Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Visions of Rolex ...

I <3 ponies="" td="">

I sure wish I could FINALLY go to the Rolex 3 Day Event this year.  How ironic would that be?  Never could make it when it was a 5 hour drive, yet could FLY there.  Haha.  Not this year!  Hopefully my awesome new trainer will qualify again next year and I can be part of the crew then.  This year I will be sitting here at my kitchen table watching the live feed via my laptop.  Anyway!  As I sit here typing, I feel the familiar burn in my lower back that says I rode today:)  I rode 2 VERY different horses, but both were great!

The morning was chilly, but in the sun it was positively lovely.  Miss Jade came in from the pasture with a positive attitude and only had one "normal" poop in the washrack.  The barn was quiet, and the mare seemed happy.  Gave her a good grooming, then tacked her up in the same setup as Saturday; running martingale and a single joint Myler D-ring snaffle with no hooks or anything of that sort.  I decided today was going to be a low pressure kind of day, so I was pretty relaxed.  Took her to the roundpen, and she was trying to run off before I even had the reins secured, so I growled at her to knock it off.  Let her run it out until she told me she was done, and when I pulled the mounting block to her she didn't move a single muscle.  Yes!  Got on and walked to the 'scary' upper ring.  Kept as loose a rein as I felt comfortable with, and took a nice leisurely walk around that ring.  She spooked twice, all 4 legs splayed out like a statue, but no spin or anything, phew.  Took her out of the ring after that walk, and down to 'her' lower ring.  Just spent some time walking on a relatively loose rein until I felt her take a deep breath.  I then began to walk a figure 8 around the 2 jumps in the center of the ring, using my leg 95%, hand 5%.  I kept my reins pretty long, and just focused on pushing her into my outside rein.  After that, I went to trot around on the rail ... on a loose rein.  Ya know, I did the SAME thing with Tiki.  He would get SO fast at the trot, then he would freak himself out because he was so unbalanced.  With a horse like Jade, it's easy to hang on her face to keep her slow.  What she then does is balance off your hand, so then you feel like you're always in a pulling match.  You have to allow them to balance THEMSELVES.  She has to learn to regulate her pace without me getting in her face.  Enter the One Rein Stop.  Every time, and I do mean every time she sped up, I spun her.  Eventually, they get tired of that!  But it teaches them to have a little self control and balance.  So I did that both ways until I made it a FULL lap of the ring with no spin ... on a loose rein, yay!

After lots of pats and a short break, I put her on contact.  I went immediately to the trot figure 8 around the jumps (which was different).  I've been doing the figure 8's in the far end of the ring, this time I was smack in the middle of the ring.  Back and forth, gentle contact, and a nice outside rein half halt IF she sped up.  There were quite a few times when she came onto the contact and got SO light and lovely, I really felt the horse she has the potential to be!  I then decided to be brave, and picked up the canter and cantered the 8.  I did a simple change through the walk in between.  I did probably 20 8's, keeping my hands up and together, butt in saddle, outside leg keeping her from dragging me out of the circle.  Again, I was very glad to have the martingale because cantering does bring forth lots of head flinging.  I just kept rinsing and repeating until she took a breath and made a few very nice transitions.

After one more break, I trotted on the rail on contact again, then did a shallow serpentine, tiny circle into the rail, finish serpentine, then trot up over pole.  I did that both ways 3 times each then let her finish.  She just got better and better, again giving me moments of true contact and lightness.  I like her in this bit the best so far; she is behind the kimberwicke, she is WAY too mouthy in the loosering, and in this one she takes the contact and even gets a little heavy in it, which is fine.  Trotting on a loose rein will fix that ;)  With the figure 8, I never feel her get mouthy with the bit, the mouth stays shut (ahem, Tiki never figured that out.  He opened his mouth in a HALTER!).  S just got a waterford, excited to try that!  I will put her back in a regular cavessoon when I try it.  Just trying to get her wants all figured out; she isn't a complicated horse per se, she's just super sensitive.  I really enjoyed her today, what a good girl!

