Wednesday, July 31, 2013

(cont'd) One show and two lessons later . . .

Continuing with my previous post since it was about a show and two lessons, one of which I cannot recall anymore. I had my second lesson with Miss E after cancelling two weeks in a row (it hurts more than you think). I wasn't allowed to ride Buddy for the lesson because of an accident he had the previous week with another girl. He tripped again, but he went far enough down for the girl to come off, so Miss E wants the vet to look at him just to make sure everything is okay.

Instead, I rode a mare named Jazzy. The whole grooming and tacking up process made me start my lesson a bit discouraged. First, Miss E has a lot of horses, and I have been to her barn a total of three times. I cannot possibly remember who all the horses are in that amount of time. She told me I was riding Jazzy, pointed to the mare's stall, and said, "You're riding Jazzy. She looks kind of like a mule, but she jumps well. Close the stall door when you go to put her halter on or she'll try to barge out of there." I kind of laughed to myself and went to the stall. I get into the stall and brush her off. As I'm doing so, I take a good look at her and think to myself, She doesn't look like a mule. I finished brushing off the horse and went to the tack room to grab a saddle. Miss E and a couple of other people were in there talking to each other. When I entered the tack room, Miss E saw me and quickly grabbed the saddle pads she wanted me to use. "You'll need the extra padding for Jazzy's sway back," she noted. At that point, I thought, Huh? The horse I brushed off looked nothing like a mule, hadn't even thought about running out of the stall, and didn't look at all to be suffering from equine lordosis. So, as a confused me lugged the saddle back to the mare's stall, I noticed 1) the mare was not in the stall, and 2) the mare was with another student who was tacking her up. I went up to the adult helping the student and asked what the horse's name was. She replied, "Penny." I asked her where Jazzy was. She pointed to the stall directly next to the stall that Penny was in. Long story short, I brushed off the wrong horse. At least I hadn't tacked her up yet.

I put the saddle down and got some brushes to groom the real Jazzy with. Let me tell you, Miss E was not exaggerating when it came to that horse looking like a mule. She's a sweet pony, but her ears are just long and her face is quite coarse. The sway back and desire to bust out of the stall were also obvious. After I got her brushed off, I took her out of the stall and tied her up to the cross ties so I could tack her up. I put the saddle on with all the pads and whatnot, and this mare would not stand still. She kept moving around and turning her but and walking forward and walking back. I got a friend to hold her for me, but she was still moving around a whole bunch when I was trying to girth her up. My friend had to go tack up her horse, so she traded positions with Miss E's daughter. Miss E's daughter is a very educated horsewoman and could tell that something was wrong when Jazzy refused to stand still. She took a good look and blankly said that the saddle was too far back. I wanted to just drop dead right then. First impressions are really important for me, and it didn't appear that Miss E's daughter was having the best of days. I can imagine that I only irritated her more and came off as the most beginning of beginners that can't even tack a horse up correctly. That was definitely not the impression that I wanted to make.

Moving on, I finally manage to actually get the horse entirely tacked up and I mounted. At this point, I was feeling very discouraged due to my double screw up from earlier, and I'm not the most confident person in the world to begin with. I get into the ring, walk for a little while, then Miss E asks us to pick up a trot. This mare Jazzy becomes a lot like Duke at this point, not in that she's a lazy bum that would rather do the slowest western pleasure jog in the world as opposed to moving out like she was born to but more because of the fact that she has a coughing fit when she starts trotting. The reins on her bridle are the same as the ones pictured below . . .

. . . and I don't wear gloves when I ride. Think about it. Bare hands, reins like sandpaper, and a horse who's head keeps going down because she's got to cough. My ring fingers are blister mania right now. Three layers of skin are gone, and the fourth layer is completely raw and hurts like a . . . female dog. I also got a random Charlie Horse during my ride even though I hadn't eaten anything yet that day (I'm not big on breakfast when I wake up at home). The cramp comes while I'm posting the trot, and Miss E has us trot for a looooonnnnngg time. Then, after she's had us do the posting trot for a while, she says "Sitting trot!" and I thought to myself, Kill me. Probably the most painful laps of sitting trot in my life. The rest of our flatwork consisted of trotting 20 meter circles, trotting 10 meter circles, and cantering the whole arena. No leg yielding this lesson. I was kinda saddened by this. Leg yielding is fun.

