Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In which I remember how hard circles are OR in which I remember why I prefer hunters over dressage

So, I started dressage lessons two weekends with Scottie.  As I mentioned before, I really want to start Scottie right, and dressage is the discipline that handles the correct bending, contact, and all that jazz.  I was fortunate growing up that both of my trainers emphasized a solid dressage foundation for jumping.  Both of them made me learn basic leg yielding/pressure, how to collect, correct circling, aids/cues, etc.  However, the fun part was obviously JUMPING, so as time went on, I tended to remember a lot about the jumping, and not so much about my flat work.  Fortunately, since I started with a good foundation from a young age, some of these skills stuck with me from muscle memory even when my brain wanted to forget :)

For my first lesson, I wanted to work on correct amount of contact, and correct bending both ways around the circle.  As with most OTTBs, Scottie can ride a straight line really well, but struggles on the turns. 

To the left (counterclockwise, opposite trackways), Scottie likes to lock her neck/jaw slightly to the inside and DIVE to the inside on her shoulder.  To the right (clockwise, trackways), she is a little better, but had a massive bulging problem in the last 1/4 of a circle.  ENTER DRESSAGE.

The first thing my new dressage trainer had me do was work on some turning on the forehand exercises so that the hind end and front end start working independently of each other.  The main purpose of this exercise to get the horse moving off your leg reliably.  It is also a good exercise for the rider to start paying attention using CLEAR cues for independent actions. At this point, we are working on just one step, not a complete 180 or 360.  At first, Scottie did not understand what I wanted, but she is getting better.  The reason I like this exercise is because its very easy to include while warming up, in between trotting or cantering work as a break, or even out on a hack/trail. 


It is amazing how difficult making a circle while on horseback can be.  It seems simple.  Turn the horse in the direction you want to go.  I had forgotten how difficult riding a correct circle can be. 

Going to the left is much harder for me than going to the right.  Going to the right was improved pretty quickly by simply solidifying my outside cues (outside rein/leg).  Going to the left is getting better now that I have worked on it a few days, but is MUCH harder.  Scottie really likes to lock that jaw and dive to the inside shoulder, so we can make it about 1/2 way around and then I really have to work on pushing her over with my inside leg, and making sure that I use my inside rein to "bend" her to the inside instead of having her locked to the inside (without dropping my outside rein....and blah blah blah... I could make this the world's longest runon sentance!!)

There is a reason that I am not a dressage trainer/rider.  As you can probably tell from my post, I have a hard time articulating the discipline.  However, the lesson was helpful because when I am on the horse, I can tell when I am doing it correctly, because Scottie really does soften and bend much better.

It will take a while to get her totally supple/bending, mostly due to my bad work schedule and really only consistently being able to ride her 3 days a week.  However, as it is staying lighter later, I am being able to fit in a few workouts during the week. 

Until next time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



Posting as a courtesy for elderly couple who need help placing.  PM me for contact information.  While her owners want her to find a loving home, they did state that they can no longer care for her, and she will go to auction if a home cannot be found.

Mare is "Missionofthenight" due to foal soon.  Her bloodlines include Danzig!  She broke her maiden in a MSW in an impressive 1:11 for 6 furlongs.  She raced at Evangeline and New Orleans Fairgrounds.  The foal would be eligible to be a registered La bred.

In foal to Smart Sherif (AP Indy horse).  His foals are known locally to be very correct and athletic.


My local contact is getting pictures ASAP.

I posting this on this blog because you just never know who is out there googling thoroughbreds :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Update: April 15, 2014

Scottie and FM got the week off. 

I did this for a week:

And this is what they did for a week:

 FM on the left, Scottie on the right

(YES, it is extremely muddy and gross in their turnout.  It's spring in Louisiana... I don't know what to say!  Can't wait for it to dry out!)

Prior to spring break, I had started cantering Scottie.  I had waited for a long time before cantering her under saddle because 1) she really wasn't fit and I wanted to build some stamina, 2) I wanted her knee to heal a little more, and 3) honestly, I can be a little bit of a chickensh*t. 

The first time I cantered her, I really just kind of cowboy kicked her into it.  She is pretty mellow and just kind of trotted faster and faster until I kicked her.  Once she realized what I wanted, she was totally fine.  She didn't offer to buck or anything goofy.   She couldn't carry herself (and me) around the corners (i.e., short ends of the arena) counterclockwise, but she could balance fine going the way of the track.  She blew her leads a few times, but I wasn't worried too much about leads... Just wanted her going FORWARD.

Over that week, I cantered her just a little bit every time I rode her, and she got to the point that she can carry herself both directions on the correct lead, even if she is a little spastic.  Although she has gotten straighter at a walk and trot, her canter is still a little wonky on the long sides of the arena (i.e., crooked, weird bending outside or inside).  Counterclockwise, she really locks her jaw to the inside at the canter.

The day I left for spring break, I wasn't being clear enough with my cues, and she got crooked on on the corner before the long end and actually swapped her lead.  She then proceeded to crowhop down the entire long side of the arena.  However, after I growled at her and picked her up, she had a LOVELY forward, organized canter in both directions?!?!   Go figure.

I haven't had too much time to work with her this week, but I am starting dressage lessons with her this weekend.  Now that I am comfortable at the green broke walk, trot, canter, circle, pole level, I really want to work on softening her.  She is pretty stiff through the neck and jaw, and doesn't give to the bit at all.  I also want some refreshers on how to utilize my aids to achieve the correct bending and suppleness.

 Here is a picture of Scottie eating grass to insert because I don't have any new pictures to share for this blog and reading a lot of text sucks without pictures.

In general, I do NOT like dressage (prefer jumping!!!!), but I think that a solid foundation in dressage work is essential for any working horse, and since she is right off the track, I will have to be the one to work with her.  Previous horses that I have owned already came with some of the tools in their toolkit.  I am not planning on winning any dressage competitions, but having a soft, long/low, supple, and adjustable horse will make her more functional at any sport, and make her more marketable.  Plus its been a while since I've had a lesson, and my riding will benefit by working through these issues with her.  I really need to try and get some video this weekend.

In other news, mom got me 101 Jumping Exercises (lots of pole work/arena ideas), which I am excited to start incorporating into my rides.

Book available here