Monday, January 27, 2014

A whole new level of "Nope"

It seems that we have a megaphone snooping on my blog. Yes, Isabella, I'm talking about you, and now you're looking around your room with a pleased smile on your face acting like you have no idea what I'm taking about. To the rest, the previously mentioned child did not hesitate to show Miss S my last post, which included my lengthy rant on oxers. Of course, Miss S decided that torturing me during tonight's lesson was imperative. She set up two oxers, TWO OXERS, and one was a triple bar . . . well, it was a tiny triple bar, but it was three poles and they were ascending, therefore it was a triple bar. The second oxer was much large and wider; it had to be 2'0"-2'6", at least somewhere in that range, and although I almost knocked it down three times, I'm still patting myself on the back because I didn't even come close to falling off. My stirrups were longer too, so high five to me.

It was another jumping lesson. We did our trot overs, and Baby was wanting to go. You would never guess she's a western pleasure horse with how she runs through jumps. Despite her forwardness, I just want to note that, in my past few lessons, I have only had one refusal (and was because crazy trainer wanted to set up those gymnastics with the oxers and the bounces and the ajfiebfyfbei . . . .). I lost my balance and would have fallen off if I went over the oxer, so it technically wasn't a refusal, it was a save from my ever so mindful horsey. The gymnastics today were actually really fun, even with the baby triple bar at the end. We changed it up a bunch of times and took it from different directions. If you ever have a friend on the ground while you're riding, have them help you with gymnastics. Do all the different ones that you can, trotting in and out, cantering in and out. It forces you to focus, if you want my honest opinion, but they don't lack the enjoyment factor.

After gymnastics and trotting up to the bigger oxer (it was lower while we were trotting up), Miss S raised the big pxer and had us do a gymnastics course. Big oxer, triple line, outside line, trot fence, then stop by the wall. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! Our indoor arena is about a big as an elf's shoe, so jumping is never very easy. First time, I had to push to the big oxer, and Baby hit her hind feet on the back rail. She slowed down for the triple line, so I had to push her through the whole thing. They were one strides in between the jumps, so letting her go slow with her stride size was not gonna happen. Somehow we made it through the last line and the trot fence, then I made her stop by the wall. Miss Sassy Pants was not wanting to keep her little feet still. We did two more courses, and they were okay. They were far from perfect; the second one was the best, but today was a heels up kind of day, so I was feeling rather unstable, especially over the big oxer.

After all that in the saddle work, we all hopped on bareback, and started messing around. Miss S kept telling Syd to do the triple line; I was just sort of plodding around at the other end of the arena. Miss S and Syd's mom were just telling her to do this line, and poor Syd was just not feeling it. Without really thinking, I just picked up a canter and head towards the triple. That thing is so much easier bareback than in a saddle. At that leather and flocking is overrated. Go the natural way guys, even of it requires your pants to be washed more often! I had to do it again because Izz wanted to get a video, and if you even think about reading this post to Miss S like it's a bedtime story, I'm gonna hide your saddle, sweet cheeks.

Friday, January 24, 2014

"She's grimacing."

Yes, Miss S, of course I am grimacing. First, you change how my foot sits in the stirrup. Let me repeat, she changed how my foot sits in the stirrup. She pushed my foot forward about an inch, so my foot was sitting in the iron all awkward and what not. You would not believe what she does next though. She sets up a gymnastic. It was simple, with poles and a few verticals, BUT THEN SHE PUT AN OXER AT THE END OF IT, LIKE, WHO DO YOU THINK I AM??!!!

If it's not obvious yet, I am not actually mad at my trainer, but oh was I grimacing today. We've had some snow the past few days, so that, plus the fact that it continues to melt and freeze overnight, has made for limited turnout for the horses and ponies. The ice is pretty insane; both Baby and I slipped on the way to the indoor. I was expecting her to be a bit forward from the get go, but she was actually very calm and willing today, and she saved my booty at least three times.

