Sunday, May 25, 2014

So I fell

But I'm okay. It was your average — common, garden variety, basic — fall. Horse stops, you go down the neck, proceed to monkey hold for as long as you can, but then you slip just slightly to the side, thereby causing you to plummet to the ground.

The show last weekend was somewhat of a success. Saturday was not a success. I fell on Saturday. Baby was just progressively refusing to pick up her left lead last week. We got one good transition on Thursday (but Thursday was eh so we don't talk about Thursday), but that was it. She kept picking up the right lead or just not picking up a canter at all. She's never been a fan of her left lead as we all know, however this is completely different from dropping on the forehand for the lead.

This is why we don't talk about Thursday.
Schooling on Saturday morning was great, actually. She was calm and responsive and jumped everything great if not a little bit slow. She was in for most of the day due to the fact that the Medal and Jr. Eq. are at the end of the day. I was taking pictures for the most part, but I also did a whole lot of walking back and forth to take messages and tack and other items due to the fact that I was idle.

I got Baby out to school again (eventually), and she was still not picking up the left lead well. She stepped into the right lead from a halt, but the minute I asked her for the left, she went hollow and trot around like a confused giraffe. I checked her over, felt her legs, checked her feet, put a hand under the girth, under the saddle pad, nothing. I had Miss S get on her because I really didn't understand what Baby was doing. She got the lead fine (-____-). To add onto the list of not so nice things, Baby was also stopping at the jumps. Baby doesn't stop. She veers. She side steps. She takes really awkward distances, but she does not stop. I finally got her to jump something nicely on her left lead a couple of times, then I took a little break and went in for my Medal round. She refused the first jump, which was approached on the left lead, but only after picking up the right lead upon entrance and forcing me to switch her. I brought her back around and asked for the lead again. She picked up the right lead, I broke to a trot, asked for the left, she picked up the right. By this point we were in a complete disagreement, so when we went for the jump a second time, she refused, but harder, then put her head down and backed up. I went through the steps of falling — down the neck, monkey hold, slip to the left, then plop! I've actually never fallen off at a show before. When I stood up the reins were around me (h0W?????). I gathered myself and walked out, but the walk to the gate was pretty far, so my first walk of shame wasn't exactly enjoyable, but just how enjoyable can a walk of shame be? As confident as I looked walking out, I was immensely crushed. I'm not a crier. I hate crying in front of people, and horse people can be quite judgmental at times. I stood around for a while, and one of the mom's walked over to give me a hug. It was a safe enough moment. I cried. I was truly excited to try the Medal, and I hated that my first experience with it was this, BUT these are two day shows that we do. I only had 24 hours, give or take, to try again, and that's what I kept thinking of. Plus, the Medal course was the same as the first course of Jr. Eq. I could do it again after the hack. I got back on after a little while and tried to go over the schooling fences again. Baby stopped. I gave her one good kick because at that point I knew she wasn't in pain or uncomfortable. She was just being a little shit. I went over the schooling fence three times, then I went in and did my course. She refused the first fence. I kicked her again. I think I momentarily went insane after that because for half of the course distances, equitation, and leads didn't matter at all. I was covering ground. I did not care that she was going fast. I was making her go fast. Thank God it wasn't pleasure. As we approached the middle of the course, I backed off, and she slowed down by herself. She did the next three fences perfectly, then broke right down for the trot fence and did a nice halt. The second course was much better. No refusals, just close distances (which she actually preferred all weekend, not like I honestly have a problem with it as opposed to going over invisible water jumps). We didn't place in either of our courses, but we got 5th out of 10 for the hack, which was nice.

Sunday was a complete turn around from Saturday. She was so nice for schooling and picked up her left lead every time I asked (still got those hollow trot steps occasionally). She was landing her left lead for the most part. The first schooling fence we did was a little cross bar at the trot. I kept my leg on her, and I think she had a traumatic memory of Saturday (heck, I had one too). She went over it fine. We schooled an oxer a couple of times, and she wanted a close distance, plus I was not feeling the long distance because it was really long, and Miss S kept telling me to take it and I was like, "Naahhh," so I didn't take it. I placed 4th out of 5 in the Medal. I kept missing my diagonals in both of my hacks. I got a 4th and a 6th both out of 11 for my Jr. Eq. courses then a 3rd, also out of 11, for the hack. I'm not exactly sure how I got that 3rd. The judge must have completely ignored my sitting trot. It just wasn't good going to the left, then, by the time she asked when we were going to the right, I quit. My legs were tired. I was already happy with my day. I was so done that I made Baby jog. I guess slowing your horse's gait out of laziness gets you high marks in equitation classes (that's probably a tip that even the AA riders don't know!).

