Archive for the 'Dressage Patterns' Category

Rainy Sunday

amywink April 15th, 2012

While the cold front passes, I’m waiting for the rains to move off to the east, while hoping they do not spawn “life-threatening weather” we’ve been warned about. If the weather passes, I’ll see Will this afternoon, if not, well, here I sit at the computer looking over photos from yesterday’s Good Day and resting from a strenuous and invigorating riding lesson.

When I wrote down “exercise” on my yearly goals, I was not at all thinking of riding. I was thinking of walking. But riding has turned out to be a very good whole body workout. I can feel my back getting stronger and my core as well. It might not be as invigorating if I was riding Western, but riding dressage certainly demands a lot of work from the entire body. My posture certainly is a great deal better as well–you can’t do the computer slump while riding!

Yesterday my 10th lesson of the year and I added another “bravery” notch to my belt yesterday when I rode Dol back to the barn Alone to fetch a whip from the arena and nothing continued to happen. She did what I said and I didn’t have a crisis of confidence or anything. We rejoined the party at A and jauntily went on the diagonal to M. I’d needed the whip because she’d decided to make me wooooooooooork to get her moving when we started. Pushing a 1500+ pound animal around with your knees and thighs is tough and she’d decided she totally didn’t feel like it. So, off we went to fetch a reminder and I returned to the dressage field with a lovely Andalusian mare, not the antique plow horse I’d originally rode in on. The idea of the whip is all she needs and she gets herself in order. I had a great lesson, riding at a trot most of the time and really getting a great workout. Next time, I’ll strap on my GPS and check out my ridden circles. I think they were definitely easier to do riding but I might not have had such an easy time if I didn’t already know how to do them while driving!

It was an extremely windy day too so we weren’t sure if Blessing would be up to showing off. Just one month hitched is pretty green and the wind always brings dangerous smells and weird sounds. But her steady nature prevailed and she did marvelously well, far better than expected of her. She’s learning to relax into her work and doing very well at it.

Here she is modeling her new driving bridle. She’s also graduated to a french link snaffle from her pacifier bit that stopped her from bunching her tongue up under it.


I think she looks quite smart with her decorative browband, like a grown up girl. She also acted like a grown-up girl and stood quietly while we waited to hitch. Standing quietly is so important for a driving horse and she’s been a bit of a wiggle worm before now. It’s youth though and I can see the mature mare she’s becoming.


This time, I got to ride along the entire time and she did wonderfully well–two passengers, the driver and two dogs were on board and while she clearly thought that was sort of a lot, she didn’t at all refuse to work.


She’s settling in nicely and leaning to bend in her corners and keeping her pace regular. Malen says she likes to go so she won’t need any encouragement for speed. Francine warned me last week that “she’s a mare” and I’d never be able to just make her do stuff, I would have to get her to think it’s her own idea. That should be interesting and I’m looking forward to driving her.

While she works hard to catch up, her brother continues to enjoy his spring pasture and his time off.


Hes’ quite pretty though, in his dark red dapples and flaxen trimmed mane. I keep dreaming of how fabulous they will look together one day!


Quite A Pair

amywink March 5th, 2012


Will must have heard the rumors that I was considering sending him back into training after his escapade last week and he worked very hard this week to remind me that he was, according to him, my Favorite Pony and a Very Good Pony who knew what he was about. “See? See how good and cute I am?”


He does this pose often–I call it his “Look, I’m a Morgan!” pose–and he’s done it since I got him. It is quite charming and he has returned to my good graces.

The GPS track from last week’s bolt indicated we moved 150 meters 40 seconds faster than our usual pace. We returned to our normal speed this week.

We did have a very good drive in the Dragon Free Zone of the dressage arena. I took quite a long time to get ready, scraping as much of his winter coat off as I could get–there’s probably enough to knit something, or perhaps I should collect it and have a hat made of the felted hair. I clipped his bridle path, since his mane is rather unruly and quite bushy. All the slow work lead up to our quiet harnessing. He did start off a bit faster than I wanted so we will return to that lesson on our next drive. My main goal this weekend was slow, steady, responsive driving and we managed it. By the end of our drive, we even managed a very nice circle!


I was quite pleased when I saw this GPS track, since we’d been off driving for a month and I’d not attempted a circle in the carriage for a while.

I am working, however, on riding them and at my riding lesson Saturday, I managed to get a few circles quite right–no GPS for that. Maybe I should attach it to my leg to see! That wouldn’t indicate any borderline obsession with circles, would it? I told Francine and Malen my riding goals would not include a perfect circle….and yet…..