It was straight work for the first 15-20 minutes. We started off doing trot poles and a trot over on the rail. She was really good. She was moving, she was listening to my leg. Downward transitions today were not so nice, but, in hindsight, I wasn't being very nice either, so what was I to expect out of my trusty steed? We started doing the same pattern at the canter, and she was just perfect. The trot poles turned into a bounce, which was tricky at times (but we all know how I am with those godforsaken bounces), but she was listening so well. Throughout the lesson, when it came to distances, she took every single one that I asked, and if I was out of sorts and left it for her to figure out, she made sure that we stayed upright. Yeah, I'm a bad rider, you don't have to tell me.

We went both ways for the pattern, then we took a walking break before moving on to the gymnastics course. Now, this gymnastics course . . . my trainer wants to kill me, I swear she does. We're just walking around, having a good ole time, talking to Fifi and Cas, and all of a sudden Miss S is just like, "Okay, I'm going to set up a bounce with a little oxer at the end." First off, when I hear "bounce", I immediately become suspicious. I don't necessarily like bounces either (it's because I'm not good at them), but we had been working on them earlier in the lesson, so it wasn't as off putting, but then she says "oxer". I don't care if it's little, big, schooling, square, ascending, or knocked down, I don't do oxers. Nope, nadda, don't even try to make me do one. It's a try-on-my-own-time kind of thing, and by that I mean I will never in my life attempt an oxer on my own even if Sam Winchester opened the gates of hell again and jumping an oxer was the only thing that would save the world. Anyway, that's where the grimacing started. I was so on and off about doing the gymnastic because, to me, it was rather complicated, and it had the oxer, so Miss S took down the oxer for the first time that I went through it. I can't remember if it was bad or good, but every time I went through the thing it was either really good or really bad, there was no inbetween. We probably went through that thing three times, then Miss S raised it and added a diagonal single and a single on the rail. The first two times were bad, but then the very last time was great. Miss S got it on video, and hopefully I can upload it on here once I figure out how to transfer a phone file to a Mac, upload it to Google Drive, and upload a YouTube video. Tonight will be a night of learning.

Update: Eureka! We have a video!

Overall, today was really good. We only missed two leads, Baby was listening really well, and I didn't fall off over an oxer, but that doesn't mean that I like them. I hate them with a burning passion, and the fire of passion doesn't burn out easily. I apologize if this post seems rushed, but I am going to a rodeo soon, so I am pressed for time. My next show will be February 8th!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

MD Horse World Expo!

I spent my day having loads of fun at the Maryland Horse Expo! Miss S, a few students, and two parents drove two and a half hours to Timonium to see the expo this year. Honestly, it was worth it, although I only watched the Parade of Breeds and a Dressage to Bridleless Jumping demo.

I watched part of a hunter clinic, which was probably the most informative. I can't remember who was teaching there clinic, but it was the easiest to understand because I had my own background knowledge, and the riders' mistakes were quickly pointed out, explained, and corrected. They were in a fairly tight space, but all of them managed to do 2'6"-3'0" course very nicely. They also had some gymnastics set up that we're going to try putting together in the indoor for the remaining time that we have to slave away in there.

I greatly enjoyed the Dessage to Bridleless Jumping demo. That wasn't even the focus of the whole thing, if you ask me. The title itself had "using psychology" added to the end of it. It was basically an equine psychology demo about the specifics of pressure and release and the uniqueness of cues. Fifi volunteered to be a horse (actually, we volunteered her), and it was funny because the guy running the thing, Angelo Telatin, was hitting her with a whip which is what I do to her, so, by default, I must be doing something right. Mr. Telatin is a coach at Delaware Valley College. I'm currently looking at colleges, so Fifi and I went to his booth afterwards. Unfortunately, they don't have my desired major, and he let me know that very gently (¡sarcasm!), but he does clinics. I got his name down, and I plan on going to one of his clinics if he has one fairly close to home. I figure that it would be more than worth it. Plus, he was wearing Animo breeches. He knows fashion. He knows. *sheds one, manly, Chanel shaped tear*
My fashion meter exploded