I was genuinely happy with my weekend. I was also tired, but that doesn't matter as much. Baby was tired too. She was completely asleep when I was taking out her braids. I started singing to her. It was adorable. All my new stuff for this year works great! I'm still in the process of breaking in my boots, but the coat is nice and I look pretty good in my new shirt. Placings aside, I looked cute.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Yeah buddy

I can do 2'6" at the show! That means that I can do the medal class this time around and not fall so behind in points! And that's another goal crossed off my list for this year! Whoop whoop!

The reason I can do 2'6" is actually rooted in the fact that we don't measure our jumps that often. On Monday, I was curious to see how high I had actually jumped. Both the brick and the oxer coming in from the left were 2'6", but they looked small so we always assumed they were about 2'0". I've never been great at estimating.

We were jumping the same stuff on Tuesday. Everything was 2'3"-2'6" except for the warm-up fences. Baby was much more together on her left lead, but she's still being sassy about picking it up and doing it nicely. I'll probably have Miss S work with her on Saturday morning because I wouldn't be able to get it in a time crunch (just not a good idea). Other than that one issue, Baby is so super relaxed and forward on the flat. It kills me. I'm so proud of her.

We did two different courses. I hit a standard twice but managed not to knock the jump down (no faults!). I was more inconsistent over fences today than I was on Monday. I think being a group lesson changes my mindset; however, I was riding 100% better than I was last week, so that's a positive sign. I've decided to just do Jr. Eq. and the 14-17 medal this year, and I think I'm gonna do pretty well. I know I still have some work to do, but I'm willing to do all that I have to do.

Love this girl

Monday, May 12, 2014

I was so excited for spring

It's starting to feel like Mother Nature completely skipped over spring and went straight to summer. Mornings have become so hot and humid, and the afternoon isn't any better. I'm all for warmer weather, but this is just too much too soon.

I took a private lesson today, and jumping was the focus due to my difficulties last Tuesday. I've finally settled on a stirrup length for the flat, and thank God it's a longer one. It at least encourages me to stretch my leg down instead of pushing it forward so long as I'm paying attention to what I am doing. I used it for flat and jumping, and it worked well, but I'll probably shorten them when I start jumping higher.

We started trotting around, and she was going really nicely, forward but not rushing, and listening well to my leg and seat cues. Miss S had me do a figure-8 where I sat as I approached the center, then started posting again on the circle part. Baby was bending super duper, but I will admit that I was micro-managing a bit, or, at least, it felt like I was. She was good anyway, and the canter was fabulous both ways, but she's being such a butt about picking up that left lead. I feel like that is the moment that I have to micromanage to make sure that every single little thing is falling in the correct place in order to guarantee that she picks up the correct lead. I'm praying that she gets that lead at the show this weekend!

We get to the jumping thing and started with some tiny crossrails in the red line. I did that a couple of times. Miss S progressively raised the jumps up until they were at about 2'0", and it was pretty good. Then we did the brick a couple of times either way, then an oxer in both directions. Miss S got a couple of pictures, and my release is much better. Now I need to focus on squatting and still with my lower leg. The amount that it slides back is getting smaller and smaller, so I'm becoming less likely to notice it. Today, however, I could consciously feel my heel coming up. I don't exactly know why I was doing that, but it sure as heck ain't happening again.

We did one course because time was running down and Baby was sweating bullets despite all the breaks she received. I missed all my leads, got one bad distance, and then there was just one jump that I don't even know what happened, but everything else was flawless. Her pace, her jump, just everything. I can't even complain about that course. She did nothing wrong, she was attentive, she was relaxed, and she was consistent. I couldn't be happier.

Afterwards, I got to give her a bath, a full on, shampoo in the bucket bath, which I don't get to do often. I've been showing for a few years now, but I never get to be the one to get the horses ready because I'm at work making the money to pay for the show. It was nice to just scrub all the dirt and grime off of her and bring out the beautiful white in Baby's coat . . . then I cringe at the fact that she's likely to roll in her own feces within 24 hours of a bath *headdesk* Horses, you gotta love 'em.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

*violently happy dances*

Things are looking up after my ride today. I was rushed into riding for about 20 minutes because apparently going out to pizza is a necessity in my family. They are lucky that I love pizza, but I still love horses more, so I made sure that my 20 minutes were productive.

Miss S had a private lesson going on in the small outdoor, so I went to the big one. It seemed smaller than usual today. I got on and went right to work. Baby was a bit nervous about being away from the other horses—which is surprising considering how much she pins her ears when we ride in groups. I was riding with a longer stirrup today, and it felt nice to be able to stretch my legs down. We went around to the right for a full lap, then I did a ~100ft circle, and she slowed down a bit. We switched directions at the trot, and then she slowed down completely and went right onto a nice, light contact.

