"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Friday, March 8, 2013


I rode Jezebel yesterday, and we worked on the zooming and the new pop-my-shoulder evasion that she had been doing.

Jez was COVERED in mud when I got her from the field. The snow from the day before had all melted, turning the field into one giant mud pit. It was horrible, and Jez had mud encrusted all the way up her legs, over her ears, and ground into the roots of her mane. She looked like she had dreadlocks! Since my own mare does this on a 99.9% of the time basis, for the first time I had a real vision of what her mane would REALLY look like most of the time if I'd let it grow out! It took a while to get all the mud off Jez, and I was still finding chunks in her mane while riding her!

One of the trainers was working her horses at liberty in the indoor, so I chose to ride in the mucky outdoor. It was very, very wet, but not slippery, as the footing is sand. However, I decided not to canter, mostly because the footing was so bad, but mostly because I wanted to work with Jezebel on not zooming. She'll have a nice relaxed trot, and then all of a sudden she'll take the bit between her teeth and ZOOM! (This is very much a baby horse thing-Lily used to do the same thing in the beginning.) Then you have to bring her back and do circles to get her nice and soft again. Which is when she'll now overbend and pop her shoulder... So we worked on this-just trotting at one speed, no zooming, and keeping the circles nice and round. And lots of halt-walk-trot-halt transitions too. We also sorted out some initial minor brattiness with the gate - she wanted to go TO the gate. After circling evenly in front of it, and then half-halting or bringing her to a halt from the trot as we rode past the gate, she stopped wanting to go to it as fast as possible. Soon we were trotting by the gate at a nice, controlled pace with no attempts at drifting towards it. Her other small issue was wanting to be close to whomever was standing by the fence-Charles was standing by the fence taking pictures, and she kept wanting to drift over to him every time we rode by, thinking she'd get to stop. I did stop her once, but then we worked on not doing it again, and she got it once I started using my WHOLE body to turn her. lol Then she'd go without a fuss. She did great and before I knew it, we had been riding around for 45 minutes, and I chose to stop before the session got too long. Jez is just fun to ride-you really do have to watch the clock while working with her! I do love all of her baby OTTB antics; she's a really good girl overall. I dismounted at the back of the arena and walked her to the gate. I'm going to keep doing this, so she stops associating the front of the arena (and the gate!) with ceasing work.

A very relaxed warm-up walk

We were doing a nice soft, slow trot here.


She was looking at a cone next to the jump, but she looks so pretty in this photo.

LOVE this one!
For those of you who'd like to learn more about Jezebel, her story and about Sally herself, this is Jez's blog.

I hosed the little mare's legs to get all of that mud off and in the process, clean her cut on her left hind. It looks like it's healing well. 

I turned Jezebel back out, and thankfully, since it was after 4:00 pm, she just stayed by the gate and kept her legs clean! I walked on to get Lily, who of course was at the back of the lower part of the field. The field was AWFUL...there is no grass any more, so it was just one 15 acre expanse of slimy, wet, squelching clay mud. Thankfully I had brought an extra pair of socks and dry shoes for later, but.... UGGGHH!!! I tell you-I miss the Florida swamp sand!

Lily was very calm, and for once, she wasn't plastered in clay! I tacked her up, and after taking another look at the outdoor, decided to just ride in the now empty indoor. She was being extra wiggly, especially about going straight down the far long side of the indoor. We argued about it, and then I just started asking her to go down that side in either haunches-in or shoulder-in. 

She was not thrilled about that. You can see in the video above where she starts to drift backwards in protest! Eventually, towards the end of our session, she went straight.

It wasn't the most productive workout ever, especially because in the beginning I was letting Lily get away with murder, thinking that I must be doing something wrong. When Charles is at the barn, I will stop and look at the videos as he's taking them, just to see how we're doing. This is the only way I can really see how I'm riding. Remember that I don't really know dressage-I come from a jumper background, and in Puerto Rico, dressage was fairly unknown at the time. I mean, it was known, but almost no one did it. It didn't really hit the island as an equestrian sport until after I left. Unlike most kids, I actually wanted dressage lessons, and my really good trainer from my late teens incorporated dressage into our flatwork, but we were doing the functional stuff-getting the horse to move out and use himself correctly- not the fancy-dancy laterally stuff. I didn't even realize what we had been doing was dressage until almost 10 years later! 

