Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's PAST time for a little update!

Well.  Sorry for the lapse in coverage lately!  I've been travelling to FL for work, and the time change has had me all tired as soon as I get off work.  I'm sure the time change hasn't been helping things either!  I've ridden a few tricky horses at Event Barn that a year ago, I would NOT have achieved good results on.  Still to this day I tend to go to my hands before I go to my seat, but thanks to Trainer, I've begun to slowly back away from pulling so much.  I rode a tricky dressage pony last week that kicked my butt!  He picks up this AWFUL half tranter thing that feels so yucky.  And when I put my leg on he just wants to canter.  And when I tried to hold contact, he just stiffened his jaw against me and went around like a 16.1 hand moose.  Ugh.  After about 10 minutes, I was actually really frustrated and questioning my ability to "ride ANYTHING on the flat".  These dressage horses really are MUCH different than the hunter rides I'm more used to.

Trainer was finally able to turn her attention to me and help me, so after about 15 more minutes, I was FINALLY able to get some semblance of a nice, round trot.  LOW hands, but still have elbows bent, shoulders back, LOTS of half halting, but NO pulling.  Wow.  I actually felt like how it feels to physically push a wheel barrow uphill while riding this horse.  I thought the feeling of PUSHING a wheel barrow on a horse was impossible.  Nope, in fact, when you're properly riding a dressage horse, you should ALWAYS feel like you're pushing a wheel barrow!  His canter was actually quite lovely, I had no problems with that; it's always that trot work that's hard for me to REALLY nail and do it perfectly correctly.  At the end, I felt like a tired, sore wet noodle, but I got pony going nice and forward and round, so it was all good:)

I've had some LOVELY rides on the mare, most notably after switching up her bit.  S ordered a litle 2 ring gag bit, and I slapped that puppy on my bridle ASAP.  Switched her from a running martingale to a standing with the gag because I've always thought pressure on a gag rein to bring a head down is silly.  Yes, I know you're supposed to thread just the snaffle rein through the ring, but with a 2 ring elevator, you ALWAYS have some gag action; it's not like a normal snaffle gag.  The standing has done it's job perfectly.  The one or two times she threw her head in my face, it kept her from smashing it, so I'm happy :)

Last week, I worked with Jade on counter canter for the first time.  I only did it on the long sides.  I practiced picking up correct lead/counter lead on the long side, switching up which one I wanted.  She got it 90% of the time, I was very happy with her.  I think her LH is getting stronger, because I used to have problems picking up her right lead.  I still do on occasion, but she's gotten better.  Got in some VERY good lateral work from her, as well as a bit of shoulder in.  I decided to break down the jump work for her and trotted virtually everything, circling inside the lines so we didn't have the shoulder bulge and drag, and EVERY jump was 2'6/2'9.  Height is NO problem for her, and the jumps don't bother her.  If I could just FIX her in between bulge and run off crap she'd be AMAZING to jump around.  Little gag bit worked GREAT and when she decided to land and bolt, I sat her on her BUTT so fast it made her head spin.  Finished up with a lovely track with good approaches, quiet landings and a great attitude.

Most recently, she flatted up nice and quiet so I threw in a few crossrails, which she took to beautifully.  Did NOT canter on the flat, just gradually progressed from random x's to a full course.  I cantered EVERYTHING.  We had one issue where we often have issues, coming left lead away from the in gate.  She bulges and drags right to the rail.  It's dangerous, it's stupid, I don't know WHY she does that.  So I kicked her butt to the point that she got upset every time we came around the corner and began hopping up and down so I just patted her, walked until she chilled, then jumped the jump  out of a trot.  I didn't venture to that spot any more, but I did have a few issues with jumping a line or 2 once she got tired.  Jumps the first jump great, just hauls and drags right on landing, never sighting in on the 2nd jump in the line.  So, I trotted in, cantered out after jumping in, circling right, jumping in, circling left, etc about 5 times so when I went straight ahead it surprised her and she was beautifully straight so I quit there.  LOVE the brakes, speed was not ever an issue.  Even though she can still frustrate the heck out of me, she is 148% improved over the mare she was a year ago.  I would LOVE to run her xc, I think she will LOVE it because at the BN/N level there's no need to worry about lines.  She can gallop in, gallop away, no worries.  It's currently on the bucket list :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Appreciating what you have

If I let myself think about it too much, I feel sorry for myself that I had to sell Tiki.  I love that horse, and I always thought I would get to keep him "until his legs fell off".  But I know I made the right decision when I get the pics and emails from his kidlet.  Let me tell y'all; they've competed T, and they're going to do a P CT in Dec or Jan.  WHOA!  I always wondered if the boy had the stuff for more UL, but I was too much of a chicken to find out.  It's beginning to look like he DOES :)  So I look forward to hearing about their T competitions, and the big P move up.  It's a match made in Heaven!

I feel so fortunate to not only have Jade to ride, but also to be sitting on SO many horses at Eventing barn.  I used to keep track of all the horses I'd ridden; I wrote their names on my tack box.  It was a never ending push for me to want to sit on EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING I could.  Then I got old and fat and didn't ride much, and when I finally bought my own horse, I found that ANY motivation to sit on anything else was gone.  Just for fun, I'm going to list the horses I've ridden at Eventing barn.  I'm pretty sure I've been there just under a year at this point.  In no particular order: (updated 11-30-14)
1.  Kiara
2.  Pluto
3.  Rusty
4.  Sky
5.  Jedi
6.  Kimmie
7.  Spellbound
8.  Luna
9.  Belle
10.  Hannah
11.  Partner
12.  Connor
13.  Puffin
14.  Whisper
15.  Ricky Bobby
16.  Patton
17. Puzzle

I think of what each and every one of these horses have taught me, and it makes me so happy to say I've had the opportunity to ride them!  And if Tiki had made the trip w/ me to CA like I'd originally planned, I probably wound not have sat on even half these horses!  I've learned how to FINALLY feel what it's like to have real, true collection.  I've ridden passage and piaffe.  I've felt a perfect flying change just by the shifting of my weight.  It's been amazing!  I hope things work out to where I continue to ride where I'm at for a long, long time.  I absolutely love my horsey life right now!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Positive Progress is always good :)

Well, Ms. Mare is making positive progress, as is the Muffin Man w/ his kidlet!  They made their first Recog. T debut this weekend, and finished a strong 6th place :)  Dressage score was a 32.5, then they had 3 rails in stadium.  I know from experience that if you're a little nervous, sometimes he hangs a leg and catches a rail, whether it's 3'3 or 2'.  Probably some nerves there, since she had not ONE rail in their T CT they did a few weeks ago.  Clear with a few seconds of time on XC.  Poplar Place has some scary looking T XC jumps, so to jump around clean is amazing!  That means Tiki man in ALL his Recog outings has only had ONE XC jump penalty, and that was at his very first one for both of us, and I can tell you for a fact that HUGE nerves were in play that day.  So proud!

As for Jade, rode her last Sat, and it was quite literally the very first time I ever approached every jump with a LOOSE rein.  Normally, I'm trying hard not to pull on her as we head into the jumps, but I definitely always have contact.  Last week, it was hands forward and kick.  So proud of her, that was a huge step in the right direction.  Jumped everything w/ a little bit of height, and she didn't care at all.  The one jump she actually gave a little bit of attention to was the little red box she's hopped over a few times.  I let her first steep crossrail oxer, and she didn't even LOOK at that one, lol.  I was expecting her to make a fuss at that one, but nope!

During her flatwork, I purposely came across a diagonal and asked for a change; a little late right to left, but PERFECT left to right; opposite of Tiki man!  I did just the one change each direction, then didn't ask for any more.  Lots of pats and praise.  Didn't get to ride at all Wed due to having to help my son get his school life organized, but I'm hoping this week is finally back to normal.  Excited to be making forward, positive progress w/ the mare :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Busy, busy, busy!

