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schooling alone advice

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  • schooling alone advice

    I do a lot of schooling on my own and right now I am finding I am in a rut.

    When you school what kind of warm up do you do?

    Do you regularly spend a few minutes thinking/reviewing your own position?

    Do you do leg yield one day and transitions the next or combine those but do cavaletti on its own day?

    What order do you school in:

    this is somewhat what I am doing
    what I am looking for is to fill in what happens during these phases.

    reveiw my position
    review horse suppleness
    trot to warm up muscles
    review what horse knows

    try to work on something newish

    review what horse knows (for confidence and a good ending)

    cool down with walking square corners or......


    Thanks for your ideas.

  • #2
    I think you're on the right track.
    I use the buckle walking when I first mount up to review my pos. I try a few steps of SI, HI, Renvers, still on a loose rein, just to see where we are that day. I mosey over a ground pole or two and ask for a few TOHs. If it feels particularly good, I may ask for more of a school walk and do the same exercises (I'm greedy). Usually, I just move on to stretchy trot with a few strides here and there of SI or HI, and of course, the groundpoles. When I feel like we're connecting, I may do more trot work, or I may go back to a school walk, depends on the feel I have. If they're dragging butt, we can do transitions between the gaits. If they're not swinging, we do gait o' choice-halt-gait o' choice. I use lots of groundpoles. I really like the ones that are on a block on one side, especially on a curve. Squares are great, especially if they feel like being lazy and leaning. Pessades are fantastic if they feel like dragging around on the forehand. Full passes and turns on the forehand in motion are good if they're sticky in the lateral movements. Really, I just ride by the seat of my breeches. I do try to finish with a nice stretchy trot or canter. Finishing with something they know is always the best plan. I really like to do a halt, l'effet d'ensemble, rein back, one step each direction of TOH and TOF, followed by l'effet, halt, forward, halt, praise and dismount. Sometimes I hit shuffle on those last movements, but the point is to make them accessible in any direction.
    If you get Topline Ink, Nancy Nicholson put in a really fantastic article on warming up and releasing the "sleep lock" mechanism in the last issue.
    "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer


    • #3
      It's hard to describe my "typical" ride because I really don't have one. I go by feel. I do usually show up at the barn with a plan of what I want to work on that day. Do I stick to that plan? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Depends on how my horse feels that day.

      I always begin my ride with 10 - 15 minutes or so of walk. At first on a free rein and then I pick him up and I do lateral work in walk to get my horse supple and on the aids before I go to trot. The lateral work varies greatly depending on how my horse feels and how he's reacting to my aids. I usually start with shoulder in and renvers as they are always effective in helping shift my horses weight to the hind end. As he loosens up a bit I do combinations of SI and renvers, switching back and forth several times on the long sides. If he's not moving off of my leg as well as I would like I do some leg yields, the first couple from centerline to E or B then increasing in the difficulty and asking him to move across the arena from H to B or F to E for example. Sometimes I throw in some walk pirouettes and occasionally half passes depending on how he's feeling. You can do a lot in walk to warm your horse up and put him in a good frame of mind for the rest of the work you're going to do. I would say this is the most important part of my ride and greatly affects how the rest of our time goes.

      When I first begin trot work I stick to large figures - circles, serpentines, and the like - in rising trot. I look for my horse to be soft and supple but I don't ride him in a particularly long frame as that tends to get my guy on his forehand and makes it difficult to then ask for a higher level of collection later in the ride. I usually ask for shoulder fore when I'm going large to keep him thinking about sitting on his haunches. I rarely keep him on a straight line. Once he feels loose, supple, and warmed up I go sitting and start to ask for more. I do a lot of lateral work in in every ride - SI, renvers, half pass etc. - depending on what he needs that day. As we move further into the ride I ask for an increasingly higher level of collection.

      Once I have him where I want I move on to work on new things, challenging things, etc. On more difficult days we never get here and spend the entire ride working on the above. On other days he's right where I need him and we get to work on the "fun stuff" for most of the ride.

      I think the most important lessons we have to learn as riders are understanding, feel, flexibility, and patience. I may have a list of things I *want* to do in each ride, but there is no point in trying to do those things if my horse is not in the right place to perform them well. As riders we have to understand which tools most effectively help us achieve the proper balance and WHY, we need to have a good feel for when to make corrections (timing is everything!), and we need to be flexible enough to change things up when something isn't working. Things rarely go as we had planned so we also need to have enough patience to put our energy into what will benefit the horse in the long run when we may want to push forward and work on the more interesting and fun stuff.


      • #4
        Originally posted by RedmondDressage View Post
        It's hard to describe my "typical" ride because I really don't have one. I go by feel. I do usually show up at the barn with a plan of what I want to work on that day. Do I stick to that plan? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Depends on how my horse feels that day.
        I could not agree with this more.

        I keep my horses at home (until winter, then I cry 'uncle' and need an indoor).
        I've found that while I try to always start my ride with a game plan... it rarely goes quite as planned. If my goal is to work on my changes, but my boy's too tight in the back, I don't try to forge ahead, and instead work on getting him loose and through.

        The most helpful thing when riding alone (for me) is to have a mental check list for when issues arise.
        -Why is my horse doing/not doing X?
        -Where is my body? Am I pinching my knees, not strong enough in my core, hands too low, etc?
        -What am I trying to accomplish?
        -Rinse and repeate.

