Dressage Horse Training: Patting my head, rubbing my belly and chewing gum

Hello everyone,

In my last lesson we worked through all three gaits, did some box work, transitions but I’m trying to distill it down to the most basic thing we need to fix. This was one of my favorite lessons from Clinton Anderson that you keep breaking down something complicated until you and the horse can get it. What I’ve found challenging in dressage is how to break things down, when you’re still struggling to understand the “thing” you’re trying to do.

I think in a nutshell, our challenge is when I’m trying to bring the horses up into a more FEI frame, they disconnect under my seat, use the underside of their necks and get behind my leg. In response, I lock my elbows, still my seat and we go round and round (and, i’ve worked hard to teach them this-chagrin).

To break this cycle, this week I’ve been riding at the walk on the buckle. I have both hands on the reins and am focusing on moving my arms forward and back with the rhythm of the neck at the walk. While I’m doing this I’m focusing on my body. I realize that I move my arms forward and back from my entire shoulder, releasing my shoulder blades forward. When I watched my video, I say that my upper body has a lot of movement.

When I bring my posture into a more erect position, Donzer wants to halt and he tells me he cannot move. For my upper back I like the physical therapy videos about getting rid of the neck hump. What’s working now is the exercise to raise both hands up in a “Y” and then pull my elbows down using my shoulder blades. If I also lift my sternum and collar bones then my upper back feels stable and correct. Moving my arms back and forth while keeping my upper back stable is using very different muscles and it’s quite hard actually.

To keep Donzer moving, I am using an exaggerated walking motion with my thighs so my seat does not lock up. Donzer is starting to understand that I want him to keep moving. What it feels like, is Donzer is engaging his stifles more and rolling in his shoulders over his topline. In fleeting moments. He has a gambit of pulling, dropping his back, walking fast out from under me to try to entice me to start wrestling.

I’m sticking to this walk on the buckle with my body correct for the next few weeks (or as long as it takes). Then I plan to start adding more contact. But, for now, I want to find that place where the energy is flowing and Donzer is staying with me.

Good riding,

Tara 🙂

Author, Out of the Saddle, 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

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Dressage Horse Training: Filling in Gaps

Hello Everyone,

I am putting myself out there as a professional speaker and part of the process is gathering together all the “stuff.” So, I found myself flipping through my book, “Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve your Horseback Riding” I stopped at Step 8 and reviewed chair flying. I realize that posting in this blog and making my YouTube educational excerpts is a key part of my learning process. Teaching is a great tool to learn new information.

I have connected with a new instructor who is helping me add another layer to my dressage journey with Ava and Donzer. It’s always interesting how these aha moments are not necessarily new but a fresh approach or added piece to what you already know.

In my book, Step Three, I talk about how the horse will mirror the rider. I discuss how your arms and legs connect with corresponding parts of the horse. Now, I’m learning how my core connects with the horse’s core more specifically. Here are a few examples…hopefully you already know this but if you don’t, well, it’s already changed my connection.

To create bend: Drop your outside elbow down. For me what I feel is my trapezius muscles push my collarbone down, my latissimus dorsi muscle pulls my armpit down and my oblique muscle firms up the outside of my body. This has helped both my shoulder in and 10 meter circles.

I have been doing a lot of work at the walk and when I really get Donzer and Ava paying attention, it feels like I can do my serpentines changing my bend almost by switching the engagement of my oblique muscles from side to side.

What I’m liking about this work at the walk is you cannot make anything worse. It is okay to play and your horse will tell you if you’re making sense (or irritating them).

Good luck and Have Fun,

Tara 🙂

Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve your Horseback Riding

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Dressage Horse Training-It’s been awhile

Hi Everyone,

While I’ve continued to ride and learn I see that it’s been two years since my last post.  Time really does start flying as you get older.  I just revamped my training plan and realize I need to get back to doing my posts.  Writing is a key part of my learning process and it’s how I review my ride.  For those of us who ride alone most of the time, we need these “hacks” to help keep us on track.  I’ve spent the last two years dealing with some arthritis issues and also going back to basics now that I have a better understanding of how to teach self-carriage.  I will be sharing the tips that have help me soon.

