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!