Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Updating just to say ...

It's that time again!  Spring Break!  Although, it feels like SUMMER break around good 'ol GA.  Sheesh.  Beautiful, beautiful days, but way too hot for March.  Haven't ridden since the Gigi clinic ... I kind of um, hurt myself a little bit and only just now feel good enough to ride, but we leave tomorrow for a 9 day jaunt across the west coast!  So, Muffin can have a nice 2 1/2 week break, then it's back to it before May Daze at the Park:)  Broke out all the fly paraphanelia, already he's covered with them!

Lots of pics to follow over the next 10 days!  Tiki's blog is about to become Jen's blog for a little bit:D

OH!  And my middle school finished 5th at Zones in Charleston, SC (GORGEOUS place!)  Which means what?  It means our IEA season is STILL going, and our next (and final) stop is Syracuse, NY for the NATIONAL FINALS!  I have never made it this far before, all the way to the end.  No matter how our season ends, we are one of the top 12 middle schools in the entire country for IEA competition, pretty incredible!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You know what the BEST thing about Vetrolin is?

Ready to go play in the pasture!

The fact that after you've sponged off your rockstar of a horse with it, your hands smell SO good the rest of the day!;)

In the interest of making sure I had a horse willing to be soft and supple, I repeated what I did last week before our GREAT dressage school on Friday.  I opted out of riding bareback this time though, and strapped on the saddle.  Tied up my leadrope, and hopped on to go out and hack around for 30 minutes.  This time I headed into the back 15 acres where the mares go out.  The land is undulating, with lots of hills, and I AGAIN did not drill anything, just basically "trail rode" around the whole thing.

Tiki met a cow for the first time ... the neighbors raise longhorn cattle, and the pasture where the young things live border the back 15.  Tiki stopped and raised his head and pricked those ears BUT ... he did NOT start to shake lol!  He didn't even blow loudly.  He slowly walked up step by step and tried REALLY hard to touch noses through the fence.  I feel like if one of the cows had tried to run up to him or anything he would have probably tried to bolt, but since they were content to just stand and stare he was really brave:)

Today I rode with Gigi Nutter.  At our last clinic we worked on CONTACT.  She helped me get my timing right so that Tiki could flex at the poll and come down into the contact consistently.  The canter work was pretty sketchy, but by the end she was pretty pleased by the trot work.

Today, we were working on CONTACT.  Some of you may think I was frustrated by this.  I was not.  This time, it was a higher level of contact and connection.  She got onto me last time about being way too quick on the reins, not posting high enough, having my stirrups too short, and constantly throwing away my contact. She reminded me that even a quarter inch of give was making him inconsistent and not giving him the support he needs to maintain his connection.  He had difficulty walking on contact and wanted to jig, jig, jig.

Today, I had a horse ready for a higher level of connection because we'd worked on our homework and improved:)  We also worked on that elusive connection between the transitions; mostly on the downward from trot to walk/halt, and the upward to the canter.  Gigi had to remind me to post longer again, but maybe only 3 times;)  Also, to post between my elbows.  Right, I'd forgotten that!  Apparently I let my hands move a hair forward on the upbeat of my post, so she had me think "backwards" with the hands.  I did a GREAT job of not throwing him away, or of bugging him to death by fiddling with the reins.  He felt LOVELY and forward; I didn't have to nag him at ALL, which during dressage lessons I usually have to.

Once he really settled deep into the contact and settled in to get heavy, she had me concentrate on lifting my hands up and forward, and pushing him into a higher neck carriage, focusing on keeping the flexion at the poll, but lifting the center of the neck, and therefore the back.  Also, she wanted me to change to the wrong diagonal, then post the trot into the canter transition because it is easier that way to keep the aids coordinated.  That worked well:)  She had me trotting so big and forward and crazy that he was stepping into the prints left by his front feet:)  It was like a Janet lesson on speed;)

Once again, an hour flew by quickly!  The majority was spent at the walk and the trot, and there was nary a lateral movement to be found, but I completely and thoroughly enjoyed myself, and my horse looked completely different by the end.  The chatter of the "ladies on the rail" was "Wow.  He looks completely different!":)  Gigi said I was a good student, and she likes my horse:)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Feeling like a REAL dressage rider ...

