Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Strapping on the life preserver

Wow, can't believe it's been almost 2 months since I updated the blog!  I've had QUITE a few good rides, I'm still riding Kiara every Wednesday and LOVING it.  I got to ride Trainer's CCI3* horse a few weeks ago ... NOT at the walk for an hour, but for an hour w/t/c.  He's coming back from an injury and has a very specific regimen of dressage stuff he's supposed to engage in on a daily basis, and I learned what it felt like to REALLY get a 17.1 hand horse trotting forward enough to a good dressage test.  Let's just say it's NOT Like hacking a hunter ;)

Did a few gymnastics over the last few weeks.  Cantered through 5 one strides with a placing pole; that was FUN, and good.  The jumps ended up around 3', so a fun ride.  Another gymnastic I did was trot a vertical with 5 placing poles; it began as 2', ended up at 3'6.  WOW!  She was amazing through it, as the jump got higher, I found I could really just sit still and she was right there for me.  The cantering gymnastic was trotting in; a placing pole to an x, one stride to a vertical, one stride to a TALL crossrail, 2 strides to another TALL crossrail.  She was actually pretty spooky, and I really had to work to help her make it through the distance AND keep her from getting wiggly.  Trainer didn't make the last big X an oxer since Kiara is a little ... um, FAT right now.  Besides, she was pretty looky-loo with those tall crossrails.

I titled my blog post "Strapping on the life preserver" because today I FINALLY zipped myself into my xc vest!  It has a belt that clicks in the front, and I always feel like I'm putting on a life vest, lol.  I've been riding for a year and a half at a fabulous facility with a FULL xc course, Intro to Prelim, but I've never ridden out on it.  I had a chance once, but it was knowing full well I'd have to be "beating" the horse over every jump, so I bowed out of that one.

2 weeks ago, I hacked Kiara down the course and rode her on the tracks between fences at a walk.  Holy heck, she felt like she'd spook and spin right out from under me pretty much every second of the ride.  She spooked at the tall mustard growing, the tall grass, the jumps, the wind, the rustling of leaves ... she felt VERY tense.  I kept at it until she FINALLY stretched down into my hands and took a deep breath.  Back to the barn we went.

Today, I showed up when trainer said to, only to be told I was supposed to be ON at that time, not just arriving.  Grrrr. So I had to run to the pasture, grab Kiara, knock the dirt off, and rush rush rush.  I worked myself up a little bit, because I'd hoped to somewhat zen out, but it was not to be.  To top things off, I could NOT find my neck strap, so I grabbed a loose stirrup leather and put it on, but it was much tighter that I typically like; however, it was better than nothing.

As we walked down, she was working HERSELF up, head up and snorting.  We made our way down, and she spooked at the other horse that was already down there throwing a hissy fit.  We made our way past the other horse, found a track that wound through the mustard, and picked up a trot.  We approached a series of jumps, and she spooked.  Approached more jumps, another spook.  Kept going, and she finally began to focus on the job at hand.  I made it all the way to the end of that particular lane, and had some room to work back and forth a little.  There was an Intro log right by the start box.  VERY tiny.  Walkable in fact.  So, we walked over it both ways.  She relaxed a little more.  Trotted back the other way with MUCH less spooking this time, turned around, and walked the log again.  No biggie!  Trotted over it both ways.  I snagged the neck strap just in case, but she hopped over with no drama.  Landed with a bit of a head shake and a crow hop, but came right back to me.  Walked over 2 more Intro logs on the way back, and she was starting to feel pretty good.

Made it back to Trainer who was at the smaller water complex.  She went over my position at the canter.  I had to bridge my reins, lean INTO her neck, move my stirrups more towards "home" position, and stand straight up to stop.  I felt VERY awkward leaning on her neck, but Trainer insisted this way allows the horse to just fall into rhythm and YOU not to pick and pull on the way to the jump.  Makes sense to me!  There was another tiny Intro log that we trotted over, and I worked on keeping my knuckles in her neck the whole time.  Strung together a baby hanging log, canter thru the water.  She CHARGED into the water w/out a single hesitation.  Trainer told me to go trot an Intro Palisade jump on a path we hadn't gone down and gave me the "rules" on the course for when a horse stops.  You clear it 3 times, and you GET THE JOB DONE.  I gulped a little, headed to the jump, and she was so busy spooking at the mustard that upon arrival at the jump, she popped her shoulder and attempted to canter right by it.  I pulled her up, put her nose right on the middle of it, and reapproached.  She hopped over it big and crow hopped on the landing side, but we were over.  Came again and it was better.  Came the 3rd time and no problem.

