Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Back on Track: Lesson #3 Recap

I am so beyond disappointed that I don’t have media from this lesson, because honestly I thought it was the best yet!
DH has been designated trailer driver on lesson nights (leaving me free to focus on the lessons instead of having to deal with my stupid manual truck). The day before the lesson it looked like he wasn’t going to be able to make it -- on his days “off” from working his regular job, he works part-time for a farmer, mostly doing hay. He was supposed to spend Tuesday in the field picking up bales of straw, but a surprise rain shower sent him home early, which was great! (for me, not for the farmer necessarily)
Mmmmmm I love hay season!
However, DH is also taking online classes and the current class is pretty text heavy, so he ended up spending the lesson reading his textbook instead of being our media man. While I know school is more important than pretty pony pictures, I’m still allowed to be grumpy about it. 
More of hay season, since I hate posts with no photos
Now that I have that out of my system, the lesson recap! After Jacki and I got warmed up, the instructor set out some cones. I’m including my very rough diagram (done in Paint, don’t judge me!). Basically she set up two 20 meter circles -- the arena is wide enough that she could set them up in the center of the ring and none of the cones touched the walls -- which definitely made it more challenging to ride. The arenas that I typically ride in are small enough that it’s easy to become complacent and let the wall do some of the work for me when riding circles. 
I write for a living, not draw. Thank God.
I started to the left, since that’s our stronger direction. Going in, I didn’t necessarily think the exercise would be easy (because I struggle with our geometry in tests) but it was even harder than I expected. At this stage in our mutual training, a decent 20 meter circle at the trot (or God forbid the canter!) requires a LOT of micromanaging. Like, an excessive amount. Some circles I would hit the space I was aiming for 3/4 cones and then be completely off the circle and miss the last set of cones. Or find myself cutting the circle way too short and realizing I need to push her out. It’s an exercise that really highlights your weak areas, and I can’t wait to set it up in my arena and work on it some more. 
Back to hay photos :)
On our walk breaks, I toyed with switching bend every set of cones - a quarter circle with normal bend, a quarter circle asking her to counter-bend a little, back to normal bend, counter-bend, etc. In my rides between lessons I’ve been working on the exercises from the initial lesson on how to reinforce bend, and I feel like we’ve definitely made some progress in her understanding of what I’m asking for with specific aids -- obviously we still have lots of work to do, but I was encouraged that even in a few weeks, I’m seeing progress. 
After getting some decent circles both directions at the trot (decent being a relative term obviously, haha), we tried the exercise at the canter. My initial goal was to just get through it without destroying the cones. I’m happy to report, not only did we successfully navigate without knocking over any cones, but it went WAY better than I thought it would! Both directions she broke at the canter, but no wrong leads either direction, which was better than last lesson. In retrospect, it took quite a while when I first started riding her for her to let me adjust the tempo of the trot with my body without breaking to the walk, and we’re still not there yet in the canter (mostly due to me not cantering enough). Rest of the summer goal -- canter more and develop some adjustability. I think our field work really helps with this. I can get a much slower, more relaxed canter in the field than I've been able to achieve in the arena so far.
OK last one!
We also used the cones as a baseline to spiral in and out a little at the trot (staying inside the pairs of cones and using the center cone to work around). As the lesson wound down, I was feeling pretty proud of myself that while we hadn’t always stayed in the cones, we also hadn’t knocked any over. Famous last words, right? On our very last circle (stretchy trot), Ruby and I were having a discussion about moving off my leg to stay on the correct bend for the circle, and BAM, smashed a cone. It startled her a little (she realized it was there at the last second and I think she tried to jump over it), and after I brought her down to the walk and went past it again, she gave it the hairy eyeball and had to go sniff it.
All in all, a very difficult but productive lesson. I really enjoyed the exercise and how challenging it was for us. I don’t currently own any cones, but I think the trash cans I use for dressage letters at home would work if I pick up a few more. (When I drafted this post, I didn't own any cones. However, Amazon called my name and I bought a 10 pack of cones based solely on the fact that one of the reviews was from a dressage instructor who uses them for lessons. I have impulse control issues....)


  1. I want cones too. I used them for Irish to solve our corner cutting problem. They worked well.

    1. I really loved it! Can't wait for my new cones to get here to practice in between lessons!

  2. Purchasing cones has been on my list for a while. I need to get around to doing that!

    Sounds like a great lesson.

    1. I got a set of 10 for about $14 through Amazon, hopefully they're decent!