Sunday, December 30, 2012

LR is riding!

Sigh.  Inevitably Muffin ends up getting this time of year off EVERY year, despite me NOT doing it on purpose!  I just have SO much going on, the weather is SO sucky, and time is always of the essence.  I had full on intentions of riding Thurs/Fri, but he got shoes on Thurs.  Tiki ALWAYS is a little tender after getting his pedicure, so I never ride him the day of unless I can get on beforehand.  Not to mention the whole having to stand in one place and hold horses for 6 hours:(  I was a verified human popsicle at the end of it!

LR is coming out to do some dressage work today.  Thursday we're heading up to Calimar to get in some xc schooling!  I am so bummed lol.  Wish it were me riding, but LR needs to get a feel for the machine in his favorite phase:)  I will show up in breeches and boots, though, so I MAY hop on at the end and do one or two; there's this double barrel wagon jump there I wanted to try this go round; I've never been brave enough to try it, but I think now I will be!!  After our trip at May-Daze, I feel invincible but we haven't set foot on a xc course since then.  If they're going well, I may just have LR try it so I can just snap a pic:)

Anyways!  That's all here.  I used my Dover gift cards to buy ME something this time instead of Tiki man.  I got some new half chaps, finally!  I've been riding in my tall boots since I've lost at least a full inch off each of my calves, and I've been getting horrible rubs from my old half chaps.  Even my tall boots have grown; I used to have to use hay string to wrestle up the zippers, but now I just pull them up smooth as butter!  I can feel the extra room I have in there, but they still look really good on me.  Since those run $350, I'd prefer to keep them for shows, and just wear paddock boots and half chaps.  I want to buy him a plain jane loose ring single jointed snaffle, but all Dover had there was 5 1/4 up to 5 3/4!  Tiki really measures a 4 3/4.  He can swing a 5, but it's just a hair too wide for his delicate little mouth.  The other lr snaffles were double jointed, and I can honestly say I don't believe he likes that.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  It was great to spend time with my family, have THREE whole days 100% OFF to just stay home, and lots of good food to eat.  Got one more week of the kidlet staying home, which means early teaching days, which means Thurs will probably be the first day Tiki gets ridden other than today.  I MAY go BACK to his barn tomorrow after I teach and ride tomorrow, will just have to see how that works out.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter break ...

Tiki says Merry Christmas!!

Haven't ridden my boy this week.  Had a lovely lesson with Paul, then have let him sit all week.  Actually WAS going to ride on Wednesday, but I got bitten by Evil Kitty on Tuesday just as I was finishing up.  I mean, BITTEN.  Today is the first day I have been able to type with minimal pain:(  It is the worst cat bite I've ever experienced ... lesson learned!  NO MORE touching Evil.

Today it rained heavily all day (GOOD!)  Tomorrow I have to finish up an IEA show that began last Sunday.  This weekend is getting all cleaned up and ready for our Christmas company, so Thursday is the first day I anticipate sitting on my boy again.

On the up side, I stood on a scale for the first time since I began my weight loss journey, and I'm down 40.5 pounds!  Tiki should feel super!  So happy for my boy's back, and so happy I actually look halfway decent in a pair of riding pants;)

Got a few Dover gift cards, so will be getting Muffin a plain jane single joint loose ring snaffle; just have to find one skinny enough.  Anything else will depend on the final gift card count!  Thankfully, there's not much else I NEED (except a saddle pad, right?  Never mind I have 22 saddle pads and one horse).

Merry Christmas everyone!  Probably won't blog again until after the holiday, so hope everyone stays safe and enjoy your ponies:)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

3 lessons in less than 6 months??

I have set some sort of world record here!  3 lessons in less than 6 months, woo hoo!!  I rode with Paul again today and it was a GREAT day.  I had a private lesson, which was awesome.  I showed up a little frazzled; left Joyce's at 10:30, but didn't arrive at MSF until 12, which is when I was supposed to be ON!  At least he's always groomed and ready to go when I arrive.  I yanked him off the trailer, tied him to the side, dressed myself (of course, I had a hairnet malfunction), threw the tack on, and made my way QUICKLY up to the ring.

Thankfully, he was finishing up the group lesson before me, so I was able to hop on and breathe for a second.  Warmed him up on a loose rein, then as Paul came in I began some contact work.  He was moving all the jumps around and setting up exercises, so I tried to just work on being straight and on the aids.  He felt like crap!  In a never ending quest to fiddle around, I put on the xc bridle today with the waterford bit.  I think by now he equates that bit with XC!!!  So he was really all over the place and super fussy with his head and mouth.  I was NOT pleased with my little red head!

I warmed up for around 30 minutes while Paul got things set up, and finally he was ready for us!  First things first, we went on a 20 m circle like last time, but I had to go from a medium working trot/one or two steps of walk then RIGHT back to the working trot.  That was pretty tough and was an engraved invitation for me to throw him away in the contact (but I didn't!).  We then changed that to a working posting trot down to a sitting collected trot, and THEN it was canter/walk 1 or 2 steps ... that was ANOTHER invitation for me to make a mess of things but I did better than Paul thought I would lol.  I was pleased with both of us, we did good:)

He set up a pole exercise, a short one to a long one, 5 strides in between.  It was of COURSE off the right lead on the diagonal, therefore exposing that left bulge.  We cantered the long one first and of course I ran him at it and let him come in bulged.  We did just that one probably 5 or 6 times, just working on me straightening him with my left rein and slowing down everything!  When Paul was satisfied with our hunter-esque one stride, we moved to the short one which was very good.  The turn was much shorter so I worked on maintaining the rhythm through it; only had to do that one twice;)

Finally, we put them together.  Common sense said to do the short to the long; He was a little long in the 5 strides because I sat like a lump after the short, then chased him at the end.  Sigh.  Will I EVER learn??  Came a few more times until I SMOOTHLY opened him up RIGHT after the short and stayed steady.  He never struggled down the 5, it was always right there ... the long 1 ended up steady for me mostly:)  I think I surprised Paul again when I NAILED the long to the short.  I added a stride instead of trying to steady at the end; Paul agreed that was Tiki's best option.  I came into the long on a nice forward stride, then sat, "WHOA", and put in 6 perfect small strides.  I only had to go that direction 3 times, and Paul was happy:)

I feel bad, because he was building up some sort of line with an oxer with planks, and I mentioned I never do many lines, lots of singles and I struggle with his adjustability ... Oh Lord!  He stopped dead what he was doing, tore it all down, and rebuilt a new exercise:)  3 oxers, on a curve with a ground pole on both sides.  My job was to TROT in, canter out, downward to the trot, etc.  That was a HARD exercise.  Began to the right, and we did ok; he was a little bit all over, though.  Again and he was slightly straighter.  3rd time was the charm, we were very straight, prompt in the downward transition, and it flowed smoothly.  Paul was pleased!  Did it left twice and Paul went through and raised and widened all the oxers to a solid 2'6.  He also set a vertical about 2'9 in the canter of the ring and I had to canter that at the end.  Paul's corrections were to get him dead straight, be quicker in the downward transition, and HELP him more over the jumps.  He said Tiki jumped a little flat and weak; he was making it over them, but no thanks to me!  I put on my determined face, closed my leg and added a little cluck in there.  Tracking left was a little tough for us, but he finally finished satisfactorily.  I missed to the vertical a few times because I'd come out of the corner and get impatient OR I didn't have him straight.  I finally sat still, got him dead straight, and we nailed it a few times.  Paul let us finish through the oxers tracking right, and it was better.

That was the end.  I rode for an HOUR and a HALF:)  I feel like we worked harder today than last time, and last time we rode for 2 hours.  I enjoyed the challenge, I feel like Paul helped us a bunch, and overall I know I need to focus on straight and smooth.  Lots more changes within the gaits, and lots more adding and leaving out strides while keeping him rideable.  Love my boy, he was a rock star!  Wish I could ride with Paul on a weekly basis, I've REALLY had fun the last 2 times.  Oh well, got lottery tickets for tomorrow and Saturday;)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

SO glad the Muffin got a hair cut ...