Hunter pace!

Had a GREAT ride yesterday!  It was one of those days where I felt pretty good, riding wise.  I was extremely conscious about making sure my arms stayed soft, supple, and UP.  I kept the shoulders back, leg on, and stayed sympathetic and patient.  I don't think I'm ever IMPATIENT, but sometimes I don't think I necessarily recognize when he just doesn't understand a question.  I tried just to keep the mind quiet, listen to the Tiki man,  and ride as accurately as I could.

The BEST thing I've accomplished in the past year has been to train the "jig" out of the muffin.  Yesterday, I let him walk both ways on a loose rein, then slowly collected them and took contact.  He didn't even tense up or TRY and get swishy.  I did some circles and some shoulder-in at the walk before trotting.  After making sure he was good and loose, I sat the trot and tried out my leg yield a few steps, straighten, leg yield, straighten, circle, then shallow serpentine down the opposite long side focusing on changing the bend and keeping him soft in the neck and relaxed in the trot.  I made myself breathe deeply and focused on the forearms making sure they were soft and 'floating".  

I borrowed an exercise from Marissa at the "Tucker the Wunderkind" blog; shoulder in on the rail then straighten and trot a diagonal line to the quarter line then shoulder in again, trot straight on diagonal.  It was sort of a hard exercise but I think I did it pretty well!:)  Also made an attempt at haunches in; I've tried those before, but he felt my leg come back and tried to jolt into the canter.  Susan the dressage trainer across the street suggested I re-vamp my canter cue so he doesn't overreact when I try and manipulate the hind end.  Sooo ... I put that outside leg back and even though he did jolt a little bit when he felt the pressure, I breathed and half halted and kept the leg farther back than the canter cue.  Lo and behold I could feel his hind end move in, yay! Not sure how correct it was, but it was something lol!

Worked for about 10 minutes on going from w/t/h/t/h/t/w/t etc.  The transitions are clean and mostly prompt, but his default is to get hollow and above the contact.  My focus was on the contact BETWEEN the transitions, and by the end he was pretty darn good!  Leg yielded in and out at the trot ... that was quite nice!  We're definitely good at that, yay:)  

Finally, worked a good 15 minutes at the canter.  It's time to really work on his strength and balance there.  I must say that after all that trot/lateral work, the canter felt AWESOME!  WOW!  Soft and light and balanced and quite between the hand and the leg.  Tried a new thing; a leg yield at the canter.  Cantering on the left lead, I came up the quarter line and asked him to move over.  He tried to get quicker.  Corrected him, then asked again.  He shook his head a little bit and I could feel he didn't get it as he tried to break to the trot.  I stopped, patted him, picked the canter back up and tried again, using a slightly stronger rein aid this time.  He got it, moving neatly sideways; he did try and break to the trot, so I tried again and he was perfect!  On the right lead, he got it RIGHT away and went from quarter line to rail in like 6 strides, lol!  I think my right leg is slightly stronger than the left.

Finished up by cantering right lead, came across a shallow diagonal and popped off a perfect change to the left.  Did a couple of 20m circles to lighten him back up, then asked for a L to R change.  He got half a change.  Stopped, counter cantered still tracking right, then turned tight and asked for a change.  Again, half a change.  Rinse and repeat 2 more times, staying patient and soft, and FINALLY after a little bit of cowgirl he got a clean change.  Grrr ...  

