Thursday, December 22, 2011
Pop and I have been having great rides since he got his hocks done, and were really looking forward to a good jump school today, but it turns out he is trying to pop a gravel in his right hind foot. Poor guy! Luckily it's not anything serious...but will call for at least a couple of days off. Luckily, it's the holidays and a little time off won't kill him (or me). I feel like we've made a lot of progress with our basic flatwork in the last two weeks so I'm happy with where we are right now as we gear up for a new year. He's been so happy to do his job and I've been working a lot on my position and how my aids (even the unintentional ones) affect how he performs. For example, I've always sat crookedly to the left, so I've been trying to be very conscious of sitting straight and in the middle of his back with even weight distributed to both stirrups. I've always been working on keeping my shoulders back and my hands out in front of me. My hunter background has stuck with me (and galloping racehorses didn't help!) and I tend to lose my core and crumple my upper body, especially in the canter. Obviously, perching up there leaning forward isn't going to help him stay off his forehand, so I've been trying really hard to remind myself to sit back, on my pockets, and lift my shoulders to encourage him to lift HIS shoulders. I'll have to work on it on other horses for the next few days but it will still be great practice. C and S are going out of town for Christmas so I will have plenty of riding opportunities this weekend!
On that note, I've been working with Bonita and Sassy as much as my schedule will allow. It's hard to get them both ridden more than a couple of times a week but it's better than nothing. Bonita has been more of the focus. She is a horse who has been taught to travel on her forehand and not touch the bit or move away from leg pressure, so I've really been working with her on A) Going forward no matter what, B) Not ducking behind the bit and C) Moving away from my leg, whatever direction I ask. She's honestly been very willing and patient despite virtually having no clue what I'm asking. She is more hollow to the right and stiffer to the left, but she is learning a bit of inside bend both directions and moves away from my inside leg when asked. She goes forward willingly. Right now I'm happiest with her nose poking out a bit and a light contact that she isn't hiding from, but she still likes to duck behind my hands (even the lightest contact) so I just keep asking her to come forward and keep my hands light and soft. I know this is a difficult thing to correct, especially since she's gone Western for so long, but I think she's a smart girl and willing to learn. I plan on switching her bit out to a French Link...and possibly adding a martingale just for those times where she evades any contact by putting her nose perpendicular to the sky (it's lovely, really, haha).
Sassy is the complete opposite of Bo in that she does not understand going FORWARD from the leg, and will hang on the bit or fight with it. Bonita has a pretty good motor but Sas doesn't quite understand the concept. The other day was a struggle to get her from slamming on breaks in one particular spot in the circle, but once we got really going and with lots of praise she was more content to trot along into a light hand. Again, I'm happy with her nose just poking out and accepting the bit rather than leaning down on it or opening her mouth and running through it. She's a pretty fun little horse to ride. She's got 3 good gaits and, like Bonita, is very willing to please.
In other news, I got my beautiful show coat yesterday and am so excited to show in it next season. It's navy and is a soft shell Grand Prix coat with extra long sleeves (for the orangutang arms) and it is PERFECT! No more praying for coats to be waived so I don't have to borrow someone's only to have three inches of my wrists showing! Woo hoo! Thanks so so much to Pop's mommy Diane for her time and effort to get this coat for me!
I will leave you with some video clips of C schooling Pop last week!
Merry Christmas! May yours be blessed :)
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Disclaimer: This was written yesterday. Today I had to say goodbye to my wonderful friend and companion, my dog Gretchen. I will never forget the pure joy she brought to my life and how happy she always was with the simple pleasures of life. Be happy, sweet girl. Where you are now you can run and play all day and never grow tired or run out of land.
Written December 6, 2011:
Pop had some maintenance work done on Saturday, so he’s enjoying a blissful few days of vacation while I stay in shape riding a few of the other horses in the barn while the Boss takes a well-deserved vacation. So far we’ve had one very cast horse who miraculously freed himself with only superficial scrapes…praise the Lord…the way he was stuck (front hoof in between stall barrier, suspended from the beam by that one hoof) could’ve been a very ugly situation. Thank goodness he is okay and seemingly has forgotten all about the incident! Otherwise, things have been pretty carefree in the barn (knock on wood! hard!) and I’ve really enjoyed a little “down time” and more time in the saddle. Had a really good flat lesson with H today on Guppy…she really helped me with him and I managed to pin down why my sitting trot is so horrific…it’s because I unintentionally tense my hips and thus can’t move with the horse’s back. No wonder poor Pop got so against the bit in our last test! The problem is, I’m not totally sure how to mind over matter this one…the more I think about it, the more I tense. The less I think about it, the more I flop. Ugh. Going to really keep practicing that this week on different horses.
Learned a lot about saddle fit today with our equine chiropractor and Guppy. Turns out the saddle we thought fit him best actually is the worst fit for him because of where the flocking is. He’s got the HUGEST wither and shoulder and the pressure is actually on the withers which causes problems down into the ribcage and prevents him from A) using his shoulders and B) using his back. We tried a variety of saddle/pad combinations and the only one that didn’t make him pin his ears and snap was my old Kieffer and a foam flocked pad. Going to try that on him tomorrow to see if there’s a good improvement with the added weight of a rider. I knew the Kieffer was the best saddle on Earth *wink*
Sassy has been doing really well. I rode her twice last week and then again today. She is so kind and comes right up to me in the field and walks in quietly. I’ve been just trail riding her and working on a consistent forward gait and light contact with her mouth. She doesn’t get direct aids, she doesn’t get half halts, she doesn’t really understand forward without running in the trot, but she sure does try hard and she’s always listening. Today I worked her in the field (lots of terrain changes and distractions, but good for keeping her interested!) and I really felt good about the ride. She started out behind my leg and sticky but within minutes was taking me forward in a brisk trot and keeping even contact on the reins without getting quick or stuck or rushy or fussy in her mouth. She’s quite out of shape and we only rode about 15 minutes but we did canter both ways (me in a half seat, more of a hand gallop than anything to get her striding out) and then her trot improved immensely and we quit with that. She walked quietly back to the barn and was patient for grooming and turning out despite the two in the paddock next to her bucking and playing like hooligans.
