Saturday, 26 September 2015

Stressage Percent Day

I'm going to do this in note form again, since it's slightly easier than paragraphs on my phone/the blogger app.


My Impressions:

- Bridget trailered and settled in great. Yay for sensible ponies!

- The dressage arena was marked out in those plastic chains. Given our sometimes questionable steering, I was concerned we might be dragging a bunch of plastic chain around at some point. Silver lining: I was so worried about that I forgot to worry about forgetting the test.

-Bridget warmed up ok, but really unsure and behind the leg.

- Test 1: Bridget went from lazy to 'crazy' once she realized she was all alone in the big scary arena and things felt tense and rushed. She forgot about being on the bit as well. I did nothing to correct any of it, being so concerned about the chains and basically just surviving. I felt like we were accurate, but rushed. The right lead canter began on the left lead. The walk felt good.

- Test 2 : Made a conscious effort to slow down. I felt it went better, but still very stiff and tense compared to at home.



Scores - Highlights and lowlights

- Test 1: High - 7.5 for walk and right trot circle. Low - 4 for a right lead canter circle that had nothing right about it. Remainder 6's and 7's.

- Test 2: High - 7.5's for all the walk stuff, and a couple for some of the trot. Low - 5.5 for that right lead canter. Remainder generally trending .5 higher than first run through.

Further lowlight: (New) scribe didn't realize there was a second page on eventing dressage tests and didn't fill out collective marks for myself and a few others, so our percent day ended up lacking actual percents. Highlight:  I'm good with that though. It was a fun and inexpensive outing.

Judge's general written comments: 

Could be rounder, good energy but less hurried (trot). Needs better balance, falling through outside aids, hurried (canter). Super! for the walk.

The judge took a couple of minutes after each ride for some verbal comments too:

Test 1:

- "I like this horse. She is cute! You are a well matched pair."

- "She looks quite unbalanced in the canter, she only has one speed and it's too fast! Her walk is really great, so she should have a great canter in there for you to work towards."

- "Trot work looked rushed...she's like a little whirling dervish out here."

- "She could be rounder and bend more. She looked a bit nervous. Is this one of her first shows? Yes? Then you get two big thumbs up from me"

Test 2:

- "Overall, that was much better. I could see you using my feedback from the last test."

- "There were some moments there where I was Iike 'yep, these two could go somewhere with this.'"

- "You're a very brave rider for riding that canter though!"

My further thoughts:

The stuff I wasn't worried about - being on the contact, forward and straight - were the things that weren't reliable. The stuff I was worried about - getting and holding a canter on a 20m circle, those plastic chains, forgetting the test, and Bridget being lazy/behind my leg - totally not an issue. I'm happy the baby pony showed up to work and tried, and overall pretty proud of her. Even though it was far from our best work, I think the pony gave me what she could in a new and scary place and I can't ask for anything more than that.

And that last comment from the judge? NOT the feedback anyone wants to hear, I'm sure. Except me. Given my previous issues with confidence, it might just be the best thing I heard all day, possibly all week  :)

Bridget is unconcerned with it all, her lowlight of the day was realizing she was tied too short to eat all the delicious hay on the ground (and yes, she is safely tied around the post rather than the rail - there were a few people tied to the same fence and some to the rails which made me nervous, next time maybe we'll tie to the trailer)

More Ginger Adventures

Ginger is still doing great. I am so happy she's fitting in so well with Trainer M. I had a feeling they'd like each other! I'm thinking this morning we'll give it another month and if she's not sold by then she can come here with me and be advertised from here. Finance and time wise it will be a real stretch to have both ponies here, but it's doable. I miss my big mare and would like to give it another go with her, but I am trying to be a responsible adult about the whole thing and put a priority on finances and buying a house here. Also, time with Husband needs to be more of a thing!

Anyway, enough of my worry-brain. Here are some pictures (that I stole from fb) of Ginger visiting the beach yesterday :)

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Keeping Positive

Last night was lesson night, again!

I've been really struggling this week with being way too overtired. I leave my place early and get home late and am busy, busy, busy all the time in between. So, it's incredibly frustrating that when I finally get to bed the sleep just won't come!
I re-read this the other night, so at least something productive happened!

