Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Strapping on the life preserver

Wow, can't believe it's been almost 2 months since I updated the blog!  I've had QUITE a few good rides, I'm still riding Kiara every Wednesday and LOVING it.  I got to ride Trainer's CCI3* horse a few weeks ago ... NOT at the walk for an hour, but for an hour w/t/c.  He's coming back from an injury and has a very specific regimen of dressage stuff he's supposed to engage in on a daily basis, and I learned what it felt like to REALLY get a 17.1 hand horse trotting forward enough to a good dressage test.  Let's just say it's NOT Like hacking a hunter ;)

Did a few gymnastics over the last few weeks.  Cantered through 5 one strides with a placing pole; that was FUN, and good.  The jumps ended up around 3', so a fun ride.  Another gymnastic I did was trot a vertical with 5 placing poles; it began as 2', ended up at 3'6.  WOW!  She was amazing through it, as the jump got higher, I found I could really just sit still and she was right there for me.  The cantering gymnastic was trotting in; a placing pole to an x, one stride to a vertical, one stride to a TALL crossrail, 2 strides to another TALL crossrail.  She was actually pretty spooky, and I really had to work to help her make it through the distance AND keep her from getting wiggly.  Trainer didn't make the last big X an oxer since Kiara is a little ... um, FAT right now.  Besides, she was pretty looky-loo with those tall crossrails.

I titled my blog post "Strapping on the life preserver" because today I FINALLY zipped myself into my xc vest!  It has a belt that clicks in the front, and I always feel like I'm putting on a life vest, lol.  I've been riding for a year and a half at a fabulous facility with a FULL xc course, Intro to Prelim, but I've never ridden out on it.  I had a chance once, but it was knowing full well I'd have to be "beating" the horse over every jump, so I bowed out of that one.

2 weeks ago, I hacked Kiara down the course and rode her on the tracks between fences at a walk.  Holy heck, she felt like she'd spook and spin right out from under me pretty much every second of the ride.  She spooked at the tall mustard growing, the tall grass, the jumps, the wind, the rustling of leaves ... she felt VERY tense.  I kept at it until she FINALLY stretched down into my hands and took a deep breath.  Back to the barn we went.

Today, I showed up when trainer said to, only to be told I was supposed to be ON at that time, not just arriving.  Grrrr. So I had to run to the pasture, grab Kiara, knock the dirt off, and rush rush rush.  I worked myself up a little bit, because I'd hoped to somewhat zen out, but it was not to be.  To top things off, I could NOT find my neck strap, so I grabbed a loose stirrup leather and put it on, but it was much tighter that I typically like; however, it was better than nothing.

As we walked down, she was working HERSELF up, head up and snorting.  We made our way down, and she spooked at the other horse that was already down there throwing a hissy fit.  We made our way past the other horse, found a track that wound through the mustard, and picked up a trot.  We approached a series of jumps, and she spooked.  Approached more jumps, another spook.  Kept going, and she finally began to focus on the job at hand.  I made it all the way to the end of that particular lane, and had some room to work back and forth a little.  There was an Intro log right by the start box.  VERY tiny.  Walkable in fact.  So, we walked over it both ways.  She relaxed a little more.  Trotted back the other way with MUCH less spooking this time, turned around, and walked the log again.  No biggie!  Trotted over it both ways.  I snagged the neck strap just in case, but she hopped over with no drama.  Landed with a bit of a head shake and a crow hop, but came right back to me.  Walked over 2 more Intro logs on the way back, and she was starting to feel pretty good.

Made it back to Trainer who was at the smaller water complex.  She went over my position at the canter.  I had to bridge my reins, lean INTO her neck, move my stirrups more towards "home" position, and stand straight up to stop.  I felt VERY awkward leaning on her neck, but Trainer insisted this way allows the horse to just fall into rhythm and YOU not to pick and pull on the way to the jump.  Makes sense to me!  There was another tiny Intro log that we trotted over, and I worked on keeping my knuckles in her neck the whole time.  Strung together a baby hanging log, canter thru the water.  She CHARGED into the water w/out a single hesitation.  Trainer told me to go trot an Intro Palisade jump on a path we hadn't gone down and gave me the "rules" on the course for when a horse stops.  You clear it 3 times, and you GET THE JOB DONE.  I gulped a little, headed to the jump, and she was so busy spooking at the mustard that upon arrival at the jump, she popped her shoulder and attempted to canter right by it.  I pulled her up, put her nose right on the middle of it, and reapproached.  She hopped over it big and crow hopped on the landing side, but we were over.  Came again and it was better.  Came the 3rd time and no problem.