We moved on to warming up for jumping, and at that point my toes became a big problem (yet again). Jumping in general was much better than my last lesson on Buddy. Jazzy is a good little jumper. Gets her strides nice and just goes. We did our cavalettis first, then bounces. Yeah, those were still bad, but I've never been good with those. Went to the jumper arena and started doing patterns. Much better than last time in terms of pace, control, and form, but still having trouble with my lower leg and hands (oh Lord, my hands). We each picked a course again to finish off the lesson. The jumps had been moved since my last lesson, so I was having trouble picking which jumps I wanted to do since the angles were different. I went last, and when my turn came around, I totally winged it. I literally picked which jump I was going over first and went from there. I took some pretty dodgy turns, but in terms of setting up my horse correctly, I nailed it like a pro. Miss E was seemed genuinely impressed. She kept me afterwards for a little while to do some one on one work with turning (I tend to pull out with a long rein to get my horse to go one way or the other when I should be pulling back, just a bad habit). Overall, when I comes to jumping I need to work on:

     -Hands: more release and be softer
     -Lower leg: grip with the calf, not the knee
     -Upper body: shoulders back, come up off of the horse's front end, core strength/support
     -Feet: heels down, TOES STRAIGHT! (on the flat too)
     -Stay in two-point longer

Gripping with the knee is probably the worst issue I have. I did it enough during this lesson that my knees were aching when I got home. I couldn't even bend my right knee *insert sad/embarrassed face*. I'm happy with my lesson though. It was a huge improvement from last time. I got to ride another pony afterwards. Probably the cutest thing for anyone to ride, except for when you ask her to canter. At that point she got sassy, but I nipped that in the butt quickly. After a quick ride I spent some time with the 3 1/2 month old Chincoteague Pony weanling that Miss E's daughter brought home. The filly is basically wild with minimal handling, and it was a challenging trying to catch her. When I finally got a hold of her, she darted back, and I just went with her because I didn't want to pull on her neck too much. My thought process was basically,"Oh, you want to go back? Okay, we can go back. I like adventures!" She's the typical wild and unhandled until you sit there and pet her for a moment. After that she's like your best friend. She even fell asleep in my arms at one point. I'll see if I can get some pictures of her next week.

One show and two lessons later . . .

I just started this blog and I'm already slacking big time. Tisk tisk! Anyway, I had a show back on the weekend of July 20th, so I have a long spiel about that. I'm just copying and pasting from a horse forum that I post on. No need to type that long description again.

I had a show this past weekend, and overall it was pretty good, er I mean GREAT! Everything went so smoothly this time as compared to last. There wasn't as much rushing.

I was planning on riding Duke in long stirrup only for both days. I schooled him Saturday morning and he was a gem. A younger girl was going to ride Baby, so my trainer had me school Baby as well. I never noticed how different two horses can feel. Baby and Duke are two very different horses (13.3 crossbred pony vs. 15.2 HUS/WP Paint), but I was thrown a curve ball when I got on Baby. I've been riding Duke since January, but I just felt way better on Baby and figured I'd ask the trainer if I could ride her instead of Duke. Fortunately, my trainer felt exactly the same way. She'd left a spot open for me on Baby's entry forms

Day continues and it is hot as can be. My division was nearing and I was falling into panic mode. When I was about to go into the ring, I felt like quitting. I just took a deep breath and went in and did my flat classes. That mare is a saint, she really is. She was packing my nervous booty around like it was nothing. She listened to everything, she was consistent. She even picked up her least favorite lead without collapsing on the forehand (although when two other horses closed in on either side of me, her entire front end just dropped . . . I got her out of there quickly). 9th in walk, 4th in walk/trot, and 2nd in walk/trot/canter.