Unfortunately I feel like I took a bit of the effects of that to the barn last night. I caught myself being a bit short with people I normally have patience for. Sleep deprivation for the win in not putting up with any BS :)  Normally, I would be annoyed but friendly, but meh, no energy left for that nonsense, just leave us alone please and thank you. While part of me is fine with it given one person's history of rude/annoying comments, the other part is feeling like it's not characteristic of me to be rude back to people and I need to address my crazy schedule and get back to a happier place.

Bridget was also in a mood and being incredibly rude, so we had a little intervention and a reminder of basic pony manners. EC says Midge is hanging out with the boss mare in the herd right now, and it's getting to her head :) I also have to consider the possibility she was feeding off my energy.

As far as the lesson, I felt super incompetent riding wise. S was yelling instructions that made all the sense in the world mentally, but physically my body just kept on doing whatever weird/crazy thing it was it was doing. And of course rude/annoying person had to come watch and nod their head along with coach's instruction. There was very nearly some real barn drama to report when I noticed that LOL.
Did anyone but me watch this crazy show a few years ago? At the time the stereotype barn drama characters made me cringe. Now though, I do smile a little inside when I meet their real life counterparts. Thank goodness our barn is also full of polite and adorable kids to counteract the (honestly quite small) bit of adult drama.

The lesson didn't actually go that badly - lots of good things happened, more good than bad. The trot work was great, we cantered some 20m circles to the right which is always an accomplishment, and the left lead transitions weren't too bad even though I couldn't keep her on much of anything resembling a 20m circle. We're still climbing our way back up the progress graph to where we were a month or so ago, but such is life with green ponies (and adults who also have a day job).

I'm feeling a bit 'meh' about our upcoming dressage weekend - I feel like there's going to be some serious struggles going on and part of me is just looking forward to having it over and done with. We've been promised a break from dressage in the form of lots of jumping lessons if we can just survive the next few days!

And, to end on an even happier note, our girl's weekend to the big horse expo is all organized. It'd not for a few weeks yet, but I'm pretty excited to watch the Jim Wofford clinics and also the clinics with the author of the above book. Of course, there will also be much shopping there. Sounds like fun to me!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Compromise

After a 4:30 am start (and very little sleep before that), I seriously considered bypassing the barn last night. I was so tired I was simultaneously freezing cold and nauseous, but obviously that's not a good enough excuse when we have a show to practice for!
Just some randoms from earlier this spring to break the text
As seems to always be the way, as soon as I got in the saddle life improved about 100%. I was still pretty done though, and the last thing I wanted to do was pick a fight with the Midge about anything (ie work hard at anything!). So I warmed up on a much looser rein than I'm sure EC would prefer and just did a bunch of walk trot transitions to get pony in a forward mindset. She started out feeling super yucky, but I was too unmotivated to really care and just kept working. 

I may have inadvertently stumbled on something, because my failure to nitpick or micromanage actually lead to a pretty good ride! We ran through our tests in preparation for next weekend. When EC asked how Midge was doing my response was pretty negative, but since Midge lives to humble me our first try was actually presentable. Accurate, balanced  transitions and great geometry walk and trot. Canter obviously the weak point, but you know what? It happened reliably, which is more than I can say of the two prior rides! There were mostly round circles happening and the transitions were good. I'll take it!

Second run through was slightly stickier since lesson buddy not only left us alone, but left to feed everyone else dinner . In case you hadn't guessed, dinner is the highlight of Bridget's day and she was somewhat concerned I was losing track of the time and we might miss it. She still put in a fairly honest effort and EC and I were both pleased.

Take homes from the lesson:

- back to forward and straight for a bit. We maybe blew Bridget's mind a little with all the lateral work last week, resulting in sucked back, wiggly pony.

- forward into the transitions. I tend to drop her which isn't the best!

- really focus on sitting square in the canter, particularly to the left. Midge tends to throw rider/saddle to the outside, need to be aware and catch it almost as it happens. Think of riding a square rather than circle if that helps visualize keeping hips level.

- Walk and trot rhythm, pace both good tonight. Canter too forward, but we can compromise on that for now.

- Just focus on forward and accurate, relaxed and 'through' in walk and trot...we can do that at home and if we can replicate that away we can call the day a huge success. The rest is a work in progress - we can't rush or force it just because there is a show.

- Other useful advice that didn't penetrate the fog of my brain.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Lucky

Good things come in threes, right?

I got a fun surprise hidden in with my tack at the barn last week - apparently Midge and I somehow won a prize to go with our ribbon at our recent attempt to be hunters.