At the other barn, I got to ride a pony!  She is fat and furry and white :)  I loved her.  Her name is Kimi, and she's a connemara.  LAZY!  Good lord, I wore my spurs and carried a dressage whip and still I worked myself to exhaustion;)  Trainer came out and made me get her on the bit like a good little dressage horse.  Had some great moments there.  I had to work for every step, but still had a blast.  I would love to take her out and run her around the xc course, I bet she's super fun.  My position was better on the pony, but I'm still having issues keeping my shoulder blades pressed together.  When I was a dancer, NO trainer EVER had to tell me to open my shoulders, but after so many years of riding alone and riding greenies and spookies, I've developed a bit of a softness to my upper body.  The default position is shoulders open, elbows on top of hips, hands up.  Slightly different from the hunter hand position :)  I'm SO looking forward to integrating myself; right now I still only know a hand full of people, but I'm getting to recognize some of them.  Trainer is slowly beginning to throw some responsibility on me.  I think she's been feeling me out to see what I know, and is starting to understand I do know a lot, so is starting to treat me as one of the crew.

So, I appreciate the ache in my lower back.  It means I got to do what I love today.  It reminds me that anything worth having, is worth working hard for.  It gives me hope that some day I will again stand in the start box and hear that countdown.  Incredibly thankful for my life, and looking forward to what tomorrow brings! :)  Peace and love y'all.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back on the wagon! Er ... horse.

Pretty girl today

I've gotten in some great riding time!  3 rides in the last week, woo hoo!  I rode Jade on Wednesday, and she actually was pretty spooky.  When I rode her last Saturday, I was in a T-shirt ... and we both sweated pretty darn good!  When I rode Wed ... I was wearing a long sleeved shirt/vest/polar fleece top/a pretty warm coat.  Took the coat off to ride, but it was COLD and there was a bit of a breeze.  She knew something was up, and pooped 5 times in the washrack while I tacked her up.  And NO, that is not an exaggeration;)  I took her straight to the ring instead of to the roundpen, and it then took me 15 minutes to get to mount.  Le Sigh.  She was just spooky and being a bit of a witch.  I stayed patient and didn't yank on her at all, but I did progress to making her longe in a super tiny circle at the end of the reins every time she backed up/walked off from the block.  FINALLY she just stood there, no drama, and I got on easily.  She was very tucked up, and not on any of my aids at all.  She either trotted a hundred miles an hour, jigged at the walk, or flat out crow hopped because she did NOT want to work.  I never gave up, and I just kept her moving, all the time.  The second time she crow hopped, I finally growled at her, smacked her hard with my hand and sent her FORWARD.  From that moment, she finally began to get with the program a little bit.  She was VERY mouthy with the loose ring bit I was using on her, and she kept rooting around and mouthing incessantly.  She didn't get behind it as much as with the kimberwicke, though, so score!  I didn't try any lateral stuff with her because she was just so spooky and dramatic.  I put her on a constant figure 8, didn't deviate from it at all, and FINALLY she began to come on the aids.  It was a massive light bulb moment for me when I mentally shouted at myself to regulate my posting!  I quit following her rhythm, posted high and in a tempo I liked, and she began to follow me.  Yay!  I did several canter transitions both ways, and cantered just like 6 or 7 strides, then went right back to the trot work.  That was good, believe it or not, she didn't have time to get hollow/fast/head flingy.  Ended when I could feel her settle into the contact, stop rooting, and get in front of my leg.  Good girl!

My second ride was completely unexpected!  I went over to the other barn, and the trainer was riding.  She told me to get a pen and paper, and I wrote down all that was expected of me in order to earn my 2 monthly lessons/weekly riding time.  Yay!  She is a top professional, so all of her horses are simply lovely.  I love the fact that most of her sale horses are under 16 hands, yet her Rolex horse is 17.2!  And she's TINY.  About 5' flat, and I'd be shocked if she's over 110.  I took notes, we basically shook hands (she was riding, after all), and then she told me when she was finished, I could get on.  What?  Haha, I ran back out to the truck for my helmet, and when she finished I got on the very lovely 15.3 hand TB/warmblood cross mare named Luna.  Pretty little bay, a little bit of a spook, and simply lovely.  Trainer thinks she will make an Advanced horse some day, but she's only 6.  She's completed a few T events, and is almost ready for P.  Wow.  It was an experience, for sure.  Trainer nit picked and commented on my huntery ways for the next 15 or so minutes.  I was EXHAUSTED, lol.  All I did was trot/canter in a a 20m circle both ways, but the mare is crazy athletic, and trainer is 100% a perfectionist.  I was told to sit my canter better, not lean to the left, relax my right arm tracking right, open my chest more, and of course to slow my posting and sit back.  I was in a dressage saddle.  Her gaits are very athletic, and I could feel the power underneath me.  Definitely a sports car :)

