Sunday, 29 November 2015

Christmas Wish List

Tis the season with a built in excuse to buy myself things...although honestly the excuse is more End of Season Sales than Christmas itself :)


1. A safety vest. Otherwise there will be no cross country for me! I admit to being slightly superstitious about this one, like if I buy it early something weird will happen so that eventing is off the table for us.
Currently have my eye on the Tipperary Eventer Pro. ASTM/SEI certified and a store somewhat local to me stocks them so I can try it on before making a decision
2. Navy breeches. I don't need more breeches, but that doesn't stop the wants. As someone with a less than tiny bottom half, I like to stick to black or charcoal but I really love all the fun styles and colors currently available. I'm going to be 'wild' and go for a pair in navy. Navy is a color, right?
Gersemi Saga breeches

3. A show shirt. Another item that's been on my list for multiple years. The ones I own are cute, but now much too large and starting to look a little old school.

This looks like it would be flattering, and would look cute with my new navy breeches for clinics !

And, now for the really important things:

4. More time with G. Living apart a lot of the time really sucks. We're both good at it and there's no drama involved, but obviously we'd both prefer to come home to each other every night! Don't get me wrong, I am super grateful to have found my dream job this year within a couple hours of home rather than in another province, but I can't help but wish for more! Fingers crossed one of us finds a great job where the other lives in 2016.

5. A great home for Ginger. I'm pretty stressed over this to the point I am losing a ton of sleep over it. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 27 November 2015

Ride Notes

Midge's polite streak ended this week and she was wild and VERY pushy, even on the ground. Do I need to start riding her 2x a day to burn off the energy? If only I had the time...my discouragement is still fresh with Ginger, so the not so great rides on Midge seem to have a bigger impact right now as far as beating myself up goes.

That being said, we still had a really great lesson this week. Rather than doing the square peg/round hole thing by trying to dressage on a hyperactive pony, instead we wisely opted to funnel that energy into a jumping lesson.

We started over single fences, then added in a 4 stride line, then a 3 stride, then put it all together into a little course of 10 jumps. There were barrels, Jimmy Wofford inspired low/wide oxers, a few verticals and a couple of cross rails. My focus was to be on creating an adjustable canter, and keeping a consistent pace after the jump. Straight lines and accurate turns as always, we tend to cut corners and get all unprepared when a jump 'magically' appears suddenly. Everything was about 18 - 24" so nothing overly big - we don't tend to multitask well when I am focusing on the jumps themselves so tiny stuff is our friend while we continue to sort out Bridget's canter and my lack of preparation.

I pull this mane every day and braid it over. And it still looks like this...I'm so close to giving up and letting it grow double sided and super thick.

 I don't think there was an entire course that went without either a (minor) pony or rider oops, but I was happy - we're a long way from pony who couldn't hold a canter (or turn lol), not to mention a rider who got all weird and nervous about jumping. Mostly importantly, we both had SO MUCH FUN.  Like all good ponies, Bridget is very brave and smart with her feet, so I feel quite confident about getting around safely. I still get a little anxious about my ability to ride some of the more random and enthusiastic efforts well, but even that is a pretty low level worry these days - she's becoming quite consistent and I'm getting a better feel for where I need to be/what she's going to do. EC has promised to set up a lot of grids to work on my position (in a month or two when Bridget is a little more solid) and I look forward to it, I think it will definitely help me feel more confident.

My other rides this week were not so great. We do need to dressage and pony was not pleased about that. She also can't bend left at the moment...unless of course there are jumps involved, then magical things happen. As for the actual canter, I can't believe we've been persisting with it for over a year now. Word to the wise - lazy welsh cobs who were taught to drive (and not canter with the cart) may prove to be a bit of a time sink as far as actually establishing anything beyond trot, particularly if you're very amateur yourself. Last night's ride was the worst in a long time, super rude pony tried to say she can only gallop along on the forehand with her head in the air.
Old photo to illustrate - Bridget still looks the same on a bad day, except there is now some pulling like a train, usually with a gaping mouth and lots of groaning and noises like I am strangling her.  
Lots of groaning and complaining took place every time I called her on her rudeness and did some spirals and transitions. Eventually she got softer and more willing. I guess I should appreciate that 'crazy' mood Bridget only equals the above nonsense and not anything challenging. Once she burns off the sillies, she goes back to being a little more agreeable (and the groaning/strangling noises stop, thank goodness). Knock on wood, consistent jumping lessons seem to be the key to unlocking her beautiful canter and it does make an appearance quite often these days - even on the flat! Maybe one day soon we'll have the perfect trifecta: Daylight, Sunshine, and Photographer, so this blog can be less boring and more pictures again :)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Job Profiles: Ginger and Bridget Edition

Inspired by Jen at Wyvern Oaks' great (and much more insightful) posts on the herd dynamics around her place.