She likes the happy mouth…she accepts it easily each time, and she’s learning that contact doesn’t mean fly backwards or play giraffe. I’m trying to just keep my hands still and keep the contact as steady as possible, and she truly is getting more and more comfortable with it each time. Today, no head tossing or arguments and she listened to an opening rein to turn rather than just going away from it and fighting with me. Good princess!Pop goes back into work tomorrow; I’m planning just a nice short hack but he’s also supposed to be shod so he may just get another day off depending on how the morning goes. I can’t wait to see how he feels!
Take care! Stay warm! (it’s been 70 for a couple of days and the cold is due to appear again tomorrow!)
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Sunday marked our last show of the year and our first competition at Training. It was a very, very fun day and we all had a good, relaxed end to our season. Pop warmed up for dressage very, very well, but despite my meticulous planning I got on too early and ended up taking two walk breaks, which killed whatever good energy we had. I tried to counter that with a good canter around the dressage arena before we went in but for whatever reason, he started leaning on my hands and not going as beautifully as he had in warm-up. After reading an enlightening thread on COTH about the same kind of situation, I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that my riding must change in front of the judge. Either I’m more passive or worried about making it pretty…either way, I thought we performed a decent test, but definitely less soft than I had hoped for. He was good in all his transitions and stayed nice and straight to the right, but our lengthenings were very strung out and when I got my test back, we got the following comments throughout: “fussy in hand, stiff in neck, stiff in jaw, against hand…” etc. I was quite disappointed with the comments but looking back, I know I could have ridden him more through if I hadn’t been concentrating so hard on the movements themselves. I could have prepared him more for the lengthening, I could have half-halted more instead of just setting my hands. We ended up with a 35.9.
We have been working SO hard on our jumping and I was really excited to put it to the test. Well, I genuinely feel like I failed. I never really got him in front of my leg in the warm-up but was worried about overdoing it because he was putting so much effort into his jumps. I went in and chipped to the first, chipped to the second, then pushed for a long one to 3 (which resulted in a big grunt and a huge effort)…then continued to miss the rest of my distances (even getting a 3 in a 2 stride). God Bless him, he goes no matter what. He is SUCH a saint of a horse. C said it wasn’t as bad as I thought and that the distances were fine because he was in front of my leg, but I was really wanting to have a smoother round. Nevertheless, we ended up 5th and completed our first Training CT, which is something to be proud of. And now we have a nice long list of things to work on this winter before we start up again in January.
We started that work today. I took him on a hack and trot with Bobbie and Mazzie, and I really focused on making him walk forward on a loose rein on the hack to the field rather than letting him schlep along like I usually do. When we got there, we were all business and it was time to go to work. Softened his jaw in the walk and then in the trot, getting him to stretch into my hands while going forward and gradually letting go in his back. He was really swinging and felt beautiful. We did a few leg yields in each direction and really focused on activating the right hind, all with a soft hand and lots of leg. His canter work made me grin from ear to ear; we practiced going from a nice stretchy canter to a more uphill “competition” canter and I really felt like he was through and coming underneath himself and that I wasn’t restricting his gait with my body (as I tend to do). It felt GREAT. I felt like I could put his feet wherever I wanted them at any moment, like I could direct every single footfall. I think this type of warmup could be very helpful at shows for getting him through and swinging before we do any kind of real work. I read an article last night about how important it is to stretch and warm up all the muscle groups before going into real work, and that’s so very true…something I need to pay more attention to rather than just going out, kicking him into my hand and more or less forcing him to soften and go round right from the get go.
I’m excited for a flat lesson tomorrow! Stay posted!
Also started working with a new project today. Champ will be getting the rest of the year off, and maybe longer depending on him. I’ve had an inkling for a while that he was getting sour on his work and he’s confirmed it with refusing to be caught at any cost. So I’m leaving him alone, not even touching him besides pats until at LEAST January. I don’t want him to resent his job. He’s got some more growing up to do and has a nice solid foundation now. No need to drill his resentment out of him, which I highly doubt will work anyway. So…what to do with this extra time? Pull another one out of the field and give her a job.
One thing I really like about these horses is that even though they certainly weren’t bred or built for dressage and jumping, they have incredibly trainable brains and willing personalities that nearly make up for their conformation. This mare is built like a little hot dog, with a very long back, short legs and a short neck. Nevertheless, I like her a lot. Her attitude is willing and kind, and she might question your motives once or twice but she does as she’s told with a smile on her face. I just free lunged her today to get a feel for her and was impressed with her response to voice commands and her natural inclination to go forward.
Short video clip:
I had her pop over a pole on the ground to see if she was willing to do it and careful with her feet. At first she was “Heck no, crazy person” but eventually she trotted and cantered over it with no fuss. Obviously no clue what to do with herself but she was willing and that’s the most important thing.
My goal for her would be for her to be a safe and quiet mount for the girl who would be riding her, and maybe something she could take to local shows and have fun with. We shall see. If nothing else, I’m getting invaluable experience and the little horse has a job!
