Saturday, March 16, 2013

Light at the end of the tunnel

First bath since ... December?  Can't even remember!

I'd decided to do a dressage school on Friday, but I stewed as I cleaned stalls, and decided to do a "jumping flatwork" type of ride, and do a LOT of cantering over poles.  Because EVERYONE knows you can't crash a pole, right?

Poles are safe!  Right?

Lol, I most certainly CAN crash a pole, because we did it ... 3 times.  I was so frustrated, I pulled him up in a nice, lovely halt and yelled "FU$&" at the top of my lungs.  I then gave him a loose rein and walked, composing myself.

Geez, what an off week.  I apologize if my last post seemed a little bit poor, poor, pitiful me.  This blog isn't all sunshine and rainbows, people!  I blog about it when it's bad, too.  I KNOW I'm a decent rider.  I'm not a genius, and I don't have a perfect, phenomenal feel, but I'm certainly far from the worst rider I've ever seen:)  I decided to change up my tactic, and began to 'look' for my distance 5 strides out instead of just 3.  I think 3 strides out, it's too late at that point to make a good decision.  5 strides gives you time to make an adjustment.  Not only did I look for 5 strides out, I also counted out loud, 5,4,3,2,1.  It was under my breath, but it was audible ... and calm.  I didn't get wound up and anxious, I let go of my frustrations and rode what was right in front of me.

Miracle of all miracles, I didn't miss another single distance.  I cantered probably 12 additional poles after my little hollering melt down, and even though I had to do a 5,4,3, pole, or a 5,4,3,2,1,2,3,pole once or twice, Tiki and I managed to arrive at the right distance each time.  Yay us, maybe I'm on to something!

As an aside, I have a little ex-student that's a facebook friend of mine.  EVERY single picture I see of her and her fancy show pony show them in draw reins.  I mean ... EVERY picture that is posted daily.  I added draw reins to Tiki's tack today, and by the end of the ride, he was nearing freight train status.  Yes, they help him hold his shape, but DANG they make him pull on me.  The pulling occurs at the canter; the trot work is usually stellar and Friday was no exception.  At the canter, I think it's just SO hard for him to do it in the correct shape, he compensates however he can.  He was really tired.  Every time he crashed a pole, that back would hollow out and his head would come flinging up, fighting me.  Once we took our little rest, it was better, but I had to do a couple of pretty colossal half halts to keep him off me.  That's precisely why I hack in the draw reins MAYBE 6 times a year.  I think I prefer them for the hills, but will leave them off in the ring:)

So, we had an ok day on Friday.  It's hard when he is unenthusiastic and doesn't take me down to the poles.    I will take him to Patchwork either this week or next one day to give him a field trip and give me a chance for some input.  LR will ride tomorrow.  Things will be better, I know it.  I'll just keep taking it one day at the time, starting with a clean slate each time.  If I have to resort to trotting jumps for a while, so be it.  I hate trotting jumps so much, my eye will improve out of sheer desperation!;)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Epic Fail

2 years ago ... I should probably just stay at this level

I'm hard on myself.  Really, all I have to gauge mine and Tiki's progress on at the end of the day is a feeling.  And my feeling from today is that I feel sorry for my horse.  Like, for real.  Why the HE!! can I not see a distance?  I've been riding horses for MORE THAN 20 YEARS.  Wow, I feel old.  I've been JUMPING horses for more than 20 years.  WHY can I STILL not get consistent, good distances?  It's so freaking frustrating.  I count, I sing, I sit up, I focus on the quality of the canter, I focus on the rhythm, I look for the 3,2,1 ... why is it that distances elude me more often than they come to me?  Do I just try too hard?  Not hard enough?  Should I give up and just ride western?  Sigh.

He started out resembling a brick ... but after adding copious amounts of leg, balancing half halts, and slowing my posting down, he began to stretch and slow down.  Before I knew it, the trot felt quite lovely.  Cantered both ways and he swapped behind once or twice; he was a little fresh today.  I last rode him Friday, and LR didn't ride last weekend.  Also, it was the first time he's come out of his blanket all week, and even though it was finally a decent day temp wise, it was STILL windy.  Anyway, I didn't stress about the swishiness, I just began to jump.

Cantered a cav (good), turned and trotted a crossrail (good), came back to cav (good), trotted crossrail (good), jumped cav and stayed straight down my 3 stride line; LONG.  And WEAK.  Did line a few more times, keeping leg on until the 3 started to ride well.  Came into the jump from 2 weeks ago, a coop section sandwiched between 2 cavs.  Epic fail.  Way too long, got left behind, felt awful.  I widened it a little bit, it was 3'6 wide but didn't look it because it was nice and full.  Did the other jump coming into the 3, it was a frankenstein; a barrel put together with the other section of coop, framed by poles and cones.  He could have cared less to look at it, but AGAIN.  Miss.  AGH!

