Thursday, 28 April 2016

Lesson Recaps, etc

Following our successful schooling show, we got up early the next morning for a dressage lesson. It's starting to be the time of year when EC is frequently away at shows and clinics, so we take whatever we can get whenever we can get it!

Our lesson was good. I'm starting to get a pretty maneuverable little pony, so even the not so great rides have moments where I'm grinning from ear to ear simply because We Can Actually Do Stuff Now. Babies are awesome, but there's a limit to how excited I can get about things like Going Forward, Stopping, and Turning. For whatever reason, those concepts took over a year to truly sink into the Midge brain, which was more than a little soul sucking for us both. Luckily, Bridget's attitude has done a 180 in the past few months, and we've moved on to more interesting concepts. I think we can agree playing with lateral work and collection is much more fun, even on the days we fail miserably :)

More eventing camp pics, first is Midge and Ginger being the "wingmares" for someone :)

Wednesday night we had a jumping lesson featuring only 4 fences, but a ton of tricky lines...oxer to a bending 4 stride to a bounce gymnastic anyone? Since Midge is handy, we had no issues getting there and jumping, but the style was decidedly lacking in places. Midge is super light in the bridle, so on the days when she's slightly behind the leg it's really difficult for me. I really need to work to compress the canter and get more of the feel that she's taking me to the jump rather than my unfortunate default of chucking the reins at her and pushing her to get there. Chasing her = flat, ugly canter, and counter intuitively, a shorter stride. EC talked us through it and we found our jumping canter and had some decent rounds, although the Midge felt really tired throughout. The horses have recently been turned out in the big summer field together so there has been much galloping and rough housing all day - I'm hoping that is the reason for her sluggishness of late.

We have a hunter/jumper show in just over a week, so let's hope she wakes up in time for that!

In other news, with EC as a mentor I'm going to pursue my english riding instructor certifications. I'm not sure what it's like in the US, but in Canada there is a bit of a process and qualifications to meet to become certified. There are plenty of people teaching without being certified, but Equine Canada has a good program that is super recognizable here and I'd like to think most people would choose a coach holding a current license over one that doesn't. This is all part of a big master plan and something I've wanted to do for a long time, but the process (for me, at least!) seemed somewhat intimidating without a mentor. Luckily I've found one in EC. I'm sure there will be a bunch of posts to follow as there are a couple of coaching courses and some riding and teaching evaluations I'll be attending.
Midge is looking quite fit lately!


Monday, 25 April 2016

Clear Rounds Recap

(As previously warned, media on this post is from eventing camp last weekend and kind of out of context...still, actually posting photos of the pony jumping has to count for something :)

Poor Midge, I interrupted nap time in a big way Saturday morning.

On the one hand, I LOVE that we can load her in the trailer and take her new places and more often than not she's just super chill. On the other hand, baby pony would it kill you to wake up and have a little more forward momentum? :) She's been super honest of late, but today she reverted back to the old Bridget and felt pretty slow to respond and slightly behind the leg.

We entered the cross rail class as a warmup (also to help me remember the course) and it looked so ridiculously tiny. Is it just me or was it WAY bigger last fall? (You're right, it's just me ;) Bridget motored around without issue, but was less than inspired.

The 2' course went really well, she was still a little quieter than I like, but she went in and did her job like a pro. We don't have lead changes yet, but we're rocking the simple change via a trot stride. She had no problem getting the big horse strides either. Good pony.

2'3" was essentially a repeat of 2'. If I was being nitpicky I'd say we could smooth things out a little and be straighter through one of the turns but for where we're at training wise I truly couldn't ask for more from the pony .

2'6" was a little rougher. The lines rode really well, but she was tired and backed off on a couple of the verticals heading away from home. No refusals, but I could feel her thinking about it!

We ended there, since anything bigger on a midget pony would require a bit more of an engine than I had and EC wasn't there to give us advice and confidence today. 

Pleasant surprise: 2'6" wasn't the move up I thought it would be. I thought it would be a push for us, but no, it actually felt small-ish. EC is quite sneaky about raising fence heights in lessons.  I suspect our lesson courses have been in the 2'6" to 2'9" range for quite some time now, but it's happened so gradually I assumed they were still really tiny.