We were somehow reserve champion of...something? Not sure but guessing entries = 2 ;)

 Then, I got to work this morning and there were these great socks sitting on my desk:


Swag from an IT conference, boss picked up and thought they might be good for riding? Yes, thank you. I am the only one here excited about socks lol :)

Now, at lunch I sit and read blogs...and I won a contest from No Hour Wasted! I've been coveting one of Beka's bracelets for a while now, and thanks to awesome bloggers, one is going to be mine!


Beyond excited, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Superstitious me is of course hoping that doesn't mean my luck has run out for our dressage tests this coming weekend, because if our recent struggles are any indication, things could get....interesting come Saturday. To give you an idea of my level of confidence, the ride times were posted today and I read them over with relief: somehow my entry had been lost! Then the anxiety came, because there was my name..last of the day, but most definitely there. At least I will have great socks, and further need of a motivating bracelet?

Important paperwork to read over. Pretty sure some edits need to be made, like removing the right lead canter part entirely. Can I have a reader, please...conveniently carrying a lunge whip and standing at A? ;)


Friday, 18 September 2015

Time Out

I had another not so fabulous ride last night. I went into it much more conscious of trying not to pick a fight and wanting to just go have fun.

The arena was super crowded, so I just wandered around on a loose rein to warm up and hoped things would quiet down in the meantime. Midge was grumpy and distracted, more worried about what was going on around her and out in the pasture than what her rider had to say. OK then, off to work we go, too bad, so sad. I just did basic stuff, like forward for a few strides, then 15m circle, then forward again, then circle, all around the arena. Midge wasn't cooperating...it's like we picked up right where we left off Wednesday night. Sticky forward button and using any increase of speed as an excuse to throw her outside shoulder into outer space. For real...we ended up with legs under and outside the arena fence, she was so determined not to bend her body. OK, deep breath, T. I had wanted to jump and have a fun ride, but the arena was just so busy and there was a lesson going on as well. So, we just stayed on our little circles until things got presentable. Then I did a dumb thing and asked for canter. I don't even know how to adequately describe the mess that is our canter when Midge isn't playing nice. I didn't ever get what I was hoping for, and before too much frustration could happen I just went back to trot and the zen of attempting perfect circles.
Good thing she's cute ;)

I'm not quite sure what is going on in the mare's paddock, but most are not quite themselves at the moment. Bridget and another mare in particular are in each other's faces about who's the boss of who and I think that might be carrying over into our rides.

On the plus side, one of the riders that came in to the arena late in my ride was super complimentary of how much better Bridget is looking compared to a few months ago, so I was reminded that although the process might not be linear, we are still creeping ahead slowly.

Moving forward, Bridget has earned herself some training rides every Friday. I'm spending too much on horses right now as it is, so EC suggested one of her (very accomplished) students as a rider, and I think she'll do a great job.

As the title would suggest, we both get a little time out this weekend. I'm going home to visit G for the weekend, and Midge will have some horse crazy girls taking her out on the trails.




Thursday, 17 September 2015

Pretzel Pony

Last night's lesson was another dressage one. My lesson mate is prepping for her final training level event of the season and wanted to practice her test.
"Hey, let's go do something!"

We had a great warm up - W/T/C both reins and she was forward and enthusiastic.

To start with the real work, Bridget and I were sent back out to pick up where we left off on Monday's lesson, shoulder in on the the long sides focusing on straightness, really getting her inside hind more active and playing with a baby level of collection. After straightening out, ask for a big trot through the short sides. That went pretty well, so we tried for some travers. Pony said bringing her haunches in is no big deal, but keeping the bend through to her front end is hard for more than a few strides at a time. I honestly wouldn't expect otherwise - this is all new to her and she's not the world's most athletic baby pony. She knew what I wanted and tried her best and that made me quite happy.

Next up, put the pieces together and ask for a (correct) canter depart out of a hint of a travers position. Here's where things went (literally and figuratively) totally sideways. She really didn't want to pick up her right lead from that position and did everything in her power to run through my aids and pop into the left lead. I feel like I got a great lesson in being firm and proactive in my corrections, but Bridget was in full meltdown mode and not much progress was made. She was getting to the point where a canter/forward in general just wasn't going to happen and control of the outside shoulder was getting optional - her two favorite evasions when she is confused or frustrated.
B mentally goes to this happy place instead and ignores all rider input

So, back to basics we went, big trot circles on a loose-ish rein, just asking her to be honest about being off my leg aids and ended on a good note. I feel like Ms B tried so hard to understand what I wanted with the travers stuff and then was just mentally done/gave up after getting the canter transition 'wrong' a couple of times. There's that grey area where they are testing the boundaries and need a correction so it doesn't become habit, and where are really and truly done for the day. I think I went about 10 minutes past the wrong side of that last night which is unfortunate - it is up to me to speak up and no one there would have judged me for it!