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Pop was, no pun intended, a complete STAR at Chatt. We scored a 28 on our dressage test, despite my brain fart in the second canter transition and a very fresh little red horse when we first entered the arena. Something about the cool air and cross country running behind us definitely got him excited and I hadn't seen that side of him before on the flat (haha) so I took my leg off. Wrong thing to do, it turns out, but the test was okay anyway. I'm very lucky in that Poppers looks so elegant and pretty so even if everything isn't 100% correct he still LOOKS so darn nice ;) I know, I know, a pretty picture can only go so far, but we did improve on our trot work from Five Points, and we got a 9 on our halt (YES!). Stadium was relatively close to our test so Lizzie warmed us up (and did a SUPER job) and in we went. Poppers had no interest in the flapping flags that had spooked the previous horses, and he was all business. I thought the course was a lot smoother than our previous courses as far as making good turns and getting leads, but I could have ridden him much more forward than I did, which made for some ugly chips. We hit our rhythm about halfway through and I thought we finished up really well. Three time penalties so we were in 2nd at this point.
Cross country day was beautiful, albeit COLD. He warmed up PERFECTLY, very "on" and raring to get going. So was I. The course walked well and it had a lot of little questions that were in midget form to test us a little bit. He pranced into the start box and took off like a bullet. Thank goodness I had borrowed a watch from Andrew minutes before mounting! From the first fence on, he was so perfect and dead on. We didn't have a single moment where I didn't feel like we were on the same page. I can't even explain the feeling it gave me, but I couldn't stop smiling for a long, long time. He's just a little machine. I've never had more fun in my life.
Scores came in...and based on TIME alone, I snuck out the win. YAY POP! Everyone was so kind in congratulating me (when really, Poppers did all the work). It was so exciting and I feel so confident after the weekend. He was just amazing. After talking with Charlie we've decided to tentivily move ourselves up to Training. We are shooting for a Training CT at the Horse Park in a couple of weeks and we'll go from there. I'm really excited about it! I feel like my trust in him has really built and I can't wait to go again!
We've been working hard on our flatwork since we've been home, and he's been really good. I'm working on not letting my shoulders creep forward, which weighs down his frontend. Today I could really feel the difference and that was encouraging. We're also doing a lot more work in shoulder-in to straighten him tracking right. I am really focusing on not twisting my shoulders and just keeping the angle correct and not losing our forward.
Champ has hit the terrible 2's...which isn't really that terrible, since he's such a good boy, but we've been doing a LOT of roundpen work to refocus his brain on me. For example, the other day he decided he didn't want to be dewormed. He reared, spun away from me and pinned me in the corner. 15 minutes later, I dewormed him in the roundpen without even touching him. Good pony. We've also laid down a PVC pipe in the roundpen for him to trot and canter over, to give him something to hold his attention and also to make him aware of his feet. He LOVES it and will go back and forth over it even when I'm not in the roundpen. So precious. Am planning on getting him back on the trail either tomorrow or Friday...it's been hard with the early sunset, but hopefully we'll figure something out!
I love this time of year! It may be chilly in the morning but by noon we're all in t-shirts and the horses are nakey! If only it would stay this way!
Pictures from Chatt Hills!
Saturday, October 22, 2011
We had an amazing jumping lesson yesterday with C. Every time I jump Pop I get a better feel for when he is truly forward and when he’s faking. I also had a mental breakthrough. In the past I’ve usually kept my leg on, kept my leg on, kept my leg on…but then softened my hands three strides out only to get to the fence with nothing. This time, after being reminded by C, I kept a feel of his mouth and therefore packaged the energy instead of letting it get strung out. Voila! He jumped super and I felt very encouraged and happy after our lesson. We jumped a small course of an oxer off the right lead, to a vertical off the left lead, around to a one-stride off the right lead, and then over a skinny off the left lead. His changes were really good and clean (amazing how that happens when we’re not strung out) and he was really listening and we were on the same page. Good feeling! He’s such a good boy. He’s getting quite wooly and will be getting clipped in the near future!
Work has been a mix of trying to get everyone ridden and trying to reorganize the trailer. After every event I have a better idea of how to organize things in the trunks and the trailer. Watching some of the top grooms in our sport is really helpful and I’ve definitely come a long way from when I first started, throwing things wherever they would fit and never knowing where anything was. We seem to acquire more stuff after each show but everything is finding a place. I love packing! For the horses, anyway…I’m not the biggest fan of packing my own clothes!
I’ve been given a huge gift in an entire weekend off, so I’m putting the time into cleaning and organizing in the house (which I never seem to find time to do!) and lots of refreshing of Eventing Nation for Pan Am news. We’re leaving Thursday for Chatt Hills, with the jog up on Friday morning for Monkee. Wish us luck! God Bless!
Monday, October 10, 2011
On the Champ front, we’ve managed to make a good deal of progress. The day after my last post, I spent 33 minutes (yes, 33 minutes) trying to catch him. After the first time he ran from me, I began to push him away from me, making him work if he wanted to avoid being caught. It took a world of patience but finally he walked right up to me and lowered his head into the halter all on his own. I haven’t had an issue catching him since. That day I just brought him in, brushed him, and turned him back out so he’d understand that catching him doesn’t always mean work. The next time I worked with him we just stayed in the roundpen and worked extensively on halting and turning. He was very good and professional. The next day I was lucky enough to have my good friend come out to ride Bonita with me and Champ on the trails. Champ was very nervous at first and really trying to avoid the bit, but after a calming walk around the first loop we picked up a trot and he really settled into it and was light and happy to go forward at a reasonable pace with Bonita behind us. We practiced a little bit having Bonita lead, walking two abreast, and passing each other. We also cantered a little bit and he was very obedient. He’s such a smart horse and really grasps everything so quickly. Hopefully Sara can come ride Bonita at least once a week from now on and we can really get Champ used to going out like it’s no big deal. Update from today, his feet had just been trimmed and Bonita had just gotten shoes on for the first time so both of them were a little ouchy, but we just took them on two loops of the trail at a walk. Champ was very easy to catch, patient to groom/tack/mount, and was quiet and obedient throughout the trail ride. Very proud of him! He'll have the rest of the week off because I'll be in MD, but we'll pick up again next week!
