Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tiamo's Butt!

So his coat looks kind of light here, but it's still quite dark in person! Or maybe I'm just convincing myself of that because I love when he is black during the winter! The infinity symbol was chosen for no particular reason. I remembered that one of my favorite singers, Adam Lambert, has infinity and a Eye of Horus as tattoos. I think he said in an interview one time that the infinity sign symbolizes the infinite connection and energy exchange between him and the audience. I'm not sure how that applies to us, but we thought it would look cool!

Team Challenge/Octoberfest/Winter Plans

A few weeks ago we competed at Team Challenge, and I was very happy to have gotten in because I was on the waiting list until a week before. I was put on an Area VIII Novice YR team even though I'm not officially a YR yet. I plan on joining next year!

I decided to leave Tiamo at Dorothy's the week between fall break and Team Challenge. I had an 8:11 dressage time Saturday, but I decided to spend the night at Dorothy's and have Tiamo ride over there early Saturday morning (versus him being taken over Friday morning, dropped off at the stall, and being left there until late in the afternoon when I could get there). Unfortunately, and due to some miscommunication on my part, I was already running late when Dorothy arrived with Tiamo and parked by the old indoor. All my stuff was at my stall, and, originally, I was going to walk Tiamo over there to tack up. My dad appeared very briefly to help, but then he left to get my mom and sister from the hotel. I was on my own and trying to stay calm. I ended up having Lauren's mom drive me over to my stall to grab my tack, coat, brushes, etc, and Dorothy tacked Ti up at the trailer while I got ready.

It was very cold! It was around 35, and my feet and hands were especially numb. I had also been outside since 4am by that point. I was feeling kind of stiff! Since I was running late, I only had about 15-20 minutes to warm up. He was actually going quite nicely in the warm up, but when I got to the outside of the ring, he kind of wanted to start carting me around a bit. I was trying to ride well, and the test didn't feel awful by any means. It just wasn't nearly as good as our work at home. I figured I would score in the mid to high 30s.

I had not walked my course for show jumping so I headed over to the ring after I untacked. I always have to spend some extra time with show jumping courses so I remember them! I walked it twice and went over it in my mind several times. By the time I got back to the stall, I was somewhat aware that I was running late, but I thought I still had plenty of time. Upon arriving at warm up, the ring steward told me I was the next rider to go. I'm lucky that I have such a forgiving horse, and it was barely an hour after dressage because I only jumped the vertical and the oxer (which was terrible) before going in the ring. Usually he starts feeling excited at the gate, but I think he was confused with the whole situation! Our ride was better at the beginning than the end, but I think it was quite good considering the circumstances.

While walking my cross country course, Lauren told me I had gotten a 46 in dressage. I had her double check, and then I also looked because I was so confused about such an awful score! A 46 is very embarrassing, especially on Tiamo! Later, I watched the video and understood my score better, but I still think it was harsh. Dorothy said it was more like an upper 30s-40 kind of test.

In both instances, I put myself at a disadvantage because of my disorganization, and my performances, especially dressage, reflected that!

Cross country on Sunday made up for the rest of the weekend! I think it was one of my best rounds with him. Dorothy has helped me a lot already! We went at 8:15, and he was feeling kind of frisky in warm up which was funny. Anyway, I just let him go his own speed in between fences, but he had to hold up the other end of the bargain and come back again for the fences. Sometimes the preparation involved a few good tugs even though I was trying to be more subtle and soft about it. Of course my goal is to make the transitions back much smoother and with less hand. Dorothy also told me to circle if I needed to get him listening again. I did circle in two different spots: at the jump before the drop and the roll top before the water. I'm still confident in that decision. I needed time to slow a bit and get organized. Even with the circles, we still had one of the fastest times because the speed was only 350 or 375mpm.

The next weekend we went to Octoberfest and did USDF Training Test 2 and 3. Dorothy judged us, and her husband John warmed us up! Both tests were huge improvements over my Team Challenge test. His free walk is super great now! We should start getting at least 7s and probably even 8s or 9s on it next season! There is so much more time in the 20x60 long arenas, especially with the fairly simply Training tests. So much time to think!  I actually left the show without getting my tests, but Dorothy scored me an 84% on one of them! And both tests had errors! (In Training 2, I forgot the first salute and got -2. In Training 3, I did a transition too early in the second test, but she gave me a 4 instead of an error). Apparently, she thought it was an extremely good test but didn't mean to score me quite that well. I think she should judge me more often!

