Friday, 29 January 2016

Rough Day

The vet came to visit today, and the report wasn't great. It turns out Ms Bridget has COPD (heaves). An unexpected diagnosis given her age (6) and her living conditions, not to mention the lack of symptoms beyond a little cough during warmup the past couple of weeks. Since the vet was happy with Bridget's environment and feed, we're starting ASAP with some meds to help her out a bit. The good news is we've caught it early. The bad news is, as anyone familiar with COPD knows, the long term prognosis as a competive horse isn't good and there is no cure. Honestly, I didn't feel like the vet was overly positive about long term quality of life. Neither were the million internet searches I obviously couldn't resist doing, even though I knew I shouldn't. I don't have words for all the emotions I'm experiencing right now, mostly mad at the world for being unfair to a really good pony.  I remain positive we'll get a handle on this and find a management solution to keep best pony happy for a long while yet. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Because Of A Nail

Because of a nail, my truck tire had  a catastrophic blow out Tuesday night.

Because my tire was shredded, and the spare was inaccessible, I was stranded part way home after my lesson.

Because it was late, no one would come to do a repair.

Because I had to wait until morning to get the truck towed/fixed, and had to rely on public transit I couldn't make it to my barn job in the am.

Because I am the master of vague texts, the message about me not being able to muck out was misunderstood.

Because the message was misunderstood, no one mucked the paddocks yesterday.

Because I felt bad and didn't want to make today's person do the work of two, I got up at dark thirty this morning to muck for the day prior.

Because it had been 36 hours of monsooning rain and 12 bored mares, you can imagine the amount of poo and muck I shovelled (thank goodness for best barn owner who came and helped).

Because my vehicle is still unavailable, my change of clothes/hairbrush/makeup I keep in there for my 9-5 job are also unavailable.

Because I'm dumb, I forgot that important fact this morning.

All that to let you know I'm sitting here at work and I smell like the poo of 12 discontent mares today :)

This one is pretty happy though, I swear she has gotten fatter since Monday!
And the capper...because I had to catch the bus I picked up some kind of deadly virus so not only do I smell bad, I sound like I have the plague (yes, I'm totally blaming the virus part on public transit ;)

The weekend can't come soon enough :)



Tuesday, 26 January 2016

4 Leaf Clover

Last night's ride started with a very stir crazy pony! Midge had three days off and was ready to show the world how naughty she can be. I was actually a bit surprised by that, because she has had a bit of a persisting dry cough and I was worried she'd be a little under the weather (hence the relaxed schedule). We've got the vet coming out later this week to do Ginger's teeth, so Bridget can get a check up then too.

At any rate, when I got in the saddle last night Bridget was ready to go, and obviously not feeling too bothered by her cough! We kept the lesson short and easy from a physical standpoint, but it was a tough one mentally. My new enemy is the cloverleaf! We had 4 poles set up in an x pattern, and Midge was beyond excited to see 'jumps' after our recent exile into dressage land.

EC's advice: treat this as a dressage exercise, not a jumping one. We want balanced, quality gaits and transitions, we do not want excited rushing or head in the air over the 'jump'.

Canter transitions were amazing and immediate - we even got a (unasked for!) flying change or two over the poles when we started playing with reversing direction. BUT...the turns were pretty difficult on a speedy, not always balanced pony. Not to mention a rider who can't seem to remember to look for the next fence! We did have quite a few really decent turns where everything came together the way it should, and I'm excited by the potential for incorporating that feel into our daily rides. The cloverleaf also makes it so I absolutely will not make the turns if I hang on he inside rein - super rider correction exercise here :)


Our alternate exercise was picking up a canter on a 20m circle and adding in a pole here or there, while spiraling down to a 10m circle. Midge doesn't really have the balance for a 10m circle, but the beauty of spirals is you can make it a 12 or 15 when things get too tricky!