Besides, the 2 foot whatever stuff set for my lesson always looks positively teeny compared the the 4' oxer set next to it for the girls in the lesson before and after me. Perspective - it's working for me!

In case you can't tell, I'm beyond pleased with Bridget today. Last fall just cantering the crossrails seemed like a big enough challenge for us both. Today, she was happily packing my less than awesome self around like a pro! I'm totally pumped that my drafty looking little pony has room to go higher too. Fingers crossed, we'll never outgrow each other - we're having too much fun together!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Slowing it Down

Bridget had a big weekend and a long trailer ride so she got Monday off.

This post brought to you by relaxing ponies.

Tuesday was that magical day every spring where the mares all get turned out into the big field for the next few months. Many horse shenanigans ensued, and by the time I got off work and popped in the saddle, pony felt pretty tired. We did a quick warm up and popped over a couple of jumps before just calling it good and going for an easy hack. Midge was honest about being forward and going to the jumps, but I could feel her heart wasn't really in it.

Midge resting, again
Wednesday I gave tired pony another day off.

More sleeps
Thursday, we did a short dressage school where the pony felt wonderful. We followed that with 2 short jump courses, fences ranging from 2' to 2'6. Zero issues there, I think we both felt it was tiny and easy compared to what we saw last weekend :)
A herd of sleepiness
Today, she will have another day off, because tomorrow we have a schooling show and the pony will need energy to jump multiple rounds. We've also got a dressage lesson Sunday, so another busy weekend for Ms B!
Just can't even.

Why we're tired, in numbers: Last week, we traveled twice as far as a normal week, clocking 10 hours in the saddle and 114km. Even with our lazy days, this week also comes in above average due to the past weekend with 6 hours and 62 km. Virtual adventures weeks 15 and 16 have been added accordingly!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Day 3 Clinic Recap

3 full days of XC clinics? Yep, it's true! Sadly, our third day was the final day - all good things really must come to an end.

There was no pace clinic on day 3, so we went directly to our lesson. I got on at shortly before 9 with the plan of warming the (again overexcited) Midge up and having a few minutes for the ever so talented L to hop on and school the pony a bit over some bigger jumps. Due to a mistake in the scheduling, our clinician showed up at 9 and decided to just go ahead and start. Win for an extra half hour of coaching, lose for not being able to have L get a feel for our issues beforehand.

100 acres of XC, please can I just stay here forever?

Off we went to our friendly little logs from day 1. They rode well, and Bridget powered right on over them. I was beginning to think I had worried for nothing. As we finished up there, L came to find me for what she thought was her pre-lesson ride. Luckily, MD was completely agreeable to having L hop on during the lesson, so we sent her out over some large-ish houses to see how the Midge felt to her. And...pony threw in several dirty stops. I felt guilty for feeling vindicated that it wasn't just me getting caught out, but I have to take those small victories :) L, being much more gutsy and talented than me, just made her jump things from a standstill, and eventually pony seemed to get the memo that stopping isn't an option we approve of and jumping things is easier then stopping and climbing over. The verdict? Pony isn't scared or worried, she's just being a...pony. I hoped back on to tackle a different line and I think everyone expected a bit of carnage. Surprisingly, none was to be had and Midge treated me well by jumping everything I pointed her at, even some spooky ramp type things (I'm sure there is a proper word for them...logs arranged like a post and rail fence tilted away from you). We called it a win and ventured back over to the water complex. Again, all the horses were fantastic about jumping in and out of the water, so we added a little oxer about 3 strides out of the water. Jump into the water, canter through, up the bank to the oxer. No one had issues there, so we called the water conquered and moved on to the big steps (like 2' high, so HUGE to me lol) on the other end of the property.
Obviously not me, but this is the bottom step we schooled. I'm hoping to get the photo and video situation sorted this weekend so I can inundate you with XC media that will be out of context in future posts :) Photo borrowed  from the HTBC website

