Wednesday, 24 May 2017

A Fun Lesson

I know I keep saying I'm going to take all the jumping lessons, but my resolve is weakening with every fantastic dressage lesson we have. It's not that the jump lessons aren't good, it's just we both find dressage a bit easier, I think.

Last night, we started with trot/halt/trot transitions. Pretty simple concept, Midge just needs to come back and go forward when asked, also stay straight and keep her hind end under her. This particular exercise is krytonite for her, and a great way to check in and see what sort of evasion is the go to for the day. Last night. B was NOT impressed about not being able to suck back, wiggle,  plow through my aids, or just generally not being allowed to llama. So basically, she just couldn't horse at all. Yay :) On the plus side, after 2 years of these shenanigans in various forms, I feel like I have a ton of tools in the toolbox and can be patient and ride the horse I want until B decides that she can be that horse and meet me half way.

As promised, more subpar pics that have nothing to do with today's content

Sure enough, in about 15min or so, the good Midge appeared. Once the transitions became light and reliable, we added in some more work on our walk pirouettes. Right now, we just do half turns usually, essentially turning until just before I feel like I'll lose the bend, then we walk out and repeat.  This worked well with the trot/halt/trot exercise because it got her thinking straighter through her shoulders and also using that pesky inside hind to step up under a bit more. So fun - I know it's been years in the making, but seriously, it's still a novelty to me that Midge can and will move all those body parts where we ask, when we ask.

Building on that, we moved up to canter/walk/canter transitions. Since B isn't legit strong or experienced enough to do these correctly if we ask straight up, what we do is spiral the canter in until it's as tiny as I can make it, then pop down into a collected walk. So, essentially using the exercise to keep her balanced enough to make the nice walk transition possible.  Then, spiral back out and canter, using as few collected walk steps as possible...the walk is there to rebalance her and give us the good transition/good canter we need.
One of the few pics where I'm not headless, at least

I'm excited, because we actually pulled this off a few times in each direction and it felt easy! We finished with some 20m canter circles playing with shoulder and haunches in. This, of course, was harder for us both, but still, the pony is starting to feel pretty maneuverable in canter. We've made huge progress in building a canter on my little trotting cart pony, and there are whole minutes now of a big, bouncy, dressage worthy canter. While I have to say if I could go back in time I'd probably save myself a ton of work and start with a horse that can canter, I'm lucky in that B actually had a decent canter hiding in there...she just needed to learn to use it and I needed to learn how to teach her.
Another flying potato pony picture. I look like perhaps I didn't quite have faith the potato would leave the ground ;)

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Long Weekend Recap

In which we spend the entire weekend loving life at the barn, and discover my phone camera is actually incapable of taking a decent picture.
It's a picture of us! Sort of...

I was having a slight pity party for myself last week, as pretty much everyone else in the barn was headed to Mustang Powder/Chase Creek for their back to back horse trials. Essentially, 2 events run back to back over 4 days. The idea might sound a little weird for those of you with a regular event calendar, but given the distances we travel to show, the chance to compete twice in one trip actually makes a lot of sense here. I was having a bit of a pity party because:

1. The event only offers divisions at Entry (I think that equates to somewhere around US Novice level) and above. I'm pretty much the only person in the barn not yet competing at that level. Go, me.

2. Barn rates are going up, making me reconsider whether I could afford to attend such events anyway. My spending priority in attempting to be a better rider remains lessons > than competitions. But competitions are such a fun thing to go to with my barn :(
Fuzzy pics > no pics. We jumped Saturday and it was fun :)

Anyway, I showed up to feed the horses Friday morning and it took me all of 5 minutes to realize I was more than happy to be home with the horses. There's nothing better than a nice quiet morning at the barn, particularly when the sun is shining! Our barn is so busy and competitive that it's easy to get a bit caught up in it all. This weekend of being there early to feed and having the place pretty much to myself was a great reminder of where I find the most joy in this whole crazy horse thing. I'm happiest when I'm more involved in their day to day care, when I have a nice quiet arena to ride in, and very little in the way of a schedule to follow. Don't get me wrong, I love the lessons and chance to compete too, but not on the same level as the rest of it. I'm very driven to always be better as a rider and horseperson, so the lessons and competitions are more the means to that end rather than my reason for owning a horse :)
We dressaged a little on Sunday, also fun.

