Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Clinic Day 1

Ever have one of those weekends where it seems like the world is against you? That would be the feeling I'm left with after this weekend's trip. 2 hour traffic jam? Check. Missed ferries? Yep. Horse missing shoe at last minute? Yes. Cold and rain each night of (tent) camping? Check. Dead battery on truck, unable to be boosted? (We left it unlocked at the campsite and the barn kids plugged in for lights and used our handy usb plug in to charge all their devices before we noticed...) Yep. Middle of nowhere with no roadside assistance? Yes. Freak snow in the mountain passes? Why not. I even caught a wicked cold to add to the fun. I'll spare you all the miserable details - we're home, everyone is fine, G didn't divorce me for taking him on the worst trip ever. We obviously didn't get a ton of pictures, since a dead truck battery meant no charging of phones or cameras. This makes me very sad, but there is a possibility the kids took some pics with their fully charged devices ;) Let's get to the riding part - which was more fun, but also a bit of a struggle.

When we arrived Thursday night I tacked Midge up and went for a quick hack around the grounds. The other horses were pretty wild and needed to stay in the ring, but Midge was a good girl so got to go splash in one of the water jumps and wander about the fields.  It's a huge place, but sadly the footing in much of it was not the best this year - the unrelenting wet of the coast has wet has apparently reached even the near desert of the interior of the province.
Still a beautiful place, just a bit grey and mucky.
Self explanatory

Midge being Midge, she settled into her little pole corral, ate her dinner, and made not a peep all night. I had an early morning lesson time, and Midge was so chill I needed help convincing her to get out of bed :)
Not that into it

Our lesson group was interesting. I had done the intro clinic last year, so signed up for starter/pre entry (I think that equates to Beginner Novice in the US). Since the clicicians do tend to have you school stuff above the level you signed up for, I was a little worried when I saw I'd been added to an Entry (Novice-ish) group, but I figured I would have to be brave and that it would be a good learning opportunity.

On the actual day, it seemed like our group was really inexperienced and struggling. We didn't actually get out of the arena, and I admit to being a little unhappy...in the hour and a half ride, Midge and I did maybe 10-15 min of warmup, and maybe another 15 of running through various jump exercises. The rest was standing around waiting and watching others work through stuff. I probably sound like a bad person, because obviously we've all been that person in the lesson and the instructor really had no choice but to focus on them for safety reasons. BUT I paid a lot of money and drove a long way for xc schooling, so I was disappointed.
 This WAS a very tricky exercise tho...not a lot of room for mistakes and requiring a very handy horse (or a not so handy pony, whichever;) The clinician used this as a starting point for all the levels...a great test of accuracy, steering and a stop and go button.

Luckily, I had scheduled our pace clinic directly after so we still had a chance to get out for a gallop. Midge, having used no energy in the previous 90 minutes, suddenly woke up, realized she was outside the arena, and went a little wild.  About halfway through our first lap, she randomly sucked back, I leaned forward and kicked...and she took offense, got her head down, bucked a few times, and bolted. And so I fell off. HARD. It hurt. I got back on, went two more times with some minor antics, and had some fun. Midge started to find a bit of a rhythm and was actually pulling most of the way. Fun pony, although naughty.

I'll end here with two separate questions I'd love to hear your thoughts on:

1. What do you do if you don't feel your clinic or lesson group is a good fit? Say something? Trust their judgement and just hope it's an off day?

2. Riding silly antics. I've been told to slip the reins to help avoid being pulled out of a secure position. Then kick forward. "They can't play if they're moving forward fast enough" I've also been told to sit deep, stay tall and strong, and no matter what, keep the horse's head up. The problem I'm having with option 1 is that most athletic horses are perfectly capable of continuing the silliness at speed. With option 2, an incredible amount of upper body strength is needed...particularly if your pony enjoys letting loose going down hills ;) What's your approach?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Nothing To See Here

I took a 4 day time out over the long weekend, and did absolutely nothing. It was amazing, and much needed!

My lounging and accompanying Netflix marathon were interrupted with an email from the barn - the schedule for our upcoming XC clinic weekend. Cool - except one small problem. WHY WAS I LISTED AS TAKING A TRAILER AND DRIVING HORSES? Cue panic, because the last time I trailered anything was about 10 years ago in a previous work life and there were no live animals involved. I had offered the use of my truck, but never offered to drive, surely this was a misunderstanding?
Random pics from last year's clinic

"It's OK, we'll give you and Barnmate A a Trailering 101 recap and you can help each other. It will be fine, we're all going in a convoy and we'll all help!"

