Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kaurilands Dressage

Bit late in updating the blog about this event, but needless to say, the boy did not disappoint :-)

Event was the Kaurilands Winter Dressage. I have entered Shell Fire in the Green Horse and Purebred section top scores. I missed the first day due to my operation so I was keen to try and put our best feet forward for the rest of the series.

It was forecast to be another horrible day. Thankfully, it only rained heavily once while I was warming up. My goals for this event was to see how Shell Fire would cope with a large amount of horses moving at different speeds and in different directions all around him.
When I first hopped on him, he seemed like a fire cracker waiting to go off. His little brain was 'wowed' at the goings on! After 5min of gentle walking, allowing him to take in everything going on, he settled down into his work.

With this being my first more serious event, I was unsure how long he would take to warm up. I aimed on an hours warm up before my first scheduled dressage test.
Shell Fire worked in well and I was all set to try to do my best riding the first test, Prelim 1.3.
I entered the ring on time and was very pleased with how he went. We had problems with the transitions up into canter (something I am going to work on this Sunday with Scott) and Shell Fire keeping and eye on (and consequently his nose bent out) the white arena railing.
My marks in that test were all 6's and 7's so an improvement on the 1.3 ridden at Phillips Equestrian. I was most thrilled with the Judge's comment of "a nice combination" at the bottom :-) Score was 64.615%

It was quite a wait for my second test but luckily, seeing how the ring was empty from scratchings/people being late, I was able to sneak in early. This test was Prelim 1.2 - less movements than the 1.3 test. The test started well, but I had already felt Shell Fire start to slowly 'fade' outside the ring. Poor little pony was starting to feel very tired from his big day out. We managed to do all the movements but there was a lot of resistance to move forward and to transition to canter. Totally fine and understandable for such a young and very green horse! Marks were again mainly 6's and 7's with one 8 for the entry and three 5's. I again had the wonderful comment of "Nicely ridden" at the bottom of the test sheet. Score was 61.6678%

Overall, we came 7th in the first test and 8th in the second. A very good result and I cant wait for my lesson this weekend!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Phillips Equine ODE

I was coerced by the students that I teach at Phillips Equine to take Shell Fire along to Phillips Equine's One Day Event. I only entered into the dressage, but felt that it would be a good outing in preparation for Kaurilands this coming weekend.

The day dawn not so good. It was pouring with rain at home and I had to make use of the hay shed to get Shell Fire ready. He was absolutely filthy (as in you couldnt see his white socks), so I decided to just load and go and clean him up when I got there.

I arrived at 8am and unloaded him into the tie-ups. Not long after, other people began arriving. I washed his socks and tacked him up happy that the rain had eased to light rain.

I was third to ride in Ring Two. The judge was Bill Noble, someone who I admire in dressage. The test I was riding was Prelim 1.3 and tied in well to Kaurilands as this is one of the tests I will be riding there.

The ground was horrendously boggy. In some places it was over Shell Fire's fetlocks! It was very hard to get him to maintain forwardness and impulsion! I was worried at one stage that he might pull a tendon. Fears aside, he warmed up well, and 5 min into my warm up, the heavens opened... To say I was wet was an understatement! I was incredibly soggy and my saddle still has water marks on it!

Needless to say, Shell Fire was a trooper, and rode just as he would on a summers day. I was very pleased with his warm up but still was worried about the arena.
For one, he hasnt been in a dressage arena with markers yet, and the markers in this arena were large and very bright white! I had images of us adding in some halfpass into the test!
Second, the arena was only 20 x 40m which feels very small for a green horse. My main concern was the cantering and cantering on a 20m circle. We have only just mastered a better and more 'together' canter on a circle.

Turns out my worries were unfounded. He entered the arena with much gusto (comments under this movement were "Positive entrance" and while we are still mastering the art of a straight line, he maintain a good rhythm down the center line and turned left at C.

The next movements were turning left at E and doing two 20m circles at X. The first one was terrible and it was hard to maintain his rhythm as one corner of it was boggy right over his fetlocks. The second was better rhythm wise but I couldnt get him off my inside leg so it ended being a little square in shape (also commented on).

The next lot of movements were the ones I had been dreading, the canter work. Turns out I neednt have worried at all. He jumped into canter and while not flowing through into my hands well (and me not wanting to push him too hard cause of the ground conditions) managed the circle and transitions well.

This also reflected on the movement giving the reins over X in trot and my free walk on a long rein. Without him going into the contact it was hard to get him to maintain his frame and to stretch down more in the walk.

My halt at X was interesting. I walked him into the halt and he wasnt square so I held with my hands and just asked him to 'level up' all round. It was perceived as "Some resistance at X". Fair enough. I have a lot to work on before this weekend, but I think maybe half my problems were from the very wet and boggy ground conditions.

My overall score was 64.23%. My marks were mostly 7's with some 6's and my lowest was one 5.

I am absolutely thrilled with how he coped with the weather conditions and his first ever dressage test in a smaller arena. I will hopefully get some photos up once I get permission from the photographer.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Some late photos...

Here are some photos of Shell Fire from the Auckland Arabian Spectacular held in December last year.

Photos taken by Kate Peddie from Geegee Photography.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I love my pony :-D

Rode my pony for the first time since my operation.

It was awesome.

That is all :-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Its been a while...

Well, nothing much to really report.

I have been riding Shell Fire until I had to go and have my operation which was on the 10th of May. It went well and I am not allowed to ride for three weeks just to make sure I dont rip any stitches out!