I'm going to make my version a little crazy, because I'm in that kind of mood.

Ginger: 

Life Ambition: VP of The Herd. Likes power and attention, but insecure underneath it all and prefers someone is still there to make the big decisions.

Actual Job Title: VP and Interim President of The Herd.

Strengths: Everyone likes her. Smart, ambitious, generous, looks after her staff and is respected. Motivated to do a good job, hard worker.

Weaknesses: Emotional and can crack under pressure. Insecure in herself, so wants to be friends with everyone, flirts with the boys.

Office Rumor: Persistent rumors she's interviewing for a bigger, more glamorous gig and may leave The Herd.

Summary: Super fun, beautiful and likable, but brings way too much of her personal drama to work. Her staff regularly miss lunch because of last minute 'important' meetings, topics including: How the guy in payroll brushed up against her and she's pretty sure it was no accident; Changing the dress code to formal/black tie because everyone should look as fabulous as her; How she's fairly certain she saw the IT Manager staying in the same exclusive hotel as her on vacation (which there is no way she should be able to afford on her salary!) Everyone still likes and respects Ginger (even that guy in payroll) because they all secretly wish they could be more like her. All the silliness and gossip is a cover for a high IQ and natural talent- she'd rather be liked socially than risk intimidating anyone.

Bridget:


Life Ambition: Ruler of the Universe

Actual Job: IT Manager. Speaks a different language than the others. No one actually knows what she does all day (or ever sees her working) but apparently she has a couple of staff members and is critical to the survival of The Herd.

Strengths: Super smart, independent, resourceful.

Weaknesses: Unmotivated to tackle "boring" tasks. Knows how smart she is and thinks herself superior to all other members of The Herd. Keeps management busy with complaints related to her disrespectful behavior. Doesn't care because if she gets fired from The Herd, she'll do just fine as an independent contractor, thanks very much.

Office Rumor: There are rumors she's a black market hay dealer, hacker and/or international spy in her spare time, but no one knows for certain since even HR has no resume or home address on file...

Summary: The pony everyone loves to hate because she's so rude and condescending but frustratingly she's the smartest equine in the company and gives no shits what anyone else thinks of her. Keeps The Herd running smoothly behind the scenes; fantasizes about running the place, because in her mind she'd do it better than anyone else. Too bad The Herd is biased against super smart little bay mares making it to the top...yep that's it, it's nothing to do with her abrasive personality, nope, couldn't be that!



Monday, 23 November 2015

Weekend Ride Recap

This was the first weekend in just about forever where the weather was nice and the only thing on my schedule was barn time. Happy, happy me!

Saturday:

Bridget felt a lot less wild than on Friday (mental note, days off for B  are currently not my friend). She warmed up fairly loose and relaxed, but got pretty tense and over reactive when I picked up the contact and started asking for a little more. She's gone from being behind the leg to bracing and rushing, so that's a bit of an adjustment for me! I feel like if I am not careful she can start to feel a little restricted/stuck if I am not soft enough in my shoulders and elbows. Which sometimes I am, because instinct is like "Ahhhh pony is running away with me, don't give her any more rein!" Rule #1 - give her somewhere to go, otherwise I'm only creating more resistance. We figured it all out pretty quickly for a change, and finished up with a few jumps. I did something silly there, in that the final fence in a series of three related distances looked slightly bigger than we normally jump (in my defense I thought it was about 2'6 ish, so not hugely outside the norm, but one of the barn girls today said 3'3". The ring trends downhill in that corner and stuff placed there looks smaller from a distance than it is. Still, I might want to reevaluate my apparently non existent height judging skills. Oops) Whatever the actual size, we were jumping the first two in the line, then circling, but Bridget kept saying "let me try that one, I can do it!", and I was like "Maybe...OK, I guess...oh shite now we are committed and this looks bigger than I thought! Commence backwards riding!"  Poor Midge got buried, then made a huge effort, but hit it behind. She was choked and went off on a bucking spree to let me know how mad she was at me. I deserved that :) As my gesture of peace, we went out on a short trail ride and I think she forgave me.
Happy ears, been a long time since we ventured off property