Love my smile here.  This was the first time I REALLY felt her trot to the base and rock back nice and easy:)
Life has been a little busy!  I've been working some overtime hours at work, and for Eventing Barn, we're about to put on our very first Recognized Event!  We've done several schooling shows successfully, now it's time to put our organizing skills to the test:)  As a result, my weekly Wednesday Eventing Barn trips have been show planning sessions vs. riding lessons which is a bummer.  I DID get to ride little baby adorableness Connor.  You have to scroll down the page a little bit to see his little grid video.  He is a lazy son of a gun!  I love his size though, exactly what I prefer.  He was the last one I rode, about 3 weeks ago.

Rode Ms. Jade last Sat.  She was pretty much a rock star.  She's been on the back burner as well until after the show b/c all my free time is spent planning, writing emails, trying to coordinate EVERYTHING on my one day off, but I have ridden her on my off Saturdays.  A few weeks ago, we did the grid and she was so amazing.  Last week, I decided to mix things up and canter.  A LOT!  I haven't been doing a LOT of canter with her, really it's been a lot of trot.  And her trot is MUCH better than Tiki's was.  (I say WAS b/c his new kidlet is out there scoring 32's in dressage, woot woot!!!)  She CAN get on the strong, quick side, but lately that tendency has been pretty much non-existent.

Anyway, I w/t her and she was good, so I picked up the canter.  All was well; her bulging and dragging on the flat has gotten WAY better, and she's learned how to respond reasonably well to a half halt.  So ... I cantered her to a jump!  Landed, circled, cantered some more.  She was so shocked, she backed herself off, lol :)  All in all, I spent about 12 minutes (I checked my watch) just cantering different jumps.  I cantered tall crossrails, the red box w/ a pole, a small brush box, a gate w/ a pole, and a vertical sitting about 2'3.  There was even a crossrail/vertical/vertical combo.  1 stride to a 3-4 stride.  Eh, that was just OK.  It was set heading STRAIGHT to the barn, and in the area where she likes to pop that shoulder at the last second and DRAG to the rail.  She quickened a few times through it, but also had a few really good moments. I had the 2nd vertical up at 2'3, the 1st crossrail was TINY, and the 3rd element was a 3'3 crossrail.  A little awkward, but overall not too bad.

Not going to lie, there were a few moments where I had to literally stick my right spur in her on landing, and I did have to really haul her around a few times turning left (that RIGHT bulge, ugh!), but for the most part I was very excited.  The jumps weren't an issue at ALL, it's now just working to improve the overall quality of the canter and eliminate that drag to the right once and for all.  The spooking has become very much a non-issue, and her work ethic has improved tremendously.  Very proud of the mare!  S will be taking her to her very first OFF grounds show next weekend :)  I'm very sad I'll miss it since I'll be working my tail off all weekend at Event Barn.  Until next time!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

On horses maturing

First grid!

I went through it with Tiki, and now I'm goin through it with Jade ... maturing :)  I believe maturity has nothing to do with age; it has everthing to do with "getting with the program".  When I first sat on Jade last year, the thought of jumping never even crossed my mind.  I remember vividly with Tiki watching a friend jump a haybale at Joyce's and wondering if we would ever get to that point.  When the horse underneath you is so inconsistent on the flat, it's hard to think about all 4 feet off the ground, but when you're an eventer that thought eventually crosses your mind!

I'm not afraid of flatting horses.  Unless they're flat out dangerous, I feel as though I can ride through most anything.  So over the past months, Jade has pulled every evasive trick in the book; spooking, bulging, above the bit, behind the bit, under the bit, fast, slow, jigging, etc.  But through it all, I've remained consistent in my treatment of her.  Leg on, insist she take the contact, don't take "no" for an answer ... and it's paid off!  S can comfortably w/t/c/jump her now, and when we first began this journey, she was actually riding her in a western saddle for security!  I think it's been a combination of consistent riding, warmer weather, and supplements.

When I get on her, I put on my leg and push her up into my hand.  No jigging, no curling behind the bit, and a MUCH improved work ethic :)  I wear my spurs now to help really fine-tune control that right shoulder and it's certainly helping.  Now that S and I have been able to get her back in work, the bulging is beginning to minimize again.  That is always going to be her achilles heel, for sure.  This past week, I continued the idea of ramping up her jump work and jumping more "real" jumps vs just puttering over 18".  I actually cantered figure 8's over a crossrail, and she was super, even offering up a few flying changes.  I rode the canter to the crossrail trying to think about which lead I wanted to land, but she is still pretty strong at the canter, so just focusing on a rhythm was my primary objective.

There was another person in the ring with me, so I could only have 2 jumps "up".  I made one of the brush boxes a tall crossrail, and I put a pole over the brick.  I also dropped a trot pole in front of the little gray box to work on her trotting to the base.  I still don't do much jump cantering, that will come with time.  After cantering the crossrail in the figure 8 pattern, I moved on to flatwork, trot a jump, flatwork, trot a jump.  After every jump, I halted straight then flexed her right and moved her off my right leg.  All was pretty good until I was trotting the little box and I felt it; the right bulge.  She landed and DRAGGED me to the rail, nearly running into the other horse in the ring.  It has been MONTHS since she pulled that little trick so I jumped her case HARD.  I circled, growled, and gave her nice bump with the spur.  We then proceeded to jump that jump 5 times, with slight improvement each time.  I gave her a break, then did a little course involving a right hand turn after EVERY jump.  She did that well, I was proud.  Not a bulge to be found!

Today, she did her VERY FIRST grid :)  Yay!  It went much better than I even could have hoped.  I set a trot pole, crossrail, 9' to a brush box w/ no standards, 9' to a pole, 9' to a crossrail, 9' to a brushbox, 9' to a pole, 9' to a final crossrail.  S helped me, and we built it gradually.  She took everything in stride, pardon the pun.   I even approached in my 2 point, which I have NEVER done w/ her before.  The distances were actually more like 8'; I'd set everything short w/ the hope of making her wait.  Predictably, by the last she got a little on the quick side, but I chose not to jack the final jump up to back her off.  That will come next time ;)  I was so pleased with her understanding of how to handle it; there was no stops/bulges/runouts/bids/awkward moments.  Once or twice she was so nice and light and foot perfect I was just thrilled.  I believe she has really gained confidence, which is translating into maturity ... I'm excited to see how she does once the days get shorter and the winds kick up.  I hope we continue to move forward and progress; she's turned into quite the fun horse to ride!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A few riding updates!

All has been pretty good on the horsey-front.  My adorable Puffin pony got sold to a kidlet, so YAY for him, BOO for me:(  I got to sit on super fancy Belle the week before last; she has a MOTOR and a half, that girl does.  She looks like Tiki except with bigger ears and 4 white socks.  Her breeding is full Hanoverian, but he looks like a dang Thoroughbred all the way.  She's petite and narrow like the muffin man, and I LOVE to ride her.  Didn't ride out at event barn last week or this week due to me volunteering at another schooling 3 phase event, and this week event trainer is at REBECCA FARM competing her lovely Trakehner gelding in the CIC3*.  WISH I WAS THERE!  Next year ... I will totally be going to Rolex, Rebecca, and Inavale.

I rode a really, really, really nice horse named Hannah the time before I rode Belle ... and let me tell ya ... I've never been run away with; I shut that crap down before it ever has a chance to get revved up.  But Hannah's TROT is like a freaking 12' canter stride, no joke.  If there were ever a horse with the potential to run off with me and I'd let it happen because she's so sneaky about it, it's Hannah.  I was pretty much exhausted after trotting her for half an hour, and I wimped out and only cantered one way.  I truly believe if I'd let her go the full length of the ring and not just stayed on a 20m circle, I probably would have had a very hard time stopping her.  Event trainer says this mare has FEI dressage potential.  I believe it!  Also on that day, got to ride super handsome stallion Sky again.  I feel so blessed every time I sit on that horse, he is AMAZING.  I've only ever ridden him in the dressage tack, but that is AOK by me.  His movement and power is just breathtaking, but he is such a gentleman; when I ride him, I use a mullen mouth happy mouth snaffle, and I never even have to TOUCH his face, he's that soft.  I LOVE how much I am learning there, very thankful for the opportunity to be there.