Up the steps was an easy concept, but I really struggled with going down. Midge was keen to canter and leap off and I never really felt like I rode it as nicely as I should. I'm not sure whether having steps on a steep slope is standard - the steps at this place are in a big mound above the rest of the fields so you ride up the hill, then have a stride or two at the top before you drop down a step, then a steep slope to a second step followed by another steep slope. The slope was an issue, because the horses would drop down the first step then want to race down the remainder of the hill! Still, we did it and it was fun and I managed to stay in the tack for the entirety of day 3:) We ended our weekend there, because time was up and I literally can't think of anything we didn't school. Ditches, water, drops, logs,  coops, rolltops, angles, ramps, combinations...super confidence building! MD thought our group was more than ready for Pre-Entry (2'6") or Entry (equates to BN) which was cool to hear, but I think we'll go with a Starter event first :)

This clinic was amazing. There was an abundance of information available all weekend long. We attended a couple of info sessions on Saturday - Steph Rhodes Bosch on fitness and planning your event season and my own coach gave the Intro To Eventing talk.  Since I was done riding by noon every day, I also had the opportunity to watch the upper level clinics. With 4 lessons running concurrently throughout the property until 6:00 there was no shortage of auditing opportunities. When I go next year, I'll bring a notebook and take copious notes - this year it was overwhelming amount of information to take in and retain for a newbie like myself, so there will be no further notes forthcoming here :) If you're within a few hours of the BC southern interior, I'd highly recommend this clinic - we ended up with 8 hours of excellent instruction for $230 including the pace clinics, stabling was $75, and camping was free.

The trip home was long and uneventful. We were all in desperate need of a shower and a good night's sleep, but I don't think anyone really wanted to go back to the real world. I know I didn't!
Filthy, exhausted, and happy. Midge sums up the weekend for us

Next on the schedule:
Clear Rounds Day this weekend (we're doing 2', 2'3" and 2'6")
Hunter/Jumper show May 7 (2'3" and 2'6")
Dressage show May 28 (aiming for First level Test 1)
Spring Horse Trials June 4/5 (at Starter!)


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

XC Clinic Day 2

The morning came far too early once again, partly because we brought the bag the tent lives in...but no tent. Super helpful, right? It turned out not so bad the first night because we had a tarp, but the second was breezy and dipped below freezing so I was sad we forgot our tent!

Since I actually knew about the second pace clinic Saturday morning, I was in the tack by 8:30 to get warmed up. Once again, Midge was pretty wild. Apparently our adventures of the previous day didn't make a dent in her energy. For our second ride with EC, we added in about 5 fences along the route. One was a log we'd jumped the previous day, one was a coop, and the others were log piles in various forms. Off we went, confident as anything. As we cantered down to fence 1, I felt Midge start to wiggle and back off. I gave her my best encouragement, but she was like "nope, too fast, I don't know what to do" and slammed to a stop at the last second. I circled to re-present it to her. Nope again, only this time I popped off over her shoulder since I am not that great and truly thought she was going (she got a front leg, plus me, over, at least ;) Back up in saddle and under orders to trot the thing and MAKE HER GO. So, I did, and it was awkward as anything and I popped out of the tack AGAIN. Not cool! I think everyone felt sorry for me by this point, so we got to restart. Off we went, and no issues with our nemesis. On to fence two, trotted in to let her see it, and again, a dirty pony stop. Re-presented and jumped it the second go. I skipped fence 3 since it was way big and optional. Fences 4 and 5 were wobbly, but on the way home so the pony jumped them. We didn't get a time because that stop obviously put us below the 350m/min minimum. I was pretty grateful that my coach from home, EC, was the one supervising our less than stellar efforts. She's super calm and level and very much of the "forget about it, dust yourself off and try again" persuasion.

