Saturday, August 30, 2014

"You're riding Enzo today"

Translation: You might die today.

They say great minds think alike, but I get the feeling that insane minds think the same too because Fifi, Lee, and Miss El all thought that it would be a good idea for me to ride Enzo. My cardiorespiratory rate said otherwise. Enzo (formerly named Cloudy) is a rescue. The barn owners have had him since December, and he's come a long way, but he's not all there in the head. Miss El has been training him, and Fifi has ridden him quite a bit and took him to his first show a couple weekends ago. He has his quirks though, quirks that I didn't exactly think I was capable of handling. To put it simply, I could have ruined him, or he was going to ruin me. It was 50/50, either was likely.

Photos by Gina Ellis of Blue Ribbon Photography

Fifi helped me brush him and tack him up. I, with a shaky hand, stiff brushed a layer of dirt and dust that had settled deep into his coat. Apparently he likes to roll. We tack him up, and I get on, and the first thing Miss El says to me is to have light hands . . .

The stirrups were set super long, but Miss El had me walk a couple of laps before adjusting them. I guess today I learned how much I use my hands as opposed to leg and seat. I wanted to stop Enzo so that I could adjust my stirrups, aaaaaand I didn't know how to without applying rein pressure . . . so I applied rein pressure. That got him to stop for all of two seconds but only after a clear dislike of having been pulled on. He walked on, I pulled, he kept walking, I kept pulling, and he got frustrated with me and did a baby rear, so Miss El had me walk to her so she could hold him and I could adjust my stirrups. Commence shame face.

Four raised holes later, I'm back on the rail, two pointing, trying to keep my legs even and my shoulders back. We crossed the diagonal and did a few laps to the right, then Miss El had me trot while still in two point. It was a lot better today than last time. I must admit, however, that Seren's short strides are a bit smoother than Enzo's swooping step. Enzo beats Seren in looks, though.

The first half of today was two-pointing with some circles, then the second half was supposed to be cantering, but that didn't go quite as planned. It started out nice going to the right. The transition wasn't perfect (next time we'll try to canter at least by the corner after C instead of waiting until right before B), but he was actually going around nice and calm, and he has a smooth gait to boot (bonus!). Things went south when I lost my stirrup. He's still not entirely broke, so me trying to get my stirrup back while simultaneously bumping his side caused him to speed up, so I tried to slow him down, but I couldn't, so I tensed up, and that just wasn't pretty. I eventually got him to walk. We took a short, calm down break, then we just trot again, and I had to keep him nice and slow. We went across the diagonal and tried to left lead. He actually stepped right into it, which is great considering it's not his favorite lead, then he broke and switched leads then I couldn't get him to pick up his left lead again.

I asked a bunch of times before we just called it quits on that (I was more likely to teach him a bad habit than get that lead). The rest of the lesson was trot work and 20m circles, and, eventually, after much coaxing, begging, and bribing, he actually stretched down to the bit and relaxed.

So, yeah, I like Enzo. Terror gave way to fondness, and if I'll be riding him as opposed to Seren, I can't complain. I think the only reason I rode him today was because Miss El wanted me to canter, and Seren isn't nice about cantering. I don't really care, and Enzo doesn't seem to mind me riding him so long as I keep my hands and legs quiet. There is much to be learned here.



Riding Enzo today has actually made me reconsider riding Zoey. Enzo is absolutely a safer ride. He was packing me for the most part today as opposed to Zoey, who I am much more tense on. Zoey is greener, that's a given, but I still feel like a gave up on riding her too early. I would like to try her out again, but later, assuming she hasn't been sold, after I've taken some time to fix my hand dependency. I think that would greatly benefit both of us.

Enzo is also for sale.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The end of a short lived saga

Unfortunately, I will no longer be riding Zoey. As cute and sweet as she is, she scares me, and I told myself, in this case, that I would not continue to ride her if I got scared. It's just not a good idea. However, there is a local Hunter Derby happening over winter that I might be able to do depending on the cost. There's a first place prize of $1300, so hopefully I can try my hand at that.

There was no kicking out this time when I got on. She was a lot more up today, and wasn't too happy about me trying to sit the trot. One of the things I love about her is her smooth trot, but her going giraffe when I try it isn't encouraging. She did kick out when we tried to canter though. Her canter was okay-ish. We had more good strides than last time, but she was just so tense and freaking out the whole time.

Miss S had us trot a circle with one crossbar. Everyone else was trotting in then picking up the canter, but I did not feel comfortable cantering her over anything. She trot around fine to the left minus the speeding up only to trot over the thing on the first go. Then she trot fine to the right, so, on the third lap, I let her cater over it (bad idea). She's not crazy before the fence, and she doesn't have a crazy jump. It's after the fence where shit gets out of control. I cantered over it twice, and it was okay, and it was still only okay going to the left. She actually breaks more than you think, and she's pretty good about coming back down, but rushing after the fences is never a good thing, no matter how quickly she slows down again.

