Trials and Tribulations of the Adult Beginner - Page 27 - The Horse Forum
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post #261 of 270 Old 12-28-2016, 03:24 PM Thread Starter
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@rainaisabelle; & @tinyliny - Correct, I was thinking you were meaning more ‘get after’ her, since I was attempting to redirect and keep her attention pretty constantly throughout this process. I just really wasn’t using enough force to compel compliance, which is where my mistake was. Getting her to listen to me any more then she was doing was going to require I push into actually being punitive rather than just redirecting. I actually have another post coming up in which my error here becomes more apparent.

Originally Posted by greentree View Post
We seriously need to see a video of this "behavior". What may seem like out of control, or spooky to a beginner may be nothing to "Jill".
My chances of getting a video of this is pretty slim honestly. It doesn’t come up often and I can’t exactly take cell phone video of myself while riding. As far as it seeming out of control to a beginner but not to Jill - I suspect you’re correct in a lot of ways here. Then again, I suspect MOST misbehavior by horses doesn’t count as much of a big deal to her (because I’ve seen her jump on very obviously misbehaving horses and chat like it’s not a big deal at all). Also by the standards of horse misbehavior we’re not talking anything particularly dramatic: mostly just refusals and in one case a splay-spook, along with a bit of pulling on the bit and rushing.

@greentree; & @gottatrot - on horse boredom.

I agree with @gottatrot in that perhaps ‘bored’ is the wrong word, but at least with Dragon it’s definitely a real thing I can see build up - frustrated maybe? I will say that if you do simple repetitive things with her in the arena then after a while (usually after doing the same thing about 6-7 times) you can definitely see her wanting to find ways to do something else, and that if the exercise is more challenging/interesting (like say cavaletti pattern work) then this isn’t a problem and she seems happy to be there. Jill calls this state of not being happy doing something repeatedly ‘bored’ and I’ve gotten used to thinking of it that way. You could also call it ‘frustrated’ and probably reach about the same conclusion.

I can play candy crush for an hour without getting ‘bored’ because I’m constantly getting small rewards (even if they’re just little happy-noises from my phone) but if you ask me to do something repetitive at work (say manually updating a bunch of configs line-by-line) which I don’t see immediate benefit for I want to put my head through a wall after 20 minutes. If I were to sort of describe the sense I get, it’s that - the evasive “can’t we do something else?” that builds up over time.

Originally Posted by StephaniHren View Post
I agree with this. My reaction to a horse that's building up to a spook is not to get quiet and let them work it out, it's to get loud to yank their attention back onto me. My gelding is very clear about when he's getting looky, so he always gets a sharp "Focus!" and a roll of my spurs, since he typically sticks his nose up in the air whenever he's found something to get uneasy about. I drive him forward and down into the bridle, maybe start adding in some complex lateral work or figure 8's or serpentines or something like that. He should be focused on ME, because I guarantee you I can be 100x more scary than whatever he's looking at, lol.

If I get a full on spook that can't be redirected, that's different. That's when I turn him to face whatever he's having a meltdown over, sit calmly in the saddle, sometimes verbally tell him what's up ("Yep, that's a tractor."), and then, once he's gotten a good look at it, I turn him and expect him to keep on working.
So, especially after working through the lessons since I posted this, I can say this is almost certainly the right answer in my case - not what I did, but what I should have done. I’m still working through being far too lenient in a few cases - but I suspect this would have dealt with my problems far more effectively than the route I took.
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Last edited by Cammey; 12-28-2016 at 03:33 PM. Reason: Fixing Mentions
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post #262 of 270 Old 12-28-2016, 03:33 PM Thread Starter
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Post Lessons 19 & 20 - Two Very Different Days

Lesson 19: Disrespect
Today was a lesson I’m very glad happened, even though it was a bit challenging.

I walked into today’s lesson with an awful lot of questions regarding the new ‘buttons’ and behaviors I was seeing in Dragon over the past three days. I was also really hoping that she would display some of the behavior from Sunday so that I could ask Jill about it in more depth. I was proud of myself for managing to push her past the ‘fake spook’, but suspected that dealing with it as gently as I did meant that I hadn’t really dealt with it in the long term, and I was a little worried it would hit the next time I was riding alone with her.

Thankfully (?) Dragon was happy to oblige my desire to get Jill to see the behavior in a lesson.