Then came the jumping class, oh boy. Baby is a really pretty hunter, but when she does courses (at the canter) she really likes to get going, so I would have to keep my weight back for the whole course. You have the option to trot or canter the course in long stirrup. Trainer told me to trot it or canter it, but keep her under control either way. Well, we trot into the arena, trot to the first fence. She's doing great, not rushing. She jumps the first fence, canters out, and keeps cantering and cantering and cantering. She picked up the slowest and most relaxed pace. Either I was riding her well or she was just being lazy. I was having to push her through the whole thing. We had one refusal, but I got her back on track and we finished the course. Ended up placing 4th. I was so proud of her! Even the other trainers who know about Baby were just like "Wow, that's different." And that was the end of the first day.

Second day was the same with Baby. No refusals on the course this time, but the same relaxed, happy, consistent pace from the day before. The girl who was supposed to ride Duke that day never showed up, so I asked my trainer if I could ride Duke in pleasure pony. She was fine with it, so I signed up and got Duke ready. Get into the first class and Duke's walking calm and what not. Judge calls for a trot, and he zips forward like a bat outta you know where. I was just hoping it wouldn't end up like the last show where he decided he was afraid of a number of things including, but not limited to horses, ponies, saddles, bridles, flowers, grass, jumps, dirt, and air. Made it through the first class alive, and ditched the crop afterwards. He became progressively calmer as the next two classes continued. Last class was pleasure pony over fences. By this point, Duke had figured out that running around like a maniac wasn't the best idea, especially considering the weather (hot, hot, HOT!). The course was the same as the course in long stirrup, just higher. I was trying not to scream "Good boy" at Duke through the entire thing. He was just like Baby, calm, consistent, and completely unexpected. I had the biggest smile on my face by the last line (and I do not smile when I am on a horse).

I'm really happy with how the show went. My placings for the second day are at home, so I'll post them later. On a more negative note, I do have to rant just a teeny tiny bit. On Saturday, when I was schooling in the morning, I was taking Duke over some jumps. There was this group of girls standing in the arena next to one of the jumps. They were completely out of the way, and my best guess is that they were just watching people school. As I was approaching the jump they were standing by, I noticed that one of the girls was staring at me, no, glaring at me. It was a full on, condescending, "I know that I'm better than you" glare. I ignored it, or at least tried to. She hadn't really done anything wrong, she was just glaring. Not my problem. However, as the day went on, this girl and one of her friends would not stop staring at me. It was mainly just the one girl, and the other one just seemed to follow suit. I don't know who on Earth these girls are; I had never met them before in my life, nor had I even seen them before at the shows. Sunday morning rolls around, and I was standing by the ring holding my friend's horse. My friend was schooling a pony and had asked me to hold her horse, so I just watched them (too bad my camera was in the barn, they were looking really nice). Well, those two girls were walking past, right in front of me, not saying a single word, just walking. The one who had been glaring the day before takes a momentary glance at me, turns back to her friend, and says "I don't like her." This was literally my face.

I was looking around like did anyone just hear that? Pardon my French, but these girls don't even f****** know me. Not one bit. They don't know my name. They don't know what I've been through. They know absolutely nothing about me besides the obvious (I ride horses, I am female). I would have loved to hear that girl's reasoning as to why she doesn't like me. I understand that everyone has an opinion and not everyone is going to like you, but you better have a good reason as to why you don't like me. I told one of our horse show moms about it, and she told me to just let it go and be the bigger person. I know she's right, and I'm trying to be mature about it, but thinking of witty comebacks is soooo much fun
So, there it is, my weekend in a nutshell. Of course I have pictures, but I will warn you that my equitation as well as my picture taking skills belong in the garbage. I dunno what happened, but whatever happened I hope it doesn't happen again, ever. All the pictures of me are from the pleasure pony division. I'm still in the process of getting my photos from the first day. I've given up trying to get three in one line. It's too stressful.

