Friday, April 19, 2013

An Idyllic Morning at Arroyo Del Mar and Day 2 with Christine

This morning Lana and I visited Arroyo Del Mar, Steffen and Shannon Peters' training facility (in addition to housing several other trainers, including David Blake).   I have to say their farm is probably the nicest dressage facility I have ever visited.  I don't mean in terms of expense or luxury, but more in terms of general layout and atmosphere.  They have been at the facility for 7 or 8 years, and have done extensive renovations to make the facility what it is today.  First of all, the farm is set back from the road in a small canyon.  So you have to drive off the main road probably a quarter mile or so, winding down the hill into the canyon.  It is so quiet and peaceful that you don't realize that you are only minutes away from downtown San Diego and the craziness of I-5.  The main barn, which is probably 60 stalls or so, overlooks small turnout paddocks, a couple of roundpens for lunging, and the two main outdoor arenas (one standard dressage arena with mirrors, the other a larger converted jumping arena).  A small creek runs right through the center of it all.  It is a totally relaxing and non-pretentious place, where one can sit on the lawn under a shade tree and watch riding, without feeling out of place or like an imposition.  I am much appreciative to Shannon for letting Lana and I visit!  Arroyo Del Mar really is a little piece of heaven.
Afterwards I trailered the boys over to Albert Court for Day 2 with Christine.  Both horses were much improved today from yesterday.  With Majek we started with basic loosening work, including trot-canter-trot transitions and really thinking about getting him rounded into the outside rein (in other words, not always checking the suppleness on the inside, but also the suppleness and submissiveness to the outside rein).  I should always have the feeling that the horse's withers are the apex of the roundness, not the poll.  The poll needs to come up, of course, but only as a function of the hind leg stepping forwards under the weight, not because it is artificially raised and the withers drop.
After the warm-up, we worked on test-specific exercises for the I-1, and Christine gave me some great pointers for improving my test.  Specifically for the pirouettes she wanted me to feel that although we have to ride the pirouettes from straightness, I need to be able to always access the haunches-in before the pirouettes (otherwise he tries to spin around and I lose control of the turn).  I also need to ride the zig-zag half-pass more clearly, with a clearer start and definition to the half-passes (I tend to be a little wishy-washy there).  Generally I need to be careful that the half-halts don't bring his neck backwards towards me, but rather than they activate his hind legs forwards towards the bridle, particularly when riding towards the pirouettes.
With Victor we worked on getting the canter more active and in front of the leg and much more through and rounded into the outside rein.  Lots and lots of tempo changes in the canter, making sure that he is really thinking forward and active in the hind legs.  I really need to ramp up the RPMs in the canter, particularly in the shorter, pirouette canter.  Once again she reminded me that I need to be able to feel the impulsion in the collection (activity behind as the horse shortens) and the collection in the impulsion (containment and power as the horse pushes forward for more amplitude).  Christine reminded me that a kick with the leg should produce a forward reaction, rather than being a reminder to not drop behind the leg (sometimes I use it as such). 
As far as exercises go, we rode some lateral variations in the canter, for instance shoulder fore on the long-side, then transitioning into haunches-in on a 20m half-circle between B and E.  We also rode a large rectangle with quarter pirouettes, riding out of the 1/4 pirouette into medium canter on the long sides.  Again, the biggest challenge is keeping him thinking forward and in front of the leg in the turns.  Throughout all of this work, I was to keep him much more rounded into the outside rein.  Rather than checking the suppleness on the inside, she wanted me to check the suppleness on the outside.  Eventually he started to feel much more over the back and more reaching forwards/downwards towards the bit with a higher degree of reliability.  We finished with some basic trot work (shoulder-in and half-passes), which were much, much better after all the canter work. 
I have decided that every moron driver in California should be required to drive a truck pulling a heavy trailer through the Grapevine (the windy, steep mountain pass to get into Los Angeles on I-5) at least once a year.  I suspect most of these drivers have never driven a truck, much less one pulling a 10,000 pound trailer with horses in it.  Today was particularly bad (probably because it was Friday, and all the drivers were pissy that they weren't home yet??).  I was actually honked at by some f#$%$$ idiot in a Mercedes who had probably never driven anything more challenging than a Prius, because I evidently wasn't driving fast enough.  Seriously????  He's lucky I didn't have a deer guard on the front of my truck, otherwise I would've shoved his car up an embankment.
Idiot drivers aside, Lana and I finished our day at a fantastic Mexican restaurant right on the beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea.  Literally the Pacific Ocean is right across the street.  It was a busy place, but excellent food as is to be expected of Mexican food here in San Diego.  Not a bad ending to another beautiful day in San Diego.

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