Santos and Me

Riding Journal Part 2: June 1998 - August 6, 1998

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[ Journal Part 4 ] [ Journal Part 5 ] [ Journal Part 6 ]



June 23: Travers, sitting trot issues

Oh boy, Cortney is really catching on to how to make me work! I may not be able to have as much fun as I had planned in frustrating her. She caught on to travers in no time flat! She made me do a bunch of shoulder-in to travers like a pro. She's really catching on to contact and little adjustments of the reins and stuff too. And she managed to do the nearly impossible, a 3 loop serpentine in canter all the way across the ring without letting me even think about doing a flying change. Maybe I better worry about not being able to be a goof anymore!

I am understanding the philosophy of dressage. I hear someone talk about moving up from First to Second level because their "horse sucks back anyway and will do better in the collected work". I know this logic is way off base and am completely and thoroughly convinced that good, forward, elastic gaits are the foundation of collected gaits and all other movements.

I could canter all day, and it sure is a lot easier to sit than the trot. Suddenly in the trot I feel like my seat and legs are disconnected from my body. I'm losing stirrups and bouncing like mad. Frances says don't worry, bounce in rhythm, everybody does it. I try not to worry but sometime things just don't feel right.

June 28: Turning, straightness, bending

Every time Cortney comes and we are warming up, I get sideways in my left lead canter and it makes Cortney get all sideways too, snicker, but today it occurred to her that maybe it isn't her causing me to go sideways, maybe it's ME!!! Well yeah, but I'm still gonna do it. To make up for it, I let her get a little more success each time. Today Cortney was able to get some of my spectacular collected trot, and she is riding like a pro in the shoulder-ins and travers. To temper things, I gave her a hard time in the simple changes and the turns on the haunches. She is learning how to make me come through in canter, even though I don't make it easy for her. Cortney wants to bend and slither through corners and circles, and I am very flexible so I accommodate her by bending into a pretzel. But I expect she will learn to direct my shoulders, and find the importance of the outside rein soon. She really is way too nice to me, I should treat her better!

Today I discover that I don't know how to steer! Turning up center line, I gripe "That was terrible" to which Frances says "No it wasn't". Next try I say "much better" to which Frances says "that was terrible". I am turning off my inside rein with Santo's neck and shoulders bowing out the side. The turns that Frances says are good feel to me like an airplane banking a turn so she reminds to bank my turns and they improve. I watch some videotapes of FEI riders and notice the way they turn the shoulders and keep just a bit of flexion to the inside.

All Smiles!

July 1: Turn on the haunches

Turn on the haunches it sounds so easy. And it could be, I suppose, but where's the fun in making it easy? And I just didn't want to bother with coming round and through tonight, but that was an error of judgement on my part because Frances still had her boots on, so she got on and argued with me for awhile on Cortney's behalf. I'll remember to check footwear next time I decide not to work! I was very happy to have Cortney get back on, so I went nicer.

It seems harder to keep Santos round and straight in the walk than any other gait. It's such a chicken and egg thing. I can't get him round without having him forward but he doesn't come very forward until he's round. If I pester him too much he gets miffed so I have to find a happy medium and be satisfied.

Once again, it seems I had the wrong idea about turn on the haunches. For my first attempt I manage to keep his back end stuck in place and force his front end around. I beam with pride. Frances explains that one of the main points of the exercise is to keep the walk rhythm especially in the hind end. The rear legs need to leave the ground and step lively and rhythmically around in a small circle. Santos seems to go on auto-pilot. I start the turn on the haunches and he just zooms around in big steps throwing me to the outside. On the plus side, I can feel when a hind leg gets stuck. This one will just take some work.

July 2: Simple changes till we're blue in the face

Oh man, Cortney said the wrong thing tonight.wanting to work on simple changes! So Frances gives us one of her favorite tortures, 3 steps canter 3 steps walk.all the way around the ring both ways. Oh yeah, Cortney can do simple changes now! Since these nuts have decided that Cortney and I should dive headfirst into third level in two weeks, we started working some halfpass. That will make or break her crookedness, haha! But I am glad to be doing stuff, I like to be busy and I like to make it a challenge for Cortney. Can she keep me round, connected, and energetic while doing more difficult exercises? I am proud of the fact that I can make that very very difficult! And I love being unpredictable, some days I go too low so that Cortney has to try to bring me a little higher, and other days I am too high and she has to try to relax me lower. Well, it's good for Cortney to develop feel, and find different ways to deal with the problems I present her with. I never let her ride yesterday's horse!

Change of leads it the canter through the trot was tough for Santos and me. He was so used to canter-walk transitions that it took some work to convince him to come down to a lively trot. Now I am really confusing him because I DO want the canter-walk transitions for the simple changes. Frances makes us do about a million walk-canter-walk transitions with three strides between around and around the ring. Three strides hardly seems like enough time to do anything and I try to stretch it into four or five, but she catches me cheating. I buck up and get the job done and understand her point. I need to react quickly and decisively and there is no time to relax.
July 4-9: Beach Week!

