Friday, August 9, 2013

How A Tree Falling On Your Fence Can Be Fun

Usually Not Fun

I was reading an article the other day, or maybe it was a book... I can't remember now.  Really, the format doesn't matter. It was talking about training upper level horses and it said the most important thing was to not forget to constantly go back to the basics because, without focusing on the basics, you'll just end up with automated "tricks".  So true.... but, so boring.  Flying changes and half passes are exciting, much more so than rhythm and relaxation and all.  But, rhythm and relaxation are essential for every ride, and especially essential when you ride a TB.  They are not renowned for their rhythm and relaxation skills!

I find I spend most of my ride getting Spider loose and swinging with seemingly endless transitions, leg yields and circles.  This does not make for exciting blog posts, but it is what the upper levels are made of.

Here's my words of wisdom for all of you out there aspiring to 4th Level and beyond: It's just like what you're doing now, but sometimes you get to do a few flying lead changes at the end.  Unless you somehow screwed up, then you have to go back to circles, transitions and leg yields.

I should totally be a motivational speaker, right?

It hasn't been all boring stuff over here, though.  Spider and I have added a fun new component to our exercise routine in the form of hill work.

Southern New Jersey has a serious hill deficit, but I do have one rather small hill in my front pasture.  This time of year, I usually have the horses in the front pasture, but last week nature conspired against me to bring down a rather large limb right into the pasture. (See above picture)  It's a Cherry, which can make horses sick, so I had to lock them out until we get it cut up.  And, since it's a Cherry, it has ridiculously hard wood that has dulled the chainsaw three times.  We still don't have the thing out of there.

Since we're not using that pasture for grazing right now, I've taken Spider out there a few times to work on the hill.

Usually I use raised cavaletti once a week or so to get Spider's butt under him and encourage him to shorten his strides and lift his legs.  It works well, but it really isn't as good as a nice hill.  Especially for the canter.  My hill is pretty big, so I can take up a 20m circle on one side and go both uphill and downhill on one circle. It's amazing how much his collection increases just from a few laps up and down that hill.

From the 20m circle on the hill, I can then go straight out onto the flat part of the field to play with flying changes and half passes.  Spider loves this, as it's a big open space, much bigger than the arena, and he feels like he can get really forward.  I just have to make sure he doesn't get too forward, since he tends to get strung out.  I also have to keep the flying changes in check.  Now that we're working on them again, he likes to throw them out all willy-nilly.  A nice little volte when I feel him getting amped up usually keeps this in check.   Although, I will freely admit that today I let him throw out changes as we cantered around the field and did not correct him.  Unless giggling like an idiot counts as a correction.

It was not good dressage training.  But it was pretty damn fun, and sometimes you just need to have fun.  I'll fix it tomorrow.


  1. sometimes fun is important too. :)

    1. Fun is the most important! If it isn't fun, why do it?

  2. Nice forward, correct flying changes are dressage training, no matter how they happen. Besides, if Spider thinks they are fun out there, he may well think they are fun in the arena.

    I always found that when you start really working on the tempis you start to get changes in many unexpected places. What you both have to relearn is how to stay on one lead or the other! *G*

    1. That is exactly what we're doing now, learning to stay on one or the other! I had a rather embarrassing moment in my last lesson where we couldn't decide which lead we should be on, and ended up on all the leads!

  3. Oh yes, no hills in SJ. I used to have access to a pasture with a couple slopes and it was so much fun to ride up and down. I agree that it made my horse learn to carry himself more. It also really forces you to acknowledge the outside aids or wheeeee. That was fun, too!

    Back to basics is so important. I have lost count of how many times we have put away the flying change. Someday we will nail it down, but for now it is fun in its carefree form, like Spider was doing. ;-)

    1. You do need outside aids on the hills, especially on an overly-enthusiastic Thoroughbred!

      Carefree changes are fun, if only there were a "carefree change" directive in the dressage tests! We would get 10s!


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