EC's input: Bridget started out with the canter work being very naughty and evasive, and maybe a trainer ride or two would be a good thing. Sounds like a plan. Also, not a big deal as far as setbacks go, we taught her something new and she's got herself in a bit of a muddle. I haven't been asking for 'proper' canter transitions before now, either. The 'bad' stuff last night was more of a reflection of pushing too far, and her being green rather than Bridget just being Bridget.

Homework: Longeing canter with side reins. I know there are people out there who aren't fans of side reins, and I'm admittedly not a huge one myself. In this case though, it's a very temporary thing and I can see her logic. It will be easier for me to make it happen from the ground, since Bridget will have to learn to find her own balance and deal with a little contact through the transition and in the canter. (Not sure if I mentioned, but it's a bit of a sticking point - I was so "go forward now!" before that I would essentially drop contact into the canter. I still cheat by giving my outside rein if she pushes back and that's obviously not helping.) Also, for ridden work, start with canter so that we are taking advantage of her having more energy and motivation. Play with shoulder in in canter as well - teach her she can adjust stride/move her body and stay in canter.

Tonight, I think I might set up some small jumps and just let her canter around and have fun. Likely not what EC had in mind, but I feel like a reminder to Ms B that it isn't always all hard work might be in order. I can play with balancing her up in the corners and get a bit of homework in that way ;)

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Positive Affirmations

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"

Monday night is lesson night! I have no super insightful bullet points this time around. Despite everyone being vaccinated, there's a bit of a bug going around the barn and a lot of the horses are feeling a little under the weather today. Nothing overly worrying - tiredness, runny noses and swollen legs seem to be the main things. The vet says it's no big deal and to just keep an eye on temperatures. If they aren't running a fever, it's ok to keep them in work, just scale ride intensity back a little bit. With that in mind, we took it easy on Midge even though she's still as healthy as a horse Welsh Cob.
Yep, still hungry

We started with EC asking how I felt the weekend went. I felt it went great! Super happy that even though I could feel Midge was a little spooky/unsure she still did her job with zero fuss, especially since I was nervous too and she could have used that against me.

 EC agreed Midge is a rock star, which led to a discussion of future plans. For now, we are aiming for Canadian Entry level combined tests this winter (equivalent to US Beginner Novice). While EC feels Midge will likely top out at Pre Training (equivalent to Novice) and certainly won't make it past Training level, "you're going to have a lot of fun bringing her along." I get the feeling EC is hoping in the future I'll be happy to a focus on having a dressage pony who also can event at the lower levels. Of course I would be!

With that and the possibility Midge might be slightly under the weather, there was no time like the present to delve back into travers at a walk and trot. We used the wall to help for a start, and she had zero issues. So we ventured away from the help of the wall, which went fine and led to shoulder in on the long sides, which led to circles...spiraling in in shoulder in, spiraling out in travers. Which led to asking the pony to really round herself and get her hind legs underneath and active in a collected trot, which led to changing direction across the diagonal and asking her to open up and extend a little. Which led to all the magical things and a few strides of a real extended trot. Seriously, for whatever reason, the pony was ON and we did all that in about 20 minutes of work. She answered every single question, and I was grinning from ear to ear. While we've certainly worked hard on the basics and none of the above should be an entirely new concept in itself, to switch exercises, bends, and directions, not to mention tempo, and remain balanced and forward without issue was just like "What?! How is this happening? Since when does my pony have these kind of moves?!!" Since baby pony is a baby pony, and a mare, we won't expect a repeat performance tomorrow, but I promise I will remember this ride next time I am doubting her/us.
Only pic I can find of her looking sort of mean and bad ass.

EC says she's been telling me all along that Bridget is built to do it and is just green, but I guess I either didn't listen or believe her. Bridget has always felt like a (very slow) tank after Ginger, and I guess I just thought that's how it is and how it will be. Last night, both Bridget and EC told me quite emphatically that there could be more to this particular story. 

