Excerpts from lesson

This is from the lesson last weekend. We almost look decent at points… then it goes straight downhill at the canter. HAhaha

 

The shoulder-in’s were not very good.

Actually, the canter has improved quite a bit. We’re not flying around the arena. I could steer. We got the lead I asked for all but once (my fault, she was bent wrong). I didn’t have to whack her to go into the canter (well, I tapped her once), and she was picking it up from a leg aid/seat cue (no kissing cue).

Progress!

Another two years and we might be ready for Training Level! HA hahaha

While summer speeds by

Seems like everyone I know is showing this weekend and doing fabulous,  and I’m…  well,  I’m not.  

At least I’m finally getting lessons again.  That’s at least a step forward. 

This past Saturday was our second lesson.  I had to do some remedial trailer training with Joy last week to prepare for this.  She seemed to think she had a choice in staying on the trailer or not,  so i made my choice the easier one for her to choose.  

Joy occasionally proves she’s a chestnut mare.  😂 

Anyway, the lesson went well.  Joy was once again a rock star.  She still has about 10 minutes of jitters,  but settled down quickly.  We rode this time.  

The instructor had me slow Joy’s tempo at the trot down quite a bit.  I had a difficult time with this because Joy kept trying to die out on me.  I’d nudge her to keep trotting,  and then we were too fast.   I’d slow her down and her engine would sputter and stall.  It took us several laps to figure it out.  Once we got it though,  Joy felt more balanced.  

I still couldn’t get that neck out though. At least she didn’t curl under… 

The instructor had us do shoulder-in.  My first time showing this to someone knowledgeable and in person.  I was nervous.  

I never have anywhere with straight lines to do these on,  and I found out we “wander” quite a bit.  In hindsight I probably needed a good half-half and more rider preparation each time we started…  I wasn’t understanding the issue at the time.  

I also can’t seem to keep a consistent bend.  We were all over the place.  

Our canter sucked.  As usual.  

Joy doesn’t want to bring the inside hind up under her body.  I had really hoped that having a bigger,  flat area to canter in would magically fix it.  I thought it was balance issues from cantering on a slop in a small area.  And maybe it was to start,  but it’s not going away.  I’m worried about this… 

I have some more tricks up my sleeve though.  And the instructor gave me an exercise to also try.  We’ll see where that gets us in another couple of months.

Fingers crossed! 

To be honest,  I was most proud of Joy for passing the ballons without a second glance.  And then for loading in the trailer like a pro AND standing in there quietly while I went to use the restroom.  

Joy never spooked at anything, never hesitated, gave her all when i asked,  and did it without complaint.  I couldn’t ask for a better pony! Very proud of her! 

Maximum Effort

Ever have a moment in a ride that’s so good that you’re left feeling like “There’s no way we can top that today.”

I cut the ride short, hopped off, untacked and fed her a million treats (probably why she’s fat).

Best right lead canter we’ve ever had. I mean SPOT ON! Picked it up in balance, correct bend, engaged….  all I had to do was tighten my core and she shifted her weight back even further.  She really tried her little heart out!

I had wanted to work on a few more things that day, but… I think it’s really important to reward “try”.  I don’t care if it sucks, or if it’s not perfect, as long as she honestly tried to answer the question then I want her to feel like she’s won. And boy did she work for that right lead canter. Wow. Knocked it out of the ball park on that ride.

I probably won’t be able to duplicate that canter again for two years. Hahaha

…………………………………………………………

Last Sunday I pulled Joy out and tacked her up for a ride. I hadn’t ridden her in a solid 7 days and Hubby was running loud engines and banging things close by.  It wasn’t until the end of the ride that I realized I didn’t even think about lunging her first. That was about the time hubby shut off the auger and started hammering. Joy didn’t even notice all the commotion.

My little pony is growing up!!

I know… place looks like crap. I’m working on it! 🙂

May is Here

The start of the show season, the end of the snow, the beginnings of a new summer of possibilities!20170428_230511

I love May!

I’m taking Joy to her very first show May 6th. This is a local, open show. Not a dressage show.

This will be “the test”. She did well with hauling to the neighbors house. How will she do in a completely new environment? I have no idea.