Did have a really interesting lesson on Thursday on Noah, one of S’s babies. He’s a 4 y/o WB gelding, your typical tall gangly but amazingly talented horse. He is very powerful to sit on and I was definitely a little nervous about riding him, not to mention jumping him. It’s funny how my confidence was so shattered on the racetrack, and I’ve just now started feeling more capable and confident over fences on well trained horses, but riding a very green and unfamiliar horse over fences was a little unnerving to me. The good thing is my trainer knows my limitations and I trust he would never put me in a situation I couldn’t handle, so I took a deep breath and tried to just breathe and ride through it. Initially I could feel myself tensing up and getting nervous, especially since Noah was being a little spooky and looky and his big stride was throwing me off guard a bit. After we jumped a few fences, though, I started to relax and enjoy him a little bit. He gives you a really nice feel to the fences, and if you just sit quiet but with a light feel of his mouth and close your calves, he trots right up to a good spot and really jumps it nicely. I felt proud that I’d gone outside my comfort zone a little bit and ended up enjoying myself!
Well, I’ve finally caught whatever bug has been going around and just in time to leave tomorrow! Wish us luck, send Monkee good jingles, and I’ll update you all when I get home! Take care!
Monday, October 3, 2011
Flaggy has found a new home as a children’s jumper. We are SO excited about his new career and the loving new home he’s going to. He leaves tomorrow, and although I’ll miss him very, very much, I know it’s what’s best for him. It’ll definitely be hard to fill his shoes, he was the barn clown and has more personality than most entire barns. Best of luck in your new home handsome man!
Monkee is getting ready for leave in a week (with me!) for Fair Hill.This is a huge deal…the Fair Hill 2* and 3* is one of the biggest events of the fall season in North America. I’ve never been but people who have say it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in terms of the quality of horses and riders and the vending! I’m so excited to go and spend a week up in beautiful Maryland, so close to one of my favorite cities in the WHOLE world (Newark, DE) and getting to see some amazing riding and hopefully score some shopping deals!
Champ has been exploring the world outside of the round pen and doing quite well. Today, after a week off, I for some reason thought it a good idea to take him straight to the trail without longing him or riding him in the round pen first. He’s been so good and willing that I didn’t even think about it until we were on the trail with no brakes and no obedience. He encountered deer, which literally made him shake, and a few scary stumps and trees that got to him today. When he took off (which was well, a lot) I immediately spun him in a circle until he came down to a walk and then we continued on. Let’s just say for the better part of half an hour we were doing circles and walking a few steps and doing more circles. As far as positives, I did get him past all the scary stuff without a fight. And took him through the scary spots several times until he didn’t think anything of it. I also got him to walk most of the way home without trotting. As far as my plan…more roundpen work, especially working on our brakes and turning skills. And I can’t limit him to the roundpen entirely, because the enclosure is like a safety blanket and therefore he tends to forget his skills once in an open area. While I COULD use his paddock to ride in, I almost feel like the trail is a safer choice because it’s lined well with trees and there’s really nowhere for him to go other than forward. Also, the paddock is where he plays and I don’t want him to confuse riding time for playtime. I also noticed today that his ground manners have started lacking again so I need to pay more attention to that.
So…the plan is to try and ride him tomorrow after work, in the roundpen with lots of transitions to halt and working on turning a little bit. Just to refresh his memory. Then we’ll maybe go for a spin around the pond to practice in the open and I plan on being very strict about ground manners and being polite. Then later this week we’ll go back on the trails (AFTER a roundpen session) and see where he’s at mentally. I’m hoping to get my good friend to come ride an older, experienced horse with us so Champ can see there’s nothing to be anxious about. Fingers crossed for that!
Well, tomorrow will be a new day and hopefully Pop will be ready to go and Champers will behave himself! Take care, everyone!
Monday, September 26, 2011
I have had the barn to myself for the last five days, and it's given me a good chance to reflect on what I've learned as a rider, barn manager and horseperson in the last year that I've worked here. I have immersed myself in this job and this world since I got here and have felt my knowledge and capabilities have truly increased, especially in the last six months as I've had increased opportunities to ride lots of different horses and started competing again. I've learned SO much about managerial duties, organization in the barn and at shows, doing things in a timely manner but quickly and efficiently, scheduling things such as vet appointments and farrier appointments without conflicts to others' schedules, etc. I've learned to fit a lot of work into an 8 hour work day. I've learned where I can take shortcuts and where I can never cut corners. I've figured out a system that truly works for each individual horse in the barn. I've learned an immense amount about nutrition, and with help from my sister and several experts we've devised a "perfect" diet for each and every horse in the barn that gives them optimal amounts of energy, a glossy coat and good weight for their level of fitness and work. I've learned to judge the quality of hay, how to decipher supplements from necessary to a waste of money, how to put weight on a hard keeper, and how to manage a horse's soundness and ulcers through diet.
I've had ample opportunity to observe some of the top vets in the area at work and have learned a lot about diagonosing a lameness, treating it, rehabbing, and preventing injuries. I've learned about caring for various kinds of wounds and foot problems. I've learned a TON about shoeing from the four different farriers who work on our various horses. I've learned about equipment, tack, blankets, and riding clothes and gotten to try a lot of different brands to see what works and what doesn't.