Today, I rode Jade again.  She was pretty crappy again to begin with.  It was marginally warmer than on Wed without the breeze, but it actually RAINED last night, so the rings were super wet.  I brought some of Tiki's old equipment to use on her; his running martingale, and his xc bridle with a figure 8 and the single joint Myler bit.  The martingale is purely for my safety; several times, Jade flipped her head dramatically enough for me to have Audrey flashbacks (she literally smacked me in the face with her neck, causing me to fall and get a concussion), and I didn't want her to possibly feel "trapped" by a standing.  A properly adjusted martingale of any type will prevent a horse from smacking you in the face, but the running doesn't "trap" a horse like the standing can.  I wanted to try the figure 8 because she opens her mouth like Tiki did, and it can change the way a snaffle feels in their mouth.  I longed her in the roundpen and she was perfect, but when I took her to the upper ring to get on, she did the mounting block dance again, so I just went back to the rp and mounted there.  Rode her up to the ring, and she spooked several times.  As soon as her feet hit the footing, she began jigging sideways.  I kicked her with my outside leg to get her going straight, and she popped her shoulder and tried to yank her head down as far as possible.

Now, to be fair, this is the ring S said Jade doesn't like.  I didn't care.  The mare should do as she's asked no matter WHERE you are, so I stuck to my guns and kept going.  She jigged incessantly until I finally clenched my knees so tightly against the saddle I got a hip cramp, but it got my point across and she finally walked.  I was SO glad I had that martingale; she was just beside herself with the puddles/cold/'scary' ring, and she tried to stick that head straight up like a giraffe.  The martingale did it's job, though, and she seemed almost confused when she couldn't get her head up too high.  I got her walking all around the jumps, then trotted, and she finally quit trying to go so sideways (for the most part).  She also tried to drag me around like I was a little kid, and I began to do the Clinton Anderson one rein stops.  Gee, I remember a certain little red head I used to have to do the same thing with!  She decided pretty quickly that those suck, lol!  All of a sudden, I had a mare willing to work :)  I kept my posting slow, weaved her in and out of the jumps, kept my outside leg on so she couldn't blow it off and skitter sideways, and rode until she totally gave in and got between my hand and my leg.  As a reward, I walked her down to her comfortable ring, and trotted 2 big 20 m circles in the middle of the ring.  She was pretty dang good.  I had to spin her about 5 times rather than hang on her mouth to keep her slow, but the trot work was better than on Wednesday, for sure.  I cantered her both directions on the circle which is a tiny big deal because she is VERY confused about cantering circles.  She tries to blow off the outside leg and drag you to the rail.  I kept my reins together, my outside leg firmly pressing, butt planted firmly in the saddle, and she cantered well.  Ended with another few minutes of trot just on the rail, and let her be done.  Just to "torture" her a little bit, I took her back up to her spooky ring for the cool down walk and she did holler for her buddies a few times, but she didn't try to spook/spin me off, so I consider the day to be a success! :D  Gave her lots of pats, brushed all the mud off her she'd accumulated riding in the wet ring, cleaned the dirt off the tack, and put her back out.  Good girl!  Bad start, good finish, it will be like this until she gets in the routine.  I will ride her in the same tack setup on Wednesday; the ring will be dry and HOPEFULLY it will be warmer, so I can better assess the bit/noseband set up.  Thanks for reading my novel, y'all have a happy Sunday!! :)
Jade on Wed