I'm trying to make the best use of my time here in Florida with much more frequent lessons than I get to take at home. The recurring theme in both the dressage and jumping lessons is encouraging Piccolo to carry herself in as consistent a rhythm and balance as possible. Not too shocking but surprisingly challenging. She has always wanted to please, frequently to the point where she worries. She is athletic enough with the jumping that she can move her feet quickly and get up and over the jump effortlessly. However, when I insist that she not dive (however subtly she does it) at the jump, she has much better form, lands in better balance, and it's easier on both of us. In the dressage, her trot is getting lighter with more energy and self-carriage. She is slower but with more impulsion. She has a good canter but we've concentrated on more straightness so, that too, has improved in our short time here. For a long time, I side stepped "pushing her buttons" because she went through a period where she became unraveled if things got too hard. Physically, I think we worked out the major cause and this past year I've been pushing more and seeing what she can handle. The lessons here are giving me the confidence to say that it's ok if she worries a little (thankfully she isn't panicking like she used to) because the more consistently I do it, she relaxes and realizes it's ok. Yes, this all sounds like stuff I should know and I think with a training horse it would be different but I've had Piccolo a long time and we've been through many training levels together. I've always been fond of my redheaded mare but my time here has just proved what I always thought....she's a good worker who wants to please and has the talent. Bottom line is that I just need to stay consistent with what I expect from her.
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I went to the Lakeland dressage show on Saturday and had Piccolo entered in First Level 1 and 2. She was a bit up when we first arrived but settled quickly once I was on her back. I was thrilled that my new tools were working so well in the warm-up to get her straighter and more connected through her back. This continued on into the ring and I know there's a lot that we can improve on but it was the first time I can remember going into the ring and not feel like I'm just trying to get a steady, relaxed test. I was able to push her for the lengthenings and she stayed much more connected for the transitions. We improved even more for the second test scoring 8 points better and took home 2nd and 1st place ribbons for the day.
As thrilled as I was with my tests, the highlight of the day was definitely Claire's lead line class. The judge was very generous with his time and had Claire doing princess waves and changing directing several times. Piccolo plugged along like an old schoolmaster....pretty sure she liked this job better!
We are finally getting into our groove here in Florida. Piccolo's fitness has come along far better than I expected it would and I'm starting to get some regular lessons in. On Tuesday, I loaded up early and headed to Ocala. I had scheduled a lesson with Dorothy Crowell and was fortunate enough to be going to the area the same day as the ICP (instructor certification program) workshop. Aaron Vale was teaching the jumping workshop and it was interesting to see the riders work through the exercises he had chosen. It was a little disappointing that it seemed more like a clinic than a workshop in that there was little to no interaction with the trainers, riders, and coaches that filled the seats around the arena which, I believe, is the point to having these workshops. I can't complain too much. Longwood is gorgeous, there were many talented riders, and I'm anxious to try out some of the exercises that he presented.
After the morning session, I had a jumping lesson with Dorothy at Jon and Jen Holling's Willow Run farm. The people there are welcoming and the farm is fantastic. On the hack to the show jumping area, we schooled some banks and through the water jump. My lesson was humbling as it usually is when I ride with Dorothy but exactly what we needed. I've had very few lessons in the past year and have slipped into some bad habits riding solo so much. Piccolo may not be as forgiving as some but she's talented enough to do the work at this level in spite of me. However, when I sit where I need to and think about what I'm doing, my redheaded girl is pretty amazing! She was so thrilled when I rode well enough to ride a course! We'll head back again this coming Tuesday for some more xc and stadium work.
Today, I hacked a half mile down the road and had a dressage lesson with Jane Whitehurst. Right away, she tapped into some subtle changes to make in my position and how that made Piccolo relax more over her topline and stay straighter into the connection. Lots of basic circles and transitions at walk and trot working on keeping Piccolo honest in her work and my position strong but relaxed and moving with her. I plan to take advantage of having such good instruction so close and ride with Jane a couple times a week while I'm here. This is why I'm here!
After I hacked back to the farm, Claire had a nice ride on Piccolo in preparation for her big lead line class this Saturday at Black dog farm (oh yeah, and I'm riding some dressage tests too!;))
I promise more pictures soon!
This blog post comes from sunny Florida. We arrived down here last Thursday after a long drive with Piccolo and two little kids! Piccolo traveled well and has a really nice barn to live in down here. The whole Odessa area is very horsey and it is neat to be able to hack down the road and pass farm after farm. It seems to be mostly hunter/jumper, dressage, and trail riders. We back up to a 3000 acre preserve that has miles of sand trails. Piccolo hasn't been able to work as much as I would have liked in Ohio so we are working on some basic fitness right now. I'm planning to bump it up to 2 rides a day to increase her fitness as quickly as I can but, hopefully, avoiding injury. I will do my best to keep my blog updated while we are here. Our plans include lessons, a dressage show, and will be ending our stay with Rocking Horse III ht. This is a fantastic opportunity to focus on one horse .... and escaping the winter that Ohio is having is just bonus. I'm so thankful for my parents for helping with the kids and allowing us to crash their house. And to Ryan for driving down with us and then leaving the warm 80 degrees to head home and help hold down the fort. And I'm very thankful for the lovely ladies in my barn - Julie, Chelsea, Lacie, and Jessy - for taking care of the horses left behind in less than ideal weather conditions!