  This is a fun one!  Spider and I both enjoy it quite a bit.  I take up a circle of any size (a bigger circle is better when you're just starting out)  and ask for the "correct" canter lead, then I bring the horse back to trot and ask for counter canter.  Rinse and repeat.  I started this exercise on a large circle (bigger than 20 meters) and with as many strides at each gait as I needed to get good transitions.  As we've worked on it, Spider and I have gotten it down to a 20 meter circle and only a few strides of each gait!  The lead changes really do wonders for his suppleness.  We're now working towards being able to do canter-walk transitions instead of canter-trot.  I've found this exercise to be really good for getting Spider supple and energized.  His energy and enthusiasm are actually the reasons we haven't been been able to do it with canter-walk transitions yet!  We'll get there.  He just needs to build a little more strength to handle all that energy and enthusiasm.

These exercises are just the beginning, I'm sure.  As we do more, we'll find new problems and build new exercises to get past our problems.  That's the fun in training a horse, I think:  No matter what you're doing, it is only the beginning.


  1. Don't go for too much collection in the lateral work as you do not want to lose "forward." Think of it as kind of gliding over...

    4th level needs trot and canter half pass, and solid flying changes. Extended trot and canter, as well as mediums. Canter and walk pirouette.

    I think you already have a flying change, as I recall? From his jumper days? They show up in 3rd level now--used to wait for 4th.

    Sounds like some good suppling exercises to to me. My trainer used to have me start trot leg yield up the center line to the right, then switch for a few steps to the left, then back to the right. Got the horse more off my leg and suppled his hind end.

    Not sure if it's still in 3rd level, but there was a great movement up the long side. Start in shoulder in, at B or E, circle 10 meters and continue on in haunches in. Or conversely, start in haunches in and circle and finish the side in shoulder in.

    Spiral in and spiral out on a 20 meter circle down to an 8 meter volte is another good one.

    Glad to hear you have your motivation back. Sounds as if Spider is enjoying the program too!

  2. Great post! Your motivation is inspiring!

  3. I love the idea of the circle exercise - I'll have to try it next time I ride. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great motivation post, it must be Spring.

    I find very interesting your exercises especially the canter one (teh second one).

    I am just wondering what you expect to feel at the beginning and how Spider should progress?

    With Teena now that we have FINALLY solved the saddle issue, I am working on what I feel and the progress on teh feel as she doe sthe exercise better.

    I am working on being more touchy feely than analytic ^-^

  5. First let me say I love your spam threats. Since I turned off WV I've been getting about 10 a day.

    You are so much more advanced than I am in the dressage arena and with the exercises I haven't much to add that could possibly be of any use. Except, I think you have a good plan and I'm sure you and Spider will be fine when you go to a show.

  6. I second GHM's comment. Glad you are feeling inspired. :)

    Woe be to spammers!

  7. That second exercise sounds like fun!! Glad you are feeling motivated, it is hard to stay that way in the winter time.


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