Monday, December 14, 2015

The Lessons Continue (with video)

The second week-o-Windsor has also be ridiculously-entirely-entertaining

This horse is so fun.  And aside from lamenting the need to constantly de-poop-stain a gray horse, I'm enjoying every second. 

Our first lesson of the week was on Tuesday after he had a day of rest on sunday and a light flat trainer session on Monday. 

Guys, I got to tell you - he already feels like a different horse.  He's figuring out this whole flatwork thing, and he tries really, really, hard. 

We are both pretty out of shape, so there is the small issue of balancing enough repetitions to get in the groove and make some improvement without tipping over the cliff of exhaustion/frustration.

We worked over some canter poles (set on bending lines) and just about the time I got the hang of keeping his Right Hind quick and under him, we both started huffing and puffing... and collapsing, and.... well.... breaking to the trot a tad. 

But it's cool to feel him learn and go "oh yeah! that! I remember you asking me that before..." and giving some good, solid tries.

It's most obvious in his transitions, which honestly feel a bit like asking a steam locomotive to chug away from the station and then eeeevvveeeennnnntuallly stop again. 

Tuesday, the downward transitions still left a lot to be desired, but his up transitions are getting more prompt and correct.  Dare I say we even had a couple respectable walk/canter departs that weren't too shabby.

Lots of work to do, for sure, but it's really reassuring to feel him understanding the ask, and adjusting to the best of his ability (and conditioning).

Thursday was probably my most frustrating ride to date.  And that is "most frustrating" on a scale of Pegasus to Unicorn, which is... not that bad.

Our trot work was good, I felt more able to stay down around him and he was keeping his balance a bit more up and back. 

I spent longer than I wanted to at the sitting trot, which is where it's really obvious he's a new horse to me.  I can always tell how in shape I am and how long I've had a horse by how well I sit their trot. 

There is always a period of time (sometimes a reeeallly loooong one) where it is "easier" for me to post and I am a more effective rider posting..

But then I always turn some imaginary corner and it becomes easier for me to sit, and when I need to accomplish something, I'd rather have my butt in the saddle to do it.

I am not there yet.

In fact, sitting the trot involved me mostly praying to god we would stop soon and not really doing much of anything helpful for Windsor.  (oops).

Our canter work was also not great.  We worked over a cavaletti on the short end of the arena and I just couldn't figure it out.

I rode too hard.  I didn't ride enough.  I got behind the motion, I anticipated the motion, I released too much, not enough. 

I did pretty much everything except ride it well.  I definitely got frustrated and clearly that didn't do much to improve anything.

Then, we traded the cavaletti for a small vertical (maybe 2'?) to be jumped on a circle.  This is an exercise we do a lot in the winter and I love it.  It really makes me hold the horse on my outside rein and gets you verrrrrryyyy  honest as to whether you are riding the front end or the hind end of your horse. 

But this small-jump-on-a-circle thing was the first time I've felt Windsor say NOPE. 

He didn't stop, or do anything rude, but he was none-to-pleased about the bending and the jumping and the bending again.

I ended up having to square off my circle (a lot) so that we could jump without bend.  but even then, landing and asking to continue on the circle seemed really hard for him.

I know this horse has had to land and turn over much more daunting obstacles, so I was a tad taken back by his frustration and seeming lack of experience. 

We managed a few decent approached both ways, but it wasn't magical, or pretty. 

I am hoping that the ability to relax over this exercise will come with some strength over his topline and increasing flexibility.

We finished over a small course.  I felt better about riding my canter forward and not picking at the distances, but I felt worse about my ability to stick with this horse over the jumps.

Blurry Brad to the left..
I swear to god this horse cracks his back at least two vertical feet when jumping over the tiniest of fences. 

I know I need to stay down around him and land into my base, but it's really hard to do either of those things when I feel like the Ejection Button has been hit and I'm floating around in space approximately 20" above my tack.

I do better when we are working over slightly larger fences, so maybe I just need to prepare for the same back crack over the smaller ones?

I'll tell you what though - it's humbling.  Fun.  But humbling...

Saturday I rode alone which was good for you know.. improving - but bad for hiding my tiredness/bad habits/catching a breather.

Pretty normal warm up, lengthen/collect, shoulder in/haunches in, transitions, etc.

Canter work was slightly better.  I worked on "galloping" which I use in the Hunter sense of the word. 