I'm halfway listening to both of them now, I promise :)

Homework: Exercises as above, particularly shoulder in and travers on the long sides, focusing on straightness. As mentioned in previous lesson notes, better control of shoulders and haunches will help over all straightness and also help our canter work be a little more organized.

Next lesson: Wednesday

Next show: Dressage Percent Day September 26


Monday, 14 September 2015

Good Girl

I realize updates on Ms Gingersnap have been few and far between - sorry, I have just been so busy!

To recap, she went to visit an acquaintance of mine in the city at the end of August. Said friend is a very capable rider/coach/trainer and all around good person. Someone had mentioned her name to me as a person to contact and I'm so glad they did! I got in touch with her right away because I knew she would be perfect for Ms Ginger. Luckily, she had room at the end of August and agreed to take Ginger on for some refresher training and potential resale.

As predicted, Ginger attempted convince everyone she was feral for the first week or so, but has apparently started to settle in and has been doing pretty well. In trainer's words "she's now decided running away from everything is hard and that she can actually be quite brave about the world when she wants to be" Sounds like Ginger to a T - once she trusts you and knows you're serious it's all good :)

She's been great about sending updates and pics, but unfortunately most of them feature kids giving Ginger treats and kisses and while Ginger obviously loves that, the pics are not something I'd feel OK sharing on the internet without knowing the kids in question.

Last night she posted some FB pics of a trail excursion I don't think she'd mind me sharing here. I love that she gets the horses out for some fun outings now and then to break up the routine. Enjoy! :

Where are we?!
Probably wishing she could go play in the water
Bridges are no big deal
Love the looks of these trails - also I miss those ears.
Apparently, there are some potential buyers coming to see the big mare this week. I'm torn - I'd love to see it work out, but it will be a very sad day for me if and when she does move on to a new owner.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Just So Pleased

Bridget loaded up this morning just fine, then happily relaxed and ate her breakfast at the show site. I think she thought we were just going out for breakfast! I just love having a zero drama pony.

Warm up ring was super crowded and chaotic, but again, baby pony was a star. I could feel she was uncertain, but with Bridget that just manifests itself with her being wobbly and a bit backed off - almost like she is saying "please let's slow down so I can process all of this!" 

Our cross rails warm up was a little more of the same - pony was kinda slow and unsure. Over jumping everything and generally kind of looky. Still, I was super pleased - it was her first show and maybe her third full course ever and she cooperated with my requests and got it done with zero drama. The main arena is super spooky - bleachers and concession right up against one side, and some shrubberies concealing a busy hiking/mountain biking trail on the other. The judge's booth is on the end and is a two story thing...also they had a speaker system playing music. The jumps were fine - there was a polka dotted one that a lot of the horses looked at, and there were also potted plants that would randomly fall over lol. The fact Ms Bridget looked but still went around made me pretty proud of her!

Crappy pic just to give you a bit of an idea:



Next, we had a cross pole hunter round. I was nervous about forgetting the course, but thankfully not worried at all about Midge. Midge still felt way more tentative than she has been at home, so we trotted into the first couple of jumps and trotted most of the corners. For once in my life I got my diagonals consistently without having to think on it - shameful to admit but I am totally left/right/inside/outside challenged and things relating to that never feel natural and always require a conscious effort to get right. With a little convincing, Bridget cantered all the related distances in a fairly straight path. Probably her best round ever (although I guess that's not saying much - it was also only her 4th or 5th round ever lol). I was very happy because that was the goal we set - to have a round at the show on the same level as what we are doing at home. Overall, I felt like it went well. We trotted way too often to be "legit" hunters, but no leads or diagonals were missed and the distances we cantered all rode nicely. Bridget wasn't as confident as we would have liked, but she quietly got it done. Tons of pets and scratches for baby ponies!! 

When they had run through everyone (30 people apparently - so crazy for a small show!), we got a chance to go back in for a schooling round. Bridget felt a little more confident, but not enough to make us want to continue on to the 2' division. We rode some in our lesson Wednesday, and she was fine so we had entered her, but both EC and I felt like Bridget was a little too unsure today and had still tried so hard, so we we ended on the good note.

I placed her back at her hay net to enjoy a well deserved brunch, where one of the barn girls delivered this:

Silly me, was so not expecting anything so I didn't stick around for the ribbons. Seems that a lot of people had trouble with the spookiness of things, so the poor judge mustn't have had much choice in our little adult rider group :) Still, her first ribbon and I will proudly keep it. I am super proud of the Midge!!