But most of all, I've learned how to ride. It's obviously a forever work in progress, but when my boss is gone and I have five horses to ride on my own, I finally feel competent to do the job properly. Before I got here, I wouldn't know how to ride on my own, work through problems, etc. I didn't have a clue. Finally, I feel like the ability to school a horse on my own is there...obviously needing more development and lots more experience, but it's there. I can get on my own horse and ride him through his problems, loosen him up in a nice long warm up and then spend quality time working him on the flat, ending with a positive result and a good feeling. I can get on a horse who is rehabbing and make his mundane trot sets more fun for him. I can get on the spooky horse who previously I would just fight with (and lose every time), and work him through his spooking and balking and end up getting some pretty beautiful work out of him. Nine times out of 10 I can get off and feel good about my ride, even if things didn't go as I had planned or if there were lots of bumps throughout. I always feel like I accomplished SOMETHING, even if it was small, when I get off. That feeling was NEVER there before. I was always missing that part of my riding. Now I'm just so excited to keep learning, keep soaking up every piece of information I can, and getting a lot more time in the saddle to continue my education.
My dream of being a professional rider is still sitting in the back of my mind. I know I've gotten a late start compared to most professionals, but what is age but a number, anyway? :)
Now, I have also become aware of some key physical issues that are compromising my effectiveness as a rider.
1. My core is incredibly weak. It's always been that way, but I never truly realized it until I started riding correctly with C and physically was not able to sit up and engage my core. I collapse in my ribcage, I creep forward on my pelvis and therefore my position is ineffective and incorrect. I have to be concious of this every single second and literally tell myself to sit back and try to engage those muscles. So far, I'm up against a brick wall. Suggestions welcome :)
2. My back. I've strained my lower back yet again and today couldn't physically sit up. It feels like a jackhammer going straight up my spine as I absorb concussion from the horse's stride. I plan on icing the crap out of it and continuing to ride through it in the vain hope it'll sort itself out. Chiro is out of the budget right now. I know that a lot of the back pain is related to the lack of core strength as well.
And my half chaps have broken..the bottom snaps fell off on both of them. Frustrating as now the zippers unzip while I ride. I've been eying the Ariat Volant paddock boots and half chaps but am scared, literally, to buy them as I'm fairly certain I'll be kicked out of my barn for wearing them ;)
Time for a lunch break. The gang will be back this afternoon after a super successful weekend at Poplar! Can't wait to see them, although it's been really nice to have the barn to myself and to just *be*.
God Bless and have a great Monday!
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
The next morning came quite early (3:40 a.m) as we had 8 horses to bathe and braid, 2to lunge, 8 stalls to clean and 16 water buckets to empty and fill by 7:00 a.m. We did it, by the grace of God and a very determined attitude. Everyone had a beautiful dressage test…we were all very excited about where our horses were in the standings at that point! It was my turn after lunch…Pop warmed up really, really nicely. I didn’t do a long warm-up because it was very, very hot at this point and the last thing I wanted was for him to run out of energy before we did our test. Well…it happened anyway. But the test itself was better than last week. My goals for this phase were:
1. Improve my score by 2 points. This would mean scoring around a 34.
2. Improve the comments on my geometry…make circles the correct size, be more
accurate about doing movements on the letters.
3. Keep Pop forward and through during the entire test.
4. Keep Pop’s hindquarters straight in the right lead canter.
5. Improve the halt.
Well, here’s how it went:
1. We scored a 30, which I was thrilled about.
2. My circles were definitely closer to 20 meters than last week and I tried to be more accurate with the letters. I did still have a problem with the turn from B to E to the track, mostly because Pop wasn’t through or going forward (see below!)
3. Pop went down center line beautifully and crapped out as we turned right at
C. I didn’t prepare him enough for the turn or have him bent properly for the turn and as a result he lost his impulsion, his roundness and a few points. This happened again at B, and E..I never truly got him forward and through again, but we did have a few more good moments throughout.
4. One of the comments was “hindquarters right” for the right lead canter, so I definitely didn’t do my job here. I think by this point I was so happy he picked up the canter from the slovenly trot that I didn’t even worry about straightness. MUST BE MORE PROACTIVE.
5. He still had a hind leg too far back in the halt but his legs weren’t crossed this time!
Overall, my feeling was disappointed in myself for not riding him more aggressively and more proactively, but at the end of the day we did make some good improvements from last week and have some more homework to do. He was a good boy and we’ll only get better from here.
Cross-country was much later. I was pumped! I walked the course twice and was especially concerned about 6-7-8; fence 6 was simple but then you had to make a right hand turn 180 degrees to a ditch and then 4 strides to 8. I was worried about
the right hand turn and keeping him forward to the ditch. Goals:
1. Ride up to my distances.
2. Get Pop to turn better than last time. We had a lot of issues with landing on the left lead with a right hand turn coming up.
3. Establish a rhythm earlier in the course.
4. Come in closer to the optimum time.
Here’s how it went!
1. I rode up to no distances. Haha. We took a LOT of flyers because I saw a long one and didn’t have the pace to make it. Poor Pop. He was so good and willing…fence 5 was a wide table and he took off WAY too far away and still cleared it. I rode backwards through related distances…for example, the water was supposed to be a one stride and I did it in 3. I was long on the bank to the coop, also.
2. We for the most part had better turns. We turned well to the ditch, but we almost had a runout at fence 4 because he was flying through the turn without actually turning. Thank God he has a big heart and jumped it anyway but it was close.
3. I don’t think we ever found our rhythm this time. He was wanting to go, go, go and I would let him go and then start freaking out in front of the fence. Luckily for me he’s game and careful.
4. We definitely failed on this one! We had the fastest time on our division by a LOT. Woops!
Nevertheless, we were clean and he jumped confidently. What a rush! Very proud of him and happy the BF was there to watch and cheer us on. He cooled down easily and got poultice and wraps for the night as well as hoof packing. We were sitting in 5th.