Sunday:
I was warned she was a little wild all morning, serving as a distraction to the horses and riders taking lessons in the arena by bolting around her paddock bucking and spinning. Whatever crazies she had must have been burned off by the time I rode because Midge warmed up beautifully. Our flatwork felt really soft and consistent. I'm living in hope we can bring that energy and relaxation to a test at some point. Right canter was beautiful, left was nice but feels like the weaker side currently. Collected canter accidentally happened for a few strides when I played the transition game off my seat - amazing feeling but not something I need to play with without help on the ground (see above about our tendency to get "stuck"). Jumping was great, I lowered that third fence a bit when Midge wasn't looking and she jumped it all huge and proclaimed herself champion of all the things. When we got back to the barn she tried to tell all the other horses how awesome she is, but they weren't buying it and quickly put her back in her place in the pecking order. She's such a confident and funny little mare.

The little path from the indoor back to the barn
 Last weekend is still gnawing away at me, but weekends like this one remind me why I spend so much time working away at the barn. Bridget is really stepping up and loving her job, and it's starting to feel like she is getting halfway rideable, with more and more cool buttons being installed. She's getting much more sensitive to me, and with that comes some responsibility on my part - no more 'big' or vague cues - she knows the difference now and is super adjustable from my seat. I finally feel like we're really developing a partnership. She's a lot more generous with me these days, and (SO embarrassing to admit) I'm finally really believing in her in her own right, rather than constantly comparing her to Ginger.

Hand grazing cool down for good ponies
Next lesson: Tonight.
Next show: Not until mid January (Did I ever recap the dressage show a couple of weekends ago? Ginger did great with M and got a third place this time, again at training level)

Friday, 20 November 2015

Impatient

The ponies moved to their winter paddocks a couple of weeks ago, a move which really didn't cause any undue hardship on them as our wet and windy weather meant they've all been opting to stand inside in the dry barn the vast majority of the time anyway. This week though, we've switched clear days and freezing temps and the horses have all woken up ready to play! Without exception, they've been more than a little wild, and the lack of any large winter turnout space has meant we've all had some interesting rides. Summer feels like it just ended, but I am already missing the late evening light and kinder weather.

Pony ears in the dark:

For Bridget, her excess energy has given her a level of sensitivity and motivation on par with Ginger. She's also getting very fit and impossible to tire out, which I seriously thought would never happen. It's all good though- I am having a ton of fun driving my newly found sports car pony, even if it randomly bucks and bolts off now and then ;) 

My Wednesday lesson was nothing exciting. We discussed some ideas (and riders/potential buyers) for Ginger and then my general impatience with not being the rider I want to be. I love that EC does not waste time sugar coating anything, instead she gets right to business and has you quantify your goals then maps out a plan for you to work towards. 

Riding wise, we did a ton of transitions and played a little with extending and collecting. Honestly though, EC was uncharacteristically easy on us. Perhaps she reads this blog? More likely, in real life I am easier to read than I'd like to think and she very wisely opted to avoid risking any further rider meltdowns/drama.

My other rides this week were more of the same: dark, cold evenings, me feeling a little out of sorts, and a very ramped up/tense/impatient pony. Tonight I just let Bridget go on a loose rein and let her burn off some steam. She asked to gallop around a little and have fun and I said OK. That's probably the exact thing you shouldn't do with a pushy little freight train of a pony, but sometimes you just need to live a little and enjoy the moment. (For the record, galloping a slightly out of control/stir crazy pony is just as much fun as an adult as it was when I was a kid - I highly recommend it the next time you're feeling a little down :)

Standing still on the off chance I have treats:

Thursday, 19 November 2015

25

Pretty Suzie
Thanks to Cathryn at That Red Mare for the blog hop!

1. Mares or Geldings? Why?
Mares. I never make a conscious decision to own one or the other, but I seem to end up with mares!

2. Green-broke or Fully Broke?
I've only ever had green. I like it because I know the history and can build a great relationship. I'd never rule out buying something experienced though if my budget ever allowed!

