A Fresh Start <3 - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 4 Old 03-01-2014, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Michigan
Posts: 228
• Horses: 1
A Fresh Start <3

So for a while I have been kind of working with a trainer kind of not. It was really, more than anything else, her just letting me exercise her horses/do barn chores for riding time and maybe a little critique every once and a while. She really was a great lady but I obviously wasn't learning anything... So I switched to a brand new stable/trainer and thought I would start a journal so I can track my progress and have documentation of my journey.

Today I had my evaluation with my new eventing trainer. I got there, filled out the liability waiver, and she got me into a dressage saddle faster than I could comprehend. This was so exciting for me because if I am honest I have been anxiously waiting for this day for weeks. I haven't had a proper one on one lesson in a few years and even though I give lessons myself I haven't forgotten how nice it is to have someone else tell you what to do and how to do it! The horse I rode is a 12 year old bay Curly mare called Baby, and I adore her! She is very "touchtone" as my trainer calls it. She is trained to the point where if you shift your weight just a little too far she will turn/move laterally/stop/back up. So far this is a blessing and a curse! It really makes me think of what I am doing with each part of my body during the ride, at the same time though I don't know all of her "buttons" yet so what I think is asking for a turn on the forehand turns into a side pass *face palm*

It felt really good to be back in the saddle though and on such a responsive horse! It was so much different than the camp horses I have been slowly bringing back to life... We walked and trotted for most of the lesson, really just giving me time to figure out her buttons and have her get used to me. I have to work on steering more with my seat bones than with my legs and I have a very "hunter" position which my trainer wanted me to tone down for this particular lesson as it was dressage and we are building a base from there and working out. We did do a few rounds of cantering and OH MY GOSH!!! This mare has the smoothest canter in to whole world I wanted to do more but since she was just trying to see where I was at we only did a little of it. From there we worked on in gait transitions: slow, medium, and working walk, slow, medium, and working trot. Then some 20 meter circles to work on bending and then a cool down.

Needless to say I am in love with this place and am suuuuuper excited to come back! I am only going once a week at the moment but am hoping to up it to two times a week once it gets warmer/I get more $$$. Next Saturday I don't get to go though because it is spring break and The Boy and I are going to SC in hopes of catching some sun!

The Boy ended up taking a bunch of pictures and I will try to post some when he gets home from work. One thing I noticed though is that in some of the pictures when I am obviously trotting my lower leg seems to have come off of the horse, like it is swinging away from the mare's barrel... It is not like this in a lot of the pictures and I am just curious as to how I can stop this/what would be causing it... ? I don't think I am pinching with my knees, and my trainer never got after me about it so maybe I was just adjusting the stirrup or something... But it is a trait that I have seen in multiple pictures of myself riding over the years and yet I don't remember my first trainer (when I was riding everyday in middle/high school) ever getting after me about it either. I am curious how to fix it or if it is just going to take re-building the muscles in my calves because I haven't been super crazy consistent with riding every week unless it is the summer... I wonder if I am over thinking it...

No matter what though I am so excited for this next big step in my riding journey <3

The only view I want to see is the landscape between my horse's ears <3
Take a Chance- AAQH Gelding, silly boy, love of my life
Follow My Journey
aerie is offline  
post #2 of 4 Old 03-16-2014, 06:44 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Michigan
Posts: 228
• Horses: 1
I had my second lesson yesterday after taking a week off because I was on Spring Break and am I sure feeling it today!!! When I first got there my trainer had already pulled Baby out and I just had to tack her up. Since my first lesson was just an evaluation she let me warm up by myself. We just walked around the arena working on nice long and low stretches and then back up into a more rounded frame and worked in between slow to working walks both directions. After that my trainer had me pick up a nice working trot and had me focus on softening my legs and feeling for her to round up.