Ms. Mare has been AWESOME.  We had a few good rides after the show, and then the month of July was a combo of vacation time, and injury time for Jade.  She got a nasty looking puncture wound on her upper leg and was off for a week or 2, so I have only ridden her a hand full of times since my last update.  Rode Saturday, and with the exception of her geting a little strong at the canter, she was picture perfect.  Today, I decided to test her bravery and jack up the baby jumps to actual big girl jumps.  Substantial crossrails, a solid 2' vertical w/ flowers, a 2'3 post and rail, and a 2'6 vertical w/ a brush box.  I normally jump her 18", and have hopped over 2' on one or two occasions.  I decided it was time to bump it up a notch!

With the time off she's had, her dragging right has made a bit of re-apperance, so in my flat work, I actally kept a right bend the ENTIRE ride so she was physically incapable of popping that shoulder and dragging me right.  I trotted her over a bunch of random poles, working on maintaining her straightness through her body and feeling her responsiveness to my leg.  I began to incorporate the little 18" vertical and then the 2 bigger crossrails into my flatwork, halting, bending right, and moving off my right leg after each jump.  I was pretty happy with her!  Progressed to the 2' vertical, then the 2'3 post and rail.  

The first few times over that one, she did get a tad anxious and try to canter the last stride or 2, so I went back and forth several times, then just went back to the crossrails for a bit, then came back to it and she was better; trotted to the base.  I let her walk for a bit, then just decided to Go For It.  

I was banking on the fact that the height would back her off a little, but hopefully not TOO much.  I told myself no matter what happened, if she went over it, we were done.  Well, she jumped it great, but knocked off the pole.  Probably because I talked myself into a last minute panic and tried to grab mane, but ended up jumping all up her neck.  Le Sigh.  That's what happens when I live jumping poles and 18" little things.  I also TRIED to work on what event trainer has had me do; shorten my reins enough that I can PLANT my knuckles in her neck approaching the jump, then NOT move.  Just sit still.  But she wans to rush the base, so I have to RIDE her to the base still.  Sigh again.  I got off, reset the pole, then came again.  This time, I grabbed my martingale strap (which is a poor substitution for my neck strap, but you work with what you've got!), and even though she did sneak in a last minute canter stride this time, she jumped it perfectly.  I let her walk for a minute, then I HAD to finish up over a crossrail, then back and forth over the 2' vertical so I reinforced TROT to the base, NO cantering.  She got it. I was very happy with her.  ME, I wasn't all that happy with; either she was just putting in a big effort with her body, or I was just seriously off my game, but I felt like I was pretty much behind the motion on every jump.  See, this is our usual jump height:

So it was probably a combination of her being impressed w/ the jumps, and me being defensive.  But overall, a great day :)  Very proud ... little maresy is growing up to be a big girl:D

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Jade update

I have to give S a lot of credit.  She is a GREAT horse owner.  When she offered the mare to me to ride, little did she know she'd get a fair amount of 'advice' by way of this blog ;)  Jade is now on Quiessence and U Gard, and I think that plus the warm (hot) weather has done a LOT to bring Miss Mare down to quiet mare.  I think about the first time I rode her in the upper ring, and it was an Act of God that I didn't fall off her at that point I think!  Spooking, spinning, barging into the rail tracking left, crow hopping ... there was just a whole lotta dram llama going on.

This past Sunday, after persevering for roughly 7 months, Jade won 2 red ribbons for S, and  yellow one for me ... out of 10 ish horses.  Proud would be an understatement!

Jade has gone from tense, generally pissy and unhappy, and pretty dang spooky to relaxed and ear-floppy with barely a spook there.  In fact, it's become a RARE thing for me to have to spin her during a ride.

Our rides used to feel somewhat frustrating and literally painful for my back sometimes because she would get so hollow and quick.  Looking back, I think a turning point for us was when I finally slapped the draw reins on her.  Ever since then, she's been quick to come onto the contact, she's happy to trot quietly with me doing virtually nothing, and the jump work has been pretty darn relaxed and slow.

I took a lesson from the barn owner last week, and it was interesting.  She came right out and said I was not going to learn anything NEW or earth shattering; I already have a strong depth of knowledge and understanding, and what we were able to do was have a philosophical discussion about Jade's brain and her idiosyncrasies (sp?).  The lesson went GREAT.  I jumped her around a full course, and had to circle ONE time; in retrospect, she was tired, her attention span was probably shot, and her tolerance level for being perfect had reached the boiling point.  I pushed the envelope, and ended up extending the lesson by about 10 minutes while I circled and arm wrestled her, but finally got what I wanted in the end, but I SHOULD have left well enough alone and ended on a note that was pretty close to perfect ... for HER.

Sunday morning, Jade was pretty upset about the hubbub atmosphere, and was nervous pooping and barrelling around at the end of the reins.  My ONLY plans were to school her for S, b/c S's trainer KNEW Jade would be upset and that synapse would mis-fire, and she would lose her brain for a little bit.   After being in the thick of the atmosphere, I took her off  by herself to the roundpen to mount, and it's like she looked around, took a deep breath, and told herself she could DO it :)  We walked into the ring calm and happy, and she was PERFECT tracking left, her hard way.  Barely batted an eye.  I saw no point in cantering, b/c S entered w/t classes, so I reversed to track right.  Ruh Roh!  She lost her sh!+.  She spun away, gave a little half rear, a little kick out, and tried REALLY hard to bolt away from ... who knows what she was spooking at.  I didn't have her in any type of martingale due to the fact that it was a hunter show and she was showing in flat classes, and boy, in that moment I sure wish I'd had SOMETHING on her.  I circled around, approached the long side again, and a AGAIN.  She flung her head up and got so hollow that she unseated me, and for an instant, I was SURE I was going to hit the ground.  Somehow, though, I recovered, circled the heck out of her, and continued tracking right, but this time, as a circle.  Gradually, I worked her closer and closer to the long side so that I made a somewhat straight track up the quarter line, and left it at that.

S got on, went to the lower ring to get her bearings for a few minutes, and I talked her through it, then into the show ring they went!  Perfection, that's all I have to say.  S didn't get tense, Jade went around like she was the happiest thing in the world, and they left with a red ribbon :)

I encouraged her to go back in there and do one more, and the 2nd was an even bigger class than the first, and another red!  Amazing, awesome day :)  She encouraged ME to do a class, and I agreed to enter the "novice crossrails".  In the warm up ring, I did nothing but w/t, then just relaxed under a tree for awhile.

I walked into that ring, picked up the world's slowest trot, and approached the first jump.  She was so asleep, I think it took her by surprise!  She jumped around slow and relaxed until the line we'd had issues at in my lesson.  She did a little "run and scoot" over the 'out' of a line going towards her pasture in the last 2 strides, but I quickly reorganized and pointed her to the final line where she basically trotted over the 'in', landed trotting (which I was FINE with), and jumped the final perfectly.  She ended up 3rd with again about 10 in the class, so I was very proud and happy!  She has come a LONG way, and she's now really fun and not stressful to ride at ALL.  It's like when Tiki finally became a "real" horse, and I knew I could just hop on and have a fun, productive ride ... not a fight.  That's where Jade is now; I know the "fights" will still come every now and then when I push the envelope, but she's RIGHT were S needs her to be, so for now we'll just be content to poke along and enjoy the ride :)

Overall theme of the day is ...

... Improvement!  My lessons w/ event trainer have been literally life changing, in the riding sense.  I got to ride both her stallion again!

AND ... I finally got to sit on the 4 star horse, woop woop!  Granted, the 4* horse was a trail ride followed by 45 minutes of walking, but STILL.  My butt sat on a horse bound for the Rolex CCI**** next year.  How lucky can a girl get??

So, I'm so thankful for the opportunity just to be able to experience that upper level feel and movement.  My old hunter trainer said her daughter didn't get to be the amazing rider she is today by riding the "bad" ones, as so many people say.  She got to where she is by having the chance to ride NICE horses, that taught her what a "nice" horse should feel like.

