Friday, December 31, 2010

Ockie's Three Days at Hassler Dressage

By Cara Klothe

Ockie’s trip to Riveredge was an unexpected success.  Two weeks prior, I had totally given up and given her to Ange for four rides (I think it only lasted four rides).  This happens to Ockie and I sometimes—we just need a time out from one another.  The pressure of having your own horse hit a training plateau can cloud the ability to train correctly, which is when having a second trainer around comes in handy.  Plus, for some reason, it seems harder to acknowledge how much progress YOUR horse has made. Other people’s horses, no problem, but seeing your horse’s own progress seems to be harder.

But enough with that, on to Scott’s.

The last time I was down, a few months back, we were working on Ockie’s one tempis, or flying changes every stride.  (sidenote: for anyone who saw Ockie’s changes a year ago, yes, it’s a miracle that we are even working on the ones.)  At that time I could get two one-tempis, and he sent me home with lots of homework on how to improve those two one-time changes.

I had done my homework, and even I could admit our two one-tempis had definitely improved.  With great confidence I can go down the quarter line and make multiple sets of two one-tempis….so now add a third, that can’t be too hard, she had the two one-tempis down so well.  Well let me tell you, it was hard.  Ockie is not naturally confident in her changes.  I’ve worked hard to make good, high quality single changes (down to two tepis), but she still gets nervous when she thinks she’s messing up the changes.  Teaching her the one-tempis we have to address her brain more than body.

So the first day down at Hassler’s we focused the one-tempis.  More specifically, we looked at the half halt that leads up to the changes.  Because one-tempis come so fast, the half-halt to has to be fast.  Additionally, the half-halt before the tempis has the extra purpose of making the horse quicker in the canter, not slower.  We worked on getting the three parts of that half halt really good—the in, the during, and, most importantly, the out.  Once we got that we moved to the two one-tempis, which were even better.  Then we tried three in a row…no dice.  At that point we had tortured the poor mare enough and called it a day.

Day two we again started with the one-tempis after her warm up.  When working on something hard for Ockie, it is important to do that work when she is fresh, not tired.  We used the same plan as the day before, working the details of the half halt and single changes to make the ones better.  We then looked at her tricky right shoulder.  Her favorite evasion is to carry her right shoulder too far to the right right, which takes all of the contact out of the left rein, resulting in no half halt on the left rein.  I need a left rein to half-halt to get the final change back to the left lead.

We addressed this by leg yielding her off my right leg to quarter line. I got a better feeling in my left hand for the changes, but still no luck when it came to three in a row.  However, she felt much more connected over her back than she had the day before, so that was positive and hopeful for more one-tempis in the near future.
At the end of day two we worked on half steps, the short trot steps that prepare a horse for piaffe.  We worked on these a bit at home, so Ockie was pretty good.  Scott used an in-hand whip to activate her hind legs from behind, while I kept Ockie relatively in place and elaxed in her topline.  We were able to get some pretty good half steps out of her before we called it a day.

Day three poor Ockie really worked.  Again we went right to the ones, while the pieces were all good, but still no luck with three in a row, so Scott gave me lots of homework for getting them at home, and we moved on. 

The in -hand work on day three was awesome!  Ockie got some actual piaffe steps and by reinforcing the half-halt with the in-hand work, the trot was amazing, the best I have ever felt. We then really tested her by going on to pirouette work.  I was really happy with her work, considering I haven’t done much with pirouette’s since BLM Finals in October.  We ended with some more one-tempis, ones down the quarter line just to test her willingness to work when tired, and she was great!

All in all it was a great weekend, not only did we get a lot of work accomplished, but, probably more importantly, I was so impressed by how much Ockie has matured.  She did not get emotional about much at all: maybe a little in the one-teempis, but that is to be expected.  I have to admit, she has come a long way from the horse I bought two years ago, no matter what I thought two weeks before our trip to Riveredge.

Just in case anyone was wondering, two rides latter we got three ones in a row J

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