Sunday 8 January 2012

Making progress

I am super happy with how our ride went today. Plans changed which meant that i didn't end up working with L yesterday and just did my own thing over poles on the ground in an unusually busy arena (carriage driving was happening in the main arena so spillover again). Kika was good yesterday but she was even better today!!!! :D
(Can you tell I am excited?!! ;-) )

L and I were planning to head into the woods today for a hack about 11.30am, but weather was so unpredictable and we were hoping to grab lunch all before the 2pm displays/Yard party that i asked if she didn't mind could she give me some tips and pointers instead. Like the saint that she is (IMO) she agreed and we set to work. She did make two mini videos of us getting started but as we moved up to serpentines with volts, canter and no stirrup work she had plenty on her mind with advising me that videoing on my camera phone fell to the wayside which is a small pity as i felt myself improve as the lesson progressed, but at least some visual incentive shall be provided to those who do read on :)
Although it won't be added untill tomorrow as phone is being silly and won't currently upload them to youtube on top of that they are too big to send myself by e-mail! So i'm afraid you're going to have to wait. SORRY!

Since she had me start riding with my reins shorter on friday I feel like Kika is going much better for me, so even our warm up work now is taking less time for madam to get concentrated - again I now understand that was my fault as why would one concentrate when contact was not consistent enough to warrant concentration!
I still sit crookedly when on the right rein but we are working on it by doing more circle work and encouraging me to look to the center of the circle to move my shoulders inline with Kika's while turning my inside hand into the center to encourage her to look inside when she's working and bend her neck. The poor pet, I have made her so crooked with my bad riding - but now that we know we can work to remedy it!

When we worked up to canter work (no video of that sorry), another lightbulb moment occured. We always start our canter work on Kika's bad rein so that she can finish on her good rein and it seems like less of a chore...well that's the teory anyway. When we twice struck off on the wrong lead (after getting it right first time) I decided to check i was in fact giving Kika the correct aids - as i am woeful bad at remembering the correct canter aid - shame on me I know, but i recognised my weakness and sought help!
Turns out as i anticipated i was in fact giving her the incorrect signal. In that i was sqeezing my inside leg behind the girth rather then placing my outside leg behind the girth and squeezing with my inside leg in it's normal position.
However this was not the only reason poor K couldn't get the correct lead - you guessed it - it comes back to my awfully twisted position in the saddle on that rein that has my weight in the wrong place in the saddle making it more difficult for Kika to get the lead she needs - again won't be fixed overnight, but now that i know i can only try to correct myself!

The tip L gave me to try to get it right is to make sure that Kika's head is turned slightly inside when giving her the correct aids, which by making me bring my hand towards the center of the circle and turning my head in - moves my shoulders into a better position and shifts my weight accordingly (I am actually just after realising that - man am i dense!). We did multiple transitions in this fashion on our circle (as at this stage two others had joined us in the arena, one of which was lungeing - yet my great girl was wonderfully focussed on what we were doing and didn't pay them a blind bit of notice - yippee, we are actually getting there!) on both reins - we obviously found it easier on our good rein (can no longer just call it her good rein as it is actually i that made/make the other one her bad side!)

We rounded out the lesson with some sitting trot work, tighter and tighter volts and walk/trot transitions - however at this stage I decided to cross my stirrups infront of me as when sitting trot (and indeed canter moreso - but have not braved no stirrup canter in an age). I have the awful habit of gripping with my knees which in turn pulls up my heels and has L continuously telling me to drop my heels...vicious circle really, ;)
Our increasingly smaller volts went well, we kept a good balanced rythm and in our transitions she had me be careful to prepare K better in slowing her trot before i allowed her to return to walk as Kika likes to slow down and once she feels you asking to lessen the speed she stops pretty much automatically - think locks her front legs and jolts you a small bit - at the same time she doesn't have much time for walking - i reckon her opinion of walking is that "well if we're going this slowly we might aswell be standing still" so i have to push her in the walk.
L explained it to me in such a way that i've to slow the trot yet keep my leg on and then just squeeze the reins and ease her into a walk in such a way that my leg on has to keep her moving forward yet she's slowing down...I am sure this is "d'uh" territory for most riders but bit of a lightbulb moment for me.

Sneaky L also had me attempt do some rising trot without stirrups - which i have never tried before and i will not pretend it wasn't difficult as heck - but at the same time was not as hard as i thought it would be and we managed about a semi-circle before i gave in and cheekily pointed out that the whole point behind my no stirrups plan was to stop grabbing with my knees! L just laughed and said i had a valid point, ;) - i am sure that is not the end of the matter, but i guess as it was at the tail end of an hour's riding she let me off the hook this time!

It is actually great that I decided to write all this down as it is all making sense to me as i think back to what she had me work on. Sorry if this is a boring update, especially as it just loads of writing and the videos aren't even going to be at the end of it...but i originally started this blog for me to keep track of what we get up to and what better way to keep track of my goals and things to work on then to write them down on the day i was told them...trick will be to remember to come back and read them from time to time!

As well as being uber happy with what we worked on and how well Kika has behaved the three previous days - as i have ridden her each and every one, unheard of in the last 12months that she be ridden in an arena three days in a row - Lord am i soft or what?!?!
I like to change things up and typically ride her two days back to back then lunge with pessoa or poles or loose or normal in the days either side of riding. Variety is the spice of life and all that!

But on top of my feel really good factor with how we worked, the friend who was lungeing towards the end of my lesson kindly told me that i don't ride as awfully as i had told her i did - guess i really do paint a bleak picture of myself. I possibly err too much on the side of caution (read:pessimism) when thinking about my own skills or perceived lack thereof. She said we worked very harmoniously together and that Kika was very balanced and concentrated on what we were doing - admittedly i emphasize that she caught the end of our lesson, not the start! :p
Then the icing on the cake - L said she was very happy for me with the improvements we have made! Not just Kika and her attitude, but me too!
The last time she watched me ride like that to help me was my first spin back after my break in Thailand which was at the start of November. I have been trying to work on the tips she gave us then and am glad to find out that i must have been doing something right.

Today just clicked and I am over the moon with how it went, hopefully we can continue to build from here!

Tomorrow will be a break for herself and my poor sore body - it is ridiculous how mushy I am, in that a week and a half without riding has the same affect on my leg/stomach/back muscles as a month out of the saddle - but this could also be the step up in sitting trot and no-stirrup work i am now including more in our work schedule.
As well as the two mini videos of the start of my lesson I also managed to record the 7ish minute Pas de Deux to music done by two of the dressage riders on the yard as part of the yard show - so will hopefully manage to get them from my phone onto youtube tomorrow to share them with you for being soooooooooo good as to read my waffle!

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