I've been riding lots of ponies; Puffin the puff ball Icelandic, Kiara (not so much since she got purchased.  BOO for me, but yay for her new owner!), and Kimmie (the gray Connemara).

When I rode Kimmie, it took me about 5 minutes to get her round, soft, and in front of my leg.  The previous 3 times I rode her, I EXHAUSTED myself TRYING to get her forward and round, and achieved maybe half a lap of actually having her engaged and her back up.  This last time, it was quick and simple, and she stayed nicely between the hand and the leg for most of my 40 minute ride.  The pony Puffin is mostly about WORKING him.  He's pretty fat, but he's super athletic.  I love to jump him around, and trainer is working with me on doing as little as possible.  I tend to want to "help" him by jumping up his neck, and we all know how that works out.

I took a lesson with honorary little sis Nicole on Rusty, and it was super fantastic.  I jumped around on a horse I'd never ridden, and it was just NICE to be able to focus mostly on ME, and fixing the myriad of bad habits I've developed over the years.  Rusty is another Pluto; an ex upper level horse of trainer's that is now a super lovely lesson horse that I don't get to ride hardly at all b/c she has to use him for her other students!  A year ago, I would have politely declined to jump around, focusing instead on flatwork, but I'm finally being brave and going for it!

I rode a SUPER nice older BTDT hunter named Partner last week.  He's another big, gray Trakehner, and though he has a bit of a spook to him, it was a lovely lesson.  Our first jump was almost enough to zap my confidence b/c he apparently HATES to trot jumps, and it was a horribly awkward and painful jump, but I took a deep breath, pushed back the fallen down brim of my helmet, pushed my heels down, and persevered until I was able to canter back and forth through a line perfectly.  He's just BIG, and I don't feel all that comfortable on a BIG horse.  Flat, yes.  Jump?  Not so much.  But it ended great, I'm happy. :)

Overall, I'm SO happy with the progress I'm making, and trainer treats me like any other part of the team.  I get to ride her 'fancy ponies' (for which she actually THANKED me, what??), I get to ride the nice sale horses, and I have my fun little pony project, which I'm loving.  Even though I miss my sweet, sassy little muffin man like crazy, it warms my heart to see him out competing with his new child at N, finishing on his dressage score like a good boy.  She's thinking of moving up to T this Fall, and I can't wait to hear all about it!  I'm lucky that I can still keep up with him, and I'm lucky the sale worked out and his new home is every bit as good as his old one was :)  I am very grateful for the situation I'm in now, and looking forward to continuing to improve and to sit on more fancy ponies :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Positive Progress!

Look at those shoulders!  Learning to not lean forward :)

I know I'm a fairly decent rider.  I'm certainly no genius, but I'm perfectly competent.  I'm learning that all my years of riding alone has caused me to develop this nasty little habit I don't even realize of pulling ... and leaning.  Hmmmm.  Event trainer actually often rides with other trainers to keep her skills polished and on pointe.  She has been working with me to stop going for the reins FIRST, and to think more of using my legs and seat. I take what I learn on Wednesdays, and then turn around and apply that to Jade.

This past Wed, I had the best lesson I've had yet on Kiara.  She tends to get a little stiff in the jaw and inconsistent through the contact, but by really using what I learned riding Pluto, she stayed so nice and soft for me!  Trainer's thing this week was to really think about ELBOWS.  Outside elbow bent and superglued to the hip, hand down.  Inside elbow pointing to the inside hip, think thumb "out", like a hitchhiker.  Inside hand never pulls back, it can lift slightly, thinking forward, but shouldn't come backwards.

We jumped a crossrail, just thinking about rhythm and not MOVING at the jump.  She had me really focus on staying with her in the approach, then WAIT and let her jump up to me.  It was very eye-opening because I feel like I generally don't jump ahead, but I am ... marginally.  She then set some barrels and said Kiara may look, and to be ready, but she was perfect, as usual!  I was prepared with my crop, but all was good :)  That was it.  Simple, but effective.

Nice, soft mare today :)

Today, I rode Jade and thought about shoulders back, and ELBOWS the entire ride.  Lo and behold, the mare was the BEST she's been, EVER.  It's so nice to start having all these good rides because it means we're making forward progress!  There was NO popping of the shoulder, NO dragging to the rail, NO bucking, NO sassiness whatsoever.  She was willing, obedient, and so soft through the bridle, it was lovely.  I concentrated on NOT pulling, at all, and I never used both reins at once.  I concentrated on posting slowly if she got a little quick, and tried to plug in my seatbones and really connect with her back on the down beat of the trot, which was something else Event trainer worked on with me Wed.  What a good girl!  S was out watching and took a few pics, and she was just so pleased to see her be so good!

She was just a little bit NQR behind, so we took it easy, with mostly w/t and I walked a bunch of poles.  She was so good and quiet I moved up to trotting poles, and it was just so good!  At the end, I decided to let her have a little break with lots of pats, and decided to try a little left lead canter.  It. Was. Perfect.  The transition was nice and relaxed, I concentrated on SITTING and keeping my elbows superglued, and not pulling, and we cantered an ENTIRE lap around the ring without touching her mouth.  I had her on contact, but I didn't have to pull or half halt at all, the entire time.  WOW!  She hadn't been to that point with me yet, EVER.  Right lead, the transition was a little bit sticky because she wanted to pick up the left lead instead, and she tried to pop that right shoulder just a hair, so I did have to help her a LITTLE bit, but it was still the lightest I've ever been able to be with my hands.

Overall, she was a superstar!  It's been a wonderful "mare" week, I have absolutely NOTHING to complain about :):):)

Superglued elbows!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

And ... the 2nd of the "2 separate posts"!


Haha, I didn't intend for a week to go by before coming out with the second installment of last week's blog post.  I guess fortunately, there wouldn't have been one from this week anyway since it actually decided to RAIN all night long, YAY!  That means Jade gets Wed off from me, and I technically could ride at eventing barn since they have an indoor, but I have a bunch of stuff that needs to get done around here, so I'm actually going to stay home today, oh the horrors!

So after leaving HRH Jade, I made my way 45 mins up the road to the eventing barn.  After our weekly meeting with a facebook rep, I was allowed to saddle up my adorable little fluffy pony again, Puffin!  He is so adorable.  He's actually a fun little booger to ride, as well.  I spent about 20 minutes with the shedding blade, working to remove some of the great "Spring Shed", then led him to the outdoor were I proceeded to mount using the block.  Yep.  I used the mounting block for a pony who's back I tower over.  In my defense, he is extremely fat with no withers to speak of, so it's more of a step over sort of mounting.  Trainer was teaching a lesson while I rode, and didn't have a whole lot to say on the flat with him, which for her is somewhat surprising as she usually can find no less than 5 things at once to correct me on ... while I'm walking!  Lol, but Puffin is a kid's pony, so there's really no need to try and do much more than keep him straight, light, and forward as much as possible.

Then she told me to go jump the tiny 18" vertical.  OK, no problem.  What a cutie!  B/c he is so small, I felt the urge to help him by jumping up his neck, so I definitely got my correction handed to me there.  Trotted over it a few more times, and much better.  I then cantered a pretty tall crossrail; like, the cups were at the equivalent of his belly.  He hopped right over, cute as a button!  Cantered a pretty big vertical, about 2'3, and it was perfect.  His little legs are so short, trainer had to remind me to just wait on him and not get ahead, and I did.  Cantered into a line of crossrails, and I just looped the reins and kicked and he was perfect!

I was pretty content at that point to stop and watch (pony was puffing like a train, anyway.  Did I mention he's fat and hairy?  And it was rapidly approaching 80 degrees?).  I was observing trainer's head groom lessoning on a young, green Morgan/TB named Spellbound.  I'd ridden him a few months ago, and he's super fun.  She was supposed to show him at our schooling show in a few days, so it was jump around time!  They were to trot over the liverpool.  The liverpool is an actual, 4' wide liverpool, that you fill up with water, not just a tarp or something.  There was a tiny amount of water in it, really, it was dry if I'm being completely honest!  While trainer lectured her on using her stick and being effective, I just sat, watched, and patted my pony.  After a few tries, she was able to successfully trot him over the jump, and I turned to leave the ring.