It was getting dark (darn winter and it's early sunsets), so we moved into the indoor to finish up. There were four jumps set up, so Miss S had us each do two courses. She set everything low enough for me to trot over. I didn't go for any tight turns; I just wanted to keep things simple . . . but then idiot me decided that it would be a good idea to try cantering the course. Twice. Again, going up to the jump was fine, and going over the jump was fine, but coming out of the jump is hectic.

What stinks about all this is that she has so much potential. Her talent happens to be paired with some loose screws. On her approaches, she is so in tune to what I ask. She's already good about picking her distances. She's careful with her feet. Her form is flawless, and *knock on wood* she didn't refuse anything. She pooped over one of the fences. There was fecal matter on that jump. I think she'd make a fabulous jumper, or, if someone could tighten those screws, she'd be hard to beat as a large hunter pony, but she's not gonna go much of anywhere with me on her back.

On the plus side, I want to do some liberty work with her. She's already following and trotting with a voice command (and some speed from me). I have to get the "Stay" command a bit more, erm, happening? She doesn't quite understand that I don't need her to chaperone me while I put the saddle on the arena fence. She didn't follow me into the tack room though, so it's a start.
Good pony

Saturday, August 23, 2014

One good thing about school starting soon

Like most teenagers, I am not very happy about going back to school, especially since I'm a senior this year and have college looming in the distance.

Despite the tragedy that will fill the next nine months, I am actually excited about one of my classes: Computer Aided Drafting & Design, otherwise known as CADD. It's basically architecture class, or at least that's how I describe it before people ask, "What does that mean?" We learn how to do all that house design stuff and model mechanical parts. It's a fun class, but that's mostly because I don't talk at all and just sit and add various items to my growing and perhaps oversized portfolio.

Anyway, back when I was first designing and was mostly self-taught, I completely failed at doing houses, so I tried my hand at barns, which were still horrible, but they were slightly better than the houses, so I kept them. I have over 100 plans, but they all need to be adjusted in some way before they could be well functioning stables. I guess when I made all those plans, I was fond of the idea of having living quarters in the barn, but, again, I was horrible at doing houses, so the paper would have some intricate patchwork of a barn, then a blank space that said "Living Quarters" and had the square footage beneath it. Yes, very build able.

I've picked out two plans to fix this year with my main focus being on the one that looks like a mansion (I was fond of designing barns that looked like houses, too). The other is already in nice shape and only requires minor adjustments, but the mansion is looking like a diamond in the rough. If I get frustrated, oh well; I've got lots more plans in my head that I'd rather put to paper, but I'm hoping that doesn't happen. Both plans would look nice in college or job interviews.

The not so great one
Not so great elevation
The not so bad elevations
The not so bad one
College Park, take note.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Apparently summer is ending

Which means that cold weather, layers, and the best drinks that Starbucks makes ever are coming back. I for one hate the cold. It disgusts me. Breathing in winter air is like shoving a million tiny razors through your nasal passages, into your throat, and down your windpipe; in short, the cold is pure agony to me, which is why I try my hardest to keep it away from as much skin as I possibly can.

I do not have a good set of winter gear, so this year I'm getting prepared ahead of time (a bit late in my opinion, but better late than never). The best part about it not being winter or right before winter is that prices are still low. The best time to buy winter items is actually right as show season is beginning; if you get most of your gear from Dover, I highly suggest that you look at the closeouts and coupons in the catalog around April/May.

I actually took my business to Equestrian Collections again since I want to make use of that points system (although I think I'll get a pair of those Horze Ear Muffs 'cause they look cool and are a nice low price). The only reason this happened was because SSTack no longer has the Ariat Jena Boot—the shoe that I have drooled over for almost a month now—in my size, so I looked elsewhere, but with my boot size also came another $60 to pay. Urgh! I let go of my dream boot, but I still picked out a pair of Ariats, the Brossard Paddock Boot. I threw in a pair of TuffRider Winter Breeches, Horseware Socks, and Horze Gloves to get free shipping and use a coupon that I got for being on the mailing list. Everything is about $205 altogether, and I'll do reviews for it all once winter sets in, and everything is put to the test.

That, however, is not what this post is about. If you are still looking for items to get you through winter, fear not, I am here for you. I've tried to include various items in the low (<$100), mid-range ($100-$300), and high-end (>$300) price ranges, but feel free to suggest items in the comments!

