Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mama Raised a Test Taker

Hi everyone.  My name is Erika and I'm a circle-a-holic.

Hi Erika.

So, as I've stated many-a-time on this here blog, I want to show my pony at training level this year.  Not to sound arrogant, but before I really knew what I was getting involved in I thought it'd be a piece of cake (preferably of the carrot, cheese, or chocolate variety - yum).  So I was riding around a few days ago when a lady who I was *calmly* sharing the arena with asked if I had ridden the test yet.  Well... no.  I mean, I have copies of them all, but no - hell I had plenty of time to prepare.  But, I thought it was such a good idea that I decided to bring out Training Level Test I with me today.  And I'm glad I did.

It really pointed out the areas we need to work on.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm a circle-a-holic.  Circles are my safety zone and my crutch.  It's wayyyyyy easier for me to get Gavin supple and on a steady tempo on a circle.  But the very first test in Training level has some straight aways at the walk, trot, and canter.  Now at the walk I'm set.  We walk straight lines perfectly fine, but you gear Gavin up to a trot on the straightaway and his giant Welsh Cob trot comes out.  The canter is my fault.  I procrastinated on really working on the canter for a long time out of some nameless fear, and so my boy is a little behind the curve in that area, and thus pretty much just does circles *shame, shame, shame*.

So we worked on it today.  What do I notice?  His head pops up angrily almost immediately and his tempo increases to about 1.5x the rate it is on the circle (and believe me, on the circle it is plenty fast).  I tried a few techniques, all with varying degrees of success.

Technique 1:  I envisioned him trotting along smoothly and calmly (Jane Savoie idea).  This did seem to help with the speed issue most of the time.

Technique 2:  When Technique 1 didn't work I'd circle him and then put him back on the straight-away and then praise him when he kept a slower, more steady tempo.

The angry head in the air - errmmmm I'm not totally sure why he's doing it except that maybe he doesn't understand contact on the straight.  And maybe I don't totally get it either.  I understand that the outside rein is still the solid contact rein, but he should be straight, correct?  And so to push him into one rein and not the other seems odd.  Any thoughts on this anyone?  I did find that by controlling his tempo he was more likely to allow contact.

Technique 3:  I found that if I scratched his neck every few strides with the inside rein hand that helped him relax further into the contact on the straight.

I am proud to say that by the end of the ride he was trotting straight lines at an acceptable pace, and with an acceptable amount of contact.  I haven't really given it a go at the canter, but I want to master the gaits he is more comfortable in first and then move on to the canter.  We did do more canter work today and it went really well again.  He's going to have one badass canter this summer.  :)

Completely unrelated - I punched myself in the face this morning really hard (so hard I heard my nose crunch sickeningly when I made impact).  I immediately burst into tears (1/2 out of embarrassment and 1/2 out of pain).  I was trying to imitate George St Pierre (the MMA fighter) hitting someone with his elbows and I really got myself.  Sadly I have no bruise to prove what a badass (and dumbass) I am, but it still hurts.  :)

I have no pictures from my last few rides, but I do have this funny selfie my boyfriend and I took last night at a St Patrick's day party we went too.  Notice the big dude behind us dancing.  Funny.


  1. Là feile padraig shona duit!!
    Hope the party was a blast & great news on Gav's improvements, riding the tests is a great idea for the reasons you stated, plus practice makes perfect :-D

    1. And Là feile padraig shona duit to you as well ;) (thank god for Google translate!)

      And yes, I clearly overestimated my ability to just wing the test. Good thing I know that now and didn't wait until show time to find out (god that would've suuuuucked!).

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  3. Erika, you may wish to follow blog and blogs. They have half siblings to Gavin, and will be able to relate and maybe help in your training questions. These Cobs are so genuine and fair, and try so hard. I enjoy following all of you!

    1. Hi Lisa! :) I'm so glad you read about the Gavin journey, and thank you for the recommendations, but I already follow them both and love their blogs and reading about Gavin's siblings. I have found that writing about my experience actually helps me focus, make goals, and see progress.