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Spinoff from Small Victories: What did you do to get where you are?

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  • Spinoff from Small Victories: What did you do to get where you are?

    Discussions of small victories are always good threads. Today I was thinking about everything I've done in the almost 2 years since I moved my Arab greenie to a dressage barn. I thought it might be helpful to my fellow newbies and others to list exactly what steps you took to get you to the victory. Perhaps it will be reassuring to others struggling in the trenches to know what you had to do in order to make progress.

    So, for me, to get Mr Ay-rab on the bit and finally making progress in dressage:

    1) Bought a saddle that fit me and him much much better than my original all purpose.

    2) Changed bits (only once)

    3) Bought a saddle pad with that impact resistant stuff because he is quite sensitive through the back

    4) Lost 20 pounds

    5) Took at least 2 lessons a month, rode with every clinician that came to our barn.

    6) Swallowed my pride and went back to basics (walk trot for 2 months) when our very favorite clinician explained exactly what I would have to do to get him on the bit. Followed instructions!

    7) Asked questions, listened to answers, tried to learn the difference between dressage and what I had ridden before

    8) Practice, practice, practice

    9) Came to COTH and asked for advice when needed. Read what others have done. Tried to be open minded.

    10) Tried to take every judge's comments to heart. Videotaped a lot of really awful rides at shows and tried to learn from my mistakes.

    In retrospect, it took a lot more work than I thought it would. However, I did start in on dressage to become a better rider, and I hope I've made even just a little bit of progress towards that goal!

    And, many thanks to everyone on this forum for being kind, sharing their wisdom, being honest, and having a good sense of humor (thinking of the bloopers thread here!).

    Good luck everyone! and keep working! It's worth it!

  • #2
    Not much different than you, but, my biggest problem when I bought my mare was how reactive/spooky she was. I was training for eventing at the time, and very much in the mode of "dressage is just something you have to get through."

    What I did: First, got us both in full training with a good dressage trainer (my intention was to go back to eventing, but less than 2 weeks after this started, I had a riding accident that ended my jumping aspirations.)

    Next: quite deliberately sought out spooky situations (and sometimes stumbled across them). Got more tuned in with the mare, sat a lot of wicked spins, took her out on the road, on the trails, etc. I've had her for 3 1/2 years and still consider myself a bit of a wimp, but we now can hack out alone, I am reasonably confident about taking her to a show, etc.

    After the stint of full training ended, I've taken a lot of lessons, at least one per week and often two. Even when the mare was laid up for 8 months (and rehabbing and thus not lesson-suitable for another 6 or so), I took lessons on other horses. I am very much a work in progress but am becoming more proactive rather than reactive, starting to sit the trot more comfortably (it helps that the mare is very smooth and doesn't have those gigantic WB gaits!), etc.

    ETA: If she stays sound and I have enough clue, we'll go back to recognized competition at Training Level to start next year. Might be able to tackle First Level by the end of the year. Her conformation/soundness issues and my ability or lack thereof means we'll likely top out at First but you never know...
    Last edited by quietann; Nov. 10, 2011, 08:39 AM.
    You have to have experiences to gain experience.

    1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


    • #3
      Hopefully this doesn't sound silly...but I've been having major issues with figuring out how to use my seat effectively to collect the canter. I was just stuck. I was spinning my wheels like crazy, latching onto theory after theory as to what I imagined the issue to be. My teacher finally said (to a bunch of us who turn OCD about problem-solving between lessons) "You guys all come up with these theories all the time. Stop thinking. Just ride and feel what you're riding. Stop trying for the movement itself and remember to ride all the steps between."

      So every time I started to get analytical as I was riding and every time I started to get anxious because I hadn't gotten x, y or z correct or in the manner in which I thought that it should be done, I stopped thinking and analyzing and just rode and felt.

      You know what, it worked. It all stopped being so forced and I started to realize how much I froze before a particular movement or cue. Huge, huge breakthrough for me. And super hard to shut off my OCD, over critical and over analytical, Type A mind.


      • #4
        I was having some valid fear issues, combo with a stubborn streak and inflated ego about my riding skills. (Trainer confirms I am still working on my stubborn streak)
        1. Took some bareback lessons on a horse that wouldn't save me and couldn't care less if I existed or not. (Highly Highly recommend this tactic.)
        2. Spent more time actually in the saddle in the correct position
        3. Transitioned to a horse that truly fits me like a glove. He's got issues that I never see (He's a rock for me.) My leg drapes perfectly on him, he listens to me like he's in my mind. I am having more fun riding him than I have had in a long time.
        4. Audited some clinics, rode in some clinics and really listened to what they were telling me.
        5. Begged and worked my butt off for some lessons on the schoolmaster
        Adoring fan of A Fine Romance
        Originally Posted by alicen:
        What serious breeder would think that a horse at that performance level is push button? Even so, that's still a lot of buttons to push.