Riding Boots
Ovation Dafna Blizzard Boot ($35)
Horze Thermo Tall Boot ($50)
Solstice Winter Paddock Boot ($100)
Ariat Camrose Boot ($130)
Mountain Horse Stella Polaris Boot ($200)
Ariat Bromont Tall Boot ($300)

Work Boots (that you can maybe ride in, but I don't suggest it)
Mountain Horse Eclipse Boot ($90)
Noble Outfitters Mud Boot ($100)
Ovation Caelin Country Boots ($162)
Dublin River Boot ($190)
Dublin Pinnacle Boot ($190)
Mountain Horse Forest Highlander ($270)

Ovation Extreme Snow Glove (~$15)
Horze 3 Finger Padded Riding Mittens ($18)
Noble Outfitters Perfect Fit 3 Season Glove ($20)
Heritage Ladies Suede Glove ($24)
RSL ISO Winter Riding Glove ($25)
Heritage Extreme Winter Glove ($38)

SmartPak Winter Knee Patch Pull-On Tights ($75)
Ariat Artemis Full Seat Winter Tight ($100)
Kerrits PowerStretch Winter Full Seat Tight ($95)
Irideon PowerStretch Riding Tights ($105)
Horze Grand Prix Thermo Breeches ($139)
FITS All Season Duet Full Seat Breeches ($270)

Shirts & Jackets
Personally, I wouldn't order a jacket or shirt from equestrian oriented stores. Under Armor, The North Face, Columbia, and nearly every athletic brand of clothing sells winter gear that will work for you, and the prices don't change dramatically throughout the year. If you live out in the middle of nowhere, then go ahead and order online (Under Armour, The North Face, Columbia, Target, Adidas, Nike), but you're better off going to a store such as Dicks, Gander Mountain, Marshalls, and, yes, even WalMart.

TuffRider Arygle Winter Sock ($6)
TuffRider Thermal Riding Sock ($8)
Horze Tiana Woolmiix Lace Knee Socks ($9)
Noble Mount Fleece Lined Tights ($12)
Under Armour Women's Tiny Stripes Snowsports Sock ($16)
Smartwool Women's Basic Knee High Sock ($22)

Hand Warmers ($2)
Chamonix Knitted Deer Stalker Hat ($10)
Irideon Chinchilaaah Neckerchief ($13)
Heat Pack Warmers ($14)
Pikeur Classes Headband ($29)
Rain Overtrousers ($90)

Outside of our own apparel, the pon pons can also stay toasty. Consider quarter sheets, which are especially useful at winter shows, and also find ways to make sure that water buckets and troughs don't freeze. Keep bits warm with a bit warmer as cold bits aren't enjoyable. For environments too cold for the horse in question, turnout blankets are a must. They also might keep your horse cleaner, assuming your equine friend doesn't decide to murder the blanket within the first week.

I hope this helps you get together everything you need for your winter endeavors!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pack your bags!

I have a confession to make: I might be related to Dora the Explorer.

No, I'm not Mexican, nor do I condone keeping monkeys as pets, but, when I go on adventures (to the barn), I do have a backpack with me, or at least a bag of some sort. I used to throw everything into my helmet bag; I outgrew it. Then I threw all my things into a sling bag; I outgrew it. At that point, I started looking into getting one of those helmet backpacks. There are a few of them floating around with enticing price tags. Here's a few.
N. Outfitters Ringside Pack
GPA Helmet Backpack
Grand Prix Rider's Backpack
Under Armour Rider's Backpack
The Hacksack
Grand Prix Helmet Backpack

As nice as these bags are (especially the Hacksack, and it comes in more colors!), once I graduated up from the sling bag, I just started using an old school backpack. We've accumulated a collection over the years; my mom tends to get me a new one every other year. I put a lot of wear on my school bags. The backpack that I am using now is actually the same one that I take to shows with me as my overnight bag. I figured, if it worked for that, it could work as an everyday barn bag.

So far, it's done the job well. I have two compartments with a laptop sleeve. The largest compartment holds my tall boots which I just fold and put in gently. The smaller compartment holds my helmet which I strongly suggest you pack visor up. I have an Ovation with the visor that snaps back, but I know that my IRH has a visor designed to shatter easily, so be careful if your helmet has the same feature. I also face the opening of the helmet towards my back. That leaves more space in the largest compartment. I put my binder, a book, and any paperwork I need in the laptop sleeve. My phone, keys, money/wallet, and other small items go into various smaller pockets on the back of the bag, and a water bottle goes in the water bottle holder.

Dirty, abused, and overused
It works well for me, so, if you're not interested in buying a bag designed for the barn, then I suggest looking at heavy duty, double compartment backpacks. Now that school is about to be back in session *cringes*, there are going to be some great sales going on. Staples is your friend! My sister, while not a rider, recommends the North Face backpacks since they are durable, but they are definitely going to cost more money than a basic backpack.

