March 26, 2010

Friday's entertainment

If the screen is black, just click on the play button.

Just how stupid can you get???


Here we are at in between.
In between winter and spring.
This is what the riding arena looks like
Not much sensible work to be done there...

And this is what my car looked like when I got out to drive to work the other day.

Last weekend, we went trail riding again, me and Fame.
It IS nice that spring is approaching, but ridewise it is a mess.
Can't work in the arenas, and on the trail the snow is getting what we call "rotten", it doesn't carry the weight of the horses at all times.
So we hump around, not nice at all.

Roads are better.

Coming down to the creek, Fame was thirsty.
So she decided that she wanted to drink - with her front legs down in the water, and her hind legs still on the thick ice edge at the brink.
And I was sitting bareback.
I guess you can get the picture.
A nice, fine slide straight down into the water...
....but I managed to hang on!

When my daughter was 5-6 yrs old, the Shetlands pony she was riding did the same thing.
Unfortunately she DID take the slide, straight into the water, and it was at this time of the year too.
She has always been very fond of taking a bath, but even to her it was a weee bit cold.
Poor thing!

March 22, 2010

Clinic with Kyra - Back to basics!

A couple of weeks ago I was at a clinic with Kyra Kyrklund.
I know some of you have been waiting to get some information about this, so here are my notes.
(With emphasis on NOTES.)
Lousy pictures, I know - but better than nothing?
And as always, it's back to basics.

A short introduction of Kyra from her home page:

Few riders in the world have managed to train and successfully compete so many different horses in international Grand Prix dressage.

Kyra is a fundamentalist and believes strongly that the quality of the paces reflect the basic training. Every horse that comes for training is evaluated along the same lines - is it forward, is it straight and is it submissive in a relaxed way.
Every pace, every movement depends on the quality of the foregoing exercises.
The riders, even international Grand Prix riders, are evaluated for their effect on the horse and their correct way of sitting and influencing the horse.

"How can you describe the taste of strawberry jam to someone who has never tasted it?"
That is how Kyra describes the difficulty of communicating the feel you need when riding.
She stated in her introduction that she often let her pupils ride one of her own horses, to "taste the jam", or she herself mounts her pupil's horse to let her pupil sit up afterwards and get a taste of the right feel.

The trainer has to assess his pupil, and start to work on one of the things that needs improvement. If it doesn't work, leave it be for a while and work on something else instead. She said that often when a trainer gets frustrated it is because they don't change the approach on how to work with things:
"You need different tools to change things. Do not be frustrated if things doesn't work out , just try to use a different tool instead. Riding is matter of balance and coordination both from the rider and the horse."
She also stated that her best pupils were the adventurous ones - the ones ready to try new things out.

Two lovely pony riders enters the arena.
Kyra watches them for a while, and then starts to work with them.

One rider is sway in the back, and that makes her seat weak. The horse pulls his rider slightly forward, out of center.
The rider has not total control - who leads who?
"Sometimes the horse takes over, and then the rider loses her balance. When the horse puts weight in the reins the rider is easily placed forwards."
Kyra states that the rider is not to be strong, just to be steady and counteract until the horse relaxes.
"The rider needs to sit in center - like on a balancing pole.
If the rider is not placed steadily in center, the horse's hind legs might work behind him instead of under."

How should the rider to be able to sit steady and to counteract the pull from the horse?
Not by pulling back on the reins, but by using the body:
Keep the elbows at your sides.
Have someone standing on the ground beside you, and to keep a flat hand against your elbow. Press the elbow against the hand, and feel what happens in the abdomen. You should feel stronger in the body instead of being stiff and hard in the hand.
Your body should be like a frame in where the horse should work - the more educated and fitter the horse, the tighter the frame.
"If the horse gets strong in one rein, imagine your helper at your elbow and use your body to keep the frame. As soon as the horse gives, relax yourself.
Sit deep, but imagine it's the earth gravity that draws you there, not active muscle power."