Sunday morning dawned chilly but it was soon to warm up a good deal and become BLAZING hot. We again had an early and busy morning with 6 horses show jumping before I rode. All of our boys were very good. Ardy ended up 7th in his second Prelim and Val was 2nd in my division. Pop and I jumped a couple of fences and headed in. To be honest, I walked him into the ring and a sense of calm came over me and I rode the course like the most confident person ever. He was AMAZING. I didn’t worry about distances, I just kept him moving forward and he jumped every fence so beautifully. We had a clean round and I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. What a GOOD BOY. We finished up with a beautiful white 4th place ribbon! I’m so proud of myself and of him. GOALS MET for stadium…which was to get around with rhythm and balance.
So what’s next for the Pop Star? We’re looking to run Novice at the October Starter HT at the Horse Park the first Sunday in October. I’m excited about returning to that course and hopefully owning it this time!
Pop will return to work tomorrow weather permitting, and we have a lot of flatwork to do before the Starter HT. I want to really have the Novice tests down pat by then so it’s almost a formality. I also want to do more fitness work with him before then so I feel like I can ask him for more and he’s capable of giving it. I also need to work on getting a show coat before then!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more news on Mazzie (who is doing great!) and the rest of the horses in the barn!
Monday, August 29, 2011
So after a lot of waiting, waiting, waiting…it was Pop Star’s turn. I got VERY nervous and was shaking and sick to my stomach right before I got on…the anticipation was getting to me more than anything. Pop looked great in his black pad and black boots w blue tape, and I wore Lizzie’s black vest with aqua laces and trim. Warm-up was great…we just jumped three fences and he was spot on to all of them. Then we chilled beside the volunteer tent with C, Lizzie, and my Dad until we were called to go over to the start box. The volunteers at the start box were VERY friendly and complimented me on Pop (he’s SO pretty!!). Then with a good luck, the countdown began.
10….9….8….7….(Pop starts bouncing)…6…5…(enter start box)…4…3…2…1……..GO!!
He exploded out of there like a rocket and we flew over the first fence. Galloped down and went to make a right hand turn to Fence 2, and Poppers was on the left lead and locked on to an Intermediate fence straight ahead. Really had to sit and wrench him around and was talking to him the whole time… “This one’s ours, bud!” We chipped to 2 because I was so busy picking at him with my hands. Same thing with fence 3. Fence 4 was a lot better and so was 5…then we went around to 6, which he was a little crooked to but willing..then 7 which was another sharp right hand turn (with him on the left lead booking it), but we made it over. Then down a big hill to Fence 8, which was the ditch. He literally never hesitated and we flew over it…bye bye, ditch phobia! Up a hill and down a hill to fence 9, which was through a hedge of brush. Fence 10 was beautiful and we galloped around to the water…galloped through the water (splash splash splash) and out over Fence 12.
13 and 14 were my favorite jumps on course. You had to come around the bend, hug the brush and then make a right angle turn left to 13 (he was perfect!), then 6 strides to an up bank. He attacked it! I didn’t even have time to be nervous about it. Up and around the bend to 15, jumped it beautifully. By this point we had found our rhythm. 16 was fine, 17 was tough because it landed down a hill but he balanced himself beautifully for it and then we really galloped up the massive hill to 18, where our “fan club” was standing! Hit the distance perfectly, flew over and heard cheers for US! One fence to go….he was on his left lead again and not listening to my aids to turn right for Fence 19…I managed to get him turned in time and then through the finish flags! WOO HOOO!!!!! GOOD BOY!!!!
I had forgotten the adrenaline rush you get from this sport. This is what I’ve been missing from my life. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have this horse, the opportunity to compete, and the most amazing support group anyone could ever hope for.
We finished 7th. We had one of the fastest times in our division (whoops, hehe) so that’s something to think about this weekend. I have a good idea of things to work on and things that need improving and most of all, I know I can do this. I’m not petrified anymore. I have confidence in myself and my horse. We belong as much as anyone else, and believe me, this is WELL worth being completely broke for the rest of my life.
Thanks for all of YOUR support through this blog, and stay tuned for this weekend at Five Points! Take care!!
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Let's start by saying that after Friday night, I honestly thought our chances of having a good weekend were long gone. It'll take an entire post to tell you of that night, but let's just say it involved four phone calls at once, two GPS's full of lies, the ghetto, and no AC for an entire night. Nevertheless, we made it through. I flatted Pop lightly that afternoon and despite the chaos of the arena (one mare spinning and bolting every time we passed her, among other things) he was focused and very well behaved. He was really nice and forward and soft at first, but then we took a walk break and when we went back to work he was super poky. Silly pony. We did a little more work and then headed back to the barn (and the Hell that awaited us.)
Saturday...started bright and early as we had our first test at 8 a.m. Devon was a little wound up but still scored quite well in the Prelim. Ardy had a good test for his first Prelim and Ben was also very good in his first Prelim w H. Monkee was excellent and got a 32 in his Intermediate test, which we were very happy about! Guppy, as usual, had a beautiful test in Training...then it was Popopop's turn. I had been nervous but the second I got on his back I was okay. He felt so relaxed and chill that I relaxed, too. We had a good warm-up and then it was Show Time. We said a friendly hello to our judge and went right in.
