I’m trying to follow advice I read somewhere – I think maybe from Dodon Farm? Maybe the rider fitness book? – and set some goals for my riding. I know goals aren’t always achieved, but I know this will help structure my rides and my next few months, and keep things in perspective for me.
I read that one week, one month, and three month goals are a good way to approach riding. By setting a “long” term goal like three months, you can look for a real improvement arc and serious changes in your riding, especially if you ride frequently. One month is long enough to see some changes, especially in smaller areas, but not so long that it’s out of reach. A one week goal gives you something to really focus on in every ride, and can help you structure your rides.
So here goes!
Coursing 2’9” confidently – I would not normally set a height goal, but Murray and I are really ready to move up. 2’6” courses used to give me a bit of the willies and encourage me to chase Murray to every fence. We are finally at a point where we can have power without flat-out-speed, and are making a more controlled approach to every fence. Whereas before I almost felt like we could hardly jump 2’6” (because if you hurl your body at a 2’6” obstacle as fast as you can you don’t actually feel very powerful), I’m suddenly starting to feel like we can pop over them without a problem.
How will we get there? Slowly increasing jump size while continuing to maintain our current relaxation with the bigger courses.
Hmmm long term dressage goals will require consulting the book. Stay tuned!
Adjustability – Murray’s stride is on the short end of things, both at the trot and canter. He also tends to get caught up in his little box of space and doesn’t move out easily. For both flat and fence work we need to become more adjustable, so I’m going to work on getting Murray to stretch out at all three gaits. Trot poles, canter poles, pushing him out on the long side of the arena – all while maintaining some contact and thoroughness. What! Such goal. Much wow.
Trotting jumps – easily Murray’s WORST THING. He hates a trot jump. He wants to rush, he wants to get behind my leg, he wants to canter. We clearly need practice, and I hear it will improve our jumping form in general!
Quiet my legs – Since pony is a fairly sensitive beast, I’ve found that my legs can “yell” at him unintentionally, especially when he is feeling a little fussy. Murray also responds much more to my right leg than my left, probably because of natural weaknesses in both of our bodies. I need to quiet my legs at the walk and trot especially, and hope that will make him more responsive to my left leg as well.
I have a schooling show on Sunday, so this week I’m focusing on cleaning up little things for the show.
Geometry – our circles tend to be a little fall-y – we fall in or out with the shoulders or haunches. So it’s time to bust out the cones and makes some perfect circles!
Transitions – Murray has really stepped up his transitions lately, and they are getting better and better. I want to work on cleaning them up even more so they are test-worthy.
Free walk – our free walk is easily the weakest part of any dressage test. I’m going to try to encourage Murray to stretch down and out more during all our walk breaks, and reward him heartily for doing so. Food will probably be involved.
Relaxation – this is important in both our dressage test and jumping. We have recently achieved a truly astonishing level of zen in our jumping rounds, and all I want to do is keep that zen. No rushing, no panicking, just zen.