Strung together log at the water, turn and go thru water, over hanging log, then down over an arched Intro log about half way down my warm up lane.  She ate the distance to the log and b/c it was so small practically tripped over it.  After the hanging log, she tried to crow hop so hard that Trainer hollered at me to fix it, but I was so busy laughing I couldn't do anything about it.  Finished up by doing the hanging log into the water to a BN coop, then on around to a BN green painted roll top type jump.  Coming to the coop, I sat down, got in the "back seat", pressed my knuckles in her her neck, and she jumped it well despite being a little surprised.  The turn to the rolltop was a PERFECT spot for her to duck out to the right b/c it was off a left hand turn, but I sat back, growled, closed my leg, and OVER she went!  I walked her back to Trainer on a loose rein w/ LOTS of pats and praise, then we did that one more time for good measure.  The 2nd time, she was like a BEAST.  Flew over the hanging log, charged through the water, took the coop like a star, and was looking for the center of the rolltop.  GOOD GIRL! I had SO much fun, she was GREAT.  Pleased, proud, and excited to go out again soon!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fun with a single!

I had seen this exercise set up in the indoor before ... I just hadn't actually done it before!  It's called "The Diamond".  I'm sure we can add that little phrase after it ... "of death" ;).  At eventing barn, I've been riding Kiara.  She is so awesome, I just LOVE her.  In a lot of ways, she reminds me of Tiki (redhead w/ a mohawk), but other than the fact that she's comfortable to ride, she goes completely differently than he does.

She has a bit of a sensitive, (hysterical) side.  She has passing issues just like Tiki did; if you came at another horse head on, he would at LEAST raise/shake his head, at worst, panic a little and put on the brakes/give a little bucky buck.  Kiara, on the other hand, over-reacts.  To say the least.  At best, she will raise her head and put the brakes on; at worst, she slams on the brakes, sticks her head in your face, and spins/bolts.  Yeesh!  She's almost gotten me off 3 times that way, but I'm learning to tune in more to her body language if we're not alone in the ring.  I've been purposely working on the issue, and it is getting a little better, but she will still react fairly violently w/out much warning.

That being said, I warmed up in the indoor yesterday at the walk.  Way back when, when I rode her the first few times, she was pretty stiff in the jaw and had a hard time flexing at the poll.  Since that time, she now has not 1, but 2 owners, and the contact has become much more consistent.  So, I kept her in the bottom half of the ring due to another horse longeing, and I played around with moving her both directions laterally off my leg.  She came nice and deep into my hand, and really raised her withers and didn't worry about what was happening at the evil GATE.  Again like Tiki, she tends to lose her shape thru the transitions, so I worked some transitions and focused on maintaining that nice shape.  Trainer came out and set the single as poles; it's pretty self explanatory; it's a single vertical with 2 poles set as a diamond on both the take off and the landing side.  It was set in the short side of the ring.  The goal is to hit the center of all the poles on a figure 8, trotting in.  The poles went pretty well; it's an exercise that you will FAIL at miserably if you try to pull on the face too much.  It's an exercise that really encourages the rider to use leg/look to steer rather than trying to pull, because pulling creates bulging and crookedness; the point of the exercise is to be straight and balanced.

