Monday, June 9, 2008

Rachel & Grandma and Arabian Horses - Salem - Select Rider Part 2

Part One Salem

Lori asked in the comments if the judge had seen me with my Arabian horse on the wrong lead before I noticed. You bet he did. I saw him looking my direction as I was coming down the rail and then making a notation on his card.

It was at that moment the first wave of unsureness hit me. It hasn't been all that long that I've felt comfortable believing I could trust myself to know. There are still those moments in the ring where doubt creeps in and this was one of them. By the time my friend talked to me from the rail, I already knew before the words left her lips.

Stopping the horse and fixing the lead seemed like an exercise in futility at this point but I did it none the less. I think we barely picked up the correct lope lead when the announcer called for a change a gait. It was right about at the same point on the rail I had started off incorrectly.

We broke down to the walk and before long reversed and worked to the left. This was the lead I had been worried about all along. I made sure to keep my horse off the rail just a bit. I wanted to move him off my leg towards the wall before I asked him for the lope assuring the correct lead.

Each time we'd practiced this in the warm-up the horse had gotten done as expected. Now with my shattered confidence, I didn't know what to expect. Just because it "should" work didn't mean it would. I had messed things up working to the horse's good way, what was I going to do now.

When the announcer did call for the lope, I watched for the horses in front of me to go first. But then my horse decided maybe he should go and I found myself holding him until he was set up correctly.

As my horse departed, I heard someone from the rail say "Yes." I sure hoped that was for me but at this point I really couldn't trust that either. I wished that I could tell looking at the horse's shoulder if I was right or not, but I still can't get that shoulder thing.

I still struggle sometimes with my diagonals in hunt seat and that shoulder is much easier to tell on a two beat gait than a three beat one. I'm going to have to really think about it when I'm riding to see if I can get this thing figured out for once and for all. Just knowing by the departure got me into trouble.

Obviously riding down the rail in a class and thinking about fixing something when I'm schooling is not the ideal way to ride in the ring. It's a good thing for me that these thoughts flashed through my mind much quicker than they laid down here. I actually didn't ride the rest of my class too badly. If it hadn't been for that "thing" with my lead, I might have made it into the ribbons.

After the class I wanted to know about that weird thing I felt in the first lope departure. Wouldn't you know it not one of my friends on the rail had seen it. No one had an answer for me. I was so frustrated with my mistake and being left without any answers.

From the very beginning of my career showing horses, it has always been my goal to learn something each and every ride. Making mistakes isn't a problem as I'm learning from them. But this mistake I just couldn't put my finger on what the problem was. I really felt like I'd left myself down.

By morning I remembered about the video that had been taken of my class. Now I was hoping that video held the answer to my question. I couldn't wait to get a chance to review it to see if it held the secret to why I'd screwed this thing up.

When I did get a chance to review the video, I wished I knew enough about the camera to fast forward to the important part. Instead it seemed like it took forever to get all those horses into the class and for me to dink around at the far end of the arena. Why is it that time crawls along when you want it to hurry up and speeds up when you want it to go slow?

Finally it came to that point of the rail where I knew I had asked my horse to lope. I watched closely to see the first beat was right..........and then the second...............but there was no third............instead of the third beat of the lope, the horse switched to the second beat of the other lead.

That funny stall I had felt was a flying change at the most inopportune moment. At least I had called it correctly. The horse had started off right. Why he had changed leads, I haven't a clue. Did I cue him to hard with my inside leg worrying that he might pick up the wrong lead? I'll probably never know. But you can bet the next time I feel that "stall" I will immediately stop my horse and start again.

I felt better when I could see the video and understand what happened. My confidence, while not totally restored, was better than before I watched the class. At least I could still trust the "feel" of a correct departure. That was a relief but I'm still going to have to work on figuring out that shoulder thing. Being able to check going down the rail would be a good thing, I think.