We're going to be practicing these for a while yet, along with tons and tons of transitions. I'm liking how the poles keep Midge motivated and give me a marker for where I should be. It definitely becomes obvious if I didn't get an immediate, straight transition to canter, or let her drift on the circle! EC says if I work hard, maybe by next winter we'll have a collected enough canter to do nice 10m canter circles consistently (ie on the cloverleaf). What an amazing feeling that would be!

All in all, a super productive half hour ride!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Adventures

 I just signed up for a weekend clinic with the Vancouver Police Mounted Unit. It's not until next month, but I'm pretty excited to try something new and different and I think Bridget will like the idea of pretending to be a big brave police horse! I'm also optimistic the timing will be ideal - it's the weekend before our 2 phase event in Vancouver, which will be Bridget's first ever away show. A little added confidence will be a good thing!

By coincidence, our virtual adventure has us in Vancouver this week:

It looks so real, right? lol, thanks to Paint we can paste Bridget anywhere!
My ride last night was OK, not as good as in my lesson, obviously. Left to my own devices I struggle a little with knowing what is on me and what is on Ms Bridget and am a little more uncertain about any corrections. If I hadn't had such a wonderful lesson the day before I would be saying yesterday was our best ride ever, but now I'm addicted and chasing the feel from that lesson :)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

To The Extreme

After leaving Bridget alone for two days due to me not feeling great ( end result I get to take omeprazole now, which amuses me ), I was expecting to not have the most productive lesson ever.

As soon as I got in the saddle though , I knew we were going to have a good ride!

I put our new warmup routine into practice and Midge felt amazing! Just soft and bendy and really focused, a real treat. Pony was starting to feel sorta trained, using her back, pushing from behind, and....drum roll...turning off my outside aids with no drama! There is hope!

Lesson started by doing a walk pirouette in both directions, which Midge said was a piece of cake. Next, a walking turn on the forehand (think standard turn on the forehand, but with some forward -the front legs are on their own small circle rather than pivoting, the hind legs are out on a larger circle). This was more challenging since I've been really drilling the shoulder control and slacking a little on the haunches. We spent a bit of time getting it as fluid as the pirouettes, but Midge had her game face on and figured out what we wanted very quickly.
Like so.

Moving on to trot...through the transition I was like "WOW!" and had a huge smile on my face. The transition was everything we've been working for, and the trot felt AMAZING - that powerful feeling like they're really taking you somewhere but it's completely adjustable, light and floaty. Since it was so awesome, we just played a little with collecting a few steps here and there. She was awesome, so we left well enough alone and moved up to canter.

For canter, we're starting in that awesome trot on a 10m circle, then cantering out and changing the bend to what feels like slightly counter flexion (but is really straight) on a 20m circle. Again, the transition was amazing, and the first few strides felt really, really nice. We played with that a few more times, being sure to transition down while the canter felt amazing, then finding THE trot and going back up to canter. 

Then we switched to left lead canter. Again, awesome transition up, but I got all muddled and hung on the inside rein. Midge got frustrated, because I've been totally on her case about popping her outside shoulder - which is sadly her only option if I'm inadvertently dragging her nose inside the circle. So, if not out,  where else for pony to go but up? We had a rodeo like never before lol. So, back to the trot, canter out and try again. There was some repeat rodeo action while I got my s#*t together, but eventually we had some super nice work to the left.

Rogue phone app at it again, but I like it. The original picture was of Midge last winter. Sorry for the continued lack of current media, it's been a month since I was at the barn during daylight hours and even I'm tired of the cross tie pics and shadowy indoor shots!

Homework: More of the above exercises for pony. For me? For the love of everything good, STOP overusing my left rein. 

Best part: the trainer feedback (the feedback OTHER than the above lecture re: my inability to use both reins equally and creating angry Bridget :) -
 "You're going to have so much fun with Bridget. I know you're having fun now, but this could be a really special horse for you. She could be really good at this." Having a coach that believes you can do it? Super cool!

So there you go, a lesson recap of extremes - probably the nicest trot I've ridden, followed by the worst rodeo I've stayed in the saddle for! Overall, best lesson ever, and one I will do my best to remember the feel of the next time the wheels fall off the bus and I'm feeling down.



Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Trainer Ride/App Info

A couple of you were interested in the app I'm using to mark my miles. As far as the actual distance measurements, I'm just using a running app on my phone that uses GPS to measure pace and distance. Since my phone data is not unlimited/free, I measured an average ride for an hour and measured a dressage lesson for an hour and have been using those as a base. I'm planning to actually measure one or two rides a week and estimate the rest based on those. For the mapping app, go to ArcGIS Online and set yourself up with a free account! Don't worry if you don't have actual mapping data or layers, there's a bunch of free stuff on there if you want to make maps, or if you're like me and just want a simple app with pictures, you can make a story map. For a story map, there's a bunch of free templates (or you can build your own) and all you need is some photos and a general idea of where you'd like to reference them on the provided base map. It's super easy - if you can build a blog this will be a piece of cake!
Love how shiny Bridget is, even clipped!

And, on to horses...
Bridget had her trainer ride yesterday and it was worth every penny! So worth it, in fact, I'm contemplating making room in the budget or working off a trainer ride once every couple of weeks or so. Midge tried all the tricks with her, and I was shown how to work through each. It's so helpful to be able to see your horse go! The good news is, Midge looks a million times better than the last time I saw her. The bad news? Still lots of work to go!
Take homes:
-Pick the fight about not running through the bridle the moment I get on, if necessary. No extended long/low warm up, she's schooled enough to warm up politely in a relaxed working frame.

-When I pick up even a little contact, her default is to lean/run through it. When you correct that, she gets wiggly and behind the bit. Insist she moves out on a polite medium walk even in warm up.

-I can fix a lot of the trot/canter problems in that walk. Once warmed up, transition within the walk, collect the walk and insist she stays honest in the bridle. Walk pirouettes, haunches in, shoulder in, spirals, test all the buttons before moving to trot. (Note here: B offered up a fabulous, adjustable trot after picking the fights in walk - I am definitely following this advice, rather than my current method is moving forward to trot/canter to get the naughtiness out!)

- As per above the trot work was really, really nice so she didn't do a ton of it.

- Canter/trot transitions. Great to the right, sticky to the left. Trainer tapped Midge with the whip and was given a huge (for a midget pony) buck and bolt. Silly mare, but the transitions were pretty immediate after that!

-Walk/canter transitions. Went pretty well, it's all about keeping the bend and having a nice round walk.

- Left canter in particular pretty unbalanced. Transition is a little trickier to set up this direction, and balance gets progressively worse as you make your circle. Lots of transitions needed to help her understand/build strength. On a 20m circle, transition to trot for a few strides when she starts to feel unbalanced, then back to canter. Goal, eventually 1-2 trot strides, then canter. Eventually just think transition (but don't) - have her balance off a half halt.

-Canter has improved a lot in the past 3 months, it's just the trot work has improved way more so the canter feels not so great in comparison.

All in all, lots of good feedback and I feel really encouraged - I could see a ton of progress since the last trainer ride. Particularly in walk/trot, the moments of "so fancy - is that even my pony?!" have morphed into minutes. The canter has moments now too, so I have hope those moments can become minutes eventually as well!




Friday, 15 January 2016

Blah/Adding Up The Miles

Blah. My word for the season. I've been super motivated to make a little progress. I don't want the horrible canter and awful transitions of the last couple of weeks to actually be a thing, so I am slightly optimistic they will (magically) be absent one of these days and our world will return to the happy rides of a month or two ago.

Not so much. But gradually, it IS getting a little better.Trainer was there last night and offered to ride her for me this weekend. Trainer was also pretty optimistic it's a normal phase - we are asking her to be a grown up pony now and do balanced transitions and go on the bit when asked. Throughout the time I've owned her, Bridget hasn't been too keen on anything resembling work, so I shouldn' t be surprised at the pony tantrums now that we've started asking a little more from her. Bridget says it's too hard to go forward into contact in the canter, so she'll just not go forward at all. Or she'll go really fast and drag you along...normal baby horse problems made worse by the fact she is not much of a trier by nature and also deceptively flexible/athletic.

