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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label David O'Brien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David O'Brien. Show all posts

April 2, 2011

Blown Away

Ok, I might have been a big meanie and lied to you yesterday. But I can't resist a good prank. Life is too short to take things seriously all the time. Or very often. Or ever.

This afternoon sees us just back from a jumping lesson.  In the 30 mph wind. David had us do a new exercise during our warm up death circles -- THAT WAS NOT A CIRCLE. I almost fell off Solo in shock. To supple and engage the hind leg at the trot, he simply had us leg yield away from the long side for half of its length and then leg yield back to the track before the corner. The catch is to not let that shoulder bulge in either direction. And get it done before running out of long side!

Then we picked up the canter. *sigh* Back on the circle. But David introduced some new finesse here too. To really get Solo round over his back, he had me open my inside rein to flex his neck, push him into the bend with inside leg. Then, when Solo softened and gave, to straighten him with the outside rein while riding him forward into it with both legs. It created, quite simply, a VERY awesome feeling canter and put him right THERE on my outside rein in a whole new way. My brain: OMG, THAT'S what that feels like! Solo's back was so rounded up beneath me, I felt like I was sitting on the side of an apple or something.

There were a lot of subtleties to this and a lot of feel involved. You have to keep your contact steady in both reins. The horse must keep tracking forward from behind at all times. Solo resisted and fought it with every evasion he had because it's HARD. He went sideways one way, he went sideways the other way, then he threw his head in the air, then he gaped his mouth open. Nooooooooooooo......was all he had to say about it. So you have to ride through each resistance, keeping your cues steady and consistent and then softening when he finally gives in and goes round. It is very hard work and, again, ALL about timing and feel. I can't even put into words the dozens of little nuances and adjustments I had to make. Correcting the shoulder, correcting the poll, correcting the neck, correcting the haunches. BUT, when Solo did finally soften and come round underneath me, it was an amazing feel to have him both light in my hand AND up and powerful and muscly underneath me.

Oh yeah, the jumping was ok too.

January 10, 2011

A Day With David

Saturday was jump lesson day.  Blowing snow be damned.

Solo is not an easy horse to jump, or should I say, jump well at height; he does not have a naturally uphill balance, so his preferred method of jumping is to dive at the base of the jump and then hurl himself over.

However, if you use a combination of 47 different muscles, perfectly timed aids, and stick your tongue out a bit, you can get him to jump with a lovely, smooth bascule.

I know, what's the holdup, right? I, unfortunately, seem to only be able to occasionally coordinate about 12 of the 27.5 required things to get him straight, balanced, uphill, and round.  About every jump out of 8, I can pull it together.  The odds are getting better, but it's still frustrating when I can't get in "the flow."

I will not admit how much time I spend mulling it all over in my head.  A constant refrain from David is "lift his poll." At the same time, I am supposed to keep my reins short, but not lift my hand.

Thus far, I have failed to work out how to achieve these two seemingly contradictory things.  Or, to be more accurate, I understand how to do them in theory, but fail to get my body to perform said theory.

Join us, then, for parts of a lesson with our jump coach, eventer David O'Brien; he is unbelievably patient with my blundering and has played no small part in bringing Team Flying Solo along.  Apologies for shaky video -- the wind was blowing hard and cold and our dear friend/videographer, Cindy, was shivering!

Part I: We've done our flat warmup of bendy death circles and now we do some small jumps and combinations.

Part II: Moving on to courses and some great Solo tips from David.

I have a lot to work on.

Solo was busy trying to figure out where his friends were and OH SOMETHING MOVED OVER THERE! so he never really softened and focused.  I am still riding too defensively in the stadium ring (being flipped over a pair of ears will do that to you) and I need to allow myself to be a bit more forward coming to the jump and stay softer in my waist.

Before each jump, I need to be more focused on my body in general and remember to use my thigh and core to lift my horse's shoulder as he prepares to pat the ground for takeoff.  My legs are slipping back and getting sloppy.  And I need to have a firm discussion with my arms so they figure out what to do!

August 26, 2010

An Epiphany Every Ride

We almost missed our jumping lesson last night.  We had a 7:00 pm appointment with David and I even left early so I would have lots of time to stretch Solo out before David's intense warmup sessions.  Only the entire interstate was shut down and it took me 45 minutes to go 0.75 miles.  Apparently people don't care if you scream at them, "Get out of the way, I have a RIDING LESSON, dammit!"

David, being the patient, saintly type, was waiting for us when we turned up at 7:30, sitting on the mounting block with feet swinging like he didn't have a two hour drive home to get to. Meanwhile, I frantically parked the trailer and tried to simultaneously unload Solo and put my spurs on. I tripped and Solo decided he didn't WANT to get off right then.

I hopped on as fast as I could. Poor horse had been standing in the trailer for almost two hours by that point, so he wasn't too thrilled about instantly being asked to bend and round himself, but we got him loosened up and then began our jumping exercises.

And here is why I love David: Solo has what he calls a "fragile" balance and will tip on his forehand in a second while jumping. A last dive step or two before takeoff is his trademark. If you tip your shoulders at him at the jump, he'll drop a knee. So as I'm riding towards the jump, David calls, "Keep your hand very soft and focus on lifting his shoulder with your thigh and abs all the way to the jump."

So I did.

So my horse jumped awesome.

I don't know how he does it -- EVERY STINKIN' TIME. He gives us one simple direction and it's like a lightbulb moment and things just work. What I wouldn't give for that kind of insight.

We kept the jumps small (David is big on technique -- if you get it right over 2'6" and you can do it right over 4'6") and put a few little courses together. I worked really hard to stay focused and make sure we kept a slow, balanced canter between the jumps and lifted the shoulder with the torso in front of the jump.