This weekend, I was on a mission to get tons of media. And...I did. However, the vast majority of it stinks. I set up my phone and tablet cameras in hopes of getting video, and back up video. Video #1 deleted itself before I could even watch it. Video #2 was not at the best angle, and was fuzzy and grainy despite my setting it to max resolution, and 'sport' mode. No problem, though, because G stopped by to say hi on Sunday, so I put him to work taking actual pics. But, I forgot that he's the worst at taking pictures. I love him, and love that he tried, but yeah, fuzzy zoomed in pics of our (large) bottoms are not being posted here. Also, it seems even a beautiful sunny day is not enough to make either camera take overly clear images. I've been cursing the lighting all winter, seems the issue is actually the iPhone and Galaxy tablet cameras are not up to the task of taking pictures of moving objects. I know what I'm asking for for my birthday! Until then, I've got 100 or so not so good pictures from this weekend. And, fair warning,  I plan to use them here until a new camera finds its way to me.
Bridget is ashamed for me

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Week 8

Sorry, Midge. Your booty is still a little too large.

Saturday: Best barn rat took her for a hack

Sunday: B's day off

Monday: Best jump lesson

Tuesday: Vaulting

Wednesday: Flatwork plus a fitness hack. The hills are getting easier for her!

I legit tried to get media...but forgot to up the resolution enough for how far away I need to put the camera. Sorry, fuzzy pics for you
Thursday: Another day off. No excuses, I felt lazy and knew we'd be busy all weekend 

Friday: Flatwork with cross poles...working on our lesson homework and finding our consistent pace through related distances. 

Looking forward: It's a long weekend! Had a great ride this morning, planning a long trail ride tomorrow and a jump school Monday. Our rotten wet spring just forced the cancellation of our event on the first weekend of June. They're doing a combined test with a derby course instead. I'm still tempted, but really there's only so much money to go around and the travel costs are at least $250 every time we go. Hard to justify when they hold combined tests all winter and the novelty isn't really there. There's a local show mid June, but I'm still holding a grudge, apparently I am more PO'd than I originally thought. Im turning into an old grump :) There's a dressage % day that might tempt me, but really, besides lessons, our calendar is looking pretty empty for the next month or so.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Saddle Saga Update

We still haven't found a jump saddle, so I thought I'd put together a list of everything we've tried that worked or didn't and why. I'd like to think we've been exceptionally unlucky (3 of the 4 used saddles I've had shipped to me have had twisted trees, 2 of them to the point they probably shouldn't be common is that really?) On the flip side, we've been super lucky in that all my long distance dealings have been good and my money has been refunded promptly, The vast majority of these saddles were lent by friends in an effort to try as many saddles as we could, I'm very lucky to have such a great barn family! Anyway, here's a list, in no particular order. Enjoy :)

17" Jeffries Elite W
Me: would have liked a 17.5" in this one, but would have made do. The overall well used condition of it killed the sale.
Bridget: slightly too narrow. but adjustable by saddler.
Other: website says you can purchase new in an XW. Repeated inquiries to the manufacturer and dealer have gone unanswered. This makes me nervous - if they're not motivated to make a sale, then how motivated will they be to provide customer service if anything goes wrong?

17.5" County Sensation MW
Me: Love. So much love. We're using this one while we search for 'our' saddle.
Bridget: Too narrow, but shape is good and the shoulders are gusseted, so she's happy enough.
Other: Cannot find this used in a  W/XW anywhere on earth. Can't afford the 6k for a new custom one.

18" HDR Rivella rotate to fit
Me: This rode really small. Like, too small for me.
Bridget: Thought it was fine.
Other. The way the tree adjusts makes me nervous, quality seemed a bit off...this one was almost new and the tree was twisted.

17" Antares Spooner W
Me: Love the open seat and nice sticky leather. Also, the flaps are an appropriate size for my short legs. Want.
Bridget: Way too narrow.

17" Stubben Roxane XW

Me: Had hopes because I loved my Juventus S, But nope, nothing about this worked for me.
Bridget: This tree is bananas! So curvy for my flat backed pony, although the width worked.