I love his smile in this picture
Fifi trying a saddle
I spent most of my time shopping, and surprisingly enough, Izzie found those floral HKM breeches. I was psyched, but they didn't have my size, and I didn't have enough money to buy them. They're darker in person. I ended up making away with a backpack and some show socks. I had over $60, and I spent it all. I don't even know how. Those were the only two things I bought outside of food. Well, I did take a $5 pony ride, and my pony was awesome. She was only five and a half, and she was the calmest thing. She also had a very soft winter coat. That's the only thing that I like about winter. Some horses just have the softest winter coats. However, I am happy to say that the horses are starting to shed out already. That beats fluffy winter coats any day.

 I have pictures, mostly from that one demo, but they aren't good quality at all. They're from Fifi's iPhone. I dropped my camera on my garage floor, and it dented just enough that the lense can't come out. I cried about it. I've only had that camera for a year. I used it to photograph at shows and lessons, and it's seen a lot worse than my garage floor. I guess the universe is giving me an excuse to buy the Canon that I've been drooling over. If I can't get my camera fixed, I won't mind saving up for a Canon, even a used one.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Well, that was unclimactic

I have to say, my lesson today was not all that exciting, but that usually happens when I'm the most relaxed, and that's always a good thing. Today, it was mostly about preciseness and control on the flat, then that plus finesse over fences.

I was feeling pretty good on the flat with the only issue being my hands. I've been focusing a lot on my leg, and I think that I might have to do this overdone, two-point thing that helped me get my leg back before. Baby was good too. Nice departures both ways. She was, as usual, on the forehand to the left, but she was much quicker about getting back on her behind when we did the circle. Too bad she just fell again when we finished circling. It's still a work in progress, and I hope to ride on Thursday this week, so that will be one of the main focuses.

On the plus side, her stop and downward transitions in general were fantastic. No jogging a whole bunch before getting to the walk, no having to use the verbal cue and pull back at the walk. She transitioned down from a canter to trot perfectly, and I got my diagonals every time, so I'm happy about that too. After the lesson, we did ground work, and she went from trot to halt without a single argument. I love it when the team functions well!

We did a figure 8 to work on leads today, and, by the last time around, we did manage to get both leads, but I just wasn't very consistent today. My mind was entirely focused on things that it didn't need to be focused on, so everything just ended up being all over the place. Fortunately, I was making my fair share of compromises to make sure that I didn't leave Baby with a sore back and mouth (I hope).

Honestly, while today wasn't super exciting, it was a good ride overall. There was a lot less tucking the nose in, Baby didn't raise her head when I tried to bridle her, I was relaxed, I was calm, and we had a bonding moment afterwards. All in all, a good ride and a good day, but that's what we tend to be gifted with when we ride a good horse.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Maclay Challenge

So, over winter break, I found myself back slaving away at my mother's office to pay for my lessons and what not. My job is rather monotonous, but it is easy to multitask with it, so I set up my tablet on my desk and started watching the Maclay Finals. Of course, the entirety of the footage is about 9.5 hours long, drag breaks included. It took me about three or four days to finish the whole thing, and I must say that I am highly impressed with the challenges that the riders are faced with both on course and on the flat as well as how they handle those challenges. I wasn't surprised at all that Lillie Keenan won; her last course was flawless, absolutely flawless. Also, the commentary by Jacob Pope and that other guy, whose name escapes me, was very informative when it came to just how the judges wanted the riders to do the course (i.e. if the course says hand gallop, you had better make like Secretariat and get going).