Randomly riding off into the sunset :)



 We next moved over to the second course marked out for us, which involved way more terrain than the first. There was a bit of a drop down onto a steep hill leading into a big hollow that made me a little apprehensive. For this course, we decided to make it positive (and I'm sure less nail biting for observers) and ignore the fences and just go for time - MD was going to have to fix our new jumping confidence issues later. With no jumps to worry over, the second course was SUPER fun, Midge tackled the step down like no big deal and I channeled my best Man From Snowy River and cantered down into the gully like a champ. She charged back out and our time was 360m/min or so. I was quite happy with that given our goal of 350 and that the course required a lot more adjustments of pace and guesswork on my part than the first. With mixed emotions, off we headed to day 2 of our xc clinic with MD.
Warming up

I needn't have worried. MD was again super positive and gave me instructions not to dwell too hard on the previous hour. Basically, Midge is the equivalent to preschooler and we can't expect her to focus and be perfect all the time! As for my nerves, I was told to put on my best acting skills. "Who would you like to ride like?" she asked. My off the cuff answer was Mary King, so Mary King I was to be for the rest of the day. We went out and introduced ditches and Midge was like "fun!" and we quickly got our groove back. After walking through the small ditch, Midge happily cantered everything else, even the bigger prelim ditches (sounds impressive, but seriously they are no big deal ridden by themselves as a simple ditch ie no huge fence or wall before or after!) Next, we tackled a couple of easy logs without issue, then added in a big ramp. Midge again was like "nope!" and MD asked why Mary King was riding like such a ... girl. OK then, off we went, and Midge may or may not have got a big smack on her bottom a stride or two before the fence. Ponies don't mess with Mary King, so over we went. We rode it one more time and it went well, so off we moved on to some further challenges. Our next challenge was 3 of the fences from course 2 of the morning's pace clinic that I had opted not to try to jump. Maybe MD saw my sissiness earlier that morning, maybe not, but a strange coincidence, on a property with hundreds of jumps, no? We had a couple more refusals, and honestly, we made it happen but they felt icky. Pony was plenty energetic, but not feeling overly like a team player. We ended on a good note, and went back over to one of the water complexes to play there, since we knew all the horses were pretty confident with that and it would be a good place to end for myself and our lesson mate who was also having some minor troubles. (Ginger, on the other hand, was a superstar and stylishly jumping training level stuff all day long and loving it!) We got tons of video of both ponies, but of course G's phone doesn't want to send them to mine, so I'll have to be patient.
Ginger says water is no big deal

Our water adventures started with just trotting and cantering through the water, then progressed to popping out up the small bank, and then dropping in off a little bank (maybe 2' high). Midge was very enthusiastic about the dropping in and I was concerned she might drop me in the water, particularly from trot, but it all went great and we went back to camp tired, but happy.

I think we actually tired the pony out
I met up with EC on the way back and she asked how the rest of my day had gone after my rather poor start. When I explained Midge felt really backed off, she said that wasn't unheard of - the first day out the horses don't know anything and are super excited, the second is where they start to think about their options and show your weaknesses, particularly if they are crafty like the Midge. She suggested having someone pop on Midge the following morning and jump her for a few minutes just in case it was a confidence thing or something I was doing. Done deal. I left day 2 with mixed feelings, sad we'd not been as successful/confident overall, but also super proud of all the things that Midge could do in such a short time - who knew she'd love it so much and that we'd be easily making time in a pace clinic, jumping in and out of water, over ditches, and in and out of steep gullies? Not to mention bravely dealing with the atmosphere of the place - super busy, with people and horses and spooky jumps everywhere! Besides, I was supposed to be Mary King and she wouldn't let a fall or two or a bad day stop her!

Monday, 18 April 2016

XC Clinic Day 1

First off, I had so much fun! This past weekend marked our very first cross country schooling, and by about 5 minutes in I was hooked on eventing in a big way. I've got tons of video to share at a later date and am waiting on some nice photos. Anyway, on to Day 1...

Day 1 came much too early. The campsites at the clinic venue were lovely, open grassy fields mixed with scattered pine trees. The stabling was in the form of pole paddocks mixed in small groups throughout the campsite area. There was a gorgeous view out over the river valley and the overall impression was of a peaceful, rustic ranch getaway. Nice, right? The reality was, horses are LOUD and maybe not the best campsite friends. Particularly when there are about 100 of them in a new location calling to each other, not to mention randomly discovering escape routes from their paddocks throughout the night! The horse party went on all night, so I doubt I was alone in speeding a sleepless first night.
Happy in her all inclusive party hotel