        • #5
          Although still at a very low level, I've made a lot of progress recently. I lost 40 pounds, which made things a lot easier and also helped me see that some things I thought I would never master were within my reach. I also started riding a mare I really clicked with while my gelding was on lay-off. She's the same age as the gelding and with much LESS training, but she's much less exacting (he's one of those do it right or I'll take advantage of you) and more generous. I hope the confidence she has given me will translate into going further with him once we're back in business.


          • #6
            Ditto those that lost weight. I lost about 25lbs a year and a half ago, it has improved my riding, at least the way I feel riding. Those days I feel bloated or eat too much or gain a couple pounds back I can really tell the difference.

            Also agree with both riding bareback, and riding in a saddle that fits horse and rider.
            On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


            • #7
              This is a fantasic thread!! So glad you thought of it!

              I moved to a dressage barn two months ago and it has made a HUGE difference! I also got a new job and gained 15lbs.... This thread has backed me up with my decision to move to the new barn, and a little inspiration to continue to get this weight off!


              • #8
                When I started into real dressage 8 years ago, I had a horse that had been so messed up she wouldn't stop from a trot without using the fence as brakes. I found out about 6 months later she was also deathly afraid of the whip. Remove the whip and she became less spooky and reactive.

                Of course I had ridden lesson-barn dressage, as in the type of lesson barn for kids that taught mostly jumping, and just enough dressage to get you into a baby combined test. So I pretty much knew nothing, and had a hot, sensitive, tense mare.

                Toward the end of year 1, I left the initial barn because the trainer and I weren't clicking, and moved her to a barn that a friend taught out of. Best decision I could have made for us. Within 7 months, we went from trying to do training level, so being able to do 1st level solidly. She was basically in full training. Friend rode her 2 or 3 times a week, and I took 2 or 3 lessons a week.

                I still have that mare, and I've gotten her up to doing most of 3rd level. We've had lots of life breaks along the way, and she's now 21 and no longer has the strength for a good flying change. She doesn't sweat in the summer, which makes it hard to keep her fit at her age. But she's taught me more than I ever could have imagined.


                • #9
                  Well, bridle fit was one of the first things that I had to address with my new (two years ago) pony. I had been riding mostly thoroughbreds, thoroughbreds crosses, QHs, QH crosses and WBs.

                  I had never even seen a Welsh Cob Section D until I bought Maxwell.

                  He was spoiled and sour. He was definately bit and bridle sour. Getting the bridle on and the bit in his mouth took about thirty minutes (of patience). Getting the bridle off meant being sure to never let him fling his head as you took the headstall off ... I still hold the bridle snug as I begin to take it off so that the bit is never slammed against his teeth as it is coming out of his mouth. He now understands that and is much, much quieter when I unbridle him.

                  Bit and bridle fitting was a major undertaking on this pony.

                  It took me more than a year to figure out the best fitting bridle(s) for him. It took almost a year to find bridlle parts and reins that would fit and match (that was really asking a lot).

                  He has a very low palette. He has a tiny (tiny, but just enough to create a pull as he chews) overbite, but due to the huge back jaw tapering down to a tiny front jaw, his bite is exaggerated .... if he is *chewing* and swallowing he needs a pretty big amount of space so that he doesn't pinch or bite the inside of his mouth.

                  For now he has two bridles and two bits. One is a snaffle with a full size drop noseband. The full size noseband is too big, but I adjust it very high and use it as a *hybrid*. The noseband is adjusted high (for a drop), and the chin strap is so loose that it just hangs (but not so loose that it can slip over his bottom lip and end up inside of his mouth). The bit is an Herm Sprenger Dynamic RS D-Ring/Eggbutt French Link Snaffle.

                  His other bridle has no noseband, and the bit is the Herm Sprenger Dynamic RS Fench Link Short Shank Pelham, with double reins. I use this bridle when we go out on the trail, especially in colder weather (zippy pony).

                  So, the mouthpieces are identical .

                  Max has a lot of extra skin inside of his mouth. His lips literally have skin flaps that fold over and wrap around and go into his mouth .


