Monday, 20 November 2017

Undampened Spirits


Whose brilliant idea was it to bring Midge home during the worst weather months of the year? Oh yeah, mine!

Saturday...

And Sunday...
What's annoying is this happened last weekend, too. Also, our cat finds this weather far too exciting and keeps us up all night while he runs around trying to watch the rain drops and blowing debris he can see thru the windows. I'm hopeful this means that if something weird happens like a break in or house fire he'll wake us up then too, but...cats...I don't know, he could just enjoy torturing us.

Still, we made it out for our Friday night ride in the indoor and had a good ride. Saturday, I opted to combine fitness and jumping with the following:

It sounds impressive when I say she was so into it she was jumping the standards, but these particular ones are abnormally short!

While my goals of setting up some legit courses with spooky things and XC type elements are still a fail, but at least since the arena is huge we were able to gallop around at XC pace and loop around to pop over these at a reasonable speed off alternating reins. Midge was super into it, and super honest about the barrels too. She was huffing and puffing by the time we called it a day, so that's a win for pony fitness improving.

I need for the weather to cooperate slightly one of these weekends so that I can get a proper course set up. The other trick with sharing this particular arena is that you can't leave things set up when you're not using them, so I basically need to have a lot of free time or a helper to help set up and take things down. Bridget is very patient, but unfortunately lacks opposable thumbs to really help me out :)

Even with the weather, daylight, and boarding amenities challenges, I'm loving being back home and still obsessively scheming about ways to make it permanent.

I'm loving these little dollar store reflective bands. They work really well on my stirrups on these dark days and don't get in the way at all. I need a pic of the whole ensemble, Midge has a red LED bike light for her tail and everything! Looking at this, I am also reminded that I need to just give up the pretense of adult length stirrup leathers already, lol

Due to technical difficulties, no lesson this week on Audrey, although I was asked if I'd mind taking her out Tuesday for some exercise since my coach can't ride that day.  Of course! I love riding Ms Audrey, but honestly I think it might be good for me to ride without me worrying about my coach who is also her owner/rider watching me. I do worry I will mess her lovely mare up and put extra pressure on myself because even though I know she wouldn't put me on her if she didn't think it was a good match, the negative voice in my head worries she'll see how bad I am and take away the offer to ride! (For the record, I do know she'd never do that...as long as I try and I show up and want to learn she'll help me!)

Friday, 17 November 2017

Night Rider

While I appreciate having a safe and clean place to board, it's pretty rustic. I'm good with sacrificing rider amenities if the pony is happy, which she is, but it does create some challenges. This time of year is the hardest. It's dark by the time I'm done work, and more often than not it's raining too.  Midge's paddock and shelter area doesn't have any lighting, and the barn is not set up to groom or tack up inside. So, once I catch Midge, I need to bring her out front of the barn where there's a couple of motion sensor lights, and tack up there. It's not too bad, but it admittedly stinks when it's dark and pouring rain!
Not so bad tacking up here in the daylight


Modest shelter on the back of the barn, but clean and dry and comes with a giant paddock of her own. No lights, though!

Next, we head out for a 10min ride down a very dark rural road. Our reflective gear is working great, and I've added a headlamp now too. So far the drivers have been super respectful of us. I always make sure to thank them for slowing down to pass. Midge is obviously a star, because the road passes some farmland, then a small scrap metal place and car repair place, then through a forested park and farmers market venue, and finally to our riding club grounds - it's not really a peaceful country hack on the best of days. The other night it was super windy and rainy and stuff at the metal place was blowing over and crashing down in the dark, poor Midge, but she still walked past like a trooper.

Headlamp is actually pretty bright!

And, most shockingly of all, once we arrive at the indoor, she's been nothing but fantastic! She's quite up and spooky of late, but she'll happily channel the energy, and she actually wants to get out and work right now. Is this my pony? If so, perhaps the indoor really is magical?


