Welcome to the dressage spot, a place for the young (or young at heart) dressage riders wanting to gain information on the sport of dressage, training tips, equine health care, maintenance and fun!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Training Tips

So I have told you guys over and over about Sjapoer’s spooking issues.  We all have had a horse like that or even the calmest old guy at times can turn into a fire breather.  I have gotten advice from trainers through the years about how to deal with this attitude.  I think I finally saw the light bulb this week when Shauntel put it into words.  Sjapoer was putting a little freak on and I gave him a smack with the whip.  Her voice came calmly in my ear, in sugar tones.  “If you were deathly afraid of spiders, and every time you saw one and you got scared you got a smack; would it make you less afraid of spiders?”  Ding Ding Ding.  No way in heck I thought.  I would get worse every time!  After a pause long enough to let that sink in she said,  “so we work to build their trust, to let him know we aren’t going to risk his life.”  So when I got home that night I thought a lot about herd instincts.  Among wild horses, the herd follows the lead without question, to water, away from threats, up into the mountains to find shelter and down into the valleys for food.  Why do they follow; from trust.  If I can continually show Sjapoer that he can trust me not to get him in a risky situation, that he has nothing to fear, that I have the situation in control; he will turn over more trust to me.  We will have fewer incidents!  As Lendon, Shauntel and Jeremy have all said to me explicitly; he isn’t going to turn into a different type of horse.  He is 14 now.  He is who he is.  You can only work with his personality, not change it at this point.

     Another pointed piece of advice about canter pirouettes.  A horse’s hocks only have so many pirouettes in them.  Don’t use them all up in practice.  Only do those 2 or 3 times a week max on any horse.  On the other days you can work a bit on getting the canter shorter and shorter and then lengthening (so prep work) straight but not the spin. 

     Particularly after his day off, Sjapoer is usually so full of energy that it makes it hard to get any work done.  We have nicknamed him the energizer bunny because he could canter all day without getting tired.  I think I told you before, when I first got him we would lunge him for about 30 minutes, then Bre would ride him for 30 minutes or so and then I would ride him!  Anyway, he could canter all day and not get tired, but this is not productive.  We have been working lately so that when he first comes out for warm up we get his neck low and long, so he lifts his back in proper canter position, and I canter him this way for as long as he needs.  This is hard work.  It tires him out but it is productive letting off energy because we are building his back muscles while getting him ready to work. 

     As we go into the final stages of qualifying season the big push has been to first, not rest where I feel comfortable.  This is tough, particularly if something has been successful.  If you get 6.5/7/7.5 regularly in a certain frame, with certain impulsion etc. it is hard to risk 5.5/6 to be bold.  However, you don’t get 8/8.5 without pushing.  So we practice this every day.  As Shauntel  said to me the other day, if you only “go for it” at shows because you are afraid he will get amped up, and then at the show you push him, “he will get amped up there” and you haven’t prepared or practiced it! Also a reminder about transitions, Jeremy said never settle for a weak transition in practice.  Everyone should be an 8!

     Finally, Jeremy said he will be home the entire month of June and the weeks in July before NAJYRC!  Yeah, six weeks of pressure cooker hard work ahead for me. He will also be at the next two shows.  I can feel my sore muscles already.  But it will be a good sore. I will keep you updated so stay tuned.  More last minute information to help us all do great in Kentucky. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Showing Update and Journaling

My week has been full of the the usual show season bustle.  I came back from Whidbey last week just long enough to get unpacked, wash all the dirty laundry, and then repack for Donida! We were off again for my second Young rider attempt.  I have to say one thing I like about region 6, the shows are only an hour or two away from home. No more 6 or 8 hours each way.  But then again, those long drives gave Bre and I some great talking time. 

    Anyway, Sjapoer did not seem to like checking out a new place.  For our first ride he looked like he wanted to spit fire.  He was tense and tight.  In the past I would try to work with this by ‘making’ him behave.  However, as I have noted in the blog several times Jeremy and Shauntel have been teaching me great strategies and a new way of thinking in dealing with him when he feels this way. These techniques have given me a lot of confidence in  dealing with his moods and also makes us more consistent.  We ended up with a 69.85 and 69.   