17.5" County Innovation W

Me: Don't love as much as the Sensation, but I'd settle.
Bridget: the panels are slightly the wrong shape, too angled. The Sensation fits her shape better, so we'll say the Innovation is a no go.
Other: This is a barn mate's saddle, so not for sale anyways.

Thorowgood/Kent & Masters:
Didn't even bother trying, check out how much wider B is than their XXW gullet:
the top pencil line is her. they would need to make a gullet 2 sizes larger than the XXW

18" County Stabilizer W

Me: too big for me, and the forward flap is too forward. Would like in a smaller size.
B: Slightly narrow, but OK. The length of it is the bigger problem for her.
Other: This could work in a smaller seat size. This is the other saddle we regularly borrow and ebay search while we look for our own.

Bates jump saddle/Wintec jump saddle:

Don't know the details on these, they were forgotten in the tack room by someone long ago, I just know the wide gullet wasn't wide enough and we put them on B and she was NOT a fan of the CAIR panels,
tabletop, now with dapples.

HDR 17.5 "Advantage W

Me: Ick. The flaps were SO long and weird.
B: Bucked me off 2 times. We borrowed this last minute for a XC clinic, after my saddle was deemed unusable. I knew this one didn't fit the best, so I deserved it.

17" Pessoa A/O W
Me: Meh. Would like a more forward flap and/or a 17.5" seat
B: Too narrow.
Other: these come in an adjustable tree, but I have a feeling even the XW plate won't be wide enough.

On my radar:

Am getting someone to measure the Pessoa XW XCH plate to see if it's even worth trying. Done. She's so much wider it's ridiculous.
Am trying to get someone to look at Bridget's tracings vs an XW Stubben Portos...the tree looks flatter and I know their XW is wide enough.
Prestige supposedly sells wide enough, as does Harry Dabbs. Now, to just get my tracings to the right person, or at least find one in a suitable size that is available locally for a quick trial.
Black County. Should work, but no local/Canadian dealers I can find.

On my "buy it if I find it in my budget" list:

-Newer county anything in an XW tree, Preferably a Stablizer or Sensation. Consider a W tree if fitter agrees she can adjust it.
-Jeffries anything in an XW tree. Again, possibly a W if fitter is happy with condition and adjusting it.
-HDR RTF saddles, we know they fit B, so if I could find one dirt cheap that's usable I'd use it while we search for the perfect saddle and take my chances on it dying :)
That was exhausting.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

TBT: Green Pony

Once upon a time, I had a new pony named Bridget. And, once upon a time, I was much better about documenting my rides. I've been slowly transferring all the old pictures off my phone, and came across a few from a couple of years ago that part of me would like to delete. It was B's first winter under saddle, and B was not happy with having to work for a living. I was instructorless and making progress in the " I think that was a mistake I shall never repeat again" kind of way. I'm lucky she didn't buck or rear often a la the traditional idea of a green, naughty pony, but oh my goodness, the stuck, lazy, lack of work ethic thing just about defeated me more than once.  Where these moments used to form 50% or more of our rides, now they're a fairly rare event. And my sanity thanks the universe for that.

So, without further adieu, here are some photos documenting a small part of the adult ammy with a green pony mare struggle:

Turning, what's that? 
Look at me teaching her how to bulge through her shoulder. Go team ;)

Magnetic gate sucking us in

That shoulder again, and no clue what I think I'm doing about it.

Forward = so unfair!

What a lovely canter transition, but I was probably thrilled because at least it happened.

Increasing the difficulty by making it super crooked too. So much wow.

Can't even, competitive llama racing

Forward is hard, up is better

Can't even today.

I don't even know what this is. Angry trantering giraffe?

Game faces, doesn't B look happy to be cantering? ;)

"I hates you, cute cowboy. The answer remains NO! I did not sign up to work here"

Pro llama rider. This would have been a decent moment for us in the first month or so.

No idea what the context of this was, but sums up so many of our rides then.

Would I do it again?

Of course. I learned a ton, and B is a pretty solid lower level dressage and jumping pony now. But never again with the 'project pony for eventual resale' thing. The project has turned into years and work and will never leave :) Here's a couple of pics from the same era to illustrate part of the reason she stayed:
So cute..."I hate this cowboy, can we please go home now?" 