Fingers crossed someone got some actual riding photos...of course I did ask but everyone was quite busy with other (more) important things and may not have got much.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Even More Notes


Another lesson, another page of lesson notes! I'm sorry this has been the only blog content of late, my time has been stretched lately at work and I'm doing this crazy thing where I don't have a home computer. My job is all computer, all day long and it seemed like a great idea. Surely I can check email and blog on my lunch break at work? Not so much. The reality is I still surf the internet and blog at home anyways, and am just wasting even more time attempting to do so from a very broken iPhone :) New computer is on the list of purchases next time we visit the city, until then you're stuck with pages of notes and weirdly formatted pictures!

So, you've been warned....I take no responsibility for the following post inducing boredom, blurred vision, or sleep.

Cute pony to wake you back up a little

Jumping Lesson #3 Notes (quoted from EC as best my memory can recall)

- "You are not showing this weekend to be competitive. You are there to show Bridget her job is the same in a new place as it is at home. You are there to prove to yourself you can ride just as well when you're nervous as you can when you're at home. Think of it like an exam - you are only being scored against yourself, and the more homework you do, the better it will go."

- "It doesn't matter what lead you get, just focus on a good rhythm."

- "Count your strides, regardless of where you are. For now it might be more that you feel the distances, but if you count, eventually you'll be able to rate them consistently."

- "Don't worry that it's not pretty. We'll do a ton of grids this winter and work on you both. For now, you are on a green, wiggly pony and you're new to this yourself and that's totally fine. You need to get her to the jumps, you need to stay centered over her, and you need to keep your weight in your heels and be a little defensive. She needs to get herself over the jumps. You're doing that, and that's great for now."

-"Its never going to be totally perfect. Don't stay home and wait for it to be perfect. If you could do this perfectly you'd be moving up to something more challenging. Get out there anyways."

- "Why do you think she stopped? Was it because you got flustered and were looking at the jump rather than riding your line?"

- "Make it your canter, not hers."

- "Hands forward and in front of you. Shorten your reins. I don't want to see your shoulders in front of your hands, ever!"

- "Circle if you need to. Trot if you need to. Even in a show. You won't get a ribbon, but you'll have had a great schooling opportunity and will both be better for it later"

-"She's starting to just canter over the jumps and is more relaxed about it. She's starting to get confident and understand her job, and that's going to make your job a lot easier!"

So, there you have it. We ran through a few courses, some good stuff happened, some not so good stuff happened, but mostly we got a pep talk for our first show. There were a few lines that felt great, and a couple that felt like I barely survived. A little oxer in particular had Midge pretty backed off and caused a few minor problems (like last minute space shuttle type launching) mostly due to lack of rider intervention. I think we both had fun though, for the most part Midge was pretty forward and pumped up.

Moving ahead, we're doing the crossrails and 2' hunters (lol at us ever being taken seriously as hunters - please just look away now, all you gorgeous riders on your elegant horses :) at the show this weekend. It's a very competitive and large-ish show for being a somewhat local one (the smaller heights have over 20 riders in each class), so I am not expecting nor aiming for any kind of ribbons - it really is only about a positive first show for us both and experience to put towards eventing one day. I'm still totally nervous and freaking out about it, so that's my big thing to get through this weekend.
Last minute attempt to tame the mane

Then, a dressage percent day two weekends from now. For that one, I am a little more aiming for a good mark, but we'll see. We will be riding Entry tests 1 & 2 and the right lead canter may cause us an issue.

After that, we put it all together for a 2 phase event in the big city in November. Again, although it does count for points, it's more of a schooling type show than a 'real one'. At this stage we are not expecting to be competitive, so are not aiming at any $$$$ shows. We are definitely wanting to get get some fun and educational miles under our belts though!


Thursday, 10 September 2015

NHW Blog Hop


Thanks to No Hour Wasted for the blog hop!


Tell me about a challenge you set for yourself and accomplished, or set yourself a new challenge and keep us updated!

I love the idea of this blog hop, but have been sitting on it for a bit because I felt like I was lacking any big, tangible thing to talk about.

Then, last night as I was having my jumping lesson on Bridget and there were all sorts of weird/hairy moments, it hit me. Guys, I'm starting a baby horse over jumps. And I'm not worried about it at all. (OK, yes I worry about screwing it up, but actual physical fear? None.)

To put this big achievement into context, a little over two years ago I had a couple of nasty falls. I was really, really struggling after that confidence wise, even at a walk. As someone who has always wanted to event, galloping needs to happen. And jumping (gulp!). 

