Thursday, 30 June 2016

Look, No Hands.

As recent posts would indicate, I've been all over the place motivation wise. Last night was our scheduled jumping lesson and I was in a decidedly less enthusiastic mood than Monday's high.


Challenge feels too high, competency rather low. Not pictured: High temperatures also creating a downward trend, motivation wise. Pic via Google images/corpmagazine.com


We started off with EC being inspired by something she saw at the Karen O'Connor clinic and looping our reins so we essentially could not use them for balance, ever :)
Dramatic reinactment ;) Essentially, just unbuckle your reins, and let them fall over the neck, then rebuckle on the underside of the neck where the ends meet. End result - some rein available in an emergency, and they stay put and out of your way better than knotting them.
 We did about 11 million years a few laps of the arena in galloping position, followed by some more in two point, then some more in a half seat, W/T/C,  excellent for me as I'm not sure I've ever had a formal "this is where your body should be for jumping/xc" type session. My legs were unhappy after the 15 min or so that took, obviously something I need to work on. In related news, without seat or hand, Midge was not steering as well as she should off my leg. She knows better, but apparently I back it up with rein aids normally...so she was progressively getting worse about falling in/out in the turns. Eventually, my stick had to make a friendly reminder to her about staying honest. Next up, we moved onto a grid...

Progression of exercise like so.
We started off with 6 poles spaced at 9' intervals, much shorter than Midge's natural stride. The challenge, obviously to keep a suitable and consistent canter through the line. Also, please stay straight, and with varying instructions of two point, standing in stirrups, hands pushing into neck, arms out to side, etc. This was ok from a rider put your body here standpoint, not so easy from a keep the pony in a shorter canter with minimal seat/rein standpoint.

Next, the grid was changed to two small x's with a pole in the middle, creating a short three stride line. Repeat above. Midge got 2 large strides the first time, then tried jumping in big and wobbling and quitting. Awkward, but confidence boosting in a way as even without reins she was dead honest about getting through...it just wasn't pretty. Also I can ride some really awkward stuff with no hands, so that's good.

Next the second fence was changed into a biggish oxer. This is when I finally got it together and got her forward enough to make it happen and feel good.

I won't lie, I was a little frustrated and was wishing for a horse like my lesson mate's  that would just honestly pick up a nice steady canter and take me through the grid with minimal rider input so I could work more on my position...but obviously that's the exact wrong approach. I appreciate the smart, thinking pony I have and don't want a robot lesson pony. We'll both be better for keeping on the way we're going. I am better to be happy we jumped through some grids and rode for an entire lesson with no reins and it actually wasn't super difficult. For the stage we're at it's probably nitpicky of me to be focusing on the fact she wasn't as straight as I'm used to :)


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Great Lesson

So, remind me the next time I'm feeling a little down and unmotivated to sign up for a private lesson with EC. She's very capable of giving you all the technical info you need to ride well, what I probably don't mention enough is that she also has a masters degree in coaching science, so she's quite able to set you to rights as far as the mental game of riding goes too. In the year I've been here, I think there's been exactly once where we've directly addressed the mental game...but on quite a regular basis, she somehow seems to know exactly what I need to hear to stay motivated and have fun with the pony.
She's so cute I can still barely handle it.

So, just as I was feeling a little directionless and lost, EC opened the lesson by setting a goal of showing B at First Level this fall. We have all the pieces in play now, but the goal is to put in a competitive test and maybe, just maybe, aim for Second at the big dressage show next summer.

So, here's what we could work on to be solidly at First, progressing to Second:

- Sharper, more immediate transitions between working trot and lengthen trot.
Homework: lengthen, collect, activate inside hind in all gaits, lots of transitions, don't go more than four or five strides with out mixing it up.

-Straighter on the right rein, it's better, but still noticable at canter.
 Homework: Shoulder in, counter bend, canter transitions in shoulder in from walk. Lesson on EC's dressage horse for me to get a feel for how renvers, travers, transitions between collected and extended gaits should feel on Ms Bridget as a training goal.

-Bouncier steps in canter, particularly right rein.
 Relates directly to above goals and homework, all mostly pony needing to build up more strength, T needing to be dedicated about practicing above exercises correctly - no cheating!

And...notes from the pep talk, because I'm pretty sure this directly applies to all of our readers too!

-Revisted the conversation about ammy hours vs pro hours. Average dedicated ammy puts in 4-5 hours per week on their horse...that's only 20 hours a month. Would you expect to advance at your normal job with those hours? Moral of the story...most of us are doing VERY well given the time we can dedicate to the sport.

-I'm riding and training B myself. That's huge, and remind self to not compare to pros (see above).

-We've come a long way.

-We're currently building a great foundation, can't meet the big goals without the solid foundation!

-Goals are great, but remind yourself to not have a firm schedule or agenda. It takes as long as it takes, it's ok to change the goal posts, and everyone's experience will differ.

