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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lady Gogo's P-P-P-Poker Face

So you guys all immediately went and downloaded "Look Up" by the band Stars when I told you to, right? Of course you did. Now, also go download "The Whaler" by Thrice. No really, I mean it! PEER PRESSURE! DO IT!

Anyway, back to the sweet Crackermare. I've had two EXCELLENT dressage sessions with her over the past two days. And I mean REALLY excellent - like go out and win the AEC on your dressage score kind of excellent. I think that's what I'll call them from now on. Win-The-AEC-Rides.

Our lesson on Tuesday was just gorgeous. Our ride on Monday was outdoors and full of punkiness (which I already wrote a little blurb about), but I think it did her brain some good. Back in the indoor, she started right off being a hair fussy when I picked her up (we usually bomb around the arena at a trot and canter on the buckle for a few minutes to loosen up a little bit before starting real stretchy warmup work at the walk and trot), but quickly settled and stretched beautifully into the contact within just a few minutes. It's so amazing to see the transformation our workouts have taken over the past month and a half - she's gone from a horse that would take a good half-hour to 45 minutes to start correctly going into the contact (which would leave us with about 15 minutes for some real work... and sometimes she would really FIGHT me) to a horse that starts right off the bat stretching out and down for the contact, and while it takes a few minutes and some exercises to get her steadily where I want her to be, it takes about 1/16th of the time it used to. I like this trend very much. Plus, she's really developing something akin to a REAL NECK! Her neck still is, and obviously will always be, set on awkwardly (she didn't earn the nickname "The Ewe-Necked Wonder" for nothing), but her body has gone through quite a transformation since she's arrived here. We moved on from our warmup to do some pretty good trot and canter lengthenings (canter was better than trot, at the trot she became slightly unbalanced a few times and took some irregular steps), a bunch of very high quality transitions, a lot of serpentines (required in the Novice tests.... and a great exercise to work anyway, duh!), and some stretching down and coming back up at the trot. It's interesting to note that Gogo stretches WAY WAY better to the left than to the right. To the right, the stretch is far less consistant, and she tends to fold herself inwards and fall in on her right shoulder. We're getting there though! She definitely comes back up and goes back to work 95% better than she did before.

Yesterday, she was equally as good. I had kind of hoped she'd act up because one of the boarders we realllllllly don't like is a complete chicken and she was riding with me at the time, so we imagined that maybe if Gogo went leaping away across the arena and smashed into her this woman might hang up her britches forever and never come back, but alas. Gogo warmed up equally as well yesterday, and went right up into a nice stretching working trot. She got all goobery in her mouth too, which she doesn't often do. I kind of figured out the champing thing - it's when she's... well, not leaning, but sort of heavy in my contact. It's like she boings her jaw off of the heavier contact. I don't know, it's hard to describe, but if you lighten her in front it stops, even if only momentarily. Anyway, we went on to work some really awesome leg yields, transitions (our trot-canters are becoming less 'up' and more 'forward'), mediums (which literally felt like we were FLOATING they had so much suspension in them - definite mediums, they totally came out of a more collected trot, yay!) adding varying degrees of collection through shoulder-in/haunches-in exercises, and counter canter. Or, well, we tried to work on counter canter. Gogo has an ENORMOUS canter stride, so organizing it enough to stay balanced through the short side is a bit difficult for her, and unfortunately she already has changes through our jumping, so yeah. We'd get a good halfway through the short side in counter canter, and then, tada! Completely perfect flying change, every time, both ways. Like 10 times. No matter how dramatically my aids were saying HELLO PLEASE STAY ON THIS LEAD! That was the point where I just gave up and worked on shallow loops in canter instead, which were much more successful. We'll try and tackle that issue again today, lol.

Now here's an interesting (and probably completely ridiculous) connection Shannon and I made. Why was my horse so utterly perfect for two days in a row and so completly insane for the three days prior to that? Well, she loves to go to shows right, and always has her game face on when we get there? On Tuesday right before I got on, I put her mane back in training braids, because it's out of control again (when isn't it?). And then, she was perfect. And the braids were in yesterday, and she was perfect again. So we decided she thinks she must be all spiffed up to go to a show so she needs to behave herself! Ridiculous, I know, but Gogo really is that weird, so it wouldn't actually surprise me if that was really the case.