Uh oh, tune up time with Frances while Cortney cavorts at the beach.

July 10-12: Dressage at Lexington - First & Second levels
Virginia Horse Center, Lexington, VA

3 days of it! Cortney and I rode in 8 classes, repeating only one test once....the girl is crazy! But of course we did great, the judges adore me (except for one, there seems to be one in every crowd), and my stall door was covered in ribbons. The best part of the show was the RSAC awards ceremony and they put this big long pink ribbon on my head, and I could get it in my mouth. I LOVE to put things in my mouth! And since I knew everyone was expecting me to be naughty there, I was a perfect gentleman. I had my hooves full trying to dominate all of Cortney's attention, all the men at the show were trying to get her attention. But I am better looking then any of them! Her carrots were for me alone.

My husband and I had signed up for a beach house last winter and unfortunately it was the week before Dressage at Lexington. We cut our vacation short (my husband is the best!) and headed home the day before the show. Friday morning I met Santos at the showgrounds, braided him, and prepared to ride a test that first ride in just over a week! What was I thinking? To make matters worse I signed up for every test from First 2 through Second 4 over the three days. I was determined to ride every test from memory and am happy to report that I remembered them all!

Santos and I participated in the Richmond Saddlery Amateur Challenge at First Level. You ride three tests, drop your lowest score, then they average your two best scores and determine the placings based on that. At the end of Saturday we had all ridden two of the three tests and I was in the lead! I ended up fifth with very consistent scores of two 64's and a 65. Almost every test had some sort of glitch - breaking into the canter from lengthened trot and a few flying changes but overall the quality was improving. Santos and I got a big ribbon and a new saddle pad but the best part was the victory gallop. Santos was a perfect gentleman.

I sure slept well the night after the show...and I'm sure Santos did too. We both worked very hard throughout the show. Neither one of us got too much time off though as we only had two weeks until the next show and there was lots of work to be done!

First 2     K. Vinsant      64.193%
First 3     L. Yukins       64.571%
First 3     B. Wiefelstede  64.571%
First 4     K. Vinsant      65.454%
Second 1    K. Vinsant      63.076%
Second 2    L. Yukins       63.684%
Second 3    K. Adams        58.372%
Second 4    K. Vinsant      59.545%

July 16: Lessons in the double bridle

Whoa now, the full bridle?! Ooohhh boy...Cortney better figure out quick that she better pay attention to her hands cause I will throw little fits and upset her if she upsets me! Well, we got it worked out eventually. I made her first attempts at halfpass as difficult as I could, but I made it up to her by being spectacular in my gaits.

Frances decided that I should try Santos in the double-bridle one time. I don't mind, I'd ridden hunters in pelhams before and am not worried about the extra rein. I think she wants me using this because Santos has been heavy in my hands but in hindsight I know it's so I will get a better appreciation for quiet, sensitive hands. Any time my hands are not soft and following, he lets me know by tossing his head. I really hope I'm not driving him too crazy. We finally come to an understanding and it pays off. He feels much lighter in front and it is so cool! I feel like we can do anything! Well, anything but half-pass, but we'll work on it some more next time.
July 17: Beginning Half-Pass

Ahhh good, the snaffle today....These girls have decided I have to work more, and that's fine, but if I'm gonna work harder, then so will Cortney! Oh yeah! And we'll just see how quick she figures out halfpass...I let her have glimmers of it today, when she does get halfpass with me she WILL be good at it, haha! I will let her learn them before the next show in a week and a half...she'll want to come see me often in the meantime if she's worried about learning something before then.

I am so frustrated. Half-pass just shouldn't be that complicated but my body seems to be working against me. And Santos isn't helping. My legs feel useless and it seems impossible to keep him flexed. Frances patiently tells me time after time to keep my outside rein against his neck. I try, we go off on a diagonal, I abandon her advice, and my outside hand goes out again. We go back to square one and try for smaller victories like keeping flexion on a straight line then asking for one step or two. Frances tries to reassure me by telling me that no one has great half-passes at third level. She is part trainer, part psychologist. We end up on a good note and I feel ready for the Morven Park show. Little did I know.
July 25-26: Morven Park - Second & Third levels
Morven Park International Equestrian Center, Leesburg, VA

Cortney isn't very happy with me....well, nor am I with her! I thought I had taught her she must treat me with tact, but she's forgotten, she'll remember after this weekend! I did do halfpass for her, but that was about all, snicker. Sometimes I feel I must communicate my emotions to the judge during a test, and there's only one surefire way to tell them what I'm thinking. stop and unload my inner feelings at M. One spectator must not have realized it was my turn to go, as he was packing up his camera to leave, so at X I stood on tiptoe and stared at him with my Rasputin hypnotic stare to let him know he shouldn't leave yet, but he left anyway, so I again had to express my inner self for the judge. Cortney must have forgotten the carrots and apples this weekend, didn't get very many.........

