Schooling Before The Show

Last minute training before showing tomorrow.

Valiosa has been going so good lately!  She’s incredibly patient, really, while I figure out just how to get her to the sweet spot…

Main take away from June:  Short reins, to get her engaged enough (Mine are always slipping out longer, often as soon as the contact ends up feeling too heavy.) but then the hand has to be much quicker and softer.

dressage show practice

Really tricky, but I can tell that the secret is right there, hiding, behind half halting enough, softening, and not holding.  She’s not the type of horse to offer anything at all if she’s being held.

Block her just a little through the seat bones (Hello, that’s me every day!), the hands, or the shoulders, and Countessa Cream Chunk just moves like a stock horse.

Can’t remember ever riding another horse that would give so little back, if it’s not “just so.”  Still, so hard to let go while having just the right contact.

This is where all the non-dressage readers shake their head and just go “You’ve lost it, say what?!  How complicated can it be?”

flea bitten gray
This awesome feeling horse probably won’t show up tomorrow at the show, but it’s great to know it’s in there! 🙂 Have a fun weekend!

Maintaining Training, Solo

Friday last week was the last ride of a month of continuous training.

I’ll miss it – it’s been so nice to have help and finally get a feel for how good she can really be.

schooling with trainer
Very happy with both my coach and Valiosa here.

We wrapped up what would for us normally have been some  5-8 months of training’s worth, into 1.  Very beneficial.  Worth it all the way.

Now, time to face all the things that’ll fall apart by solo training.  Half of it might happen just over the next two weeks.  🙂

schooling dressage

To make up for that a bit, I had one lesson this week, and two scheduled the week following.

After that, it will be mostly up to me to figure it out all over again, how to get her to move soft, forward, and most importantly, into the hand...

riding alone

gray horse in canter

Señora Sesame Seed, behaving.


at halt

If two is a pair, three is a party.  So fun!

Here we go – figuring out a way back to this all on our own..!

riding with eyes closed

Keeping The Hand Closed Around The Reins

Killing you with all the endless indoor schooling pictures.

I know.

Still, here we go.

Years ago, I didn’t have the habit of opening the hand too much.  Or if I did I had no idea of doing it.  Now, it’s become a problem, and I’d like to train it away.

training to ride better

What happens is that once we’re in a really nice, soft contact, I open more, to give or something, then she’ll take advantage and become strong, say down the longside or diagonal.

Then we get strung out, half halts are not going through because now the reins are too long.  And Valiosa will lose straightness and impulsion with inconsistent contact like that right away.  Super frustrating to know the hand must stay closed, but it still opens!

horse cantering with loose open neck
Madam Milky Way working hard. 

Every time I let the contact slip like that, we lose valuable time in getting back to the “right spot”.

First step to get it right is to really believe she can go into the closed hand and stay there.  That she’s actually capable of going forward in THAT contact.

horse in canter at the downstride

Makes sense?  Because earlier, she just wasn’t capable to.

So.  I’ll be working on that in the sandbox.  Soft, closed hand.  Not an oxymoron.

gray horse doing dressage in covered arenaWhen it works, she’s awesome!

After this week we’ll be mostly on our own again.  (Oh NO!!)  Many thanks to Geñay who works with us and has been so helpful!  It’s been a blast, couldn’t have done this without you!

horse portrait

Other Hard Things We’re Working On

We’re not in bootcamp, but Valiosa may be starting to think so.

Each ride, she has to go at least half-way correctly, at least half of the time.  Annoying to her, and hard work, since she usually gets to tourist-around and work more on own terms 🙂 here and there.

sitting straight while riding on the circleEmpress Plum Pudding would rather do some type of Western Jog than this.

One change in her is a better, softer, trot and once she turns on the motor behind a lot of the “tweakiness” finally goes away up front.  Well, yeah, go figure, we all know that’s how it works, but it would take me soooo long to figure out in each ride how to “arrive” there with this horse…  And then start over from scratch again the next ride.

New task is to half halt more.  Half halt quicker.  Half halt and not holding.  OK, how about just half halting!!?  And pushing the hands forward to soften, while keeping her on the outside rein.

allowing the horse to canter freely forward
Nice little hind leg pumpin’!

Straight stretchy trot can happen, small miracle.

horse stretching in trot

Overall (ignoring another huge problem: keeping the hand closed.  Maybe next year.) aids have to be quicker.  Quicker half halts, quicker to give, quicker leg, and quicker transitions.  Little syrupy preparations take too long, we amble around too much.

Riding with the leg off will go a long way.  Would be great to reprogram to never touch with the leg unless it’s an actual aid – impossible now but refusing to give up!

overbending the horse neck to the inside

Also super difficult:  Straight with just the right flexion.  I either get too straight or overbent, especially to the left.  But she is softer, so I’ll take it!

Only 4 rides left of “more focused training.”  It’s been luxurious, to have help at every ride.  Spoiled.

dressage with andalusian cross horse

Show you more next week!

Here’s Where She Is In The Training Now

Definitely looser, a little more over the back.

Monday morning is starting off with a bad calf strain for me, so no riding this morning.  On again tomorrow.

white horse in dressage

As promised, today is a quick peek at where Valiosa is in her training.  We still do strange tweaky things but overall, she’s made a huge change in the past two weeks!

horse falling out on volte
Salt Box Mare – falling out of her box.

Once she comes off the inside leg aid instead of pushing against it, we come together more like one package.  Awesome when it happens!

canter with small white horse

dressage with gray horse

Last week I had her teeth floated again, and she had an overall vet check.  It’s helpful to have another eye check her gaits – easy to become “home-blind” right?!  She passed various flexing and prodding – wonderful!

pushing the hand forward in canter

Had her on Pentosan for some time, just to help out, but never noticed a hugely significant difference.  Has that happened to you?  Trying another series soon, to help protect as much as can – hoping for many years with this mare – at 6 ml instead of 5.

She’s already so much softer just from working better!

riding with looser rein in canter

Have a great start on your week!