Just like the jigging problem, I WILL fix that!  My goal is to be able to swap clean changes on the straightaway.  Hopefully riding with Gigi every once in awhile will help us get there!  I noticed during one of our sitting trot leg yields he felt LIKE a REAL dressage horse.  He was flexed well at the poll, he was powering from behind, and those ears were flicking back at me in sheer concentration.  I will keep Monday pretty light and easy, may ride around with no stirrups.  Tuesday is Gigi, woo hoo!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring at the end of Winter

It was a drop dead gorgeous day today.  BEAUTIFUL!!!  I was concerned Muffin might be sore from our jump school yesterday since I haven't jumped him very much lately, so I threw on his saddle pad and Thinline and hacked out in his pasture.  Had one scary moment when the giant blue heron that lives in the pond took flight ... Tiki dropped down about 3' when those front legs splayed out, but that was it.  He dropped, stared, and continued on happy as a clam.  I didn't drill any hills, just held his leadrope loosely and meandered around the pasture for half an hour.  He felt awesome.  I think sometimes his short step and initial unwillingness to go forward is a result of the girth being tightened, so I enjoy hacking him out bareback and not strapping down a saddle.  Really enjoyed myself today!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jump! Jump! Jump!

Looks pretty good, huh, huh??

Now he's a pumpkin flavored muffin!
Coop, cav, wide oxer
2'9, 3', 2'6
The whole line!

Had a LOVELY jump school today.  Halleuia (sp?) for being hairless!  It was a super warm 80 degrees today:)  Set up a nifty little course; 6 jumps all in a vertical line in the middle of the ring.  I made up a long, twisty course jumping some of the jumps straight on and in a circle, or jumping them on an angle and changing direction.  Had a wide, low oxer, a single cavaletti, the coop, a 2'6, 2'9, and 3' vertical.  His jumping bridle is still grungy and dumped in my rubbermaid box, so I used the copper ball fullcheek on the regular cavesson.  He is just so STIFF in that bit.  Grrr ... last time I used it (3+ years ago) he went GREAT in an Herm Sprenger KK ultra D-ring.  I've tried to recreate that feeling by using a JP Korsteel D with the bean, but it just isn't the same as the $$ HS.  I guess I'm eventually have to stop being a cheapskate and come off the $$ to buy one.

SO!  Warmed up literally with a lap at the walk each way, 2 laps at the trot each way, one lap of canter each way, warm up the jumps.  I started over the cav (of course), then moved to the coop.  I then swallowed my nerves and did the wide oxer.  I set it at 3' wide.  I will widen it a little more to 4' for my next jump school ... I HATE oxers in general.  I will jump verticals all day long, but try my hardest to avoid oxers:)  ESPECIALLY square ones:)  I had a pole across the top to let him know to jump it as one effort, and no surprise, he did look at the pole funny and back off a little bit.  Luckily, the back off brought him RIGHT to the base of the jump, and he hopped over neatly and without drama.  From there I did the 2'6 twice, the 2'9 twice, then strung together a course.  I was TIRED. The heat was getting to me I guess.  He jumped the 3' GREAT; nice and round but oh so willing and forward.  Oftentimes, he feels his way around a course by braille, lol.  Today he was neat as a pin and didn't touch a thing.  I met a couple of the jumps long, a couple deep, but no matter what I made a decision EVERY time.  He nailed the majority of them, but whether he was a little long or short it was MY decision.

Ya know, I had my stirrups tied today.  I think when I do that it forces me to sit so straight THAT'S why my back hurts, lol.  Tying the stirrups makes me work HARDER!  Going to Dover to spend a little money on Saturday.  I have some gift cards to spend and I'm FINALLY ready!  Not sure yet what I'm buying, but it will probably involve boots for him and a saddle pad, lol.  Yes, I'm a boot and pad 'ho, I admit it!

Exciting news!  I've verbally committed to my friend Marisa to do this ... May Daze at the Kentucky Horse Park in, duh, May!  We're going Novice.  Guess I'd better get my USEA registration sent in, huh??  Will anyone from blogger land be there!  Would love to meet new people!:)  Can't WAIT!!!!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nakedness ...

Need to take off a little more by the mane
Got a few random spots here to clean up
He may not have looked it, but Tiki was HAIRY!

