Celebrating Every Small Improvement

A few days ago I promised pictures of some less stiff strutting.

And then there was never a post about it!  Mostly because just like for every one else there isn’t much extra time… And it was hard to pick out just three shots where I thought she showed the most improvement.

stretching the neck in dressage trot

But also because I started picking apart the riding.  Looking at this.  And that.  And those.

Completely forgetting that yes, the gaits are still short, because that’s what she is, but they are a lot freer. A little softer.  And it shows!

She can use the inside hind a little better in canter.

using the inside hind more in canter

This is on a 13-14 m. canter circle – she feels stronger and shows that she can sit a lot more now!

sitting behind in canter on smaller circle


So.  Tomorrow morning – slew of pictures of Valiosa schooling.


In the meantime – some more half-pad experimentation this week.  Let you know what I decide on later!

21 thoughts on “Celebrating Every Small Improvement

  1. First of all, I can’t get over how perfect you and Miss Valiosa look together… and how pretty she is! And also, I can just see the improvement…you guys are looking just wonderful together.

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      1. If only we were all brave enough to post about the “true” side of our training too!!! 😀 So I applaud you for doing so!!! 😀

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  2. Lovely lovely lovely!! Look at her bending those hocks and taking weight behind! You should definitely be proud–she is looking Second Level strong here.

    And you’re a really lovely rider! You two really are a great-looking pair. I notice you have the same tendency that I have, to drop your hands and stiffen your elbow. And maybe it’s just the moment the camera happened to click, but relatedly to the elbow/hand thing, you also are leaning forward instead of anchoring through your sits bones. They’re related issues because a stiff, straight arm isn’t elastic enough to allow for the accordion-like movement of the horse’s head and neck, so we end up getting up-rooted and giving through our seat and back. I do the same things!! It’s such a tough habit to break because sitting down and staying back requires more core strength than I really possess at this time. I was getting there, but then I had a baby…it’s been a long road back. 😛 I’m working on this very thing so that’s why this jumped out at me in your beautiful photos.

    Personally I’ve been really focusing on carrying the weight of my own hands and keeping those pesky elbows at my sides better. If you “hold” your position (so hard to do without stiffening up…I try to think “soft, but strong”) more adamantly, the horse will learn to “live” in the space you’re giving them and will stop pulling you forward. Once you can convince your back, seat and arms that they also “live” in that rooted-down home position, you can start thinking about being elastic in your contact through your forearms and hands (without giving up your “home” position!) so that the horse can stretch into the contact and find a soft but supportive partner on the other end of the rein. When I really make it my mission to ride this way, I really feel it in my stomach muscles the next day, which of course tells me I need to get stronger. The other thing that happens is Clay is much less fussy in the contact when I really ride from my core and seat.

    It always helps me to envision the bit as a balance/ballet bar, and Clay is a ballerina leaning on the bar for a little help. If the bar drops away because I became up-rooted from my seat and my hands went forward/down, my horse will lose his balance. Granted, he should use the bar less and less over time, as he builds up his own strength and balance. But in the meantime…I am the bar! Be the bar! 😉 😉

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    1. Yes to the hocks bending! Finally!!! For the longest time it seemed she simply couldnt do it. So glad to see, even if just 3-4 strides.

      And yep, the stiffer arms, and the seat coming up, or forward from the saddle. Sometimes almost on purpose I think…. Hmmm.
      She can seem like she possibly can’t continue on, and that I’m helping. Which of course isn’t helping!

      Love your analogies! Getting the body, but first the horse to live in that space. That’s the visualization! I’m going to use it, thank you!!

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      1. omg YEP with the helping-not-helping! lol! That is the story of my riding life…when I quit trying so hard and let it flow……so much better. Why is that so hard to do?? 😉 Keep up the great work, and thanks for sharing your process. Love talking this stuff through with another rider grappling with the same stuff.

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        1. Love having you here!
          One of the biggest part with writing and sharing all these details, is getting feedback from others, and hearing how we’re all sort of in the same boat. Helps a lot!
          Today I looked at pictures when she’s spooking. And I’m thinking that I’ve been sitting in, staying connected during the spooks… Hehe, far from it. All perched forward! Something to work on…

          In any event, we had some absolutely wonderful canter today. Caught myself thinking “Hey, this is actually rideable and enjoyable!” Lovely to get to feel that finally 🙂

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  3. I can see progress here. Yes! So carry on. Dressage is not for the faint of heart and you are doing a good job. We all just plow on day in day out. Today I had to do an exercise that I had not done since last year with Lou Denizard. Last year is was very difficult for us and today….we aced it. I look forward to hearing about the half pads. I’m on the search for them at the moment.

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    1. That’s the dream – getting feedback that stuff has done a major turn around. Love it! I love it even more knowing that this is a sport where we can keep on learning. We never cap out! That’s tough to find in most other sports…

      On the half pads, it’s more of an experimentation with the saddle fit. Sometimes we have to go back and forth several times, to make sure the improvement wasn’t just a fluke.
      I’m almost done 🙂
      Fill you in soon, but it won’t be super exciting

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    1. Haha! Yes!
      She can be LOVELY when she goes right.
      Just that she does it for so short, it’s easy to get frustrated and lost. I try to remember how she was 1 year ago, as opposed to comparing to 1 month ago 🙂

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        1. Aww, thank you!!
          Just to keep things real, I’m going to post something this weekend, showing how ugly things can look. Just to keep things in perspective.
          We’ve got TONS of work to do… I love her, and she’s a wonderful horse, but I’m starting to think one of the most difficult ones to train 🙂 I’ll have the post up on Saturday!

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    1. Yes! It used to be where she simply only knew how to stab the little hinds straight forward, up and down, short and choppy. Now we’ve figured out how to angle them, and she uses her self SO much better in the canter. Love!

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