Monday, May 16, 2011

March and April Training for Wimbley

In mid-March, we recommenced with our training.  I started concentrating on building strength and reliability in the softer transitions, and started asking for more steps in the leg yielding.  I asked for more reaction in the down transitions, and could feel his back getting strong enough to do more sitting trot. 
He has been progressing in every aspect of his training at an increasing pace, and starting in the first week of April, I have been able to ask for more of the strength related exercises, such as a few steps of shoulder-in, transitions to the medium and collected trot, and a lengthening and shortening of the stride in canter.
April 18, Wimbley has had time off again for almost two weeks because Edie and I were both busy and then I had the flu, but when I rode him today, he was stellar, as usual.  He seems to gain strength and understanding of the work we are doing even when I don’t ride him! I was just going to take it easy and review with him, which I did, and his canter is a solid tempo with a good jump, he is light and responsive and reliable in his leads now.  He is understanding the lengthening of the trot and canter, and is really using his back and hocks correctly for a horse of his age and training in the half-halts.  A couple of the half-halts gave me the feeling that he will be quite willing to sit enough for piaffe when he is strong enough.  He is still adjustable and supple, and the lateral work went very well even into shoulder in on both reins and a bit of renvers and travers.  Mind you, I only ask for two or three strides in a very minimal renver and travers, but I can feel the increase in engagement, and a willingness to put his body in position for it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Mishap

We were scheduled to ride both days, but we were going to bring the horses back home overnight, instead of leaving them at Lana’s, so we didn’t have a stall.  Edie was riding after me, and so I loaded Wimbley in the trailer to let him stand while Edie and Dance had their lesson.
As I was putting up the butt bar, Wimbley moved back and I got my finger caught between the butt bar and the trailer, resulting in a rather nasty smashing injury that ultimately required stitches.
I caught Wimbley who had backed out of the trailer, and was holding him and trying to hold my finger together, which was bleeding profusely.
Lana and her friend showed up with bandages, and someone took Wimbley from me. I wasn’t paying attention, and they tied Wimbley to my trailer in a bad spot. So while I was being bandaged, Wimbley caught himself on the trailer upper door in the forehead, and pulled back, breaking the leadrope snap, and sitting down and then rolling backwards. He just laid there for a minute (I think he was stunned), and then got up as if he was supposed to be laying there, and walked over to Dance. As I took his halter, Edie realized he had cut his forehead open and required stitches as well….
To make a long story short, we had to give our second ride to another of my students; Wimbley and I received five stitches apiece, and were out of commission for two weeks.
The vet did a much better job of stitching Wimbley than the emergency room did stitching me, and I was the reason for the long delay in training.  We joked for weeks that I should have had the veterinarian stitch me up as well.  I know it would have been cheaper! 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Wimbley's Second Dressage Clinic

At the end of February, we went to the second Henk van Bergen clinic.  This one was at a new facility in White Fences, in Loxahatchee, which meant a longer trailer ride.  Wimbley and Dance both took it in stride.  This was not a covered arena, but there was a mirror on the full length of the short side.  Wimbley paid it no notice.  And the footing was absolutely perfect.  The whole facility is absolutely gorgeous!  It belongs to a friend of mine that I met while I was in Germany, and before she moved to the United States, but that is a story for a different time....
Henk could see that his training was progressing since October, and seemed pleased with that progress.  His main comment was, “Yah, I see he makes a mistake here and there, but I also see that you immediately correct the mistake and go on.  I can’t say more than that; he is a young horse still.  It is a bonus that he already can do a bit of leg yielding so you are, for sure, on the right track here.” 
The further suggestion he made was that I make sure to keep him soft in the contact in the downwards transitions and that he doesn’t lean on my contact, so we practiced that a little, with Henk giving me the help from the ground to feel when it was absolutely correct. 
We ended on a great note, and I was looking forward to the second day of the clinic, when it happened…..

Friday, May 6, 2011

Great Horse, Great Owner

I must also say here that Wimbley’s owner, Edie, is one of the best clients ever. When I first assessed Wimbley as a dressage horse, I asked her what her goals were for Wimbley. She said, “I just think he has a great personality, and I want to see how his training comes along. I don’t have a plan for him to be fancy dressage horse, or get all the way to the top, but if he can, let’s just see where it goes.”

I also asked her if she planned to train him to obe sold, or to be her personal riding horse, or what, and she said she just wanted to see how far he could go; no time constraints, no pressure to sell him.
There is no better set of circumstances for a horse (or for a trainer). There is no pressure to push him too fast, to compete him before he is ready, or at a level higher than he is comfortable with. There is no pressure to find a buyer for him, or to make him ride-able for Edie (even though he is, and I tell her all the time that she can ride him if she wants to). This is the best of all worlds.

In February, I started asking for more reliability in the transitions, smaller circles in the trot and canter, transitions from left to right and back again on smaller circles and serpentines in trot, a few steps of sitting trot at a time, more engagement in the canter transitions and to stay more on the bit and come up through the shoulder for more jump into the canter.
We also worked on lengthening a little in the trot, and shortening the strides of trot a few at a time—making almost the transition to walk, and then trotting on. This works very well for strengthening the connection. We also started with a few steps of real leg yield in trot.