Good Riding,

Tara 🙂Share on Facebook

Dressage Horse Training: Learning how you learn

Hello Everyone,

I had an insight about how I learn that may help some of you out there as well.

The Background:  I started on a new relationship with a trainer that involves using a written plan for my lessons instead of just showing up and “seeing what’s happening.”  I was thrilled to find a trainer willing to include a written plan in conjunction with the traditional rides. So, we booked a double lesson for the first time so we could have time to talk and share expectations for how this interactive process might work.  This first lesson was amazing and I was able to take my lesson home and incorporate the feel into my rides at all the gaits and transfer to Ava as well.  The next two lessons were regular 45 min lessons and I realized that the experience was sliding back into the receive/listen only mode for me and I was stressed about the limited time to soak up the information so I was going home not really sure what we were doing.

The Information I Need:  I realized that I need a few key pieces of information to really progress in my work.

  1.  What is the trainer seeing?
  2.  What is the trainer going to fix?
  3.  Why did you (the trainer) choose the exercise you did?
  4.  What is success for today?

Let’s discuss half-pass for example.  We have all watched a beautiful Grand Prix half-pass on YouTube so we know what it should look like in the ideal.  First I need to know what Donzer and I are doing because I’m doing my best to make the ideal thing happen.  Are our shoulders in or out?  Are the haunches leading?  Is there enough bend in the ribs?  Do I just have a neck bend? Am I sitting too much to the outside?  There are so many possibilities that I need my trainer to help clarify what our issues are to correct.  A typical approach to half-pass is to start on the diagonal and then bring the haunches.  In my 45 min lesson we did several of these and because I was really not clear on the issue my trainer was seeing I rode each half-pass slightly different and tried to suss out what the trainer thought was better.  On the way home I was just highly frustrated because I had no clarity on my homework and no way to access what better would be.

The Take away:  I discussed with my husband, Kris, what was the difference between my first lesson that I was very happy with compared with the lesson I was very unsatisfied with and we agreed I need more discussion time.  I am not a purely kinaesthetic learner so I need to understand the what, why and how to accomplish the movements.  I realized that a lesson that was at least 60% discussion with 40% riding the pattern was probably ideal for me.  I really do well learning in a clinic when I can watch the trainer give multiple lessons so by the time it’s my turn to ride, I am very familiar with the trainer’s style and the theme that’s emerged for the clinic.  In fact, if I had to choose between just riding or just watching, watching would be better for me.

The Solution:  The beauty of my current relationship is that we began with open communication.  After sharing my thoughts, we have agreed to go back to 2 lesson blocks so we both have time to discuss and then practice the topic.  And, I will provide a short read-ahead for my trainer so he knows what I’ve been working on and how it’s been going from my perspective.  This allows time for my trainer to think about some exercises that will be most effective.  So, of course, we still look at the horse/rider that shows up to the lesson but we have a framework.  And, if we are not able to pursue the planned lesson, then it is also productive to understand why and what was missing.  Looking forward to my next lesson.

Good Riding,
Tara

Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

Out of the Saddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dressage Horse Training: How to Fix Nerd Neck

Hello everyone,

I spend a lot of time in front of a computer and I am chagrinned to find that my posture issues is also known as “nerd neck.”  But hey, you can’t fix it until you know what “it” is so here is a good video I found that has been helping me work on my posture.  It’s an odd problem because while I don’t find the exercises hard, I do find I have about a 20 second attention span to keep at it.  I tried to keep my shoulders back during my three day drive from Florida to Colorado and I constantly found myself slacking off.  I have found I’m pretty diligent during my jogs.

Good Riding,

Tara

Out of the Saddle

Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback RidingShare on Facebook

Dressage Horse Training: What is this second trot?

Hello Everyone,

Donzer and I are working to develop this so-called second trot.  This was new terminology for me but it is what we need to do.  This trot continues to be a big challenge for us.  I have gotten Donzer to agree to some contact but he continues to move his head around a lot.  Since training level, he’s ducked behind contact.  Using the rein-back and forward into the contact has helped steady our connection a bit.  For the last few months I’ve been using my spur to ask Donzer to lift his shoulders and to engage his belly to lift his back.  We are still in negotiation on this point.  One challenge with Donzer is how short he is in his body so he’s either correct or not.  I’ve tried to simplify my ask of Donzer  for inside leg to outside rein to a 20 meter circle exercise.  I’m asking for leg yield on the open sides of the circle.