I actually would have been OK with this if it was a local haul, but it's not. I get that with the entire barn (12 or so of 'our' horses plus a few more who normally trailer in to our barn for lessons)going we're running low on trailer space and drivers. I like to help out. I have a truck. BUT, it's a ferry ride, driving through the city, and then navigating many miles of mountain highway. About a 6 hour journey.

I knew I COULD technically do it, but the idea was keeping me up at night - I really, really would prefer to ease back into things in a less challenging way. Barnmate A is awesome, but this would be her first non local haul as well. I'm sure we could get it done together, but I just didn't feel that great about it.
Ginger and Bridget being bookends

I didn't mention my worries to G and tried to portray confidence. He was scheduled to work this weekend and I didn't want him worrying about me.  So, you can imagine how happy I was when he traded shifts without asking so that he could come along and drive with us. Most Supportive Partner Ever, Partner Least Trusting in Spouse's Driving Abilities, or Partner Most Concerned About Spouse Trashing The Truck? We'll go with the first option:) I'm still a little worried, but feeling much more confident knowing G can drive if needed.

So, on that note, let's add to my 2017 goals... to confidently drive the small trailer through the city!

T Minus 44 hours until departure!
Our reward will hopefully be sunshine and lots of fun!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Fitness Week 4, and So Busy!

I've been following everyone's adventures and meaning to respond to comments, but this week has just been insane as far as allowing me any down time. I appreciate the support, stories, and saddle suggestions immensely, thank you! This week I took a couple of extra barn shifts to allow for future absences, and my real job has been crazy too. I also haven't seen G in a month, so am escaping for the upcoming weekend for a trip home. with all that being said, Bridget still got boot camp!

I'm not a total meanie, she does get to stop for a treat before we head home

Friday: Jump school. She was forward and fun, and our rematch with the corner posed no issues.

Actual corner. Not tall, but wider and more open than B has seen before

Saturday: Spooky, amped up pony. I gave up on dressage and hit the trails for a fitness ride. 30 min high intensity with lots of hillwork, all in either trot or canter, remaining half downhill and at a collected walk..

Sunday: Saddle fitting to destroy the soul. We must have tried 10 saddles, none worked. Potential that a County Sensation in a wide tree could work for us, bu sadly that's not in the budget quite yet. Also, discovered the tree on the Stubben I had for sale is mysteriously twisted. The only culprit I can think of was our random misadventure this winter when B tried rearing for the first (and only) time and lost her footing and fell. If that's the case, and the saddle took that much of an impact, then I guess I just need to be grateful I wasn't hurt more than I was. Still, sucking up that loss adds another dent in my current budget. Fitness wise, B had a pretty light day, walking and trotting and standing as a saddle model.
Fresh grass, so tempting when you're on a diet

Monday: Dressage lesson. A tough one, both B and I got schooled. Lots of lateral work in trot and canter, minimal walking. 60min. While some good things happened, it was one of those rides where the rewards seemed small given the vast amount of effort put in.

Tuesday: Vaulting. Canter in side reins while tiny kids jump about.

Wednesday: My ride on Q took a lot longer with many more detours than previously planned for. Baby horses need to learn not to rush home, even when the weather is windy and scary. So, B got a day off.

Q looking all sweet and innocent ;)
Thursday. Trainer ride. Dressage. Again, all the canter transitions, plus introducing half pass in trot.

Friday: Q's owner and my favorite barn rat is going to jump school B. Also, farrier appt.

Weekend: B gets one of the days off while I'm away, the other will be a 1 hour hack.

Looking forward: Lessons Monday and Wednesday, leaving for eventing camp Thursday. XC clinics Fri, Sat, Sun in the interior of the province.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The wheels are spinning

I've got some decisions I'm worrying  over right now.

Most life altering: the management and direction at my job has changed. It stinks, morale is low. I've been approached regarding a job with a different organization, with management I know and like, a raise, and a flexible work schedule. The catch? It's on Vancouver Island. There are great barns and good coaches there, and the area is gorgeous. But EC is irreplacable. Its also slightly further away from home, and the ferry I'd need to take crosses open water and is therefore subject to cancellation any time the weather us iffy.

Saddle saga: The xw stubben we're trying seems to be built on a completely different tree than the wide I'm replacing. It puts me in a weird place and rocks a bit on Bridget. Do not like. So far, nowhere in existence can I find a used jumping saddle wide enough for B and at a scale that even remotely fits a 5'2 rider, for under $1500. I've been looking since January. I'm considering cancelling our upcoming clinic and maybe the following event in order to add to my budget. $2500-3k starts to get into the realm of potentially being able to order something midgrade and custom, or higher end and used with some of the specs we need and a budget for further alterations/adjustments.