As far as winter plans go, Ti is getting a few days off when I go home for Thanksgiving in a couple of weeks, but he'll be coming home for Christmas. I'm possibly going to Dorothy's during my 1st week of Christmas break, Soon she will be gone until March 1st so it would be good to get some lessons in before that! January and February are probably going to be a bit rough, and the tentative plan is ride at least 3x a week to keep us both moving.

Also, Lauren came down and body clipped Tiamo for me today! We initially attempted to clip in (clip out?) Grumpy from the 7 Dwarves on his butt. It wasn't working so we clipped it off and did a T with an infinity symbol in the middle instead. It looks pretty good, and his coat is still very dark!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Random Rambles

I suddenly had random motivation to update this blog!

A lot has changed:

1. I moved 6 hours away to attend college in Kentucky
2. Tiamo of course came with me
3. He lived at Dorothy Crowell's barn for a month while I got settled in
4. I have been training with Dorothy for basically 2/3ish months. She is a little over an hour away so I've had lessons pretty consistently but not a certain time every single week. I'm already dreading her departure to Florida for the winter. Kind of depressing.
5. After Ti's stay with Dorothy, he moved to a private barn about 6 miles from me.
6. I have a trailer but not a truck (can barely drive my small SVU!) so rely on the other eventer at my barn/my dad for trailering. Luckily, she just started training with Dorothy too this year! But she's a senior so will be leaving me in the not so distant future! :(

Dorothy is awesome! I feel like I have already progressed quite a bit, but I'm a bit overwhelmed (frequently) with the amount I have to think about while riding now. It's mentally exhausting sometimes but worth it!

Some of things I have been working on:

Sensitizer Test
This has been HUGE for us! And it is so simple. I had heard of this and tried it half heartedly here and there, but A) Didn't realize how dead to my leg he could be and B) Never followed through. You have to be consistent. It goes like this...
1. Relax pelvis/hips and gently ask with "nice leg"
2. When he doesn't respond...swift kick(s). a.k.a "punishing leg"
3. Pull back to previous gait. Don't even try to be all perfect and use your body etc. Pull on the reins.
4. Ask with relaxing hips and "nice leg" again.
5. Grumpy trots off like a good boy because he's well trained and understands the sensitizer test.
6. When you do the next downward transition, you do things the right way. I realized that most of the time Tiamo will walk when I just start thinking walk, take a deep breathe, and exhale. For canter to trot, I squeeze with my knee and thigh/push my weigh into my heels/breathe.

Move My Leg(s)! ...and my seat
This goes along with the Sensitizer Test. Right now, I have to exaggerate this a lot, and I definitely don't have the hang of it yet. I was way too stiff and had a death grip with my leg. Dorothy stuck her hand under my calf during my first lesson and said, just standing there, I was using 75% of how much leg she uses on her horses. She described it as the amount of leg she would use at first for canter-halt transitions or extreme collection. Ha...yeah. I am working on not just being "picture perfect" in a still shot but actually moving and thinking and riding in real life.

1. I need to turn my toe out a bit so my thigh and knee can relax, and I can move my leg up and down. If I am asking him to do something (like to correct him leaning in on my inside leg or wanting to bulge out left) I can a give a swift, "scrape" of my heel on his side. Or if I just a little more leg, I can think about brushing his hair up a little. Otherwise, my leg is supposed to be moving in rhythm with him off his side, not kicking him. Basically, my heel is supposed to stretch down far and then come up even. However, a lot of the time, it ends up going down just a bit and then coming up above the toe a little.
2. Walking- I have practiced a lot of "extravagant legs" at the walk. This is where I really think about letting my seat move with his back and physically lift my legs (alternating, with the walk rhythm). The walk gets so much better when I do this correctly! When I get my "extravagant walk," then I get good trot transitions!
3. Canter- Same thing as trot, but I have a whole new of lengthening and shortening the canter! When I want to lengthen, I think about allowing and really letting my hips go. This is the easier thing to do. In order to shorten, I do NOTHING with the reins. I just (just, haha. This can be so hard!) move my legs OFF HIS SIDE up and down quicker. When I do this right, it is so great! Dorothy pointed out that his canter his perfect for learning this (plus he's so well trained) because his rhythm just stays the same, and he will actually just shorten and lengthen his stride without changing that. She said many horses, especially green ones, will speed up and slow down a bit.