So, eventually the drive to have fun again outweighed the fear. I challenged myself last summer to take a few months of hunter/jumper lessons on some great schoolies. I felt physically ill with nerves more often than not, but slowly the confidence crept back. 

Bridget came into my life a year ago as a super green pony with only a few rides. I was looking for something been there, done that to continue on with (Also, something athletic and horse sized lol) She's not that, but temperament is amazing and we have fun, so there was my compromise, and with it a big challenge - training a baby horse wasn't really something I was intending to revisit. 

In the mean time, in between time, I got back on that horse I had those bad falls on and really worked at it. And some drama and explosions happened. I rode through it all just fine, didn't freak out, kept to the plan, but realized it still wan't fun. Win for getting it done and logical decision making.

Fast forward to last night's lesson on the pony that was just supposed to be a trail riding confidence booster. As mentioned, there were some big mistakes. It was pretty challenging for where we're at. We failed a lot, but we also persisted and got it done. Technically, it was a bad lesson that ended on a good note. BUT I am still excited and super proud of us and how far we've come. My main thoughts throughout last's night's ride were "We can totally do this. I can't wait to try it again!"  rather than "Where is the least obtrusive place to vomit?;)" Bridget was happy and confident as well and gave us 100%. What's not to like about that?

As for new challenges: moving forward, yep we're planning a fall show season, and a spring eventing season. For real. On the first horse in years that I didn't buy specifically with that goal in mind, no less!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Quick Notes

Midge and I had a jump lesson tonight, our second since moving here. We were alone once again, since for now we don't fit in to a group lesson. There are not many of us at that (huge) place between the riders at prelim or above and the beginner kids. Add in that I am an adult working until 5 most days, and it seems like Midge and I are destined to jump alone ;) 

Overall impressions of our lesson: That it was SO fun! EC set up a little course of 9 jumps. Lots of x's, a couple of little verticals, and a little oxer. Canter poles to help me out over the first jump going into the  2 related distances, and everything 2' or under.

As for the notes:

- Look up!!!!

- Remember pattern rather than individual jumps. Group pattern in a way that makes sense to you: ie outside line then cross diagonal, etc Keep in mind average person can remember 7 consecutive things at most first try, so try to keep pattern in your mind simpler than that so you can still think about riding as well :)

- (When I said I was a bit nervous) Jumps this size are just canter strides. Don't let your mind make it a big deal.

- Ask for canter a stride or two out. Imagine there is a placing pole if that helps. Canter out of jump and continue straight, then trot corners. That's all we want for now - this is an exercise in accurate transitions and lines, not "jumping"

- Keep loose-ish fingers - pony is green and weird things are going happen no matter how well we set her up. Want reins to run through fingers rather than catching her mouth/ T getting pulled out of saddle.

- (When we got a few really long/big efforts) Don't worry about it, Bridget is starting to try to figure this out and is excited, thinks two point means "time to jump now!". T needs to ask for canter either over the jump or a few strides out, and make B wait.

Badass pony likes to leave this middle part out and give her rider a heart attack:

- Use the corners properly, gives you more time to find your line.

- For where we are at, this is all we can do . For now, jumps stay small and pony just needs to canter over them. Trotting everywhere else is fine. T just needs to ride the pattern and transitions effectively. Don't overthink it.

-Plan moving forward: Find "a canter". Doesn't need to be "the best canter", just something consistent I can feel and rate and we can build on later.

- With that in mind...next lesson Wednesday night will feature the ever wonderful baby pony Circle of Death. (2 jumps on 20m circle)

- Homework: canter, canter, canter. Can't move up until we have a consistent, rate-able canter. (Currently we are stuck at one speed only)

EC was pleased with our progress and said she can tell we work hard on our homework between lessons. Bridget got treats, and I got told she's signed us up for the show this weekend! I had honestly thought we were skipping this one and going to the dressage one instead, but it seems we are doing both. I'm freaking out, but not as bad as I thought I might. It's just for practice. It's just local and a short trip down the road. We're not going to be competitive at all so there's no real pressure. It's just about getting us both out to a positive first show and getting some miles so our first event next spring  isn't quite such a big deal. Also, this is Midge I'm taking and I'm confident with her. I don't worry as much about Death By Baby Pony In A New Scary Place (totally a thing ;) as I might with other horses. 