I've been countering her misbehaviors in a new way, which seems to be working really well. She usually fusses going to the right, and often times at the canter, which is where she likes to kind of dirt bike around turns and get unbalanced. If she fussed and was near the rail before, she'd get a correction on my left rein, which usually send her diving left towards the wall in a huge reary-leap explosion. Since that obviously wasn't helping, I've been correcting her occasional small fusses by half halting hard on my right rein instead, which has actually been totally successful and stopped the reary leaps before they even begin. Knock on wood, but maybe this is our answer for nipping this rude behavior in the bud before it turns into real, actual learned bad behavior. People here seem to think bad behavior of any sort is the end of the world, and I don't get it. When I got her back from Crazy Trainer she reared a lot, right? Well, she's a member of my family and I felt it was my duty to try and get her brain set back on, because I loved her and I wanted to help her to get back to the intelligent athlete I knew she was. And sometime last March, she did flip on me, and sort of self-corrected the rearing problem for the time being (it's only been a small, recent resurfacing of the problem, starting less than a month ago - she really hadn't done it for ages before we got here). I was chatting about it to Ted, our 84 year-old boarder who we almost ran over the other week when she was acting up a little, when another boarder happened to be walking past us. She didn't even stop to join the conversation, she just overheard me saying "... she flipped on me...." and added loudly, "And you KEPT her?" and kept walking right on by. Now, we love her, but really? Horses aren't expendable to me. Things like that happen sometimes. My horse is not malicious, she's not mean, she's not trying to hurt me - even then, she deliberately fell AWAY from me. And I landed on my feet, and she folded into a little ball beside me. She's just a little messed up in the head sometimes. She's incredibly talented and such a sweetheart, and she really IS my family. I'm not just going to throw her away because she's tricky sometimes.
What is WRONG with people?

On a not related note, did you guys hear? Bit of Britain is the new AEC sponser! Wellpride's time was up, and seriously, I cannot possibly think of a better replacement. Wellpride's been great, but can you EVEN IMAGINE the top prizes at the AECs this year?? I STILL have yet to spend my $100 I got from Bit of Britain for just being in 6th last year, and that was just them being nice and a regular sponser! First place got $1000! What are the prizes even going to BE this year? AWESOME, that's what they're going to be!

And now, it's time to go get suited up for my lesson. It's 21 degrees outside and the wind is howling, and I am SO GLAD I have today off.


dp said...

We always used to start the counter canter down the center line -- choose the lead you want, ask for it and hold it one stride into the the turn at the far end, then trot. When this is consistently doable and the horse is listening to you rather than her instinct, start working on the long sides choosing the lead that you want. As this come more consistent hold the lead into the corners. For my coach it was all about getting the horse to respect your choice, regardless of feeling off balance.

Alighieri said...

I taught my horse counter canter out in the field. Since he has chronic lead changing problems (he likes to do it too often), I thought it would be really difficult. So we did giant loops around the field on the counter canter every day. I started on a loose rein and gradually picked up the contact a little more each day. When he was into a dressage counter canter, we started narrowing the loop, first half the field, then a quarter of the field, and then finally twenty meter circles on the counter canter. Then we put them into dressage lessons. Now I never ever ask for a flying change in my dressage tack (and I won't until we train for Advanced if we get that far), and I never ever ask for counter canter in jump tack. The gradual process paid off, as my horse will do twenty meter circle serpentines, all on the same lead, without threatening to switch. Good luck!

Funder said...

I've noticed how your warmups have gotten shorter and shorter - that's just awesome!

Rearing isn't so bad. Champ went through a rearing phase - totally my fault, and once I figured it out he almost completely quit. Flipping, OTOH, is terrifying! But I still don't think I could sell a horse that flipped over. People are jerks. On the other hand... most of your fellow boarders aren't good (talented) horsepeople, are they? You really have to learn something about horses and think hard about your technique and work at it to fix rearing. Maybe they're not able to do that.

Also my friend Sara lives close enough to Bit of Britain to shop there. I'm pretty jealous of her; I bet you would be too.

manymisadventures said...

My first horse went through a rearing phase. Pretty unusual for him, actually - his standard evasion was "ADD MORE FORWARD," not sucking back enough to rear.

Scared the hell out of me for awhile. But then I figured out how to ride him through it, and the issue was gone.

It sounds like Gogo is similar. She's not trying to hurt you - she's just a little strange in the head sometimes!