"Ok Jen, now the pony needs to go jump the liverpool!"  Um, are you kidding?  I've never jumped an actual liverpool before, especially not on a 13 hand pony!  I made some comment about me being a "passive observer" as opposed to an "active participant", but I got my crop ready and trotted up after NOT being allowed to show him the jump.  As I expected, he stopped pretty hard core, and ducked left and tried to run off.  Trainer tried to block him with her body, but he was in full on run through mode.  I had my stick out ... but had neglected to use it.  I got yelled at for that, then presented again with another pretty hard stop, but at least this time I used it on his neck, on the left side.  Finally, he leaped over.  Trotted in again, and he jumped after a slight hesitation, then cantered it a few times and he was perfect.  I should have gotten the job done the FIRST time, and not trot in thinking "He's gonna stop".  It's probably self defeating.

My second ride (technically 3rd) of the afternoon was Pluto, trainer's former upper level dressage mount.  He's now her main lesson horse dude, a real steady eddy, and big enough to accommodate most riders.  I hadn't had the chance to ride him yet b/c he normally already has a lesson or 2 scheduled on Wed, but this week I'd gotten lucky.  He's one of those horses that will go around like a schoolie for most people, but you can really ride him correctly and he'll become Mr. Dressage King.  I was armed with my spurs this time, and went back out to the outdoor after covering myself with is white hair.  I spent about 15 minutes trying to figure him out, and was feeling him be really stiff and reluctant to get round for me.

Trainer came out on her horse, and immediately began barking at me to STOP PULLING, and use my legs and seat to get him round.  WAY easier said than done!  I didn't even REALIZE I was pulling.  Nevertheless, she was exactly right and when I put on twice as much leg, and half as much hand, he took a breath, lifted his back, and got on the bit.  Amazing.  Subtle is the way to get results, NOT try to pull him into a frame.  After about 30 minutes, I'd gotten some pretty decent walk/trot.  What was nice is for my canter work, the only correction I got was to lighten my seat a hair because I had him so collected he threw a few tempi changes for me in the beginning.  After that, I was ok enough that trainer focused on her on ride while I finished up.

What a teacher!  Pluto knows more than I probably EVER will, and taught me so much about how a big guy doesn't need muscle to get the most out of him. He gave me so much awareness of my body, and how light one must be in order to achieve true dressage harmony.

I spent Sunday at the barn volunteering at our first schooling show of the season.  It was a CT, with extra showjumping and dressage tests thrown in.  Super fun!  I spent all day, doing a little score running, some score calculations, and a lot of filming.  SO thankful to have found this barn, I'm learning more now than I have in the last 15 years.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2 separate posts so as not to turn into a novel ...

You can see how loose I have the draw reins.

I know.  My attention span isn't that great either, but I don't like to be un-detailed because you just never know when you may need to read back through something to get ideas!  So.  I'll start with the mare ...

Rode her Saturday in the ghetto draw reins.  I wanted to give her 2-3 rides with the "gadget" just to help her get her muscles working correctly, then go back naked.  She started out very fresh, very tense, and jiggy.  Every time I asked her to trot, she tried to pop her shoulder and canter off, so I spent some quality time doing w/t transitions until she settled in a little more.  I did lots of circles and changes of direction, and finally she began to settle down into the contact and get a little more steady.

I trotted her over a small crossrail set dead center in the ring, and she was pretty good!  She did try to get a little quick at first, so I worked to stay soft and not pull on her, which would then trigger her to pull on ME.  I only did it a few times, halting in a straight line after.  When I landed and kept cantering after jumping it about 5 times, she was perfect because she thought I was going to halt her, so she cantered nice and slow :)  Went to some more trot work, and she did begin to drag me tracking left a little bit, so I stayed well off the rail and counter-bent her pretty hard core until she went straight, not diagonally right!  Finished up with a right lead canter that was super long.  I just kept going, and going, and going.  The draw reins helped her to stay within the contact, and I half halted pretty dramatically, really making the effort to LET GO, which is crucial to the working of a HALF halt.  She threw about 5 lead changes during that final canter, but I didn't care, I just kept taking nice deep breaths and softening the contact as much and as often as possible.

Today, I had a fantastic horse!  I rode her early in the day, and sans draw reins.  I spent about 15 quality minutes at the walk.  You may think initially that would be me copping out, but she is as hard to walk on contact as Tiki used to be.  She wants to jig, get crooked, root, you name it.  I pushed her on, gently squeezed my ring fingers, sat back, took deep breaths, and FINALLY got some super walk on contact!  I had 3 different jumps set with 2 poles 9' apart.  I then had just a single pole thrown in randomly.  The task was not to jump, the task was to trot poles in perfect rhythm while staying straight.

I picked up the trot, and despite swishing her tail a few times, she was good other than being a little quick.  I did loopy, 15 meterish circles until she forgot to try and bulldoze.  I tried super hard to give my inside rein as much as possible, sit back, and not pull on her.  I kept my hands together and my outside leg on, and felt like I really had a nice horse under me.  That lasted until I asked for the right lead canter, lol.  She THREW that head around, and tried to put her nose between her knees while she leaped in the air.  I went back to trot, walked the poles some more, and asked again for canter.  This time, she was good.  Didn't hold it a super long time, but was VERY pleased by how responsive she was on the downward transitions.

Went back to trot, and she was so ready to walk at the poles, I was able to soften my reins, close my leg, and keep her trotting nice and slow over the poles.  I went right then left and straight, just trying to keep her guessing and listening.  Cantered left, and good girl!  Trotted more poles, nice and slow.  Counter flexed tracking left, and she stayed nice and soft.  Tried a new thing at the end; after cantering both leads on small circles, I kept her going and cantered a pole.  Of COURSE I got there long, and she leaped at it.  I patted her, went back to trot, walked some poles, back to canter off the other lead.  Deep and strong, but manageable.  Back to trot, then canter ONE more time over the pole, and got there long again, but she waited!  Good girl:)  Today, she really felt like she could go just like a "normal" horse where you kick and do nothing with the reins.  I know she'll get there; I've already felt such a big difference in her, I know the warm summer weather will help her to be even better :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A collection of rides

Well, it hasn't been TERRIBLY exciting in the land of riding ... CA has actually had RAIN which means that Jade's barn has been out.  Not to mention the fact that my back has been feeling HORRIBLE.  I've needed a chiro ever since I came to CA, but there were several problems with that.  The first being a lack of $$, and the 2nd being the fact that chiros are hard to find.  You have no idea if one will work for you until you try them out, but since they have the ability to seriously mess you up, it tends to scare you off from trying.

Anyway, I took the plunge, ponied up the money, and got my back all fixed up, so at least that part's taken care of!  Last week, I only rode at eventing barn, and I got to ride my precious Kiara again.  She is the best, I just LOVE her!  If I was in a position to buy something, she would be mine in a heartbeat.  Rode in the dressage tack, and she felt wonderful.  Trainer's assistant was in the ring with me, and she gave me a few tips with her that worked great.  She feels a little bit stiff through the bridle normally, and last week she felt so much more adjustable and soft.  I'm feeling so much better with sitting back and being in a correct dressage seat; trainer's finally rubbing off on me :)

Today I rode Jade first and had made the decision to put her in my ghetto draw reins.   At first I thought she wasn't a good candidate for draw reins because she can get behind the bit when she wants to.  But something I've noticed is eventing trainer has put every single horse in her training program in some type of gadget some of the time.  Often, they're ridden "naked", but often they have SOMETHING to help with head set.  These horses are hands down the most consistent, correct, and pleasant horses I've ever sat on, so the gadgets obviously do some good (when I've ridden, they've all been naked).