LOVE his beautiful face!

3'3, perfect distance, perfect form from both of us!

Tiny fence, just cantering over

I really like this one too:)

For the last week, it's been 60's -70's.  This type of weather is not conducive to feeling the "Christmas Spirit", but it has been lovely riding/running weather!

Rode Muffin Man today for the first time since Sunday.  LR rode him on Sunday and did some good dressage stuff in the pasture.  She's been working on helping him to unlock through his back and really reach and stretch down into contact, but in a LIGHT way.  She's helped SO much on my downward transitions, Tiki really feels GOOD now and doesn't bear down so much on my hands when I ask him to come back to me.  He still doesn't stay round and connected through his poll, but that WILL come, I know it!

Today I slapped on the cc saddle and the "hacking" bridle, and up we went!  I was feeling ambitious, so I set up a cav line at a "normal" 5 strides (which would ride long for the teeny little 12" cavs), and a gymnastic down the center of the ring.  I set 3 trot poles, a bounce with 2 tall crossrails, a pole, and a wide oxer.  To begin with, it was just the trot poles, one crossrail, and the rest were poles on the ground to start.  I didn't realize it, but the "wide" oxer I had set on the ground was actually 4' wide!

I decided NOT to do the Jimmy Wofford warm up, and I actually did spend some time flatting.  What I took away mostly from riding with Paul MacRae is that I always need to make sure he's going forward, and I need to watch that subtle left bulge.  So, I spent some quality time walking on contact, reversed through a turn on the forehand (totfh).  Once I picked up the trot, I just shot him out in front of my leg, then worked on steadying and lengthening the stride.  I went a few laps, then worked a 20m circle at the center of each side; both the long and short sides.  I then halted, totfh, same thing the other way.  Halt/totfh, canter ... canter the 20m circles like I did at the trot both directions.

Holy smokes, the entire last half of this post got eaten:(  OMG, I don't want to type it all out again!!!

To paraphrase a little bit, I alternated 6, 5, and 7 strides in the cav line.  I was careful of the left bulge, and even though he DID it, it wasn't perfect any of the times I did it in terms of softness and obedience.  He did the 7's off both leads, but it was a resistant feeling 7.  The 5 was a 4 1/2 at one point because he got SO flat, but then I did the 7's to get him bouncy again.

The gymnastic, I alternated coming in left then right each time.  I approached in 2 pt each time, and he was not bad.  Stayed pretty straight, kept a good rhythm, and he didn't let me down.  I could feel him reach big time over the "ditch"!  That was a good challenge for him:)  I set the gymnastic gradually, doing first the other crossrail, then the oxer.  The oxer I wimped out on and moved it in 1'!  It was too wide; I was afraid that without a 3rd pole on there, he would put a leg down and "swim" through it.  Coming in, he tried to canter, got tangled up in the trot poles, and took out a crossrail with a hind leg hard enough to land 3 legged.  Good pony though, he didn't try to stop or run out!  I let him walk off the sting, then came again.  He surprisingly came in very well, and bounced his little red butt through no problem!  The last time through, I concentrated on ALL things I've been working on.  Heels DOWN/following hand (per Paul)/body controlled (per Simon)/ no bulge (P) no drift (S) ... felt super!  I could feel him really jump UP over the oxer and use himself, so for that I was happy.

LR will ride this weekend, I will do hills in the draw reins tomorrow, and life is good!  Thank heavens for clipped ponies!  He would have been a disgusting mess otherwise:)

Friday, November 30, 2012

MUCH needed fun afternoon!

Pic from Jeff Cook in '10.  Got pics coming from today...soon!

Wow, I actually made some DIFFERENT mistakes.  My biggest one?  Seems I'm neglecting to get my horse good and truly straight.  Began with a light w/t/c on a loose rein to get warmed up, then we got going on contact.  We had to stay on a circle slightly smaller than 20m, and Paul wanted to see a uniform bend through the body and MORE TROT!  He wasn't too fussy about where he wanted Tiki's head, just that "A jumper should always be in front of the leg".  As we reversed through the center of the circle, Paul admonished me to keep the rhythm and not let him drop behind my leg through the smaller reverse circle.

Did a BRAND NEW exercise today; a counter bend on a circle.  Paul got onto me about looking in the direction of the bend, I was to look where I was GOING and keep my hands to the inside of the circle.  We gradually decreased the size of the circle, then was supposed to change to inside bend and gradually increase the circle back out.  I misunderstood "gradual" and changed his bend too slowly.  I am to change the bend immediately after putting on the leg.  All of that was well and good, and we moved on to the first exercise.

There was a diagonal line set up of 3 sets of jump standards with the poles set as chutes along the diagonal.  This was the R-L diagonal.  The L-R diagonal was a single pole on the ground, then there was 5 trot poles straight ahead to a bounce of crossrails on the right outside line.  The exercise was to trot straight through the chutes, trot over the single pole.  Simple enough!  Tiki did that well with the exception of just trotting the pole on the ground lol.  He wanted to hop over it, no surprise.  Second time through, we were to trot/halt in each chute, trot between them.  Trot over the single pole again.  He did that great, thank YOU LR for helping me work those transitions!  My job was to keep the rhythm consistent and forward:)

Next exercise, he placed the pole up as a small vertical.  We had to canter in to the first chute, halt.  Left lead canter to the third chute, halt.  Right lead for a few strides, then downward transition to the trot, trot the jump.  I did well with that other than getting the left lead between the 1st and 3rd chutes!  Doh!  I couldn't even feel he was on the RIGHT lead.  I felt like my trot jump was decent, and I just did a long crest release so I didn't catch him in the mouth should I happen to get left (as per usual during the warm up trot fence).  Paul actually gave me quite the lecture about giving too much release and completely abandoning the contact.  It makes perfect sense, short story is he wants me to NOT release with a huge loop in the reins.

Next exercise was to turn chutes 1 and 3 into 2'  verticals 5 strides apart.  He raised the single up to like 2'3.  I told him about Tiki's propensity to canter on 2 leads in "fresh" situations, and sure enough, he did!  The first time through, I trotted in/cantered out in a 7 because he landed on 2 leads, I came through the super short turn to the single and bulged left too much, then trotted the trot poles/ cantered the bounce.  My corrections were to have more canter in my turns, get my horse straighter through his body and transition to the canter sooner after the trot poles.

Second time through we got 6 even though (again, as per usual) I "chased" him in the final strides.  I also "chased" him to the short turn, but the trot poles to the bounce was better.  I had a bit of a breakthrough in that I'd put Tiki in a little bit of a "bulge" cycle.  Coming through that tight right turn to the single, I kept letting him go left because I kept seeing an extra stride and I was fitting it in.  Paul said I was probably seeing the extra side BECAUSE I was allowing the bulge in the first place.  Makes sense!  He set some guide poles to help me straighten up, and lo and behold we got some nice forward but correct distances.

Final exercise was to canter the single, canter the line in 5, canter the bounce, trot the poles.  Tiki did that well, I made sure to get him straight through the turn to the single, and it kept getting better when I didn't allow that bulge at ALL.  I got down the 5 early and it was good, and he had no problem trotting out after the bounce.

At the end, Paul set up 4 poles to help us with the l-r lead change.  It was 2 poles set longwise with 2 poles raised up for me to canter OVER.  They were roughly 7-8 feet apart.  I was to canter up to the poles and ask for lead change like normal.  It really helped!  The first few times I AGAIN allowed the left bulge and he ended up on 2 leads, but after Paul set another guide pole to help me get straight, all of a sudden Muffin was doing clean changes.  At that point, we were done, but my riding parter in crime told him I'd REALLY wanted to do some bigger jumps.  Paul said I could if I wanted.  I said I would love to do something at 3', but I didn't have to.  He set the first jump of the line up at 2'9, and I cantered in on a lovely flowing canter, kept my hands up, shoulders back, seat light, and I saw the perfect distance.  He floated over it, I kept a nice following hand, and Paul was pleased.  He put it up 2 holes and I came again.  Again, saw a perfect distance, and I didn't sit up QUITE as quickly as Paul would have liked.  Lol, the difference between hunters, jumpers, and eventers!  That's the only pit fall with riding with ALL THREE types of trainers lol:)  I came one more time and sat up quicker after the jump and Paul and I were both happy.