Even though the Doctor said 3 weeks, I am going to hop on his some time this week once the worst of the weather has left us. Worst case is that if the weather doesnt let up, I will have to shove him on the float and take him round to Scott's place to use his delightful indoor arena.

On some sad news, it looks like the wonderful Jaime is leaving the country so all my hopes for another lesson are dashed. Scott assures me that he will be bringing Jaime back for clinics every 3-4 months so I had better start saving!

My next goal is to get Shell Fire out to the Kaurilands dressage. I of course missed the first one due to my surgery, but I should be in full swing for the next one which is on the 12th June.

Now I have to go and make sure I have the latest dressage test book! Its been a while since I have been in dressage competition.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts on training and praise

I worked Shell Fire again tonight. Since my lesson with Jaime, I have decided to really get stuck into him and get him up and going. No more 'baby horse'!

I guess my problem before with not working him as hard has been my worry of keeping him happy and making sure he doesnt get stale with all the training etc.
I know you can go out hacking etc to keep their interest, but he is just such a quick learner and I havent wanted him to get bored.

My worries on this have vanished however after tonight. I have been consistently working him just doing flat work everyday (except Monday which is his and my day off!) since my lesson with Jaime. After tonights breakthrough, I have been pondering on some of my training techniques and my own personal ideas about competition and partnership with your horse.

I believe no matter what, the partnership and trust between you and your horse comes first and foremost. If you want them to work hard for you, they must respect you and trust you.
I spent a lot of time on the ground with Shell Fire teaching him manners, how to move his feet on cue and how to cope with 'scary monsters'.
I am always firm (sometimes very firm!) but as soon as I get what I want, I give him lots of praise.
Example: Shell Fire spies a plastic bag stuck to a fence flapping in the wind. A scary object for him that transforms him into 'Instant Ay-rab'. Through my training he knows that I will help him and take him up to the object in question. He knows that he has to try to go as near as possible to it. It can take as long as he wants. I also show him that it really isnt going to eat him by also touching it and playing with it. I stand right by it. I encourage him forward and when he does come forward, he gets a reward by verbal praise and a rub. Once he has touched it with his nose, he is encouraged to be brave for a little longer.
At this point, he will sometimes relax completely as he figures it isnt really that scary, or he will still be cautious, but will stay there until I ask him to move away.

This example above not only has helped for a bond, but has been invaluable for when I have moved onto riding him. When I am on him, he has to learn to trust me. I am not on the ground anymore. I am not going to stand by the scary object or touch it to show him that it is alright, but I am going to ask for the same things on his back that I did when I was on the ground.
Knowing this routine for any scary objects means that instead of running in fright, he will jump and look at the object knowing that he has to 'face it'.

Keeping my praise tone consistent from my in hand work to the ridden also means I can praise him while training him.
He instantly settles when a little tense when I praise him. Its great for when asking a new aid because as soon as he tried to do what I am asking for, I praise, he relaxes and starts realising what I am trying to ask of him
Example: I had not done much if any canter work with Shell Fire. When I went to my first lesson with Scott and cantered him for the first time, I instantly praised him and he straight away came back to a walk.
For this I was 'told off' and told that I should bring him back down gradually and not allow him to stop. Now, this is where I start to get to my debate...
Because I believe that Shell Fire needed to know he had done the right thing by cantering when asked and for a whole circle (something he finds hard to do). Whenever he tries, I praise and he gets a reward - the pressure comes off.
I understand what Scott is saying in that it can teach them bad habits (falling into downwards transitions) but surely you are better off with a relaxed happy horse to train with than one that isnt sure they have done the right thing?
Its been 3 weeks since my lesson with Scott and my first lot of cantering.The canter work only involved getting him to go forward and to try to jump into canter when the aid was given without running into it. The first serious canter work was during Jaime's lesson.
When I rode Shell Fire tonight, he not only is jumping into canter better, but is starting to try and move into the contact. When he first did it tonight I instantly praised him and allowed him to instantly walk - something I would have been told off for ;-)
However, when I next asked for canter, he went straight into the canter I praised him for. This time I praised him but kept him going and then a bit later on asked for a correct downwards transition to trot and then walk.
Yes, he falls a little into the downwards transition, but hey, he is now cantering better!

Anyhow, getting back to the start of this blog in how I know he is enjoying his work and he isnt getting stale... For starters, when he sees me in my riding gear, he RUNS up to me in the paddock. If I am just in my 'farm gear' he will come up to me but in an idle walk.
Second, he REALLY tries during the training. He isnt fizzing up too much anymore when faced with a new challenge or aid. He will sometimes try and rush (like when I asked for some lateral work tonight) but that verbal praise for when he tries or does what I ask works like magic. He is now trying so hard all the time for that praise. The praise is now starting to move into a quick rub on the wither/neck in preparation for removing the verbal praise completely for showing and dressage tests etc. Its the most exciting thing in the world right now - riding a horse that is trying his hardest to do what you are asking of him.

Let this post remind everyone of the value of praise and partnership and to the things it leads to :-D

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Finally some video footage!

I went and had my lesson with Jaime Melgarejo on Thursday. Shell Fire as per normal was very well behaved. Unfortunately there was no one extra to video me riding my pony while Jaime instructed, but Jaime did hop on Shell Fire for me and I grabbed my camera and shot some footage.

At first I was a little disappointed by how far Shell Fire still has to go, but when I think that he was broken in middle of January, ridden for about 2 weeks, then I injured my knee so he was turned out until the 27th March, and has only had intermittent riding... well, I think he is doing just fine :-)