Jade hasn't been ridden much in the last few weeks; S went on vacation, my back wimped out, and the rains fell, so I was prepared for battle today.  Good thing, because she was in the mood to pick a fight!  Let me just say ... the draw reins worked GREAT!  As per usual, I kept them on the loose side warming up, but even when I tightened them up slightly, I did NOT use them to 'pull' her head down.  She goes with her head down; the problem I have with her is she will blow through the contact and completely lose her connection.  Today, we kept the connection.  She was quite mareish today, squealing to her friends in protest of work.  I could feel her tenseness, and I KNOW she would have blown up several times.  She tried to violently fling her head and pitch a fit, but I kept my leg on, maintained the contact, and she had to settle in.  A few times she tried to slam on the breaks and not go forward, so I loosened up and pushed her forward.  It only took about 10 minutes for her to actually settle in super :)  She's smart enough to know when she's fighting a losing battle, so she really hunkered down and worked hard.  Yes, she still tried to fling the head.  Yes, she still felt a tad explosive, and she hollered during the entire ride, but I was very pleasantly surprised.

Our biggest issue jumping so far has been keeping straight.  It's worse tracking left; she blows off my right leg and pops that right shoulder and drags me to the rail.  When jumping she will try to pop that right shoulder and drift, so I had set a small crossrail with a takeoff/landing chute set with poles.  It was 100% uneventful!  I trotted her back and forth 4 times and she was absolutely perfect every time, so I left that alone!

I then decided to push my luck and work the canter ... left lead.  I had SEVERAL very good transitions.  She tried to do the violent head fling, but she couldn't, so then she tried to blow my right leg and drag me,so I counter bent her, and then she just STOPPED.  I got after her REALLY good with my right leg and made her move off it.  I then got a great transition and she cantered nicely, so I praised her and reversed.  Cantered off on the right lead and she gave me the nicest, softest, and most perfect canter I've ever gotten from her.  Held it for about half a lap, got a perfect downward transition, and let her be finished.  Good girl!

Today, I rode the smallest pony I've sat on since I was about 17.  I'd be shocked if he's an inch over 13.2; a little chestnut roly-poly thing that's as wide as he is tall named Puffin.  What a sweetie!  He's a former lesson horse from trainer's old Napa barn, and they're looking to sell him as a kid's pony, but apparently he's developed some stinky pony moves.  Maybe I just got lucky, but he was absolutely perfect for me :)  The only thing I noticed about him that's different than every other horse of hers I've ridden is that he was VERY stiff in the neck; totally typical schoolie feel.  I did lots and lots of bends and changes of direction, circles, etc.  He's surprisingly responsive to the leg; I didn't wear spurs and even though I carried my crop, he was great.  He leg yields well, and he did try to bend when I asked him for it.  He has a perfect little canter button, and I had no trouble whatsoever with him.  Yet another great ride at the eventing barn!

So, all is good in horsey land!  There is a combined test schooling show next Sunday I'm volunteering at; maybe the next one I can actually ride in it :)  The spring weather and the time change has been so amazing.  CA has the most perfect weather, I just LOVE it!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yet another *amazing* day!

Look Ma! A big oxer with a little pony!  
The "box"

Gymnastic line

The 'out' oxer of the gymnastic

I tell ya ... I am loving this whole "take lessons" thing!  It has been a serious desire of mine to get back to receiving regular instruction, but it's definitely a difficult thing to get worked out.

I rode Jade this morning.  She was OK.  I have difficulty sometimes because she really can just be a witch with a capital "B".  It's frustrating because when I throw her in the roundpen to longe her, she canters BEAUTIFULLY.  Balanced, rhythmic, and easily.  When I longed Tiki, he would fight me every step of the way.  Jade is happy to oblige, all the time!  When I throw a leg over her, though, all that changes.  She gets tense, rushes, evades, and generally acts the part of a pissy mare.  I don't know if it's hormones, pain, general attitude, or learned actions.  Her saddle appears to fit EXTREMELY well, but the sweat patterns are a little wonky sometimes.  She sweats more on the left side of her body, it's weird.  I've tried using my Thinline pad instead of the fleece half pad, and it seemed to make a difference, but now she's just like she was before.  She just fluctuates like CRAZY!  I've had a few amazing rides on her, but lately I've been fairly unimpressed.  Maybe once the days get a little longer, S and I can alternate days and get her ridden 4-5 days a week instead of 1-3.  It may be that for her level right now, she just needs more consistency.  Were she mine, I honestly would probably start supplement tinkering, beginning with the U gard stuff by Cortaflex I had Tiki on for the first 2 years I had him.  She is an OTTB, it's not unreasonable to think she may have a little bit of an "ouchy" tummy.  I don't know.  I've never owned a mare, so suggestions are always welcome!

All that being said, she wasn't bad today.  I truly don't take any crap off her though, so when she experimented with trying to canter off and swishing her tail when I asked for a trot, I hauled off and yanked her up in a circle and paired that with growling at her in "angry voice".  As SOON as she gives me what I want, I release pressure and give lots of pats and sweet voice praise.  Switched up the bit today and used the mullen happy mouth loose ring.  Meh.  I like her better in the waterford.  S said she'd been heavy and curling up behind the bit her last few rides, so I was curious which mare I'd have today.  Heavy, yes, but I've also changed the way I've been riding her.  I feel like when they're learning, they do go through the "heavy" stage before they learn 'self carriage', and lightness.  She MUST learn to accept the leg contact, she MUST learn to be forward but not fast, and she has to figure out balance.  I've done the loose rein thing like I did with Tiki, but instead of that I've been focusing on accepting the aids.  She felt quite like she could be a bottle rocket if the circumstances warranted, so I didn't push my luck and jump.  I only did about 4 canter transitions, and literally cantered about 3 strides before pulling up.  Kept the ride to 20 minutes, and ended as SOON as I got some good, honest attempts to be submissive and have a good attitude about it.

At Eventing Barn, I got to ride my chestnut pony again.  I WANT TO WIN THE LOTTERY SO I CAN BUY KIARA!  She is my pony.  I love her.  And literally, she's a 14.2 hand pony :)  I got to join in with another person and jump her today.  Like, not just hop over a crossrail, I mean JUMP :)  Trainer had a "box" set up of 2 diagonal lines with 2' verticals; 30' between one line, and 40' between the other.  Exercise was to make a figure 8, doing 3 in the 30', and 4 in the 40'.  Holy hard exercise, Batman!  Lessoning again is a humbling experience.  That dang left bulge got me again, as every time I cantered over the single cav pole, I was too far left.  GRR!  Lol.  Finally got straight, and we moved on.  Thank the lord I had the awareness to NOT drop my leg at the base.  I kept my awareness at all times, and for the most part the leg was there.  My first few attempts at the exercise were a great big FAIL.  Kiara is a little bit "hard" and generally unsensitive through the bridle, so it became a challenge for me more about using my body instead of my hands.  After a few epic misses when she didn't quite add the step, she finally figured things out and added in.  Got a few GREAT trips through, and we were both pretty exhausted.

From there, Trainer had us canter a 2'3 square oxer.  Considering my pony has jumped only a hand full of times, I sighted in, CLOSED MY LEG, and had a few nice warm up jumps, yay.  The next exercise was to canter 4 placing poles, vertical, 4 more placing poles, oxer.  Um, the jumps looked HUGE, haha.  Honestly, I'm pretty sure they were just 2'6, but I haven't {bigger than crossrails}jumped since ... May or June, maybe?  And then it was my 15.2 hander!  I haven't jumped a jump of substance on a horse other than Tiki in 10-12 YEARS.  That's why I had all my "height" hangups at the beginning of my blog!  Too much teaching, not enough riding.  And Britain the lesson horse pretty much DESTROYED any confidence I had in my ability to jump unfamiliar horses when he stopped, propped, and popped a bunch of jumps until I finally had to jump off in humiliation ... in front of my peers and my students.

Anyway!  I went first, carried in a nice canter to the first pole, had a good vertical, but then pretty much lost it to the oxer.  I kicked my way through, and the distance was STEADY, not forward.  Ooops.  Despite my inadequacy, she managed to get over the jump and I stayed on, and when I came around again, it was MUCH better.  She jumps great, very cute and round.  I felt GOOD, Trainer said I was doing a good job letting her jump up to me.  There is video evidence of this ... it just hasn't been emailed to me yet!  Last part of the exercise was to do the gymnastic, then right lead around to a bending line of 2'9 oxers.  Square.  First time through, I did it directly and got an awkward 6 1/2 stride distance.  Tried again with a bend and got a 2nd awkward 6 1/2 stride distance.  Third time was a charm, and I put the bend in again AND gave her a nice little kick so she got there at 6 and just a smidge long.  She was exhausted, lol!