At the end of the day, despite being EXTREMELY distracted and stressed out, I'm super happy with both my own riding and concentration, and Tiki's behavior.  He's never been to MSF before, and he was perfect. I'm SO glad I clipped him because he was definitely sweaty at the end.  Did his usual head nodding/right hind kicking/add behavior.  Sigh.  He's such a red head!  And on another good note, the boy has decided the last few times he's been anywhere that self loading is cool.  All I've had to do is point him in, throw the lead rope over his neck, and in he goes!  At least that is one less thing to worry about:)  Moving forward, I have no plans.  LR will do a BN with him, we will both continue to work on the fluidity and quality of his flatwork, I will take them xc schooling at Calimar, and hopefully will get back to SC to take a lesson from Carolyn some time soon.  Thanks for reading, hope these write ups are informative!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Light work and a pending clinic ...

LR rode the Muffin on Sunday and has been working on unlocking his left side.  It's weird; normally he's super soft on that left side and much more stiff to the right, but it seems his body has switched things up.  I actually followed through and clipped him on Monday, yay!  So in 4 years I did a 'chaser clip in Feb of '09, a full body clip in Oct '10, a full body clip in Feb of '12, and now here in November an actual trace clip.  I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, but I messed up and went too low down on the hind legs.  On the fronts, I followed the natural line of his muscles but that line wasn't as well defined on the hinds and I got a little clip crazy.  Oh well!

It did it's job beautifully because it was a balmy 60 degrees and SUNNY today, and I asked the boy to give me some good work.  I warmed up with a very light medium contact at the walk, and did a lot of circles both directions, concentrating more than usual on using my legs and seat to bend him.  I kept my hands 5-6" apart, elbows bent, and shoulders back.  I called upon an old Practical Horseman article with Anne Kursinski where she talks about "have a conversation with your horse", "tickle" him with the spur, squeeze the fingers, and see where the horse is.  I could literally feel his jaw soften, his body stretch and bend, and his topline relax.  I shortened my reins a little more for the trot transition, and moved up to the trot.

He felt very good; I circled, did a shallow serpentine, trotted over low 9' bounce cavs, and worked on maintaining absolute straightness.  The BO at MSF where I'm taking Tiki tomorrow to ride with Paul says he's fanatical about riders not looking down.  Fortunately, that's not one of my (many and varied) bad habits, but I did practice a lot of trot/walk/trot/halt/trot/etc., and kept my eyes up and forward the whole time.  I dropped my stirrups and sat the trot for a few laps, working on shoulder-in, straight, haunches-in, circle.  I did that a few times and asked Tiki to relax during the h-i because he got a little tense and scooted some.  After that felt smooth and relaxed, I picked my stirrups back up and cantered.  He felt MUCH better than last week, where he resembled a hairy, red freight train;)  Today he felt soft and quiet; in fact, he was almost too quiet!  At times, the canter was very nearly a tranter so I "tickled" him with my spur and he picked it up a little.  I did a counter canter, a few late and tense lead changes, and cantered through the 9' cav poles.  I cantered up the quarter line, and trying to turn before he sped up, I turned into the rail, stepped out, and got a clean change both directions so I quit there.

Excited about tomorrow, hoping for some useful and productive input.  Yay for beautiful weather!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Paul MacRae

Oxer Farm, Dec of 2010!

Excited to have another lesson coming up.  This one is with a local trainer Paul MacRae.  He used to be the pro rider/assistant trainer for GP rider David Raposa, so excited to hear what he has to say.  After this lesson on Friday, I want to take Tiki out to Southern Comfort (where the Simon Eades clinic was) to take a lesson every other month or so from the owner there, Carolyn Wright.  My dressage trainer likes her.  I have easy access to Susan (just across the street!) but not to a jump trainer.  I fully plan to do May Daze again at the KHP this year, but other than that, nothing planned except for LR's beginner novice.  Yes! She's going to do her FIRST HT on the Muffin Man.  Super excited, I will play groom and nervous pony mom, but I will WATCH my horse rock it out around all 3 phases.  Most likely doing a Feb HT at a venue I've been DYING to ride at, but for now will just have to live vicariously ... Poplar Place.  Of course there will be a full report complete with course walk and lots of pics of the muffin in action, can't wait!

Last week I rode very minimally; did a jump school on Monday where I set up 3 bounces on one long side using the cavalettis, an end vertical set at 2'3, and an outside combination of vertical with a barrel under it, pole, low wide oxer.  Now, the low wide oxer should theoretically not look very intimidating, but put that sucker at 2' and make it 3'7 wide with a pole placed diagonally over it ... it looks BIG!!  Lol.  All oxers look big to me;)  I need to set up a triple bar, haven't done one of those in a while.  I kept him up in front of me and moving forward off my leg.  Did the "Jimmy Woffard" warm up where I did 2 laps of trot each way, 2 laps of canter each way, jump!

Began by trotting the end vertical.  He doesn't take me down to trot jumps at home.  I always feel like I have to nag him incessantly, but I worked on staying in the rhythm, not getting ahead of him, and  keeping my leg on.  It went well.  I jumped it 3 times off the left lead and 3 times off the right, staying on a 20m circle.  He actually landed at the trot a few times, but I didn't stress about it.

Let him look at the oxer from both directions.  Came at it barrel side first, and it was of course NOT a good jump.  He backed off the barrel coming in, struggled to get over the pole in the right striding, then stood way off from the oxer, ewww.  I of course slipped my reins so I didn't catch him anywhere and came straight in again, and this time it was GOOD.  The oxer felt easy as pie, no problem.  The distance between the oxer and barrel was 18', with the pole set in the middle.  Trotted into the bounces and tried NOT to "help" him with my hands.  I went through the obstacles many times, including turning around the oxer/barrel.  The first time coming in oxer first, I missed to the oxer and got super long (no surprise).  Came again and it was good.  I was conscious of the left drift and made sure he stayed straight, at the end of the school I was happy with him.

Did one last ride with honorary little sis Nicole, a dressage school.  She's currently settling into her new apartment with her new husband in the Bronx, NY:(  I will be keeping her ponies looking not too shabby, and hopping on once in awhile to keep them doing SOMETHING.  I will miss that girl, she is a very good friend.  She's the only one that I've even SEEN in the last ... 4+ months.  Oh well, all things happen for a reason!  The ride was very meh.  I wasn't very focused, Muffin wasn't very focused, and he felt stiff as a board.  Got the trot work flowing pretty ok, and then he felt like a freight train through the canter work.  Oh well, doing something is better than nothing, right?

I will do a trace clip tomorrow, and ride Tues and Thurs before shipping out to MSF on Friday for the Paul clinic.  Pics and a full report will of course follow!!:)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Back to work!

Sun not completely up before the Simon clinic

I had to come down off my "clinic high" and get back to doing fundamentals.  Thursday was a dressage day, and he worked very well.  I did lots of 20m circles, lots of shallow serpentines working on wrapping around my legs, and trotted him several times around a "circle of death" of poles.  I reversed direction over the 3 cavaletti trot rails, and first time through he did knock them, as usual.  I threw in LOTS of downward transitions, and lots of lateral work.  Our canter work felt VERY forward, but I kept him in hand, and he ended up well.

Friday I decided to walk hills, but I put on the draw reins to do so.  We worked UP, down, halt, back, back up and repeat.  He was a little reluctant to go FORWARD, but I got him there.  I decided to work him for a few minutes in the flat part of his pasture up by the back fence.  Historically, he's BAD right there.  He's not focused, the cars make him crazy, and he tries to be a wiggle worm.  But ... I've never ridden him up there in draw reins.  He felt GOOD, he was straight, and I had a lovely w/t/c both directions.  I even asked for a r to l lead change, and he threw it out there cleanly!  He felt superb in the draw reins, I'm glad I decided to slap them on.