We're in dressage land now for the forseeable future. Jumping wise, we can jump small courses and pick up our leads, but we need a more consistent, adjustable canter before we can move forward with bigger jumps or more complicated courses. In short, until we improve this canter we're kind of at an impasse.
Quick screen grab of our little motivational app

So, as a way to keep myself motivated and feeling like we are moving forward, I've created this fun app to chart our miles this winter. Essentially, I'm just tallying up our miles and seeing where we could travel in real world miles...like if we weren't stuck in an arena riding in circles. So far the results are surprising me - we cover some legit distances every week, and it's fun to imagine taking Bridget places. Our virtual start point is Mile 0 of Hwy 101. For now, we're going to travel down the Pacific Coast and see how far we get in a year :)

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Winter Struggles

My lack of work ethic over the last month or so has become apparent - apparently it's not a great idea to give naughty green ponies even a tiny break in their schedule :) Bridget pony has not been on her best behavior of late and last night's lesson was no exception! Since last week's dressage lesson didn't go overly well and my rides in between haven't been great, I opted for another lesson on the flat rather than a jumping one.

We're back to the whole can't turn thing, or if she can turn, she can't go forward at the same time. Fun times! As a rider, I really need to stop with the nitpicking and micromanaging and just let her make the mistakes. I really struggled with that last night - my body apparently works completely independently of my mind - and I was getting pretty frustrated with myself.

So really, not a great ride. I think Midge and I were equally frustrated with the program/each other.When EC asked us to work on walk/canter transitions we made some good headway, but it feels like the quality of the canter is a little lost at the moment. Discouraging, but hey, we've been here before and we'll get back to a good place again, I'm sure.

Moving forward, after a month of 2-3 rides a week, I'm going to go back to my 1 lesson and 2 schooling rides a week program, but also add in a day of lunging with side reins. (Plus her weekend hacks, long and low to build up strength). As EC explained it, the lunging is probably a worthwhile effort to bridge the gap in her understanding of how to use her body in canter, since we keep hitting the same big setbacks with the whole cantering with a rider thing. Disappointing, since she was doing great all fall, but hey, that's life.

With that in mind, I scratched out of the shows (1 dressage and 1 combined test) at the end of January and signed up for the February ones instead. The $ saved this month can go to extra lessons! I've also signed up for an intro to eventing clinic (with some surprisingly big name riders) - so exciting!

Ginger, however, is doing great. She has a full schedule and is being ridden every day. I'm feeling superstitious and don't want to jinx anything, but for now I've pulled her sale ads and am quietly optimistic she's found her good fit in the most unexpected of places. Even if it doesn't work out long term, a few more months of riding with lots of lesson miles won't be a bad thing for her.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Recent Purchases/Eventing On A Budget

For the first time (ever?), I have the spare $ to show and I have the desire. I have a horse to ride, and I have a coach. Since it's been probably 10+ years since the last time I was really serious about/able to have a show season, I'm lacking a few things. My budget is tight, so $ are a big consideration with any purchase. I figure that probably holds true for a lot of horse poor riders, so here's some quick product reviews of my (relatively) inexpensive buys from the past year:



Why I bought it: Light, comfy, well ventilated. I liked the look of it as well...modern without being "look at me" noticeable.
Price paid: $90 CAD
Verdict: Meh. It looks cheap close up, and on my head feels pretty much the same as their base schooling helmet, just with a nicer chinstrap. That being said, it's flattering on everyone I've seen it on and perfectly acceptable for local shows where I might feel a little underdressed in my (Ovation Protege) schooling helmet. The price point is still very reasonable for what it is.



