Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A nice, 19 day hiatus

14 of which passed without sitting on a horse. What a pity. I have recently been swamped with home work and regular work and barn work and was only able to write today because of a snow day. You know, I was so confident that spring was going to come, but we were hit with 4" of snow last night. Mother Nature, this is getting ridiculous. The weather man said that it would start to warm up permanently but next week, but I'm almost convinced that the Independence Day forecast will include a high of -12°F.

After going two weeks without riding, I finally got frustrated enough to ride on a Sunday. I honestly hate riding on Sundays. It's the day that I clean the pasture then go to work and perhaps do some homework when I get home, but that usually ends up turning into Netflix with a math book on my lap. It's my relaxation day. I don't like thinking about leads and diagonals and strides on a Sunday (which is ironic considering that, when I started riding, my lessons were every other Sunday). I will admit, though, Baby was acting kinder than usual. I rode with Carolyn, and Peggy joined us for a while, but her horse was stepping funny, so she was only with us for a little while. I decided that I was going to really try and get Baby on her hind end. I watched some videos a while back and noticed that, while she tracks up and swings a bit, she's not really round. I'm a big fan of EventionTV and have watched most of their videos (I need to get caught up!). They have one video where they were talking about getting a horse to round and use his hind end. One of the exercises involved transitions, going back and forth from walk to trot and trot to canter. After warming up with some long and short trotting, I put her in a big circle and started doing the walk to trot transitions. At first, she would pick her head up going into the trot, which makes me think that I was not entirely relaxed when I first tried this exercise, but as we kept going, her head just stayed in the same place. Going to the right, she was fantastic, especially doing the trot to canter transitions. She tends to swish her tail going into the canter, which bothers me a lot, but there was no tail swishing then, and she was stepping off nicely. When we were doing the actual exercise, she wasn't very consistent going down, but I got two good trot to halt transitions and one canter to halt transition when we were just going in a circle. I'm going to start working on transitioning to a halt more often as my downward transition has always needed work (I could cheat with Molly because she just stopped on a dime, but not every horse is a wannabe reiner). We did the same thing to the left, and oh my, same issues as usual. Strung out and not even wanting to go into the canter. I can't even begin to tell you how hard she was leaning on the bit and falling in on the circle, even when she slowed down. The funny part is that, when we went from cantering to trotting, she would straighten out and relax. She becomes a completely different horse on her left lead. It's odd if you ask me.

After our flatwork, I did a bit of jumping. We did a figure eight with a cross rail, trotting it first. She tried to duck out the first time . . . no. I pulled her right  back in front of it and she didn't try that nonsense again. After actually getting her to take a closer distance and not canter all crazy after the cross rail, I was finally able to try one of the bits of my Maclay Challenge: The Skinny. Also referred to as "The Narrow" or "The Scary Thing That Does Mean Things to all Horse-like Things", The Skinny proved to be more of a challenge than I expected. I don't even know how many times Baby went around it, but she was not going over that thing. I think she perceived it as a hazard rather than something to go over as we've only tried a "narrow" jump once (there was a log on a trail ride), and even then she ducked. So, yes, it took a little bit of flattering and a lot of leg to get her over it. She really didn't even know what to make of it. Do I trot over? Do I jump? Do I canter after? What is this nonsense? I put her over it three times each way, but I think we have a while until I master The Skinny.

GP potential
We got to the real jumping after that (which will always be easier than The Skinny). I gave her a little break between The Skinny and jumping, so we went back through the cross bar figure 8 a couple of times and worked on landing leads and simple changes. Then I went into my gymnastic which I should have just trot through because, apparently, I cannot measure the distance between jumps like Miss S does. My one stride was forced to turn into a trot through and the two stride ended up as an awkward three. I wish I had know where the measuring tape was. We have one specifically for measuring the space between jumps, and I see it all the time except when I actually need it. For as crappy of a gymnastic as it was she stayed slow, and there was even a little square oxer at the end. After that, I continued my canter and went right back into my figure 8 with the cross bar, but, this time, I added in another oxer, a bigger oxer (it was, like, 2'0", but it looked big and it was an oxer, so that counts). I took every kind of distance to that thing and missed almost every lead, but I got over that big oxer four times in a row, and I came at it straight and confident. Baby did not offer a single refusal, not even so much as a wiggle. This is my version of self-therapy, and it is working. That had to be one of my best rides as a whole, even with my distance screw up, but that's a part of the learning process, right?