LR is going to do some good dressage work tomorrow, and then I plan to do some low gymnastics on Monday.  Only 2 weeks from our clinic with Paul McRea!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Simon Eades

There's not a whole lot of info out there on the web about Simon Eades.  Pretty much the only info I could find was, 1. he's British, and 2. he's an eventer.   Wow.

The lesson was WONDERFUL.  It was one of those days where he said EXACTLY the same thing Jeff Cook and Janet have said to me, but in the way of great trainers, said it just a LITTLE bit differently that caused it to resonate with me.

He began with asking my history.  I loved the way he actually crouched down and looked up at Tiki, just wheels turning in his head.  He scrutinized our tack and Tiki's body, but didn't comment on anything.  I told Simon our history, then off to work!  It was only an hour and I was riding with 2 other people, but I got on 35 minutes before the lesson.  I wanted TONS of time to get him loose and settled.  Southern Comfort has a wonderful full indoor ring, and a field out front with a fair amount of stadium jumps set up.  I worked in the indoor, then took him outside and hacked between the pastures.  He met a sheep for the first time (ok), and met a baby cow for the 3rd time or so.  He SO wanted to run away from said cow, but I talked him into standing still.

I equipped the muffin with ear plugs, his hat to help keep them in, the wonder bit, and the 5pt sans martingale attachment.  As a last minute decision, I carried a crop and put on my xc neck strap, just in case.  Strangely enough, the trot in the indoor after a long hack through the pastures was GREAT.  It was big, forward, and slow.  YES!  Moved to the outside, and after watching Tiki for a few minutes Simon said he was NOT a bad mover, just full of himself:)  Yep, I concur!  Asked if I do a lot of "long and low" with him.  When I said "yes", Simon said "stop".  Haha.  He explained that Tiki needs to be ridden like a jumper, and needs to come up into a frame and sit down behind.  He wants to be too flat and pull along with the front end vs push from his rear.

Is this a surprise?  NO.  The first exercise was a crossrail to 4 bounce poles.  Worked well!  We had to trot in up a pretty good hill, and I was fighting with finding and maintaining the perfect trot.  Simon gave us some great corrections, such as telling me to SLOW DOWN MY BODY.  Gee, I've never heard THAT one before.  Simon gradually built up the gymnastic so that there were 5 bounces in a row.  We trotted in each time, alternating direction coming in.  The jumps were all low verticals after a crossrail coming in.  I was having trouble keeping the trot the right pace.  He wanted to get a little up and down, and Simon had me circle a few times to get the right trot going.  He explained there's as FAST as Tiki wants to go, as SLOW as I want to go, and the middle is the right speed.  Alrighty!  Makes sense:)

I got a little left behind with the hands once, and he told me to make sure to release, but sit more in the middle instead of in front of him.  Simon called me out on allowing Tiki to drift left through the gymnastic, and for keeping too much of a feel the last time through and "helping" him slow down.  He is a big believer in get the horse TO the gymnastic, then let them figure their way through it.  After going through a few more times with it set as the 5 bounces, he changed it up.  Trot in crossrail, pole, vertical, pole, ramped oxer.  The vertical was about 2'6, and oxer the same.  He whacked the oxer coming out, and Simon wanted me to just sit back a little more in between the jumps.  Raised them up until the vertical was about 3', and the oxer 3'3.  He went through well, then we made a left hand turn to a scary blue gate thing with a giant 'x' across the front and pole on top.  It was downhill, and about 2'9.  One of the riders had to canter it, one had to trot it, and I got to pick.  I was PLANNING to canter in.  I was so slow that as he came up to it, he broke to the trot.  I made a snap decision just to ride it at the trot.  I got hugely complimented for giving him a "perfect" ride.  Whoops!  Guess I played it off well;)

Our final exercise was to raise and widen the oxer again, square it up, then adjust the pole to get him in a little deeper to it.  Holy.  Shnike.  That was the most giant oxer I think I've ever jumped in my life.  Regular readers of my blog know that oxers aren't my favorite of jumps to jump, so I tend to avoid them unless I'm giving myself a butt kicking.  I grabbed my neck strap trotting in to the crossrail just in case.  I was so preoccupied with not dying that I forgot to RIDE, and I allowed a HUGE left drift.  He jumped the oxer GREAT, but off to the left.  Simon told me to do it again and, "Get Bloody Straight This Time".  Came in again, stayed straight, sat back and closed my leg after the vertical, and the oxer felt AMAZING.  Right lead turn to another 3'ish vertical down hill, and he jumped it perfect.

Simon was very complimentary of Tiki.  His comments were,
"Cute horse"
"Got plenty of jump there, doesn't he?"
"I'd imagine over 3' he finally starts to jump HALF WAY decent"

Overall, the final remarks were to stop with the long and low, and really attempt to jump from the deep one as often as possible.  Tiki jumped the giant oxer great; Simon said his shoulder was up, his knees were up, he was square, and pretty much perfect.  After Tiki jumped the final vertical, Simon said, "THERE'S your reward!  He jumped that perfect.  Rocked back, lifted up correctly, and showed good form".  He also said he didn't like that the jump had to get so big before he finally showed good form.  He would rather I send him through a small gymnastic, and use a 2' oxer to get that front end up instead of a 3'6ish+ I have no idea how big it was oxer:)  It was at LEAST 3'6.  And WIDE.  And SQUARE.  The other horses jumped back through one more time as well, but Simon had ramped it again.

I felt really, really good.  I think he genuinely liked my horse, he had nothing negative to say about my position, just slow it down and stay back a little more.  One of the girls rode with a very round back and Simon told her to "Take some lessons from Jen!  She wouldn't let any of her students ride around like that!"  Felt good:)  I will 1000% ride with him again, I got a lot out of it.  He thinks Tiki has all the jump in the world, I just have to ride him right and get him to jump up and over rather than AT the jump.  Our next outing is at MSF with Paul McCrea.  That should be interesting!  This one will be more of a clinic style lesson, lasting 2 1/2 hours.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


The picture I was snapping when Muffin decided to get away from me

My dad's birthday was on Halloween and now my husband's is today (Nov 1)!  Funny.  Not a WHOLE lot going on on the Tiki front right now.  Last week, I was battling both a huge half chap rub and a super sore hip flexor, so was completely unmotivated to ride.  The only day he came out of his stall during the day was on Friday when Lovely Rider came out to ride him.  She schooled in the dressage tack and did some figure 8's over low cav trot rails.

Rode yesterday in the huntseat tack.  Decided just to hack up in the ring.  He started out unbelievably stiff.  This is the time of the year he starts to feel that way.  Mon/Tues had horrific wind gusts as well as suddenly cold temps (Friday I turned the stall fans on, Monday I was literally wearing 5 layers), so he was slightly grouchy to have his nice warm sheet off and be out working.  I stayed super soft and light and eventually he relaxed and started to lift through the back and slow the rhythm.  I too trotted him through the cav trot rails, and for the first 20 minutes he felt horrible through them, losing rhythm, tripping, akwardly trying to leap over 2 at once ... you get the idea.  I didn't drill on them, just would 20 m circle, reverse, spiral, go do the trot rails.  I had no real plan, just keep moving and get him to LOOSEN UP.

Spent a LOT of time on the 20 m circle both directions, and he was feeling better and better.  LR has obviously been working on downward transitions, because they are MUCH improved.  Our canter transitions were pretty darn nice too, and I went back to the trot afterwards and all of a sudden the trot rails were perfect!  No change in tempo, no whacking of the feet, just a perfect trot through:)  Spiraled in and out and he felt not too bad in those.  Cantered twice over poles set on the diagonal, and each time he gave me a picture perfect lead change through them, so I stopped there.