Not "galloping" like I grew up galloping, or you know... galloping on a cross country course.  But a polite, refined "gallop" which really means get your horse in front of your leg and moving up and out.  Technically still three beats.  But bigger, more impulsion, expression, etc.

Right now that's helpful because when Windsor is forward, there is a lot more movement going on under me than I am used to and that makes my brain think we are out of control. 

Turns out we are not out of control, we are just... cantering while using our back. 

The forward open stride also helps me straighten Windsor out and keep him more balanced.  At least it does until we both run out of steam...

Over fences we worked over a figure eight again, and I struggled with setting us up for a gappier distance.  My golden nugget of the day though was to "label my distance" (commit to it from farther out), then get DOWN IN MY HEEL. 

This was oddly helpful for me.

Getting down in my base is on my subconscious check list approaching a jump, but actively thinking "3 strides, a tad tight, get DOWN... 2... 1..." allowed me to stay much more balanced in my tack and quieter over the fence. 

Concentrating... who knew.

Then we moved on to our favorite line (trot in... canter out) and finally a few smaller courses.  A nice barn mate was willing to take a couple clips of video, so I've compiled a best(/worst) of.

Two clips of the line, with me measuring to a slightly longer gap.  The first time through even though we landed with zero impulsion from the trot in, somehow I pushed pasted the distance going out...

Second time we nailed it and he jumped pretty.

Then I compiled a series of approaches to a small gate.  Usually a really easy fence/.approach for me, but I was trying to get the same nice, gap to the singles that I'm getting comfortable with in the line.

Fun Fact: I am NOT comfortable with the gap to singles yet.  Not at all.  My eye can't see it and usually it's ends up with me going "move up to the long one... move up to the long one... move up, move up, SHIT!"

As you will see.  Very hard for me.  Very hard.  I'll get there, but Windsor just feels so different and he responds (or doesn't) respond so differently, I get lost sometimes.

Bless this horse for not hospitalizing me. 

Also, The Voltaire rep was out for a fitting during my lesson so I was swapping tack a ton, but that's a separate post.


  1. He is so unflappable. What a great (and fancy) guy!

    1. He is very kind. Which is great, because then I don't feel the terror of death about screwing up, or trying again after I do screw up. At least I'm really good at slipping my reins when I need to? #consolationprize

  2. He seems so chill over those fences!

  3. What a calm, cool, adorable guy!

  4. I would love to hear your thoughts comparing the Voltaire and CWDs. New trainer just got sponsored by Voltaire and I am intrigued by them. I didn't even consider them with Houston bc they wouldn't send a rep to me. I'm almost positive my saddle won't work for Annie long term unless she hulks out on me currently just padding up.

    Glad you're having so much fun with him!

    1. I will definitely get a post up on my thoughts!

  5. I have loads of trouble sticking in my base as well. Nice system and if anyone is gonna get him working well on the flat its you!

    1. It was shocking how much it changed my balance and stability... Sometimes simple is good :)

      And thank you! we'll see how his flatwork goes, but I am encouraged!

  6. Love the captions on the video, especially the emoji's!!

  7. Love the captions on the video, especially the emoji's!!

  8. a) Voltaire??? DYING OF JEALOUSY
    b) catapulted into neverland is the story of my life. I bet youll adjust faster than I did, took me a whole year haha
    c) you guys are gorgeous and I love gray brad

  9. Ahh, new stride lengths - thank god for forgiving horses!

    Just a thought on your frustrating ride day. It sounds (and looks) like he tries really, really hard and loves to please. If you were having one of those days where nothing works, he may have also been getting really frustrated and rather than stopping, lost his confidence in his ability to please you, so only tried to do what he saw as safe.

    A fun exercise for practicing turns and straight lines is to make a square with a jump stand in each corner, and put a fence on the diagonal out from each corner \_/ then you work around the grid. It's really good as you can make the lines away and towards the grid longer or shorter as needed and the horses cannot anticipate the distance as easily as they can with a set line.

  10. It sounds like you guys are starting to figure each other out.
    Learning what buttons to push and where they are installed can be frustrating and fun in new mounts.

    Love that any issues are still on the pegasus/unicorn spectrum & not donkey ;-)

  11. he sounds like just so much fun!

  12. He seems like such a blessed little guy! Glad you are having fun

  13. I love how he can leave a leg and still make a classy, safe jump. <3

  14. Love your blog and can totally relate to your saddle shopping exp! And actually everything. So refreshing


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