Enter A working trot. We got a 6, it was very straight and lovely until we had to track right at C. The comment says "lost balance at C" and I would definitely agree with that. I don't know if I just let him get behind my leg or what but he turned and we lost all impulsion and balance. Luckily we got it back quickly but then had to turn right at B and left at E...I felt like he was fairly straight to E and then maybe fell in a bit tracking left (he's naturally bent to the right) but we got a 7 and "softer across topline". Next was a 20-meter circle at A, we got a 6 (circle too small)...I knew the circle wasn't right. I had forgotten the size of the small arena really makes things feel distorted! I have to review my geometry before Five Points, for sure. Next was a canter depart between A and F (7, "tight") and then another 20 meter at B (6, first half of circle too small...again!)...then a trot transition between B and M (6, braced). My elbows and wrists get a bit rigid in the left lead canter and I'm sure that's why he braced there. E, turn left and B, turn right, we got a 6 (tight at E, needs closer to B). I totally agree and I knew I cut the turn to B, I didn't feel like I had him in front of my leg and I was worried about getting to B and losing his trot entirely, so I cut the corner (bad!). Another 20 meter circle at A, 7 (needs softer topline and larger circle...AGAIN!!!). Then an *8* on our canter depart (YAY!!!!). Canter circle at E, 6 (1st part circle small (sound familar?) lazy canter (agreed). 7 on downward transition (better preparation needed). 5 on our walk transition (you had it...something illegible. I did get a bit of a jig so maybe that's what she was referring to? It was a perfect transition but then I had too much leg!). A very disappointing 5 on our free walk :( I thought it was a really good free walk and the comment is illegible, so I can't even figure out why we scored that 5. I will had more stretch and more forward next time, though. 7 on our trot down centerline and 5 on our halt (apparently his hind legs were crossed. I must confess I had never halted him from a trot, so I was just proud it was fairly straight!). Our additional comments were "Lovely horse, continue to work on consistency in movements and gaits. Good luck." Not too bad for our first test together! We got a 36.5 which put us in a tie for 8th place. I was so proud of his effort and proud of myself, too...next time we'll be a bit better prepared for the size of the arena and how fast the movements come up!
Back to the barn for a rest before our stadium round. I had walked the course once and it looked good except for one bending line that was a 6 stride. I was just a little concerned about him drifting left and missing the turn. He warmed up PERFECTLY...very forward to the base of the fence. He felt like a totally different horse from home...focused and forward and confident. We headed in after a short warm-up. Really got him going in the canter and we were off! The first fence rode beautifully, we got a good distance and landed on the left lead...the 2nd fence was a sharp right hand turn, so I attempted a lead change...it didn't happen. Crap. So I abandoned that idea and just went for the turn on the counter canter. Luckily, he's about as handy as they come and we jumped it well. 3 was an oxer and he jumped that SUPER, then to 4 (a vertical that started the bending line). I was convinced he would leave long to 5...so I jumped...he literally stutter-stepped off the ground. GOOD BOY. He should've stopped...DEFINITELY my fault. I had lost my canter and forgotten to move him up to the distance so when we got there he was prepared to add. Thank God he's forgiving, I landed on the buckle and just pushed him on to the next fence in the bending line, which he chipped but he jumped it well. I landed and patted him and yelled "MY fault!!!" He jumped 7 and 8 flawlessly, back in a rhythm, and I had all the confidence in the world over 9 and then 10A and B, a two-stride...never jumped a combination on him but he was right on the money and got a HUGE pat and a "GOOD GOOD MAN!!!!!" as we crossed through the finish flags. Clean. WHAT a fun ride! I couldn't stop patting him on the way home! All my butterflies were gone and I couldn't believe how much fun it was. We headed home for a bath, wraps and foot packing for the night. Tied for 7th at this point.
(Everyone else show jumped beautifully...Benny had to be scratched bc of feet issues...the ground was ROCK hard and not good for him at all and with him running this weekend too at Five Points, H wanted to save him. Good decision!)
Stay tuned for the rundown from cross-country day :)
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
So I did.
I can’t help but be proud of our effort today. I finally broke through this pattern I’d gotten myself into of being a passive, non-assertive rider. Sure, he’ll cart me over anything, but will it be correct, pleasing to watch, fun? It hasn’t been so far. I’ve been frustrated and down after every jump school to this point. I have a nice horse who has a big heart and I was literally throwing it down the toilet with my riding.
Today, I was absolutely going to “git r done”. Eventing is not about looking poised and pretty getting 5 strides down the outside line. This is a bonus, but first and foremost your horse must be forward, straight, and listening to you as you approach a stadium fence. If he’s on the wrong lead, you kick on. If he’s looky at the fence, you funnel him in and kick on. If he’s losing momentum in the turn, you kick on and go forward out of the turn. I don’t know where I lost my nerve and confidence to kick on, but at some point I did. Pop is here to remind me what it feels like to RIDE.
It wasn’t perfect. We had several hiccups and several bad distances that resulted in poor jumping efforts. We missed several lead changes and blew at least one turn. But I’ll be darned if we didn’t have a course of 3 fences that felt absolutely perfect. Where I rode up, forward and straight and we were finally on the same page. Wow, what an amazing feeling on this dynamite little horse.
Now I know I CAN do it. I CAN.
Oh, and I love the Amerigo. It’s flap is just forward enough for my long leg and it’s the comfiest saddle in the world. I know the saddle doesn’t necessarily make you a better rider but when you’re not fighting your saddle for your position, it certainly helps! We’ll add it to the list of Things R’s Future Rich Husband Will Buy Her.
Went to the tack store to get last minute items (hair nets and boot socks) and my breeches and potential new show coat are in the mail and should be here by Thursday. Boots are getting more and more broken in with each day! I still need to learn my dressage test, clip Pop up, and fill out my medical armband…among 500 other things I need to do before Friday morning. I’m so excited to be back on the road again. Trunks are packed, stud kit is ready to go….just have a bunch more cleaning and packing to do in these next couple of days.
Started working with Champ’s big sister, Bonita, tonight. I just started teaching a young girl on her last weekend and her goal is to start taking her to jumper shows. I’m hoping to find the time to work with both her and Champ 2-3 times each week. Tonight was a good first session…she has a very workmanlike attitude and is quite smart. We just w/t/c and trotted a small fence to get a feel for each other. She is actually pretty nice to the base of a fence and although her canter definitely needs work, I’m sure a lot of it is lack of strength and using the correct muscles. Champ was quite offended that I didn’t work him tonight but he was such a star last night and I was running out of daylight. I will be clinging desperately to these last days of summer before it gets cold and dark outside *sad face*
Til next time!