Today we actually did trot sets; haven't done those in quite awhile.  Went into the usual pasture, and trotted 8 mins to the left, 2 mins of canter (and maybe 45 seconds of huge, flowing, lovely gallop).  2 mins of walk, then reverse and repeat.  I have NEVER.  And I repeat, NEVER gone all the way through trot sets without feeling the strain in either my upper back, quads, or both.  Also, I definitely feel it in the lungs right before the walk break.  Today, I felt NO strain whatsoever, from anywhere.  No hard breathing, no fatigued muscles, just good balance and soft hands.  Tiki breathed a little; I think he needed the little bit of fitness work.  His neck and saddle area were nice and sweaty, but he felt good and spunky the entire time!  I REALLY need to buy me some clippers (again) and body clip him.  He's grown in a pretty good fur coat already and normally he really doesn't.

Tomorrow I will do a dressage school, and LR is going to come out and video us so I can post some more video.  I'm not sure if she will ride this weekend, but I hope she rides at least one day:)  Next Sunday is my friend Nicole's wedding, and also a lesson with Simon Eades if it's early enough in the morning.  Hoping for a 9:00 lesson!  I'm super excited to take an ACTUAL JUMPING LESSON from a real eventing trainer.  My boss is awesome for jumping lessons, but she endlessly tries to get us to be more hunter-like ... which we NEED ... but a lesson from an actual jumper/eventer trainer is much needed!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

And life goes on!

This has been a fairly busy week for me; lots of lessons which is SO GOOD:)  Maybe between the extra lessons and the IEA shows I can find a few extra dollars to do something horsey-fun:)  I'm going to have to spend a LITTLE money buying some new clothes.  I have lost more weight than I think I've really realized.  Looking at some pics from today vs exactly one year ago, it's quite apparent!

And back in May ...


As an aside, I TOTALLY hate that no release with the long reins thing I do sometimes.  I think this pic is much better!
My favorite cavaletti stack oxer!

For comparison's sake, this is the video of Tiki and I schooling at Patchwork about a week before May-Daze:

And this is he and I schooling at home!  I think this is the first video I actually have of us jumping at home:)  It rained a bit last night/early this morning, so the footing was pretty perfect:)

LR is to thank for the pics and video!  She actually rode him yesterday, and this is what she had to say:

"Tiki was SO good today!  I rode him in the close contact saddle and his hacking bridle.  I set up 2 "circles of death" that met over the same cavaletti in the middle and had 2 other cavs at either end of the ring so the circles alternated between cavs and poles.  We had a few REALLY good moments warming up where he really broke over nicely and was nice and soft everywhere else.  I started out just doing a circle of death to the left and did that a few times til he settled in and then did a few to the right.  It was either a short 6 or long 5 between elements.  I started out making him do the 6 since he wanted to dive and rush a bit for the 5.  The few times I let him go for the 5 early on, obviously set us up poorly for the turn, and his cute little head would get frustrated and then he would toss it a bit!  I then combined the 2 circles so I had him going on a figure 8.  The 6 started getting increasingly difficult for him, and all of a sudden we were doing 5's everywhere in the SAME RHYTHM as we had started with the 6's!  It was LOVELY!  I just sort of let him figure out the changes for the turns.  I would help him if we went around more than one turn on the wrong lead but at the end he threw some really nice changes when we changed direction!  Nice and challenging, but he worked well!"

Today was pretty dang good!  LR fit right into my lesson plan for the week, but when I had the opportunity to get some video/pics I couldn't resist a jump school!  I warmed up pretty quick; the only thing I did that was "tricky" was a leg yield:
This is the first time I've actually SEEN us do one.  I think for not being in a nice frame, not really all that supple yet, and me not really taking my time, they're not too bad!  I began to jump, and the first go round (which is where all the pics are from) was pretty lack luster.  I tried to keep a pretty slow "huntery" rhythm, and he got quite deep several times.  He just wasn't really going FORWARD.  I was riding him in the wonder bit today, and he just had no desire to really take me to the fence.  As a result, I felt pretty meh about our efforts.  After giving him a break, I went again with LEG this time.  That's the 2nd video I posted.  I'm pretty happy with it!  He was more forward, he was happier to take me when I revved him up a little, and all our distances were completely acceptable.  Let him rest again, then came around one more time and with the exception of the 3 stride line the first time, it wasn't bad.  I liked our other round better, though.

Muffin was wonderful, tomorrow we will do hills, and in about 3 weeks we're going to do a jumping lesson with Simon Eades!  My dressage trainer took a dressage clinic with him and REALLY enjoyed it.  He's coming back in Nov, and I can't resist the opportunity to take a jumping lesson with him.  It's even $20 cheaper than the dressage lesson!  Woo Hoo:)

Hope everyone has had a great week and you've all been ODing on the live feed of the National Horseshow from Harrisburg!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Hoping for a nice xc school soon ...

So ... I learned the feeling of watching my horse go for a nice little gallop ... down the driveway ... and out onto the main road:(  I was TERRIFIED.  I learned a valuable lesson though ... NO picture in the world is worth losing my horse permanently.  I had let go of the reins to snap a quick pic like I've done literally hundreds of times over the last 4 years and he decided to just mosey away.  When I walked after him to grab the rein, he decided to stick that tail up like an Arab and take off.  He made it as far as Susan the dressage trainer's driveway, then turned around and started to trot back towards me.  I am still thanking God that Tiki didn't continue on down the LONG rural highway lined with thousands of acres of land, AND that the normally busy road was quiet as a mouse for once.  When he realized I was trying to catch him, the sh!+ head tried to spin and bolt, but slipped on the slippery asphalt and I was able to reach out and grab that rein.

I marched his little red butt up to the ring, and whacked him with the longe whip to get him running.  Wanna run?  OK, you do it when I TELL you to do it.  I cracked the whip a few times to keep him going while I dragged out some poles to throw down for a quick pole course, and when he stopped to just stand like a statue, I ignored him while I walked some distances.  By that time my racing heart had calmed and my anger had subsided, leaving me with that desire once again to have that "Black Stallion" bond with my horse.  I've said it before; I wish Tiki and I had that fairy tale bond where he comes up and places his head on my shoulder and we communicate telepathically.  Lol.  At best, he is tolerant of attention lavished on him.  At worst, he's a downright prickly horse that would prefer to do his job, then just be left alone.  It hurt my feelings when I called him sweetly and walked up to him FULLY expecting him to stop and come to me and he DIDN'T.  Not only did he NOT come to me, he took off and ran up the $^*%^&^** road!  Oh well, at least we're pretty in sync most of the time when I ride him.  Despite his misadventures, he was good to ride.

The trot was pretty forward considering he'd been running for awhile; it felt really good.  I was using the Myler D with the plain cavesson (his old dressage bit) and he was perfectly lovely.  I did a "hunter hack" type ride using minimal contact and collection.  He was super soft, had an easy flexion at the poll, and I couldn't feel any of the usual tension across his topline.  The canter was lovely and I hadn't even broken a sweat trying to keep him slow and easy ... he was doing that all by himself!  Had 3 cavs on the tallest setting at 18' apart, 2 inside single poles, and a bounce to a 3 stride, poles on the ground.  I cantered around the poles in my 2-pt, keeping that hunter metronome rhythm every where.  I tried not to leave long anywhere, and I REALLY worked to keep the 18' one strides slow and rhythmic.  When I cantered into the first, he took the one stride over the second, then bounced the third!  I began to keep a feel on his mouth over the cavs and he finally took a SLOW one stride instead of getting tense and quick.  Quit there.