I got the same ‘fake spook’ - though only the refusal, not the bit of jumping - the very first time I turned down the quarter-line after warm up. I went to circle her back around, but apparently this is far too gentle to really deal with what I’m seeing. According to Jill, what I’m now seeing is has grown up into flat-out disrespect/boundary pushing behavior.

So the first part of the lesson was dealing with that. This comprised essentially of trying to push her to actually walk past the ‘spook’ item. Admittedly, I’ve seen Dragon genuinely spooked at this point, and even I could tell the difference in how she was acting. But this didn’t prevent this from being probably the most interesting period of riding I’ve yet encountered. Jill ideally wanted me to force her to go forward, despite her refusals - but if I couldn’t manage that, at least force the direction of the refusal to change and then bring her back around. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite up to the task of forcing her forward (though I could at least manage pulling her around) so Jill ended up having to lead her from the ground up to the problem area the first time through (and even with that she was being a brat). Meanwhile, I was finally getting nervous enough myself (I was worried she would rear. Mind you I don’t believe this horse ever rears - but knowing that intellectually and feeling safe as she shifts her weight back are two different things). I had to keep forcing my body from taking on the dreaded ‘beginner perching’ position where my shoulders roll in and I lose my heels. I did manage to get my heels back down solidly (whew) but I had to consciously fight to keep my back straight. Eventually I just told myself today was as good a day as any to fall off a horse I suppose, and that actually helped me loosen my muscles enough that I could follow through on keeping posture (.. or at least being better). Ironically, for as nervous as I was getting, objectively speaking nothing going on was actually that difficult to ride - erratic and strange, but not actually physically difficult. Taking tight corners at speed, or that thing where she circles rapidly, are actually more challenging from a balance perspective. My concern was far more about what she could do than what she actually did - which was mostly just the sort of refusal you sometimes see when watching eventing in front of an obstacle, except it was about fifteen feet away from some colored fence poles I was asking her to walk next to (not even over).

I managed to force her through on the second pass, though it took more kicking and prodding then I think I’ve ever applied before. Getting her to halt next to the ‘scary’ object wasn’t much worse then her halting can be on a bad day, and after that second pass I was able to focus on things like straightness and not changing pace. Then we basically turned the poles from the problematic jump into ground poles and went over those repeatedly until she was completely smooth. Ironically, she seemed to like them better when we were going over them and by that point was only doing the slightest bit of rushing.

After that she still continued to be a bit of a brat for the rest of the lesson - including one more round of open disobedience when asking for a simple change-of-direction through the arena, but this time this time I was able to work her through it without requiring assistance. I was a little harsher with her than I usually am because every time I gave her an inch she seemed to want to take several feet. We worked over some cavaletti to try to get energy out and I managed to get her solidly under control - but it took very active management and really trapping her between my legs and hands to keep her obedient. ‘Walk on a loose rein’ wasn’t happening.

I also managed to replicate some of the bending/turning strangeness I had been seeing on Thursday/Saturday. Jill says she’s not even sure I’m doing anything actually wrong - though she did go over the position of my head/shoulders in the turn in aiding the horse in realizing we’re turning rather than just creating bend. After that though she says just to use the reins as a correction to turn, because it’s definitely something she should recognize I’m asking for at this point. We’re also going to simplify a little and stop working on the bend-walk-straight work for now since she’s getting hypersensitive to my leg aids to a degree that isn’t actually useful, and this is causing things like the fast circle-and-spin. Simplifying is probably a good direction to go in and making sure I’m not letting her get away with things is important right now since she is testing boundaries so hard.

Instead of doing the traditional cool-down I got a lesson on lunging - the basic commands, as well as explanations on when/why to lunge and how to create different lunge work sequences based on what I’m trying to get out of her. There are a couple different ‘uses’ for lunging as I’m being taught. The first one is that lunging can be used for days where I can just tell in the cross-ties that she is either very nervous or wants an exciting day but I want a calmer one - in this case it’s done as an outlet for some of her energy before I ride her and to ensure she’s fully listening to me - it’s supposed to be nice for her. In this case I warm her up on a long lunge slowly working from walk->trot->canter then working on transitions between the gaits until her she seems calmer, her responses are prompt, and require nothing besides my voice to do transitions. She may be a little rough at the canter at times if she’s really wound up - but that’s really nothing to worry about too much as she lets off steam. Then I do it on the other side - making sure that we end with walk/trot transitions so she’s calm and really listening.

