Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bailey and the Indoor 2016

I realized while riding yesterday that while our flatwork training may not look all that different to folks on the ground, Bailey has made huge strides in the last year. Maybe it was the barn change, and maybe it was finally getting old enough to brain, but BB is really riding like a grown up horse.

This time last year, we were struggling with major "the number you have dialed is not in service" problems with contact. Bailey would tune me out, grab the bit, get looky and braced and then explode the minute something sensory set her off. She was super distractable, and I was so focused on keeping her packaged that I did a lot of riding around with what I now realize is false contact and getting overly fixated on keeping her head down.

As much as I love these pictures, she's still behind the vertical, albeit the test in the lower photo had plenty of non-behind-the-vertical moments, as well, and that ride was the product of several weeks of dressage boot camp, and after that... we kind of lost our mojo. I don't have any images from last winter, or from this year at all, but I can tell you... it hasn't looked like this:

Proof we weren't totally behind the bit all of the time. 

 It took riding in the Micklem the other week to really make me realize that, but even when she takes a good contact, it's not a confident contact. She gets flustered when asked to weight the bit, and a lot of the time, her tongue comes out as a result - almost like she goes "with all of this contact and bit and stuff, there's no room for my tongue". We've been working on it since then, and the picture is slowly coming together (though it's been hard to tell, since the mirrors are fogged over from cold).

Last night Bailey did a number of surprising things; she didn't jump sideways, throw her head up or even pop her shoulder when the BO came through a door with some horses. This is a huge improvement, even from a few weeks ago. When she did find something worthy of looking at (in this case, some very scary frost on the wall), she turned her head, and then I was able to close my leg, and the bend reasserted itself and we moved on. Transitions were calmer, and more through, instead of the back-jarring house of cards collapsing that they had been. Transitions were also prompt, and while she still used my hands as an e-bake sometimes, I'll take hanging on me over sucking back, at this point.

I received my 14mm bridoon in the mail the other day, and I'm looking forward to getting it on a bridle to test out my tongue theory. I need to get into the habit of videoing my rides, too, since I'm still waiting to not feel super poor so I can take some more lessons. Now that I've got my dressage saddle back, I think we can get into our flatwork that much more and come out next spring that much stronger and more correct. It's so strange to still be working on something so basic, while also knowing that my horse has a pretty much confirmed and lovely leg yield, shoulder in and that we're productively schooling haunches in, walk-to-canter transitions and even a little walking half pass.

Why are the basics so hard? Do they ever stop being hard?


  1. i used a fairly narrow bradoon snaffle on my last mare who had a small, delicate mouth and would duck behind the contact and get btv too - it worked pretty well for her! tho it's been less effective for the new guy who maybe needs something a little more substantial that he can really start pushing into.

    also i LOVE videoing my rides bc there's always something there to see that i hadn't felt - and usually some 'aha' moments to be had (even if i don't love them lol)

    1. Definitely need to remember to charge my camera and start bringing it out... I have been saying this for months but I'm going to do it! Or try! Lord knows I need something besides show pictures from over a year ago.

      Bit wise, I started B in a big fat nathe loose ring, and she loved it for a while before she started sticking her tongue over it and lost her nathe privileges (while wearing a figure-8 that wasn't loose... riddle me that). We've slowly gotten more and more narrow over the last 3 years. The retiree really loves the bit both of them go in now, so I'm interested to see if 2mm actually makes any difference to either of them.