After a few circuits thru, up it went as a small vertical.  To add a level of difficulty, the distance is such that you trot in, so in addition to making a super tight turn, staying balanced and straight, you ALSO have to make a downward transition!  I was so proud of her; she focused in on the center of the pole and smartly bounced right thru and up and over the jump.  I worked on landing and NOT pulling, just half halting, balancing, and looking for my turn.  Once it was smooth, walked, and pole went up.  Rinsed and repeated, then walked one more time, then up once more on the height.  We finished up w/ the vertical at 2'9.  Of COURSE  I had to jump up her neck the first time at that height, but subsequent passes thru, I actually did really well w/ sitting tall and waiting on her.  She felt GREAT, trainer was pleased.  We then went with her to "babysit" one of the young sale horses in the 'new' outdoor; it's 200' by 325', so HUGE.  Kiara has been a little bit looky and spooky outside lately; not sure if it's a 'mare' thing, or if it's the winter season, or what.  I don't remember her being that silly out in the open.  There are no jumps in the outdoor, but there are dressage judging stands, combined driving obstacles within eyesite, and stacks of temporary wooden fencing piled around.  We got in some good circuits walking together, and Kiara only ran sideways once or twice, when trainer's dressage whip got a little too close.  Then it was time to go to work ...

As we separated and headed to our own ends of the ring, Kiara out of nowhere bolted forward, scooted her butt under her, and flung her head in my face; thank goodness for the running martingale I've thrown on her for this very reason!  She then ran sideways, I circled, she tried to bolt forward again, I circled, and I realized we were going to have to start VERY slow.  So, I walked tiny circles, then tiny figure 8's, then bigger, then bigger, until we were walking nice and calm around our entire half of the ring.  As I asked for the trot, we went BACK to tiny circles/figure 8's, and finally she began to breathe and relax and I didn't feel like she wanted to jump out of her own skin.  I VERY gently asked for a canter, again on a circle, and she was super.  Did that both ways, then ended with a trot around the WHOLE ring both directions (with quite a few calming circles thrown in, but she did it!)  Trainer and I walked one more lap side by side, and AGAIN she skittered sideways a few time (silly mare), but she was  a little more relaxed, so yay.

Haha, usually it's a Jade update that's so long, but I don't have much to report on her!  She was very good yesterday.  I worked her w/t/c on a LOOSE, loopy rein, and she was nice and receptive to that.  Picked up contact and worked over some poles, and again no issues.  Both leads were easy, the canter was pretty light, and I trotted her over some singles and she was perfect.  We did have an issue when I approached those dreaded wingless "stacker" standard things with a box under a crossrail; she stopped at that a few times, and when I got her over it, I THOUGHT she was going to stop again, so I hit her all in the back and mouth over it, so I got her thinking FORWARD and jumped a few other jumps, then came back to that one and she was good, so I ignored it from there.  Finished by trotting left to a tall crossrail, then turning left.  She likes to RUN to the right when I do that, so I just repeated over and over until she did it nicely.  It was a "good mare" day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Love this Cali riding weather!

If there's any type of "perfect" riding weather out there, Northern California is certainly it!  I have been very pleased with Ms. Mare the past few times I've ridden her.  There was ONE day where if I hadn't slapped on my neck strap b/c I thought I was going to jump her around 3', she literally would have spooked/spun me off multiple times, but that day seems to have been an anomaly, thank goodness.  A few weeks ago, she flatted up nicely and when I hopped her over the "wingless" box/gate/pole jump that was just ONE section higher than what she'd jumped before, that girl literally almost jumped me right off her back!  She was about a foot over the 3' box, TWISTED in the air, AND drifted left about a foot, all at the same time.  Whoa.  Lol.  I bravely tried it a few more times, and it was pretty bad every time, so lowered it back down the one level and she was fine.  Silly girl!

Today was the first day she'd been ridden in a week, as it's actually RAINED (yay) in Nor Cal.  The ring was still super wet, so I set up 3 9' canter poles up one long side, and set a single 2'6 vertical on the opposite long side.  On the vertical, I laid poles ON the rail, framing out a chute on both sides.  My goal was just to work on straight and simple today.  She again flatted up really nicely.  I did NOT put her in the roundpen, despite S's suggestion I do so.  I could tell her frame of mind was pretty workmanlike as I tacked her up, so I "risked" it!