Next lesson: Wednesday. 
Show (OMG): Saturday.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Lesson Notes

First off, thanks for the fantastic responses to my last post. Sometimes I'm reluctant to post about the relatively unimportant and not so positive stuff because I don't want to be the Debbie Downer of the blog world, but every time I put some of my worries out there you are all nothing but supportive and helpful! I truly appreciate it :)

Do you think she likes what she sees? :)
I voiced all of my problems and concerns to poor EC this week, and since I was the only person to show for lessons, I got almost a mini clinic of helpful advice and tips. Since then I've had a couple of much happier rides. Rather than post pages and pages of ride recaps, here's the helpful notes I wrote down after my lesson:

 Notes from EC with me riding:

Walk-

-Bridget has a good natural walk. I need to focus on maintaining straightness and not blocking her.

-Straightness - my hands stay even, soft contact. If she wiggles or comes above the bit, answer is always to kick her forward. Don't be tempted to use hands to straighten her!

- Training scale: we have rhythm, we have suppleness, relaxation. We can lack consistent impulsion, then straightness and connection suffer.

Trot-

- As above, good natural movement. As a rider I need to work on maintaining the impulsion and straightness.

- Don't think of her body following her head, her body will follow where her shoulders are. Sit in the center, ride the shoulders and line heads up (both of us) straight ahead of shoulders.

- Bridget knows what I want, she is good in the bridle. Sit up and ride her off my seat and leg but don't nag. Hands stay still and quiet, enough with the baby pony direct rein aids already!

Canter-

- Yay! Every time you set her up correctly she gets her right lead. Huge progress.

-Transitions good for where we are at, but don't drop her. Start to expect balanced transition while keeping on the bit.

-Ask for her to round herself up and come "through". She understands in walk and trot, so now to build up in the canter. OK that she doesn't fully understand she can do it yet, it will come.

-(practicing dressage test) Let her be on a larger circle if you need to, but make it balanced!

-As a rider, focus on being very still and centered...she is starting to be sensitive enough I need to be careful not to send mixed signals and confuse her.
"Please don't confuse me any more!"

Notes with EC riding:

- Bridget feels way more straight, way more forward than last time. T has been working hard!

- Right side used to be weaker, now it is left. It's not that left had got worse, just that right has got so much better.

- Bridget is bulging through outside shoulder on circle. Correction is counter intuitive and like riding motorbike...block with outside rein and leg. Don't try to help to turn harder with inside aids, you'll only tip over :)

-Again with the outside shoulder. Ride as with trot. If she ignores/breaks gait/evades immediately spiral in -even in the trot if necessary. Really make her move her shoulders and exaggerate it. Make it happen.

-Saddle issues, sort of. When Bridget bulges through shoulder saddle is pushed to outside. Since canter not a lateral gait, harder for rider to correct saddle balance and you end up tipped to outside also, making harder for Bridget to stay straight. Saddle fits well enough, but pony is round and the popping the shoulder issue is very much throwing everything crooked, particularly in canter. As rider, be aware and try to focus on staying centered and straight so as to not make problem worse. Saddle fitter will come look and see if some adjustments to flocking may help.

-Lunge her at canter. See if she is better without rider/saddle. If yes, build up fitness and balance that way. If no, continue riding more canter circles and help her figure her body out that way.

General notes:

All the recent problems showed themselves, but lesson day is a good day for that to happen! I rode to start and EC got on mid ride as well. I found that extremely helpful since she hasn't ridden B since we first arrived and had a ton of helpful feedback. Also, she made Bridget look fancy and I was inspired. When I said that out loud, she said "Bridget IS fancy!" which obviously made my day :) Bridget then snapped me out of my daydreams of pony dressage by having a hissy fit about cantering with EC. Disappointing, but on the plus side secretly made me feel slightly better about myself since maybe the struggle is real for all of us. Of course she got a canter in short order, and for a few strides here and there it was that nice uphill one I've seen in the field. When did THAT start happening with a rider?!! And please will you teach me how to get it?? When I got back on, magical things happened and pony felt so reminiscent of Ginger on a good day I could barely contain my excitement. 

I miss G and his willingness to take riding pics...I have so many pics of Bridget in the wash rack lately
Rather than the trainer rides I was thinking of, we're going to move to twice weekly lessons. EC doesn't mind hopping on if I am really struggling with something, and I feel like with a private dressage lesson plus a group jumping lesson every week we will be ok. EC seems to have faith in us,