Back to the point of this post, some part of me decided that it would benefit me to challenge myself to do some of what they were doing at the finals. Will I ever go to the Maclays? Doubtful, but there is no harm in trying something new unless that something new is illegal or harmful to oneself. Doing a two stride doesn't fit into either of those categories. As I was watching, I made a list of all the things that they were doing during both courses and the flat. The list is as follows:

• Basic walk/trot/canter
• Collect and extended trot & canter
• Counter canter
• Sitting trot
• Half pass

Jumping–Phase 1
• Bending lines
• Swedish Oxer
• 2 Stride
• Flying change & landing leads
• Hand gallop
• Triple bar
• Narrow fence
• Fan

Jumping–Phase 2
• Swedish Oxer
• Bending lines
• Trot fence (in a line)
• Moderately narrow jump
• One stride in a narrow to narrow
• One stride in a vertical to oxer
• Fan
• Counter canter

Of course, all of this will be done AFTER I reinstall Baby's whoa, get her to understand that leg doesn't always mean go, and get her more relaxed and round in her transitions. The jumping is probably going to be the hardest part, mainly because of the oxers. The course last year had a lot, and I have a long standing disagreement with oxers. I do not do spreads.

If you're interested in watching the Maclays, here is the footage that I watched of the whole thing.

Monday, January 6, 2014

ROFL: Ridding Of Faulty Leads

Oh yes, that was my perplexion today, my leads. Actually, it wasn't even my leads, it was my lead going from the white diagonal to the colored line. That was the only lead issue.

Today's ride was a bit longer than usual. We started with the basic walk and trot. We've been having some serious back and forth weather here. It snowed one day, then it was a rather toasty 40ºF the next day, then it was 60ºF the day after that with a major overcast, then it poured like crazy today, and they're calling for snow and record lows tonight. Welcome to the east coast. Long story short, with the rain today, Baby spent the whole day inside, so of course by the time that I was ready to ride at 4pm, she was ready to go. No biggie, she wasn't crazy (kinda), and she wasn't being too sassy (okay, that's a lie), and her left lead was manageable (I think I just broke all the seven deadly sins with that statement). Miss S had us do a gymnastic to work on stride length. We were on the left lead though, and I haven't really worked on that left lead lately, plus Baby has got this idea that leg always me go now, so the shortening wasn't very pretty at the trot or canter, but the extension was perfect!

Moving on, we did three courses today, all the same course, but the first and second times were cross bars, then Miss S raised the jumps for the third time. Our courses were actually pretty good. I'm still consciously fixing my equitation over fences, but it's becoming easier to think about along with everything else I have to pay attention to over a jump (this is another rant for another day). I can't remember if it was the first or second course, but on one of them, I kept getting a lot of long distances, and I was left behind significantly. On the last course, however, there wasn't a single missed distance, so I'm patting myself on the back for that one.

Now, for the leads. I just can't; I literally cannot. We all know that Baby is not fond of her left lead, but she took it to a whole other level today. No horse enjoys having their face pulled at, but she just took it today, plus a heavy seat, and she only switched after I finished my third course, and Miss S had me do the diagonal to the line again. The odd thing is that she is a lot less pissy about picking up the lead, and she isn't falling on the forehand and rushing nearly as much even without me having not worked on it very much recently, but she still had to have her moment of triumph and refuse to switch the lead. Excuse me, but, no. Absolutely not. Baby, I know that you can pick up and maintain that left lead to the point where I feel like I am sitting on a marshmallow that's been doing advanced yoga for four years, so don't mess with me. I give you lots of treats and hugs, and I tell you that you're pretty. You have to at least give me some kind of credit for that.

I love Baby, I really do, but just that one bit of attitude today didn't make me very happy. At least we did get it on the final try, and I am still very optimistic about show season this year. The days are getting longer, and spring is getting closer everyday. Tonight better be the last snow before those 60º days start showing up for good.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Fashion Thursday: Working With Floral

Okay, I'm pushing it with this one, but I present to you your next outfit for Fashion Thursday, "Working With Floral". I can't even pretend like I'm not proud of this one. I actually found the pants on Pinterest a long time ago, but I didn't think much of them until I found them again last Friday while putting my list together for Cyber Monday. I may or may not be getting a pair (that means that I am), but I wanted to see if it was even possible to match it with anything. In my opinion, it's possible.