The muffin is naked!  I still have a little bit to finish; all 4 legs, the ears,  and some random track marks, but it shouldn't take more than half an hour to finish:)  I have never fully body clipped him before (well, I did before the Halloween HT at Chatt Hills last year, but his coat was so short I didn't see a difference when I was finished).  He had WAY more hair than I'd thought!  Janet is on a little vacation, so if she's not teaching on Saturday I will have to wait until after the Gigi clinic on Tuesday to get a jumping lesson:)  Regardless, I WILL fit one in before our spring break vacay.  I'm SO happy to have my boy hairless; I think considering tomorrow will be in the neighborhood of 78 degrees, the boy will also be happy to be hairless!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hunter Pace

Completely, thoroughly, absolutely, 100% had a GREAT time on the hunter pace:)  For starters, my boy has never been so GOOD.  From the very beginning, when we set off he was walking on a loose rein.  NOT jigging, not trotting, but walking ... on a loose rein.  He led our little trio from start to finish, and jumped every coop from the little one (2'6), to the big one (3'6).  He crossed the creek without jumping it, he walked through mud puddles without hesitation, and was just overall a perfect gentleman.

Now, it's unavoidable that we can complete a hunterpace with what looked like 100+ horses without having other groups pass us.  When we got passed, he started to sweat.  He was dry as a cucumber for about the first 20 minutes, but then we got passed up.  He threw a teeny little jiggy fit and got some seriously sweaty hair, but he settled down and we were able to cross the finish line at a walk ... still on a loose rein!  Our trotting was the BEST it's ever been.  Big, full of suspension, and completely in control.  Seriously, I don't know what happened, but I had a different horse than I've had in the past.

It's time for me to make some serious plans for a horse trial; I want to go Novice.  I'm thinking May will probably be a good month to shoot for.  Janet lesson this week if the weather cooperates, Gigi clinic on the 20th, and a body clip for this week.  It was just a spectacular day, LOVED it!:)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Getting back to the swing of things ...

Lift off!

Barely moving

Popping over the stack oxer

It's been a pretty decent week so far.  Obviously Tiki got the weekend off, like he does most weekends.  Monday, I thought I had a kidlet coming out to lesson on him, so I picked his feet and did nothing else.  After cleaning stalls I went back home for about an hour and a half to eat some lunch and change my clothes, and during that time said kidlet rescheduled for Tuesday.  Oh well, Muffin got Monday off too.

Tuesday dawned GORGEOUS!  What a beautiful day!  Kidlet showed up to lesson, and dare I say my heart did the happy dance.  She's come out to BFE before to take a lesson on him, and he tends to be lazy to the point of barely moving when someone that's not me or Nicole rides him at home, lol.  When she rode him before, he would stop every time she leaned forward, yet when she took him over a little crossrail he got quick enough that I just had her do it 3 times and then quit.  Tuesday was quite different.  For one, I outfitted her with spurs.  For another, she felt comfortable enough to shorten her reins a teensy bit and actually kick him forward.  He was just a peach; it gladdens my heart to see Tiki totally babysit a lovely little novice rider.  Reinforces the fact that I'm doing a good job with him:)  ESPECIALLY on the heels of him not being such a great IEA horse this season.

Tiki perfectly performed a w/t/c warmup, and successfully (sort of, haha!) taught kidlet to leg yield.  The ring had just been dragged, so the jumps were sort of shoved into the middle of the ring, and I quickly set up what I'd had a few weeks ago; stack oxer on outside, crossrail on other outside, coop on the inside, 2'6 vertical on the other inside.  Just to be safe, I pulled kidlet's spurs, then set a trot pole in front of the crossrail and had her warm up over that a few times.  He was SO quiet she was kicking all the way to the fence:)  EVERY time, he was so steady and slow to it.  He tripped over the pole a few times from a lack of picking up his feet, but considering this horse used to charge the fence a little bit, I'd say it was a huge improvement.  Kidlet did the whole course, trotting into everything.  He was like a freaking hunter; you could have set a metronome to his trot.  His topline looks AMAZING right now, he's fat and happy, and he is moving like a FREAK on the Adequan:)  Wish I'd taken a video of the kidlet; y'all wouldn't even belive how amazing he was!