I didn't wear spurs today, and honestly I felt like I needed them!  She was pretty quiet.  Honestly, when I started out, she felt just a little short strided.  She warmed up well, though, and I focused on lots of big loopy circles and lots of direction changes.  I focused on feeling her stay straight from her hips thru her shoulders, and tried to work on keeping a nice consistent rhythm, especially over the poles.  She was focused well.  When I jumped the vertical, I just trotted over it, and halted straight.  Sometimes I went over the poles, sometimes I didn't.  When I cantered the vertical off the right lead, she was super!  I cantered thru the 9' poles a few times, and she did great there.  The problems began/ended off the left lead going over the vertical.  That jump is set in her "booger" spot where she likes to hop and drag right, both before and after the jump.  Sometimes she's so awful there, I can't even GET her to the jump because she's cantering sideways to the right.

Today I had a little bit of an epiphany, and when she began to fall right, I took it down a level.  In the past, I may either leave that area, or get mad and start "beating her up" with my leg, or bridging my reins and trying to just out-muscle her (and we know how well THAT works!)  Today, I just took a step back, and trotted her in a big circle.  I could FEEL when she stiffened the jaw, bulged the shoulder, and began to drag.  I kept my cool, and I worked SUPER hard to connect to that right rein, NOT forcing her, NOT kicking with my outside leg, just gentle, patient circling.  I tried it at a canter when the trot felt good, and that was a bad, no go.  I went back to trot, cantering SOME of the circle, back to trot, over and over until she just DID it.  I then came out of the circle to the jump; she was quiet, she landed and tracked dead straight, halted well.  What a good girl!  I was very happy with her; I was pretty pleased with me, too :)

At eventing barn, I've been riding Kiara!  I hadn't ridden her since her new owners took ownership, but it's working out that neither one could ride on Tues/Wed/Thurs for the time being, so I've gotten to ride her!  I LOVE her, I've been having a GREAT time sitting on her ... I feel as at home on her as I do on Tiki :D  She's just flat out awesome.  Love my riding time!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's PAST time for a little update!

Well.  Sorry for the lapse in coverage lately!  I've been travelling to FL for work, and the time change has had me all tired as soon as I get off work.  I'm sure the time change hasn't been helping things either!  I've ridden a few tricky horses at Event Barn that a year ago, I would NOT have achieved good results on.  Still to this day I tend to go to my hands before I go to my seat, but thanks to Trainer, I've begun to slowly back away from pulling so much.  I rode a tricky dressage pony last week that kicked my butt!  He picks up this AWFUL half tranter thing that feels so yucky.  And when I put my leg on he just wants to canter.  And when I tried to hold contact, he just stiffened his jaw against me and went around like a 16.1 hand moose.  Ugh.  After about 10 minutes, I was actually really frustrated and questioning my ability to "ride ANYTHING on the flat".  These dressage horses really are MUCH different than the hunter rides I'm more used to.

Trainer was finally able to turn her attention to me and help me, so after about 15 more minutes, I was FINALLY able to get some semblance of a nice, round trot.  LOW hands, but still have elbows bent, shoulders back, LOTS of half halting, but NO pulling.  Wow.  I actually felt like how it feels to physically push a wheel barrow uphill while riding this horse.  I thought the feeling of PUSHING a wheel barrow on a horse was impossible.  Nope, in fact, when you're properly riding a dressage horse, you should ALWAYS feel like you're pushing a wheel barrow!  His canter was actually quite lovely, I had no problems with that; it's always that trot work that's hard for me to REALLY nail and do it perfectly correctly.  At the end, I felt like a tired, sore wet noodle, but I got pony going nice and forward and round, so it was all good:)

I've had some LOVELY rides on the mare, most notably after switching up her bit.  S ordered a litle 2 ring gag bit, and I slapped that puppy on my bridle ASAP.  Switched her from a running martingale to a standing with the gag because I've always thought pressure on a gag rein to bring a head down is silly.  Yes, I know you're supposed to thread just the snaffle rein through the ring, but with a 2 ring elevator, you ALWAYS have some gag action; it's not like a normal snaffle gag.  The standing has done it's job perfectly.  The one or two times she threw her head in my face, it kept her from smashing it, so I'm happy :)

Last week, I worked with Jade on counter canter for the first time.  I only did it on the long sides.  I practiced picking up correct lead/counter lead on the long side, switching up which one I wanted.  She got it 90% of the time, I was very happy with her.  I think her LH is getting stronger, because I used to have problems picking up her right lead.  I still do on occasion, but she's gotten better.  Got in some VERY good lateral work from her, as well as a bit of shoulder in.  I decided to break down the jump work for her and trotted virtually everything, circling inside the lines so we didn't have the shoulder bulge and drag, and EVERY jump was 2'6/2'9.  Height is NO problem for her, and the jumps don't bother her.  If I could just FIX her in between bulge and run off crap she'd be AMAZING to jump around.  Little gag bit worked GREAT and when she decided to land and bolt, I sat her on her BUTT so fast it made her head spin.  Finished up with a lovely track with good approaches, quiet landings and a great attitude.

