Sunday, June 28, 2009

We're Back And Doing GREAT!

I came back from my business trip a little later than I had hoped which meant I missed my lesson on Tuesday. I rode Toby on Wednesday for a very short ride. It was in the high 80's by 10am and he showed he remembered where we left off. So for 10 minutes we did a "remember this" type of work that had us both dripping sweat from the heat. We stopped after he demonstrated he remembered and we both enjoyed being hosed off for a change.

Betsy arranged for a riding lesson on Friday for me. The weather had cooled down to more seasonable conditions and Toby was wonderful. He quickly went into a nice frame with no arguments, he was working from his hind end and he was holding his frame for a long time. At one point he was OUTSTANDING and Betsy said it's the best she's seen him go yet. We were ready for our show on Saturday! At least I hoped so.

The show went very well for us. We were FAR better than our first show and Toby made me so proud. I had sent an email to a friend on facebook describing in detail about the show. So here is what happened during the show in detail as I wrote in that email:

We did GREAT! We are riding in Intro level which is perfect for both of us as first timers. We scored 61% and 61.4% in our tests, up from 56.1% and 56.4%. Huge improvements! He gave me one giraffe moment but otherwise he was very settled, focused and gave me everything he's got. He seems to enjoy the work!

Toby was a "hot" horse in the hunter/jumper world and I think that's a result of him not having a lot of confidence on what was expected of him. They didn't praise him like we do now while we ride. He really responds to praise! When you tell him "good boy" and give him a pat on the neck, it's as if he says "oh! I can do better just look!" It cracks me up.

So we went into the ring and he had no anxiety, no issues just workman like behavior. The arena was narrow so the corners were really tight when we came off the center line in particular. I didn't do a very good job of riding him into those tight corners in our first test. The 2nd test I did a much better job (much more inside leg/outside rein) and it showed. He's a L-O-N-G horse so tight corners are not so easy. At one point in our 2nd test, we were going along the rail and I asked him for a little bend to the inside which he turned into a full engagement from behind, stretch out his neck and into the bit. I broke into a huge grin! He just went from "working" to "performing" and I was elated! He was engaged in the hind end before but all of a sudden he really put his heart into it.

He's only been doing dressage since Jag passed in March and he's coming along so wonderfully. I didn't think he had it in him because he's always been so lazy but boy has he proven me wrong! ok - so he is a bit lazy when we go into the walk but we can work on that. We also need alot of work with "going down the center line and halt at X". It's the worst thing we do. But we will work on that and continue to work on holding his frame longer.

I'm just so happy happy happy with our progress!

I had to borrow a friends truck and trailer to get to the show. They needed their truck in the afternoon so I couldn't stick around for the awards. But Betsy called me to say team Toby and Wendy cleaned up! We won both our classes AND the award for "Best Off The Track" horse. I was pretty psyched because we had tougher competition this time. Even though I KNOW it's about competing against myself, I can't help myself and get excited when we win!

On Tuesday, Betsy will bring the notes from the judge so we can see what she had to say. I love that in dressage you get notes so you can see exactly how you were judged and what you need to work on. It's a great learning tool.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Learning Happens in Stages

My lesson this past Tuesday was again a great one. Toby is really coming along well. Getting him to go on the bit and be responsive to my aids in a beautiful round frame takes less and less time at the start of the lesson. We are focusing him on stretching his neck down and out and engaging his hind end. When he does that, the feeling of power is phenomenal! We praise him like crazy and he stretches out even more. He loves to please!

Our training is going in stages and while he's learning to be round and stretching out across his top line at this stage, he's still carrying much of himself with his front end. Eventually, as he gets stronger across his top line we will ask for him to carry more of himself with his hind end which in turn will raise his neck and head. But learning goes in stages and right now he's seems to be getting the hang of it. Eventually he'll be able to hold his frame longer and then eventually we'll be asking more from his hind end.

It's so fun to see his progress. And I'm having a blast! I never would have thought I'd have so much fun with dressage. I've always been a bit of an adrenaline junkie which is why I liked jumping but with dressage I'm learning how to get so much more out of my horse (power - which is a total rush, and balance) ! It has put Toby in a new light for me. We have another show coming up on the 27th which will hopefully show a lot of progress from our first show.

And as an FYI, Toby will be getting a week off beginning Sunday and I will not be posting here due to travel for work. Although this next sentence is completely off topic from this blog: if you have an interest in golf and in particular the Rules of Golf, you will find me blogging on this website with their "Rules Corner" during that time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Lesson day! And the first lesson after the first show.

I admit, I still have a little girl's grin glued to my face. Toby beat my expectations by a mile BUT having said that, I'm not blind to the areas where we need to improve. I had set fairly simple goals but they were big goals to my future of showing Toby. Mainly, getting Toby into a trailer without him going berserk inside of it. I've seen it happen, it's ugly and well, I don't wish it on anyone. But with good planning, good understanding of my horse, we had zero issues! Not one! Just getting him in a trailer and to the show without him blinking an eye was enough to put me into a GREAT mood. Add to that his game effort at a new discipline and you have an owner with a little girl's grin glued her face.

So today, when Betsy came over for our lesson we rehashed the show, my goals and set new goals for the next show.

One of my concerns after watching the video was my leg and body position. I grew up hunt seat and I can't seem to shake it. But Betsy told me something today that completely made sense. She said she'd rather work on me getting Toby into a proper frame than telling me to "put my leg back, sit up, etc." She said that my position will come together in time but it's most important that I learn to ride my horse than just look good on my horse. I thought that was an excellent point.

Speaking of riding my horse, Toby was fantastic today. He's so much more fit and interesting to ride. He seems very happy and he has a lot of confidence in me. Today we rode in our outdoor arena which is adjacent to a paddock that had a visiting Fjord mare with her nursing foal. Toby was completely convinced the baby was actually a horse eating monster. The baby just wanted a buddy to play with so she raced up and down the fence whenever we came by. I made sure to keep Toby's attention on me and he settled right down. This is what I mean by "he has a lot of confidence in me." He trusts me and therefore will listen to me when his instinct is telling him to RUN AWAY. After awhile both Toby and the filly foal became used to each other and the novelty wore off. At about that time Toby really relaxed and began to engage his hind end. Wow! He had so much energy and power. It was cool to ride. I looked at Betsy at one point and mouthed out OH MY GOD! It was so much fun! He was on the aids, round, on the bit, and the energy was phenomenal. We ended the lesson after that and told him how awesome he was.

I am just thrilled with the horse that Toby has become in a short amount of time. He's been a blast to ride. I never dreamt he could offer this much. I just hope I can make that happen in the show ring for everyone to see. Isn't that what we all hope for?