September 30, 2010

November 1, 2008
Nova seemed much more relaxed today on our way down/when we got there. Mom was walking down, so I did as well. No lunging today. (Plus it was WARM out and sunny out!) Diane decided to work him in draw-reins today, so we warmed up at the walk with them on fairly loose.

We then went on and trotted, to really warm up. Did lots of circles - bigger and smaller ones to get him bending and paying attention. For the life of me I cannot remember the little issue we were working on during these circles - guess it wasn't that much of an issue!

Diane then had me doing some sitting trot work with him on the larger circle to try and get him to go long 'n' low. It was working okay, and we had some really nice moments where I could feel him life and go. He doesn't even really fight the draw-reins at all, and that's great. We're just tying to teach him to stay low and that there's no need to bring your head up so much - not to crank his head in at all. I'm also still working on riding him with a long rein. I can't wait until he's more consistent about listening to my aids, so then it will be easier to keep my hands low and steady (and not raise them up).

As we were working, she had me ask him for the canter. The right is his slightly more sticky side (but he's still really consistent about picking it up), and we got it first try in the corner. He did quite well, wasn't trying to get racey... And in fact, my normal Nova was back. He tried to play out on me a couple times, but I kept him going with my seat. I'm pleased with our downward transitions - they're usually pretty decent, but they were good today because the draw-reins did help a bit to keep his head down.

We took a break to watch Diane and Helga canter, then it was our turn again. This (left) side was a bit tough today. Got the lead pretty good and kept it going decent. The issue came with coming off the rail to go across the arena on our circle... For some reason (be it me or him) we didn't really do that... We sort of went in a straight line off of the rail and didn't really bend and continue around. So the one time I had to stop him, turn him and get going again. When I asked for the lead (not in the corner) he picked it up, literally, instantly. It felt so nice! Anyway, Diane told me to be a bit more forceful and start turning him sooner than I was before - it worked and we went around a couple times without issue.

We walked around a bit to cool off after everyone was done, and he kept his head nice and low with the draw-reins just hanging around his neck. Felt like a western pleasure pony!

So we only had a few minor things today, which was perfect for me. I am so pleased with how far we've come in a couple months!

November 3, 2008
From the sounds of things, this might be one of the last lessons we get in this year. Good thing it was a great one!

We've been trying english saddles on Nova (the two I own - both of which don't fit), Helga's, my friend Becky's, and now even Diane. She feels hers fits the best so far, but of course, it's a $3000 saddle! HA! I think I'll be looking for a cheaper alternative.

Anyway, Nova was so relaxed today at the lesson. Not sure if being back on a semi-regular schedule again is helping, or just the fact that he's been worked two of the last three days. We walked around (draw-reins on) and he as usual, kept his head nice and low and relaxed (his normal way of going at the walk). I then went into the trot, and he settled immediately into a nice relaxed trot. Not the racey "I wanna canter" trot, or the super lazy "I don't wanna move" trot. And he kept that pace for the entire time. He also felt like he was really listening to me. And was keeping his head down nicely (more than usual), and wasn't fighting the draw-reins at all. Diane even commented that I was riding him more on the snaffle rein instead of the draw-reins. Our circles (done so they weren't in the corners) felt nice, round, steady, and with a bend! It was fantastic.

Diane suggested that I take the circles smaller (to about 15 feet), and see how he felt. He felt good! Kept his pace nice, and wasn't fighting me. We also did a few passes down the centre line. He was a bit wigglely, but not that bad. And listened and bent nicely as we turned back onto the rail.

After that, it was time to canter. Basically what we were trying to do today was do serpentines at the canter - but only on one lead at a time. So, first we went to the left (so every time I would ask Nova for a left bend, we should be cantering). He picked up his left lead nicely the first time, and listened wonderfully as I came around the corner and then off the rail across the arena, broke into the trot nicely, we went around the next serpentine with a nice right bend, and he was a bit slow to pick up his lead again, but we did get it in the corner. Cantered all the way around the end and he again did a nice downward transition, continued at the trot, and again had a bit of trouble getting the lead again, but did get it and did a nice big circle at the end of the arena before stopping.

