This is my two year old petting my friend Margot’s horse through the fence. I thought it was such a cute picture. She seems to like horses so hopefully she will continue to be interested as she gets older. I would love to buy her a pony someday!
Do you know how hard it is to make a horse go in a perfect circle? Pretty damn hard.
We rode Intro Test A in my mini arena for the second time. It’s basically walk/ trot, do a circle, walk diagonally across the arena, do another circle, trot some more and then stop perfectly square. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so much. We’re pretty rough. Things that sound simple and look simple when performed by well trained horses (like stopping perfectly square, trotting in steady rhythm and walking in a perfectly straight line) are surprisingly difficult when performed by greenies like me and Baron. We have our work cut out for us.
I must say that I am enjoying immensely our little foray into dressage. I always liked yoga and gymnastics because they were about muscle control and core power. Dressage is the equivalent for horses. I am also a teensy little bit of a control freak and a perfectionist. In dressage you don’t just trot, you trot perfectly- with rhythm, impulsion, and perfect posture. You don’t just walk haphazardly around the arena and stop any old way. You walk proudly in a straight line and you stop square, with all four of your horse’s feet firmly planted. It’s about quality.
If you read this blog you know that I don’t have as much time or money as I’d like to spend with a trainer so a lot of what I’ve done with Baron I’ve had to figure out for myself. After riding the test, I asked myself how in the world am I going to get better? What do we work on first? So I looked up the dressage training scale. It’s a pyramid that shows you how to progress in training a horse. Here it is:
Here’s the website I stole this from: http://www.artofriding.com/articles/trainingscale.html
At the bottom of the pyramid is rhythm. There’s my answer. The first thing we have to work on is getting rhythmic gaits. Baron’s default response when he doesn’t understand what I’m asking is to go faster. I’ll put my leg on him to ask him to move a little closer to the rail and he thinks I’m asking him to go faster. At the racetrack the right answer was always “Go faster!” From now on, whenever I ride I’ll be focusing on getting a slow, steady trot, not an “I’m tired, can we walk now?” shuffle, not a hurried “Please, please can I canter?” jiggy dance. Again, way harder than it sounds. 🙂
I spent Friday through Monday of last week in the hospital with my 5 month son. He’s fine overall, but he is underweight and they wanted to make sure he didn’t have any metabolic issues or kidney problems. We had to be there for 4 days of monitoring, blood work, etc… It was stressful, but being at the hospital was actually easier than being home and having to take care of two babies, a husband, two dogs and a horse!
I am hoping to ride this weekend in my snazzy new arena. I have only ridden in it once so far and we walked through Intro Test A. I’ve got to teach Baron to stay on the rail. He tends to wander if I don’t keep my leg on him pretty strong. He did very well walking the test; I was actually surprised at how well he listened to me and how precise we were in moving around the arena. Next step is to TROT when we’re supposed to! Ha ha, baby steps!
The arena is so small that you have to be extremely precise with transitions. There’s quite simply not enough room to lag behind when I ask for a trot or to shuffle for a few steps when I ask for a walk. Practicing in such a small space will probably be really good for us. We will have to have fast, smooth transitions and precise movements. There’s no room to get sloppy!
Also, I think Baron may really enjoy dressage. He does NOT like to be pressured, whether it’s to get into a trailer or over an obstacle. He’s very careful and he uses the thinking side of his brain very well. He likes having a chance to inspect things before he’s asked to fly over them. Dressage will help him to relax and become balanced. I’m very excited about this new development.
The first picture is of my new arena! I moved those panels all by myself this weekend and I have 3 gnarly blisters and a bruise to prove it. It’s small, about 36 ft x 60 ft, but I’m going to add extra panels as soon as I can afford them. I found them for $50 each on craigslist; they’re normally about $75. When it’s complete it should be about 48 ft x 72 ft, which is still smaller than a small dressage arena but it will do. I can take a lesson in it and that’s all I’m trying to accomplish.
The second two pictures are of my cheapskate way to make dressage letters. They cost about $50 in the Dover catalog, so being the extreme tightwad that I am, I found a way to make my own. I bought those plastic “For Sale” signs for a $1 each and a little can of exterior black paint for $4. About 45 minutes later, I had my dressage letters!
The best thing about this weekend is that I MADE something with my own hands. I accomplished something useful. That is what I love about horses. I’m continually making goals and meeting them. It gives me something to look forward to, something to plan for, something to be excited about. What did I do with my time and my energy before I had a horse?