Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Continued Gymnastics

My unwritten goal each week is to get 2 dressage rides and at least 1 jumping session in with Griffin. I've been successful achieving this for a month now.

Our dressage rides aren't much to write home about right now. We do a lot of work at the walk and trot and are mostly working on Griffin accepting the contact and becoming a little lighter with the aids. Some days we kick ass, other days we struggle. Some days the struggle is due to Griffin, some days the struggle is due to me riding like something that resembles a sack of potatoes. Overall, there is forward progress for which I am grateful. Still though, nothing exciting to write about unless you want to read, "Today I rode my horse in various sized circles. We did a lot of walk and trot transitions. He's awesome to the left and we struggle to the right. He is accepting the contact more and more. Our lateral movements are inching forward with slow success," after every ride. 'Cause that about sums it up!

10032016_Griffin Jumping (2 of 10)
Black tipped ears <3

Jumping on the other hand is way more exciting to look at and write about at just about any point! The days vary, the lessons learned vary, and the take always from media are a wonderful thing because I don't have active eyes on the ground when I'm out there doin' my thing. The major setback to living where I do!

However, media helps me learn and move forward.

Lesson student Lauren and her mom were gracious enough to come out last night and get a lot of media for me while I jumped Griffin. They wanted to watch and learn some so it really worked out well for all! There was some discussion of doing this again in the future - yay more learning and more media! Additionally, there are some other plans in the works that will be keeping them very much in the storyline for me/my horses in the near future.

I currently have a gymnastic line set up. It is slightly modified from last week, but still much the same. 18" cavaletti, bounce, cavaletti, bounce, X rail, 1 stride, panel jump, 1 stride, cavaletti, 3 stride, oxer. Except for the first half of last night, that rode more like bounce, bounce, 2 stride, 2 stride, 3.5 stride when we finally strung it all together.

10032016_Griffin Jumping (1 of 10)
Warming up. This picture literally makes me LOL because I remember this exact moment thinking,
"Must put heels down more" as I felt my left leg, and only my left leg, fly backwards.

The 40 minute workout consisted of a warm up on the flat, then over portions of the line before we began moving through the whole exercise. There were a lot of breaks throughout. Griffin was never out of breath in a bad way and was always forward (or too forward) in his eagerness through the gymnastic exercise.

After warming up on the flat, I just took Griffin over the bouncing portion a few times. Good, good, good. Then we added in the panel jump. Good. Then we added in the last two elements. It was slower than necessary, and he added strides, but it was a forward effort that he tackled with happy ears. Repeat. Only added during one of the 1 strides - better. A third iteration, finally nabbed the striding.

However, Grif really wasn't feeling the need to put forth much effort over the final oxer. 2'6" and lower he carelessly goes over. 3' gets his attention though, so we went from a square 2'6" oxer to an ascending 3'. Repeated the line, added during one of the 1 strides but otherwise perfect with a horse putting some actual effort forth at the end instead of his former carefree lollygagging. Repeated again with the same adding, but things overall went smoother.

10032016_Griffin Jumping (9 of 10)
Hunting the jump. His expression makes me go squee.

And then he had a strong refusal at the oxer during our next attempt, dodging hard to the left. If my heels hadn't been so deep on the approach, I definitely wouldn't have saved it. As it was, I came inches from kissing the standard. NOT OKAY. I totally get that there is a really reality of coming off due to a refusal, hell, I already have! But to slam face first into the top edges of the standard as I do so? No stitches in my face, kthnxbai!

I brought Griffin through again, shoving my heels as deep as I could. My apprehension still pushed through a little though because he refused again. He did it a third time, though with much less effort than the previous attempts. So I spun him around and cantered him at *just* the oxer. Finally, he jumped.

10032016_Griffin Jumping (6 of 10)
Dramatic and defensive. Note to the honky in the saddle EYES UP!
10032016_Griffin Jumping (8 of 10)
And again.

And so, I spent the rest of the ride riding defensively which did nothing to help me as a rider - beyond bolstering my confidence that I could indeed keep my shit together enough to get the horse to realize his job did not involve refusing. I got some nice work out of Griffin toward the end and helping him find success and know I'm pleased with him is what is most important to me!