Friday, August 19, 2011
I also got the opportunity to jump Guppy over a couple of small fences. His stride might be the biggest stride I’ve ever sat on, he is INCREDIBLE but a completely different ride than Pop. I was quite sloppy on him I thought but C was happy.
The best news of the day is that Lizzie is a saint and one of the most generous people I’ve ever met…she is letting me borrow her GORGEOUS Amerigo saddle for Full Gallop next weekend. It is so nice and comfortable and fits Pop like a glove. She has no idea how much this means to me. We’re also working on finding me a show coat and breeches that are in my price range…her mom has a tack shop and is absolutely wonderful, doing all the research and stuff to find me the best product for my meager bank account. I’m so grateful to everyone (C included!) who is going above and beyond to help me do this sport. Without them I wouldn’t have a shot.
More long days headed my way so I better hit the sack! Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Poppers is doing well. We had a jump school yesterday with C. I didn't feel particularly confident afterwards...we had several really rough fences and I was having a hard time (despite my determination) getting him to stay straight and not jump to the left. We're still having trouble with right turns as well (he likes to be bent right so if I don't use BOTH reins to turn we just go right with the front end and the hind end doesn't come with). I did try to ride a bit more positively to the fences and not lose my leg about three strides out while I panic because I don't see a distance. He did save my butt several times (God Bless him for that!). We are going cross-country schooling Friday or Saturday so I'm hoping it'll all come together when we're out of the ring.
Our flat lesson today was very tough and we had some REALLY good moments. We worked on straightness in his body and lots of leg yields to keep his haunches where they're supposed to be. Leg yields might be my nemesis forever. I twist my body, I twist my arms, I break my wrists. I lost his hindend, I have too much inside bend...the list goes on and on. I tried to stay straight and push him over evenly but I'm not sure I accomplished that. He was a lot better to the left (thanks to C's schooling while I was in Bham). I was having trouble getting him to truly let go in his jaw and back in the left lead canter...but after realizing my elbows were locked, I relaxed and got the most perfect, beautiful, light and balanced canter in the world for about 10 meters of a 20 meter circle. Yay, big pat! Good boy! Then C, ever the optimist, asked us to go down the long side and I lost the canter when I failed to keep his haunches straight and they went left and the canter became choppy again. That's okay, though! I felt how it's supposed to feel when it's perfect and now I will be striving for that every ride! And his trotwork after the canter is always so, so much better. It'll be important to remember that when we are warming up for our dressage test at Full Gallop! I'm so excited and nervous about it...but we gotta start somewhere, right?
:) All the other ponies are doing great. They're all so much fun in their own ways. Devon is settling in well and his sweet nature has made him pretty impossible to not love. We're excited about the fall season starting soon and getting on the road again.
'Til next time!
Friday, August 5, 2011
Pop is doing really well, he got shod on Monday and had a day off after, and then after packing his feet that night he flatted on Wednesday and we had a jump school yesterday. It wasn't the best jump school we've had, partly because of my indecision and partly because I think he was a little rusty. He came out of it with a little pulse in both front feet so I packed them again and just trotted him today. He was really good and we worked hard in the field with S and Noah. I packed him again tonight just to be sure. His feet aren't hot, they just have a pretty decent pulse and the hoof packing usually takes care of that. So we'll probably flat tomorrow. He's such a good boy :)
We have a new tenant in the barn, which is always exciting but especially so when it's a horse of this caliber. Devon (better known to the public as Coal Creek) got here yesterday and we are excited to have him. He won Fair Hill several years ago with Amy Tryon and is a very, very cool little horse.
Miss Mazzie had her first ride today since arriving at our barn at the beginning of summer. She was excellent and we walked and trotted in the paddock with no problems. She is a bit timid to step out and really trot forward (would rather go up and down) but seems very willing to learn. She was calm and all of the lunging we've done has really paid off. I'm excited to keep working with her! She is going through a bit of a growth spurt and today measured right at 15.3hh.
I got the priviledge of jumping Flaggles through a grid this morning. I've been REALLY blessed to have a lot of extra saddle time lately on some really cool horses. In addition to Flag I've gotten to jump Allegra and a really nice hunter, Roc. It's a blast trying to figure each horse out and learn how to ride them best. It's also great getting more experience jumping, because every fence I jump can help me learn to ride Pop better. Flag was great today, he is a very round and scopey jumper and really gives you a feeling of confidence. We did a placing pole to a cross-rail to a placing pole to a vertical to a cross-rail two strides to a decent sized oxer, and our last trip through felt really good and straight and connected. He's a blast!
Champ has been an angel this week, I rode him in the paddock yesterday by himself and he was a little nappy about leaving the barn and walking up the little hill (groan so hard for a fat butt to do hillwork!) but he was obedient and calm and that's about all I can ask for. He's such a good boy, he always puts a smile on my face. I really love working with the babies, they are so rewarding and it's so much fun to learn about them, their learning styles, and watching them improve and watching the lightbulbs go off in their heads. He's been such an easy boy to start and work with, he is an absolute joy.
We have 11 horses in training right now, which is the most we've had since I started working here. It's very, very busy (especially with the heat and rushing to get done before it gets unbearable) but it's a good busy, and we're gearing up for Full Gallop in a few weeks. Monkee, Guppy, Ardy, Poppers, Benny and Devon are on target to go. I am trying so hard to get my show clothes purchased before then...i just need a pair of non-white breeches and a show coat right now, I think....I have show shirts, white breeches, and my boots just came home yesterday with their new zippers :) They fit pretty darn well and I can't wait to break them in!
That's about all the big news I can think of! Except the fact I get to visit my dear friend Katie (www.jrsrenaissance.blogspot.com) in a week and ride her beautiful and fancy fancy fancy TB gelding, Jay-R. I can't wait!!