 

Side note: I haven’t taken a horse to a show since 2014. Three years! Guess how many of my show breeches fit?

That’s right, NONE!!

Tubby rider definitely needs to lose weight.

giphy

 

Then, on May 13th, I have my VERY FIRST LESSON in three (3) years!!

Count them… THREE YEARS!!

WOO HOO!

I’m so excited.

giphy1

 

 

 

Intermittent Riding

Had a fun ride on Ava the other day. It’s always an eye opener to ride your own horse after riding someone else’s.  I think I become more aware of the things I’ve let slide,  the defects,  the little things I’d grown accustomed to that shouldn’t be there. 

I’ve been having issues convincing Ava to go forward in the tiny arena. She has plenty of forward if I take her to the field behind the house. However, I want to work on bending and suppling exercises and everything in the field is straight lines (path is straight). I can work bending and suppling in the arena, but she sucks back and becomes ornery in the arena. She only wants to offer the slowest of jog trots.

So I got after her right off the bat about forward, and after an initial “I don’t wanna”,  we finally got some forward! Yay!

Even had a few moments of decent engagement this ride.

Ava Canter LeftAva Canter RightAva Trot

Now if only the rain would stay away.  Seems like 6 out of the 7 days of every week have been rain.  We are water logged. 

Ironically,  I would rather ride in snow.  Ava HATES rain. Hates it!  If one drop touches her nose,  she pulls her chin to her chest and will refuse to budge. Doesn’t matter if in the field,  being ridden,  or being led.  She is not kidding around about her intense dislike of rain. 

Joy doesn’t care though.  Best pony ever. 

We were supposed to do our first test haul tonight (around the block) with Joy.  It’s postponed until the rain lets up.  The end of the drive is too soggy at the moment.  

However,  I’m feeling more optimistic about how it’ll go.  I can load Joy in the trailer and jump up and down to rock it,  and Joy doesn’t care.  I bang things,  no response.  Today there was a flappy tarp right behind the trailer (and behind Joy),  and after a 5 second “What the heck is that?!?”  scare,  Joy was fine with it.  Stood in the trailer eating hay while the tarp flapped right behind her. 

(not sure if the vid will work) 

So,  if the hauling goes well, then i want to test taking her somewhere and then getting her back in the trailer to go home again.   I think I’m going to ask my neighbor if I can do a trial run at her house. 

If all goes well,  lessons are in my immediate future! Yay!! 

New Experiences

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to ride a really nice Irish Sport Horse cross that a friend of mine owns.  He’s five years old, approximately 16.2-ish hands, and has that dumb-blood personality, but man can he move!  His canter is to die for. Most amazing canter I’ve ever ridden.denali

I “lucked” out on the ride because he dislodged his owner and she’s not quite healed up enough to get back to riding him again. He’s actually a sweetheart. His owner has done a fabulous job with him. She’s exposed him to just about everything a baby horse should be exposed to, and done it in a way that has created a confident and curious horse. His problem is he’s big and athletic, and normally nothing phases him… so a hard spook/bolt can catch the rider off guard and leave them with a loooong fall to the ground.

 

I was really impressed with the training he has on him. You know that feeling when you get on a new horse and the everything is just there.. the buttons, the aids, etc. That’s how he felt. I had an issue with figuring out how much contact he likes (very little).  And, once I convinced him that the short midget legs were really leg cues then everything went swimmingly.

He is so much fun to ride. And frankly, I was really impressed to feel how good the training was. It’s wonderful to see a young horse so well trained by an Adult Ammy. She’s done all the work herself, from the ground up. It was impressive. I wish they were all this nicely handled and trained by 5 years old.  I swear, if I had the money, I’d buy young horses and pay her to train them. She’s that good. And she totally doesn’t realize it.

When I went out to ride the 5 year old for the first time, the owner of the barn offered to let me ride another horse they have. The mare was described as a Dutch Warmblood with dressage training, but is too hot for the lesson kids. I was assured she was safe enough for the average rider (as I don’t wish to die quite yet).

I cannot pass up an opportunity to ride a sane horse, so I said yes.

That’s when they explained she hadn’t been ridden in quite a while.

AAaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

And that she was very, very hot. Hot. Capital H type of Hot.