I'd like a new vehicle. My truck is awesome but the commute to work and barn costs me over $300 a month in gas.  I'm not a cute car girl, and hate borrowing money but...for $300/mo maybe I'll sell my soul ;) This is something to worry about after I decide if I'm moving...the logistics would likely be different if I did.

Venturing out on a windy and grey day.

So, with all this spinning in my head, I ventured out into the awful storm yesterday and Bridget and I went for a nice hack. When she offered up a gallop at our favorite spot, I accepted, and with every step I could feel my worries being left behind. I'm forever grateful B is such a fantastic trail horse. It's fun to go out as a group and go for a gallop, it's another thing entirely to be able to venture out alone and tuned into only each other no matter the crazy weather, nor where or how fast we're going. Definitely a privilege :)

Friday, 7 April 2017

Boot Camp Week 3

One more week of enforced fitness discipline in the books! We were very busy this week with the show and all the associated prep amd logistics, plus there was a vaulting event and a saddle to try and one more trainer ride on the schedule. Next week I hope to return to a more normal schedule.

Friday: Jump school

Saturday: Trailer 2.5 hrs to weekend show venue. Dressage lesson in the evening. More relaxed than at home, but still a good workout, 15+ min of canter, and an equal amount spent in trot. About 30min walking hack around the grounds. It was hot out, and pony was very sweaty!

Sunday: Show day! 20 min warmup followed by dressage test equivalent to Training 1, then a quick tack change, a 10 min jump warmup, followed by 2 rounds at 2'3". Pony got more excitable as the day went on, but was definitely tired feeling when I pulled her up after round two. Trailered home that evening.

My photoshopping gets worse and worse :)
Monday: Day off.
Tuesday: Vaulting. All the cantering with tiny children. Report was her energy  is much improved from even two weeks ago!

Wednesday: Jump lesson. Multiple rounds focusing on a forward, energetic pace, hind end powering us. Pony was VERY tired feeling, but game to try and didn't quit mentally once during the hour. That's a big win.

Thursday: Trainer ride. Dressage. Pony must stay round and straight thru all the transitions and carry herself. More of an exercise in strength than cardio this time.

Friday: Trying new saddle. Planning some light flatwork, a few jumps, and a short hack, just to get a good feel. Fitter comes Sunday. Fingers crossed!

Upcoming weekend: Planning a good hack on the "medium (1.5hr) loop" since we missed ours this week, probably incorporate some hillwork too. The weather report is super sketchy with wind and rain warnings, so we'll see. She can have Sunday off except for the saddle fitting appointment, and then we'll return to our normal fitness schedule next week.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Real Life

We had our first jump lesson in a bit last night (unless we want to count the "RIDE HER LIKE A PONY" shouting over the past weekend as a lesson...because let's be honest, we could - that's pretty much the take home from every lesson anyway ;)

Midge had done vaulting the night prior and felt  a little tired, but game to warm up. As we got going, she ran out of steam and wasn't the amazing pony of the weekend, but she kept trying, so I was happy.
More this level of energy/enthusiasm than the excited pony of Sunday.

Our course was a long complicated one, as follows:

We started with figure eights over fence 1 and the corner. We had issues at the corner. We've jumped tiny corners before, but it's been a while. Also, this corner was wider than I normally set them and balanced off a barrel for the narrow end - usually I use a single jump standard. The wheels were turning in Midge's mind...do they want me to step in there? Jump it? Go around? Bounce it on the wide side? First stop was an honest one...she really did need/want to look at it and figure it out. Second one was on me...not being confident enough myself about getting to the other side and adding to her doubts. Third time was one of those 'spectacular' stop and leap things that somehow worked out with all of us remaining intact. Fourth time was good and we incorporated it into bits of the course without worry for a few rounds.

Then, we put the whole thing together, and added the corner a second time coming from the opposite direction. One more stop. T needs to sit up and ride decisively, B needs to hold up her end of the bargain too. She's a pony and very quick to realize when I'm not 100% committed and there is a potential out. We ended on a good note on a bending line from the corner, 4 strides to a vertical.
Ginny says hi. She's still her normal super social self and keeps an eye on me everywhere I go. Love that she's here at the barn and we can visit every day, even though she's very well loved by her lease girls :)

My recap sounds like there was a ton of struggle. There was, but I didn't ever feel discouraged. Unlike previous lessons, Midge didn't use the corner thing as a reason to shut down and refuse to play at all. I didn't get frustrated. Surprisingly, I drove home last night feeling pretty positive. B didn't quit even though she was feeling tired and was confused by the corner.  EC used my worry over the corner as the distraction and set the rest of the jumps substantially bigger than I would have been OK with last month, and we navigated all that without issue. Funny how perspective can work for you, everything else looked relatively straightforward compared to the big evil corner lol. Our pace was good, the lines rode well, B was turning well and was dead accurate and straight everywhere I put her. So, a ton of positives . The corner set up was a new thing for us, and yes, I could have ridden more decisively and positively. Oh well, such is life.  I feel like we both brought the best we could on the day and worked through things together to end on a positive note. That means far more to me than perfect rounds.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Feeling Green - In a Good Way!