Other random thing- turn my chest in the direction I'm going but keep my eyes between his ears. This is really hard going to the left. My left shoulder definitely has something wonky going on with it.

Okay, so that's already a lot, but there is so much more too! Like the fact that I have heard...

"Hand the tall lady the glass" when going to the left (forcing me to use my inside LEG instead of rein to fix things. Plus, it fixes my super ingrained habit of carrying my left hand lower). I also have been simply widening my right hand (but don't have to raise it) to accomplish the same thing the other direction.

"Carry your champagne glasses" and "Your champagne is pouring out!" in order to make me hold the reins correctly.

"Look at the weather vane, now the cross, now the door..." while making me use my eyes to actually do my 20m circles properly.

"Push the saddle with your seat up over his ears" while schooling drops (this was actually my very first lesson with Dorothy ever! Cross country schooling at Flying Cross). I have to learn how to relax and go with his motion. I was getting super propped and frozen which was making him take stabbing stutter steps before going down.

"No praying to the eventing gods"! ...she really called me out on jumping ahead on our cross country schooling. Didn't even realize I was doing it!

"Pick up your knitting!". Dorothy does not like the "Jimmy Wofford" one rein and grab (my name for it) for subtle rein adjustments because she thinks it stops active riding. I have to practice creeping up the reins. The "Jimmy Wofford" is okay for jumping and going from the free walk to medium walk during a dressage test.

Today we worked on the dressage test for Team Challenge this weekend! I learned a ton about how important my eyes are during the test. It's just as important as looking where I'm going while jumping! My "box turns" in Novice Test B were SO MUCH better because of this. And I learned how to make the free walk way better! Start it in the corner so he's already beginning to stretch. Normally, he always pops up and starts gazing around during the free walk. Dorothy said he is just releasing from the stretch. I just really turn my knees in and squeeze with my thighs to let him know to keep stretching, then relax, than "clamp," etc.

And yesterday, Lauren (Dorothy's WS) and I jumped in the freezing rain and basically darkness. We had to squeeze in doing a course before the event! Since we didn't exactly have a lot of time (i.e. I'm not kidding...it became night time. No arena lights. Couldn't see. Windy. It was almost sleeting instead of raining on top of the big hill, next to the mountain), we warmed up before she got there. It gave me a good idea of my abilities without her there to remind me of everything, and Tiamo was very good. It was fun!

So this was super long and rambly. It's terrible grammar and probably has tons of errors, and I should be doing my homework. But I felt the sudden urge to try to write everyyyything down before I lose motivation again.

The End.

P.S. I also had a semiprivate jumping lesson with Jim Graham and David Adamo, but now I really, really need to do homework so I'm not writing about it in depth. I will just throw random words that describe it... posting the canter, "French whore," "Lose your rigidity!", relaxing my lower back, square turns, uphill, round motor boat.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Motivational Photo

I decided to post this photo as motivation for myself to finish writing about the David O'Connor clinic!

Friday, June 3, 2011

David O'Connor Clinic- Showjumping Exercises

*Sorry for incoherency or editing mistakes. Very long post! Took me forever to write.

Day 2 dawned bright and early because I had the great fortune of being in the first group. This made my weekend much better because it was still cool outside when my group rode! 

Day 2 focused on the basics, and in hindsight, it set us up perfectly for the next two days. We didn't do complicated exercises or jump great heights, but that was actually great. First of all, it boosted my confidence and allowed me to think about David's principles during the lesson instead of worrying about jump height or difficulty. Second, it was a nice breather for Tiamo because he ended the session barely sweating and full of energy. He worked extremely hard and did a lot of jumping the next two days so this was a needed "break". 

We started the lesson trotting and cantering over two poles. David explained that everything that happened over the two poles was exactly what happens on course in stadium or cross country, but a mistake over the poles does not have the same consequences as making the same mistake at a 4ft vertical or solid cross country jump. From the beginning, David wanted us thinking and learning for ourselves. He said he sees too many trainers talking in too much detail about everything, and their students never really learn to ride through problems on their own. I think I fall into this trap. I wait for people to tell me to do something instead of reacting; my brain is often too slow to respond or even doesn't recognize my mistakes.