3. Would you own a "hotter" breed (ie. Arabian, Trakhener, etc).
Depends. If 'hot' = forward and hard worker, then yes. If 'hot' = needing to be worked every day and needing 100% focus, then no, that doesn't fit my lifestyle.

4. What was your "dream horse" growing up?
Probably a solid black thoroughbred type.

5. What kind of bit(s) do you use and why?
Ginger has a loose ring french link because she likes it. Bridget has a plain D ring snaffle because that's what the tack store had in her size, and it seems to work for her!

6. Helmets or no helmets?
Helmets every time!


Nope, no color preferences shown here.
7. Favorite horse color?
Bay with chrome (obviously lol), but I do like a nice coppery chestnut. Huge sucker for a blaze!

8. Least favorite horse color?
Paints with white faces. No real reason for it, and wouldn't stop me from owning one though.

9. Dressage or Jumping?
I like both.

10. How many years have you been riding?
Way too many for my level of (non) expertise.

11. Spurs/whip or no spurs/whip?
Sometimes both, sometimes neither. Depends on the horse and how they're feeling.

12. Your first fall?
Playing tag bareback in the backwoods on a bouncy pony about a week into learning to ride. Also my second through probably  tenth fall, all in the same ride. I really had no fear back then!

13. When was the last time you rode and what did you do?
Last night - dressage lesson. Tons of transitions!

14. Most expensive piece of tack you own?
My (stubben) saddle, which isn't saying much - although I got it new,  I got it on a super clearance sale back when the canadian dollar was doing better than the american one.

15. How old were you when you started riding?
11. The deal was I had to wait to be old enough to work somewhat unsupervised in exchange for the privilege.

16. Leather or Nylon halters?
Either. Current barn the lesson kids tend to mix halters up, so cheap nylon. At home they live in leather ones because they're prettier :)

17. Leather or Synthetic saddles?
Leather! Although synthetic may be in my future, my love of animals has me seriously re considering buying leather things.

18. What "grip" of reins do you like?
Laced. Bridget is fairly heavy in the contact and I hate gloves, so everything else with any kind of grip shreds my fingers.

19. English or Western?
Prefer english, but can be seen in a western saddle now and then on the trails. Sometimes in an english bridle and western saddle at the same time. I have no pride :)

20. How many horses do you currently own/lease?
I own two.


Full board with great turnout = the best
1. Do you board your horse? Self-care/full board? Home board?
I've done all of the above, but currently full board is suiting my lifestyle

22. Have you ever had to put down a horse that you loved?
Yes, but it's been a very long time (and fingers crossed never again).

23. How many saddlepads do you have?
Rather than counting, it's easier to say the stack in the corner of our basement is about 5' high.

24. Slant-load trailer or straight haul?
Angle haul. Owning smaller horses, I like being able to turn them around and lead them out head first.

25. Why do you ride?
I've just always loved riding and animals, particularly horses. Also, my mind is always going a mile a minute - horses are the only thing that make me focus, live in the moment and enjoy it.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Trials and Tribulations

This morning marked our visit to see Ms Ginger at the farm just outside Vancouver. I was really excited to see her, but also slightly apprehensive. Overall, I felt pretty positive I'd have a great visit and a great ride - my confidence has never been higher, and Ginger has been doing really well with Trainer M.

Part of me really doesn't want to blog/think about my visit, but the main part feels like you've all followed along this far, plus the only person judging me around here seems to be me :)

So, the minute I walked up to Ginger's paddock she was like "Oh no, not you!!" She is after all the master at reading people and could tell from a mile off I was feeling a little emotional.

Trainer M ran thorough some of the things she's done with Ginger, and hopped on for a ride. Ginger obviously likes her (she is a beautiful rider) and looked as relaxed and happy as I've ever seen her. She's done a great job, particularly as Ginger tried her best to convince everyone she was feral for the first few weeks. Pony is all about needing someone to trust before she'll work for you.

Next up, my turn to ride. Annddd, it went really badly. Poor Ginger was like "Why are you shouting at me, I am not Bridget! Please relax and don't nag" I don't really even know how to recap my "ride". Basically I walked around and felt terrible, because Ginger went from going pretty well with M , to being unsure and reactive with me from the moment I got in the saddle. I kind of froze up and got nervous, and honestly just felt horrible that I was making her so upset. M said not to worry, it's obvious we have history, Ginger just wants to be good, it's something we can work through...etc etc etc. I was just like "No. I can't. Ginger deserves better than this, it's obvious she is telling us that I am not the rider she needs right now." 