The right was our more difficult side. It took a couple tries to get it the first time, so I did a big circle at the far end before starting the serpentines. He was listening good (not racey AT ALL), and dropped down into the trot really nicely. Was a bit sticky picking it up again at the far end, but got it and started back up the arena. The last time I asked for it, he bad about picking it up. We ended up going around the end on a circle for a few times and picking up the wrong lead about four times (which thankfully is easy to feel and I was able to bring him back down immediately) before I got the right lead. Once I got it, we did some circles working on keeping a bend before stopping. (Today was the worst he's been for picking up his right lead, and I think that was mostly due to me, for whatever reason.)

His 'whoa'ing is much, much better! I can feel the definite stop, instead of the uhhhh... slowing down until finally stopping.

I really had the feeling today (especially when we came off the rail the first time on our first serpentine) like I was riding a much better trained horse! He was smooth, relaxed, and listening! He was just awesome today. Everything is coming together so nicely with him.

November 7, 2008
What a really nice day today - sunny and 5 degrees. Perfect day for a lesson.

Before the lesson, Diane came over to help me see if any of the english saddles I have (and borrowed) would fit Nova. We ended up using hers today, and I think it's a bit too wide for him, but otherwise it would probably fit him better. It felt that it was quite low on his withers, which probably was uncomfortable. So given that he might have been uncomfortable today a bit, and it probably felt strange, he was pretty good. Not to mention my pony looked awesome in english tack!

Because of the saddle fitting before, and that put us behind time wise, which paired with the fact that Diane had an appointment in the city so had to leave soon... Well, we only had a half an hour lesson. So it was a bit shorter than I was hoping for, but it wasn't wasted.

Nova felt good going around, had his head level right from the beginning when we started to trot. (He was a bit more stubborn about walking off and picking up his trot, but once going he felt good.) We did some circles both ways, and he was pretty good.

We then did serpentines from quarter-line to quarter-line. He was good, and I just have to remember to keep the inside rein on his neck to get him to bend to the inside. He did quite well though, because they were tight serpentines for him to do.

After that, we cantered. Went to the right first, and he's been sticky about picking it up... No exception today. After a couple tries and one wrong lead, we got it and went around. He was being a bit stubborn and didn't want to bend to the right and canter circles. (I'd bring the rein across his neck to ask for a bit of a bend, but he'd take that as a cue to dive towards the inside of the circle and the other horses. So, I think I might spend some time re-enforcing that my leg means move the heck away from it!) I did manage to keep him going foward by using my seat (and my weight stayed down in my heels!!). To the left was better, but rushed because Diane had to leave. But he felt much better and was giving me a nice bend and a great canter.

All in all, for a quick, semi-rushed lesson, I was happy. It felt good to ride him english! It's our calling!

November 10, 2008
We decided to try two other english saddles that I have on 'trial' from friends on Nova today to see. (We've decided that neither fit, so I'm off to buy one after mine sells.) So some of Nova's less than perfect behaviour today I can blame a bit on the saddles.

Started off at the walk, working on bending on a circle. And sort of spiralling that circle in and out a bit. He was doing okay, a bit fussy with the bit and wiggling his head around, but we were getting a bit of progress. (Left is better than to the right, as usual.) We then went and did a bit of work on leg yielding for the first time. He did quite well, actually. We only worked on leg yielding back to the rail, and I could tell after a few trips that he knew what I was going to be asking. So next time, maybe I'll work on going away from, and then back to the rail.

Did some trot on our own as Diane was warming up Helga, and Nova was quite good. Felt a bit short strided because of the saddle, but gave me a nice consistent trot.

After a saddle change, and some trot (which I could tell he wasn't comfortable with at all) and then a saddle change back, we worked the canter. (He stood like a dream for all the saddle changes.) I think by that time he was a bit frustrated with me and all this fussing, so he was stubborn about picking up the trot. And then was horrible about picking up his right lead - he kept veering to the inside and ignoring any inside rein and leg aids. Diane finally suggested that we go to the left, and of course, he picked it up right away. Did a few circles to the left, then went across the diagonal to try and pick up the right lead. Well, he did the dive to the inside again, and I got a bit ticked at him and gave him a good smack on the rump with my hand. Holy god, he thought he was about to die and overreacted a bit. I stayed on (he did a spin, threw his head up then stopped), and we then continued on our way. I think my point was made because he was a bit more sensitive (not perfect) to my leg. After awhile I did get the right lead. I think it's more stubborness than pain-related, because once he got the right lead, he was fine and cantered around nicely.