Why I bought it: I liked the contrasting side panels and the idea that it's pretty versatile - I'd wear it in clinics or events, even the local dressage shows under my coat.
What I paid: $20 CAD (on clearance) Reg price is about $45.
Verdict: Super value for the money! Nice enough tech fabric, flattering on, not see through either! I'm not sure it's light enough for summer, but a great spring/fall shirt. My only caveat: I feel like the sizing runs quite large, and also the sleeves run pretty long - I wish I had ordered a size down/the cut was a little less boxy. But, for $45 it's decent. For $20, this shirt is a definite win.


Why I bought it: ASTM/SEI/BETA certified, flexible size range, great price point.
What I paid: $190 CAD.
Verdict: I like the feel of it, a lot less like an old school boating life jacket than the others I tried! Really adjustable - as a short person I appreciate the adjustable shoulders. My only complaint is that my chest is relatively large compared to my waist and I feel like the rib cage area doesn't adjust quite small enough in the size I needed to order for my chest. Still, no regrets, it fits well enough, is comfortable on, is as flattering as a safety vest can be, and most importantly - it's certified! All that for under $200 delivered to my door. Win.


Why I bought it: Midge is currently uneven in her shoulders. Saddle fitter recommended a corrective pad to keep my saddle stable until she evens out. This pad has removable shims, so I can keep using it as a shock absorbing half pad after it's use as a corrective pad is over. This particular one was one of the few in my price range.
What I paid: $109
The verdict: Great! Love the dark cotton material, love that it's easily washable. I like that the foam has a similar feel to the thinline pads - I'm not a fan of the feel of the really soft squishy pads. We're maybe not the most stylish, but this is good quality and will do the job for a lot less $. Win.

Why I bought them: Needed new field boots, and options were limited with my kid sized feet and adult sized calves. I was disenchanted with the Mountain Horse boots and these came in my size at a similar price point.
What I paid: $289 CAD.
Verdict: Initially, "meh". The fit and quality were alright, but the zippers wouldn't stay up, and the top buttons were awkward. 6 months later, these are my go to boots - they broke in beautifully and are super comfy. The zippers have also magically started staying up, which helps :) Not sure I'd buy these again without comparing more options, but I'm happy enough with them.

Why I bought them: I didn't, but I was going to! Great price point, get generally good reviews.
What I paid: I won them at a show. Normal retail is about $40.
The Verdict: Another "meh". Neoprene is easy to clean, Velcro is fine, looks wise they're fine. They seem a bit flimsy though, and I worry they'd get hot. They sit in my tack box and pony goes naked for now. I'd maybe save my money and spend a little extra for something that feels a little cooler and more substantial protection wise, but that's just me!

Overall: I'd recommend any of these products for someone on a budget. The ones I've said "meh" to, it's only because I wouldn't rule out finding something a lot better for a little more $ if your budget has a some wiggle room or you're able to find quality used stuff. I'm perfectly happy with all the above items for the price point they retail at, the quality on all is totally acceptable and I expect many years of use from each item.


Thursday, 7 January 2016

The Wheels

On the struggle bus are falling off. Or in Bridget's case, spinning rapidly out of control and dragging the bus over the nearest road edge :)

We've lost the steering again in a big way. It's partly my own fault, because I opted for a vacation and only rode twice last week, plus we've been struggling focusing on grids and gymnastics lately so dressage has been a bit ignored. (strangely enough though, my aids work perfectly fine when we're jumping, something to do with pony actually wanting to be forward/make the turns ?)

She warmed up really pushy and on the muscle. I picked that fight because I was tired and had limited patience. Big mistake.

Our lesson time started with Bridget in full on "I don't wanna" mode. My coach was unperturbed, and either hates us or simply reads the same blogs I do, because our warm up exercise was quite similar to the one Cob Jockey wrote about recently - half pass to spiral. Since we're not as advanced, our half pass is only for a step or two, then the bend changes to a leg yield, then back to half pass. The spiral also alternates, asking for a shoulder in position on the spiral in, and haunches in on the spiral out.