So, if she doesn't sell I am going to do my very best to find a suitable lessor for her. And on that low note, I said goodbye, gave her a big hug and a bunch of her favorite peppermint treats. Then I got in the truck and cried pretty much the whole way home. I really hate myself right now, guys. I know Ginger can be dramatic and silly, but she really wanted no part of being around me today, and it was pretty hard to hear that from her.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Take 2

Those transitions on a circle made an appearance again for Wednesday's lesson. We started with trot/walk/trot on the circle (Recap: trotting, then asking for one stride of walk, then trotting out again on about a 15m circle). We added some tiny x's in, the goal being bigger, but not faster steps. The focus was really on staying loose and round through the transitions up and down, as well as making smooth ones within the gaits. (The fancy unicorn prancing got to make an appearance again :)

Then we added spirals and our canter/trot/canter exercise in, with the option of spiralling in or out and using the x's if I felt like the canter was "good".

The other catch? It was all done with no stirrups, which should have taken our modified circle of death exercise to an entirely more punishing level. Somewhat unsurprisingly, (since I have a love/hate relationship with my stirrups) everything felt easier. Much easier to sit without tension, much easier to influence the pony with my body, much easier to coordinate my aids. I could hang my leg softly under me, which resulted in my hips and lower back being way looser (and no back pain- oh, what a treat that is!) Midge responded by going really, really nicely, so I think we can lay much of the blame for her bracing and rushing on me. Poor pony.
Cute post ride Midge


There is much for me to think about from yesterday's lesson, there were so many light bulb moments! My comfort zone has always been to ride either without my stirrups, or with them crazy long. I've thought that was just because I grew up that way, having access to a pony but no saddle for many years. Weird habits and all that. Maybe, it's actually easier because my leg is stretched down and relaxed and then the my body naturally lines up into that place where it's easy to follow the horse's motion?  I'm definitely going to need to think on this a little more.

Moving forward, after warming up in a light seat off her back, I'm to do all my flat work in this saddle without stirrups. EC is really liking how I sit and ride without, it's easier on my back, and most importantly, Midge seems to enjoy it. Also, I might consider investing in a dressage saddle. (Gulp!) My current saddle is great for jumping, not so much for the increasingly difficult flat work we're working towards.

The kind of tension we've lately been struggling with for the first 10 minutes or so. No stirrups = almost instant relaxation - wish I had a pic!
No Stirrups November for the win, everyone. How incredibly cool to hear that what felt right to me all these years on the trails IS right. Now off I go to price out dressage saddles...

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Canter Trot Canter

So, these days we can canter off immediately when asked, in a fairly balanced transition. We have leads. Walk to canter transitions are reliable enough to be a thing now too. We can (mostly) steer, and pony usually responds when I ask her to move her body around within the canter.

What we're missing is the ability to adjust the canter. One stride currently fits all and things gradually deteriorate to uncoordinated rushing over the course of a few 20 m circles. A common approach to working on that is to ask for a trot transition just before things unravel. As I'm sure I've mentioned, Midge is a very smart and lazy pony, so she figured out super quickly that general flailing around and giving up leads to trotting. Trotting is her happy place, so she will happily bounce off walls and stumble around, then be like "OK, trot?Trot now? How about NOW?*collision course with jump standard* Surely now we trot?" In other words, another approach was needed. Tonight , a slight variation: canter a few strides, then transition to trot but get as few trot strides as possible before cantering again. All on about a 15m circle, insisting on proper bend and quality transitions up and down. The idea of all this being we decrease to 1 stride of trot, then finally think "trot" but keep cantering, and viola, a half halt in the canter is installed. (We could do this on the straight, but again Midge would brace and use it against me/go into runaway pony train mode so the circle, while more difficult to coordinate, is my friend.)


As a rider, this was a simple concept but in practice was the most ridiculously difficult thing. Keeping wayward pony on a circle, on the aids AND doing accurate transitions? I've never felt so uncoordinated in my life. By some magic, to the right we accomplished a consistent 4-6 strides of canter alternating with 1 of trot, and then the theory proved correct, because by half halting and thinking trot for a second we had a legit half halt installed and rebalanced canter activated. Love it!