     The best part of the weekend was spending time getting to know some of my fellow young riders.  This close to the border there was actually a Canadian rider in my class.  He was very welcoming and came over and introduced himself.  Some of you might remember him from Junior’s last year.  His name is Colby Dodd and he is 6’3' with an equally as tall horse Capri, hard to miss among all the girls at NAJRYC!  I won both the individual and team class (the prizes were backpacks) so in the spirit of cross-country good will, I gave him one and now we are ‘backpack buddies.’ 

     Once I got home after two straight weekends of showing I crashed.  I’m behind in my Spanish and Honors American Lit class.  I am reading both Animal Farm and The Catcher in the Rye.  I can’t understand why books about young people finding themselves and growing into adulthood always have to be so depressing or negative.  Anyway, while I was digging through my notebooks I found the huge folder of information we got at the first EDAP clinic in Florida.  I was reading through all the material and I remembered something really interesting that I had not shared with you yet; journaling!  We had the most amazing speaker talk to us about how to record our thoughts and information from lessons, clinics and other events in order to gain  more advantage from keeping a journal. 

     The following information is a bit of information I took from our handouts from barnbynotes.com We had four handouts, one each from Courtney King-Dye, Lendon Gray, Rachel Saavedra and Dr. Kathy Kelly about their journaling techniques.  Dr. Kelly did a lot of research on how to use journaling to be part of actual practice and becomes part of the learning process when we can move information we have gained from short into long term memory.  She tolds us that when we take a lesson we have to be careful because when we learn we can learn things right or wrong.  The brain doesn’t care, it just remembers.  She said that “journaling effectively allows us to visually, intellectually and kinesthetically solidify and understand what is correct and incorrect.”   Offset the negative learning by journaling.  When writing about things not to do use negative words in order to help your brain think about not doing those things.  When you are writing about what NOT to do write about how something felt wrong, visualize it and then correct it.  Visualize and think in positive terms how to do something correctly.  How did it feel.  How did it look.  Break it down into as detailed and specific description as you can.  Don’t say something was good or better.  Say it felt “Soft, bouncy, full, llight, uphill, forward. The words you use should immediately conjure up for you a feeling that you can relate to, that heps you recreate the memory of that moment.”  Finally, Dr. Kelly said to then summarize in a brief overview (no details) what you learned.  This is like restating the big picture after the details. 

     Rachel Saavedra said her style of journaling was a ‘teach back.’  She would write down after lessons or a ride, how she could explain or teach to others what she had just learned or experienced.  She wrote trying to break things into teachable or understandable segments in order to develop ‘excercises and concepts for teaching each subject.” 

     Courtney is an avid journaler.  She said in the 18 years she had been journaling she filled up about 30 journals, sometimes four a five a year.  She said, “using a notebook helps riders contemplate what they did in the saddle to see what worked.  And it gives them the opportunity to reflect on what didn’t and why.”  Her suggestions were to take your notebook everywhere with you.  You never know when you might have an ‘ah ha moment’.  She also had specific questions she asked herself after riding.  She would ask, what worked and why?  What didn’t work and why?  Finally, she did not just detail what happened.  She said you need to write down how it felt.  Try to be descriptive of how it felt in the hands, in the leg, in the saddle, in your muscles, in your arms, etc.  Oh and Courtney enjoyed humor in her journals, remember the fun and funny parts of our lives with horses.  For example, I remember one time my mom was feeding Swift in his stall. He liked to nudge around for treats which she often carried in her back pocket.  He actually got his lips around her cell phone, pulled it out of her pocket and proceeded to dump in directly in his water bucket.  How we laughed about that.  It definitely made it into the journal that day.

