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!