Friday morning finally came, and since my ride time wasn't until 10, I ventured out to check out the xc field. Initial impressions were that the place is huge, I'm guessing we were using about 100 acres of mixed rolling grasslands and forests, and all of it was set up for XC. Super cool! My coach spotted me and asked why I wasn't ready for the pace clinic at 9:00. Being too embarrassed to admit I had no idea what a pace clinic was or why I should be doing it, or even where I was supposed to sign up, I just spent the next 15 min frantically tacking Bridget up.
Part of the XC fields

Bridget was on FIRE, apparently still well into horse party mode. I managed to make it over to the meeting point still in the saddle, which was a win in itself. I then learned what a pace clinic is all about! For those who don't event or newbies like me, essentially there was a 520m course marked out and my job was to canter the pony around the course at 350m/minute, aka the speed I will be competing at for the next while. I was told we were looking for a nice big canter, like I would want for jumping. Midge had other ideas and my shoulders are still sore 4 days later from holding her back. Thank goodness for the terrain, the steep uphills at least gave me a little break! We ended up at 383. Since Midge is so rarely that forward and the name of the game was introducing her to things and keeping it fun, EC suggested we aim for 400 instead and just let her move out a little more. Game on. Apparently Bridget can really move, because we got 420 at what felt like a nice pace for her. The pony was still prancy dancy so we went again, with the focus on me getting more up out of the saddle and bridging/adjusting my reins more effectively. By the end of the hour, I was really wishing to be more fit, and also completely hooked! We don't have those wide open spaces and the ability to gallop long distances here, so it was a super treat to canter and gallop in a big open field. I also found this mini clinic super useful for getting the feel of following the flags and adjusting pace over terrain.

Letting Midge stretch her legs Thursday night.
 I was slightly concerned we'd both be dead of exhaustion before the day's end, simply because we still had a further 2.5 hour XC clinic to immediately head over to. No need to fear though, the adrenaline kept me going and Midge's enthusiasm showed no signs of flagging. She's much more fit than I believed could be possible.

Our clinician for the XC portion was a new one to me, but right away I had a great feeling about her. Super positive and kind, but also very good about getting everyone up out of their comfort zones!
We were in a group of 3, and I felt very lucky because out of the 100 or so horses there, one of our lesson buddies was Ginger mare! Beyond cool to ride Ms Bridget and watch Ginger go all at the same time. We started out in one of the arenas, just a short walk/trot/canter and little gymnastic exercise, before MD (our clinician) deemed us ready for some solid obstacles. Bridget's very first XC jump was a log at the top of a hill. I won't lie, it seemed pretty substantial for our first XC jump ever! (A later reconnaissance showed it was indeed, a solid 2'6" raised log. Not big for a lot of you, big for me and the pony!) She was a superstar, as were our lesson mates, so off we went to another corner of the property. Once there, we tackled a line of 3 smaller logs up a hill, each with 5 strides between them. No problem, said the Midge, so we switched directions and rode them down the hill. Again, no issues there, probably because downhill = away from the stabling and my mini freight train was less inclined to take the wheel. Next, we popped over a couple of larger logs on a fairly steep uphill line. These felt quite big on a small pony, but rode very well and I think we both left feeling very confident. Still, I was pretty relieved I'd signed up for the intro group, since apparently at this clinic the "intro to eventing" group can = pre-training (USEA Novice) level fences by the end of day 1:) Honestly, though, we never felt pressured to do anything we didn't want to do and the whole feel of the lesson was super positive and confidence building.
Being a geek and posing with some of our first XC logs!

We finished off with a walk through one of the water complexes, just to establish the horses were all good with water prior to the following morning's lesson. We've all trail ridden plenty, so that was a non event and we ended the lesson there. I ended up in the saddle for almost 4 hours, but I still don't think either the Midge or I were ready to stop! On to Day 2...

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

End Of The Story...Sort Of

As previously hinted, Ginger has found her new home. I procrastinated through this whole process. I guess there is still a part of me that had plans for the adorable big mare.

