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 :)