Sunday, February 12, 2012

Committed to Change(s)

As usual, the dressage gods have played their tricks on me.  Owen returns after a mild winter, I decide to mount up, and in comes the severe winter weather to freeze the footing and leave a nice layer of snow on top of everything.  Of course, the climate had been very favorable all winter until I decided to resume training.

Today the high never did approach freezing level with wind gusts up to 40 mph, causing the house to shake and bringing down yet more trees.  But unlike most people, I like cold weather tho' I would like it better if we had all weather footing in the arena, and when the wind blows loud enough to deafen me and cause my eyes to water it really enervates me.  After doing the barn chores I tacked up Owen, and with a quarter sheet for him and a balaclava for me we headed out to find suitable footing.  The ring was frozen solid, but I'll school anywhere I can find a suitable 10 meters, so after hacking the farm perimeter I was pleased to find a nice linear stretch at the bottom of the hay field, which had the added benefit of being slightly sheltered from the worst of the wind.

Once again I played cat and mouse with my nemesis, the tempi Moriarity, my Voldemort, and every other literary villain.  In books, the hero eventually conquers the evil despite the odds...but I don't know that that is the ending in store for me and Owen.  I rode Owen astride today, and found that while the changes were better, having a leg on either side did not facilitate them, so riding aside is not what is holding us back.  Owen is sensitive and smart enough to perform the exercise, no matter what saddle I'm in, but for some reason it eludes us.  I tried several methods, including our fall back, the tempis on the circle, as well as schooling them from the medium rather than the collected canter to give Owen more umpfh.  He would manage three or four before diving onto his forehand.  I doubt there is a physical reason for it, but it seems the more changes we do the higher his stress level becomes.  He does find the changes easier after the halfpass, so I was able to canter a good 3/4 of a mile doing halfpasses of about three strides or so before asking for the change and the reverse halfpass.

Still, they aren't getting any easier, and I'm boggled about how to proceed.  I must admit I'm pretty frustrated by it, and I'm sure there's a key to it but I can't find it.  I'm going to consult with Dona about it; we've discussed this situation before, and she believes that sending Owen to a trainer would accomplish nothing, since I understand him better than anyone else and he would resent another trainer.  However, it might be advantageous to see if we can find a "change master", an instructor who can with intensive teaching set us on the right path.

It's odd that he can perform a world class piaffe (some clinicians' words, not mine) but fails in a movement that is more natural to horses.  So many experts state that the changes are not difficult and are actually more difficult for the rider than the horse, but at the moment I'm finding this doesn't reassure me much.

Perhaps that's the I making them more difficult than they need to be?


  1. I'm still in awe of your dressage movements & flying changes. I can fake my way through some of the movements but that's about it! lol I'm lucky to get *a* change when I ask for it lol. I'm sure you'll get this!!

    1. Nah...I've seen your changes on Brigit and they are clean and back to front.
      Now, Owen has truly impressive changes, but not in the sense I would like them to be. He leaps into the air, and usually comes down on the new lead but the leg sequence is difficult to understand without stop action photography...some sort of egg beater action.

  2. It could be too that your op and the time off you had, is affecting him too so it seems a bit more harder than it usually is for you. Don't forget that it was a big op you had and you've only just gotten back in the saddle! :-) Like Michelle, you'll get it as you get used to riding again :)

  3. There's always Jane, Paul, or Anne.... Jane and Paul's new place has an indoor.... Jus' sayin'

  4. Have you tried touching the outside hind with a stick the moment you ask for the change? I have used that method with success on several horses. Your timing has to be impeccable, but it helps get the horse to understand that the change must happen from the hind.
    Another good exercise is to ride shoulder-in to renvers and back in canter several times and then ask for the change while in renvers. This often help with horses that have trouble with shifting their body weight during the change and those who shift their body in anticipation of the change.
    These helped my horse, but I still feel your pain. The changes were always the most nail-biting bits of my tests. I don't think I had a single PSG test last season where I didn't miss a change. It was even more annoying because they were fine at home. Life goes on :)

    1. I have tried schooling with an extra long in hand whip so I can really cue the hocks to get Owen thinking about changing from behind.

      From watching your videos it seems like Will Powered is a) more level headed than Owen and b) more gifted than Owen when it comes to changes. Of course, you may be one of those naturally gifted riders to whom traing the changes comes more easily than they do to riders such as myself.

      Sometimes I have to count out loud just to get my timing down ("one, two, three, now!) but with hot headed equines like Owen I have to ask for the change a bit early when the diagonal pair is on the ground; if I wait for the hind legs to leave the ground, I'm doomed.

      But I can't tell you how much I admire your progress...I wish I had your resolve and courage to compete, as well as your poise. My coach is still drumming her fingertips on the arena walls waiting for me to scrape together the guts to compete at PSG. But for some reason, I'm terrified to make the plunge.

    2. BTW, congragulations on your silver medal.

    3. Thanks! The changes weren't easy on Willy. I actually got into side saddle riding because I thought I was confined to 2nd level forever and wanted to make it more interesting. At least Owen has a very good piaffe and passage, so you know he can really sit, it's just getting him to sit while changing. All the pieces are there.

      I'd love to get together and compare notes sometime if you weren't so far. I wish I had as good of a grasp of the horse's balance; I still have trouble keeping Willy off the forehand in extensions.

      And sidesaddlegirl is right, you just had major surgery. The fact that you are riding at all right now is immeasurably impressive.

    4. It would be AWESOME to meet somewhere in the middle and do a pas de deux!