Then came the 20 meter circles. I did so many circles this lesson I lost count. We really worked on getting a nice bend in her body and continued to try and work on my deteriorated low leg muscles. We worked on some spiraling exercises to really pound into my head (and old muscle memory) what it feels like to really push a horse with your leg. The thing that is really hard for me is knowing that when I was in high school I could do all of this without thinking. Now after almost five years of no lessons (and when I was taking lessons I was riding everyday and seeing my trainer every two to three days on top of a lesson for six straight years) to having lessons only once a week again I feel frustrated knowing that I was a a fairly high level of riding (for my age back in the day) and while I haven't really regressed I am scared I am just not going to get any better... Although I am waaaay over thinking it considering I have only had two lessons with my trainer :P

Anywhooos... After tons and tons of circles and spirals both directions I went large again and she asked me to pick up a canter. Ohhhh I just about cried. This mare has the smoothest most amazing canter I have ever ridden, and lets just say it is a huge step up from my poor little camp horses (no offense meant to them of course, they are my babies <3). We then went back to more 20 meter circles and worked on collecting her at the canter. I lost my stirrup while doing these and my trainer (who has worked with high ranking riders but most recently has had more than a few little ones as her current students who are mostly walk trot) complemented me when I simply scooped my stirrup back up when I transitioned down into a trot.

I know it is such a little thing that most riders can do, but I really made me feel good to get praised

After we worked sufficently both directions at the canter we went back down to a walk. After this we worked on figure eights at the sitting trot both working and extended trot and then across the diagonals of the arena (working on the long sides extended through the diagonal) After I managed to find my center she had me do long serpentines using only my seat and leg. This I find challenging for some reason. I think I am over thinking/over cuing Baby so she either disregards what I am asking or does something totally different because that is what I am unintentionally asking her. I finally figured it out a little more though when I took a few deep breaths and just let muscle memory take over. I think I am over eager to impress my trainer a little bit. I really don't have anything to prove to her, I guess maybe I am just scared she won't think I am a good enough rider and she will take me back to ultimate square one... This is such a silly thought though and hopefully the more I work with her the less I will think this :)

At the end of the lesson I was working on moving her laterally from the center of the arena to the track at a walk. I could get it when we were going counter clockwise, but going clockwise her neck and body was too bent towards the center of the arena and we weren't doing it properly. We finished on a good note though with some in gait transitions and then a good cool down.

The only view I want to see is the landscape between my horse's ears <3
Take a Chance- AAQH Gelding, silly boy, love of my life
Follow My Journey
aerie is offline  
post #3 of 4 Old 03-29-2014, 07:44 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Michigan
Posts: 228
• Horses: 1
Ahh I forgot to update this last week!

Last week I walked into the indoor and my trainer had me tack up and warm up Baby. The moment I settled into the saddle I got a good feeling, I just knew that it was going to be a good lesson. We really worked on bending. I had to really focus on using my lower leg properly and making minor adjustments with my seat bones. We worked on a small dressage test which ended up with us working on lateral movements from the inside of the arena to the outside since she was reacting well to my leg and seat bone pressure. That is one thing I really like about my trainer, if she sees that I am doing in well at what she asks and something happens mid exercise that can be incorporated into what we are doing she immediately shifts gears and moves on to that.

Almost the entire time we worked on the sitting trot and to be completely honest, for a while I felt like a sack of potatoes! I felt like I was moving this way and that without really finding her rhythm. Right when I was feeling discouraged I took a deep breath and dropped all of my weight down through my legs.

Aha! There was my problem! I had been holding too much tension up through my shoulders and was tight through my hips. When I relaxed and stopped thinking about how all over the place I felt BOOM I was almost immediately in sync with her. My trainer smiled and told me to bump her up a little bit so I closed my legs around her and I felt it! Her back rounded her head dropped and I was in complete control! I could move every part of her body with the slightest touch of my leg or shift in my seat. It had been a long long time since I had felt so comfortable in the saddle.

Then I dropped my stirrups. My legs were absolutely burning! But it felt so good. I was able to really relax my lower body and we started working towards making my aids less visible. By the time we slowed back down to a walk for the cool down I felt invincible! I got another little ego boost when my trainer complemented my on my riding and told me I was a good rider! It felt so good to hear that from a professional.