        Another helpful tool (for me, again) is to set up a tripod and video one ride a week. It helps keep me honest, since I dont have mirrors or a propper arena. Sometimes what I think I look like v. what I actually look like is shocking. Once I get over being appalled (my legs move THAT much?!? I didn't see a proper corner ONCE. Oh dear...), I have my mental check list updated for the week to come; new issues to address, or the same issues to keep working on.

        And finally, to stay out of that training rut, I use the sixth ride of the week as a 'fun' day. We hand gallop up the hills, go for a trailride (while only focusing on MY position, not the horse's), do a little jumping on the old logging trails, ehatever tickles my fancy.....

        Don't forget to have fun.


        • #5
          i warm up with lots of changes of direction and circles at the walk, then the trot, and include lots of serpentines and circles. just by doing that it should be pretty easy to find "something" to work on during your ride, like if your horse is stuck in the neck, not giving to the right, etc. and that should be your jumping off point for the rest of your ride. if you get through it (although that can be hard by yourself with nobody to point out when its right/wrong), THEN you move on to something new/different.

          You shouldn't exclude certain exercises one day because you did another the same day (like your example of leg yield & transitions). incorporate multiple exercises into your ride, like once you have good leg yields, turn it up and start asking for shoulder in. OR, put your horse on a circle and practice transitions, and in the downward transition, leg yield your horse to the outside. it will improve your transitions AND get your horse listening to your leg.

          i find it rare that i hop on and say "we're going to work on X and X", and actually end up doing it because I usually end up working on something else that needs to be corrected. just go with the flow!


          • #6
            I usually have a medium term goal in mind--something I would like to achieve over the next month or two--and work towards that.

            For instance, at the moment we are working towards a good counter canter and canter/walk transition. This means we have to focus on straightness and collection in all gaits to develop the balance required.

            We have various exercises to work on to help us with that, my trainer gives me homework, and I read quite a bit and find other approaches to try out that wouldn't give her the vapors. What we do on the day will then depend on what I think out of that tool box will benefit the horse most, in his (and my) present mental and physical state, as we aim towards our goal.

            This will start in our warm up and carry on all the way through our cool down, by the way. Balanced and straight mindset from the moment I get on to the moment I get off. no weeble-wobbling, shoulder popping or wierd bendiness at all. When we were establishing the forward button, no lollygagging at all.


            • #7
              sounds like you are trying to ride the plan instead of the horse. everything we do is to strengthen, improve balance, and support the horse. he didn't read the lesson plan for the day, you have to follow what he needs in every step of the ride.
              ride the horse, not the plan
              chaque pas est fait ensemble


              • #8
                While there is no typical- there are some things I do the same almost every day.

                10 mins walk on loose rein- including across diagonals, into corners, big circles, or outside on driveway

                Walk shoulder-in and leg-yield zig-zags. Make sure he is equally quick off both legs.

                Walk-halt transitions, staying actively with me in the halt, not shutting down, stepping off actively from behind.

                If all is well, we pick up a sort of first level working trot and work on a 20m ish figure eight- checking relaxation, suppleness, bending, straightness, etc.

                As the trot comes together, I bring the figure eight down to 12-15m, and then add some leg-yielding on the outsides of the circles to really get him into my outside rein and off my inside rein.

                Thats about where my daily consistency ends. From there, I might leave the ring and go walk up hills, work over cavaletti, begin canter work, continue collecting the trot, ride a test, have a lesson, etc.


                • #9
                  I usually have a medium term goal in mind--something I would like to achieve over the next month or two--and work towards that.

                  I love this, and it is definitely how I school. I know from many other sports (Rugby especially) that it is incredibly difficult to work to your potential alone. You are ALWAYS easy on yourself and gravitate to the things that are comfortable and easy.

                  The medium term goal is a great external yardstick. When you start to catch your internal voice going "well, that's good enough today..." I find it useful to mentally review the goal and the progress I'd hoped to make toward it by this time. With riding, this was ESPECIALLY important, and I had a lot of time to consider it when I was conditioning my horse back from his Nuchal ligament injury. Some horses work very hard at convincing you that "that's DEFINITELY good enough for today." I can actually school my Trakehner for upwards of an hour and NOT HAVE ANY SWEAT on him. I decided to start setting more demanding medium-term goals

                  My medium term goals are typically clinics or small shows that I want to ride in. I thrive on that sort of pressure "Need to get this left lead thing nailed before the BNT sees us in two weeks." Etc. As my horse spent most of the Spring and Summer doing long-low trot work to build him up, our medium-term goal became successfully completing an LD ride. I pushed a LOT harder on both of us in the two months preceeding the race to get the distances and average speed in the target window, and we are both a better team for it
                  Lifestyle coordinator for Zora, Spooky, Wolfgang and Warrior


                  • Original Poster

                    not at all petstore, some days a horse needs more of this or more of that, ride the horse you are on today; 9not the horse you rode yesterday) but...without a plan a lot of time can be spent doing useful exercises that really don't help you get to your goal.

                    I love the idea of the 'medium term goal" just the word picture I need, it allows me to work the horse I am on today and still aim at a goal.

                    Thanks for all the great ideas.


                    • #11
                      If you get Topline Ink, Nancy Nicholson put in a really fantastic article on warming up and releasing the "sleep lock" mechanism in the last issue.
                      She also mentions my therapies and School in that article! I am honored to be working with her, and have her teaching my students the basics of Biomechanics! If you read 'The Clock'..I developed the therapies that are based on using ground poles, but have added alot of great ideas-that Nancy has expanded on for under saddle use! INcluding an easy fix for BTV.
                      Equine Massage Therapy Classes and Rehab for Horses