Bridget is super bendy, so even though she is green, she can do all this provided I stay coordinated. Whether she wants to do this is another story! Today, the answer to all my questions was a big fat no. Our warmup exercise turned into our lesson, and in a scene reminiscent of our struggles last spring, it only got worse before it got slightly better. That bendy ability can be used against me in a huge way since she is fully capable of bending around my leg while simultaneously falling through it. I have no idea how the physics of some of her naughty pony moves work, suffice to say I can have her in what should be a correct position yet somehow we travel forward or sideways where a fat green pony should not be able to.

Our interpretation of a spiral....
In the walk, I had a handle on it. In the trot, we were moderately successful, but needed to go back to walk to force the issue a couple of times, particularly near the gate. It wasn't ever smooth and flowy, but eventually it got done. Next, to add a canter transition on the spiral out. And then the wheels fell irretrievably off. Bridget could not canter last night, she could only gallop. Since she could only gallop on the forehand, she could not move her shoulders. Since she could not move her shoulders, she couldn't turn. Since she couldn't turn, she had to trot. So we spiraled in and made her use her bum and move her shoulders in trot. Spiral out and repeat. It was awful, for every pound of pressure I'd use to ask her to move, she'd push back with two. The entire lesson from start to finish felt like a struggle. I actually felt like I might throw up, I was so physically done in by the end.
Despite my negativity, there was a big improvement from start to finish. I did "win" that fight I picked and pony finished off cantering a spiral. It was never a nice canter, but we did the exercise. It was just one of those rides that I wish I could take back and approach from a different angle, one of those ones that as a rider really makes you wish you had some more tools in the toolbox. 

EC's input was essentially that Bridget was bullying me and I needed to pick the fight and get it done. OK, I get it. But I still can't help but wonder what piece of the puzzle I'm missing, because in a perfect world we would not have these rides where Bridget's answer to everything I ask from the moment I show up at the barn is "just try to make me!" Granted, these bad days are getting more and more infrequent, but they are still troubling.

Please if anyone out there likes me, if I ever publicly say I am getting a project pony/horse ever again, point me back to this post, and remind me why it is the dumbest idea ever :) (Obviously I am only joking here, I love my Midget pony and overall am very much enjoying the training process!)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Motivated

It's only a few days into 2016, and my question of the day is how everyone keeps themselves motivated!

This is a bit of a tough time of the year - there simply aren't enough daylight hours to get all the things done. Today, for example, I woke up at 6 am to get to the barn. The snow we had is melting into a big yucky mess. Drove, mucked out the barn, had just enough daylight to start on the paddock, the poop mixed with slushy snow and mud turning it into a backbreaking and time consuming task, then had to leave for my real job. After my real job, I'll have to head back for my lesson, and will likely have to finish mucking with a flashlight later tonight. Ginger will have to wait for tomorrow. I won't get home til 9-ish and I am in dire need of some groceries and clean laundry, not to mention a larger savings account. These are the days when I feel completely burnt out and just want to run far, far away from work and horses and go hide on a nice sunny beach somewhere.

 Experience tells me though, that about 2 days into that sunshine-y vacation I'm wondering where the nearest stable is. Heaven help Mr G if there are horses in sight of our hotel, or even worse, people riding on the beach :) The place we stayed at last year in San Jose Del Cabo had a whole stable of shiny, happy, grey Iberian type horses right next door - it took all my self control not to spend a million dollars to rent one every morning and gallop up the beach :)
These horses paraded past our hotel every morning. Photo from website HERE

The few tricks I have to stay motivated/on track in winter:

-Be super organized. If I'm hungry or tired or forgot my boots (or some days, even need to stop for gas!) it's an easy excuse to skip the barn after work. If my riding gear is clean and ready, I have water and snacks, and the rest of my life is (somewhat) under control, it's a lot easier to keep the barn a priority.

-Related to above- Dress/Groom for Success! I make myself braid and detangle tails and pull manes weekly. I pick and disinfect hooves daily. The horses both wear sheets to help keep them clean. My clothes and tack are neat and clean and my boots are shiny. I try to dress appropriately for the weather and pack a spare coat and socks just in case temps change. Keeping up with the above makes it a lot less likely I'll get overwhelmed with the day to day stuff and will be able to fit in riding time.