SO much fun.  SO glad I'm lessoning again.  SO glad to be "on the other side", it's enlightening and humbling all at the same time.  Thanks for reading "the Novel", stay tuned for the next chapter ...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The mare!

Good girl!
Better; more relaxation :)

Defensive position, but soft reins.  You can see she kind of barrels through.
Longer stirrups, quiet hands, SHOULDERS BACK!  Go me ;)

2 more rides on Ms. Jade to report on.  Last week, I took her up in the jumping ring again, and she was good!  She's getting much more consistent up there since I've basically told her to get over herself, she's GOING to go up top.  All was well.  Since riding w/ trainer, I have become much more aware of what a horse SHOULD feel like, so I've been riding Jade very correctly lately, and she responds!  Before, I wasn't worried about where her head was, I'd let my arms get stiff, and upon looking at my pics, I see I'm sitting really far forward.  It doesn't feel like it, but pics don't lie, right?

I get on, sit BACK, and put my leg on.  She's gotten SO good about accepting the leg and becoming more steady through the contact.  First time or 2 I rode her, she curled up and got behind the bit, which is why I wasn't worried about her head.  At eventing barn though, ALL the horses go correctly.  Heads down, backs lifted, inside leg to outside rein.  I haven't accepted "no" as an answer from Jade, I put my leg on and ask her to stretch into my hand.  She's a fiesty little mare, so sometimes she will pitch a little fit, but for the most part she's been responsive to what I'm asking of her.  I jumped her a LITTLE bigger last week; over a 2'6ish crossrail (where the poles are set at 2'6 then crossed).  Before, it was the SMALLEST crossrail I could possibly set.  The 'plain' poles jump was fine, but the one with panels caused her to land and buck the first 3 times I did it.

As a result, I'm coming into the jumps a little defensive.  She WILL get you off if you let your guard down, whether it's via a spook, or a sudden hop in the air combined with a flip of the head.  That's why the martingale goes on EVERY time, and I've been asking her to round and come into the contact so she doesnt' spook so much.  She's developed a habit of landing randomly, then DRAGGING me to the rail, pulling right.  She only does it every now and then, but it's a pretty hardcore drag.  When she did that consistently the other day, I dropped it to a pole and made her walk it, staying straight.  Last week was mostly just coming in over jumps.  She hasn't been as good as she was that one time several weeks ago, when I could actually trot in/canter out a line, but she's not been too bad, either.

Today, I kind of kicked her butt a little bit.  She's been off about 10 days due to actual rain (YAY!), so I let her run around in the roundpen.  She bucked and played for a good 10 minutes before I got on.  Rode her in the lower ring due to really wet footing up top, but I'd had no plans to jump anyway today.  She was very heavy; I've been riding her in the waterford and she definitely likes it, but the brakes aren't great in it.  Wish I still had Tiki's little wonder bit, b/c it would probably be good to slap that on her once in awhile to tune her up.  I did a TON of canter transitions today.  She sucks at those, lol.  As soon as she canters, she tries to basically bulldoze you and run off or run you into the fence.  I worked on cantering a few steps, back to walk or trot.  I cantered a LOT today, and right now it's just a fight for every single step.  She gets so heavy and stiff, and she WILL try to DRAG to the rail tracking left.

As I tend to do, I had an epiphany after coming around the corner, and YANK to the right.  Trainer counter bends her horses a LOT.  I've been counteracting Jade's dive to the right by actually turning her into the rail and circling right.  Today, I just counter bent her!  Lol, it made the mare pretty peeved that she couldn't use that method of evasion any more.  I even bent her out at the canter on the correct lead, and she didn't try to drag me once after that.:)    Tracking left she dove to the rail again, so I yanked her little butt up and circled her pretty hard core.  She shaped up after that.  When I walked and she rooted, I used both legs and KICKED her.  The rooting improved.  I finished up by doing about 20 small figure 8's around the poles at the trot, just keeping my shoulders back, posting steady, and constantly asking for her to bend and carry herself.

I wore her out, but when she gets tired, she just gets heavier and heavier.  It was tough!  She wasn't great today, which S and I expected, but I didn't give her the opportunity to be bad, so overall an ok day today.  Probably riding on Saturday, so hopefully she'll remember what we worked on and just improve!

I'm actually kind of proud of myself.

Sky.  Yes, I got to actually ride this today :D
Belle!  She has QUITE the engine.
Kiara.  How cute is she??

Hello from Sunny, DRY CA!  NOT the wet, soggy, and now iced in GA :D  First and foremost, I just got a lovely text from Muffin's new child, and she just wanted to let me know she's done 2 N combined tests with him, and even finished 6th out of 12 in her last one w/ a dressage score of 35!  Yay!  My best dressage score on the red headed goober was a 38.5, and I was DANG proud of it!  They're getting ready to do their first full 3 phase in a couple of months.

Why am I proud of myself?  Because I put myself out there to "cold contact" a trainer that I picked out of the air, and I have managed to score myself some AMAZING rides.  And trainer is AMAZING!  And she's even a super nice and wonderful person too, so SCORE!  I haven't had regular, weekly lessons in YEARS, and I'm finally getting eyes on me consistently.  It's so wonderful.  99% of my lessons have been dressage based so far, which is just fine.  I feel insecure jumping horses I don't know anyway, so I find I'm suffering from a little bit of anxiety at the thought of a "jumping lesson".  I rode Kimmie the pony by myself one evening after work, and I carried my crop, strapped on my spurs, and made her go like a good little dressage pony.  She wears my leg OUT, haha.  Took her over some poles w/out her trying to stop/spook/runout which was good.  I got to ride an ADORABLE chestnut pony w/ a stick up mane named Kiara last week.  She was SO FUN.  And I got to jump her.  It was the first time I jumped a horse w/ trainer, and it was really good.  Sadly, my endurance has just been so LOW, it's weird.  I'm still working out regularly but not cleaning stalls 5 days a week makes a difference I guess.  I work SO hard to get them going correctly, and after 15 minutes I'm just dying.  Kiara had only jumped a hand full of times before, so we began just w/ a little flower box and she was perfect.  It ended up that I took her from crossrails to a little line to a vertical, to a crossrail oxer.  I only missed to one jump at the canter, and I only jumped ahead of her on one trot jump, so I would call the day successful!  Loved her, she's definitely a favorite.  Like Spellbound, she is Morgan/TB.

Today, I rode a fabulous Hanoverian chestnut mare sale horse named Belle and ... THIS GUY: Virginian Sky  Holy moly, lucky me, can't believe it.  He was super amazing awesome fantastic, etc. etc.  I figured I'd be lucky to get to walk around; trainer had me canter tiny circles, PIAFFE, PASSAGE, and do 2 lead changes.  I never in a million years thought I'd get to piaffe or passage.  Sky is so amazing.  He's tricky to handle since he's a stallion and he's pretty big.  My instructions were to carry a whip, and once we left the stall to not stop moving.  He can't walk through the barn, we had to enter the indoor by one of the side doors.

I feel SO good since I've started riding these amazing horses.  They ALL go the same.  Soft contact, super responsive off the leg, and obedient in general.  They're all a little different; one may be lazy, another hot, one spooky, one bouncy, one not as consistent in the contact, but at the core of it, when you ride correctly, they go beautifully.  I still can't believe I rode Sky.  He really was a gentleman.  There was a mare in the ring w/ us the entire time I rode, and we did have a few "lose the sh*$" moments w/ a bunch of noise coming from the barn, and getting a little too close to the mares, but overall I just felt so lucky to get to ride him.