I received what felt like a million enquiries to my ads this winter/spring, with about 50% of those enquiries being actual interested, real people, and a further 50% of those being legit homes she could go to without me losing sleep for the next 25 years or so. Maybe half of THAT 50% actually had the funds/space available to purchase a horse. Even fewer had the ability to travel to see the pony in person. Still, since we had a million enquiries to start with, that meant about 20 or so legitimately interested parties. (Note to other sellers: be patient, there really are a ton of good homes out there if you weed through all the weird stuff. Note to buyers: Take the time to say a little bit about yourself. Ask relevant questions. When faced with 10+ email and phone enquiries after a long day at work, sellers like me will be much more inclined to respond to you vs the person who obviously didn't read the ad or sent an email consisting of one or two words) The whole time this process played out, Ginger was being ridden by EC and being used in her lesson program. And Ginger just kept getting better and better. More and more reliable, more and more accepting of strangers and just generally a useful horse to have in the barn. She's been out schooling cross country, she's jumping little courses, and she's fun on the flat. She's thriving with the busy routine and all the attention. We discussed raising the price, or maybe keeping her for one of the students to purchase when she has more eventing miles.

Then, we discussed having Ginger just stay where she is. EC likes riding her, the students love her, and Ginger is actually less quirky than what EC is used to dealing with.

So, that's the story of how my big mare found a permanent home with my coach!

I'm still admittedly a bit conflicted and sad about the whole selling my horse thing, but seriously, I'm totally winning right now - could I have asked for a better end to our story? I still get to spoil her with treats and scratches whenever the urge strikes me (which is honestly every day) Also, Ginger will be travelling to all the same shows and clinics as Bridget and I. I suppose I really shouldn't be looking at this as the end of anything - it looks like I will continue to be a (small) part of the adventures of Ginger for a while yet :)

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Rollin' Along

Last week, Midge was amazing. So, for our Monday night lesson I was cautiously optimistic.

She warmed up feeling very loose and relaxed, although still slightly heavy and braced in her jaw - I really do need to find a bit more to her liking.

EC said "She looks lovely , how is her canter today?", and so our lesson began. Up into canter, and it was lovely too. All those transitions in our previous rides mean I've now got a half halt and pretty adjustable canter to the right. The left visually looks nearly as good, but as the rider I can feel it's still a lot more work to put things together there. The balance is coming along quickly though! We've really got nothing like what I imagine our finished dressage canter will be, but it's starting to come together and there are moments where things feel pretty amazing. These cobs naturally have that powerful rear end and big movement, so when I get things right it feels all sorts of cool to sit. EC says it should feel like Bridget is lifting her shoulders up a hill, which is a pretty accurate description for the feel I get.

Next on the agenda: Canter around the entire arena, playing with beginnings of shoulder in and changing the pace. To do that, we add in 15 m circles wherever I feel she needs to slow down or rebalance (sneaky way to force her to collect herself, making the exercise do the work!) Focus on straightness, and ask for a couple of strides of shoulder in when it feels right. Again, use the circles to help - a few strides coming off a balanced circle where you already have the bend makes things easy.

While simple enough on paper, I expected this exercise to be really, really hard for us. I was expecting the changes in pace and body position to cause Bridget to lose balance and break to trot or scrambly gallop, particularly to the left. I think EC did too, since I was under orders to keep any trot steps to a minimum ;) We started on the left, saving the easier side for last.

And, the pony rocked it. No issues at all. She collected back as much as she is currently able, then happily went forward when asked. Huge smiles from me and EC. EC then upped the ante, asking us to really go forward down the long sides, and come back to a smaller canter for 15m circles in the corners. And, that's the story of how I rode my first real canter lengthenings. Not a faster canter, certainly not a gallop, but an honest to goodness WOW we are cantering but our steps are now ginormous and we are climbing up that invisible mountain :) Then I sat up a bit more and B came back to a nice canter for our 15m circle. Did it again to make sure it was real, switched directions and called it good. 

It probably took you longer to read this post than the amount of time I spent in my actual lesson.  Shortest lesson ever, because we accomplished everything plus another 500% right off the bat.
Enough time left over to go for a quick trail ride/cool down. Midge thinks heavy equipment is NBD.

Homework: build strength until I can compress and expand the canter and add shoulder in and renvers a few strides here and there on a straight line without needing circles to help.