-Reading blogs and watching videos. Seriously, reading about and watching videos of other's enjoyment and successes with their horses is one of the best ways to keep me motivated to continue with my own.

-Try to live in the moment. Or if the moment is like this morning - freezing cold, dark, wet, and mucky...try to live a little in the future, when it will be dry, warm, and sunny, with daylight hours stretching long past the amount I need to get all the things done :)

What are your best tips and tricks?

Monday, 4 January 2016

Planning for 2016

It's that time of year! I was recently emailed a calendar showing all the shows and clinics the barn is attending in 2016, and asked to pick which ones I'm interested in. While I feel like I'm pretty good at setting long term goals, adding in a hard time frame makes me a little anxious! My not so great riding the other night also has me discouraged about my bigger goals.

The superstitious/realistic side of me has a big problem signing up to attend stuff next September, while the little kid in me wants to sign up for everything! Luckily(?), my work/finance situation makes the decision making process slightly easier. I have a tight budget and limited vacation time! Yay, lucky me ;) With those limitations in mind, I signed up for one local-ish (Greater Vancouver area) clinic/show/event per month now through October. There will be a few extra local shows throughout the year that are cheap and basically in our backyard, so I plan on taking full advantage of those too. I also left the door open for travelling to a bigger event mid summer, but we'll see. My current thought process is that this is our first year, we'll be at the lowest levels, and we both just need mileage - no point spending the $ to cross the border or attend destination type events. Maybe next year?
Decisions, decisions

Since Bridget is game, but not necessarily the next big eventing star, the long term plan is to event for fun to where ever we're comfortable, then start focusing more on dressage. Eventing will be the sideline eventually. With that in mind, we'll be attending a few more dressage oriented schooling shows and clinics in 2016 than maybe an average eventer might.

Goals for the year:

Horses:
-Happy, sound ponies
-Show Training level dressage without embarrassing ourselves. Schooling First level solidly. (Both horses)
-Gain as much experience as possible on xc. Aiming for Pre-Entry at some point (the 2'6" division) (Bridget)
-Finish on our dressage score at an event (Bridget)
-Trail ride as often as possible, mix it up and keep the ponies happy!(Both ponies)
-Options for Ginger, either full time lease or sale

-Rider:

-Lose those last 15lbs
-Work hard on my jumping position
-Ride a minimum of 4x a week
-Simplify life. I'm totally overwhelmed right now. 
-Travel somewhere new

To put these goals in context:

-We're all currently happy and sound.
-Bridget and I have done training level tests at a schooling show this fall without embarrassing ourselves. This is not a soft goal though, because the standard will be higher at an away show, and until our canter gets stronger we won't be moving up. Ginger has done training level with trainer M this fall, but I'm a chicken when it comes to taking her new places.
-XC. Neither pony has gone XC, I have never gone XC. I'd like to hope we won't be totally lost since we do have tons of trail miles with water/ditches/logs, etc. This is currently our weakest point.
-Ginger currently has some ambitious teenagers riding her regularly, lets home we can continue forward into something a little more permanent.
-I just ate way too much Christmas food.
-4x a week is doable, try for 5
-My life is chaos. Full time job, 2 ponies to look after/exercise, part time barn job, way too long of a commute from my rented place here...and oh yeah, my 'real' home (and husband G) are a couple of hours away via ferry and I like to spend weekends there...
-Vacation time is refreshed for 2016, air miles account is large and passports are getting renewed this week.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Further Silliness

Due to the holiday schedule, our lesson took place mid week and was shared with one of the more advanced horses and riders. Since they obviously jump much higher than me, the compromise was slightly higher jumps than my norm, but lots of related distances, bending lines, a gymnastic line, and some particularly tricky angled lines to keep it interesting for the others.