If you like any of the bags listed above:
GPA Helmet Backpack
Grand Prix Rider's Backpack
Noble Outfitters Ringside Pack
Under Armour Rider's Backpack
Grand Prix Helmet Backpack
The Hacksack

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Green ponies are fun, right?

When they're not throwing unjustified fits because you ask them to trot or canter, they're fun. Trust me, I am a scientist. I know things.

We have this pony at the barn named Zoey, and she has been a long, drawn out project that would likely get a terrible grade if she were turned in at this point. Miss S has had her for two or three years now; she was one of the first ponies that was bought for the kids. She was green then, but calm and fancy, so Miss S got her (along with the Satan pony that is Blue) and started riding her. Welp, a couple months in, she came up lame. She was given some stall rest, we had her legs checked, and the apparent problem was how her feet were being trimmed. Everything was sorted out, and she was fine for another couple of weeks, but then she came up lame again, and that's basically what the past two years have been. She's been lame on and off and ended up having six months of stall rest at one point. Mind you, this is a rather high energy pony, so hand grazing her was not very enjoyable, and she decided to become afraid of brushes in that time. After the six months, she was sound again, so Miss S started working slowly with her, but time constraints basically bottlenecked any progress. Plus, Zoey had all of a sudden changed her demeanor. She went from being calm and mannerly to rushy undersaddle, and she's gotten quite the attitude. It's been an uphill battle, one that we're still fighting. Zoey has been completely sound for the last four or five months, but you can't really sit on her at the canter or else she throws a fit, and she always rushes the second element in a line.

Two years ago, at a point in time when Zoey was actually sound, I did ride her in two separate lessons. The first one was ugh. I got on and was walking around when she spooked and just took off cantering, and I was still learning to canter then. That lesson went horribly because after that incident, she would jump into the trot, to the point where I was posting like a jockey. It just wasn't good. The second time, which was maybe two weeks later, was actually better. I could trot her, and she completely relaxed under me. I even trot her over a little crossbar, but I lost my body control afterwards, so she cantered away, and I was just slipping and sliding everywhere, but it wasn't a bolt or a panic on her part. She was still wild when you asked her to canter, but that's a story for another day.

Oh . . .
God . . .
My . . .
In case you're wondering where my fashion sense started and why I stopped using my saddle (which is still for sale, by the way).

So this brings us to Friday. I have no shows looming in the distance, so I decided to try out Zoey because if no one rides her she's going to be sold, and I'd miss that pretty face, so I gave it a shot. I miss the calm version of her. Within seconds of getting on and walking forward, she pins her ears and starts kicking out, which I promptly corrected because I have no time for bullshit. I had to shorten my stirrups to jumping length because flat length makes me feel like a giant on her. Syd was the only other one in the lesson, and she was on Molly. We walk for a little bit, then Miss S has us trot, and good Lord, you'd think the horse has never trot before. She just takes off into this maniac, I-was-a-harness-racer-in-another-life, type of trot, while bucking at the same time, which I genuinely have to give her credit for, because she covered some significant ground while simultaneously trying to murder me. This is a horse you can learn to multitask from.

I put her straight to the arena fence and made her stop before I put myself back together, and we tried again, and the second round was much better. I just kept trotting her in laps, I took her off the rail (gotta make Marianne happy), we did serpentines, and circles, and figure-8s, and she's just going along, suddenly not possessing even a drop of care about anything. Then Miss S had us do a line with each jump just being trot poles. Zoey, since she is consistent on occasion, did canter through the second group of poles the first two times that we went through the line, but on the third time, she actually trot through it. It seemed so simple, but it was this massive break through, and I shed every bit of fake love and affection that I could garner up onto this horse because I know that she's done this wonderful thing, but I'm still holding the bucks against her. We went through it two more times, and she was great, then we switched directions and did it three times in a row without incidence.

Miss S decided to up the ante. She put up a cross bar for the second fence. I really expected Zoey to just launch herself over this cross bar because that's what I've seen her do, so common sense tells me to be prepared. I was deep seated before going over that friggen cross bar, then I went so far forward; it was a textbook example of jumping ahead of the horse. She trot over it perfectly, if not a bit lacklusterly. I showered her again with my attention, this time with less acting. We did it a second time, and she was too fast over the second one, so she didn't get a pat, but she completely understood what I wanted by the third time around, and trot over the cross bar beautifully.

And that's where I'm leaving you off because the canter was a shit storm. Syd and I did switch at the end though, so I had some time with my preferred pony. Yeah, she launched over the cross bar. Talk about engaging the hind end.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

That's . . . interesting.