We've been making great progress in our counter canter departs. I no longer need to exaggerate my aids when asking, and she's not getting flustered any more. She totally understands what I'm asking now and will happily pick up either lead from walk. She's not balanced enough to counter canter reliably around the short side of the indoor, but we can work up to that outside with bigger loops and sweeping turns. I've also made progress with simple changes through walk and trot, changing as close to the centerline as possible on either a serpentine or figure eight pattern. Finally, wow do I have a lot of trot right now! The big cob trot is back and I'm loving it. Going back and reestablishing forward on a longer contact has worked wonders. I'm starting to play again a bit with containing and collecting it, just a few strides at a time, and she seems to "get it" and is game to try...the whole slowing down and sucking back thing seems to have gone away and she's pushing and keeping a steady tempo all on her own.
G must have taken these, because I found one the blurry riding pic from the paragraph above, plus about 20 various photos of Midge's nose, like this one,  on my phone just now. Love that he tries :)

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

EC Lesson Recap: Audrey 11/14/2017

Backstory possibly needed if you're not a frequent reader: I'm still working on the lower coast 2 to 3 days a week. While I'm there, I'm taking a lesson once a week on my coach's showing third level/GP prospect baby. Bridget has moved home with me, and I'm trying to take what I learn and apply it back on her for the remainder of the week.

We're making slow progress! Last night, rather than hating on me/my riding, Ms Audrey opted to just "tell mom" on me, annoying person that I am :)

Obligatory dark and blurry wash rack pic


If I had any sort of ego/pride in my riding abilities, these would be tough lessons - I feel like I need to learn to ride all over again, and Audrey agrees with that assessment and is not shy about letting me know how badly I stink at this riding thing. Since I simply want to improve, I'm luckily just frustrated in the why-will-my-body-not-obey-my-brain sort of way.

Highlights: some really nice walk-canter-walk transitions. She's A LOT more sensitive and fussy than B, so I know I was getting it right.

Lowlights: 15m canter circles that featured a lead change more often than not. Yours truly apparently weights my outside seatbone now and then on a canter circle. I think I was doing this in an attempt to block her outside shoulder which falls out on the left, and she took that to mean I wanted a change. Also, I am sitting up and taking the reins back towards my body a little as I turn, really confirming to her that I might want to collect and possibly a lead change is coming. We finished with on a good note, but I have a lot of work to do.

Meh: I'm still getting a feel for where she needs to be between my aids. She's a REALLY supple, wiggly, big moving mare, and it's hard right now for me to feel what a working trot or even walk should be on her. Luckily, I'm OK with keeping her straight thanks to B's wiggly ways, but I'm tending to add in too much power and verging closer to medium gaits. She needs only 50% throttle where what I'm used to might need 80% encouragement to sit and get those hind legs under :)

One of these things is not like the other, lol

So, I feel a bit like I'm learning to ride all over again. There are moments where I'm not staying with her, moments where my body is just in the wrong place, moments where I'm intimidated by her big reactions to my little movements. but, most of all, I'm excited for this opportunity to ride her. She's fantastically talented, but not easy and not everyone's cup of tea. As I've said before here though, my life goals = learning to ride a horse like this well. That can't happen if I don't try to learn how! Luckily, at heart she's a very forgiving mare, and even though she has a lot of opinions about a lot of things, I think this is a partnership that might work...eventually ;)

Monday, 13 November 2017

In Which I Just Ride My Horse

I grew up on the periphery of the horsey crowd here. As an adult, I have spent several years off and on here. Sometimes I'm more involved than others, but normally I'm pretty independent and preoccupied with my own goals.  That continues to be the case. I'm apparently so determined to keep Midge fit that I had a nightmare the other night where we were given 150 time penalties on XC, even though I was kicking every stride.


I've been riding in the dark, in the wind and rain, in an effort to get our dressage back to a happier place. I'm pretty sure my (lovely) barn mates think I'm nuts. Midge is pretty sure too, but since she's remarkably brave about hacking out after dark, we persist.

Worth noting: riding in the dark is excellent for feeling exactly what's going on underneath you. I actually think our best ride last week was when I took B for a good canter round the giant outdoor to start. I never did move inside where there were lights because things were going so well and I was really focusing on the important stuff for a change.

I did go to a social event the other day, where it was 50% wonderful to catch up with old friends, and 50% awkward. Why, why, WHY are horse people so nutty about talking the talk and pretending to be experts/better than everyone on all things horse? Message received guys, I'm on your turf again, I get it. But you are threatened (?) by an overweight adult ammy on a pony, WHY? Why am I even on your radar? I'm not sure I'll ever have patience for social games.

Midge continues to be an absolute star in the indoor arena. I'm not sure yet if it's because there are no distractions, or because the footing is so nice, but she's way more willing to relax over her topline and push from behind. Way more willing in that I pretty much never have her working that well elsewhere, and yet in the magic indoor it's rare she's NOT working through. Maybe I need to consider some shoes for her as a start?
Magic Indoor looks just like any other indoor

Today is supposed to be our jump day, but currently the wind is howling and the rain is pouring down. Fingers crossed, the storm passes before dark, the outdoor drains sufficiently, and we can fit in some jumping. Otherwise, the magic indoor is calling :)

I miss EC and the barn crew down there, but it's so, so nice to be home, even part time.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Season Wrap Up

Since we've moved further north temporarily, it's unlikely I'll be attending any more shows between now and the new year. My feelings about that are 60% "Yay, no more pressure!" and 40% "Where did the time go and what about those goals I had?!"