In short, I'm glad I took the chance to reach out to someone I didn't know at all.  She took a chance on me, I took a chance on her, and it's working out!  My only goal at first was just to hang out and watch lessons.  I have gotten to ride ...7 different horses so far, and I fully expect I will sit on at least 7 more in the next 6 months.  I just feel so happy to be here doing this!  I'm glad Tiki is happy w/ his child, he looks GREAT.  Fat, shiny, and looking better and better in the sandbox.  Everything happens for a reason, and I'm happy w/ how things are going right now :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

3 rides; one ok, one awful, and one fantastic!

Naughty mare!

Always so alert ...

Somewhat reluctantly obedient

Ahhh, horses.  So blessedly inconsistent!  That's both bad and good.  Bad, because you never know which horse you're going to get.  Good ... because it's like having 4 different horses, lol :)

Last Saturday, S was out at the barn and snapped a few pics.  Jade went through her typical thing; started out ok, progressed to not so good, ended up well.  I'd decided to put a little more pressure on her, and ramp things up a bit, so I set up the "circle of death" with poles.  (4 poles on a 60 foot circle at 12, 3, 6, and 9.)  My only plan was just to trot those poles.  I set it up in the jumping ring, and she started out pretty stiff and tense.  I spent plenty of time at the walk and walked her over the poles in all different directions.  When she did that well, I moved on the trotting the circle.

Sadly, things spiraled downhill.  She began to THROW her haunches to the outside, blowing by my outside leg, and trying to pop her shoulder and drag me around the poles. She began to rush them, jump them, and became just generally unreasonable.  I took her to the opposite end of the ring and worked her down, growling and spinning her until she shook off her "witch" persona.  Brought her back to the poles and she was better, but still unhappy in general, so I hopped her over another teeny crossrail off a short turn twice and ended there.

The following Wednesday, she was awful.  She just felt peeved off to be working.  I was even riding her in her "favorite" ring :(  Not sure what was going on, it was a very unproductive ride.  I had a few random poles set out to trot over here and there, but no specific "pattern" or anything.  Didn't canter, just trotted one of the tiny crossrails and she again tried to blow off my leg and wanted to lose her haunches.  I ditched the jump and focused on some lateral work for a few, and finally she VERY grudgingly did what I asked.  For the first time, I quit not feeling like I'd accomplished anything.  It was an unproductive AND an uncomfortable ride; my back was killing me afterwards!

Over at the eventing barn, I rode a LOVELY Morgan/Tbred cross I'm in LOVE with named Spellbound.  I rode him in the indoor, and trainer was pretty happy w/ the fact that I'm getting w/ her program:)  I'm holding my hands correctly, using my seat more effectively, and not getting so still in the arms.  She didn't have to tell me to sit back ONCE ... AND I lowered my stirrups 3 holes.  Success!  Today, I rode another lovely bay gelding, Ricky Bobby (yes, lol!  that's really his name).  I realized I'm feeling what it's like to have a horse be REALLY engaged and lifted through the back and on the bit.  Poor Tiki never really got there, probably because I just never rode horses that went correctly.  Ricky Bobby was very responsive to my hands and seat, and my confidence in my dressage skills is increasing daily.

Fast forward to my ride on Jade today.  I'd already ridden RB, so when I got on the mare, I rode her exactly like I did him.  Shoulders back, elbows on top of hips, leg on, supporting outside rein.  I used my seat ask her to lift her back, and my leg to push her up into my hand.  She. Was. Wonderful.  The BEST ride I've had on her ever!  She didn't get fast, she kept her hips behind her shoulders, she didn't root on the reins, she didn't curl up behind the bit, she was on the aids and working perfectly.  I didn't spin her once, she was fabulous.  I think she was so shocked to be ridden ON the bit, she didn't know what to do w/ herself, lol!  I've never honestly FELT what a real dressage horse is like.  I thought I had, but really I hadn't.  ALL the horses at the event barn go exactly the same, it's so cool.  I rode Jade like she was one of them, and it was great :)  I jumped her a TON over both normal sized crossrails, and a super tiny little brush box.  I made long straight approaches, short turn approaches,  AND I did 2 as a line, trot in/trot out.  Her canter after the jumps was fantastic; relaxed, rhythmic, and not hauling on me at all.  She doesn't overjump at all, but she does leave a little long sometimes.  I always work to get her right to the base, nice and slow.  She didn't rush, she didn't get crooked, she was great.  I think I am going to ride her after the event barn all the time, I think riding those beautifully trained horses are helping me tremendously.  GREAT day!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Post holiday recap!

Lots of pats for a job well done!

Cool canter pic

I like this one :)

Perfect example of how "alert" she always is

Walking from round pen to ring

The holidays have kept me a little bit busy lately :)  My wonderful SIL was in town, so I didn't want to abandon her to go ride, but I DID drag her with me one day to take a few pics, woo hoo!  I haven't been to awesome eventing barn in a few weeks because I only have one day to go out, and with Christmas and now New Year both falling on that ONE day ... oh well, it's not going anywhere!

I did ride Jade Friday and Saturday.  She was a doll!  The waterford bit came in, and I actually love her in it (like I thought I would;))  I put that on Tiki's old 'hunter' bridle with a regular noseband, but still paired it with the running martingale just in case ... I LIKE my nose 'as is', lol.  The weather has just been fantastic, great temps and no wind, so I think that probably has had a small effect on Jade's behavior as well.

Friday, S was actually at the barn riding a barn horse and got to watch me ride Jade.  There was a lot of cacaphony going on at the barn, but she handled it pretty well.  I longed her in the roundpen first (with not much action) and mounted in there.  Both days, she stood like a statue and did not MOVE, good girl. :)  I rode her in the lower ring, aka her "comfort zone".  She began pretty well, with me only having to spin her a hand full of times.  From there, she actually tried to throw a little bit of a hissy fit, actually kicking up once or twice in protest to being ridden forward and on the contact.  I stuck it out, spun her around a few more times, and she decided to get her stuff together pretty quickly after that.

I tried to do some more rail work with her that day, so not so much figure 8ing ... she actually seemed like she got a tad anxious working around the entire ring like that; when I DID go to a few schooling figures, she really blew out a deep breath and put in some great work for me.  I was super happy with the trot work, I feel like we're making progress and holding pretty steady.  S has been able to ride her this holiday time, which is GREAT!  Went to the canter, and it wasn't even what I would call GOOD; it was just ok.  She holds the correct lead, which is great.  Other than that, it was fast, heavy, unbalanced, and just overall anxious.  I patted her anyway, though, because it definitely could be worse than what it was!  We ended with walking the little path around the pastures together; lots of spooks and scoots!

Saturday, I rode her in the upper ring with all the jumps.  Leaps and bounds better than the other time I rode her up there.  She didn't spook once.  She TRIED to, but I sensed the tenseness and immediately asked for shoulder in, then leg yield, then shoulder in, then leg yield, just trying to get her mind on ME and not what ever else she could think about.  I rode all around the jumps, making lots of circles, squares, half turn in reverse, trot over poles straight on, trot over poles at an angle, and I finally began to really make transitions.  I tend to get a little "stuck" in my trot work, just doing LOTS of trot all the time.  I did that with Tiki too.  I made her work on w-t-w-t-h-t-h-w, then added in canter. WOW, what a difference in the canter.  The left lead felt GREAT, I really worked on half halting pretty aggressively, then just softening and allowing her to carry herself; that strategy was pretty darn good if I do say so myself:)  Right lead wasn't too bad, but there was certainly some head flinging going on.  Went back to the trot, and was able to actually put my leg on her, and even clucked once!  WOW, lol.  I only had to do maybe 5 spins total with her that day.  In fact ... she felt SO good, at the very end I put her on a short turn, then out of nowhere pointed her at a teeny tiny baby crossrail.  She happily hopped over, making a nice jump for me, landed cantering, and seemed quite pleased with herself :)  LOTS of pats, loose rein, and all was right with the world.

Took today to catch up on some housework, I will ride her again on Saturday since I'm not working.  S rode her today, so hopefully she was a good girl!  Having so much fun, just happy to be riding again:)  Hope all y'all had a great Christmas and New Year ... I can't complain about mine :D