     Finally, Lendon’s journaling.  First, she said she used to taperecord herself.  Ok so after we got done laughing at the idea of a taperecorder I really liked the idea.  I like writing, but honestly I usually talk into my phone first and say what I want and then fix it from there.  So Lendon would tell her thoughts to the recorder on the drive home.  I think it is great to have a specific time to make a habit of journaling.  The drive home could be a good time, while you are waiting for a drying horse.  Pick a specific time every day and make it a habit.  Anyway she had a three part system.  The more times she touched the material the more she remembered and the more it was usefully put into long term memory.  So she would record, relisten and rewrite, then reorganize and rewrite.  When first writing, “brief bullet points can be critical.” Then when rewriting let the thoughts flow and try to elaborate.  Finally, Lendon put some goal sheets for riders up on barnbynotes.com  check it out

     So I have started to be a better journaler.  Still this blog is a better part of it for me still than my daily log.  I am going to take some of this advice (again) and relook at how to improve my own journaling.  Just like every other aspect of dressage, we have to work hard and daily to find ways to improve!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My first Young Rider Test!

So my first qualifying show as a Young rider is behind me.  What a fun new experience.  The show was at Whidbey equestrian center on Whidbey Island.  I have to say I know why Jeremy loves it up here so much (and is willing to fly countless hours across the country just to be able to return here and call it home).  The drive to Whidbey is like a moving postcard.  I wasn’t brave enough to even try putting Sjapoer on a boat for even a few minutes so we took the long way around.  The mountains and the ocean seem to meet to give you all the beauty of nature in one spot.  Grandma got lost coming back the second day and ended up at the Canadian border.  That is what she gets for talking on the phone and driving.  She missed her turn.

     I will have to admit I was really nervous going into this show.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps because for the first time I hadn’t ridden in front of anyone since last fall; in Texas we have earlier shows.  So I hadn’t had judge feedback in a long time.  I had big butterflies going into my warm-up PSG test.  Sjapoer has really calmed down so much in the last year and our harmony has grown.  We got some great judge feedback before the second ride; the team test.  I had the same judge from the PSG as the B judge and my score with that judge improved. Overall Sjapoer and I pulled out a 70.2 and 70.329 on day one so I am very happy.  That is my silver medal too so way cool! 

    We had a short regional meeting to try to get some coordination going on shipping, housing, fundraising and team events.  It is always a bit scary coming into a group and meeting new people.  But all you can hope to do is to be yourself, try to make others feel comfortable and let them know you want to work together.  I really think Region 6 has a great shot to medal this year.  We look to have a solid team.  I must say I am glad I am not a junior this year.  The juniors are looking really tough and competitive.  Region 6 doesn’t have enough declared juniors for a full team, so I can try to hold back any loyalty guilt when I say I am putting my money on the Region 9 juniors to walk away with Gold this year. 

     I was a little disappointed at the shortness of the meeting but I think no one really knew what to do next.  But I am moving forward in making plans for Kentucky because if you wait until the last minute it gets more expensive!  I let them know about several great places to stay.  The VRBO.com is a great place to rent houses in Lexington.  MK Nommensen from my old region’s dad always rented a great place from this site.  You can also rent trailers at the KHP which is really convenient.  Both of those options (a house or trailer) give you a kitchen so you save money and time on meals.  I called around about shipping and I am trying to coordinate a joint ride from here to Lexington.  I know now why this region is tough to get to any event.  It is unbelievably expensive to haul anywhere! 

     The second day Shauntel and I talked about our ‘strategy’ with Sjapoer.  Because he is such an amazing horse the judges expect me to show him to his full capability.  Riding him ‘safely’ at competitions actually gets me lower scores sometimes because the judges expect more from him.  But you can’t just ride one way at home and then push at the show.  It would freak him out because in his mind he would ask, “what are you asking for, why?  What is happening?  Is it scary?”  He would get a bit out of control.  So this year at home we have been pushing the line.  Every day we try a little of pushing him to just the edge of his ability and my controlling his ability; this way I learn and he learns where his limits are.  I can feel his inattention.  I can feel at what point he goes from brilliant to freaked out.   So for the first ride yesterday I was conservative.  It was my warm up ride.  For the second ride I answered the judges concerns.  For my third ride, I went for it.  The extensions in canter were amazing (but bringing him back in the corner was questionableJ).  But this is how he and I have grown this year to be able to ask more and get more out of him at shows in a comfortable way that he feels no fear when I ask, and I feel comfort and control when asking.