Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"It's only 2'6" . . ."

It seems that we have reached the point where little jumps are starting to look ridiculously tiny, and big jumps just aren't big. I've always been one to notice the tiny, 3" difference in a fence; however, it simply doesn't faze me anymore.

The first show of the season was this past weekend, and, while I didn't show, I tagged along anyway to take pictures and help out and eat food (because someone always brings donuts, and donuts are one of my weaknesses). I was also paying attention to what went on in different divisions so that I could be prepared for my first show in May. Jr. Eq. apparently only asked for walk, trot, and canter, but I'm still going to be dropping my irons and doing lengthening/shortening of strides. The courses are a bit difficult; one of them had three rollbacks in a row, and the second one included a hand gallop. Maybe the judge figured that he could torture them over fences then be nice on the flat. I'm still trying to pick out a division that judges the horse, but if I can show at 2'6", then I can do Low Hunter. I'll also be able to do the Hunter Seat Medal, which is a plus.

The horses were in all day yesterday due to rain, so the mare was rather fresh, but she was bending well and staying in her corners for the most part. I tried out a shorter stirrup. It was horrible. I've been paying close attention to my left to right balance in the saddle. I'm still having to put more weight in my right stirrup, but it becomes worse when I do circles to the left—which is likely the main cause of Baby leaning in so much on left circles. I have a private lesson today, but I'm hoping to get in two extra rides over the next two weeks leading up to the show so I can brush up my flatwork a bit.

After we did our warm up, Miss S had us tie up our reins and let our horseshoes wherever they chose. We simply had to go with them. Seems easy, right? It's not, and the fact that Baby wanted to charge at every horse in the arena didn't make it any easier. She's at the bottom of the totem pole in the pasture, and she hates ponies. The only animal she didn't go after was Butter; everyone else was fair game. I tried to use my legs to push her away, but she was a mare on a mission.

When the chaos ended, and we picked up our reins, Miss S had us do an exercise where you lay all the way down on your horse's neck, put your reins forward and keep your button back, then come up without rounding your back. It's supposed to simulate landing a jump, but it's exaggerated. We had already done it at the trot during our warm up, and it was easier then, but I don't have the strongest core or back, so the canter was slightly painful. It's mainly in my left lower back. It's hard to stretch out completely and relax, then the muscles tense up very quickly when I go to sit up. I'm hoping to do some clinics at the end of show season, and Fifi did this riding yoga clinic earlier this year, so I'll probably tag along with her to one of those. That, or I'll drag her along with me. Welcome to friendship. 

We did a pattern with poles and small verticals. I was focusing a ton on my equitation. Now that Baby is going slow more consistently, I don't have to focus on trying to stay alive when I jump. She was doing the whole "Fuck you, I want to canter" thing though, which gets annoying after a while, and she wasn't particularly interested in shortening her stride no matter how much l squeezed her, so half of the pattern was terrible, but the last fence was nice both at 2'3" and 2'6". Honestly, if you have never jumped 2'6", and it scares you a bit, stop. Trust me, it's not that high. There is nothing to be worried about (says the girl who had to pep talk herself to a 2'3" jump the first time).

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's raining, it's pouring

I don't think I've ever seen the heavens open up so quickly and violently as they did yesterday. I was hoping that, after a light sprinkle during the day, we would be able to ride outside again, but, no. When Miss Tanya picked me up, it was raining, not hard, but it was obvious and warranted a sweater. As we drove, it looked like the storm was moving away. I was wrong. We got to the barn, and I went up to the small barn to get Baby. I brushed her off and started on my way to the indoor. I kind of wished that I hadn't looked behind me. If you have ever seen James and the Giant Peach, recall the scene where the Black Rhino cloud shows up. That's what I saw behind me, so I started running.

It was actually slightly more terrifying.
The ladies were waiting for me at the other barn, opening the gates to salvation (the barn doors). I got Baby tacked up, hopped on, and started getting to work. We trot around on the rail, and I did a couple of circles and transitions. Her trot to halt is getting better and better. I had her on a longer contact this time, but she still went right onto the bit without any arguments. She wasn't dropping back behind the vertical as much and she stayed very relaxed, smooth, and willing. The biggest thing that I was working on during my flatwork was staying balanced. The fact that I lean to the left is throwing Baby off going to the right; bending in the corners is getting difficult, so I was consciously putting more weight in my right stirrup, but still it was difficult to keep her from cutting.

We moved on to trot overs, and for once in a long time she actually trot over the darn thing. (I have been bribing this horse for a couple of months now. You would think that she would have done this earlier.) We try to canter out, and she's just like, "Neigh, not today," so I pushed her forward. Then Miss S had us line up to go individually, and that was when all hell broke loose. We did this line four times, two times each way, and she went like a bullet train through it every time. Screw dropping my weight back. I was holding on for dear life.

The funny part about it all is that, when we went to do our courses, I had to push her during both of them. Maybe the rain was throwing her off; by the time we were 10 minutes into the lesson, it was pouring violently . . . perfect trail riding weather. The first course was horrid, but the second one was much better. Miss S had an oxer set up, which was a no-no, but then she had a triple set up, which was okay. Of course we came in at a longer distance, and I had to push her through the whole thing, but the third jump was funny because the distance was so long and my equitation was so bad. I'm still focusing on that lower leg of mine, and it's starting to get better. It doesn't go back nearly as far as it used to, but we still have movement, and my toes turn out.

After everyone did their two courses, we were allowed to have some fun, so I schooled a figure-8 over the oxer. Miss S tried to make me do a flying change. I said, "No. I don't like flying. I'm afraid of heights," and I don't think they got it.