Strung together log at the water, turn and go thru water, over hanging log, then down over an arched Intro log about half way down my warm up lane.  She ate the distance to the log and b/c it was so small practically tripped over it.  After the hanging log, she tried to crow hop so hard that Trainer hollered at me to fix it, but I was so busy laughing I couldn't do anything about it.  Finished up by doing the hanging log into the water to a BN coop, then on around to a BN green painted roll top type jump.  Coming to the coop, I sat down, got in the "back seat", pressed my knuckles in her her neck, and she jumped it well despite being a little surprised.  The turn to the rolltop was a PERFECT spot for her to duck out to the right b/c it was off a left hand turn, but I sat back, growled, closed my leg, and OVER she went!  I walked her back to Trainer on a loose rein w/ LOTS of pats and praise, then we did that one more time for good measure.  The 2nd time, she was like a BEAST.  Flew over the hanging log, charged through the water, took the coop like a star, and was looking for the center of the rolltop.  GOOD GIRL! I had SO much fun, she was GREAT.  Pleased, proud, and excited to go out again soon!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Fun with a single!

I had seen this exercise set up in the indoor before ... I just hadn't actually done it before!  It's called "The Diamond".  I'm sure we can add that little phrase after it ... "of death" ;).  At eventing barn, I've been riding Kiara.  She is so awesome, I just LOVE her.  In a lot of ways, she reminds me of Tiki (redhead w/ a mohawk), but other than the fact that she's comfortable to ride, she goes completely differently than he does.

She has a bit of a sensitive, (hysterical) side.  She has passing issues just like Tiki did; if you came at another horse head on, he would at LEAST raise/shake his head, at worst, panic a little and put on the brakes/give a little bucky buck.  Kiara, on the other hand, over-reacts.  To say the least.  At best, she will raise her head and put the brakes on; at worst, she slams on the brakes, sticks her head in your face, and spins/bolts.  Yeesh!  She's almost gotten me off 3 times that way, but I'm learning to tune in more to her body language if we're not alone in the ring.  I've been purposely working on the issue, and it is getting a little better, but she will still react fairly violently w/out much warning.

That being said, I warmed up in the indoor yesterday at the walk.  Way back when, when I rode her the first few times, she was pretty stiff in the jaw and had a hard time flexing at the poll.  Since that time, she now has not 1, but 2 owners, and the contact has become much more consistent.  So, I kept her in the bottom half of the ring due to another horse longeing, and I played around with moving her both directions laterally off my leg.  She came nice and deep into my hand, and really raised her withers and didn't worry about what was happening at the evil GATE.  Again like Tiki, she tends to lose her shape thru the transitions, so I worked some transitions and focused on maintaining that nice shape.  Trainer came out and set the single as poles; it's pretty self explanatory; it's a single vertical with 2 poles set as a diamond on both the take off and the landing side.  It was set in the short side of the ring.  The goal is to hit the center of all the poles on a figure 8, trotting in.  The poles went pretty well; it's an exercise that you will FAIL at miserably if you try to pull on the face too much.  It's an exercise that really encourages the rider to use leg/look to steer rather than trying to pull, because pulling creates bulging and crookedness; the point of the exercise is to be straight and balanced.

After a few circuits thru, up it went as a small vertical.  To add a level of difficulty, the distance is such that you trot in, so in addition to making a super tight turn, staying balanced and straight, you ALSO have to make a downward transition!  I was so proud of her; she focused in on the center of the pole and smartly bounced right thru and up and over the jump.  I worked on landing and NOT pulling, just half halting, balancing, and looking for my turn.  Once it was smooth, walked, and pole went up.  Rinsed and repeated, then walked one more time, then up once more on the height.  We finished up w/ the vertical at 2'9.  Of COURSE  I had to jump up her neck the first time at that height, but subsequent passes thru, I actually did really well w/ sitting tall and waiting on her.  She felt GREAT, trainer was pleased.  We then went with her to "babysit" one of the young sale horses in the 'new' outdoor; it's 200' by 325', so HUGE.  Kiara has been a little bit looky and spooky outside lately; not sure if it's a 'mare' thing, or if it's the winter season, or what.  I don't remember her being that silly out in the open.  There are no jumps in the outdoor, but there are dressage judging stands, combined driving obstacles within eyesite, and stacks of temporary wooden fencing piled around.  We got in some good circuits walking together, and Kiara only ran sideways once or twice, when trainer's dressage whip got a little too close.  Then it was time to go to work ...