The next day I was a little sore, but not nearly as bad as I thought I was going to be from all of the stirrup-less riding I did. I am finally gaining back some of the muscle I lost over the years, and boy does it feel good.

This whole week has been crazy stressful though. I had an exam on Monday that I completely forgot about until noon, two hours before I had to be in class. Then I had a paper due on Tuesday, nothing big but still just enough to add some weight to the endless pile of things to do. Wednesday I got my exam back... 70% ugghh I was so angry! I know it was my fault for not studying, but it still bummed me out :/ Thursday i had another exam, but I feel pretty confident about that one! I studied crazy hard for it and ended up being the first one in the class to turn it in. Friday was just a work day but I had been texting different group members most of the day because it was put on my shoulders to schedule four different meetings for four different groups!

I really dislike group projects... In three out of the four I am the only girl in the groups and the guys have no interest in doing well, they told me straight up that a "C" is "good enough" because "C's get degrees". I am not a grade hound by any means, I'll admit that, but I do put my best effort into it and always strive for an "A" regardless of whether or not I achieve it. Two out of the four groups have responded to texts and have meeting times in place, the other two have not said a word.

On top of all that I have just been really tired and grouchy lately :( I feel so bad for The Boy... I freaked out at him two nights in a row for basically no reason! I apologized profusely after we talked it out and I calmed down. It's just not like me and I feel like a jerk! Luckily he is the best man ever and just held me (both times) telling me it is just because I am taking 18 credit hours (I thought I was graduating but turns out the durrrn school snuck in some extra classes I didn't know I had to take and now have one more semester after this) of 400 level classes. They seriously take up soooo much time it is ridiculous! Luckily work is pretty relaxed otherwise I think I would be a crazy person with no hair left from pulling it out!

The only really good thing about my week was today, because I got to ride again :) I find that each time I go out for my lesson I come away feeling more and more confident and figuring out more and more of Baby's buttons. After saddling and warming up we went into a nice working trot. I found myself not even thinking about my lower legs because I was focused on helping Baby loosen up and round her back, but when I did take a moment to check my position I found that my lower legs were right up against her sides, not all over the place and swung out away from her! Ahh it felt so good! My posting was fluent and rhythmic. After she started feeling nice and loose we did a long serpintine with three turns down the long end of the arena. I was really working on driving her forward through the turns since they are pretty tight, using my seat to turn, and my legs to help push her hips around. The first few turns were a little wonky but I took a deep breath and relaxed again and BOOM beautiful turns. I don't think I stopped grinning the entire time! It felt so good! She was so supple and responsive. When I brought her down to a walk so she could relax for a moment and stretch out her neck she cam to a pretty abrupt halt and then stuttered back into a walk. It felt funny and my trainer commented on it. We talked through how I was asking for transitions and I told her I was giving half halts to let her know it was coming, then sitting deep and creating a wall with my hands and seat.

She suggested maybe I was sitting too fast after the half halts, like I was rushing it, and after Baby caught her breath we trotted a 20 meter circle to work on transitions. First we trotted the first half of the circle and walked the second half, really working on a smooth transition between trot and walk. I watched for the distance between where I was trotting and where I was supposed to walk, I counted down the steps, half halted, then sat and gave my wall. Perfect! We did this a few more times then broke the circle up into quarters. Again almost perfect except she would stick her nose out and go from a nice working trot to a plodding walk. I had to really focus on not throwing away the contact after she transitioned down. Once I did that she was back to being beautifully responsive!