Just for the record, I don't know how to do flying changes. My horse does, however. Although it's been years since he has. It's one of those things I haven't been able to put together in my mind. I've read how more times than I can count but just can't seem to translate from reading to executing. Wouldn't you know my first ever flying lead change would be at the wrong time!

To be continued...........

Select Rider Video

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  1. Well, at least you have a really good feel on a flying change now! ;) Thats half the battle to learning them isnt it?

    Love reading your show updates MiKael- it gives the thrill fo showing, wiht out having to go through the headaches myself! ;)

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for vising my blog and leaving comment :)

  3. Oh MiKael I can just feel your frustration. Does this mean that you wont be able to compete in the Nationals at all, or just in this class or discipline?

    Having grown up riding English I know your frustration about correct leads and our instructors would insist that we "felt" rather than looked that we were on the right lead, I could never feel so I always looked and it was pretty easy to pick it up although we didnt ride as slow in the lope as you do here in Western. In fact the Arabians are the closest to the style of english riding that we did, the collected round frame, there were no loose reins and heads horizontal there, I still feel uncomfortable when my horse puts it's head down if I am trotting or loping, I am used to having a pair of ears to look through at eye level LOL.

    Sigh suppose patience will have to prevail again waiting for the next instalment.

    We had an inch and a half of rain in two storms between 4.30 last evening and this morning and it is still raining but at least the temps are a bit lower but still going to be up in the 70s or 80s before the day is done.

    Have a great day.


  4. MiKael-
    I have learned a lot about my riding by having people video tape me. I can see exactly what I am doing wrong. Perhaps you could have Rachel tape you a few times, and even watch and say "there" or "good" when things are right. That is what I have asked my instructor to do during a lesson because then I can feel it better.

  5. LOL, On the flying lead change, though too bad about the timing....Well, live and learn.

  6. Gosh, MiKael, what a tough ride. Reading your post made me realize why I have never had the desire to compete at any level. Just give me a horse to love and ride for pleasure.

    Good luck as you move forward from this ride to the next.

  7. I'm sure you already know all this stuff, but here is how my trainer taught me to get the right lead all the time. I used to get confused a bit with the rein and leg cues,but once I got this down it really was much easier. Taking videos to watch is a great idea too.Like I said I'm sure you know this cold but there may be a tip buried in here that might help your confidence.

    The canter begins with a push off of the outside hind leg, while the inside hind and fore reach farther forward than the outside (ie, they take the lead...)

    If you can't tell by glancing down at the shoulder, looking for it won't help, as tilting your head down changes your balance and position slightly, sometimes enough to throw the horse off balance or actually cause him to take the wrong lead (because you have just weighted the inside front leg - the one you want him to lead with!) using the inside leg to shift the horse's balance to the outside legs (particularly the outside hind leg) is a good way to encourage the lead you want, but it works best if you only hold until just before you ask for the departure and take it off just as you use your outside leg - any longer than that and the horse may very well assume he should swap - or just get confused.

    It's always easier to get a lead on a curved line, so if you know the judge is going to ask for the canter, try to position yourself near a corner or leave the rail and circle across the arena as you ask for the canter. Or, if none of those options are available, "trick" your horse into the lead by pretending you are going to circle while still on the rail and riding straight once you get your canter.

    The best way to learn leads is to practice walking on a loose rein, preferably without stirrups and close your eyes until you can feel which leg is moving at which moment (you can cheat in the beginning and look to be sure). Then practice that every few strides at trot and canter. It's usually easier to feel the lead with your hips (the inside will want to go forward with the leading legs) and your lower leg better than you can see it with your eyes, and once you stop looking, you might be amazed at how much you can feel.