As we separated and headed to our own ends of the ring, Kiara out of nowhere bolted forward, scooted her butt under her, and flung her head in my face; thank goodness for the running martingale I've thrown on her for this very reason!  She then ran sideways, I circled, she tried to bolt forward again, I circled, and I realized we were going to have to start VERY slow.  So, I walked tiny circles, then tiny figure 8's, then bigger, then bigger, until we were walking nice and calm around our entire half of the ring.  As I asked for the trot, we went BACK to tiny circles/figure 8's, and finally she began to breathe and relax and I didn't feel like she wanted to jump out of her own skin.  I VERY gently asked for a canter, again on a circle, and she was super.  Did that both ways, then ended with a trot around the WHOLE ring both directions (with quite a few calming circles thrown in, but she did it!)  Trainer and I walked one more lap side by side, and AGAIN she skittered sideways a few time (silly mare), but she was  a little more relaxed, so yay.

Haha, usually it's a Jade update that's so long, but I don't have much to report on her!  She was very good yesterday.  I worked her w/t/c on a LOOSE, loopy rein, and she was nice and receptive to that.  Picked up contact and worked over some poles, and again no issues.  Both leads were easy, the canter was pretty light, and I trotted her over some singles and she was perfect.  We did have an issue when I approached those dreaded wingless "stacker" standard things with a box under a crossrail; she stopped at that a few times, and when I got her over it, I THOUGHT she was going to stop again, so I hit her all in the back and mouth over it, so I got her thinking FORWARD and jumped a few other jumps, then came back to that one and she was good, so I ignored it from there.  Finished by trotting left to a tall crossrail, then turning left.  She likes to RUN to the right when I do that, so I just repeated over and over until she did it nicely.  It was a "good mare" day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Love this Cali riding weather!

If there's any type of "perfect" riding weather out there, Northern California is certainly it!  I have been very pleased with Ms. Mare the past few times I've ridden her.  There was ONE day where if I hadn't slapped on my neck strap b/c I thought I was going to jump her around 3', she literally would have spooked/spun me off multiple times, but that day seems to have been an anomaly, thank goodness.  A few weeks ago, she flatted up nicely and when I hopped her over the "wingless" box/gate/pole jump that was just ONE section higher than what she'd jumped before, that girl literally almost jumped me right off her back!  She was about a foot over the 3' box, TWISTED in the air, AND drifted left about a foot, all at the same time.  Whoa.  Lol.  I bravely tried it a few more times, and it was pretty bad every time, so lowered it back down the one level and she was fine.  Silly girl!

Today was the first day she'd been ridden in a week, as it's actually RAINED (yay) in Nor Cal.  The ring was still super wet, so I set up 3 9' canter poles up one long side, and set a single 2'6 vertical on the opposite long side.  On the vertical, I laid poles ON the rail, framing out a chute on both sides.  My goal was just to work on straight and simple today.  She again flatted up really nicely.  I did NOT put her in the roundpen, despite S's suggestion I do so.  I could tell her frame of mind was pretty workmanlike as I tacked her up, so I "risked" it!

I didn't wear spurs today, and honestly I felt like I needed them!  She was pretty quiet.  Honestly, when I started out, she felt just a little short strided.  She warmed up well, though, and I focused on lots of big loopy circles and lots of direction changes.  I focused on feeling her stay straight from her hips thru her shoulders, and tried to work on keeping a nice consistent rhythm, especially over the poles.  She was focused well.  When I jumped the vertical, I just trotted over it, and halted straight.  Sometimes I went over the poles, sometimes I didn't.  When I cantered the vertical off the right lead, she was super!  I cantered thru the 9' poles a few times, and she did great there.  The problems began/ended off the left lead going over the vertical.  That jump is set in her "booger" spot where she likes to hop and drag right, both before and after the jump.  Sometimes she's so awful there, I can't even GET her to the jump because she's cantering sideways to the right.

Today I had a little bit of an epiphany, and when she began to fall right, I took it down a level.  In the past, I may either leave that area, or get mad and start "beating her up" with my leg, or bridging my reins and trying to just out-muscle her (and we know how well THAT works!)  Today, I just took a step back, and trotted her in a big circle.  I could FEEL when she stiffened the jaw, bulged the shoulder, and began to drag.  I kept my cool, and I worked SUPER hard to connect to that right rein, NOT forcing her, NOT kicking with my outside leg, just gentle, patient circling.  I tried it at a canter when the trot felt good, and that was a bad, no go.  I went back to trot, cantering SOME of the circle, back to trot, over and over until she just DID it.  I then came out of the circle to the jump; she was quiet, she landed and tracked dead straight, halted well.  What a good girl!  I was very happy with her; I was pretty pleased with me, too :)

At eventing barn, I've been riding Kiara!  I hadn't ridden her since her new owners took ownership, but it's working out that neither one could ride on Tues/Wed/Thurs for the time being, so I've gotten to ride her!  I LOVE her, I've been having a GREAT time sitting on her ... I feel as at home on her as I do on Tiki :D  She's just flat out awesome.  Love my riding time!