Aaaaahhhh!! Scary!

Did I mention I’m a chicken?

I let the owner lunge and then ride her first. I was nervous watching the owner ride her. You could tell the mare was almost charging through the contact.

My order of “Most scary horses to ride” goes Rearers, then bolters, and then those darn bronc buckers that leap all 4 feet up in the air with head between their knees.  My worst, and frankly only, serious injuries have been from bolters.  ** knock on wood **

So.. I was a tad nervous about riding the mare who appeared to be charging through a rather strong bit.

I got on after barn owner didn’t die. I was sweating bullets.

She’s a nice horse. Difficult ride. She really wants to lean on the bit and then rush through it. I felt like she could bolt off with you in a wide open setting.

A lot of half-halt/release. More of a soft “no, here” and then let her be while you controlled the rhythm with your posting. Then she was fine.

She has a hard time bending through her body. It was really easy for her to find ways to evade bending through her body. She had several tricks all planned out and ready in waiting. It was actually kind of fun to see if I had more tricks then she had evasions for.

And, nope. Not that day. I couldn’t get her to respond to the left leg correctly without a whip and I didn’t want to carry a whip unless I felt I had more brakes. Catch twenty two. Probably would’ve been fine, but new horse.. new rider. I’ll tackle it next time.

I was assured she becomes more level headed the more consistently she’s worked.  I bet she’s a blast in consistent work. She’s actually a really cute mover. I think she’s flat because she’s stiff. I bet that trot becomes quite stunning when she’s relaxed and supple (pictures don’t do it justices. moves better in person)

 

They had a slow twist snaffle on her. I’m always really nervous with stronger bits. I’m a decent rider, but I do have a tendency to snatch at the bit when I get scared. And since I get nervous on new horses, I really prefer the softer flat snaffles to limit the damage done if I get startled and snatch. I did snatch this mare once. She kicked a rock up into the metal gate  and it startled her. I snatched. She immediately came to a dead halt and did a little mini-rear to voice her displeasure. I felt bad.  Poor mare.

Anyway, I got done riding both horses and on the drive home I was thinking to myself “Why would anyone let me ride their horse? I suck!”

And then I get a text from my friend with the 5 year old asking me if I can ride her young gelding again and saying that the barn owner really liked how I handled her mare. It was so nice to hear!

 

Snubbed

I went to two different clinics this weekend.  

The first clinic was a western dressage clinic. Quite interesting to hear about the differences in tack and attire.  There was a lecture by an r judge (I think little r). The fundamentals stressed were similar to regular dressage.  They had demo rides of the tests while the judge explained what they were looking for and what we were looking at.  There were some astonishingly great movers in that clinic. 

The whole atmosphere was laid back.  People laughed and clapped,  and there was an overall sense of comradery. I was almost a convert by the end.  If only I didn’t hate western saddles so much. 

It was very well run and I had a lot of fun,  even if I did freeze solid. 

Oh,  did you know bitless is allowed in western dressage?  Now my neighbor has no excuse not to try it.  Haha  

The second clinic I went to was a normal dressage clinic.  I had asked the owner a month ago if I could audit. She had sent me “all” the  info,  but neglected to mention that there was a cost to audit.  They approached me two rides in and said it was $20 for all day,  or $5 per ride.  I was already on the hook for $10 by then,  so i paid for the whole day.   I was a little taken aback by the situation. Nothing posted anywhere.  No one by the door. They acted like I snuck in and tried to “steal”  something from them. Why is it so difficult for people to post/share this information up front? 

The ladies sitting next to me were friendly.  The clinician was good.  I was freezing.  Several riders appeared to have never heard of the idea of moving away from leg pressure.  It was interesting to see how the clinician helped the rider and horse without the rider ever needing to actually move the horse off an inside leg aid.  Some really nice moving horses.  Appeared to be mainly students of the barn owner riding in the clinic. 

I got some great ideas for Joy’s training that I think will help her with her tension.  A lot of hot,  nervous horses in the clinic,  which is what I expect joy will be like when I take her somewhere.  So hopefully this gives me a few more tools to use. 