We went around the whole arena, did two circles, then I asked for her left lead. She picked up the wrong lead at first. I corrected her, then she did a perfect circle and a perfect downwards transition. We switched directions again and picked up the right lead. We did about a third of a lap. I sat for part of it, then half seat for a little bit. Brought her back down to a trot.

Some of the jumps were set to cross rails, so I trot into the red line and cantered out. We got a long distance to the second jump, then had to switch leads after, but I don't really care. She was going slow and relaxed and was a lot more willing to come down and switch her lead. We did one more jump at the canter, and she was perfect, so we cantered it out, then finished up. She got big pats for today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

*violently sighs*

In my opinion, the worst lessons are those where you ride very nicely on the flat but then screw up everything over fences. You get so excited, you're so happy to jump, and then you fail miserably. Nothing goes right, or left, or even up or down; everything just kind of sinks into a deep, dark pit of Hell, and you're left sitting there, feeling like crap and wondering why you chose to immerse yourself into one of the most expensive, time consuming, and physically demanding sports out there.

But I did choose it, and I have no regrets. 

I arrived at the barn today with a massive amount of confidence considering how well my private lesson went last week (in summary, it was awesome). Izz brought her camera with her, so we had a little pre-lesson photo sesh with her and Todd. They were adorable when Todd wasn't trying to eat; I got a funny picture of her when Todd picked her up off the ground with his neck, but she let go. I caught her mid-fall. She looks like she's flopping. We got back to the barn. I switched my saddle pad so it matched my outfit and tacked Baby up, almost forgetting her treat . . . almost.

Now that it's warm outside, we can ride in the big outdoor. It's the second time we've done so this year, and my how things have changed since riding indoors. The arena is bigger, and the jumps look bigger, despite the fact that they are all 18"-2'0". Surprisingly, I'm not bothered at all by the oxers; they're just too big like everything else.

Baby was fantastic on the flat. She was so super duper relaxed and moving forward, stretching down into the bit at times, but I wasn't really asking her to. I was more focused on not pissing her off because I H-A-T-E it when she swishes her tail. The past month or two, I have struggled with sitting at the canter, but today, there were no issues. My leg stayed in place on either side, and I rode her right on contact, but of course we were going to the right. The left wasn't bad, per se, but she didn't step off as quickly (a bunch of quick, hollow trot strides as opposed to two relaxed ones), and it took a few circles for her to slow down, but it still wasn't up to par with the right lead.

Her perfectness on the flat got me excited to jump. We did a line first. We trot up to the first jump, she went over it fine, then refused the second one. We went straight to it, and she jumped. Tried the line again, same thing. Tried it at the canter, same thing. We go to do a course, refusal at the first jump. We get over the first jump, try to do another line, goes over the first jump, refused the second. We did the line again with no incident, then she refused a single twice. We ended the first course with one good line. I wasn't happy and took my space back in the group.

We did our second course, and we were good up until the third jump. Only one refusal this time, and I almost came off, but I have the stubbornness of a mule paired with the leg strength of a spider monkey, so I stayed on.

I finished my course with the triple since it was the only thing that I hadn't jumped yet. She went thorough it perfectly, and I gave her a good pat. Miss S said it was good but had me do it again. I really didn't want to. I just wanted to go back to the group and revel in the minute bit of confidence that I had just gained, but practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect, and while I did make it through the triple, I didn't do it well. I tend to put a lot of focus on my equitation, but that is rooted in me wanting to be more effective as a rider. The better I am, the better Baby is. The better Baby is, the better I feel, and the better I feel, the better Baby feels. I'm not big into letting my leg slip back and becoming discombobulated on the other side of the jump as a result. I did the triple again. She refused the second jump. Did it again, refused again. I did it for a third time, and she went through the whole thing. Pats for days. Still, I could have only wished to look mediocre through it. Thank God I have a horse who is forgiving.

Right before we had to clear the ring for the next lesson, I followed Izz over the brick two more times. The first time was eh. Close distance + jumping ahead = eh. We did it again, and it was okay, better than what I had been doing the rest of the lesson, so I'm content with it. 

At the very end, we cooled off on a trail ride, where Baby performed the most extravagant working trot. She suddenly realized that her hind end is a thing and that she can use it, if she wants to, on her own. She surprises me sometimes, and it's always the good kind of surprise. I can happily say that spring has finally sprung and that it will not be snowing on Independence Day, no matter how crazy Eastern Shore weather is.
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