Can I say one more time how beyond happy I am with Ms Bridget? I know I always say how much I appreciate her, but normally it's from a "levelhead pony I can do anything with" standpoint. Recently, I've started to feel like B is hinting at getting kinda legit sport pony wise. She just keeps on stepping up to the plate. Maybe it's because I had zero expectations of that when I bought her, maybe it's because she's not the most athletic pony naturally, or maybe just that I've been riding the struggle bus for so long, but I'm still sort of in disbelief that things just keep on rolling along and improving. The pony I have today vs the pony of a year ago kinda makes me feel like I won some sort of lottery or something :)
Superstar

Finally...in virtual adventure news, we averaged about 70km/week over the last two weeks, and are currently enjoying a virtual canter lengthening in the sand and waves along the Oregon coast.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Cruisin'

Where we last left off, I had switched up bits and had great success with my new "ride her like she's sweet" mantra.

Monday, we were all on our own for our lesson, so I asked to check in on my progress with the canter. Two big thumbs up from EC, apparently it looks 100% better than a couple of weeks ago. Which is good, because it sure feels better! We did a ton of transitions, basically never riding more than a quarter circle without one. The trick with the down transitions was to only make them last a stride before going back up for a few strides. Both up and down of course needed to be perfectly straight and coming from behind. That was quite a big ask for us, but for whatever reason it all flowed super nicely and came quite easy. For once I felt like Bridget and I both showed up to work on the same day!
We're going to ranch and vineyard country next week, can't wait!

EC was not convinced the eggbutt snaffle is the answer, as B was wanting to really take it and lean and stay slightly above it. She had an idea, though and asked us to do a couple of jump courses before she vetoed it. And...they were awesome. That taking hold worked to my advantage as she was quite confident about taking me along to the jumps ( In the loose ring French link she's normally really needing to be pushed to the contact). So, we'll keep it in the line up for jumping and look for something else for dressage.

Last night, we had a shared jump lesson. And our lesson mate was none other than our good friend Ginger mare! So cool! We rode a few fun courses and I have to say, Bridget just owned it. Tricky distances, weird bendy lines, tight turns - the pony was soft and consistent and made me look way better than I am. Our canter boot camp is paying huge dividends right now. Ginger did so well also, she's still pretty green over fences and figuring it out a little but she's super honest and capable.
Lots of tight turns and effective use of the corners required. EC is really good at stealthily raising the jumps mid round while your back is turned - that yellow oxer ended up large-ish for us and made me a little worried when I made the turn to it since it's only 2 strides on an uphill out of the corner away from the barn, basically the Midge trifecta for backing off. It rode no problem though, and we left feeling really confident.

It was a little weird to see Ginger going so well but then realize Midge is currently further along in her training and the nicer ride. Ginger has felt like the gold standard to me for so long that I guess it never occurred to me that Bridget would catch up to her.  Also, if I'm being honest, even though we have a great partnership, training and riding Bridget feels like hard (but still fun) work 99% of the time! I fall into the trap of thinking that because it's more of a struggle for us we will forever be behind the curve. I may have to rethink that train of thought because somehow we've made significant progress over the winter :) Proof that just showing up and putting the hours in can make bigger differences than you'd at first think possible!

This weekend, I'm off to visit home, because the following we will be away at eventing camp at the above mentioned ranch and vineyard part of the province. Ginger is coming too, which I'm quite looking forward to. The weekend after that is a local jumper schooling show, the weekend following that is the first spring event. Then a dressage show! Basically, horse adventures every weekend for the next 6 weeks. Spring must be here, we'll see how many weekends I can handle before I'm burnt out!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Like She's Sweet

I was reading some old-ish online COTH blogs the other day and came across something I just knew I can use. EC is forever telling me to sit up and ride Bridget the way I want her to go (not as she is) but I confess, more often that not I really don't have a clear vision of what that is. Especially if it's been a while since Good Pony made a visit! Reading Dom Schramm's advice for the author (on her hot and over enthusiastic mare) to "ride her like she's sweet!" for whatever reason, resonated a little more with me and made me smile every time I reminded myself of it.
Full disclaimer: I also switched bits back to an eggbutt snaffle from a loose ring French link AND since the diet is working, had space to put her preferred Pro-lite half pad back in the lineup.