The second use is for handling disrespect when riding. In general I should do my absolute best to push her past whatever the issue is - but then if I want to can be used to regain control and compliance overall in place of a cool-down. In this case I’m going for walk/trot transitions (the canter is fun for her - so no canter) and gaining compliance and obedience. Attitude is different in this case - this type of lunging is about obedience.

Lunging can also be used on its own in place of riding (though not for too long) as a form of general exercise in the same way as I’d do it before a ride - and it might be worth having me come out and do a session or two of practicing lunge work, especially on days where it’s clear just taking up she’s going to be extremely jumpy. The key with this is not to over-do it, as this can be a bit hard on her physically. And in all cases except when I’m really, really having trouble controlling her I should give her as long a lunge line as possible - especially at the canter - so as not to be too hard on her joints.

Overall it was a very educational lesson, and to be honest… even a little fun. I definitely did get nervous, but it never pushed into upset. This is something I’m definitely going to have to learn to deal with, so I was really glad to be able to work it out with Jill there to literally hold the horse as need be.

Lesson 20: USDF Introductory Test A

I could tell before we even left the grooming stall that we were in for a better day today. Dragon was paying attention to me but calm - reacting but not over-reacting. She was in full-on good girl mode.

The warm-up went the same way - a nice forward walk without any power-walking or speeding up. It seemed that our issues were now totally worked out and she was on excellent behavior. I especially loved that she was both reacting to my leg nicely but not over-reacting or wiggling about as she has been. She was a tiny bit fast in some of the gaits… but that I think will always be her on the best of days, and she listened to my requests to slow down.

We spent the first half of the lesson just really reviewing the gaits in a lot of detail, working on crisp transitions, and nitpicking my form. We shortened the stirrups a touch and while it was making it significantly easier to keep my heels down it also affected my balance and I’m now leaning a touch too much forward in general - so we worked on fixing that. My rein positioning is doing much better but I still need to work on keeping my outside rein up a touch more (and honestly, using it more as my break without pulling both reins as my break in turns - though I caught myself doing this more often than Jill did). We also went over the trouble-spots from yesterday just to make sure they wouldn’t cause us any issues again - I had a little bit of a wiggle my first time through the still-laid-out colored poles that were causing us issue before, but she straightened out nicely the second two passes and we seemed good to go.

We did the two sets of cavaletti again. I was too slow through the first time and she actually hit a pole of the second set and stumbled a little - my error. Then I picked a better pace for us the next couple times and we went through smoothly. I actually think this was a little better than my last time doing two sets in a row like this - but the improvement was fairly subtle. It also seems a little easier to post high while keeping heels down with the shortened stirrups.

During all this we chatted quite a bit about Dragon being a pest - what she will and won’t do, my general level in comfort with dealing with her misbehavior, and subsequently even more strategies for dealing with disobedience and boundary testing - especially when I’m alone in the arena. We talked about falling off horses and what to do if it happened when I was alone due to her misbehaving (forcibly taking her to the spot from the ground, followed by lunging). We also talked a bit more about what Dragon will and will not do in terms of acting up. It’s highly, highly, highly unlikely she will ever rear (as I was afraid she might) - but she definitely will threaten and if she really gets going she may crow-hop instead. If this starts getting too crazy and I’m alone with her (or if I come off) then the lead-her-from-the-ground approach along with some very firm handling is entirely appropriate - followed by lunging. It’s better not to start a fight I’m not sure I’ll win, and we can clean it up later if need be (though I should text Jill if I’m not going to be the next person riding her so that whomever her next rider is has warning).

We also spoke more generally about horse misbehavior and boundary pushing, especially with horses that are more willful by nature - as a lot of the horses around here are. We talked about how even well behaved horses can go bad with over-gentle handling and failure to set rules. We also briefly introduced the concepts around riding different sorts of horse misbehavior - mostly in a theoretical ‘this is how this is complicated’ sense and not in the sense of anything I should consider actually attempting at this point in time.