I was dieing here. It was sooo hot!
Duke sporting our ribbons.

Jogging in for the o/f class.
How he landed on the correct lead with me being so off balance, I do not know.
Slowing down in the combination hack.

Another pic of me roasting in the midday sun.

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Duke being a derp and me looking like a murderer

     And then there's everyone else . . .

A colorful line up.
No overjumping here.

Oh so pretty . . .
Can you tell she's HUS bred?

Duke's twin!

Duke's twin . . . again!

Just thought this one was cool.
He gets serious about his trot overs now.

The overly photogenic pony.
She's giving me the "mare stare"

Love this girl and her pony; she's so sweet!
Mane and tail are flying.

I want, I want, I want! Referring to the horse ;)
Pet your pony, er horse.

Another non-overjump.

Schooling the pony.
Showing the pony.

The pony getting frisky.
Push button horse

Blue and blue
A Paint mare for sale

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oh bareback, how I love thee so

I got about 10 good minutes of bareback riding at my lesson yesterday evening. Duke and I walked, trotted, and cantered a bit, although the cantering part was tough. He doesn't like moving, in general, but he's better bareback than with a saddle (perhaps it's because I can kick better without stirrups).

I was having a pretty good lesson, so by the time we started cantering bareback, my dare devil side became all too tempting. I slowly loosed my reins to the buckle, and then I just dropped them and stuck my arms out. Did that for about five strides before the little booger broke on me. I genuinely surprised myself though. I'm usually so nervous to do things, but this time I just carefully dropped the reins and made sure he didn't get a foot stuck in them. I was worried about falling at all. Eh, I guess things just change over time.

Bareback aside, the rest of my lesson was still fantastic. I'm starting to get on Duke's case more about bending his corners and circles. The chiropractor came out and cracked him, so he's fine physically. When we started working together back in January and February, I had him bending like a pro Dressage horse at the walk and trot. Well, now he's good at the walk, wants to kill me at the trot, and ignores me at the canter. Really, Duke? Really? It's not even his whole body that I have trouble with, it's just his head and neck. From his withers back, he makes a beautiful arc, but his neck just stays straight. If you put any pressure to bend his neck, he falls to the inside. Of course, because of all this rain, we were in the indoor arena. Our indoor is small, so I need to make the best of my space and go deep into my corners, but, since Duke constantly falls in and cuts his corners, it was quite the struggle.

Despite having to have constant outside rein and inside leg pressure, my lesson was still great. We did walk, trot, and canter, then we did trot overs, trot in/canter out, and then cantered lines. My jumping position seems to have revived itself, but I'm still struggling with keeping my heels down over the jumps at the canter. I keep weight in my stirrups, but it's distributed 50/50 between my toe and heel. It's odd, but I'm working on it. My hands still need work too. I'm picking them up too early. I guess I have some things to work on during my lessons next week.

Both of my courses were great, considering the fact that I hate the indoor and it's small. Of course, my trainer has to pretend she hates me and makes half of the jumps oxers. I have this deep rooted hatred for oxers. They're so wide and awkward. Why can't they just be normal like other jumps?! The verticals were the only thing that made the course bearable. The tight turns were somewhat doable. Duke broke on the same turn during both courses (and gave me an attitude the second time, to which I replied with the crop). Otherwise, they are great. I got most of the distances, and Duke was going at a great pace. All in all, great.

I have two lessons next week with my trainer, and then a two day show on the weekend. I have a doctor's appointment on Monday, so no lesson with Miss E. I already miss Buddy! Hopefully by the week after next, I'll be on a solid weekly schedule. If not, I'll wing it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pony Club . . . Ow.

I had my first lesson with the Pony Club trainer, Miss E, this past Monday. All I can say is ow. I thought I was paying this woman to help me get a good rating, not make it physically impossible for me to get out of bed in the mornings! My body aches all the way around. My neck, shoulders, upper back, biceps, abs, bum, inner thigh, and even my shins hurt. I don't even know how I managed to work some of these places to the point where they ache so much, except maybe the bum.