When I finally managed to jump the coop/cav oxer well a few times, I cantered the 2nd jump in THAT line, a 3' vertical.  Nailed it, felt great.  Threw in the crossrail a few times, jumped the 3' again, and he felt like a rockstar.  Did the 3'3 vertical from 2 weeks ago; it was still set on the same diagonal from the gymnastics we did, and he nailed it, it was FABULOUS.  The jump rode big, but awesome.  I came into the 3'3 oxer we crashed and burned  last time, determined to do it well.  Had a good canter, he was straight with NO bulge at all.  Saw the spot long, kicked, and he was not there for it.  He would have preferred the add all the way. So what happened?  Crash.  Again.  He crashed SO hardcore, I very nearly fell off.  On the back side, he tried really hard to buck me off ... 3 times.  I could NOT blame the poor horse.  I got myself organized, and went right around to the outside 3 stride where he jumped it fine.  I got off, and lowered the back pole 2 holes to make it more of a square 2'9 oxer.  Did the coop/cav 3 stride line to the 3' vertical, and he jumped that great.  Did the other outside line and he was great.  Nailed the 3'3 vertical twice more and he was picture perfect.  Came up to the oxer, fully aware even though it was 6" smaller, he may jump the snot out of it, but kind soul that he is, he cantered right up to it and jumped beautifully.

I did 1 or 2 more jumps, then the oxer one more time and again it was good.  Quit there.  It is a miracle I haven't turned Tiki into a stopper yet.  He just doesn't see his own distance; he  lets me pick.  Since I have NO eye, I'm not always right, so I end up lying to him.  I just don't know what to do.  I canter poles, I work on rhythm, I make myself sit still and not throw him away, yet still ... I would say easily 40% of the time, I see nothing.

I think a person that can't ride down accurately to a 2' jump at least 8 out of 10 times shouldn't be competing Training.  I'm really re-evaluating my decision to move up again.  I may just stick at Novice; I can NOT be crashing him through 3'3 oxers in the ring, it's ridiculous.  Maybe today was just an off day, I don't know.  The footing wasn't very good today, it was really hard.  When Tiki took out the jump, he took a strip of skin off his stifle.  Won't surprise me if it's a little big tomorrow, he whacked it really hard.  I just need to spend the rest of my life in remedial lessons, I guess because I just don't learn.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Finally a decent week (towards the end!)

Hills in the ghetto draw reins!

Holy Moly, the beginning of the week was COLD!  And WINDY:(  Ugh, GA weather really stinks sometimes.  Thurs and Fri were half way decent though, so I rode my boy!  Thursday was a nice dressage day.  I was trying to build on what LR has been doing with him, and get him to rock back on his hind end, really track up behind, and get that back to come up.  I got him moving forward off my leg first, tracking straight, then put him on the 20m circle to get him bending and listening to my leg.  I decided to simply stay on the circle, and do trot to one or two steps of walk, then right back up to trot.  Worked on keeping contact, not throwing him away, and getting him right up to tempo immediately as opposed to picking up the trot slow then getting up to speed.  This is the exercise we did with Paul.  He was GREAT!  Very responsive.  I tried to keep him lifted through the wither, and deep in the contact.  It was a little stiff at first, but I could feel him finally begin to lift up and get comfortable.

Reversed through a toth, making sure to keep him moving forward through it, then picked up the canter, focusing on not allowing him to take ANY quick, short trot steps.  I had to do the w/c transition a couple of times before I was satisfied, but he did try really hard, so I allowed him to keep cantering.  Did c/one or 2 steps of w, then back to canter.  At first, I did throw him away a little bit, but I mentally kicked my own tail and made myself slow my body and keep a feel.  It worked, and I got a LOVELY transition.  Allowed him to keep cantering, then actually gave him a walk break because he was SO good.  Repeated the other way, and let him stop once I got another stellar transition.  So, simple work, but focusing on correct basics and correct shape so he continues to build muscle in the RIGHT places.

Yesterday, I put on the draw reins and walked hills.  I made his little red butt march both up and down, and going downhill, he tried to bulge that left shoulder like he does at the jumps.  I focused on keeping him absolutely straight nose to tail, and worked my own self hard to keep him motoring forward.  That didn't make him extremely happy, but he was obedient.  In the flat upper part, I w/t/c a few laps, loving the beautiful shape of his neck that the draw reins produce with virtually no effort.  I rode the snot out of his hind end, feeling him reach up underneath me.  Sometimes in the pasture he gets quick and shuffly, so I worked on going big and forward, reaching into the contact.  He did GREAT, and I gave him a long rein to be finished.

I plan to go xc schooling at Chatt Hills in April.  I'm actually thinking of saving a little money and doing the May Chatt Hills event instead of May-Daze.  My friend can't go with me if I go training, and it's just too expensive to cover gas and hotel by myself.  If I do CH, I can just come home each night.  Just something I'm chewing on!