                  He now takes the bit right away when I go out with the bridle. He will also go stand where I tack up when he wants to go for a ride. Right now he is standing more than he would like .

                  Figuring out that Max had mites took months. Part of the reason for that was that when he first got here, he had a silky, shiney coat and gorgeous white silky feathers (they are now mildly red clay orange even when brushed out) and he had been wormed regularly.

                  He would chew on his fetlocks/feathers after a big rain and I thought it was scratches because he had feathers, but I really didn't know anything about scratches (first possible experience now that I had a horse with feathers). Vet decided maybe he had mites? So, we tried a single dose of Equimax (it has 14% praziquantel along with ivermectin). At first he itched more (for about 3 days), and then he began to itch less, and his coat began to look better . Eventually, I decided to triple dose him with Equimax every two weeks for three consective wormings. No more itching at all and over the next year his coat became dappled. So far his summer coat is dappled and so is his winter coat. That could be in part due to working on getting his diet more balanced also.

                  Max in the late fall of 2009, complete with mites , which none of us had figured out yet .


                  Max this fall, mite free .



                  • #10
                    I haven't gotten anywhere much yet, but... These are the big things other than the standard remember the training scale and ride back to front:

                    My riding growing up had a foundation in dressage despite doing breed shows and jumpers, and in college I took dressage lessons when I could despite being on the IHSA team. I took lessons for a while right after school, but then took a break until I started lessons again just over 2 years ago. I got my horse about a year and a half ago. He's the first horse I've ever had trouble sitting the trot on - his trot may not be huge, but the amount of movement in his back is! That's a good thing, because it resulted in me getting bodywork done on myself. After a couple months of massage, my SI joints unfroze just enough to cause pain so I realized there was a problem. Lots of chiro visits and continuing massage later, and my back moves in places I didn't know were physically possible. It's only been 2 1/2 months since I got back in the saddle after my doctor made me take two weeks off, but the change in my riding is drastic. My ab muscles which atrophied for the over 10 years they weren't needed to support me since my back didn't move are taking longer than I wanted to get stronger, but at least now I can really sit without physical limitations!

                    When I got my horse he was a curler - a habit I'm sure started at the track. We backtracked and started over on his training, basically. Started not asking for any contact at all, but forward to encourage him to reach forward and build the carrying muscles to not have to curl. He has been learning an entirely new way of handling himself, and has gradually gotten to where we now have good contact and foam when I ride.

                    I still have to lose weight - my doctor has done tests to try to figure out why I haven't, as I *should* have by now. I'm eating at the low end of what I should in calories and getting enough exercise that it should be gone, but it's not. I do feel the effects. Now, however, I think I have at least started losing some of the fat as I build muscle even if my weight has remained unchanged, so I'm feeling better than ever.

                    I also try to ride more than one horse most days. Mom hasn't felt much like riding her trail horse, so I have her schooling first and second level work in the arena, and try to ride her at least 4 times a week in addition to my 6 day a week guy. Riding two horses instead of one has been making a significant difference. Come spring, I'll be looking for either a free lease or project horse to ride 4 days a week so I can ride 3 a day on weekends and two every weekday. My horse is taller than ideal for me (he's 16.3, I'm 5'1") and saddle time is better than any other form of exercise for stretching the right muscles and helping me keep moving enough to ride him well.
                    Originally posted by Silverbridge
                    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                    • #11
                      RIDE. EVERY. DAY.

                      Ride. Every. Day.

                      Practice. Perfect. (as perfect as you can!)

                      the 5 minute ride
                      works like a charm. Get on, get ONE point across, get off...especially when you're pressed for time and daylight. With babies, just getting them dressed for work, getting on, waiting until they relax and then get off can work miracles.


                      • #12
                        Mileage, tons and tons of mileage, on each horse and in total for myself. Much of it on the lounge line. Finding a great instructor each place I've lived in and trying to remember that my horses are my best instructors as long as I listen and remain observant. Probably the hardest yet as important as the rest, ignoring the rail birds.
                        Ranch of Last Resort


                        • #13
                          Yes, seek out great instruction (even if it costs more)--that's a great on exvet!

                          And AUDIT CLINICS. Get an education on the ground.