Most recently, she flatted up nice and quiet so I threw in a few crossrails, which she took to beautifully.  Did NOT canter on the flat, just gradually progressed from random x's to a full course.  I cantered EVERYTHING.  We had one issue where we often have issues, coming left lead away from the in gate.  She bulges and drags right to the rail.  It's dangerous, it's stupid, I don't know WHY she does that.  So I kicked her butt to the point that she got upset every time we came around the corner and began hopping up and down so I just patted her, walked until she chilled, then jumped the jump  out of a trot.  I didn't venture to that spot any more, but I did have a few issues with jumping a line or 2 once she got tired.  Jumps the first jump great, just hauls and drags right on landing, never sighting in on the 2nd jump in the line.  So, I trotted in, cantered out after jumping in, circling right, jumping in, circling left, etc about 5 times so when I went straight ahead it surprised her and she was beautifully straight so I quit there.  LOVE the brakes, speed was not ever an issue.  Even though she can still frustrate the heck out of me, she is 148% improved over the mare she was a year ago.  I would LOVE to run her xc, I think she will LOVE it because at the BN/N level there's no need to worry about lines.  She can gallop in, gallop away, no worries.  It's currently on the bucket list :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Appreciating what you have

If I let myself think about it too much, I feel sorry for myself that I had to sell Tiki.  I love that horse, and I always thought I would get to keep him "until his legs fell off".  But I know I made the right decision when I get the pics and emails from his kidlet.  Let me tell y'all; they've competed T, and they're going to do a P CT in Dec or Jan.  WHOA!  I always wondered if the boy had the stuff for more UL, but I was too much of a chicken to find out.  It's beginning to look like he DOES :)  So I look forward to hearing about their T competitions, and the big P move up.  It's a match made in Heaven!

I feel so fortunate to not only have Jade to ride, but also to be sitting on SO many horses at Eventing barn.  I used to keep track of all the horses I'd ridden; I wrote their names on my tack box.  It was a never ending push for me to want to sit on EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING I could.  Then I got old and fat and didn't ride much, and when I finally bought my own horse, I found that ANY motivation to sit on anything else was gone.  Just for fun, I'm going to list the horses I've ridden at Eventing barn.  I'm pretty sure I've been there just under a year at this point.  In no particular order: (updated 11-30-14)
1.  Kiara
2.  Pluto
3.  Rusty
4.  Sky
5.  Jedi
6.  Kimmie
7.  Spellbound
8.  Luna
9.  Belle
10.  Hannah
11.  Partner
12.  Connor
13.  Puffin
14.  Whisper
15.  Ricky Bobby
16.  Patton
17. Puzzle

I think of what each and every one of these horses have taught me, and it makes me so happy to say I've had the opportunity to ride them!  And if Tiki had made the trip w/ me to CA like I'd originally planned, I probably wound not have sat on even half these horses!  I've learned how to FINALLY feel what it's like to have real, true collection.  I've ridden passage and piaffe.  I've felt a perfect flying change just by the shifting of my weight.  It's been amazing!  I hope things work out to where I continue to ride where I'm at for a long, long time.  I absolutely love my horsey life right now!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Positive Progress is always good :)

Well, Ms. Mare is making positive progress, as is the Muffin Man w/ his kidlet!  They made their first Recog. T debut this weekend, and finished a strong 6th place :)  Dressage score was a 32.5, then they had 3 rails in stadium.  I know from experience that if you're a little nervous, sometimes he hangs a leg and catches a rail, whether it's 3'3 or 2'.  Probably some nerves there, since she had not ONE rail in their T CT they did a few weeks ago.  Clear with a few seconds of time on XC.  Poplar Place has some scary looking T XC jumps, so to jump around clean is amazing!  That means Tiki man in ALL his Recog outings has only had ONE XC jump penalty, and that was at his very first one for both of us, and I can tell you for a fact that HUGE nerves were in play that day.  So proud!