If I stop to think, I'm actually pleased with how the year went. No, we did not achieve any goals of moving up, but I think that was the right decision, and in no way reflects all the progress we made. We also spent way more time and money on lessons and clinics than shows this year, a decision I'm happy with.  I'll recap the detailed training progress closer towards the end of the year, since we still have lots of riding time, plus a couple more clinics and fun events coming up before then.

February:

-Lessons 2x week.
-Wendy Kristoff clinic.

March:

-Lessons 2x week.
-MREC Two Phase:
Dressage earned us our standard 65%. Midge was on fire for the jumping, and we did a second round at 2'6" that remains my favorite round of all time. A pretty green 5th place ribbon for our efforts!

No actual media from the round, because it was raining torrentially and probably no one but me and the jump judge were there to witness the brilliance, lol

April:

-Lessons 2x week.
-HTBC Spring XC Clinic.
Remember the clinic where she slept and bucked me off (I think 4 times in three days!) equally as much? Take home: The myth that they can't buck you off if they're going forward at speed is just that, a myth. Also, bucking while cantering on a steep downhill is pretty much guaranteed to get me off and way too easy a maneuver for fat ponies..

May:

-Lessons 1x week.
-SCEC Dressage %: 
This was not our best effort, and scored us a 60 and a 62 at 1-1
-SCEC Hunter/Jumper:
This was the one with the self appointed show manager being (IMO) a bit of a witch. Round 1, B was a star, I forgot the course! Round 2 went well, and I opted to end there due to not feeling the vibe because of the show organizer drama/insults. We do not attend these shows anymore.

Nope, this isn't going to go well. Dressage % day.

June: 

-Lessons 1x week.
-Clear Rounds Schooling show/clinic:
I had an attack of nerves at this one...looking back that May H/J show experience really got in my head. We did a couple of crossrail rounds, then some 2' successfully and called it a win. B was really behind my leg and a bit awful. I wanted to switch to dressage :)
-Pender Harbour XC Clinic.
B's ears are happier here. PH XC clinic.

July:

-Lessons 1x week.
-Campbell Valley XC Clinic.
-Canada Cup Dressage:
We did Training 2 and 3 here, and had the most fun ever. Scores ranged from 63 to 68% and we rode 6 tests over 3 days. Ribbons for every class, all first or seconds, added to the dream like feel of that weekend!
It wasn't all perfect, lol. Is it sad that this is my current favorite show picture? It's just so...us.

August:

-Lessons 1x week
-Campbell Valley Horse Trials:
67% dressage test, a few time penalties xc, and a clear show jumping. Midge got 3rd place in a really large division. Such a nice surprise!
I was reading this magazine last weekend and saw Bridget and myself's results hidden in there among all the big names and show results. It pleased me far more than it maybe should have...thanks for supporting the all the levels, Horse Sport magazine!

Sept:

-Lessons 1x week

October:

-Nada
Some happy hacking was had instead

November/December:

-Lessons 1x week on Audrey
-PRTR Group Ride ( Bridget)
-Becky Martens clinic (Bridget)
-Sarah Bradley clinic (Bridget)

Monday, 6 November 2017

Believe

Today was a hard day for me. The whole working from home thing experienced some tech issues last week, so there was a lot of pressure to fix things and catch up on projects today. Then we had some last minute "scheduling issues" meaning my schedule is already changed and I am here 4 days this week instead of the planned 3. One more day off won't  hurt the Bridget pony, right? There are also rumblings from some at work that things weren't properly approved higher up and I should not be "allowed" to work from home part time at all. Gotta love corporate structure. Then, as I left for the night, I got a sort of dismissive email response regarding the job I applied for in my hometown. So, I'm feeling pretty down and out. I try my best at everything I do and I don't like feeling that my best is not good enough.

B cares not what anyone thinks or how much work there is to do...I need to follow her example!

Of course, this being a horse blog, the above does tie in to tonight's story, I promise.