Our not-goals were accomplished this weekend. I didn't get too nervous and both Bridget and I had fun!

Even our schedule was a little more laid back - ferry ride at lunchtime Saturday, followed by an hours drive, arriving at the venue and all settled in by late afternoon. We even had time for a quick lesson before heading out to dinner. As always, Midge settled in well - as much as she frustrates me at times, I'll keep her for life simply because she's just so easy to have around. Like a giant dog, really.
In the small trailer, babysitting a more anxious member of the herd on the ferry. Midge is a seasoned commuter and naps during ferry crossings.

All tucked in for the night

My dressage ride wasn't until 10:40 am, so again, no rush. Our showjumping time, however, was posted as 10:30, which I took to mean ASAP after dressage and maybe if I was going to hurry that might be the time to do so :)

Midge warmed up a little stressy, which for her means tight and tense and looking around, but no real drama. She settled in to some beautiful work, and the timing was such that we went straight in to the dressage ring from there. Unfortunately the minor change of venue brought tense Midge back, which meant some of our test was  braced and above the bit. Still, I was incredibly happy with her - I'd rather she's a little anxious than just not wanting to play. The test felt solid...obviously not perfect, but nothing that felt glaringly awful either and I would say one of our better ones and much improved from the green pony out of control canter stuff of last year. The judge thought she looked "fun" which is a double edged sword in judge speak, but a comment I'll happily take given we also have many days of Not Fun pony.

Since show jumping was running in order immediately after dressage, I had just enough time to switch saddles and pop over a cross rail twice. Then in we went. Perfect, no time to overthink it. And...B was ON! She basically took me around and did her best interpretation of worlds best pony jumper. I was even relaxed enough to lol at her half way through the course...there was a rather large skinny xc jump that I wanted to turn just before but B locked on, like "OK, i have no idea why we're angling the Training log in the middle of our tiny show jumps, but I've got this!!" Ha ha, B, no, please no.
Our little yellow vertical in the far back, skinny log in the front right. You can see our tracks on the inside turn...but Midge wanted to go for it and angle the big girl jump LOL. As a side note, it was windy on Sunday and the flags dividing the ring caused a bit of havoc :)

We added on a second round, for which B was really excited for and we both quite enjoyed, it was forward and fun and flowed really nicely. We have video evidence coming. When we finished, it was like Bridget had won the Olympics, my coach was hugging Bridget and the barn kids were all over her too. Such has been the struggle, we get very excited when she is Good Pony :)

Its worth noting that I rode past the jump arena the night before and I was like, "huh, looks like the Starter course is already up, we get a sneak peek!" And I looked and slept soundly in the knowledge it was totally doable and easier looking than our lesson courses. Turns out that was actually the Entry (Novice in the US) course. It seems EC has been fudging jump heights a little in our lessons, LOL. Apparently "Here T, I have made this one tiny for you" actually just means it's somewhere under 3'. I've been betrayed, but in a good way, because here I was thinking my continuing tiny jumps were a sign we were never going to be able to do more. We have, and we are, I just never noticed ;).

Course set up. We didn't get any of the xc jumps in our course, but still, a nice course in a nice big arena with good footing/drainage. Well worth the $12 rounds.

 So, success!! We dressaged, we jumped the tiny jumps! It was easy! We had fun! The End.

Ha! You know I couldn't leave it there. Of course I picked up my dressage test and checked scores even though I told myself not to care.

World's tiniest 8 on there, I promise ;)
And, we got the same feedback we always get! We are cursed with 64% and "super cute pair" remarks for life no matter what test we tackle ( which, honestly is fine by me!)
 Highlight of our test was the medium walk, which earned us an 8, lowlight was a rather exuberant right lead canter depart for a 5.5. Poor B also earned herself a 5 for submission, sassy pony! That meant we earned a nice green 5th place ribbon in a large division. Bonus, because truly I was beyond happy with our weekend regardless of results  :)
And will go perfectly with the inadvertent green color scheme we're currently sporting in the trailer lol