The left just about fried my brain (what? now I have to weight the other seat bone and use the other outside rein?!!?) and I never did feel as coordinated there, but it is Bridget's easier side and we got it done. 

I'm excited about this exercise - it's difficult for me, but it really works and it's pretty simple. Our transitions were becoming better, and Bridget was really on the aids and focused. It also exposed some (more, lol) position issues on my part...funny how your quirks become very obvious/exaggerated when you feel rushed, as I did when trying to coordinate my body to ask for a correct canter depart with so little prep time. My little cheats became very apparent :)

Even more non excellent photos coming tomorrow :)
Next lesson: Wednesday
Next "event": Visit and mini clinic with Ginger and Trainer M, November 16.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Photo Fail

G came out to the barn with me this weekend and I asked him very nicely to take photos for the blog, because I have no idea how you lovely readers how the patience to stick around looking at only my giant walls of text.

Sadly, beautiful photos were not to be. It rained, HARD, all weekend. Also, it turns out there were multiple sports being played while I was riding, and the temptation to quickly check scores was overwhelming for poor G.

I did have some good rides all weekend, which of course means tonight's lesson will be interesting. I heard a rumor we are doing a no stirrups November thing tonight as well...oh boy.

Anyway, here's my pic, exactly as photographed by G. I may need to hire another photographer :) :


It's really us, I promise. I also promise to make another attempt at photos when he visits next weekend.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Runaway Pony Train

We introduced bounces to Ms Bridget last night and it was a total non event. She was supremely bored by it all. So, we added a vertical, then a tight bend on 3 strides to the bounces. "Meh, I am bored", said Midge. Ok then...

The fences got raised to "T may or may not stay in the tack height" (For the sake of honesty, still not very high, I was really not in the zone last night!). Bridget got inspired and starting using herself. Then she got REALLY inspired and excited and did the runaway train thing. By then, we had added in a two stride vertical to oxer combination, and I was really having troubles there. Jumping in way big and getting left a little behind, with the train only accelerating onwards. We landed over the second slightly out of control, with Midge fairly certain the arena fence was a legit part of the line. No such luck for her, for once my western days came in handy and a stop and rollback happened...slowly, but it happened. Next time through I was ready for her, but she was also ready for me and threw in a very sassy little buck and rear in protest of not being allowed to drag me to the next "jump"(the arena fence?! Seriously, could this pony have a bigger ego?) O was laughing, "Bridget is saying going 4* is totally not a problem!" And then we laughed and laughed...poor Midget, she didn't find it funny at all.
"La la la...I can't hear you!"
Other updates: I have cancelled out on the show with Bridget this weekend. Ginger is still going with trainer M. The pony budget can only stretch so far and I feel like Ginger will benefit more from the outing. I am going to the city the following weekend to catch up with Ginger and get some rides in on her. It's looking more and more like our Ginger story isn't done yet and she will be coming back to live with us. She's going to be boarded with Bridget. One of the working students is going to help me keep both ponies ridden. Long term, I really only can afford/have time for one horse, but I'm choosing not to worry too much for now and just let things work out as they need to. Plus, I think it goes without saying that I've really, really missed my big mare. A large part of me wants to keep the both of them, and let the finances and a life outside the barn be damned :)

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Fancy Prancing

We've been joking that Bridget and Katai of Stubborn Together have some sort of pony mind meld thing going on. Since Katai sounds like she's been a very good girl lately I was hoping Bridget might catch that vibe as well on lesson night.

Recycled pictures to break the text...again...
And wow, did she ever. She started out pretty sharp and spooky, but we funneled that energy for good rather than evil and I'm left totally inspired. Just when you think you know what your horse is all about, they surprise you! 