Yesterday I moved the cavs to 21', set the bounce/3 stride as offset single poles 9' apart (a little spooky looking), 3 quiet strides (6' short) to a 2'9 vertical, and the 2 inside poles each got half the coop.  I haven't done a "super skinny" in a while, figured it would be good for him!  Flatted him just like on Thursday, little contact, low frame, slow and easy.  Cantered all the jumps, and he looked hard at the first section of coop but jumped it fine, and jumped well through the spooky offset poles.  His canter was a little slower through the 21' one strides, but it still got flat and quick.  I attempted to go around with lead changes, but he either counter-cantered, or cross cantered, so I went back to walking every time I needed a change.  I went around and around until I was satisfied it was a hunter-worthy course.  The first few times he would get a little quick, a little long at some, deep at others ... found my consistency though, and he ended up quite well.

Only got in 2 days this week, and LR is home this weekend so NOT riding Muffin in other words;)  Will get in his 3 days next week, definitely a dressage school, definitely HILLS, probably a no stirrup day.  Doubtful I will jump next week, probably just do poles again when I do my no stirrup day.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Loving life!

Our group; 6 of us!
The requisite trailer pic

Long uphill

A JUMPIC pic?  It's bad, but it's real!

I had a GREAT ride on Squeaky today:)  I had a GREAT ride on Squeaky yesterday:)  I almost had to create a blog post yesterday just to brag on how awesome he was.  Thursday was a very average day.  He didn't feel awful, but he never felt good either.  It was just average.  Yesterday I had planned to ride in the dressage tack and I did, but I took him to the flat front pasture to school him.  He was AMAZING!!  So light and fluid and forward and happy:)

I kept my hands and arms SO light and soft.  He stayed nice and round in the bridle with hardly any effort on my part.  His feet positively floated across the pasture.  He did the nicest spirals I've ever gotten out of him, both directions; good bend through the body, excellent responsiveness, and always an ear flicking back towards me.  Canter transitions were decent, and the downwards were EXCELLENT.  He went canter/walk with zero trot steps between.  He halt was balanced, he backed on contact AND went back forward again on contact rather than running backwards.  I was pleased beyond words.

Today was the third time we've done the Kingston Downs hunter pace.  It is always a good time.  GORGEOUS scenery, big coops, and sketchy stone walls:)  The track was a totally new one we'd never done before, and it avoided any water crossings this time.  There were less jumps, though:(  Only 5 coops and 2 rock walls, one of which I didn't do because I just didn't trust the footing.  It's not worth it to me for my horse to hurt himself for .2 seconds of fun!  Only the first jump "sucked", the other 4 were super.  I gave him about 100' to get to it, I had his wonder bit in and I was holding his face, and of course we came into an iffy distance.  He opted for deep since I didn't have him very forward, and he popped my leg off pretty good but I didn't jam my finger, woo hoo!

I grabbed my trusty neck strap at each jump because he has a history of giving me a HUGE jump over at least one of them because of the orientation of the coops to the landscape; for instance, at one of them there was a low hanging tree branch and you had about 3' to get a decent approach to it ... AND the left side was completely open, almost like a corner jump.  He was perfect.  Didn't hesitate or peek just flew over in perfect stride:)  The rest of the jumps were great, it was only the first one that wasn't too good.  We did quite a lot of walking on a loose rein (no jigging, yay!), quite a lot of trotting ( he didn't fight me to canter, yay!), and quite a few flat out race horse gallops.

There were NO kickouts, no ill behavior, no refusals, and lots of easy willingness:)  LOVE it when that happens!  Muffin is the 4 legged love of my life:)  I cut 6" off his tail yesterday to get a good bang on it; it grows REALLY fast because I had it that short for the May-Daze HT.  It looked fabulous, if I do say so myself:)  LR comes tomorrow to hack him around in a pasture, and I'm happy he will have the opportunity to stretch out and work out any kinks from today.  As for next week's schedule, it's as always!  TBD:)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fall hunter pace!

I love Fall.  It's my FAVORITE time of the year:)  Super excited to be going back to Kingston Downs to do the same Hunter Pace as March.  It's the one with the big coops and sketchy stone walls but GORGEOUS scenery:)  AND it's 20 min from my house, EVEN BETTER!  Can't wait, muffin hasn't set hoof on a trailer since May-Daze so we're long overdue for some fun time:)

The bummer thing is this is ALSO the time of year that the Squeakster decides to try REALLY hard to maim and maul himself:(  Of course last week is was a lost shoe and 2 slid back shoes.  This week it is his annual neck boo boo:

And a lovely looking slice on his thigh above the hock.  It looks as though he was lying down and tried to get up and his leg strap from his fly sheet sliced through the leg.  LOVELY!

Sigh.  He was SUPER fresh today, no surprise since it's been Sunday since he got ridden.  He felt fine throughout the warm up, but the left lead canter felt VERY strange.  Not necessarily off, but definitely not right.  Today was nothing but transitions.  I didn't push too much flexion because of that nice neck hematoma, but I did not accept any short quick steps at ALL.  Rode for about 35 mins, and roughly half that time I spent cantering.  At the end of it, I felt like he was working nice and hard, and that's really all I can ask!  Tomorrow will be more of the same, and then Saturday we will be chillin' on our first outing in 4 months!  Woo HOO!!!  I will leave y'all with a few pics of the gorgeousness that we will be exposed to in T-2 days ...
Wait!  That's not scenery!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fairly boring week

Well, Muffin's feet looked like this all week:

Lost shoe

shoes slipped off and slid back

So he has been standing (and sleeping) in his stall all week:(  I had scheduled a lesson with Susan the dressage trainer for today, and it seemed as though all the stars were aligning to STOP me!  But I persevered and took that lesson:)  I had to hold horses for the farrier, Tiki needed his shoes done obviously, and I hadn't ridden him in a week, but overall we had a most excellent go round.

I requested some canter work today vs. so much trot work.  He was extremely tight and noticeably tender on the LF that had the missing shoe.  Susan worked on getting me to close my leg, keep my hand soft and still, and slow him down.  I worked on keeping contact even from a back/trot transition (where if I don't give with my hand we wants to just keep backing up), and eventually we did pretty well.  On the halt/back/canter transitions, I worked on keeping my shoulders back and using my seat in the upward transition so he didn't take any quick steps, and we cleaned up the downward transitions so he went from trot HALT and canter HALT with no messy steps in between.

The canter was good, very light and easy.  We worked on the 20m circle doing canter/halt/back/canter and after doing it about 10 times got it down pretty nice!  Finished up with shoulder-in and haunches-in down the longside and down the centerline.  He did GREAT!  We FINALLY have a real haunches-in!  All my hard work has been paying off because last time she worked those with me, I was probably about 60% good on the shoulder-in and about 40% good on the haunches-in.  This time we were 99.9%.  Next time we will learn how to do a half pass, woo hoo!

So for a pony that hadn't been ridden in a week, had a lost shoe for 4 days, and had 2 rear shoes slipped back and slid to the side, PLUS a tendency to be tight and not 100% after shoeing anyway ... it was a fantastic lesson.  I'm glad I pushed through and went for it even though the stars were not aligning to actually ride.  We needed a boost I think, and this was it!  Lovely Rider is supposed to hop on him this weekend, so hope he behaves for her!

Friday, September 21, 2012


Rode the Tiki Muffin 3 days this week, like usual.  Tuesday I wanted to ride, but it actually RAINED, hooray!  So I rode Wed-Fri.  Wed I decided to do a jump school since the footing would be nice and soft from the 2 previous days of rain.  Dragged out the middle jumps from the gymnastics and set them up as an outside single swedish oxer, and an inside 2 stride line with the coop.  Left the 2 tall crossrails as a 7 stride line.  I still had the oxer set around 2'9ish in the middle, and the other one at 3'.  I warmed up with just some simple w/t/c.  I've totally subscribed to the Jim Woffard's idea of when you're jumping ... JUMP!  Otherwise, do dressage.  I just did the usual trot into a tall cav, then just keep jumping.  I worked on staying out of his way and feeling his mouth to the jumps so he doesn't blow past the distance and get too deep.  He likes to either gallop up and jump out of stride, or get quick in the last step to get too close.  We did pretty well:)  Once he did the line a few times, he wanted to lengthen and do 6 in the line, but I held him off the jump and maintained our rhythm.  Did pretty well at the oxer (I mean come on ... how many of us do well on a long approach to a single SWEDISH oxer?  By ourselves?)  We really only had one tragically deep distance, and one "miscue" where he was a hair long and I went for it ... but forgot to close my leg.  'Doh!  All the other jumps were fine.