Riding continues to illuminate my driving. Yesterday toward the end of our drive Will started doing his typical “I’ll just turn my head and not my entire body, if that’s okay with you” and this time, I applied my “leg” to his side/hip, taping him over with my whip. The response was instant and he moved correctly into line and looked rather surprised at the same time. This is probably a small thing (perhaps even worth a “Duh”) but after connecting the dots this way, I may have solved a long time issue for the both of us.

Blessing continues her fabulous progress. This Saturday was so blustery, however, than she was only long-lined in the arena. She is, however, doing spectacularly well and she’s quite beautiful when her movements are all correct, which is more and more often. She’s going to look lovely with a carriage, which she will be getting used to this week. Though the lighting was difficult, I did come away with one shot I like very much. She reminds me a great deal of her brother in this photo.


Next week, we’ll see what she’s learned and maybe we’ll have good weather for some more outside photos.

Little Dressage Princess

amywink January 24th, 2012


Blessing continues to blossom in training and is turning into quite the little dressage princess. Though she has expressed Certain Opinions with her elegant tail, she remains fairly willing her education. Here she is after a difficult side-pass (moving to the side while remaining straight) img_3423.jpg While it certainly must be a challenge to figure out where all four legs must go at the same time, she is figuring stuff out with only a little display of ire.

Generally, she’s doing extremely well and I can see excellent progress on her part. Will may not recognize his little sister once she graduates!

The Big Picture

amywink September 30th, 2011


Look at all the pretty circles. This is the GPS map of my lesson last week. The lesson felt as lovely as it looks and I was so pleased to see how good it looked from the satellite. Though I can see several issues on my individual laps (which I am not posting), the entire map shows a quite lovely drive. Sometimes it’s best to look at the big picture.

I got back to driving this month, the weekend the horses came home from their evacuation, and we are slowly preparing for our first Horse Driving Trial, at Haven Hill in November. It’s been 2 years since I’ve been over there and Will and I have come along way from our training days!

This is also part of my “5 year plan” to compete in an HDT or CDE. I have now been driving 4 years, and Will for 3, if my calculation are correct. I had actually devised the goal, oddly enough, as an example for a writing class I was teaching at Southwestern University in 2005. I’d sort of forgotten about that goal, leaving it written down on an assignment sheet will do that to a personal goal! But as I sent in my entry form this year, I thought about that 5 year goal and the long arc we’d taken to get to the actual fulfilling of it. And that big picture came into view again. As Martha Beck wrote somewhere, it’s important to have both the eagle view and the mouse view.

Right now, I am also looking through the mouse view. I am working on memorizing the Training Level Dressage Test 2, which I am concerned I’ll forget in the middle. The first time I drove a dressage pattern, I felt so good about half my circle that I totally forgot the other half…..thank heavens it was only a CDE clinic. This time, I want to make sure I have it down so I can enjoy the dance.

To that end, I have gotten a bit obsessive about learning the pattern. I created my own dressage field on paper, using a spreadsheet I could print, then I spent some time “driving” the test on paper during my lunch hour at the office (yes, students, your professor really is obsessed with carriage driving!). As soon as I got the basics down, I decided to practice “on the field” instead of just on paper so last Friday, I spent some time walking the arena. I “performed” the test twice, talking my way through the gait changes. I got all the actual elements right in my memory….but I can not walk a 40m circle to save my life:


Can you believe those… those….. footballs?? Yeesh.

Thankfully, I *drove* the test this past weekend and I can drive a much better circle than I can walk.



And yes, yes, I understand the prevailing theory of not driving the dressage test so your horse doesn’t memorize it and anticipate the movements wrongly, but I needed to try it, and well, *walking* it was clearly not going to do it! Interestingly, ridden dressage websites recommend riding your pattern once a week. So, what’s the difference between driven and ridden memorization, I wonder. I will break it apart in several different sections as we get closer to the actual competition.

So, the weekend approacheth, and it will be back to driving. Last week, I finished my lesson a little after 9 and had enough time to drive Will before it became blazingly hot, at 11:00. The weather people promise us that the 100+ temps are “finally broken” but we shall see. They’ve also given us the festive news that we may be in a 20-40 year drought cycle. So when did that clock start???

Home Safe

amywink September 12th, 2011

We brought everyone home safely Saturday. The horses seemed to survive their week’s vacation just fine, though they were happy to see me when we arrived.


They are looking more and more alike–and maybe I noticed it more since they had been away.


To celebrate their return, and because it was cool enough, we drove on Sunday. It was great to be back to driving. We just took it slow and steady, working out the kinks after our 6 week break.

I will have to step it up a notch, however, since I have decided to try to compete at the Haven Hill Driving Trial this November. We have 8 weeks to prepare and learn Training Level Dressage Test 2.

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