1. HKM Palermo Flower Breeches
2. Ambiance Apparel Women Polo Shirt sleeve Top (in black, yellow, purple and white)
3. Horze Gemma Leather Chaps with Crystals
4. Coach Dress Weston Leather Belt

I have a variation that features a long sleeve/three quarter sleeve yellow button down, but good luck finding one that's similar (Polo Ralph Lauren has oxfords on sale right now, so if you want one go now).
Horze Gemma Leather Chaps with Crystals
Horze Gemma Leather Chaps with Crystals
Horze Gemma Leather Chaps with Crystals
Horze Gemma Leather Chaps with Crystals

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New year, new rider

Well, do I have some good news for you all. Firstly, Happy New Year! I hope you all had a nice end to last year. I'll have you know I spent mine watching Ben 10 and doing a history outline, but I'm not even bothered by that. It was actually enjoyable. Anyway, on to more important matters, I had my first lesson of the year today. Something must have changed when the year did. I have been having so many issues with the canter, sitting trot, relaxation, my hands, pace during courses, and, especially, my two-point. I can honestly say that I had absolutely no issues with any of the items on that list today. My ride was amazing, literally amazing, and I'm probably going to be on a high from it for at least three months.

A little catch-up, Miss S's mother, Doreen, did a clinic last Saturday. I swear I could have had a political debate with this woman over my stirrups. Technically, the iron is supposed to hit at your ankle bone, but I like longer stirrups! I have short legs which means short stirrups which means, "No," in my mind. I rolled with it for the clinic, but I did end up getting some pretty bad ankle pain because I couldn't get the stirrups very even (leathers were switched to non-lined ones and the left one stretched). I am, however, officially out of my saddle and into my trainer's Stübben which is a better fit overall and easier to sit in properly. Oddly enough, I was battling a chair seat. I noticed it in my video from Friday and in the pictures from the clinic. Speaking of which, I am still trying to get my camera to cooperate. It stopped filming after six minutes, so I have to figure out how to keep it on for at least 15 minutes. On the upside, my two-point was better than it has even been (except for that one time on Sanibel where I questioned my lineage), and Doreen said that Baby wasn't even going fast during both of our courses. This is what we call progress, and I am highly pleased with it.

Fast forward to today, the second best part of my ride was definitely the half seat. I have redeemed myself from my last show on Duke; trust me, it looks way better. We were doing this circle exercise where you use half of the ring and have one jump to go over. It's meant to help with getting leads. You'd be surprised how willing Baby was to switch to the left lead when we were circling to the right. Today, we got the lead every time. Every. Single. Time. Then, when we did our courses, I didn't have any refusals. I guess you could say that I am a very happy person right now because I truly feel as if I've accomplished something.

The best part of my ride was when we went out on the trail and in the crop fields after our lesson. Fifi was riding Molly because Sanibel is at a Dressage barn for a while, and I really wanted to ride the pony, so we switched. I got to sit in my trainer's Toulouse. It was soft, but she has those flex stirrups, and they are the strangest thing to put weight in. Perhaps it felt odd because I was using Fifi's stirrup length. She has legs for days. We went out to the field, and I started trotting the pony. I must have forgotten how smooth she is or at least how smooth she is compared to Baby. Sitting trot is no big deal on Molly, whether you're going fast or slow, she just floats across the ground. I got a little ambitious and tried a canter, but I did it on her good lead. You know, she's gotten a lot better too, even if she ran off during the jumping and almost crashed into Baby. Almost is the key word there. I'm proud of Molly, and I am proud of myself, and I am absolutely ready to put my best foot forward and kick a lot of booty this year.

Here's some photos from the clinic. We were battling a chair seat, but we were fashionable, so I'll let it slide.

As an aside, I would like to put in a spectacular review for my Tredstep breeches, particularly their anti-stain abilities. They don't stain. They literally do not stain. I spilled some apple cider on them, and the puddles just sat there. They absolutely did not soak into the pants. I'm impressed, a bit scared as well, but impressed. You go, Tredstep.
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