I have short clips Parts 1,2,3 to show the progress through the exercise.  I think this is on the right track and I will keep sharing our progress going forward.

I’m a big believer in using multiple inputs for learning so here is video to accompany the discussion.  I’ve seen a couple of videos on YouTube now that I know what to look for in the search.  My favorite so far is this one from Charlotte Dujardin.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Good Riding,

Tara

Out of the Saddle

Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback RidingShare on Facebook

Dressage Horse Training: Interviewing trainers for my Dressage Mastermind Group

Hello Everyone,

It’s a different experience learning dressage as a “side-hustle.”  What I mean is those of us so busy with families, kids, jobs, etc are possessed by this drive to learn an art that is all consuming in itself.  I love teaching.  Whether it’s flying, riding, biology, speaking–I just enjoy the “aha” moment people have when they really grasp the topic.  I also enjoy learning.  I can remember struggling through my third calculus class (the one where a calculator offers no help) and having to accomplish the homework sets three times.  For me there was no middle ground.  I didn’t kinda learn the math, I either owned it or it owned me.  In my book I review the different ways people learn–kinaesthetic (hands on), verbal, visual or read/write.  As we get older most of us move towards the middle and can learn multiple ways.

An interesting point is pilots tend to be strongly kinaesthetic learners and I think this is what many dressage trainers prefer as well.  The challenge for we dressage enthusiasts not able to ride 4-6 horses a day is time.  Even is we do prefer a hands on approach to learning, there just isn’t enough time in the day.  So, one thing that helped me this spring was to write down my daily riding plan, in detail.  A few years back at the USDF Trainer’s conference I got to watch Steffen Peters teach and the thing that resonated with me is how every step of his ride mattered.  He still did 45 min but in that time period he had all the transitions, leg yield, shoulder in, etc because there was not even an extra circle.  I found that when I wrote my plan down I was able to hit on all the exercises I wanted and didn’t spend time remembering what I wanted to do or if I needed to adjust to the horse, I knew what I was deviating from to accommodate for the mental space of Donzer or Ava.

So, now I’m looking to build my mastermind group for dressage.  In my business I have a team of experts I work with to include CPAs, Attorneys, Health Insurance experts, etc.  I realized that I could create the same thing for my dressage journey.  In my business I don’t expect myself to know everything, I always have a mentor/coach and I’m always adding new relationships.  Why don’t we do that with riding?  In the business world it would be crazy to expect one person to be your be all end all.  Why in dressage do we expect one trainer to have all the answers?  Why do questions of loyalty arise when all you want to do is keep learning?  Why is the primary way to learn the model of a lesson where the student quietly listens and the trainer talks?

I’ve drafted my way ahead for the rest of this year and I’m meeting with trainers to find a good fit.  Ideally I want a relationship with a trainer to be long term where we work together and then bring in outside ideas as needed.  I want a trainer that will watch a video I’ve seen and help me understand what I’m looking at and why it may or may not apply to what we’re working on. I want a trainer that doesn’t get irritated when I ask why we are doing X when this other trainer taught me Y.  I want a trainer that will help me fine tune my training plan–not throw platitudes at me like “it takes time,” “your trot needs to be better,” we cannot just work on fun stuff.”  OK, How!? I agree with all those statements and want the roadmap written down because I don’t sit on 4-6 horses each day so the roadmap becomes part of my physical DNA.

Bottom line, when I’m clear in my head about what we’re trying to do, Donzer and Ava pick up on my mind’s eye and continually surprise me with how in tune they are to me.  When I’m in a lesson riding around unclear on the intention, then there’s no picture for Donzer and Ava to tune into so we progress more slowly.  I was able to audit a clinic taught by Julio Mendoza and he had a range of students from training level through Grand Prix.  It was amazing to see how he approached flying changes from the prerequisites all the way through one tempis.  I have the most clear picture in my head of where I am going and am perfectly content to work on my canter leg yields understanding how this strength and balance will ultimately lead to ones.