Diane then hopped on him and rode him around. She complimented me by saying that she likes what she feels with him, and it seems like I've done a good job getting him going!

We'll be going back to the western saddle for now. And I think I might bring my encouragement stick along next time to get a bit more respect for my right leg.

November 23, 2008
Because of weather constraints there haven't been any lessons lately, and I think we're just going to call it quits for the year. It's been a good run, but it's finally over!

So I've been dying to do a photoshoot with the horses in the arena, with my new camera. I haven't gotten to take many action shots of the horses, because I'm usually riding them... So that's what we did today. Got quite a few nice ones of them (Nova and Rhythm) tearing around like lunatics.

After we were done, and they were warm and tired, I actually hopped on Nova bareback with his halter. At first I was just going to ride him across the arena so I didn't have to walk back, but he was feeling pretty relaxed (read: tired) so I took my chances and rode him home bareback. Of course, he knows the way home blindfolded, and nothing is scary along the way, so I wasn't too worried. And of course, he was an angel. Nice and relaxing, and it felt really good. (Kinda like being on one of the old 'n' trusty horses, where you can relax and saunter along down the road.)

November 29, 2008
Today was our last official lesson of the year! And it ended on a good note, I think.

Nova was fine for tacking up, but was a bit excited and a teeny bit a brat on the walk down. I decided not to ride him down because he might have been a bit too excited about being out. He did good on the walk, but had a couple mini 'freak-outs' (like a spook, then then he'd try to take off or buck or do something silly). Though, he doesn't pull, so it's no big issue.

We arrived to the arena early, and since it was just my mom and I, I asked if I could take his halter off and let him run. She agreed, so I turned him loose and chased him around a bit. I have to admit, he has some niiiiice moves! I asked him to change directions a few times, and he'd dig in, and spin around and take off the other way. (I think his Paint side was showing.) After only a couple minutes of that, and he got a couple bucks out, I walked over to him. Stopped a short distance from him, and then had him turn and walk over for me to halter him. I then led him back to Mom and we stood talking until Diane arrived (of course, he stands there like he's all pooped out already).

Mounted up, and then went into trotting. Did one trip around the entire arena, then a large circle in each end, change across the diagonal and repeat. We then went and did medium circles in each corner of the arena, first one way, then the other. Our very first circle doing this was probably our best, and felt really good. He was better about not leaning into the right, so that was good.

After a quick break we then went to canter. Started to the left, and he was good. Picked up his lead right away, and we got two very nice circles that way. He wasn't too bad about trying to ignore my cue to continue on the circle (as in, he didn't try to keep going straight, and instead did turn). We then turned and went to the right. He was fantastic and picked it up the first time! I went around two or three times, and he felt pretty good so I stopped. (His downward transitions are FANTASTIC!) Then Diane and I decided that I should ask him one more time for this right lead... Oops. That started about ten minutes of 'battle'. He is super great at picking up his left lead (to the point of it was instantaneous... just was the wrong lead). So once I get him 100% on each lead, it will be so great. After I did finally get it, and we did a couple circles, then Diane had us go across the diagonal and ask for a simple change in the opposite corner. Since we were going from right to left, he was amazing. We were very, very straight and smooth across the diagonal, nice downward transition, and then beautiful upward one on the left lead. But noooo, couldn't leave it at that, so we had to do it again. Again, he was perfect coming across the diagonal, so was his transition, but wouldn't pick up his right lead. (I do hate to admit it, but I was a little frustrated with him by then.) Anyway, he kept doing his fall to the inside, so I ended up giving him one very solid kick with my right leg... And magically he picked up his right lead. Pfffft. So I went with it, and we did a couple nice circles (with a nice bend!) and then walked. I had meant to bring my dressage whip to help me, but had forgot it at the house. But all in all, it worked out okay.

So, for a last lesson, I think we ended on a relatively good note. Considering he hasn't been ridden (the bareback doesn't count really) in a couple/three weeks... Pretty darn good for a 3 year old!

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