There was a heavy draft horse working toward flying changes,  and it was quite interesting to see how different the horse looked when truly energized and rider controlled the energy.  It went from plow horse to more of a second level looking horse in seconds.  Quite neat.  

During a break,  I walked up to the barn owner and clinician and asked if they were going to have any more clinics this year. The barn is near my house and I thought he’d be a great clinician to take Joy to.  But when I asked if they would be having another clinic this year all they did was shrug.  Literally shrugged. And then they ignored me.  So I walked away.

Screw it. I’ll find someone else to ride with. 

Maybe these clinics are only for her students.  Apparently the details are hush hush,  because no one except the Arab people sitting next to me would talk to me (they didn’t know either). 

I found it ironic the difference in atmosphere between the two clinics though.  I’m normally the first person trying to sell the “dressage people are friendly! ” speil,  but that second clinic sure didn’t feel like it to me.  I felt like an interloper who got caught stealing the tip jar or soemthing.  

Left Lead Canter

I had the best left lead canter depart I’ve ever had on Joy before!  It was almost like a grown up canter depart!!  Not only was she correctly bent,  but she stepped into it from the right hind.  It was awesome! 

The right lead canter depart was very good too,  but that one has been coming along fairly well.  This is the first time for the left lead.  First time off a straight leg aid canter cue (no voice cue),  first time with correct bend,  first time not launching herself from the forehand…

It was so good I just halted her and got off.  

She’s getting stronger!! 

Pics of Joy,  ’cause she’s cute. 

Not so cute here…


My two second braid job… Wanted to see if a running braid would stay in while working. Worked okay. 

2016 Year in Review

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write as the”year in review” type of post that I normally do. I don’t feel like we made any progress toward anything. Not riding, not trailering, not showing, not toward lessons…

I was so gung-ho this spring. I had it all planned out. I was going to take lessons, start hauling Joy to new venues, hit a couple of shows…  but then it came to a grinding halt when she mysteriously came up lame in May. It took nearly three months to resolve that. After that, it was like starting over. I had a butter ball pony that had regressed back to a scaredy cat anywhere off the immediate property (even on the next-door neighbors property).

I spent the remainder of the year in a “Screw it” mentality. No expectations, no pressure, no goals that would drive me insane when I didn’t hit them. I focused on increasing Joy’s suppleness, attempted to get that hind end directly behind her instead of off to the left, and help her find a better balance.

I spent more time with Ava. Ava’s feet were finally grown out enough from the bout of laminitis that I could start working her again. I put my time into increasing Ava’s fitness to see if I could get her back into some semblance of “dressage” shape. And even if dressage wasn’t possible, we were still having fun crashing through trails and galloping around the fields.

Things were going swimmingly with Ava. She was getting more and more fit. She went from barely able to trot more than 100 yards in early spring, to galloping the entire length of the field by end of fall.

December hit and Ava went lame again. I thought it was laminitis, again… that weird stance.. but by day two it seemed to oddly be affecting only one leg.

Abscess.

 

So, overall, a rather unproductive year with lots of annoying problems. And I have the dubious honor of experiencing my first abscess. So there’s that.

Here’s hoping 2017 is a bit more productive!!

Joy’s Year in Review Video Recap (6:33 mins long):

 

Goals for 2017

  1. Lessons
    1. I have a line on a local instructor who has agreed to (try to) help me this spring.
    2. I’m going to go watch a friend take a few lessons this winter (better than nothing until I can haul the pony there).
  2. Fitness
    1. I’m going to work on increasing my overall fitness and decrease my weight.
    2. I need at least 30 minutes of cardio 5x a week.
    3. I need to increase my flexibility and symmetry (greatly) so that I stop falling to the right.
  3. Get Out and About
    1. Get Joy hauling safely.
    2. Start hauling Joy off property
    3. Start taking Joy to lessons.
    4. Take Joy to at least one small show
    5. Take Ava to one of the state parks for a group trail ride with friends.
  4. Tack Room
    1. Figure out how to prevent all my tack from molding!!!
  5. Arena
    1. Increase length of arena
    2. Continue work on making it somewhat level

Struggle Bus

I can’t seem to do anything dressage related right lately.  Not even a little.  

The more I pushed Joy for forward,  the stronger my hands got.  The stronger I got,  the more Joy ran through the bit and acted out in frustration.  Then I got frustrated and pushed harder! 