We started off trotting on a circle, spiraling in and out in addition to alternating shoulders to the inside and the outside. Those two things at once are like working in another dimension for my directionally (spell check says that's not a word, but I can't think of an alternate this early!) challenged brain, but it worked and pony warmed up super loose and supple. Next, EC had me think about slooowwwwing down. Bigger steps, same speed. And life was magical. Bridget was really lifting her back and using her hindquarters and it was all totally adjustable from my seat. Huge steps and really swinging through her back, same trot as normal but with a ton more suspension. I'm excited to see if this is a legit button now, and even more excited to see what we can do with it once she is a little stronger. (Fancy unicorn prancing everywhere? My vote is obviously YES. The child in me says it's appropriate for any occasion. If nothing else, we will mesmerize you with our prancing abilities - that is, if I could ever get pictures! ;)

Next up: take that magical unicorn trot and turn it into a canter. This is normally where our world implodes. Last night, it actually went surprisingly well. The transitions were great and the first few strides of canter felt incredible. Things unravelled a little after that, but the overall balance is just so much improved over even a month ago. Even in the not so great moments, I'm now able to ask for and get her to rebalance a stride or two at a time. She no longer has to gallop or break to trot when things get a little awkward.15m canter circles are now a thing, a noticeable improvement from September when 20m ones were a death defying stunt! Her walk and canter are both better than her trot out in the field, so I am hopeful there's a fancy canter waiting to be found consistently in the arena as well.

When we have rides like this I sometimes feel like I need to tone down my recap to keep it real. This time I say screw that - so many of our rides are not just on the struggle bus, but more like the struggle bus came along and ran us over, then stopped and backed up over us again. In other words, I need to really celebrate the good rides! She's probably the least naturally athletic welsh cob I've ever met and is packing around a not so tiny or athletic adult, so I'm extra proud when she gives us an A+ for effort. It really is much more rewarding than if it were all easy.

Add caption

Monday, 2 November 2015

Jim Wofford Clinic Notes

As noted in a previous post, I had hoped for some really detailed and excellent notes, but I had trouble hearing everything. I feel like the sound system was fine, just the seating was packed and people were getting up and down and chatting through much of the sessions. This is THE clinician I have always wanted to audit/ride with, so you can imagine my disappointment. Luckily, the horses and riders all knew their jobs and very professionally filled in the gaps in my hearing with great visual demos of the concepts. I did take home some tips I hope you'll find useful!
Lots of poles being set, sorry we were too far away to get any decent action shots

In no particular order:

-Jumping: as with dressage, you must go forward before you can go back (collect). I.e. start with long, forward distances before setting shorter ones.

-Gymnastics: Use them to create the best shape, for example with the long, flat jumper he set a series of bounces that gradually shortened to encourage a more rounded jump. Show the horse how!

-No such thing as good hands. We should say a rider has good arms.

-Misreading/hitting a jump is punishment enough for the horse, rider shouldn't react. Go back and try again immediately and praise them when they learn from the mistake. 

-Wait for the horse. Your upper body shouldn't move. Sink through knees/hips at takeoff - ideally about the distance from the fence that equals the height of it.

- Don't post the canter. Creates inconsistent contact, bumping with seat. Sit in a light three point.

- Corners. Started with angled jumps, gradually closed the gap from 3 stride, to 2, to 1, to finally a corner. Can set poles to play with this ie widest part of v is a 2 stride, narrowest a baby corner. Excellent for straightness issues!
My MS Paint skillz are embarrassing, but you get the idea.

-Bounces. Rider body needs to stay over knees. Great for agility, teaching rider to move arms rather than body. Forces horse to land and balance (good for those who like to rush away or fall on forehand after jump)

-Low, wide oxers. Guessing about 2' high and about 3' wide for the lower level session, maybe 2'6 x 4' for upper. He had these set everywhere, 2 forming a bounce, in the middle of a gymnastic line followed by a 1 stride to a vertical. Just everywhere. Idea being you need an agile, adjustable horse who learns to listen!

General: I appreciated how the same gymnastic lines came out in every session and he showed us so many variations to play with. With indoor weather coming, it was timely to see exercises demonstrated to keep the horses interested and practicing all the pieces of the xc puzzle without a lot of wear and tear (or large spaces needed). I also loved his coaching style: serious, but with a great sense of humor. Positive and encouraging with the riders, but the horse's welfare always came first. I kinda want to steal him and bring him back to my barn!

Mostly, I appreciated the horses and riders. I've been to a couple of the George Morris clinics at the same venue where there were seriously over faced horses and riders mixed in (and a rightfully angry George! I know the man has a rep for telling it how it is, but I had to totally respect how polite he actually was about it.) I digress though, this year the horses and riders were all excellent and super inspiring! I'm so thankful to whoever organized it, and to the riders for being there to demonstrate how it should be done.