Overall, I wasn't amazingly pleased with my equitation through the whole evening. I felt like I got warmed up, began to settle into the flow of things only to be put on edge and I never fully relaxed after. However, I feel like that's a trade-off with a green horse / green rider combination - sometimes I have to sacrifice perfection for me in order for my horse to have a good experience. Improving my equitation will absolutely help my horse and our future rides, but I knew after the refusals I wasn't going to be able to fix my issues in one night. And sometimes riding/training is a matter of finding a good positive note to end on before things devolve more than they have - and that is definitely something that played into last night!

Here's a video (7 seconds) that shows one of Griffin's better efforts toward the end of the session. I'm defensive as hell and my riding went to pot totally and completely, but I'm learning a lot from my mistakes! I love and hate videos for that reason - they make my faults super obvious which is painful, but I'm able to learn from them to better myself which is so important. This is the reality of not having an instructor and eyes on the ground, lots of video and learning through media. As Nicole and I discussed last night after my ride, if I'd had eyes on the ground they would have been yelling at me to put my heels to China, keep my eyes up, and wait for the jump as we approached the fence. Heels and eyes would lend me the security and waiting for the jump would have helped Griffin more. Jumping ahead isn't doing me any favors!

The refusals absolutely rattled me. Not half as much as they have in the past though! And overall, I have positive take-aways from the evening: I know I can buck up and ride on; my base of support in the saddle is strong enough to lend me confidence - though I definitely need to work on keeping my heel down over the fence (I *know* they were down on the approaches because I was really achy last night as a result); I need to put more leg on to really push Griffin through the exercise so he nails the striding and doesn't offer up refusals; wait for the jump and stop this jumping ahead BS; and eyes up, heels down, always, always, always.


  1. aww i <3 Grif - he looks great over the oxer! but yea.... almost face smashing an oxer is ... decidedly not my happy place. one of my trainers likes to play with distances in grids a bit to help the horse understand to rock back and push instead of launch, and will often use compressed one strides (think 18') and shorter distances in general, esp early in the grid.

    1. So many gymnastics options out there. I love how many combinations can be setup to help conquer problems. We'll definitely have to play around to find the right combo to help resolve our issues. =)

  2. Gosh, he's getting so very grey and seems to have found his niche. He looks incredible jumping. And I feel the pain on writing about riding in circles at walk/trot/canter, because that's a lot of what I do.

    1. He really does love jumping! And yeah... circles... I never thought I'd do so many of them when I was a kid! Hated the idea; funny how it fascinates me now.

  3. Oh he's so cute!
    I am trying so so so hard to keep my heals down over the jump now, too. I have them down as i approach but I have been gripping with them and so I land on my toes. I thought I was focusing really hard on it the other day but as I went over the jump, I felt them clinging to Cosmo. I also always struggle with eyes up, I'm better at catching that, but I still do it more than I would like.

    1. I was definitely landing on my toes on this day! Gotta nip it in the bud soon.

  4. It looks like your heels coming up is stemming from you pinching at the knee. I find that thinking 'heels forward' rather than down helps me immensely. I visualize touching my heel to the horse's elbow. Also "your butt to his butt" as you jump should help you rock your hips back and stay with the motion rather than jumping ahead. Doing lots of gymnastics over low fences with no stirrups will help you stop jumping ahead. I am super guilty of both pinching at the knee and jumping ahead, and both of those helped me. It sounds like you already know what you need to work on, but visualizing it differently sometimes helps. Denny Emerson says that you should visualize the inside of your calf/ankle touching the horse, which forces your knee to let go and takes away the pivot point that swings your leg back and your torso forward. :)

  5. I have to consciously think, open my knees, to stop pinching and really sit, or I get forward and very tippy. I'm already a pushy rider with a driving seat, so I don't know what to tell you other than don't let the refusals rattle you! Ride it out. I have ridden enough greenies I don't know if I can fix the issues that come with riding them lol!

    1. Definitely need to think about opening my knees more! I was a vice grip on this day after the 3 refusals.

  6. I enjoy reading about perfecting the leg yields but I am a nerd :)
    I like how he sized up the oder and then went for it. Good for you.

    1. Haha, I'm nerdy about it in the moment and love reading about it -- just struggling to write some of my own!

  7. His face looks so happy when you guys are jumping! I am no help on the heels down thing, I think I over-do it and actually crank mine down too far a lot of the time (which hurts my ankles a lot).