So this is how he breaks things down:

There are 4 things the rider is responsible for and can control (in this order): direction, speed, rhythm, and balance. We mainly focused on speed and direction, but rhythm was a topic that popped up as well, especially for me. 

He wanted us to think in a 2-step process- 1)What? 2)How? 

The answers to the What? were in relation to speed and direction. Speed up or slow down? Turn wider or cut in? 

Riders need to think What? before going into the How? 

I fell into the trap and illustrated the need for this teaching tool (i.e. thinking What? first) when Tiamo cantered over the first pole but trotted out. He asked me what happened, and I replied that I needed more leg. This is one of David's biggest pet peeves! "More leg for what? Bigger stride, more collection? More leg for what? Your legs can do a lot of things! Everyone always replies more leg, or I needed to half halt. Two most common answers. But then nothing ever changes when they say that's what they are going to do". He wanted us to think simpler in terms of speed and direction. So as I came around the next time he asked what I was going to do. "Speed up!" I said. Ti broke to trot. The next time around he stood in my path, and I had to go around him. Ti kept cantering. "So what did you really need to change?". And I realized I had needed to change direction. 

So this opened up his next point about 3 situations in riding:

1. Rider does not recognize problem
2. Rider recognizes problem
3. Rider recognizes problem, tries to fix it, and horse doesn't respond

There are two scenarios in #2. Sometimes the rider recognizes the problem but doesn't do anything about it, or the rider recognizes the problem and fixes it.

#3 is a training issue with the horse.

And I say recognize "problem", but it also relates to knowing how to replicate a good ride. You have to recognize how you got that good ride to replicate it!

Next, we moved on to warming up over a vertical on a circle. We did that well a few times, and David had me shorten my stirrups one hole. We transitioned into jumping the vertical and then a forward/"competition length" 5 strides to another vertical. David wanted us knowing and reacting to what was going to happen as we were a couple of strides from the first vertical. "What is the point of knowing the distances?" he asked. To know how to adjust. (And depending on the distance, you can obviously do a different number of strides. He said people can really start getting different numbers on distances longer than 4 or 5 stride). If you come into the jump and realize you're going to be short, then you either need to land and really press on or hold for the extra stride. The decision should be made before the first jump, not a stride or two into the line.

So David would call out "What are you going to do?" as we came up to the first. and we had to reply speed up, slow down, or stay the same. 

David's groups kind of got the short end of the stick when it came to Saturday. We were in the covered arena which apparently Karen hates; she always teaches in the outdoor arena. However, sometime before our lesson, a worker had left the sprinkler system on too long in the covered arena, flooding it. He had messed up some other times as well and was fired on the spot. The arena was still very deep and slippery in most areas though. 

After the 5-stride exercise, David decided we were going to crash Karen's group. This situation was so funny, and I was literally just laughing out loud at the insanity of 10 riders sharing an average sized arena, all jumping. Karen yelling and threatening. David quietly communicating with his hand signals that he explained he uses with all his riders at events. He said he never uses his voice unless the rider is next to him. 

We did a forward 5 stride to a 2 stride. This was pretty uneventful. Tiamo was good, not much to say about it.

We moved onto a 4-stride. David told me to count upward 8 strides from the jump. He said it's not so much a rhythm exercise as it is a mind exercise. The rider can recognize their "pushing" mistake when their voice goes up "5, 6, 7, 8! ) I've been told to count before, but David was unique in the fact that he told me to start counting farther out and not end on numbers like 4 before the fence. He said there is more of a sense of urgency when ending on 4, and I needed to stay relaxed and waiting in the last strides.

Next, David told us about the "jumping into the circle" exercise. It's simple but really helpful. "Jumping into the circle" entailed David drawing a circle on the middle of the landing side of the jump. It basically helps the rider stay straight and plan their line better, especially on a bending like we were doing. And it was surprising to realize that you probably aren't jumping as straight and centered as you thought. Everyone jumped off to the left or right of the circle at least a couple of times. 

We used the "jumping into the circle" while riding a 7? (can't remember) bending line, and it helped us go straight and then turn (and be straighter) to the second jump.

And that was it! Simple but fun and very important building blocks for the 3rd and 4th days.