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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sheer exhaustion

I... am tired. SO tired. Last night Gogo was really good... really good. I rode with the only other eventer in the barn - a kid named Laurel with a cute little pony named Hermione, and she and her mom raved about how lovely my horse was. And she WAS lovely too... getting some really accurate leg yields, some very lovely canterwork, and some totally flawless walk-canter-walks. Sometimes she falls apart a little on the downward transitions, but not yesterday. Yesterday she rocked right back and came right down to a very energetic walk. The exercise we were schooling is out of one of the second level tests... there's hope for second level by the end of next year yet! If I have money to spend on regular dressage shows, that is.....

I had my first lesson with Vicki today, which I was really looking forward to but didn't get too much out of today. I think she was just feeling my horse out really and watching to see what she's like more than telling me how to improve her - which will take a few rides, I expect. I told her about Gogo's aversion to warmups, and we're going to see if there is a better way to warm her up (our current way is to kind of give her a vague rein length to do what she wants with it and let her decide when she wants to release her back and stretch out to the contact on her own.... not really productive, but it is effective.) She's very difficult in that way... no amount of body manipulation ever works to 'make' her work through. She really DECIDES it on her own, I'm not kidding you. I don't know what the magic formula is to get there... there's just a moment when she lets go, and becomes steadily better. She did it for Vicki today too, just finally released, and once she did Vicki seemed very impressed. We didn't work on as much stuff as I wanted to, but we did do some fab leg yields and some very nice walk-canters, but nothing more.

That warmup is just what kills me, and sometimes frustrates me. She's just so locked in her neck and back for so long, and she just WON'T relax it no matter what I do - she just gets more and more tense the more I try to manipulate her. With her, it's just... backing off, and letting her make the executive decision to stretch out to my hand. I don't really know how long it takes, because it varies every ride. But that makes our rides fairly long-ish - an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half every time from start of walking to end of cooling out, just because I don't really school much of anything until she's ready and supple. When she finally had that moment of giving to me, she's AMAZING. And THEN we can school everything we wanted to... we just have to wait for it.

I wonder if this is just the way she'll always be, or if this can actually be changed.

I need more energy so I can actually DO something at night... although I DID wash Gogo's tail and socks tonight because she ran around in the mud in turnout today and her socks disappeared under a layer of mud and her tail was one solid mud dreadlock... suddenly nothing is frozen anymore, and it's going to be 65 tomorrow.... right, CT.


jacksonsgrrl said...

Hi Andrea! Wow! You must be super tired. I work 12 hr. shifts as a nurse and rarely get breaks (even for the bathroom) so I understand! I do get exercise doing it, but not at the level you are. Mine is more mental exhaustion from working with just born infants and making sure all is well, especially when I have to be in charge of the entire nursery, BLAH! Anyway! I bought a chabon on E-bay (only paid 18.00 new incl. s&h, from an all Western dude who didn't seem to know what he had..) and I was thrilled at the price. It would have ended up at ~30 from dover or smartpack. Anwyway, I was hoping you could offer some advice on its use! I am familiar with lungeing and my horse does fairly well, we are currently REALLY focusing on transitions, but I am not ashamed to admit that tho' I have been around horses for much of my life, I have never had to start one off from scratch! I am working to afford a trainer and lessons, but as a single mom, I pretty much just consider myself lucky to own a horse at all! Any advice as to the use of the chabon and anything else would be SOOO appreciated! I have used a running martingale a couple of times and just started using a Pelham...he just need to get his head down and learn to use his neck muscles and stop hollowing his back. (Only when you have a bit of time and aren't working so much!) BTW--You are so lucky to have Gogo, what a beauty, I have always wanted a Holsteiner! Thanks! --Mindy

JJ said...

I was reading your blog from the beginning - the parts about Gogo's history - but I didn't really notice anything about her trouble warming up there. Has she always been like this? Maybe she never had the chance to warm up correctly with that "trainer" or her previous owners and so she thinks what she is doing is right; or maybe she is waiting for you to pull her into rollkur or hurt her in some way (you said the "trainer" gave her a rearing problem..what caused the rearing?) and that is why she is tense. And then after 15 minutes or a half hour or however long, she goes "oh yeah, this is the nice rider" and relaxes.

Or I could be completely off base.

Anyway, that picture is gorgeous!

Andrea said...

