The Archives 1/10/09 – 5/13/09 Sparkle

1/10/09
We had a lesson on Thursday and did not end up getting to Si/Renver…we worked on canter walk transitions and canter a lot, so she was tired.

Today, I took Sparkle to the Stephen Bradley clinic. She was good! In fact, she surprised me at how willing she was.

This time the exercise started w/ 4 trot poles, that turned into 3 trot poles to a single.

It was built up to
3 trot poles
single
one stride
Oxer
one stride
single
bounce
single
one stride
oxer

When you are riding into that thing, it truly does look like a sea of poles.

Other than a single stop when the second fence appeared, Sparkle was fabulous. Straight, steady. Stephen thinks she has the step for the horse distances. We worked on me keeping my heels down, more on the shorter reins so I could have my arms more forward, and keeping her head up. She likes to be all long and low, and for jumping, she needs her head up, even AFTER the line. I kept letting her stick it down after we’d finished and she kept tripping. I made her keep it up, and she quit tripping.

I really like these gymnastics.
2/6/09
So I let someone else ride Sparkle in the Stephen clinic 2 weeks ago, and it was all good until she fell off!

She fell off Sparkle?!? I mean, Sparkle is not the sort of horse you fall off, and Sparkle was horrified.

Then, despite the rider’s good humor about the fall, she rode backwards to stops, lots of them. I was cringing and had to work hard to not go rip her off my horse and ride my pony through the gymnastic. They ended up with the entire gymnastic lowered to 1/2 cross rails, and got through that 2x and stopped.

Last night, I took Little Miss to Foxcroft, and put on the jumping saddle, since they have lovely jumps set up, and whoa! That was rough.

She almost stopped, then realized I was going to make her go, the lurched over. Then, she tried her hand at giraffing her head and neck up, and that wasn’t terribly pleasant. It started to smooth out a tiny bit, and I dismounted to let Paddy back into the ring (silly corgi found his way out, but not back in), raised the fences (a couple were barely more than a pile o poles), got back on and worked on getting a nice canter rhythm and Sparkle found her smooth jump again.

Whew! It does drive home how much a bad ride can destroy the horse’s confidence also. And it wasn’t even a horrific bad ride, it is just that Sparkle is still too green *over fences* to know how to deal with that. So, no more loaning of the Sparkle pony for a while for gymnastic clinics.
How to fall off Sparkle…

Take leg off
Ask her to slow using hands
Lean forward to that fence.

Yes ma’am, you said “whoa”! And by gawd, Sparkle knows her whoa!

But, Sparkle knows people should NEVER fall off her, and so she then decided that the rider was no longer safe to jump with….rider was not convinced either, hence, the shrinking of the grid to 1/2 cross rail for each fence, with a severe zig-zag going through it. Because really, if you are not committed to going through that, Sparkle will happily just go around for you.

2/7/09
Sparkle was lovely today. I had one stop, at the end, but it was completely my fault. Not enough impulsion, not enough leg, and a stretch of a distance for her…and I decided to throw my shoulders forward.

I went through again, overrode a bit but got through it nicely. Then Stephen moved the jump in about 2-3′. Sparkle was really jumping round over the oxers at the end.

Tidbit for today, for a careful, steady horse, when they start to jump big and round at oxers, support and give a bit of leg at take off to validate the careful decision to jump big and round.

Today was canter day, all work was done at canter. Canter poles to a fence, then canter into the gymnastic, instead of trotting into it.

Sparkle was trying for a few lead changes on her own, and tossing in a few wheee! bucks…which made me laugh and laugh.

2/17/09
Back to Lauren’s for a dressage lesson. Sparkle worked hard! I had noticed that she was getting to quick with her feet/legs in canter transition work and wanted to work on slowing down the footfalls, having each foot on the ground a bit longer. So, we did a LOT of canter.

We worked on bend, then counter bend until she relaxed into it, then back to bend, down long side, bend/counterbend/bend, and testing the let go of inside rein, volte if she canges, return, give inside rein, rinse repeat.

Most of this was done in a slightly longer frame than we’ve been working, but then we played with some collection, back to the medium frame, collection, back, etc. I was playing with what works best to get her to collect a bit, but not die into trot.

At the end, we did some trot leg yield work. Sparkle said her back was getting tired! All that hard work. She has really changed a fair amount in the past year. Soon, I’ll be sending in an entry for a show or two. Because it would be terrible to feel good about my riding for more than a day or so.

2/22/08
Feb 2008
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Feb 2009
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Renvers, I swear, I need to keep the pictures of shoulder in, travers and renvers in front of me. Or just keep reminding myself that travers is haunches in.
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Canter Feb 2008 (from first post in her journal)
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Canter Feb 2009 – coming out of counter bend
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Canter w/ the counter bend, which is HARD
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Shoulder in the hard way..
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The lengthening that demonstrates it just isn’t there, conformationally that is. I am pleased to see the slight ADP there, with the hind foot down and the front foot still coming down.
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Possibly a stride before shot…
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I was sitting the lengthenings, thus a bit too far back in my upper body, which would have been better if I had kept my lower leg back as well.