Yeah, it wasn't a great ride. I was on this fantastic horse Buddy. He's a 16.1, 30-something year old Thoroughbred gelding. Yes, you read that right. A 30-something year old Thoroughbred who can easily do Dressage and 3'0" courses. He's also a beginner's horse, and one that you absolutely have to push or else he's not going to try. He shows his age in other ways, though. His entire head and neck have grayed. The brown hairs are only there lightly now. His topline doesn't look too good either, but he's difficult to get off of the forehand, and you can't build a topline unless you work your horse in a consistently round frame.

Despite struggling with the roundness aspect, my ride on the flat was great. Miss E had to remind me constantly about what she calls "energy"(basically impulsion from his hind end). If you push Buddy out enough he'll come right off of his front end and round up nicely. The other thing I had to be reminded of was my hands. My hands are the bane of my existence. Ever since I fixed my toes, my hands have become a more serious issue. I have puppy paws, and light ones at that (except for my last lesson with my other trainer, can you say too much contact? eep!). The reins were flopping every which way as I rode, but a little while in I finally settled with a nice amount of contact, and my "horse show hands were in place." We did leg yielding at the walk and trot too, and my canter and sitting trot were phenomenal.

Things just got bad when we started jumping. The trot poles were fine. It was 6 or so of them set up in a line to trot over. I just had to shorten my reins, but that was a problem. I am so used to light contact that when I feel like I am pulling on my horse's mouth at all, I let the reins slip. I can't have that much contact. I get so paranoid that I am hurting my horse's mouth. I look solid enough that she puts the last pole up. It's about 18", 2'0" max. I can jump a two foot course with ease, but for some reason, going over this one jump was about as easy as pushing a truck load of lead up the side of Mount Everest. I could not do it. No matter how many time I tried. It got better, and the last time was the best, but it still was not acceptable.

Then we went into the jumping arena. There are about 20 jumps in there, all with different, unique names such as The Carrot, Jamaica, The Balloons, Bumblebee, Flowers, Natural Oxer, Wide Oxer, and Baby Pickett to name a few. I was having a hard time trying to figure out which jump was which. I also don't have great hearing so I was having trouble hearing her say the jump names. I got around okay for the most part, but my two point was just really bad. I was pinching at the knee, I was bring my heels up, my back was rounded (what we like to call "Turtle Mode"), and my body was too far forward. I was a drape on this horse's neck going over, and I was a sack of bricks on his back coming down. I could not support myself, and I don't know why. I've never had that bad of a ride over fences. I wasn't even that bad when I started trotting and cantering courses. The jumps I was going over were no more than 2'0", I was on horse I could trust, and I was with a trainer who knew what she was doing. I could not have been in a better situation, but I still messed it all up.

I did end my lesson with confidence, however. To finish off the 2 hour lesson, Miss E had us each pick a course to do. I don't know why she still trusted me to jump this horse, but she did. She said "Pick a course with 7 to 8 jumps, one left turn, and one right turn." I like picking courses, but I wasn't exactly sure I wanted to ride a course at that point. I picked my course wisely. I made it something easy: Bumblebee, Plank, Flowers, Natural Oxer, Jamaica, and a Double. 7 jumps, 1 left turn, 1 right turn. I still messed the majority of it up, but I remember the flower jump specifically. That one, in particular, felt good. So I absolutely know that I can do it. Now it's a matter of not panicking and just focusing on what to do.

I've tried to figure out what made the jumping part of that ride so horrendous. Lack of focus is probably the most obvious answer. I'll admit, I was staring those jumps down like a big cat about to pounce on its prey, and when I'm doing that, I'm not focused. Could have also been the fact that I was in a completely new area. The only thing that was the same was my pants and boots. Even my shirt was new, but it's more than likely a focus issue. So, next week I need to focus on keeping focus.

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