Shitting on my acheivements
I had my actual lesson today, and all I have to say is "Ugh!" Since it was a snow day, I had to go to work with my mom, and our lesson was originally scheduled for 6pm, but it was unanimously (excluding me) decided that the lesson be moved up to noon since everyone had off. I didn't have my riding clothes with me, but I still had my bag with my gear in it at home. Miss S offered to pick me up and take me to my house so I could get my bag before the lesson. Good enough, that's what we did. Well, I got to the barn, and I had the wrong breeches. I had my show breeches in my bag because I had taken them to school for twin day, and I didn't have a belt either, and the pants are one size too big. This was one day where I was not okay with my Tredsteps. I put them on anyway and used a thinner lead rope as a belt. Thank God I had my half chaps otherwise I would have been beyond done.

To add to that, Cas was using the Stübben, so I had to use the True Brit which I hate. It is the only forward flap saddle that I have sat in that actually fits me, but I still hate it. It just feels wrong under my butt, and my butt isn't known for being very particular. The horses couldn't get out much on Tuesday and today because of the weather (when I say 4"of snow was dumped on us, I mean it was dumped), so they were all hot and bothered by the whole being ridden thing. As much as I tried to keep my legs still, they were swinging today, and my seat was just terrible. Sitting was more of a slip 'n slide than anything else. My hands were light, but I was breaking at the wrist a lot, and my two-point was kind of half-assed. I was not doing the equitation thing today. That was not happening. At the end of the lesson, after some less than stellar polework that could have been renamed as torture, I did the transition exercise again. This time, we did jog to walk instead of a longer trot. She was so entirely and completely relaxed, right into her natural topline and going right onto the bit. We had been fighting each other the entire lesson, so I was a bit relieved that she didn't hold a grudge for my short comings.

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Warm" nights have returned!

I must be overly hopeful for spring. Yes, I am overly hopeful. It was warm enough yesterday evening that I had to remove my jacket and roll up my sleeves during my ride. The forecast is calling for a high of 57ºF tomorrow for the show, which makes me happy. Playing photographer for a day becomes just that little bit better when the weather is nice. I'm thinking that all the classes will be moved indoors again due to the fact that the forecast for today is calling for rain.The weather was not nice walking to the bus this morning. Strong winds and ominous clouds are never a good sign. I'm preparing for another lengthy day. I pray the medal finals do not take long.

So, last night, we rode later in the day, and I managed to get to my lesson after having to ask a series of people for rides only to have my mom take me in the end. For the first time in a long time, everyone who rides in the advanced group was there. Cas, Syd, Shelby, Izz, Fifi, and me, all six of us, in the indoor arena. Thank God we get along because I have never been very kind about sharing small spaces. It was an even flat to jumping ratio for this lesson. Since this was the lesson before the show for the other girls, I just stayed back for the most part. They're all doing some sort of medal class—Syd is in 2nd for one and I think Izz is in 5th for another—and they had individual things that they needed to work on to do well. On the flat we did our usual walk, trot, and canter, and we worked on canter transitions from the walk and halt. Mine were good from the walk, but the halt needs work because Baby wasn't really okay with the standing still thing, so by the time we were supposed to go, she was no longer halted. She was, however, listening to my leg more today at the walk and trot. We had beautiful corners, just beautiful. I'm surprised how well I did considering the saddle I was in. Cas was using Miss S's Stübben, so I was in what we like to call "The Duct Tape" saddle. It's called "The Duct Tape" because it has some sort of odd tape holding one part of the seat together. It's a completely usable saddle, and it has a comfortable seat, but it doesn't fit me. I think that is the only saddle I could sit in and wish that I had a more forward flap. Not to mention the seat is flat as Kansas, the polar opposite of the Stübben. Sitting the trot in a shallow saddle with an awkward flap was not fun. I felt like I was going to slip off the back of the thing. It was just odd.

Jumping wasn't bad. Baby was too fast, but she wasn't nearly as fast as usual. She was more strong then fast, actually. We warmed up with a figure-8. She made sure to jump over the ground pole every single time. After that, we did a line where we had to stop at the end. We went past the arena barrier twice (it's open on one end because the arena isn't completely finished), but the third and fourth time were good. The lesson was over after the fourth line, but with six of us having to do it, it took a while. All in all, it was rewarding, but I plan on focusing more on my flatwork next time I ride.

I did get a chance to ask Miss S about the divisions that I can do next year, and Junior Equitation and Performance Horse have received the stamp of approval! I'm so excited! Plus, I don't think you have to have a rider registration for points in Jr. Eq., so I save $15. I'm gonna buy myself another saddle pad (just kidding).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

That wasn't my best idea

With the impending and often intimidating show season rearing its ugly yet elegant head into my view, I decided to push it into my peripherals and take a nice relaxing ride yesterday evening. Baby was feeling up to it; she actually took her head away from her food to greet me.