Balance your weight on the triangle of the seatbones and the pubic bone.
Hip joint absorbes the movement.
Feel the horse in your elbows.
The more speed the more difficult the exercise will be. If you cannot do something slow, you won't be able to do it fast.

"When riding forwards, you can either choose to change rythm, or change stride length."
The rider has to decide what she wants.
To be able to do passage, you have to be able to ride the small and quick steps.
The more control you have of the horse's strides, the better control you have over the horse's body and mind.
"Somewhere you'll find the ideal working rhythm for each horse, but you have to be able to ride variations."
Check your position.
Ride slow, check the rhythm.
Change to a quicker rhythm, but the horse should not run faster. Check that you are not getting strong in your hands.
Transistion to longer steps, but keep the same rhythm this time.
Do not let the horse get long and strong! Keep the horse supple, keep your position. Short steps again, without shortening the neck! Some more leg, keep the contact and rhythm and engage the horse and see if you can get him up in the neck. The horse is not allowed to run faster!

One of the riders had trouble with her pony that weighted his left shoulder, and avoided contact on right rein.
She tried to solve the problem by flexing the horse to the left, something that Kyra explained would not help the problem. "The problem is not in the mouth but in the body."
Kyra wanted her to imagine a ring around the neck:
"Imagine that you are to slow the horse down with the neck ring, keep the ring still but sit against the horse - and let the horse carry himself."
When asked, the rider admitted that she had 90 % of her concentration on the horse's head, and 10% on his body.
Kyra: "You must ride his entire body, not only concentrate on his head or mouth. When he gets strong, imagine that you slow him down with the neck ring."
"As soon as your horse is doing something you are changing your goal as you concentrate on your horse's head. Remember that your horse works in a correct outline only when he's working correct in his body."
Concentrate on equal weight in the ring.
The difficult side is the side avoiding contact!
Left rein means go left, right rein means go right, ride the body instead!
Do not shorten your left rein, use your legs instead!
Concentrate on the ring!
Your horse tries to run away from the problem, but in a tug contest you need two participants.
If he tries to weigh down his left shoulder or if your horse tries to run away, slow down with both hands.
Check that you have equal weight in both hands!

The two pony riders had their ponies working very nicely in the end, and were exchanged with two horses where the riders were using double bridles.

One of them had a problem as the horse was going too deep.
"If your horse gets too deep, a common fault is that the rider raises her hands.
The curb lowers the horse's head, and the bradoon raises it - so when the horse lowers his head the curb automatically influences more.
You must learn to know the difference between the curb and the bradoon when riding, and how they influence the horse.
You cannot lift the horse through the bit, you must ride them up."
Kyra then asked them to change the way they held the reins; the curb rein going in on lower part of the hand and the bradoon on top of the hand to make it easier to separate the effect of the two bits.

She then asked them to imagine that the horse's body was like a ball.
The riders body must act like dribbling/bouncing the ball, where the rider's body increases or decreases motion.
Small, fast dribbles or long high ones.
"You need to pump air into the horse with your legs. You cannot pump it by squeezing.
Somewhere the ball has its highest point, and somewhere its lowest. You can sit behind the movement, or in front of it. You can also sit off center left or right - and your horse will act accordingly! Your anus ring should be in center"
(sorry guys, a bit blunt but I am just quoting here, lol!)
If you tense up in your bum, you will not sit deep into the saddle.
Keep your neck ring centered, and use your lower leg to pump up the ball, and increase the amount of energy.
Imagine that the neck ring will move faster, because the desired activity is in the horse's back - not in his legs.
Imagine that you have a spring between your knees, they also have to play with creating energy into the ball.
If the horse takes control and speeds up, make a transition to walk.
The horse has to take full responsibility for his self-carriage.
The horse has to carry the rider, not the other way around!
If your horse wants to run away, imagine that you have to keep his front legs under you.

If you cannot change your horse's way of moving in trot at a circle - long strides and short strides as well as his form; long neck and high neck - how are you to handle the more advanced movements?

Far too soon the clinic ended.

