Thursday, January 22, 2009

Leg Yielding

I have class today and have to leave for Tulsa in about an hour and a half. I have been really excited lately about how quickly we have been progressing. I really wanted to try leg yields and woke up early to do it before class. I rode for about 30 minutes and it was really windy which made Boomer spooky. I really tried to focus his mind on lots of circles, serpentines, etc. He has been seeming a little lazy lately. He always has a springy trot and fast walk when we are on a trail ride, but arena work seems to bore him unless he is actively learning something.

I started out walking on a loose rein to warm up. After a few spooks, I decided to warm up at the sitting trot with lots of serpentines. We reviewed the turn on the forehand. The turn on the haunches didn't seem to stick yesterday and I think it would be best to not introduce the turn on the haunches until he knows turn on the forehand perfectly. I was amazed at how quicckly he had learned the turn on the forehand. It was instant recall when I asked him. I was very impressed. We worked on leg yields at a walk next. (For leg yield to the right)About 10 feet from the 'wall' on the long side of the 'arena' I asked him to walk on, I shifted my weight to my outside (right) hipbone, and squeezed with my inside (left) leg back behind the girth. To my surprise, he calmly yielded over. It was a very gradual movement, and I can't be sure he didn't know he wasn't traveling straight, but we did it! The idea with the leg yield is that he will move forward while also moving diagonally towards the rail. He stays in a straight line facing foreward. His legs cross over each other. Here is a great page describing the leg yield with a diagram of the foot fall patterns. Eventually, the goal will be to increase the angle and be able to move diagonally across the entire arena from corner to corner.

Overall, I was totally impressed with his progress and willingness to learn. Unfortunaltely, my shortcomings as a rider are becoming glaringly obvious. Aside from working on the canter and athletic conditioning, I am afraid it is the blind leading the blind. I don't know dressage and I am taking what small knowledge I have of the discipline, reading and learning, and trying to apply it. But I don't have anyone who can say "yes, yes you've got it!" or "that doesn't seem to be working, lets try it a new way". Honestly, for as educated and soft as my hands are said to be- I don't know how to use them. I know the control the shoulder and my legs contrl the hips, but I feel like a bumbling idiot. Not a good feeling when you are trying to teach a green horse.

The only idea I have is to trailer the horse to Tulsa with me in future semesters when I will have 3-4 days of classes in a row and take one or two lessons a week witha professional. It looks like daily board at most places is between $10-15 and lessons are between $30-40. Best case scenario It would be $60 per week for three days of board plus one lesson. If we did that, I would be happy with putting Boomer in the big pasture for the other days of the week here in Bville for $50 per month. So, it would be about $300 per month rather than $150 per month. I'm not sure I can justify paying double what we are now with me not having a real job. We shall see.

For now, I am going to continue to work on the turns, leg yields, and cantering. I also want to make sure that we go on at least one good trail ride per week to keep the horse happy. When things start to get boring, I want to start working on the USDF dressage tests. Training through 4th level tests are posted here. These tests are the standard for all dressage riders who compete. You work your way up through each test. I am not sure, but I think the idea is that when you score two 60%'s on the same test at different shows from different judges, you are able to move on. I think it is a personally mandated deal, you move on when you are ready. I think it is pretty common to show at more than one test per show. For instance, you may show at Training 1 and 2 for a while and once you have been doing consistently well, you would try doing Training 2 and 3, etc. I also think you can cross levels and show at Training 4 and First level 1 at the same show. It is a very interesting system. There are also Intro tests A and B which are not regulated or recorded. They are walk-trot only. I have those printed off and would like to work on those at home some. It is a little difficult because I don't have an arena, so I have to guess how big my 20 meter circles are. I want to get some lettered cones so that I can have better reference points for movements. The area I am riding in mostly now is about 100' by 160'. A small dressage arena is about 65' by 130' (20 by 40 meters).

Enough for now, I'm off to snuggle with Charley until I have to leave for class.

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