I brushed her off loose in the stall because by that point she had resumed gorging herself. Man was she shedding! The weather has been so up and down the past few weeks, but horses can't just turn their shedding on and off, so everyone is letting their hairs go already. I must give a shout out to my respiratory system for not giving up on me after all this time. I was going bareback in a halter, but a while ago, Miss S got brand new halters and lead ropes. The new lead ropes are very short. A single one would not make sufficient reins, so I borrowed the one from Chess's halter and made myself a nice pair of split reins. Innovation at its finest!

I was riding with Fifi that night. Being as aware as she was, she actually put on a saddle and worked on important things. Me, on the other hand, I was happy with plodding. I plod for quite a while, walk, trot, and canter before I actually decided to work on something: leg yielding. She's getting to be less sassy about it (go figure), now it's just a matter of giving her a refreshing on what leg at the girth and leg behind the girth means. We actually did this in a lesson a while ago, I think December, but this was my first time trying it on my own. Needless to say, it wasn't pretty at first. She just walked forwards or walked backwards, and my cues were not the best, but I gave myself a refresher and started being more obvious and precise with my leg placement. She did quite a few good turns on the haunches and forehand in both directions. Next, we tried two-tracking. Oddly enough, she's really good at doing this unintentionally. If we need to get out of a tight situation, she'll two-track to Timbuktu. If I ask her for it any other time, she gives me the "This does not compute" response. She was good moving off of my left leg to the right, but going to the left? She might as well have laughed an evil laugh in my face. I could not get her to keep her body straight, which means that is what I will be focusing on in my lesson tomorrow. I haven't done a lot of "try it on my own" things much with Baby because I tried that a lot on Molly and I ended up with an out of line anatomy and PTSD, but I'm fairly happy with how she did.

We also gave Sanibel a hay weave.

As you can tell, we are a very serious bunch.

The reason as to why this ride wasn't my best idea (besides the fact that I did this without my trainer present) is because, when I got off, I had perhaps the most eccentric bareback butt one could imagine. We didn't very long, but all of her hair rubbed off on my butt and between my legs. With that much hair, someone could have pinned me as the Cruella Deville of the horse world; it looked like my pants were made of horse hair.

Current events wise, my first formal show is in April as opposed to May as it has been the past two years, and they association that we are showing with is having more shows this year. I have allowed myself to miss two as I want to have a good shot at high point. Miss S is still talking about going to HITS Culpeper, and I would say that it was a definite yes, but we can't figure out which one to go to. We were originally going to go to the one at the very end of the year, but then we spoke to a woman who has been to the shows, and she said to go to the one in April since it has fewer people and would be less stressful. Honestly, I'd rather go to the last show because I'm pretty sure that is the show where they have Pony Finals, and tiny children on tiny ponies jumping big things is adorable. I want to photograph adorable.

Just let that cuteness sink in for a moment.
We've hit kind of a snag as to what I'm going to be showing in this year as well. In December, Miss S said that she wanted me to do long stirrup again this year because I was still at a talent level where I could do it and not get nasty looks for it. However, she also said that she wanted to see where I was when show season came around. At this point, it's looking more and more like I have to stay in long stirrup, and it's for one reason: jump height. The other girls in my lesson were riding on Saturday. I couldn't ride as I was heading out of town before the lesson ended, but I watched for a little while. Well, they were getting their jump on, and Miss S started raising the last jump in the course. It was an oxer, but that's not even what had my eyes widening. That jump kept getting higher and higher. I think it went from 18" to 3'0" by the end of the lesson. The reason for such a high (okay, it wasn't that high, but still) obstacle was that, now that we are all on horses, most of the Equitation divisions as well as Pleasure Horse have 2'6" jumps. I was astonished to hear this, but I guess that's what happens when you stop riding ponies. I found two divisions outside of long stirrup that I can and would like to do, so I think that's what I'll be working with this spring/summer.

I also have a ton of stuff that I would like to buy before show season as they would be a convenience, but I need to save money because Ariat tall boots are not as cheap as the paddock boots (I'm starting to wonder if I really needed those bedazzled half chaps or if they were an unnecessary indulgence and who am I kidding, of course I needed them!). Bags, a new coat, and a new show shirt are also on this list. The coat is the only thing that I can breathe a sigh of relief for because RJ Classics makes coats that are inexpensive but still high quality. Thank you, RJ Classics.
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