Dear Santa.
Next year I would like to have a training session with Kyra, please?
You can add it to my list together with the indoor arena, the two GP-horses and the money to go with it.
I'll be good.
(At least MOST of the time.)
Kind regards,

March 16, 2010

Where are we?

Spring is finally here.
The sun is once again giving us some warmth during daytime and the snow is decreasing, even if the temperature still drops quite low during night time.
It is daylight outside when I leave and come home from work. Marvellous!

A little more than a year has passed since I started the English part of my blogging life.

When looking back, I must confess that the last year has been a year where our progress in the dressage work has taken longer time than I had planned.
I suppose that comes down to me being an impatient person with a vivid interest of dressage, but sadly not with an ability to match my hopes.
Oh well, that’s the disadvantage of being an optimist.

So where are we, and what do we need to work on?

The last period I have been concentrating on getting Fame to relax and to stay supple.
She easily tenses up, and sometimes she also braces against the bit.

A large portion of the problem here has been me.
As always *sigh*

It is so easy to tense up as a rider when your horse is tense.
The task has been to keep my hands and arms flexible and soft, but to be stronger in my seat and mid section of the body.
Getting middle aged for sure doesn’t help.
I could very much need some extra training to strengthen my absent abdominal muscles, but I know that will stay on the to-do-list for a new and better life.
In this present one I have more than enough to keep family, work and horses afloat.

I need to keep working on strong body, soft hands.
I feel that I have had some aha-moments, and that I have a clearer perception of where I need to go.
Unfortunately that doesn’t equal getting there!

To help myself to improve my seat I will continue to ride bareback.

It is a very good help to get you balanced and centered, and also to get a better feel for your horse's movements.

I also have to focus on having Fame in front of the aids at all times, with an improved hind leg activity and contact to the bit.
I have to be clearer in what response I can accept, or not.
The demands on hind leg activity will be larger in the work to come.
We need to get there, but without any fuzz.
Pushing limits, but also making sure that she has the necessary strength and understands what I want.
Keeping her supple through the exercises, combined with a good contact and rythm are the main parameters.

In spite of all this, I can see that both Fame and I are stronger than we were a year ago.
We can keep the up-tempo work for a longer time without the need for the breaks that we needed a year ago.

As long as she is relaxed, the canter work is going well.
Extensions, collections, counter-canter.
As opposed to the situation a year ago, she is obedient and keeps her balance in the transitions.
If she is tense, she sometimes changes behind when I ask her to collect.
Again, I need to keep her supple at all times.

Shoulder-in works tolerably ok in all three gaits.
Still needs more work, but she is more stable and balanced than she was a year ago.
Sometimes we get the right floating feeling, but it is not consistent.

We have started with half-pass trot and canter, but they need more work.

We need to improve the trot work.
She gets too open in her form in the extensions, and we need in general to play around more with collection/extensions to improve elasticity.

I found out the hard way in the dressage show that we need to work on extended walk too.
Fame is talented with a good walk, but I normally walk her either with loose reins, or at a working walk, so again, my fault.
We should be able to get some extra points here with some more training.
Walk pirouettes need improvement too.

We have also been working quite a lot on the very important work with straightening, mainly with the help of counter shoulder-ins along the long sides of the arena (trot and canter), but also with counter-canter.
She is not stiff, more the flexible type who easily pops out here and there....
I very much miss mirrors when I ride. My perception of where she is (and where I am) is not necessarily where we are!

We have taken a good step forward compared with the situation in October, I know that.

I am able to handle her tenseness better, i. e. work through it and get her supple.
What we need now is more consistency in the work, to get her straighter and thus achieving more throughness in the work.
Sometimes we get there, and it’s such a wonderful feeling.

I want more!

Isn't a sleeping cat the cutest thing in the world?
Thanks again to my daughter for all the pics.

March 03, 2010

Award, Shows and some more

Life has been busy lately, so time for an update!
Merrie at The Equestrian Vagabond, and Wolfie at the blog What was I thinking have both been so kind as to award me Beautiful Blogger Award.
Thank you guys!