Then we cantered some 20 meter circles, focusing on really having her bend her whole body around my inside leg, supporting with the outside rein, and bumping a reminder with my outside leg, and then back down to trot again. She felt so smooth and relaxed. Then it was time to cool down. I spent my cool down time letting Baby stretch out and talked with my trainer. She is getting a hip replacement on Monday so she won't be giving lessons for at least two weeks. She does have an assistant I can take lessons with though. I might not have a lesson next week though, nothing to do with the assistant I just think I need to go be with my sister there is something going on with her and I need to make sure she is okay. I will have a lesson the week after that regardless though! :)

Gahh I really wrote a novel! But I felt like I needed to put down my improvement from last week and my overall optimistic feeling I had from today's lesson. It really does feel good to have something, other than my boyfriend, really consistent in my life. I think he is glad that I have something to pour my energy into when life gets rough though. He has been such a constant for three years (and still is!) but now I can release a lot of my stress through riding instead of vent sessions with him. He gave me a nice kiss today and told me how happy I looked and he thought I looked beautiful riding. It really made a stressful week not so bad anymore <3

The only view I want to see is the landscape between my horse's ears <3
Take a Chance- AAQH Gelding, silly boy, love of my life
Follow My Journey
aerie is offline  
post #4 of 4 Old 04-13-2014, 01:20 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Michigan
Posts: 228
• Horses: 1
My lesson yesterday was something I needed so badly. Remember when I said I thought something might be going on with my sister? Well turns out there was. She put herself in a mental hospital last week Monday. I had no idea she was doing that badly... She is in a terribly mentally abusive relationship but thinks this guy has no flaws. He pushed her to believe that she was worthless and because we don't like him that he was going to leave her and since he was leaving she would be nothing. She then tried to hurt herself. She was in the mental hospital for a week and only got out this Monday, I did not have my lesson last Saturday because I went to see her. She is back together with this guy and still thinks he is an amazing man... I am so frustrated but I love my sister so much that I just support and hug her every time I see her.

I really needed my lesson yesterday though. All last week I was stressed, and all this week I was worried about my sister being back to school and back to jerk-face man. Being able to climb in the saddle was so incredibly therapeutic I almost cried.

My trainer is only a week out of hip replacement surgery so she wasn't there yesterday, instead I had a lesson with her assistant. She was super nice but very close to my own age. I think it made her a little uncomfortable giving a lesson to someone who could be her peer! Once we got going though she relaxed and was more like a friend giving advice and honestly I think that made all the difference.

We mainly worked on making sure my circles were big and round, not small and square. For some reason I always think that I am making my 20 meter circles waaaay too big so I push Baby in too tight when I need to not worry about the size and just hit the four points of the arena. By the complete end of the lesson my circles were big and round and beautiful.

We also worked a little bit on the canter, Baby likes to push in to the middle of the arena so I had to really push her out with my inside leg while reminding her to keep going every few strides with my outside leg. One thing I noticed that the assistant did not say anything about was my legs. For some reason every now and again they would creep up a little, I would lose my stirrup, I would regain it and re-drape my leg. I don't think this is a nervous thing because I love to canter, in fact I have never been afraid of it and quite often during the summer take off down the trail full tilt bareback! I wonder if it has anything to do with the stirrups being longer for dressage than how I usually wear my stirrups over the summer for jumping... I guess it is just something I will have to keep in mind for next time and ask my trainer about.

Towards the end of the lesson we ran an introductory dressage test. The assistant said I did really well (we ran it two times) and said she would send me to a show next weekend if she could. That made me feel good :) I am really loving it here and am really excited to see where this trainer and this barn in general could take me :)

Next week I won't have a lesson because it is Easter and I will be two and a half hours away with m0y family, but I am hoping to go visit my camp (because it is only a half hour away and play around with the two cart geldings we have there year round so I can still get my horsey fix :P

I will also probably have to come face to face with jerk-face man. I know I have to be supportive for my sister's sake, but it will take every ounce of strength for me not to punch him in his smug face. Wish me luck guys, I have a feeling that I am going to need it...

The only view I want to see is the landscape between my horse's ears <3
Take a Chance- AAQH Gelding, silly boy, love of my life
Follow My Journey
aerie is offline  

dressage , eventing , journal , journey , riding lessons

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