Second 3    T. Harting      56.744%
Second 3    S. Chohany      55.581%
Third 1     T. Harting      56.829%
Third 1     T. Harting      53.171% (ouch)

Santos unloading his "inner feelings"!

We arrived at Morven Park on Friday and I had a short ride that evening. Santos was so distracted with horse trailers, cars, horses, and people moving all about the show grounds. He threw little bucks in here and there so I began to focus on the distractions too. Santos had nice gaits but we didn't have much in the lateral department. He should settle down by Saturday. I won't worry about it.

Saturday. Frances rode first thing in the morning. She had her second test the same time I had my first. She hung around the warmup and helped me the best she could. I couldn't get Santos moving forward and was getting frantic about it. We had no lengthened trot in the warm-up, he would just canter instead. At the last minute I swap my big spurs for my smaller spurs thinking I am bumping him into canter. I headed off to my ring. The judge rang the bell and I entered to ride Second Level test 4. Santos pony-trotted up center line. We halted, poorly, walked out of the salute, picked up trot, turned right, and he slammed on the breaks and pooped right in front of the judge! I had little choice but to let him finish and continue on. The entire test was done in slow motion, it was horrible, I was in total disbelief. I left the ring in shock, took the longest route back to the barn, pouting and fuming. I was scheduled to ride Third 1 in just half an hour. How could I possibly do it? Frances got on Santos and got him moving forward. She is sure I had clamped on my legs and Santos shut down in protest. Our goals have changed. Now I just want to get through the test, make peace with Santos, and get him forward again. I made it through the test. It wasn't spectacular, but I made it through.

Sunday. I don't ride until 2:45. Lots of time to think about things. I warm up thinking forward, bump with the leg then leave him alone. It's going much better. I ride Second 4 again and AGAIN Santos tries to stop and poop. In my focus on forward, I don't have him in my hands, and my shoulder-ins come way off the rail. Third 1. My last test of the weekend. This is it. Somebody is putting away a tripod by the ring as I come up center line to start and in the halt Santos cranes his neck up and around to watch the man. I get a four. But, I FINALLY get a beautiful lengthened trot IN the ring and I manage to pull off the half-pass. We are on the mend.

Though I'd have liked a different outcome for the weekend, it was a good experience in that it boiled many issues to the surface. You can't fix what you don't know about and I think Santos had been patiently compensating for some of my weaknesses. This is all part of it, Frances says.

July 31: Lessons with Jiri "George" Zitek

Uh oh, they've called in reinforcement. George has come to work with Cortney, and I am glad. George has got us both going softly, nicely and happily! George really likes the way Cortney rides, but he got on my bad side when he muttered something about her getting a "good" horse. He fails to recognize that I am fabulous. I may have to show off a bit at Foxcroft and make him eat his words!

George giving me quick last-minute instructions at Lexington!

Frances has arranged for me to ride with her trainer of many years, Jiri "George" Zitek. George has us warm up differently than usual and Santos takes full advantage. We start off really bad. Frances is sitting on the bench along side the ring giving me some extra "suggestions" and we get back on track.

George is a stickler for a position, and with good reason. It's not about looks but rather function. He explains when I pull my leg back for the half-pass or travers, if the whole leg moves from the hip and thigh, my weight will correctly shift to the inside seatbone in the direction of travel. If I move it back from the knee only, the weight does not shift, the heel comes up, and the knee pinches. Knowing that one fix will cure two problems, I try much harder to concentrate.

George has a nice calm, sneaky way of working me up to half-pass which had been such a frustrating problem. We work on shoulder-in, travers, and going back and forth between the two. I really have to have him in my outside rein and keep him there. Finally things start to happen...a breakthrough!

August 6: More Half-pass

Alrighty then! Cortney is starting to get halfpass! A little tact goes a long way with me! She practiced them until it was dark, but she can do it now. To show her my appreciation, I gave my extra special trot to her. Maybe I will do that at a show for her sometime....

Santos can be a very patient teacher. We work on shoulder-in, haunches-in, and half-pass over and over and over again in every imaginable sequence, pattern, and direction. The half-pass is happening and to the right it's downright respectable! Suddenly haunches-in becomes a big deal. I get really frustrated and Frances helps me get past it. Sigh. One step forward and two back. But all in all I am feeling much better and I think the increased focus on having him in my outside rein and keeping a flexion to the inside is helping lots of things.

On to Part 3...

Copyright 1998 Cortney Martin and Frances Yeardley
Graphics by Frances Yeardley

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