You know, I usually come across new brands while browsing through Pinterest, but Polyvore user High-Standards has introduced me to something new: GhoDho. The brand was founded by Isheeta Dabawala, an avid equestrian with a creative eye when it comes to fashion. The name of the company reflects her Indian roots; "GhoDho" is the Hindu word for horse. From their website:
“I have always wanted to find breeches I can wear in and out of the stables,” said Isheeta. “I was inspired to create GhoDho, because I really felt that the equestrian market was lacking in modern clothing for young riders. It was important to create a breech that is practical, affordable, and fashionable.”
Based on looks alone, I think she hit the nail on the head.

Yes, they're eccentric. I've actually had some trouble matching these breeches. The Black Principle (black shirt, black belt, black boots) doesn't work too well here; these breeches have weakened my set game, but, I still like the look of them. I think Dabawala has done the best job of creating a breech that crosses over easily from the barn to the streets. Maybe it's the crocodile knee patches or intricate stitching.

All the breeches are priced at $125, which isn't half bad for something that'll stand out whether you're at the barn, walking through the mall, or getting 10 five packs of ramen from WalMart (we've all been there). If you have a chance, check 'em out. When my Equine Coutures finally wear out, I'll hopefully have enough to get the Luna breech. That golden knee patch speaks to me in more ways than one.

If you happen to have a pair, are the GhoDhos a GhoNo?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Welp, that's it

This whole season, building up to one moment, this one goal that I have hunted down for the past four months. I ended up third in the finals, but that was after not being able to even look at breakfast then having my nerves body slam me at the last minute. I also had to wear my less than comfortable white show shirt because I'll be damned if I don't listen to at least that little smidgeon of advice that Marianne offered to me.

A lot of junior riders wish that they were born on the East Coast so that they could have so much access to bigger shows, but those shows are not fun unless everything you wear is made from coolmax. I would love to say that the humidity hit a record on Saturday, but, no, it was at it's regular, annoying, moderately unbearable level. My white show shirt is just a basic shirt. Wearing it again actually made me appreciate my new shirt a little bit more (I'd actually been planning on writing a review on Dover about how it didn't keep me that cool). I was in a pretty crabby mood that morning. I wasn't too happy about waking up at 4:30am, and everyone else was boisterous. That energy, it just, ugh. Panic! at the Disco radio got me up faster than their hippity hoopity. We all had some coffee. I didn't talk much on the drive to the show grounds (still feeling hella crabby).

We get there and get the horses fed and what not. Baby managed to stay clean even without a blanket on, and all of her braids stayed in (good horse). I gave her water and grain, then I had to turn in my entry forms again because the fax didn't go through or went to the wrong place. I drew for the order of go. I was fifth to ride out of the six in my medal. Course walks started after that, and there was a disagreement about the courtesy circle because I really did not want to do a big circle because it was a pretty massive courtesy circle, but, for the circumstance, it was necessary. There was also a question about the one, solitary rollback in the whole course. Do we cut on the inside of the white fence? Do we go around the white and the oxer? Where do we turn??? Fortunately, we weren't the only ones asking that. The final solution was to do whatever was best for the horse.

Everyone went ahead and got breakfast after we finished walking the course. There was a little table set up at the far end of the ring. Miss Marianne was already over there, enjoying her fruit salad, and she gave us a last minute pep talk. "You just have to make it to the flat," she said. Still, I was doubtful.

Cas, Izz, and I were sent off to school after that. I did my walk, trot, and canter, practiced transitions, did some sitting trot, and moved Baby off of my leg some. We trot over a tiny vertical which was fine, but when she cantered, it got a bit too fast. She slipped coming out of one. I was using way too much hand and probably no leg for the large majority of the morning. I think the only time I actually used my leg was when Miss S had me hand gallop a little bit. Poor Baby was gaping and curling back the whole time.

I took a minute to just breathe before I went in. Then I got in the arena and zoned everything else out. I sit trot into my courtesy circle, posted a bit, then went into the canter. I got up in my half seat, put my leg on (actually, that's where the leg was last applied), and did my course. She went over everything without a moment's hesitation. She took every distance I asked her to, even when I didn't go over the second fence with her, and pulled her around that tight rollback; we had another slip there, and she still took the next fence. She got the strides perfectly in the one line that we had to do, slowed down right when I asked her for the trot fence, then did a timely halt so we could get the more difficult turn to the second to last fence. She even went over the rolltop, you know, the thing that we hadn't jumped since I was excused during my second attempt at the Hunter Derby. She took it in stride, green velvet covered poles and all. I was brimming after that course, a big smile from ear to ear, and I hate smiling while riding as much as I hate oxers (Are they really necessary?). I was very happy with that course.