Bridget was a superstar, I rode terribly. I was a little uncomfortable with the height and pony was a bit backed off too, since she was a little unsure about some of the trickier things. With the over jumping and weird momentum I felt like I was loose in the tack more often than not. I also wasn't riding confidently so we were doing that thing where you ride in with not quite enough momentum and the jumps end up feeling awful. Next time I will be a little more assertive (and carry a stick!) Bridget did get frustrated with me and had a bit of a rodeo at one point, but kindly stopped bucking after it seemed like I might actually get turfed. She still gets an A+ for being the most honest pony around and not stopping even when things got weird.
Maybe.
Her only silly moment came when we introduced a fake liverpool in the form of a blue gym type mat borrowed from the vaulting club. She'd been giving it the evil eye and was unhappy with the noise it made when the sand hit it as we rode by. We introduced it by letting her look at it but being a Welsh Cob, the first thing she did was stick her foot over the cross rail and on to the mat. Both my girls like to step on or paw at anything weird before they get close. Weird horses. 

Anyway, I guess it felt odd because she didn't want to put her weight on that leg and ended up getting herself in a muddle and falling/laying down in the jump. Either that or the blue mat passively sucked her in and was going to eat her, not sure. It was all very slow and non scary, and in typical Bridget fashion she had to sit/lay there and think about life for a bit before she got up. Or maybe the mat was comfy to lie on? Again, no knowing what she thinks sometimes. Once she righted herself and we went back and walked over without issue. Next, we built it back into a proper oxer and again she jumped it no big deal. Pony is zero drama, at least. EC brought up the similarity to the time she slipped in the barn aisle and nonchalantly laid there...I decided not to mention the snow rolling incident from the day before, there's only so much fail we can admit to/demonstrate to everyone in an hour - it's nice to pretend we can manage to keep ourselves upright :)

My homework: grids without stirrups, grids without reins. Focus on riding FORWARD! keeping those heels DOWN! and shoulders BACK! even when I'm unsure/nervous.

Bridget's homework: Nada. I think she deserves a few days off for tolerating my awful riding during this lesson!
Halo shining very bright after our ride


Quick note: I felt like I got run over by a train the day after this lesson. I really need to work on keeping my upper body still and my heels down. No matter what!


Friday, 1 January 2016

Shenanigans

First up, an attempt to repair the third blanket in two weeks that Ms Ginger has trashed. Duct tape, anyone?


Then, since the sun was shining, a hike/trail ride with Bridget and G. Bridget was a little reluctant again to head out, but once we got past those pesky llamas she perked up a little. It took about an hours worth of walking up the steep roads and trails behind the barn, but we made it to the snow line. I dismounted there because my feet needed to thaw out a bit, and also because my best friend shattered a leg when her horse slipped in the snow and fell on her - years later that memory still makes me cautious.  Bridget was beyond excited to see the snow and was trying to drag me along into it. I'm 99.9% sure she must have seen snow before, but that didn't stop her from acting like a large dog and plowing her feet and nose through it as we walked along. 
This pony is happy

You can likely can guess what came next...yep she laid down in it to make horsey snow angels in it. She was so sneaky and quick about it G thought she fell down and I was being a big meanie by kicking at her to get up. She was still tacked up and I was imagining a broken saddle tree and dollar bills blowing away in the wind. Also, we were on a pretty steep hill among some trees - not the safest place to roll around. Up she (finally) got and we walked up the mountain a while further. We found a little level clearing finally. Then, because she is super spoiled, I un tacked her and let her dig and roll around to her hearts content. 
Like a dog

The couple of scrapes my saddle got from the sneaky roll are unfortunate, but overall, I think in the future I'll look at them and smile. Her obvious love of the day really reminded me of our old dog's reaction to the rare snow we'd get. Normally Bridget is a pretty serious little thing and wise beyond her years, so it was neat to see her have a silly baby horse moment or two.

We made it home without incident, and were just in time to see Ginger and her little rider finish up their lesson. They looked great, which made my day even better.