Friday, November 6, 2009

Goal Setting

Now that Diego's home, I've had a lot of time to do some thinking. I believe that one of the main things I'm currently lacking in my training program with Dig are some goals. I've had too much of a "take it as it comes" approach to riding lately and haven't been focusing on any specifics, and working on the steps to achieve some set goals. So this post will be about goal setting, specifically working on some of what I believe to be Diego's (and my own) weak spots.

Lateral flexion: While Diego will yield very soft and willingly on the ground in both directions (no matter which side I stand on), he can still be a bit resistant under saddle. He's softest when I first mount up, but then, after we've been doing a lot of forward motion, when I ask him to yield, he's still pretty stiff through his neck. I've noticed that as we turn, he will somewhat give to the pressure, but is bending more at his withers/shoulders than he is through his neck. If I ask for more bend, then it tends to become a one-rein stop type of maneuver, where he collapses in and will more often than not pivot around several steps before he softens and gives. I need to find that middle ground, the bend without the collapse. Also, he still is very stiff when nervous and I've noticed that I'm a little hesitant to try to flex him when we're not in our comfort zone.

GOAL: Work on riding 10 - 20 m. circles with Diego, establishing a soft bend throughout his entire body, but focusing on his neck for now. Continue to work on flexing to the side at the halt (a la one-rein stop type), especially in new places/situations. Goal is to have a soft downward and directional tip of his nose in response to light rein pressure. Thought: "I wonder if riding an outward directional spiral will help? Establish the bend in the neck through the tight circle he offers and then gradually expand and loosen the shape, while maintaining the bend...."

Facing my fear issues: I'm sure this will continue to be a long process, but continue working on the small bits. I was making some saddle modifications and didn't have any stirrups on the other night, so I hopped on bareback. My first intent was to just SIT on him, which went well, so I thought, "Might as well walk around the corral once." I survived that, so we did another lap, then I asked for a change of direction, a halt, etc. Soon I went from being nervously perched on him - still holding onto the corral panel with one hand and a toe on the fence, to riding around without holding onto his mane or anything asking him for lateral flexion and working on yielding his hindquarters. =) Something very important I discovered - when I was focused on a very specific task, I didn't worry about other things and what was going on. I had a specific maneuver I was looking to accomplish and that was where my focus was.

GOAL: Hone my focus while riding. Start each ride with a particular goal(s) in mind and some specific tasks that I want to accomplish. Be willing to adjust and change my plan as need be, but just transition from one maneuver to another if the first is beyond our current abilities. At the end of each ride, evaluate what we were able to accomplish and what to work on for next time. WRITE THIS DOWN. Continue to take small steps with my riding and realize the little accomplishments.

More exposure on the trail: This one is pretty basic. Get him OUT. Make plans with friends, since I'm not brave/stupid enough to go it alone right now, and get him out and going down the trail more. Aim for once a week at least if possible.


Funder said...

Good goals. Good luck with the bending - when Dixie bends too far and collapses in, she usually refuses to move off my inside leg and I end up straightening her out and trying again. Hopefully you won't have that problem!

I've got nice trails - come visit and save me from 2.5 mph QHs!

ellescee said...


Whew! Being on overnights really gives one a chance to catch up on all the blogs they mean to be current on! Sounds like you guys have had some bumps in the road but are on your way to some successful riding. You and I are very similar--I also tend to be extremely nervous and tense when riding. In this past year of riding Jasper, however, I've found that working with terrific mentors and great riding buddies goes a long way for building one's confidence. I almost am able to draw off their self-assurance and use it as my own. I tell you, last October/November dealing with all of Jasper's new-to-the-trail issues, I would have NEVER imagined I'd be able to pony a youngster from his back. We essentially communicate on an almost unconscious level now, which amazes me almost daily. However, some of the same old, same old situations that make me nervous (and are nothing compared to ponying, really), still cause me to get tense and Jasper feels that.

Keep working on it! You two will definitely get it! And great postings--they remind me of all the "fun" hurdles I'll get to get through with the three year old.


Heather said...

Yes, the outward spiral will probably help. My horse had a beautiful bend to the right, but was stiff and choppy to the left. He just dropped his shoulder in and would make his left circle as tiny as possible. SO, I worked with that. We did lots of tiny circles to the left, and gradually made them bigger. At first he could only do a half circle correctly. Once he could do a good circle, we would spiral larger. One thing I noticed that REALLY helped was leg yields. I would leg yield left and right, left and right-ending on the right since he was stiff on the left- so that he was bent slightly left at the end of the straight line of leg yields, then I would take him right into a left circle. That right leg yield into the left circle helped him maintain the bend and carry himself correctly into the circle without collapsing.

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