As for Jade, rode her last Sat, and it was quite literally the very first time I ever approached every jump with a LOOSE rein.  Normally, I'm trying hard not to pull on her as we head into the jumps, but I definitely always have contact.  Last week, it was hands forward and kick.  So proud of her, that was a huge step in the right direction.  Jumped everything w/ a little bit of height, and she didn't care at all.  The one jump she actually gave a little bit of attention to was the little red box she's hopped over a few times.  I let her first steep crossrail oxer, and she didn't even LOOK at that one, lol.  I was expecting her to make a fuss at that one, but nope!

During her flatwork, I purposely came across a diagonal and asked for a change; a little late right to left, but PERFECT left to right; opposite of Tiki man!  I did just the one change each direction, then didn't ask for any more.  Lots of pats and praise.  Didn't get to ride at all Wed due to having to help my son get his school life organized, but I'm hoping this week is finally back to normal.  Excited to be making forward, positive progress w/ the mare :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Busy, busy, busy!

Love my smile here.  This was the first time I REALLY felt her trot to the base and rock back nice and easy:)
Life has been a little busy!  I've been working some overtime hours at work, and for Eventing Barn, we're about to put on our very first Recognized Event!  We've done several schooling shows successfully, now it's time to put our organizing skills to the test:)  As a result, my weekly Wednesday Eventing Barn trips have been show planning sessions vs. riding lessons which is a bummer.  I DID get to ride little baby adorableness Connor.  You have to scroll down the page a little bit to see his little grid video.  He is a lazy son of a gun!  I love his size though, exactly what I prefer.  He was the last one I rode, about 3 weeks ago.

Rode Ms. Jade last Sat.  She was pretty much a rock star.  She's been on the back burner as well until after the show b/c all my free time is spent planning, writing emails, trying to coordinate EVERYTHING on my one day off, but I have ridden her on my off Saturdays.  A few weeks ago, we did the grid and she was so amazing.  Last week, I decided to mix things up and canter.  A LOT!  I haven't been doing a LOT of canter with her, really it's been a lot of trot.  And her trot is MUCH better than Tiki's was.  (I say WAS b/c his new kidlet is out there scoring 32's in dressage, woot woot!!!)  She CAN get on the strong, quick side, but lately that tendency has been pretty much non-existent.

Anyway, I w/t her and she was good, so I picked up the canter.  All was well; her bulging and dragging on the flat has gotten WAY better, and she's learned how to respond reasonably well to a half halt.  So ... I cantered her to a jump!  Landed, circled, cantered some more.  She was so shocked, she backed herself off, lol :)  All in all, I spent about 12 minutes (I checked my watch) just cantering different jumps.  I cantered tall crossrails, the red box w/ a pole, a small brush box, a gate w/ a pole, and a vertical sitting about 2'3.  There was even a crossrail/vertical/vertical combo.  1 stride to a 3-4 stride.  Eh, that was just OK.  It was set heading STRAIGHT to the barn, and in the area where she likes to pop that shoulder at the last second and DRAG to the rail.  She quickened a few times through it, but also had a few really good moments. I had the 2nd vertical up at 2'3, the 1st crossrail was TINY, and the 3rd element was a 3'3 crossrail.  A little awkward, but overall not too bad.

Not going to lie, there were a few moments where I had to literally stick my right spur in her on landing, and I did have to really haul her around a few times turning left (that RIGHT bulge, ugh!), but for the most part I was very excited.  The jumps weren't an issue at ALL, it's now just working to improve the overall quality of the canter and eliminate that drag to the right once and for all.  The spooking has become very much a non-issue, and her work ethic has improved tremendously.  Very proud of the mare!  S will be taking her to her very first OFF grounds show next weekend :)  I'm very sad I'll miss it since I'll be working my tail off all weekend at Event Barn.  Until next time!