Friday, March 1, 2013


I set up the gymnastics today!  It was again COLD.  Snow is definitely in the air ... whether it will actually do anything I don't know, but I'm sure glad Muffin has a nice heavy blanket and a snuggly neck cover:)  I worked myself into a good sweat cleaning stalls, and moving jumps, so I actually was a little less bundled up than yesterday!  I opted to tie my stirrups to the girth today since I haven't jumped in 2 weeks, and when I did I could feel the leg slippage a little bit.

I swiped borrowed an exercise from Kate over at Greybrook Eventing which SHE swiped borrowed from Jim Wofford's book of gymnastics.  A trot in one stride crossrail to vertical with 2 different options; a 2 stride bending line to the left to a vertical, or a 3 stride bending line to an oxer to the right.  I used up all the good (and not so good) jump standards, but still had the coop and cavalettis to do something with, so I sandwiched one section of the coop between 2 cavs for a warm up jump.  I had Tiki 'dressed' in his regular cavesson D-ring, and when I went to pick up the trot he actually was nicely forward!  I got him flexed at the poll and kept my leg on, but I didn't have to nag for forward.  Reversed and warmed up the other way at the trot; he swished his tail a few times when the boys in his pasture decided to start running like maniacs.  The pasture doesn't share a common fence with the ring, but there's only about 20 feet between them, so when the pasture horses start running, your horse in the ring has the potential to get a wild hair.

He swapped a few times at the canter, but considering the boys were STILL running around, I honestly didn't care.  Since I'd planned to get up to 3'3 on the jumps, I did just the bare minimum to get him stretched and warm.  I had a crossrail, 18' to a 2'3 vertical.  The left hand vertical was set at 2'9, the right hand oxer was 2' in the front, 2'6 in the back.  I warmed up over the coop oxer and he was just lovely.  Didn't change his rhythm, and I could feel he made a decent effort over it.  Did it off both leads and I couldn't feel any difference going to/away from the barn.  I'm very fortunate in the fact that Tiki seems to be very unaffected by the in gate.  I had to set the gymnastic going towards home, because the footing is a little thin RIGHT where the right hand jump would have to go if I had it set going away.

I went right to the 1 stride, and he jumped it in his usual style; getting a little tangled up in the trot pole coming in, then getting a little long and weak to the out.  I did just that again and he was a little better.  I jumped both side jumps as singles, and he was right there for me EVERY time, so I finally came in as part of the gymnastic.  I think I'm opposite of many people; Tiki can be so inconsistent with the length of his stride that fixed distances send me into a cold sweat on him;)  Just to be safe,  I had both bending lines set 3' short, which theoretically would make the distances easy for him.

I went vertical first, and he did 3.  Of COURSE he did!  Back to trot, then right bend to the oxer, where he did 4.  Lol, such a predictable little Muffin!  I concentrated hard core on ME; auto release, hold the closed hip, eyes up, don't drop him at the base, don't change the rhythm, leg on takeoff, and watch the left bulge.  After successfully negotiating at the starter height, I hopped off and went up 1 hole on the vertical, 2 holes on the oxer.  Again jumped them as singles, he was perfect, then did them as the combo, and I RODE him for the correct striding.  I have GOT to go forward on him without chasing him, that's for sure my achilles heel.  The 2 was riding better than the 3, and I'm sure it was a combo of the gate being to the left, and that subtle left bulge.  When I quit trying to correct the bulge with hand alone and added left leg, the 3 began to improve.  I can finally jump him 3' and not be battling butterflies, he felt GREAT.  Hopped off and reset one more time, so both singles were 3'3.  Tackled the vertical first, concentrating on trying to ride it EXACTLY like I did with my last lesson with Paul Macrea.  Just a nice steady canter, and jump the jump right out of stride.  He jumped out of his skin over it, he felt GREAT!  Came to the oxer and missed.  Like, MISSED.  Got there long and weak, did nothing, he took off and plowed through the back rail.  I slipped the reins to him so I didn't catch him in the mouth, then kept coming straight away back to the vertical.  He jumped that fine, so I decided to do the combo so I couldn't miss so badly again.  Did the 2 to the vertical and perfect.  Came back to do the 3, and even though the distance was RIGHT there, I could feel him hesitate off the ground and I got a little left again.  Decided to go ONE more time to reinforce forward and this time added a little cluck off the ground, and he jumped the SNOT out of it.  Good boy!

I felt great, he felt great, and even though the jumps RODE fairly big, I didn't break out in a cold sweat;)  If I'm going to survive an entire Training level showjumping course, we have to be comfortable at max height, so from now until May I plan to jump him every other week at height.  I see more gymnastics in our future, and some bounces as per Simon Eades, UGH!  I gave him his Adequan shot yesterday, and he for sure felt nice today.  Fresh, but smooth and forward.  Love my boy!  LR will ride on this chilly Sunday, and I will play next week by ear.  I think rain is supposed to be a factor again at some point, yay.