Tag: Training

Lessons learnt in my medium debut

Lessons learnt in my medium debut

Two weekends ago Nonie and I danced down the centreline of our first ever medium dressage tests. In the week leading up to this competition my body was filled with a maelstrom of emotions. Excitement, nerves and pride. While we didn’t make take the dressage […]

A lesson in simplicity – Lessons with Brett Parbey

A lesson in simplicity – Lessons with Brett Parbey

When the opportunity to train with Aussie icon Brett Parbery lined up with the Easter long weekend, I knew I wanted to be there. I’ve been a long-time fan of Brett Parbery, having watched him on horses such as Victory Salute and Aber Halo 29. […]

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Toward the end of last year, Nonie and I started work on the flying changes. Flying changes!!! Being deemed ready to ride this brand new movement felt like a huge accomplishment. It felt like we had arrived! Having now started them, I can’t help but feel that my initial eagerness belied my naivety.
I have come to understand that the changes are a challenge which require strength, relaxation and timing. There is an additional layer of challenge because you either complete one or you don’t. Sure there are varying levels of excellence within this movement however learning to ride the changes is vastly different from other skills where you are able to gradually develop them. For instance, when beginning shoulder in you may feel a glimmer of brilliance before it slips through your fingers. You can then continue to build upon that feeling until suddenly you can ride a whole long side in shoulder in.
Nonie and Andrea
The changes started well under the watchful and analytical eye of our coach Dani Keogh, but when we started to work on them on our own it was a different story. We would warm up well and progress on to school the flying changes. After achieving maybe one or two each way that were fine Nonie would brace against me, take over and speed off. Maybe because she is an exuberant horse, or more likely this was the natural result of me asking with a far bigger aid than required. So I would go home and read articles, watch videos and find a new exercise to try. I would try it a couple of times with success but then Nonie would again take over.
The reason we were struggling with the flying changes wasn’t necessarily that my position is weak or because Nonie’s canter needed more jump and strength (although in some respects it does). Rather it was because whenever tension would enter in the canter work, particularly on the right rein Nonie would push in through her her right shoulder allowing her to brace against me and avoid my aids. Ironically this is the exact issue that Dani had spent a large chunk of time working on with us in our last lesson. Who’d have guessed!
It’s not the first time that I have learnt a lesson in this way where I’ve been told something a million times and then suddenly the lesson clicks and the light bulb goes off! Eureka, we have understanding! I suspect a few factors play into this. I believe that timing is essential. In order to deeply understand a lesson, we must be in a place were mentally we are ready for it. On the other, it may have more to do with hearing the lesson explained in a way that makes sense. You know how 4+5 equal 9 but 3+6 also equal 9. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of these things.
So I took  a few steps back to focus on the prerequisites for a good change. For example, the transitions, the balance, the tempo control and keeping her wrapped around my inside leg, and only occasionally asking for a change. This approach did help to create some progress. However I sensed that my mind was also holding me back. This came more from past experiences of my mind getting in the way, rather than a true understanding of exactly what was happening at that point in time.
Flying changes and mind games
I suspected that a phone call to my performance and mindset coach Danielle Pooles from Dressage Plus would be helpful. So that was exactly what I did. I have sought Dani’s assistance previously with great success. Anyone who has ridden dressage knows that it takes a great deal of athletic ability. Equally, it requires great strength of mind and the ability to remain clear headed under pressure. When learning a new movement or in situations where our equine partner may be unsure, it is up to us as the rider, to step up and be the leader and gently guiding our horse to understanding.
Talking through the difficulties I was having with Dani helped me to figure out exactly what was going on. For instance bracing against Nonie, holding tension in my thighs and my mind going blank at the vital moment I needed to ask for the change. We then worked out a strategy, including breathing at key moments to help manage these issues. I got to try the strategy out the very next day. Low and behold I was excited about the prospect of riding the changes rather than being nervous about how she would respond. We only got a quick ride in due to me leaving work late. Regardless we managed a calm easy change on each rein. No speeding up into the change. No barreling down into the reins after the change. No more excessive use of aids.
The flying changes are not yet perfect, but they are certainly improving and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for. Little improvements each day add up to big changes in the long term (pardon the pun!). This experience has reinforced for me the importance of mindset. Riding is as much a mind game as it is an athletic pursuit.
Until next time, happy riding!
I’ll be a good rider when…

I’ll be a good rider when…

  ‘I’ll be a good rider when…’ This is a game I used to play a few years ago and it’s about as useful as its companion game ‘If only…’ At that time the script in my head was ‘I’ll be a good rider when […]

Daring to Suck

Daring to Suck

Daring to suck… It’s a seemingly bizarre concept that resonated deeply with me. I was listening to one of my favourite podcast’s (check it out here http://summerinnanen.com/frr-37) when I stumbled across this idea.   So what does ‘daring to suck’ actually mean? In a nutshell, […]

Rain Rain Go Away

Rain Rain Go Away

As an equestrian, my relationship with rain one of love-hate. While I can accept that regular doses of rain are necessary, bringing with it wonderfully lush grass, providing respite from the oppressive humidity and filling up rain water tanks and bores, there are also several negatives associated with the rain. When summer starts and brings with it several days of seemingly endless rain my heart sinks a little. Here in North Queensland, we are currently in the thick of it, so I thought I would share some strategies which have enabled me to retain my sanity in the rain.

When the inability to ride in your rain soaked arena becomes an issue, the obvious recommendation is to build an indoor… Just kidding, clearly this is outside the budget of many equestrians. Having an arena which doesn’t drain well has forced me to become both more creative and make the best of a situation. I am lucky to have wide grassed verges around my agistment centre and regularly make use this area during the summer rain. Although, the area is not wide enough to ride a 10m circle comfortably, it is great for riding transitions within the pace and lateral work such as leg yields, shoulder in and travers.  I also like to make use of this time to do a little bare back riding, I find that this helps me to engage the correct muscles within my core as well as allowing greater feel of my horses back.

When the ground has reached a point of complete saturation and riding just isn’t an option there are still things that you can do to get that horsey fix. Some strategies you could try include:

– Reviewing what progress you have made towards your goals and setting new ones

– Reflecting on your most recent training sessions and considering any areas of your riding that require more attention

– Visualising aspects of your training on which you are getting stuck or that you want to improve upon

Working with Danielle Pooles a performance coach at Dressage Plus (http://dressageplus.com.au/) has helped me to develop these skills.

Now I love my mare dearly, but I do on occasion wish that her skin was not quite so sensitive. Sensitive skin combined with two and a half white socks, quickly growing grass and bucket loads of rain is a recipe for greasy heel. Obviously a stable where she could get high and dry would be the simplest solution but until I have my own property, I will have to settle for dreaming about my future barn. In the meantime, to prevent greasy heel, I use a combination of antibacterial washes (such as Malaseb), drying her heels and pasterns and then lathering them in Pottie’s cream. Despite my best efforts in the past, there have still been two occasions that I can vividly recall, where she has developed a mild case of greasy heel resulting in her normally elegant legs looking more like those belonging to an elephant from the hock down! Fortunately around 18months ago Mum stumbled across Mud Guards (http://www.mudguards4horses.com), which are a pleated canvas wrap (similar to gaiters that hikers wear) that fasten just above the fetlock, that help to keep the pastern and heel dry as well as keeping the sun off. I have used these over the last two ‘wet seasons’, they have saved me time, money, stress and best of all no more elephant legs!

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Nonie enjoying the fresh grass in her Mud Guards.

I hope these ideas help you to make it through to winter with the least amount of drama possible. If all else fails enjoying stomping in a few puddles and wait for the rain to pass!