I will continue to share my “aha’s” so someone else may learn from my struggles…

Good Riding,

Tara

Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

Out of the Saddle

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Dressage Horse Training: How to create elevation of the core

Hello Everyone,

Learning to ride dressage like many Americans (especially those of us out West) do–we buy a young horse and learn together, can require you to also be part detective.  I have my horses at my place and always have.  This concept of pony club and being part of a barn where you learn the horsemanship craft through immersion is foreign to me.  My husband, Kris, is my detective partner in this dressage journey.  We began our process taking in RFDTV and attended a Craig Cameron Clinic in Texas.  We have had the opportunity to work with so many wonderful trainers and one of the challenges has been our military career moving us around so we were always starting again with new people.  This is wonderful is many ways but one challenge is there are holes in the training process.

Over this last year, we’ve really felt frustrated by this mystery of having the horse lift their withers, core, belly.  How do we teach this to the horse?  I stopped wearing my spurs for a few years because I wasn’t sure what to do with them  and I didn’t want to waste a potentially helpful aid.  I have been using the heel of my boot to ask Donzer to lift a bit at the girth and he’s been giving my some response over the last year.  It all started to come together this spring when I rode with a clinician, Julio Mendoza, and he said he thought it was time to put my spurs back on.  And, like things work often, I came across this video by Art 2 Ride and it talks about the three ways to use the leg.  I am not the only rider with this hole!!

I have been taking time in my warm-up now and am spending about 18 minutes with different patterns and focusing on the response to the spur to lift the belly.  This is an education because Ava and Donzer want to speed up when they feel the spur.  We are starting to get some traction and I think this is going to really help with our trot work as well.  I’ll keep you updated and please enjoy this video that helped clarify the aid for me.

Good Riding,

Tara

Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

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Dressage Horse Training: Building communication with Piaffe

Hello everyone,

I was inspired to try my piaffe work again with Donzer and Ava today after watching a video by Joseph Newcomb.  I was watching a video of his and thought it looked very similar to what I’ve been doing with Donzer.  But, I did like how he added in backing up to the process.  I gave it a try with both Ava and Donzer today and it helped!  So, I’m going to share below an early version of my efforts with Donzer, what we did today and a link to Joseph’s video’s because I really like his style of communicating.

Playing around with Piaffe in 2010…

Playing with Donzer in 2018…

Inspirational video by Joseph Newcomb

Good Riding,

Tara

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Dressage Horse Training: What’s next with Donzer for 2018?

Hello Everyone,

I know dressage must be about the journey but I’m not gonna lie, it feels really good to have finished our USDF Silver scores (still have to wait until the end of the year for the publication).  It is funny how one of the big tipping points this year was when I went back and read my book, Out of the Saddle, 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding, I decided maybe I should try to follow my own advice.  So, I wrote up my plan in a lot of detail.  For people who are not full time horse trainers, this is essential.  We don’t spend 6-8 hours a day in an arena so we need to do things outside of the hour we ride to build the skills in our minds.  It’s challenging to find horse trainers to help build written plans and I think this is because many trainers are dominantly kinanesthetic learners and chose riding to get away from books and writing-lol!

I am reenergized to share all of the things Donzer and I have been doing for the last five years and I’ve drafted my 2018 Training Plan for I1.

Big picture with Donzer

2015–Donzer needed to touch the bit–Counter-flex, leg yield, shoulder-fore for a year on a 20 m circle

2016-Donzer needed to push from behind instead of drag himself around by his front legs–rein-back, step forward into contact for a year

2017-Donzer needed to go forward in front of the leg, summer of canter and teaching him to flex at the poll by lifting the inside hand straight up and then hand back into position

2018-Donzer needed to understand a change of bend does not equal the aid for flying change–lots of canter w/ shoulder out, leg yield at canter

More details on each of these years to come and I will keep you updated on our progress this year.  My goal with creating a written plan is to have a bench mark of goals that we either achieve or clearly know we need more time/focus on a specific movement or time to build strength.

Good Riding,

Tara

Out of the Saddle

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