I started jumping lessons when I was 13, and formally stopped jumping when I was 31. I've been riding dressage officially, in my head (lol) for the last 2 years and half, but have only had about a year of proper dressage lessons about every 2 weeks, and that's it. The rest I've put together through YouTube, reading, The Clinic last year (yes, with caps-it was an epic clinic in my further development as a rider), and watching other riders, and from what Lily allows me to to do. We'd probably be MUCH further along if I could afford lessons consistently with a really good trainer. Or even if we had larger arena mirrors...I know how it's supposed to look, and have an idea of how it's supposed to feel, but don't really know the proper way to get there. Watching the videos yesterday was when I realized that I was being way too forgiving with Lily-we were literally cutting corners in the arena, and she was evading bending by becoming very rigid through her body.  Case in point:

I wasn't very happy when I saw this one. We were doing lateral-ey stuff. In the beginning, we start out at a very slow sitting trot where she gets on the forehand and I pick her up, and as she comes around the corner of the arena, she almost gets a little bit of lift in her trot and starts to track up, as she collects PROPERLY, yet she goes no faster when she does it. That's probably the one part of the video I like best, and it lasts about 6 seconds! We then move into an iffy haunches-in away from the camera, and were then supposed to trot a couple of strides in a straight line (which never happen) before moving off into a large half circle. We then come back across the arena in a leg yield, where her hind end first trails, then gets ahead of her front legs...*lol* We're going too slow-I should have asked her to pick up the pace. I was then trying to get a circle in shoulder in, but she barely gets it-you know when it happens when her hind legs cross. She knows how to do this a LOT better than that! I could feel that she wasn't trying. Then we leg yield away towards the other wall of the arena, and I should have either stopped at the quarter line or gone all the way to the wall-I let her get away with cutting the corner too soon. We come back towards the camera, then do a shoulder-in into what was supposed to be a circle, but I give up in frustration and start to post again. I almost didn't post this video. 

So we worked on fixing it, and by the end we were moving along better. An improvement here:

Her trot was a little more energetic *in general*, using herself better *in general*, though when I asked her to pick herself up, at times she'd still say, "Oh, ok-I'll walk." And I'm like, "No, I said TROT." I used to carry a dressage whip when she got into this mindset. I might have to do that again-she had gotten a lot better about this. All I have to do is carry it-she'll stay at a trot. We do some zig-zag leg yields going away from the camera, which are not very good, but I'm really happy with our long leg yield across the diagonal of the arena to the quarter line. I need to make her go STRAIGHT for a couple of strides after ending our lateral work, though-you can totally see where she blows through my aids and cuts into the circle early at the very end!

I'm looking at getting a Wintec Pro dressage or Wintec Isabell, and am watching a few on eBay. These saddles fit Lily well when she was leaner. I'm worried the Alta Escuela is not fitting well right now due to Lily's weight loss-it actually feels downhill when we're riding, which is how the wide tree felt the very first time I tried it on her with Sarah's saddle back in FL-it was too wide at the time. It's making posting really hard, because my hips will bump against the pommel, which I know jars Lily. The dressage saddle will give me something to ride her in that fits while waiting for her to fill out again. Plus we can actually consider showing in the dressage saddle...a couple of the riders at the barn show dressage, and there are some local schooling shows close by. It would be easy to tag along for that kind of thing. I just like having goals to train towards; I don't really care about winning...though yes, I did get pissed off when that klutzy rider on the fat dun pony with the Western jog and hexagonal circles back at the Parkland show was awarded higher scores! (Yeah, that was 2 years ago and I'm still holding a grudge...lol And if you have any questions about my circles, watch this video.)

This was my favorite video, taken during our initial walk warm-up:

I'm grinning like an idiot. All I was doing was shifting my weight to one side and the other, absolutely nothing else, and that's what she did! My mare is awesome. :)

Some canter work (as you can see, this is what Charles finds most interesting of my riding, so he always films a lot of it...*lol* He basically caught ALL of our canter work on video...) This is Lily's "forward" canter..it's hysterical how fast if feels, because her strides are short and quick, but how slow it looks...because her strides are slow and quick! It's so lateral, and it's always been like this. But this is one of the reasons why I've expected lower marks in competitive dressage:

Please excuse the blurriness at the beginning of this clip. We were having some camera issues with focusing in dim light, but if you wait a sec it clears up.


And some stills:

Lily looks very cute in this one (it's funny how wide her neck has gotten...even if she didn't have the roached mane, it would still look wide), but I was talking to Heather, who had stopped by to chat. And since you can see it up close, we were using the mullen mouth pelham. I switched out my rope reins for a pair of rubberized web reins with stops. It was odd; I always feel like I'm so much more in her face with regular reins, but I wanted to give it a whirl after riding Jez in regular reins.

Stuff to improve on!

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