And...the pony went like a dream. There was still some residual fussiness in the bridle, and a bit of stickiness, but so, so minor compared to the dramatics of the past week. We practiced our shoulder in and haunches in between collecting and extending the trot and and B went really nicely - way more willing to take a soft contact, which made me very happy. 

Up to canter, and both directions were the best they've ever been. The left is still the more difficult side, but the fact we're defining  "difficult" as me just having to be more careful to set her up correctly from the walk, and half halt more on the circle is huge! Last year, just getting and keeping a canter of any sort on that side was a bit of a miracle, and even last month at our dressage show it was still an obvious struggle and got us a 5. There's still work to be done, but the fact I can now start to make adjustments within the gait without the wheels falling off is huge. I feel like she's giving me a place to sit too, unlike before where I constantly had to fight against getting pushed to the outside of the circle. So much progress, made even better by the fact the Midge is quite happy to try and even seems proud of her new skillz. Sweet pony, indeed!

Since her left side is the tougher side, I got all tricksy and set up a few fences, all off the left rein. Midge was pretty sure she must have won Best Pony lottery as she happily jumped around, but it was left lead canter boot camp in disguise. I'm pretty sure she didn't notice in the moment, but pony is smart so by now she's likely realized she was duped. I'm not counting out some form of retaliation next ride :)

I finished up with a bit of no stirrups work, posting trot mostly since I am forever wishing for a better lower leg over fences. For whatever reason, it actually felt easy, dare I hope I've gotten stronger since our November no stirrups boot camp? Or perhaps it is more likely the Midget pony is simply a little more honest about taking me forward at a consistent pace without nagging. Either way, we'll call it a win!

Just over a week until we head out to eventing camp, and I can't recall the last time I was so excited for anything. This pony is just SO fun!

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Indecisive

I've been having the most...interesting rides of late.

In my lessons, EC has been really buckling down on the pony and I. There are a number of things I used to kind of accept as less than perfect, under the thinking that the pony is green, I'm an adult ammy, we're just doing this for fun , and baby steps and all that (Read: SO MANY excuses for being lazy ;)

Here's a list of what is no longer acceptable at any time:

-Crookedness. Rider and/or pony. Just, no, please stop already.

-Slow transitions. Rider needs to be organized, pony needs to respond immediately.

-Rushed transitions. As above.

-Pony not round/working from behind. 

-Rider slouching, burying hands in pony's neck.

-Pony fussing/inconsistent in the contact. Either move her up into it, or sit her back if pulling. 

-Rider's canter, trot, and walk. Pony does not get to speed up/slow down within the gait without rider asking.

-Rider chooses path. Pony doesn't get to bulge or lean.

I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting. I know this is all basic stuff, but until now I've been kind of bad about accepting "good enough" from the Midge, mostly in an effort to keep the peace and avoid drama. I'm particularly bad at allowing her to be slightly behind my leg and then faking a nice connection since she has decent enough gaits to pretend we're stepping up enough behind. We want better though!

So, you can guess where that has got us. Yep, tons of drama. It would have been way kinder to everyone if I had have been consistent from the start. Midge is smart and was getting away with things and she was in charge and happy enough. Now the rules have changed and MIDGE HATES RULES and I am the meanest human ever and who am I to try to tell her what to do, anyways? Ugh.


Under our tougher rules, things have been kind of ugly, but also kind of brilliant. Today, we had much angry flailing because she could not possibly pick up a left lead canter straight and into the contact. When she actually gave it an honest try she was like "Whoa, what kind of magic is this? It's EASY if I put my body where you ask!" And then we proceeded to do a few nice walk to canter transitions and pony was sitting behind and it felt amazing and everyone was happy and life was wonderful. 

I'm torn between wanting to hide under a rock when it's all going south , and desperately wanting video when it all goes right . There's not a lot of in between at the moment! Fingers crossed things level out soon - while I am loving the results, I don't like the arguing we go through to get them.