Yesterday was a dressage school.  I began with walking on contact.  Progressed to shoulder-in/haunches-in at the walk.  He is doing SO well with the haunches-in!  So proud of my red head.  Lateral work is super easy for him, I just have to ask him correctly:)  The trot felt pretty good; I did some dramatic long side lengthening to some super slow sitting trot.  I then moved from the super lengthened trot to a more correct "collected" trot at the sitting trot.  He just felt so tight in the jaw!  I wish I could find that "magical" bit that helps him stay soft and relaxed.  I made sure I was soft and relaxed in the arms and hands, and I tried to avoid fighting with him.  I'm experimenting with using my seat a little more for transitions, and made sure to transition to the walk or halt after cantering.  I did my "thread the needle" exercise at the canter today.  When I came in on the shallow diagonal to do my half turn in reverse, I did a simple change through the walk.  He gets SO hollow in that downward transition, sheesh.:(  I lamented my woes to a friend of mine, and she suggested a trick to try next week.

Today was a longe session over a low cavaletti.  Tiki dork tries SO hard to not pick his feet up over it; he jumps with his front end and kind of heaves the rest of his body over half the time.  It's crazy.  He was lazy on the longe as usual; I actually had to pop him on the butt with the whip to get him to move.  I've been slowly shortening up the side reins each time I longe him, trying to achieve that elusive dressage frame.  When we do our Training debut, I want the test in the sand box to be up to snuff, which means that nose needs to be IN.  So, I scheduled a dressage lesson with Susan next Friday, woo hoo!  I'm long overdue for a good butt kicking, so will see what she has to say.  He was so preoccupied with trying to get the reins in his mouth at the canter that he forgot to try and cross canter, but it is so hard to get it and keep it on the longe line.  He also does not look at the cav and adjust himself at all; he just trots if he gets a bad distance.  Lol, today was good for him.  It's like a no stirrup day for me.  Not all that fun, but sometimes necessary.:)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weird feeling!

Yay!  A good trot pic!

I have always loved to share my horse, but have NEVER had a desire to sell or lease him out.  He's a pretty big financial/physical/emotional drain, but I wouldn't trade it for ANYTHING.  I've offered several times to good riding kids the opportunity to come and ride my horse.  No strings, no charge, just a nice ride.  I've been taken up on it a hand full of times, but it's not usually a repeat performance.  The barn is just too far out for most of the riders I know, and he isn't necessarily the easiest ride on the planet ... plus, I'm a bit of a control freak, and there are very few riders I'm comfortable with actually messing around/riding my horse while I'm not there.  If I'm watching, SURE!  I'll let pretty much anyone try him.  But alone?  Only if you pass muster;)

Yesterday, I finally got a young lady out to the barn I've known for about ... 7 years? now.  She goes to a local college that is NOT far from the barn, and finally all the offerings of a free ride were taken seriously, and she came out yesterday to try him out.  This girl is GOOD.  She has had several ponies she's taken from pretty rank to hunter machines, and on her most recent guy has competed in the Jr/AO hunters.  She's horseless at the moment while she finishes college, so I offered up Tiki as just a fun little distraction.  Not only did she ride him beautifully, she loved him:)  She picked RIGHT up on my eternal issue with him; those downward transitions without yanking the head down.  She popped off a few picture perfect flying changes, just further reiterating that his half change is probably 99% MY fault, and even took him through the gymnastics I did Friday.

She genuinely thought he was so cute and fun which is EXACTLY what I think:)  She also confirmed that even though he isn't EASY, he is very simple and easy to figure out his buttons.  Yesterday, he was steady in the contact (on a really soft rein), he wasn't chewing hard and crossing his jaw (normal cavesson/D-ring), and that rhythm was slow and forward.  I dropped the jumps to poles again since Lovely Rider hadn't taken him through gymnastics before, just leaving both xr's.  His rhythm was SO nice ... AND she trotted him in each time.  He totally adjusted himself, and stayed in a VERY nice rhythm once I got the 2 askew poles set as well.  I was right; his front end was up and very careful looking.  Over the oxer he jumped it super:  still tracking left through it, he touched the front poles for some reason, but didn't whack it like Friday.  I raised the low ends of the oxer 2 holes, bringing the height of the oxer up to more like 2'9ish, and he didn't bat an eye.

The day ended with me showing Lovely Rider where all his stuff was in case she ever felt like coming out to ride him.  I only sit on the booger 3 times a week, average.  4 if he's LUCKY.  And never on weekends unless I'm doing some sort of activity with him.  This morning, Lovely Rider went back out to ride him again this morning:)  I'm so happy that she liked him!  She will go out and ride him periodically when she is at school on the weekends and can't ride at school.  It's such a weird feeling knowing Muffin is getting ridden without me:)  I KNOW he will only benefit from having her on him ... she had some good ideas to get him off the hand in the downwards, so I'm happy.  LOVE IT when other people love my horse ... he is my heart horse <3 p="p">

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rides rides rides ...

This week has been great!  Tuesday began with a nice dressage school.  I warmed him up as I have been lately, walking over the medium cavs until I felt that back loosen and engage.  I circled him with his nose to my knee both directions a few times to stretch out those side muscles, then picked up contact at the walk.  There was no beating around the bush; as soon as I shortened those reins I marched him forward.  At the trot I kept that slow forward rhythm and did lots of 20m circles both directions.  Sitting trot and shoulder-in was pretty good both ways.  I did leg yield, catch him and go straight, then leg yield to the rail.  Practiced canter from walk/change to counter lead on straightaway, counter canter corner, then switch back to correct lead on other straightaway.  No flying changes; don't like it when he anticipates it, so I kept him calm and relaxed.  Ended great!

Wed was bareback hack through his pasture in the halter.  Can I just say ... my horse is STILL the most uncomfortable horse I've ever ridden bareback?  Gah!  If he was to buck, I would break my pubic bone, 'nuff said!

Today we did gymnastics!  It's been awhile since he's done them, and I got some inspiration from the latest issue of Eventing magazine.

Tall crossrail, 21' to a single askew pole, 21' to a swedish oxer (2'6ish), 21' to another askew pole, opposite the first one, 21' to another tall crossrail.  Having learned my lesson about setting a big gymnastic line and asking him to go through cold turkey, I set the first xr then put the rest down as poles.  The oxer I actually laid down the poles wide, then placed a pole diagonally across it to simulate a "ditch".  I was SOOOO glad I set them like that, because first time thru off the right lead was a little rough.  He jumped HARD at the xr, then fell through the rest of the poles.  Came in off the left lead, and he placed his feet MUCH better, still jumping the snot out of the xr ... this time when he landed, he got a little bucky bucky.  Turd!  Set the next element, and now he was going through fine.  The 21' distance was getting a little tight, and I started to keep a feel of his mouth and whoa him a bit.  I set the other askew pole, then came thru both leads again.  Good!  Finally set the oxer ... I'm an oxer wimp, and he is historically very overly ambitious over oxers in gymnastic lines.  He came thru GREAT off the right lead, but off the left he actually backed off the line and had down the front pole on the oxer.  I reset it and went ahead and set the final xr, then came thru right lead.  He felt VERY round and didn't get fast because I kept a feel with a following hand.  He landed pretty fresh again, though!  Double Turd!  Left lead was better, but he felt like he struggled a little.  Came thru left one more time and it was better, so I quit.  This grid was SPECIFICALLY for squaring up that front end.  I could feel him study it and really try, so even though I couldn't see him, I'm sure it helped that slightly hanging front end. Interestingly, I rode him in his xc bridle; a figure 8 and the Waterford bit.  The minimal flat work I did in it wasn't all that amazing; he was all like, "HEY!  Where's the FIELD???"  