Finally, Jill had me do a called out version of the USDF Introductory Test A. I actually had minor mistake in that I asked for a gait transition too soon, which I then turned into a more serious mistake when I asked her to switch back to the correct gait very shortly thereafter - thus confusing the heck out of her and unintentionally ‘punishing’ her for what was my mistake. We stopped the test, spent a few laps around the arena relaxing, and re-started.

There were also a couple jumps in the way of doing my perfect 20-meter circles. In our home arena the quarter line and 20-meter circles at the ends of the arena are always kept jump-free for just this reason - but in this pure HJ barn I had to make the inside corners of my circle fairly square to avoid running into anything. This bothered me probably far more than it should have.

Overall, it was a nice exercise. I was especially pleased I managed to get a square halt without walking off for the salute. I feel this pretty much confirms what I’ve suspected and that Jill is looking to get me started in Dressage - at least to give me a first thing to work on.
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post #263 of 270 Old 12-28-2016, 08:46 PM
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you have a remarkable ability to assimilate a ton of information at the same time. it's true, inevitably so, that over time you'll change and learn, and look back at this and maybe laugh. but don't be hard on yourself. I think few learners have been as receptive and observant as you have been.
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post #264 of 270 Old 12-28-2016, 09:14 PM
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Might I suggest putting your phone on a mounting block, or barrel, or step, of some kind for video? I do it all the time. Would LOVE to see some of this incredible ability you have, sounds like you are having quite the forward journey.


Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #265 of 270 Old 12-29-2016, 01:24 AM
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Originally Posted by SorrelHorse View Post
Might I suggest putting your phone on a mounting block, or barrel, or step, of some kind for video?
This is how most of us partner-less riders do it. I've got a cheap refurbished camcorder with a good battery life that I got off of Amazon that I take with me to the stables every now and then. I set it up on top of a barrel, hit record, and then go about my ride (with a little extra riding closer to the camera so that I get some good footage, since the arena is huge and I look like a tiny speck if I'm all the way on the other side). I edit out any parts where I'm out of frame later on.

Even if you don't end up posting footage on this thread, I really do recommend taking some videos. I used to have videos from back during my childhood riding days. They've since been lost (hard drive failure—everything's backed up via Dropbox now), and I would pretty much give my right leg to have them back.
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post #266 of 270 Old 12-29-2016, 08:26 AM
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I'm sorry. I just need you to clarify a few things because I'm really confused. You said this was primarily a H/J barn and Dragon is an "A" circuit jumper?

I'm confused at the direction of your lessons because they seem to be all over the place as far as disciplines, yet you don't seem to be having any issue picking up on any of it. But... it's common knowledge that H/J and Dressage are COMPLETELY different ways of riding. Different not only for the rider, but for the horse as well. It's also very uncommon for HJ trainer to be going a dressage route with a student. In my time in the horse world, having been at both types of barns, neither discipline is a fan of the other, because the way of going is so vastly different. We recently had a 20 yr old WB gelding hunter jumper moved to our barn and my trainer has to ride him when his owner goes outta town. He is half brother to her 3rd Level dressage mare. Mind you, he cleaned house in his day showing HJ. She hates the way he rides. She says he's strung out and on the forehand, and at his age, there's no point in trying to teach him to carry himself in a completely different way.

So Dragon would have to be a super talented to horse to be one that does well in the HJ circuit, yet comes back to lessons and be able to collect and do an extended trot. And then to top it all off, western jog, which is yet another discipline and way of going altogether.

I typically ride 5 days a week and lesson weekly on my own horse. I also clinic with a Grand Prix clinician who comes down 4 times a year and does 2-3 day clinics with us. I've been told by my trainer, the clinician, and experienced riders that I've made amazing progress in little over a year. And I know I'm not alone here when I say it takes time to train your body to adjust to riding and understanding the feel and cues and aids.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."
- Maya Angelou

Last edited by TaMMa89; 12-31-2016 at 06:42 PM.
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post #267 of 270 Old 12-29-2016, 03:29 PM
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As someone who spent many years teaching riding I have had four or five pupils that were just naturals. One was a boyfriend who looked as if he had ridden all his life yet had only been riding a few months when he was competing show jumping tomamgood standard.

Another was a young French boy, Eric, never touched a horse let alone ride one. He was on a student exchange holiday. He was meant to attend school in the mornings but he would borrow his hosts bike and cycle to the stables. He was tiny, he was totally fearless and at the end of two weeks was not only cantering he could also canter along a field standing on the pony's quarters.