Fifi was kind enough to drive me home because she just got a new car and wanted to flaunt (she is lucky I love her). We started driving, and it was kind of cold, so we tried to turn on the heat, but Fiona didn't know how. I started messing with some things (there is a guardian angel watching over me making sure that I do not do things that are overly stupid), but I got the heat on. Unfortunately, the windshield, the teeny tiny windshield with three wiper blades, started fogging up, and we didn't know how to un-fog it. We were laughing about it, but on the inside we were both panicking, so Fifi asked me if I had anything to wipe the windshield with. The only thing I had in my bag was a pad. We stopped. I undid my seat belt, and I wiped that windshield clean with that pad . . . then it started getting foggy again, so I referred to physics, and turned on the cold air and the windshield vents, and that's how I saved the day.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

He's sensational

Slow, but definitely sensational. I had the wonderful opportunity to ride Chesapeake Sensation aka Chess in a lesson this morning. I started riding him early last year, and had planned to show him, but then he went lame, and it's been a roller coaster ride trying to figure out what was wrong and then trying to rectify it. Originally, he was diagnosed with laminitis, but that wasn't making much of any sense to Miss S and I, so Miss S had him looked at again by a couple other vets. Turns out it wasn't laminitis, and I'm not sure what the final diagnosis was, but, with some special shoeing, he is perfectly sound.

Fifi and Miss S have been getting on him a couple of times for the past month, but I've been very determined to work with him, so I asked to ride him today. He has no topline, and hasn't been ridden regularly in a long time (I'm talking years because he was never used as a lesson horse and the amount of time that Miss S had to ride him became smaller and smaller). He's a bit of a challenge, but I certainly do not feel overhorsed. He has retained his training very well. Unfortunately, he mostly retained the western pleasure part. Dropped rein, lots of leg, slow as you can go . . . and I plan on making him a hunter? Normally, I would laugh, but after trying to jump Splash, nothing else seems quite as funny. After having to apply constant leg for however many laps at the trot, I was physically done, and the lesson wasn't even half over yet. He'd already given me a fair amount of sass—broke crazily into the trot at first, kept cutting the corners, and, when I told him he was a good boy for not cutting, he would stop—enough to warrant an award.

We get to doing a figure-8 with some trot overs, and he was really cute over them. I was working on my two-point, and trying to stay with him, although he was taking those crossbars rather awkwardly. Then we got to the canter overs, and oh my goodness, those were even more laughable than Splash's jumping. He was going so slow to these things. I feel like I need to sit down with him and explain thoroughly the difference between loping over a pole and cantering over a jump, because there is a difference, but he hasn't quite understood that. His speed aside, he finds it necessary to get really close to every fence (just so he can make sure that it's not some scary, horse eating monster). Baby has been slowly making me like long distances because that's her thing, and, for the most part, they still look good, but going from Miss Long Jumper to Mister Has To Sniff Every Pole was a challenge. I found myself ahead of him most (every) times, but I managed not to land hard on his back at all. I hope to ride him again sometime so I can show him later in the year, but Baby is still my main focus. I decided against doing the show this month as I can't swing it financially, but all of my new show gear, which I have saved up for separately, is ready to have an the orders put in. Goodbye crappy show boots, hello long awaited Ariats.

Thanks, Cas, for the pictures and the lovely binder!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Queen B
I'm afraid that I'll have to be doing some backtracking with my flatwork, specifically polework. We do a lot of jumping in our lessons, and I think Baby has gotten into the mindset that poles automatically equal a bounce or awkward half jump, half trot over of some sort. We also need some work going to the right (shocker). As crazy as it sounds, I think that I've spent way too much time on the left and essentially ignored the right. Shame on me! I was noticing all of this on Tuesday while we were working inside. It was a nice day, and I think we are officially done with snow over here, so everyone wanted to ride in the field a bit, but we had to do some real work inside first.

We get to warm up by ourselves, so I took Baby in the arena and got her trotting around. She was perfect, honestly, I couldn't fault her besides being on the forehand, but that is what we are currently working on. We went on the rail for a while, then we started doing some 20m circles. Her bends were flawless, and I didn't have to use much leg, just enough that she could feel me.

The actual lesson part began, and Miss S didn't have much to say equitation wise going both ways, but I could feel Baby ducking in when we were going to the right. It irked me a bit considering how well she did to the left and the fact that the right isn't even her problem side. I fit in a good couple of laps of a circle, and I could feel her leaning. Inside leg, inside leg. We moved onto some trot poles slightly off the rail, then Miss S added a little oxer to our circle. To the right, she was slightly strong going to the oxer, but otherwise, I have no complaints. To the left was when we experienced the unintentional bounce and odd trot overs. I want to ride her next Monday to work on this a bit before the lesson on Tuesday.

We finished inside and head out into the field where we have one coop set up. I jumped it once, and I was fine with that, so I went and did my transitions exercise. Baby isn't the most relaxed horse on trails. The exercise was similar to the first time I did it in the arena. She would pick up her head going into the trot from the walk, but the trot to canter transitions were relaxed. Going down from a canter wasn't so nice, but she did go from canter to halt once, and it was okay. It took a little while, but it wasn't all that bad.

I had Miss S take some pictures at the end of the ride of me just going around and all I can say is wow. She was swishing her tail and shaking her head more than usual today, which is a bit discouraging. There's a lot to be worked on for both of us, and the first show is in 24 days. I believe that there is a God, and I would appreciate his help right about now.


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