After the first course, two riders were eliminated. What was strange about these two judges was that they'd let people keep going even if they went off course. You could pretty much stay in until you went over the last fence. Anyway, we went back in for the flat. It was a pretty basic flat, just walk, sitting trot, rising trot, and canter both ways. After the flat, one more girl was taken out of contention. And now there were three. I was at the bottom of the group, so I had to do my test first. It was the same rollback from the course, then the trot fence, then just another simple fence after that and a halt. I think they were looking for the tighter turn from the trot fence to the last fence in the test, but I didn't feel confident doing that turn, so I decided to leave it out. Unfortunately, I made the same mistake in the test that I made in the course. We slipped again in the rollback, but Baby took a longer distance and landed the correct lead. All three of us messed up on the test. One of the girls knocked the last fence, and the other one's horse tripped on the halt. I'd say we missed the hoop, but at least we took the shot.

After that, they called the placings, with me being the first name in third place. During the victory lap, I opted out of taking a fence. I was done at that point. I actually shook my head as I went past the fence, so the photographer probably has a picture of me cantering along with this disapproving look on my face. That's a photo to buy and frame on a shrine. I won a nice, golden ribbon (which was shoved recklessly into my show bag because I wanted to get home), an embroidered saddle pad, and bucket with a bunch of stuff in it. No, seriously, it has a bunch of stuff in it. There's a fly bonnet, caramel corn, a gift card, Skittles, white gloves (the kind you smack people with), a ticket to Jolly Rogers, horse treats, mints, salt water taffy, and more stuff that I can't remember. Paying that trophy fee all season was totally worth it.

But the day didn't end there! Nope! I still had Low Hunter and Jr. Eq. to do. Baby actually did really well in Low Hunter, and I took time to really think about using my legs instead of my hands. The first course was okay, but still not enough leg. The second course was way better. There was one spot where I used my hands too much and we separated, but we came back together over the final fence. She was flying afterwards instead of pulling along on the forehand. We placed third in the first course, first in the second, and fourth on the flat, giving us enough points for reserve champion. Marianne got champion on a friend's horse (and won the Hunter Derby on the same horse . . . and the Adult Medal Final . . . then placed fourth on her own horse in the Derby). It was my first reserve champion though, so I'm happy (it was also shoved into my show bag because I wanted to get home so badly and didn't have the time to neatly fold my ribbons up and place them gently like baby doves into a satin lined box).

Jr. Eq. wasn't bad, except for the whole forgetting my second course thing. I'm not kidding about the judge though. I was off course by the third jump, but I got over four more jumps before I realized I was off course and just left the ring. The first course was good though. I finally got that rollback right, and we even did another good one on a tight turn and friggen nailed it because I actually used my legs with my hands only there as back up. Talk about an inside bend. We got fifth in the first course out of nine then third on the flat out of ten.

It was a great day and a fantastic way to end the series. We had no stops all day, and I intend to keep it that way. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do from now until the end of the year. I have colleges to apply to; my current list only has four on it, so that's going to have to be extended. Miss S said that we could have a show at the barn, so there's a lot of planning time going into that. Otherwise, I'm mainly focused on working through my bad riding habits and getting some potential new shows down for next summer.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

It's the final countdown

The final is two days from now. Friday is the only thing standing between me and possibly the biggest moment of my limited junior career. I would love to morph into a keyboard playing tyrannosaurus-rex right about now, though.

We haven't ridden in the big arena for a while because the ground was destroyed a while back. We plowed, then it poured again; we plowed again, it poured again, and the jumps all got knocked down. All work recently has been either in the indoor or smaller outdoor, and Baby has started to race in both, which is making me very nervous about going into a bigger space where there will be more space in between the jump and the arena fence.

Miss S tried to simulate what Saturday was going to be like. She changed the jumps in the small outdoor up a bit while we warmed up in the indoor. Baby was fine for flatwork; I even shortened my stirrups today, and it was fine, but once we started jumping, she just wanted to go, go, go! I honestly do not have time for that, so jumping today was just me attempting to hold her back the entire time.

Anyway, we go to the outdoor, and she's still Miss Rushy Rushy, but I just tried to focus on keeping my hands up, not bracing, and using my legs. The first course was disastrous. The first jump was fine, then two and three were an okay line. We chipped on the second fence. Jump four was the coop, and I could feel her thinking about stopping, so I reached back and tapped her one stride out. She jumped, but I lost the rein that I had let go of to use the crop. Most days, I can get my reins back in my hands pretty quickly, not necessarily on contact, but I'm holding both of them. I couldn't get that right one back, but jumps four and five were a line, so I kept going. I got over jump five, lost my left stirrup, but I got my right rein, so I just kept on to jump six without even thinking about it. I got over it, but of course coming out of it, she's just running.