I was going to be finished for the week, but sounds like a friend I have been trying to get on him FOREVER is finally coming out tomorrow, so I will hop on him so she can see him, and then she'll ride him!  Woo hoo!  I love to see my pony get ridden by most excellent riders.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Minor rant

I'm not the type of person to rant on Facebook, and I try to simply not post anything on pictures that bother me.  I've been noticing a disturbing trend lately, and it BOTHERS me.  I haven't said anything there, but I'm saying it HERE!

Riding at a WALK in the field ... notice that helmeted silhouette?

WEAR YOUR HELMETS, PEOPLE.  There, I said it.  I'm noticing it mainly in my "friends" that are the 20-somethings ... you know the feeling.  Turn 18 and now you have all that glorious freedom to go bare-headed.  I understand the temptation to let those luscious locks fly free as you canter around the ring.  I'm not so sanctimonious as to say I've NEVER done it.  I have w/t/c and even jumped a small crossrail with a bare head, and I'm dang lucky I stayed on.  Think about it:  HOW many times have you been on your horse, then BAM!  On the ground wondering what the he!! just happened.  My fall off Audrey Pony a few year ago; I was DONE.  All I had planned to do was trot over ONE more pole, then call it quits.  Well, as I trotted to it (the one she'd trotted a dozen times already that day), she suddenly gathered her hind end under her, leapt over it like it was a 3'6 jump, slammed me in the face with her head, then spun around and dumped me so hardcore I got a concussion ... WEARING my helmet.

You know ... you've all got LOTS of friends.  And those friends are mostly horsey friends, MANY of those teenagers.  When you post pics of you riding your lovely horse sans helmet, you're sending a message that it's cool and normal to ride without one.  Even if you think you're invincible ... be a role model.  Ask Courtney King-Dye if she would have made the decision to wear her helmet the day she fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury.  She was just out hacking ... WALKING.  Her horse either spooked or fell or something and off she went.  That's the argument for wearing helmets.  Horses are ANIMALS.  They can fall in a hole, trip over their feet, accidentally run you into a tree branch, or get scared enough to temporarily lose their mind.  WHY risk your health?  I just don't get it.  The argument against helmets is the age old "Well, if it's my time to go, it's my time".  OK.  It obviously wasn't CKD's time to go ... now she gets to live life as a handicapped person and can barely talk coherently.

Anyway, that's my Rant of the Day.  Posting pics on Facebook of you riding in your ballcap doesn't amuse me, it infuriates me!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

End of the week already!

Sweaty Muffin!

I totally had a "brain booboo" and forgot that tomorrow I'm volunteering at the AEC's!  Which means Muffin once again only has a '2 day' week, riding wise.  Yesterday was a dressage school and he was quite lovely.  I've been warming up by walking over the medium cavalettis before trotting.  As he trotted, I focused on some long and low stuff vs. up in a tight frame.  After feeling his overall tightness last week, I wanted some supple.  He felt SO nice.  I threw in some t/w/t/w transitions, and he didn't hollow his back out at all.  I made sure to keep my hands up, floating, and forearms soft.  I always try to have a plan before I ride, but I end up doing exercises to help out whatever I FEEL, whether I've made a plan or not.  I spent a good bit of time trotting serpentines across the ring, focusing on the bend and keeping him long and low ... at the short ends of the ring, I cantered an 8m circle, trying to keep that feeling of softness and lightness.  A few halts, a change of lead on the long side, counter canter, then flying change ... on BOTH leads.  Success!

Today I rode in the evening with honorary little sis.  As I groomed him, he was shaking that head like crazy, so I braided his forelock and slapped on the goofy green ear net.  Again I put on the snaffle and regular cavesson, and up we went.  For being with another horse, he was pretty good!  Didn't do the pissy head shake once, which is a first when he's with another horse.  I didn't ask very much of him; I'd had to down 800mg of ibuprofen just to manage to even ride, so my expectations were pretty low, really.  Before hopping on, I raised one of the 2'6 verticals to 3'3.  Yep.  Go me!  The footing was really nice tonight, and shade was creeping in, so it wasn't too bad riding at all!

After cantering a few times over the low cavalettis, I trotted into a 'tall' cav, circled around and trotted the coop, then came across a diagonal and cantered the 2'6 vert.  Pretty much perfect!  Kept a perfect rhythm, kept my hands up, and he jumped like a gentleman.  In the corners, I tried to "stand him up" and bend in really well, and he fought a little bit, but  was ok.  Nicole jumped the Spark Plug over a few (he was HAPPY!), then I trotted the coop/cantered the 2'6 vert again, and he felt quite lovely again.  After Nicole did a few more, I did coop to outside x-rail one stride to 3' vert, inside 2'6, outside 3'3.  He was nice and forward to the one stride, jumped the 3' super, easy and soft over the 2'6, then came up perfectly to the 3'3, but just got in a hair too deep.  I could feel him jump UP over it, but it didn't feel bad.  Rested, then did the course ONE more time.  Again, all were pretty much perfect, but this time he got in just right to the 3'3, but in the last stride ran past the distance, pulling it down hard with his hind end.  Nicole reset it for us, then pulled it with the FRONT because again he came in too deep.  I tried taking a slightly different track, jumped WAY off to the right, and too deep but it stayed up, then tried once more.  I allowed him to have more canter this time, and he I nailed the spot, but AGAIN, he dragged me past it to jump deep, but he didn't touch it so I let him quit.  He really was quite tired; I haven't jumped much since May as you all know.

I got off, loosened the girth, and measured the jump before I lowered it for Sparky.  Um, it was 3'6, NOT 3'3.  Lol.  I thought that sucker looked big when I set it, but tried to just ignore it and go with the flow.  I'm so proud; that is the FIRST time I've ever jumped him 3'6 without a gymnastic to set him up for it.  Go me!  I'm not such a chicken any more!  Probably explains partially why Muffin scooted past the distance a little; it's BIG for him!  A rolled out groundpole probably would have helped, but he was just tired, so I will save that for another day.  Next week, I WILL ride him 3 days!  He is such an awesome horse, I'm a VERY lucky girl:)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fabulous Friday jump school

Friday became a bit of an impromptu jump school.  I had my 2'6 inside verticals set at 2'6, and the cavaletti had been moved from in between the one stride, so I now had a crossrail to a 3' vertical, 18' between the 2.

I'm letting someone borrow Tiki's stadium wonder bit, so I had to ride him in the regular cavesson bridle with the Myler D-ring.  Usually, he is very heavy and hard to rate in that set-up, so I wasn't super excited to be without my little wonder bit.  I again worked on the "leg into resistance" method of getting him on the bit and he was definitely better than in the pasture, but I'm not sure that's a good technique for getting him to soften and come onto the contact.  I had warmed him up on the buckle w/t/c both ways; it is so awesome that I can get him to come down to a HALT from the canter with the reins on the buckle.  I literally didn't TOUCH them:)

The canter felt really nice.  I sat lightly in the saddle and did a couple of circles.  Came across a diagonal with  a pretty soft halt and switch to the right lead, then cantered into the cavalettis on the ends of the ring.  He had the nicest, slow rhythm.  I threw in some circles, a few simple changes, and then kept on going over the course.  Even through the one stride with the 3' vertical, he was slow and fabulous.  He didn't touch a rail, didn't change his rhythm, and stayed pretty much on the bit the entire time, woo hoo!  I even came into the one stride vertical first, and with the exception of one colossal missed distance (he went when I asked for a WAIT), all was pretty much perfect:)  I kept him soft in my hands and asked for a slight over bend in each direction just to keep his neck from locking up, and it was literally the softest, nicest jump school I've had in a snaffle and a normal noseband.  Go Muffin!!

Riding tomorrow and Thursday.  NO idea what we will do!  Volunteering for the AEC's on Friday, can't wait!  Going to meet (hopefully) 2 fellow bloggers for the first time.  Friday is all the big xc stuff, which is super fun for me to watch.  Looking forward to it!