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.

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