We did two more courses which weren't bad, but she still required tight circles at the end to get her to stop cantering. So, yeah, today was not that great, and I'm praying for Saturday.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Whoa, I rode 3 days in a row

That's a biggie. Surprisingly, my legs aren't complaining that much. It's the hips that won't stop bitching.

First to get my booty into gear was Miss El on Sunday. The lesson before me ran over a little bit (which was good cause I got there late, but I had iced coffee, so it was okay), so I got on and did my stretches. When she was able to sit down and watch me, I was already on my hip stretches, which she said were, and I quote, "great." We did two pointing again as well, and I got into the initial position easily, but I was still stuggling to hold myself up and engage that core.

We did more trot work than last time. The main focus was getting me to both relax and get myself balanced. The posting was a lot better, despite the midget stirrups. I am still rather futilely attempting to drop my left heel lower. I just have to keep reminding myself to stretch up my right shoulder, although Miss El is the type to keep repeating what she wants you to do, so I don't have to think too much. We did some no stirrup work just at the sitting trot, which wasn't bad, but then she had me two point, which was really bad. We did arm circles too which are the main reason as to why my shoulders are still aching. I really don't like arm circles, never have, but I guess they're useful for something (Relaxing. They're good for relaxing.).

I rode yesterday with Miss S. I took a private lesson to see what I could apply. I now know why other trainers want me to shorten my stirrup; keeping my leg steady with a dropped heel was genuinely difficult. I like to convince myself that I have the leg for a longer stirrup, but I don't. I would shorten my stirrups on Miss S's saddle, but the leathers have been so used and worn that to get even holes at the correct length would require punching a new place in both leathers. I just dealt with it. We did some flatwork, tried out a few counter canters, picking up leads, simple changes, the whole lot.

She had a little gymnastic set up with three jumps: a cross bar, one stride to a vertical/oxer, then four strides to the coop. Miss S wanted me to work on landing the leads, but it's just difficult to do when I still have equitation to worry about. I, personally, am not worried about landing the lead at this point, not at home or at shows. At home, I do a simple change. At shows, I just keep going. It's one less thing to get worked up about. Equitation aside, it's difficult for me to stay balanced when I have a lead to think about. Needless to say, we didn't land most of the leads, and no amount of a click and some leg would get Baby to do a flying change, so it was simple changes the whole ride long.

Today was another ride with Miss Marianne. Cas and I were the only ones, so we rode in the small arena. It started with a discussion about presentation, including properly fitting tack and riding attire (I have to wear my white show shirt this time, asdfghjkl), then onto general facts. In a medal final, the judge is allowed to ask you questions on basically anything pertaining to horses. I know a lot of stuff; I spent almost 3 years reading before I finally got into lessons, and I'm still reading, but recalling all that information doesn't happen quickly. Also, the books and articles I read never had the basics . . . or maybe I skipped over that part 'cause I thought it was boring, but that doesn't matter now. It's the obvious, trick question sounding things that would give me difficulty (assuming they do ask questions). I could answer all the bit questions, though. Bits have always been my strong point.

The whole lesson was basically drilling with regular breaks, and during those breaks there were discussions. Miss Marianne was having us watch each other and would give us a detailed explanation of what was good and bad about each course, then she would say who would have placed higher. We used the same gymnastic that Miss S had set up from yesterday, but she put everything up to 2'0"-2'3". Towards the end, Miss Marianne focused on me a bit and had me do a figure-8 with two jumps to get the leads but to also get Baby more engaged and forward over fences and to also get my hands quieter and my legs more active. Baby did I think three back to front changes. All the others were front to back, but she was doing them on her own, so as long as I keep her on her butt and moving forward, she should start to get a correct change more consistently. We finished off with some one handed cantering with the focus still being on the legs and getting me to actually use them rather than my hands. She even had me take a jump where I showed just how far back I can keep my weight without falling off. I had to drop my reins completely after that and stop, which wasn't very good, but I spent my cool down steering just with my legs, and Baby did it perfectly. I just have to use a good amount of leg.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The never ending battle for an independent seat

Or, rather, the never ending battle to take every joint in my body and make it move without having all the others follow. I took my first lesson with Fifi's trainer yesterday. I'm just not feeling like a serious competitor in this medal, and I don't want to go out there and look like I don't know what I'm doing, so this next week is where I attempt to rush prepare while the clock ticks down. It's the equivalent of cramming before a final exam, but that's basically what I do in school, and I'm not doing too bad, so hopefully it works with this kind of final.