My lesson tonight was on Audrey, and was the circle of death revisited. While we warmed up, EC and I discussed my wish to just be able to live like a normal person: work, ride my horse, have dinner with my husband, you know, living in the same town and stuff. I mentioned needing to be patient in hopes I can make it work with my current job, but also wishing for a Plan B, just in case I reach the breaking point. EC has been encouraging me to re-consider doing the horsey thing full time for quite a while, and re-voiced her opinion that I'd be good at coaching at that she'd happily mentor me - there's a huge gap/opportunity in my home town for lessons and boarding and it's close enough geographically that we could work together a bit.

She's a pretty awesome human, because right then I went from being really discouraged to feeling good about life. I'm not sure horses as a job is a direction I need to explore, or even if it really would be something I'd be good at, but some days you really just need to know someone out there believes in you!

Ohhh, you said to teach the barn rats to ride, not the barn cats.

Then, of course, I rode like sh!t. Like epically bad, maybe the worst ever in my life. And pony took full advantage. And rather than fixing it, I went right back to "I can' t do anything right, why do I even try...oh my goodness what is wrong with me....blah blah blah...maybe just being in a fetal position and not actually steering is the answer? No? Then obviously I am out of options and useless at this..." :)

I wanted to cry. Instead, I did my best to let it go, and listen to EC's advice. I sucked it up, disciplined the naughty pony, owned that circle of death,  and then tried to make it look good. Mostly, I think I just needed to get out of my head and actually believe I could ride Audrey through whatever was coming, because once I got it, it was easy.

Cantering 4 poles on the ground wasn't really the goal of the lesson. But, mentally that's where I was at today, so when I found that small success, that's where I opted to finish. I'm embarrassed that I kind of fell to pieces today, but grateful for all those (like my coach) that believe I can, even as I fail miserably!

Thank you to all the coaches out there who are helping their students with a lot more than simply teaching the mechanics of riding. I know mine earned her money tonight!

Tomorrow's another day...onwards and upwards, right?

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Frozen

It's official - I'm a West Coast wimp again. It's been frozen outside the last few days and I just can't even cope.
That puddle had ice in it and everything;)

Step 1 was digging out winter clothes, step 2 was actually going to the barn and riding. It's amazing how much more motivated I am when I know that I'll be away part of next week and unable to ride. Because really, I'd rather be inside by the fire with a good book.
I borrowed G's phone and found a picture of from last weekend of Lily the mini for Cathryn! Ignore me, I am not a fan of pictures being taken, but Lily is so cute I'm sharing it. Also, wow I make that mini look tall.

But, I've got to say, Bridget has been SO FUN. I don' know if it's the change of scenery or the weather, but she's so happy and sassy that I can't help but smile for most of my rides. She's hot and spooky and really interested and looking for a job. I like it!

Happy ears

I was practicing lead changes thru trot and walk and I did a couple yesterday and then she was ON IT - like "here let me go, don't make me walk, I want to change leads NOW!" Ummm...since when is being ambitious in any way part of her make up?!

In some ways, I've been doing my homework. In others, I've been leaving things alone. B has been super awful in the contact the last few months...which coincides with us wanting her to be rounder and more collected. Its resulted in a pretty frustrated pony. I'm told this awkward stage is somewhat normal, but, ughhh, im tired of arguing. Its been a struggle, and I don't know, I just have a feeling we need to step back.

So, I've been riding her in a more open frame (read: my reins are about 3" longer than acceptable in our dressage lessons) and just making sure we can be forward and relaxed still, because those were both starting to suffer. Yesterday, by the end of my ride, she felt so amazing...evenly forward and pushing into a nice steady contact, with the feel that I could ask for more and immediately get it.  And, so round and soft! Funny how when I change the focus the rest falls into place so easily. It was tempting to ask for that little bit more, but meh, it felt right to leave it there - I'm not sure I remember the last time she felt so good. I'm pretty sure this is not what my coach would have me doing, but I'm equally sure she's open to alternate ideas and me problem solving on my own.
What even is this picture? lol

We also went for a nice hack this week, and played with the circle of death and some little jumps too. So much fun. I truly think we were both bored of our previous routine and getting a bit burnt out.
Proof of COD, also long reins.

And with that, week one of our new schedule is in the books. I feel like it's been successful so far. B is feeling better than I've ever felt, and seems to be loving the variety and change of pace. Crossing all my fingers and toes that I can keep B this interested and involved in the future...it's so much more fun for us both.

Next up: B gets Monday and Tuesday off while I travel back south for work. But, I'll still be riding, another circle of death lesson at EC 's, on Audrey, this time no stirrups. #GonnaDie
... At least I practiced on Bridget today?