We fought.  

It’s entirely my fault. I don’t understand why my arms have to become steel rods of tension.  Ugh! 

I decided to only focus on keeping Joy’s head right in front of her shoulders while I worked on circles and bending exercises.  This mentally helped me relax my death grip and helped Joy relax. 

Once I had Joy less tense, I tried the forward/back exercises again.  I wanted to try to keep her as truly straight as possible on the forward part,  so that we had a better chance of actually getting the hind involved directly under us (not side to side,  like she likes). However, my arena is the size of a 20m circle.  Not much room.  She’s small though,  so I was able to get a few, short straight lines where I felt like she stepped up through the bit.  It was just for a few seconds here and there… but it was all I could get for the time being.  I tried forward on a curved line,  and I just can’t keep her shoulders or haunches from either popping out or swinging in.  

My little arena is not so good for straight lines. The noticeable slope doesn’t help either.  

It hasn’t stopped snowing for days.  We have at least a foot of snow now,  and another 10 inches projected for the next 2 days.  It was 50’s and beautiful last week.  Now its 25 degrees and there’s a shit ton of snow on the ground.  
I had hubby plow out the arena so I could ride.  Poor hubby froze!  🙁😨

The footing wasn’t as good as i had hoped, but the more we rode over the same spots,  the better the footing got.  Still a bit slick in areas.  We may not be able to do much at the trot or canter for the next several months,  but we can at least work on bendy lines and some basic stuff.  

Might also be a good time to work on our trail riding skills again,  since a fall into a foot of snow probably won’t hurt too much.  Haha

Other things:

Before the snow… We worked on picking up the canter from Shoulder-in going left,  and haunches-in going right.  This gave us decent departs from light aids.  I was very encouraged by it.  I am suspecting that a large part of our canter issues are due to tension.  The more tense Joy gets the more her hind end swings left.  Keeping her in either SI or HI seemed to help a lot.  She wasn’t able to hold the canter,  but for about 5 strides it was really nice!   The other benefit was it kept me straight and more aware of where my body was. I realized at one point that I was attempting to launch my body to the inside in a desperate attempt to shove/drag her into a right lead canter.  

Totally elegant and immensely productive for dressage.  /sarcasm

The take away was that I need to focus on keeping her relaxed,  and when she gets tense I need to move to something else to do rather than keep hammering at the canter.  Also need to stop throwing my upper body around when I ask for the canter. 

List of things i need to do:

Stay off her face,  keep her in front of the leg,  keep the hind end under us,  keep her head and neck in line with her shoulders,  keep the shoulders straight, keep my upper body straight, keep Joy relaxed and soft… And voilà, we’ll have great canter departs!!

Nooo problem!  lol! 

We’re working on walk pirouttes,  and I think they’re coming along nicely.  Left is easy,  right requires a bit more finesse to get her bent.  We can do quarter turns on a smallish circle without losing the rhythm or tempo (usually).  Half circles are still a bit beyond us at this time. Everything kind of falls apart if I ask for more than a quarter turn. 

And totally unrelated to dressage, but when i hop off she no longer shuffles around and backs up as if she lost her balance and had to scramble to catch it.  Always made me feel like a fat ass when she did that.  Now she’s just “Get OFF tubby! ”  and stands solidly while i dismount.  

I’ve got a line on a trainer not too far from me who said she’d give me some lessons this spring.  I wanted to take Joy to my regular trainer,  but the pony doesn’t haul well,  and the 2 hours each way is a bit much to ask at this stage.  Especially since I have no idea what I’ll unload at the other end.  She could see a new place and have her mind implode. I have no idea what to expect…  But this local trainer is nice,  low key,  and has non-traditional horses,  so I won’t have the added (irrational) fear of being judged for showing up with a mutt pony and horrid riding position.  It’s less pressure on me. I can just focus on getting the pony through the lessons in a new place as best as I can.  

We’ll see.  It’ll be an adventure! 

. . . . . . . . . . . . 

Joy was feeling rambuncious yesterday.  Made for a pretty picture.  I rode her right after taking these pics and not even one little step wrong.  She’s such a saint of a pony.