And holy crap, the jumps rode amazingly. It was smooth, it flowed, and the rhythm was just there. Solo stayed up and light in the hand the whole time. Of course, by the time I got off, my legs were twitching with a mind of their own. Ow.

The $64,000 question? Can I do this at home without Mr. I'm-A-Teaching-Genius keeping me honest?

March 30, 2010

Back To Forward

So much to think about.

The lesson was good.  Although I could just feel Solo's indignation: I already worked hard on Saturday, what the hell is this about??!

Of COURSE, David makes us ride through a gymnastic to start off, after warm up with his obligatory Circles-Of-Making-Eventer79-Pant-And-Solo-Flex-A-Lot. He has some kind of psychic power to detect what you really don't want to do and then he makes you do that. Somewhat unsurprisingly, he quickly detects the source of our problems: I am riding too defensively, staying TOO far back and as a result, I am not moving with Solo over the jumps.

David: "I understand why you are doing what you are doing, but your upper body is saying whoa when you stay that far behind the motion."

Me (in my head): Yes, because I don't want to bloody fall off again.

Me (out loud): Yes, master. (or something like that)

David: "Once he is moving forward, trust him to do it and just support with your leg, but keep your upper body in a more ready, forward position."

Which, of course, worked like a charm.  Ahhh, smooth, lovely jumps -- why do they only happen when David is watching?

So when we start out learning to jump, most of us jump ahead, anticipating the jump too much, especially when we have learned in hunterland. Then we train ourselves to wait. Then we end up behind the motion -- although one of the eventing commandments is "Thou shalt remember that it is always better to be a little bit behind than a little bit ahead." Finding the happy medium is a bit like balancing a fork on the edge of a glass: for me, freaking hard!  Now my brain is going, Ok, stay back but not too far back, you need to be forward enough to go with Solo but not too far forward or else you will jump up his neck.  Yeah, no problem doing that every time on a course of ten fences.  Maybe I will just close my eyes and flap my reins at Solo while squawking, "Jumpy jumpy!"  That might create a higher proportion of successful jumps than my current method of confusing the snot out of myself.

March 11, 2010

Good News, Bad News

Good news:  very successful dressage lesson on Saturday.  Did a bit of lateral work and turns out that leg yields are SO much easier when you do them properly.  What I thought was straight turns out to have been me asking Solo to lead the leg yield with his haunches, which explains why it was so hard.  P says, "how about you let the shoulder lead like it's supposed to?" and pop, it just flowed forward so much more easily!  Assignments:  keep working on those leg yields and shoulder in to build strength and suppleness.  And we WILL learn how to transition to canter without throwing our head in the air (Solo: NOOOOOOOOOO!).

Good news: FABULOUS XC lesson with David on Sunday.  It was an exquisitely perfect day, 70 degrees and a farm that looked as if it belonged to royalty.  We started out with a few stutters when I rode poor Solo so far to the base of the jump he couldn't take off and once again, a ditch threatened to eat his head.  David calmly led Solo over the ditch and proceeded to have us jump it 37 times until Mr. Red Butt worked it out.  We proceeded to have loads of fun, even conquering a Training level question up a bank, one stride, then over a log.  Reverse it to ride over the log, one stride, then down the bank.  It felt great and we finished off with a mini course that included one of those Novice coop jumps that terrify me so and it all went without a hitch.  So thanks to David, I feel 300% better as does, I believe, my horse, about our upcoming trials!

Good news:  I have sent in entries for both an unrecognized event which will be our first go at Novice at the end of this month as well as our first EVER recognized event in April (ahhhhhhhhh!! I will be looking for a crew member if anyone wants a fun weekend watching my eyes roll).

Bad news:  I am currently under doctor's house arrest for the entire week for some horrid respiratory flu from god knows where.  After I finish typing this, I am going to go renew my dosage of hydrocodone and sink blissfully into the trippy pleasure zone it provides, yeahhhhhhh...  But I can't ride my horse because my lungs are on fire.  Boo.  But the only reason I finally broke down and went to the doctor (besides the shrieking pain) was that I want this virus to have its ass well and truly kicked by horse trial time!

October 26, 2009

Keeping Memory Lane Rolling

Whew, got back from Waredaca, my mind is overflowing...will have to sort it all out at some later date.

Back to our previously scheduled programming...

We had finished the dressage show from hell.  We returned home & went back to work (attempt #3,006).

What the what?  Up & butt power??  It CAN be done!
In the meantime, we had also started jumping lessons with David O'Brien.  Who is incredibly awesome, positive, supportive, talented, & did I mention awesome?  He can bring out the best in your horse & you don't even realize how he is doing it.

Instead of simply allowing Solo to bury his forehand at the base of the jump & then hurl himself over, David had me lifting his poll & asking Solo to jump up into my hand. 

So simple, so subtle, yet it changed the whole feel of the ride and suddenly my horse was jumping rounder & smoother & more adjustably than ever before!

We did a couple horse trials.  The first was a spring event & I believe it may have been the debut of the Chestnut Mohawk.  I hate braiding.   I REALLY REALLY REALLY HATE HATE HATE braiding.  Not so much the act of braiding, but the fact that you have get up early & spend all this time fussing with it, it seemed such a fiddly & unnecessary step. 

I learned that through a simple turnout rule that braids are not required-EVER-so I whipped those clippers out & solved that little problem!   So now, we have an instant show-ring ready mane with no maintenance other than occasionally trimming the ends. I love it.

Halt and Salute
The all-important salute.  Which took me a while to adjust to, due to the fact in eventing, you only salute at the END of the test.

Stadium Jumping

Log on a Mound to a Drop
This was a great little log with a sloping drop behind it, very fun to ride.

In Motion
In motion.

Splish Splash

We Made It!
I love my sport because THIS is the expression you always end up with after your run!