I held my breath as she trotted the vertical; it was a good stout 2'6 (which he actually hasn't jumped in a WHILE), and he was barely moving at the trot.  That goofy red head didn't miss a beat; snapped those knees up and popped right over!  Kidlet was beaming as she rode him down and hugged his neck.  My heart was just bursting with pride; what a GOOD boy!  And let me clarify that his slowness was baby sitting and NOT nappiness; he had a happy ear pricked expression the whole time:)

Yesterday I was GOING to get on bareback and walk hills, but the stupid step ladder was nowhere to be found ... I can't get on bareback without the step ladder, so I put on the saddle and walked 4 hills with him.  In the intererst of getting my own fat butt fit again, I walked 2 of them WITH him:)  Got off and hiked up, literally.  Today we got the first legit sweaty coat of the year.  I did trot sets, which I hadn't done in several months.  He was huffing and puffing when we finished!  Gave him a full on bath afterwards because his coat was soaked.  Saturday is the HUNTER PACE, woo hoo!  Next week I will trailer out to PWF to lesson with Janet, woo hoo!  The 20th, I will be going to do a Gigi Nutter clinic, woo hoo!  FINALLY, some activity:)  We will be heading out the  30th of this month to vacation over spring break in California; We've never been, so I'm totally looking forward to it!  Pics of the hunter pace soon:):)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Going on to Zones ...

Pic of the muffin at last year's hunter pace

Well, this year's IEA season has really been a rollercoaster of ups and downs.  As y'all know, the Patchwork team failed to qualify for Regionals for the FIRST time:(  I'm totally bummed, but it was 3 shows in before they rode to their full potential.  You've got to bring it EVERY time, not just SOMEtimes.  My school highschool team that I coached last year and this year again failed to qualify for Regionals.  It's been tough for them; there's some GOOD riders on that team, but they don't follow through and take their 6 minimum lessons per month; many of them only take 2 per month if that, and as a result don't pin very well at the shows.  The proof is in the pudding ... the girls HAVE to get in their saddle time.  My new team I started this year was a "school" middle school team.  That team too has some good riding girls, and they were DILIGENT about making sure they took their 2 monthly team lessons in addition to 4 minimum lessons with the trainer of their choice ... THAT team qualified for Regionals AND managed to win.  The win means it's ON to Zones!

Sadly, it's the middle school team that's been full of drama.  I REALLY don't want to go into a lot of detail, but it was rumored they were leaving and going to a rival barn next season.  Nice kick in the face, THANKS!  Let me turn away lesson clients, bend over backwards to accomodate YOUR schedule, get up at 3:30 in the morning to haul horses to the shows for you for a whopping $100 (when gas costs me $100 for just the gas to get to the shows), and pour my heart and soul into your daughters to get them to Zones ... in their FIRST year as a team.  Goodly, it DOES seem that the majority of the moms want to be with ME, not the other barn.  They've stepped up and stopped the madness and forced a team meeting for this week to try and nail down a few things.  I'm so grateful.  Y'all were here when I lost my "school" team right after I got Tiki; it was gut wrenching.  I cried for days.  I TOLD the team mom about that situation and how it affected me, and she ASSURED me they weren't that kind of team.  Yeah, sure.  But, I have hope that I will still have the middle school team next year.  I'm going to let the high school team go without a fight.  There's too much drama and uncertainty there anyway because that high school actually has TWO IEA teams, and now there's talk about merging ... exhausting.  Let the other barn deal with that mess!  I'm talking shop with 2 other moms about possible new teams for next year, and hopefully will have something worked out by the end of the school year.

I will be putting the drama behind me and will have a GREAT time in Charleston, SC for Zone finals in 2 weeks.  No matter what I feel for the parents, I really love the kids, and they deserve their shot at "glory":)  I sent in my paperwork for the hunter pace Saturday, yay!  Didn't ride Muffin because I thought one of my kidlets was coming out today for a lesson, but they switched that to tomorrow.  Guess it will be Wednesday before I sit on him!