SUPER tired!! Today was worse - I had to do all of this... ALONE. And cleaning 17 DEEPLY bedded stalls and turning out 17 horses with three blankets to switch on and off and boots and bells in the POURING freezing rain and ankle-deep mud ALL DAY, plus feeding 6 times a day and dragging and hand-raking the arena and throwing down hay and cleaning 27 million saddles and bridles and and and and.... yeah it sucked!
Anyway, here are two REALLY informative websites concerning the chambon for starters: and I would definitely use a regular, gentle snaffle when lunging, instead of the pelham. The other thing to remember is that with the chambon, and all things dressage-y, it's not about getting the head down, it's about getting the engine (hindquarters) in gear, creating energy that flows up over the back and out to the mouth. A chambon only really works correctly when the horse is going forward, so always keep that in mind. Just remember those few important things with the chambon - forward, simple snaffle, and give him time to adjust to it. The chambon should be loose when he is stretching down, and taut only when he raises his head, which might take a little getting used to on his part. Good luck, if you need any more advice about it let me know!

Andrea said...

JJ: Yes, she's always had that warming up problem, ever since the crazy trainer lady, and believe me when I say it's 100% BETTER than it was then! It's not even a problem really - I think most people would say she goes quite well - but it's just not the 100% that I KNOW is in her, and I KNOW she always gives to me when she finally fully releases her back. It's like she gives me 50% of her back and then holds the rest of it in tension. It's just a matter of patience with her at this point - she's built inverted and it's hard for her, so giving her adequate time to loosen all her muscles (including her brain!!!) up is important for her. She likes to have creative input... I think it has a positive effect on her mind when she mentally decides to free up her back. And I really am lost as for finding a better way to do it - the second you try to manipulate her mouth or body while she's warming up, she's in instant defense mode, and whatever looseness I had is gone. I don't know what the trainer did to make her rear, since I was abroad at the time, but I think it had to do with making her clastrophobic about the contact - you know, choking her in and trying to force her head down. The times I ever tried to take a heavier contact with her and push her out to it, up she went! I think she actually cured herself of the rearing problem though - last April she actually flipped on me (quite by surprise really... she was getting stressed so I let her have a canter on a long rein down the long side and she TOOK off, and when I went to take the tiniest, and I mean tiniest, contact back to slow her down she slammed on the brakes HARD and literally reared three or four times until she flipped herself), and ever since then, she hasn't offered to rear once.... kind of awful, but that one was definitely on her terms.

jacksonsgrrl said...

Thanks Andrea! Great advice and I will be sure to check out the websites! Snaffle while using Chambon but how about riding? What do you think of the Pelham? I really love my French Link Snaffle but have been told that the Pelham will help. I am questioning this. Let me know what ya think!!! Thanks sooo much for the help!

Andrea said...

I'm very classical in my dressage approach - I feel as though a simple snaffle bridle, well-fitting saddle, and correct riding should be all a rider and horse needs to progress from starting under saddle all the way to Grand Prix - even a Grand Prix horse should be able to school all upper level movements in a snaffle. Here's a good article about dressage and pelhams:

As for a lower-level dressage horse, I think a snaffle is probably a better option. Pelhams are leverage bits - they have a lever action which causes poll pressure to help the horse break at the poll, which can be incorrect in dressage. A pelham can 'make a horse put his head down' easier than a snaffle would, but that's not correct either. Another good website to look at it ... it has a lot about classical dressage, the training tree, and tack. It's a bit preachy and self-righteous, but correct.

Never forget - dressage is never about a headset :) It's about creating energy from the hindquarters and carefully capturing it in the front end of the horse, which will round the horse's back and topline so he works correctly and naturally finds his own balance, and subsequently reaches out to the contact himself, instead of the rider putting him in a frame. This is why I LOVE dressage - it's always a puzzle to work out, and every single stride is working towards harmony and lightness, and it never gets dull or boring for me. Maybe for my horse though!

jacksonsgrrl said...

I am with you in wanting to stay in the arena of classical dressage--it is the basis on which I want my horse to learn and employ these things myself. I have only had ~10 dressage lessons (before I bought Jacks) but they have helped me immensely in my riding. I plan to start some dressage lessons on Jackson--just need to cut some corners to afford them--which is a necessity in my eyes. I like dressage and while I have a looong way to go (i am interested in competitive trail and endurance and a DREAM of mine is three day eventing which is why I perked up at your blog) i believe it is a huge foundation for the horse and will make me a better rider. I do understand the importance of getting impulsion from the back and getting him off of his forehand, guess I just thought if his head and neck were employed while riding that would follow. It seems the opposite is true. Learning more all the time--awesome! Going back to my snaffle and trying out the chambon today or Wed. Had to work, work, work since I got it last Wed! Gogo's hooves look great--Jackson is barefoot--never has had shoes and we trail ride on pure rock sometimes!!!!