Potential to be cute under saddle too

Most important quality of all for a blog pony: ability to pose for photos.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Measurable Progress

I normally make a point of not measuring the jumps. Big = scary, small = easy, actual measurements of "big" and "small" probably vary widely on a daily basis. That's really all we need to know.

Bridget the pony and Cedar the poodle 'helping' set jumps last weekend,.

Curiosity got the better of me this morning and so I went out and measured the jumps from our lesson that I thought looked do-able, but big. The result? Belly button height! Most surprisingly, one of the fences I wasn't overly concerned about was actually taller that the one I was worried about. Weird.

I'm short, so belly button height actually equals exactly 1m, or 3'3". So, that not only means Bridget has more hops than I give her credit for, it also means that when I've been saying I've been jumping 2'6" courses as the current upper end of my comfort zone, I actually meant 3'. When I said we haven't been progressing, well, I lied. No wonder the course at the show a few weeks ago seemed so small and friendly LOL

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Love/Hate Thing

The past few months, I've been so close to forgetting the jump lessons altogether and just focusing on dressage. We can hop around 2'3" -2'6"ish on our own just fine, no stress, no worries, life is please tell me more about half pass and extended trot, I'm gonna be a dressage queen now, please and thank you!

Sounds reasonable, right? Ha, not so much. My actual reasons for not wanting to persevere with jumping lessons:

1. It's hard. Like, so hard. As an adult learning how, it's frustrating when my body just doesn't do what I ask. Dressage is just so much easier, and progress and results seem more easily obtained. I can feel what's right and what's wrong...whereas jumping just always feels a bit weird and not nearly so intuitive.

2. I'm (wisely) not as confident jumping as anything else. I know it's my weakest link, and I easily fall into thinking I just can't go higher, and/or I'll never improve, so why bother.

3. Pony. This is the lamest excuse of all, because Bridget is game. But, seriously, anything over 2'6" or so on a pony just feels and looks BIG.

4. We're in a good spot right now. As mentioned, we can jump small courses happily and confidently. Why  potentially push further and mess that up?

I'm such a head case.

Last night went like this:

EC: "Tack up in my jump saddle"
Me: "Oh shite"

Me: "The weather sucks. I'm cold. I'm still sick. I hope we're not jumping THAT course. Bridget is probably tired." Side note: B filled in on an emergency basis for one of the lesson ponies last night, and very carefully carted around a tiny child prior to my lesson. It was about the cutest thing I've ever seen, but B looked...less than motivated to move quickly, lol, and certainly would not have found their activities tiring in any way:)

Me: "Holy crap, B actually has a TON of energy tonight. What a good girl to behave for the small child. " Cue B trying to bolt and buck me off. Oh B, you are indeed a prize.

Me: "Oh my, those barrels that always worry me are the smallest thing on course. By a substantial amount. By, like at least half. I'm gonna die."

Me: First round: "OK, we survived"

Me: Second round: "Actually, I can do this"

Me: Third (even bigger) round: "Actually, this is fun"

Me: Fourth round: "Rawrr, Bridget get up to that jump! Come on, let's go! We own this thing!! Add strides are for small ponies, you've got this in 2!!"

I'm so ridiculous.

And...all the pics I wanted to use are on my tablet that I left at home last weekend. So you get memes and a crappy phone pic.

Take homes from this lesson:

- I can do this.
- It's fun.
- I need to make myself do this more often.

EC comments:

- B looked like she was having fun the entire time, and didn't quit once.

- I need to do more jump schools on my own. Even if it's tiny. Keep doing it until it doesn't take until halfway through the ride for me to be confident.

- Set up heaps of related distances and bounces until I am better about keeping a consistent pace through them. Poles on the ground if I really don't want to jump. No excuses.

-I should trust my instincts. I'm seeing the strides and where I want to be and I need to not second guess or underestimate myself or let Bridget tell me I'm wrong.

- With Bridget, if in doubt, pushing forward to the jump is always the answer.

 Of course, being the expert EC is in keeping me motivated to do all the things, I sense a super difficult dressage lesson coming my way in which I can do nothing but wrong ("See, look how fun jumping is! Don't you want to jump more?" Lol)