I actually would have taken a lesson earlier; I had actually planned to take one the weekend before my last show, but I chickened out (oh c'mon I'm shy). Now that I have garnered up the confidence, I set up a lesson for Friday morning. When I got there, it was just the trainer, Miss El, and Anna. I was riding Seren, a highly opinionated, rather ill tempered Quarter Horse mare. It's the same horse that Kellie rides; I've seen them. I knew how Seren was. When I walked into the stall, she pinned her ears and walked away (that rude little . . .) The whole time I was brushing her down, she was swishing her tail and pinning her ears, trying to bite me when I got within reach but missing because the cross ties don't stretch (take that you little . . .). Seren reminds me why people don't like mares. She reminds me why people flock to the bomb proof gelding and would endure sheath cleaning rather than look in the direction of feminine horse flesh. I'm still not one of those people and never will be. Seren, even though she probably plot my demise more than once, goes on the list of one of the cutest horses I've ever come across. She's a typical Quarter Horse; she's got a double wide backside and a dainty head at the other hand with a barrel in between that could take up anyone's leg. The sass is a bonus in my world.

After convincing Seren that her assault attempts did not phase me, I got all the tack on, mounted up, adjusted my stirrups, and got going. First thing I learned is that Seren appreciates very soft contact, so any type of hold on the mouth wasn't going to be okay. I had to hold then give, hold then give, which I suck at because I move my whole body.

After that was established, we did stretches to help with separating the upper body and lower body. If you've ever done the half moon yoga pose (which I learned from Wii Fit and I have no shame about), the first stretch was similar to that. Basically, you just put one arm up and bend your upper body to the opposite side, stretching the side with the raised arm, but at the same time, the hips stay centered. That was my favorite stretch. Second stretch was the tail stretch. One hand goes forward all the way to the poll, then over the bead and back to the tail all while the leg doesn't move. I struggled with keeping my lower leg in place mainly due to feeling off balance, so I think that's one that I will focus on a lot. The third one is actually one that I've  read about a couple of times, but one of the descriptions said not to try it alone, so I never attempted it. Its the one where you bring a knee up as high as you can then bring the leg away from the saddle and lay it back down. Yeah, not easy. My hips are still aching. I had to do it super slowly to stay balanced, but I also had to stay sitting straight up and keep my shoulders square and not cheat by moving my other leg. I do not like this stretch. I do not like it at all, but it's important, so I won't protest to Miss El's face.

After stretching she had me two point, and then I heard those words that make me break on the inside: "Shorten your stirrups two holes." Shorten my legs by six inches and maybe I'll consider putting my stirrups up. I didn't say that, but I was thinking it. I put my stirrups up, and almost instantly that characteristic discomfort crept into my left ankle. The whole upper body needed to come up, and I needed to engage my core (which we found out isn't a good thing to do suddenly over the first fence in a bending line). That's where my leaning to the left was more obvious. Its actually due to my right side collapsing, which didn't make sense at first, but the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to understand it and visualize what I need to do to fix it. Putting more weight in my right stirrup won't do shit, honestly, I still won't be balanced. She was having me pull my right shoulder up, and drop my left heel. I did some reading, and I still don't understand it entirely, but at least I know how to fix it now.

We moved on to the trot after a few laps of two point. Yeah, that was not happening. I was not having it with that short stirrup. A few strides into the trot, Seren just went off, trotting all crazy and such. Of course, my first reaction is to tense and hold her, which didn't do anything. It actually just made things worse. I still get nervous very easily, especially if I'm surprised. All I could think was, "I want to get off, I want to stop, another day, I can do this another day. Today is not the day to do this. I cant do this," but i no longer succumb to those thoughts. I will do anything but get off the horse. The first couple of laps involved circles and lots of half halting. It got okay, then we switched directions. By that point it was way better. I think I only did one lap, then we stopped, but even the downward transition needed work.

We finished out the ride with more stretching, just the first two, then more two point, then all three stretches. I relaxed for a lap at the end, just walking with no stirrups and focusing on raising my right shoulder. When I finally did get off, walking was not a thing that was possible. I had to take a standing break, making short steps to put my stirrups up and get the reins over Seren's head. That was not fun.

Miraculously, in the time it took to take Seren back to the barn, untack her, hose her down, squeegee her off, and put her away, there were no pinned ears. She was cool as a cucumber. We had a little moment in the wash stall where I was rubbing her nose, and she was completely relaxed. She'd perk up every once in a while when she heard a noise, but then she'd settle right back down. Honestly, she's just like Baby except Seren openly expresses her hatred. Baby just maintains a constant look of disapproval. In conclusion, all mares hate everything the same amount, but not all of them are so blunt.

Worse part of the day was my period starting 20 minutes into the ride. At what point did I choose to be a girl because that was a bad choice.
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