                          • #14
                            Lost weight

                            Swallowed my pride and went back to basics

                            Kept looking until I found a GREAT Instructuor

                            Work on myself more and worry less about the horse


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by HollysHobbies View Post
                              the 5 minute ride
                              works like a charm. Get on, get ONE point across, get off...especially when you're pressed for time and daylight. With babies, just getting them dressed for work, getting on, waiting until they relax and then get off can work miracles.
                              I am going to print this & post it in my barn!

                              I've been beating myself up for doing the short ride - 20min - instead of Major Schooling on both my TrainedToDeath&BeyondMyLevel WB and the retraining project Hackney Pony.

                              Now I'll be happier WB & I got a nice WTC session with some play at collection & pony Whoa'ed when I asked as I ground-drove.

                              Small increments = small victories

                              Sigh...and the weightloss thing too.
                              I could kiss 30# B'bye & never look back....
                              *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                              Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                              Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                              Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                              • #16
                                2 Dogs- Yep, last winter when I was alone, it was dark, cold, wet and I had a HEATHEN of a baby to ride, I practiced many 5 minute rides. Many just walking. (and maybe many were more like 10 or 15 or 20, but the 5 minute motivater got me up there)

                                When my trainer came home from Florida in March, she was BLOWN away by our progress.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by HollysHobbies View Post
                                  2 Dogs- Yep, last winter when I was alone, it was dark, cold, wet and I had a HEATHEN of a baby to ride, I practiced many 5 minute rides. Many just walking. (and maybe many were more like 10 or 15 or 20, but the 5 minute motivater got me up there)

                                  When my trainer came home from Florida in March, she was BLOWN away by our progress.
                                  This is great advice. In my last lesson we worked a lot on the walk, controlling the walk with my seat, controlling the shoulders and hindquarters in the walk. I am riding bareback full time at the moment, so I really like the walk
                                  On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                                  • #18
                                    After a disasterous clinic my confidence was totally shot and my mare was fried.

                                    I retired the mare. It was clear that we were never going to trust each other again. It wasn't a concious decision, I just stopped riding her, even though I wanted to ride and instead toodled around on my almost 30 year old mare.

                                    I met Jane Savoie at the Equine Extravaganza several years ago and she convnced me that two of her books WOULD help me. THEY DID!!!!

                                    The old mare died of colic but I saw an ad for Sophie. When looked at her I thought she was overpriced and didn't want to make an offer that would have been insulting. Much to my surprize the seller emailed me wth a price under the amount I thought she was worth.

                                    I enjoyed riding her but was floundering and making no progress, partially because I was still trying to slow her down, per the disasterous clinic.

                                    I found a local instructor and sent Sophie to her barn for 6 weeks of work. It was a breakthrough. Unfortunately this summer has been one thing after another and i haven't made much progress but at least I know we CAN. I won't "out" her, she just might not want to take credit or blame but she sometimes posts on COTH

                                    I'm still not comfortable cantering and tend to freeze after 3 strides but at least we actually canter....sometimes. And with my new footing I can sit the trot. Who knew?

                                    ETA:One thing I learned last summer was to set a goal. At first it was once around the ring at a trot without quitting. The quitting was both Sophie's and my fault. She wasn't in front of my leg, I was nervous and holding my breath and she would hesitate, I would tip forward (not necessarly in that order)and she would stop.

                                    So now among other things we have progressed to actually getting a canter transition without Sophie kicking out against my leg. I can't really blame her, I was anticipating her launching herself into canter and my ankle hurting and I was stiffening. However now it takes me about 3 strides to think "OMG we're cantering" and I freeze. So since it's raining today tomorrow my goal is 4 strides of canter. Instead of counting Canter 2 OMG I'm going to think Canter 3 2 HH. Anyone can canter for 4 strides, right?
                                    Last edited by carolprudm; Nov. 10, 2011, 02:16 PM. Reason: ad
                                    I wasn't always a Smurf
                                    Penmerryl Sophie RIDSH
                                    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
                                    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.


                                    • #19
                                      First, time in the saddle. I can think about it, write about it, talk about it...but if I don't get up there and DO it, nothing happens.

                                      Second, setting attainable goals. I'm driven by goals and accomplishing them, so after talking with my trainer, I've set goals for next year (Bronze Medal scores). This winter, I'll work towards them...even if it means riding alone, in the cold, in the spooky covered arena where some rides are more battle than beauty.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Oberon13 View Post
                                        First, time in the saddle. I can think about it, write about it, talk about it...but if I don't get up there and DO it, nothing happens.

                                        This reminds me of a quote from a past instructor; "if you want to learn to swim, you have to get wet!"