This means that you should hear 7 things about me, and that I am to tag 15 (!) new bloggers.
Now, with 15 new bloggers, every blogger around the world soon will be at the recieveing end of this award.
I am giving this award to all the blogs on my bloglist on the right hand side on my blog.
These are all blogs that I enjoy, and regularily drop by. Check them out!

As to hear 7 things about me, I am not sure whether to bore you all with that.
I bore myself even to try and write it down, so I will tell you what I've been up to lately instead, because it has been a lot of fun stuff!

First, I was at a Kyra Kyrklund clinic Wednesday two weeks ago.
Kyra Kyrklund is not only one of the best dressage riders in the world, she is also one of the best trainers. And a very sympathetic person too.
I will try to blog separately about the clinic, but her main message was "back to basics".
She had a clinic with two pony riders, and two adult riders.
She only made small adjustments on the position of the riders, but the result was profound.
What I would not give to be able to train for her!

We had a superdupernice dinner afterwards, with a lot of tapas and some wine and beer.
What a marvellous thing it is to share nice food with horse-y friends!

I was really pampered that week because on Friday it was time again.
We took the four hour drive to watch the World Cup in dressage and show jumping in Gothenburg.
On Friday we had a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, four of us.
On Saturday I took a trip into the city of Gothenburg together with one of my friends.
She needed new shoes.

We did not find any shoes, but we found a bookshop and a chocolate shop.
And I did not go empty-handed from either. Hahem.

Then it was time for showjumping and dressage.
I must say that the dressage was spoiled for me due to the fact that the first three first placed were Anky van Grunsveen, Adelinde Cornelissen and Patrik Kittel.
All rollkur-riders.
It was a large hair in the soup.
Kind of a wig, actually.

At the side of the arena is a very large exhibition hall, full of whatever horse products your heart desires.
As the arena is crowded in between classes, the best time to shop is when one class is running in the arena.
I sacrificed the end of the show jumping class to buy some presents to my daughter.

Wanna have a VERY expensive riding helmet that makes you look like a fly?

Everything your heart desires...from wagons to gloves.

On Sunday I had a lunch together with one of my childhood friends who is living in the Gothenburg area.
We met each other over lunch last year too, and at that time we had not met in 20 years.
We had such a nice lunch once again, and decided that she would come and visit me for a weekend end of April.
Back home.
Last Sunday, Fame and I started our first dressage show this year.
I braided her before leaving home to ride down to the indoor arena, so she got a hunch that something was brewing.
Entering the warm up, I felt Fame grew several centimeters; “All light on me, please”!
She really likes to show herself off, lol! I just have to laugh at her.

Annie, my instructor, was there to help us in the warm-up, which felt luxurious and was a good help. Fame felt good, responsive and concentrated on the work.
Then it was time to enter the arena.
We entered, and down at the spooky short side, the judge and the scriber were sitting at a table.
Suddenly the party princess turns into a statue instead.
To make a long story short, we did not have one normal passing of that short side during the entire program.

I tried to make the best out of a tricky situation, and after finishing the program rode my horse home.
When removing the tack I got an sms on the cell phone from Helene, telling me that I was on a shared second place, with only one rider left to go.
I stared at the message, not quite believing my eyes. What???
I realized I just had to leave the tack as it were, and get into the car to be able to get there in time to the price ceremony.
We ended on a shared 3rd place, which was both very surprising and fun.

This week I have been out travelling with my work again, this time in Northern Norway.
Bodø, Rognan and Tromsø - all above the Polar circle.
It was foul weather before we arrived, and the airport in Bodø had been closed down for 2 or 3 days.
We had a two hours drive from the airport to Rognan, luckily in nice weather both on our way to and from.
But in the meantime - lots of snow. We could not see our car in the morning.
I enclose some pics from Rognan.
It is a beautiful landscape, don't you think?

At last I would like to welcome Rachel and HorseAndPony as new followers!