  8. Well, that "YES!" on the rail was me. I'd hoped you'd heard and that it gave you confidence. Detecting leads without looking is hard...I who still have difficulty with canter departs after all these years should know. I'm not sure that I saw Legs do a flying change, but if he was cross cantering and made the wrong choice as how to solve that problem, it could have felt like a flying change. I used to ride a little Morgan/Arab cross that was trained to do flying changes. He was so handy that he'd do what the dressage folks tall tempi. He'd change every other stride or every stride if you wanted...or any combination you wanted. All I had to do was shift my weight a touch and give a little tug on the opposite rein (left for right lead, right for left lead)...and of corse NOT look down. We did our lead changes down the center of the arena (long way), with the goal being to stay as straight as "drunken sailors" allowed LOL.

  9. mrs mom, yes, that I do for sure. Just wish I'd found another way to learn that one. lol

    Also you're right about the headaches. I find myself wondering why I'm putting myself through all of this stuff. But once I get to showing it's easy to remember that I really do enjoy this part as well.

    ewa, nice to see you!

    lori, I think I would have gotten this whole thing much quicker and been more confident had I ever really had the benefit of instructors. lol

    It's still cold here today. Temps in the 50s......go figure.

    lovelee, I know I could benefit alot from video but I can't even get Rachel to watch a class much less video it.

    I'm about to leave her stranded in the arena a few times so she can learn to appreciate having someone on the rail paying attention.

    callie, you never know how or when the learning is going to go with horses. lol

    maryann, I really enjoy the challenge or I wouldn't do it. It keeps my brain working in a productive way. It can be frustrating but it's good too.

    grey horse, ya, I'm thinking I didn't get my inside leg out of him like I should have and that's why he changed.

    notablogger, I wasn't sure if it was you or not but I was most grateful!

    As for Legs it was indeed a flying change, it's right there clearly on the video. I watched it over and over wanting to understand exactly what I felt. It was clear he started off correctly. Then I watched trying to see if he swapped behind first and then in front (which I have experienced a lot) and found he did it together in one stride. The little bugger! lol

    And I really think it was my fault, while replaying that ride in my head, I can feel that inside leg still on him clear into that stall. It should have come off at the time I asked with the outside leg.

  10. I would be so tempted to (and you probably have already) recreate what happened on the video in the saddle and see if you can get that flying change ON PURPOSE. :)

    Sometimes we just stumble up to a new thing w/o even knowing it!

    I can feel the lead right in the inner pelvis. It goes forward a bit more than the other side does. I have just started being able to feel what the hind legs are doing and make adjustments "on the fly" - w/o really being able to articulate it verbally. But have the eyes of the trainer and her voice telling me just what happened. It's harder going it alone!

  11. billie, for sure I have that going through my mind. You can bet I will try it as things calm down here a bit. lol

    It's amazing what how much that assurance from on the ground can speed up the learning process.

  12. I had to come and catch up, finally have another foal on the ground, born in the mud during the 40 mph winds and rain. Figures...

    I still have trouble with the lead thing too. Of course I have trouble not seeing the ears to look between too and it always throws me off when they put thier heads down so far.

    I've had people on the ground watch me ride and tell me I was getting the correct leads, but really, I think the horse knew and it wasn't really anything that I did. :)

  13. Sometimes it IS the horse doing the deciding. My little Arab/Morgan cross would continue with his two-stride or one-stride flying lead changes until I stopped him once he realized what I wanted. He was WAY too smart.

    We also would occasionally ride with music during our lessons. The records were always the same, and the horses had been ridden to them so often that they knew which gait to do to which song. There were the trot songs and the canter songs, and they'd always go accordingly...until you took matters into your own hands and made them do what you wanted.

  14. Exactly why video taping you and your horse is sooo important:-) I had to plug "Stable Hand Video" after this post:-) I have yet to experience the flying lead change...maybe someday.

  15. notablogger - you are making me jealous of that agile little Morgan x Arab!

    MiKael, at least you know you did feel it right initially. If it helps at all, during one of the breed demos at the Expo, a lady was doing a trail course to demonstrate how they work, and her obviously normally well-trained horse would NOT back up right for the gate obstacle! I can understand about the headaches showing would cause.

    I still hope I get a chance to do it someday, though.