It happens, some are just naturals which can make others very jealous.
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Last edited by TaMMa89; 12-31-2016 at 06:45 PM.
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post #268 of 270 Old 12-29-2016, 04:22 PM
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There are definitely people who are just naturals at it, which I'm highly jealous of those kinds.

What makes me just a bit confused is a few things. The big one that made me wonder, and perhaps it was just a mistype?, is this particular bit. In one post you said someone else was leasing Dragon. But then later you said you were the only one potentially leasing at the barn? Did something change? This confused me.

Originally Posted by Cammey View Post
But really, the most exciting news was at the end of the lesson: Dragon might be available for a quarter lease! Jill mentioned that she doesn’t typically lease out to beginners at my level, but she has appreciated my attention to detail and the rate at which I’m progressing, so (with some caveats and discussion) she’s open to it

As I mentioned it almost seems like there’s an experience chain amongst the students, and me getting to lease Dragon is dependent on the person above me (who recently won blue riding Dragon in her latest H/J comp) feeling ready to try out one of the greener horses (Cricket - who’s apparently a polite dream to ride, won 4th in the same H/J comp with a different rider while only being about a month off-the-track, but is still overall very inexperienced) and split her half-lease between the two.
Originally Posted by Cammey View Post
(though I am one of only a handful of students not yet jumping even in lessons, and possibly the only one who leases)

I’ve even thought some things like offering to buy someone else a quarter-lease if they’d ride at the same times I do, just so I don’t have to be alone. That’s quite insanely expensive though, and at that point it’s tempting just to apply that money to more lessons.
I will say I'm shocked over a nearly perfect Intro A test (and chuckled at the use of the full name; I've only ever seen USDF Introductory Test A written in show bills and on the tests, never written out when stating tests). To this day I've never ridden a perfect test on my first run through, and even then I'm such a perfectionist that I have yet to ride a perfect test ever some felt GREAT, but never perfect.

It is a bit strange to mix so many different disciplines, which is what baffled me from the start. I've never known a use for the Western Jog in anything other than Western Pleasure and perhaps Western Trail? Never mixed with H/J and Dressage, and definitely not for a horse that showed Prelim. Would you mind asking Jill what the purpose of teaching this would be? I just can't wrap my head around it's use ever in any discipline. And does she have something against just coaching in one discipline? Obviously developing a good seat is crucial before learning how to jump, but you wouldn't be working on collecting and lengthening necessarily. And not before learning to canter.

I will say I am vastly curious about the Western Jog, and would love to know what the theory behind teaching that would be.
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Last edited by TaMMa89; 12-31-2016 at 06:55 PM.
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post #269 of 270 Old 12-29-2016, 06:09 PM
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Few messages have been removed from this thread since them questioned, pretty hard way, the OP and her experiences.

However, I think it's time to clarify our rules a bit:

Please note that in the Journals section the thread opening posters are stars of their very own journals and that's why we ask people to notice this while posting comments on these threads. That's why content, which maybe puts the OP in an unpleasant spot or makes him feel uncomfortable, will be subjected to editing/removal. In other parts of the forum you are welcome to question, give constructive feedback, share opposing views and even debate (if it's appropriate considering the topic).

The Moderating Team hopes that you manage to spot the difference between these different sections and therefore follow the rules. Despite of the section, if you feel that there's something that the Moderating Team should know, please report it to the Team instead of addressing the issue publicly on the thread.

-The Moderating Team

Last edited by TaMMa89; 01-02-2017 at 03:32 PM.
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post #270 of 270 Old 02-13-2017, 06:39 PM
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Apologies to the owner of this Journal, Cammey, in hindsight we realise that it should have been closed when she told us that she no longer wished to participate in it.
That was our error and we will own it.
Out of respect for her any posts made on it after the date she advised us that she no longer wanted to participate in it have been removed. That action does not reflect the content of those posts and we apologise to those members that took the time to make them.
This Journal is remains closed to further comments.
If at any time Cammey wishes to re-open it then that will be done and if she would like any of the removed posts to be returned to the Journal that can also be done

Just winging it is not a plan

Last edited by jaydee; 02-15-2017 at 11:40 AM.
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