Also, she was seriously overbending yesterday, as was Bali, so obviously, I need more leg on both to ride them up and out a bit more forward. I think I also reward the overbend since I inherently like very soft contact. I’m working on learning what feels like a heavy contact.

Many thanks to Doug for taking over 800 pics, and thanks to Suzy for going through them and putting 114 of them up!

All 6 horses in the barn got ridden yesterday.

3/25/09
We’ve had a light month for Sparkle. She has had a couple of NQR days, nothing big, but just a bobble here and there. She is feeling decent now, but I’m really thinking she was doing so much better on the thyro-l, and I need to chat w/ the vet on that.

But, regardless, the Rx is to work, even when she feels tight, so she is still in work.

We had a lesson last night, and she enjoyed her lightly flocked saddle….now that I rode in it 2x, it needs more wool…and I knew I’d be adding more, but since I’m the flocker, I can be lazy and ride a couple of times to let it pack, instead of pounding on the thing. I’ll add more wool before I ride in it again.

The saddle isn’t sliding left so much now, and she was much more willing to use her back.

The lesson was lateral work, work on transitions every 6 steps. So, 6 walk, 6 trot, 6 walk, 6 trot, 6 canter, 6 walk, halt, 6 walk, etc. initially, it was making her a bit hot, but then, she settled and the transitions were becoming lovely and she quit anticipating…or as I call it, she quit trying to finish my sentences for me.

After a bit of that, we went back to laterals again. Shoulder in, working on really owning the shoulder, haunches in, etc. We ended up with some of a shallow CC loop like in 1-4.
4/11/09
We survived our debut at 2nd level. And, I met my goal, not below 50%. Just. 50.28% And, that was enough to get us a 6th place ribbon.

To say it was a miserable day out…well, it was so miserable, NOBODY was out taking photographs. Not even the pros. Doug certainly didn’t want to get his camera wet, and I totally understand! The day started with our second level test, and later we did First-4. The footing was slippery and Sparkle hates that, so the simple changes sucked, and that could have been one of our strengths, her canter work was not as good as it could be, but really, I am not a dedicated show rider, in that I don’t ask for a lot when the rain is pelting me in the face so hard I can barely see. A few mistakes and that got us a few 4s. Without those and a bit more pizazz in the canter and I think that 60% is possible. With Sparkle, she gives 120%, but much more than 60 is going to be tough with her conformation, but she loves it.

We had 3 hours to burn until the first level test, and rather than warming up, I watched Lauren ride her first grand prix test on Claire. It was a lovely test, but sadly, by the time it was done, I had my boots, spurs and helmet back on, and was on the horse, we trotted down to the swimming pool….er ring…and it was time to enter at A. Whoops. No warm up. None. She broke in the canter twice, which is unlike her, but meh, we were riding in a swamp and she is NOT a mudder. That got us my first 3 ever….on a coefficient. Oh well. I came out saying…that was pretty bad. Lauren said, “it was not that bad given the lack of warmup…next time watch the DVD and warm up!” We ended up with a 55.8, and that was enough to give us 6th place again! And this time, it was NOT dead last! Woot!

So, the moral of the story, even at licensed shows, if you show up in a deluge with a downhill, QH/App, you might be in the ribbons at 2nd level!

I love having a coach there, and Lauren was so positive in all her instruction, which is good. I have enough negative/beat myself up for 10 people. With a coach who helped me warm up and saw the tests, I can have a better plan of action to improve the weaknesses. Some of it was the weather….Sweet! First time out at 2nd level and I get the weather excuse. Some of it was me learning to execute the tests better.

Sparkles loves being braided and at shows though. Even in the rain, while she was saying “you are crazy”, she was still all business and “look at me”.
4/23/09
A near perfect ride this morning on Sparkle. While I’m sure that we needed “more” of everything from a dq perpective, it was lovely and relaxed.

She was forward and willing, the collection is getting easier and rather than push for the edge today, we just suppled and used what we had. The simple changes were lovely, counter canter seemed pretty effortless for her, and the lateral work was all good. She very much appreciates her new wool. And, I think the 5 days off while I went to World Cup was good for her.
5/13/09
Sparkle has been feeling awesome the past couple of weeks. The Thyro-L makes a HUGE difference in her.

She is getting much stronger in her canter work, collecting, flexing, counter flexing, counter canter, canter/walk transitions. And, it is starting to feel easier for her. She loves her job, which is so cute because she is just not built for being a DQ pony, but I love learning on her because she tries so hard.

Now that I go to regular lessons, I don’t have as many lightbulb moments, but we do have a lot more progress from weekly feedback (although the feedback is shared between the two primary horses, I do each horse every other week). I’m getting better at not leaning forward in the canter, but still plenty of room for improvement, and every once in a while, I’ll see our shadow and think “whoa, check out that nice outline of that horse/rider”. And that kinda nice.

Since it has been warm, we’ve been riding outdoors, which means no mirrors, but that is good too, makes me concentrate more on the feel and not just rely on staring at the fabulous mirrors for the visual of how we are performing.

Today, Sparkle gets an easy ride, she gets to do fly predator spreading. I usually do that bareback and it is mostly a long, 30-40 minute walk around the entire farm.

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About Mel

Random musings in a riding journal
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