Sunday, June 29, 2014
We are all settled into Colorado Horse Park! The horses arrive tomorrow afternoon sometime but Abby and I got her early to help set up the stalls and get things ready. The horse park is much smaller than Kentucky, which will be nice when walking horses to and from arenas. We are staying in the campground this time so we are only a short walk from the barns and the arenas are just up the hill. One of the horses, Lucho, arrives tonight in about thirty minutes. He will be a bit lonely tonight but the others will be here in the semi soon enough!
Camp last week went well! Three of the girls were students from Palmer Ranch and then my sister came up with her horse for the week. The girls had their own program during the week the involved caring for their horses then being junior camp leaders until the afternoon. They were troopers through the week of early mornings and 6:30 AM lessons. During the afternoon they had advanced horsemanship lessons including learning about bits, bridle races, and show preparation. They all even got to ride some of the horses at Ashwood and extend their learning. We were all in the camper at night and although it was quite cramped, we all had fun. The girls all did a great job during camp with the kids. They got to teach horse parts, bridle pieces, and a bit of riding lesson teaching.
One of the big things that we learned this week was sports psychology. Mary Ann is a really big advocate of learning to ride not only physically but also mentally. So we all got work books, yes even I had to do it, and worked through goals and motivation statements. The whole idea of the sports psychology is about being able to visualize before rides and achieving attainable goals. It is a really cool idea that I think that I will pursue in school. I think that this school year I am even going to take up an elective class in sports psychology! it was very motivating and helpful to write down all my short, mid, and long term goals and to be able to lay out a plan for my riding. It is definitely something that I will continue in the future, especially in preparation for shows. One of the exercises that we worked one was re-focusing. We use circle breathing and centering before starting a course, going into the ring for a class, or just in the barn before doing something that requires your attention. Circle breathing is where you breath in through your nose for three seconds, pause for two, then breath out through your mouth for four seconds. I have found that it really works for me to re-focus during lessons and I am sure that it will help during classes. The other technique is centering. You basically focus on your center, which is right behind your belly button and think about rays of the sun expanding from there throughout your body. After you do that, you picture your torso as the trunk of an oak tree and the roots grow down through your legs and feet and the limbs and leaves grow up through your arms and head. In theory, it sounds a little dorky but if you actually work through the initial skepticism you may find that it works really well!
Danny has made some leaps and bounds this week. When we first came to Ashwood, he was pretty stressed about the lead change but now that we have addressed the fear issue we are basically preparing him for the change without really focusing on it. With the elephant in the room still being ignored, he has really quieted down coming off of jumps and going into corners. That was a big step for him, especially this week because we worked a lot on turns and jumping on diagonals across the arena. Hopefully soon we will start discussing the lead change but not until he is ready for it, which I think that he is starting to figure it out. Another thing we worked on was striding on courses. For the past couple of week we have been working on a triple bounce on a curve to a 9 stride bending line. For the striding to work out you have to take the outside track off the triple bounce and it has been a cause of frustration for me as i always cut the turn to much. However, this week I finally got it! I also am doing a thousand times better with the counting down, even with multiple numbers to memorize. As a result of all this work, Danny’s jump has improved a lot. He is using his body better and feeling pretty good over and in between jumps. I could not be happier with my decision of bringing him along this summer… I just hope that he hasn’t decided to be a barefoot wild pony while I am gone over the next two weeks!
Here is one of the warm up exercises that we worked on during one of the lessons this week. It is really good when working on picking a track to ride.
Trot over three cavaletti poles on a diagonal (set at 4 1/2 ft apart), pick up your right lead canter on a straight line toward a pole set on the outside of the ring. Canter 8 strides on a bending line taking the inside track (poles are set about 132 ft from the first pole). Continue the right lead canter around the turn to another canter pole that is set 96 feet on a bending line from the first canter pole. The second 8 strides will be on an outside track to fit in the striding. You finish on the first 8 stride line with a trot circle after. The diagram I drew shows the exercise in detail.
I will try to post more exercises as we do them. We do a lot of work over poles to practice things like pace, track, and turning left and right. We also work with raised canter poles a lot. I recommend these things to any rider at any level as you can work on them every day without wearing down the horse with too many jumps. It also really works on the rider’s eye and natural feel. Good luck!