-Buy the horse you have fun on. Keep having fun. Every ride. If it's not fun, change the goalposts, or eliminate them altogether.

 I also want this to float around on the lake with. Stolen from FB, sorry no idea who the source is.

I'm still totally in for a weekend on the beach with some margaritas (with the above unicorn, please), but I'm not planning on making it a permanent life goal yet - I've got too much I want to do with Bridget! :)

Monday, 27 June 2016

Lazy Days

I feel like I've been on the go without a real break for well over a year now. Normally, I take a couple of weeks in December or January and give myself and the ponies a break, but for whatever reason that didn't happen this year. Maybe that has caught up with me, maybe not, but I'm finding myself in the position of forcing myself to go to the barn and forcing myself to ride. I have fun once I get there, but for whatever reason it's not serving as the zen space/mental refresh it normally does. Looking back, this has been going on for about 6 weeks now, and only getting worse. First world problems for sure, though! The weather has been gorgeous and I'm dreaming of a time out on a beach somewhere with a fresh margarita - riding seems like too much work, and honestly I'm feeling a little homesick for G. The real job has been stressful of late, which isn't helping as I start to weigh out whether the paycheque is worth the horsey time it buys me. I've been feeling guilty, but letting my mind wander to a life without horses where I would have the time and finances to do more, travel more, live a little better. We all know I'd be unhappy after about a week of that, but hey, grass is always greener :)

So, this past weekend, B and I wandered the trails with no real purpose. We're supposed to be doing gallop sets and jumping courses, but meh. I'm still in the mindset that I'd like to push some of our scheduled competition dates off a bit, so the goals and homework don't feel as pressing as maybe they should.
Also on the to do list: pull the pony's mane!


If you remember, we are supposed to be attending an event in 2 and a half weeks time, but I still haven't signed up. Sign of the times. It's going to cost me about $600 all in, and that's a lot for me right now. It's the weekend before our trip to Rebecca Farm, so it would be cool to go there after a fun weekend of eventing, all motivated and inspired. It'd also be cool to go there rested and with extra $ in my pocket and get my inspiration there by watching far better riders than I for free :) Perhaps our next event will wait until August. We're meeting so many goals this year that maybe I'll save a couple for when I'm mentally refreshed and ready to really enjoy them as I should. I know I'll regret some of this mid winter when the weather is terrible and we're struggling along in the dark evenings dreaming of days like today, but what really matters is how I feel right now. And right now I feel like balancing the work and play a little more and not making withdrawals from the bank account. You'd never talk me into cancelling lessons, but I may be persuaded to trade some of the upcoming competition weekends in exchange for some time on the beach with G. We'll see. I'm torn. My dissatisfaction and stress is work related, not horse related, so maybe I just need to keep on my original plan. G is having a milestone birthday this week (OMG where is the time going??!), so I'll be going home to have a margarita in the backyard with him this weekend and think on life a little (mmmm, how about a mexican b-day dinner with lime margaritas and a key lime 'birthday' pie with a pretzel crust....brainstorming but I think that could be a winner  :)

Trailventures are always a good choice
My question for all the wise blog readers out there: How do you handle the low spots where you're feeling a little burnt out? Do you take a time out, do you push harder, or...?





Thursday, 23 June 2016

Dare To Be Square

After Monday's adventures, I had a plan of schooling some squares with B in order to work again on the forward and back within the gaits. Diamonds or squares are one of my go to exercises because they are genius for keeping that drifting outside shoulder under wraps, and I also like that they allow the Midge to anticipate and see a reason why I am asking her to collect...for example when I ask her to slow and collect, it's because a stride or two later there is a good possibility I am going to turn her shoulders and if she's smart she will have listened to my request when I asked and her weight will already be back, freeing up the shoulders and making the turn easy for her. Since collecting is HARD for lazy little Midge and the square turns really force her to sit and use her inside hind, it's easy to get her thinking forward and straight as a reward on the sides of the square...and as anyone who's read this blog will know, forward and straight are very desirable things in general, but especially useful things for Midge to actually want to do. Here's a link to a handy 5 minute clinic series that explains better than I could about how to ride this exercise and the benefits of it.
Throwback Thursday pic to the girls last year (Thank you Thursday, for saving me from my terrible lack of media ;)

It's a great exercise because the pattern does the work for you, anytime they tune you out and run through the bridle or your outside aids, boom square corner, then ride straight out like nothing happened. I was also going to take away my stirrups, because, seriously, my heels have developed a life of their own lately.

Imagine my surprise when for our lesson tonight EC asked if we had ridden squares before. Since saying "Yes, I school them all the time and think we're actually kind of decent at them some days" or "Yes, in fact I am so miraculously on the ball I was going to school them this weekend" would have obviously meant much failure and increased scrutiny in our lesson, I shrugged and said "sometimes" figuring that was the safer answer ;)

So, I felt a little like I was cheating on a test as the walk and trot went quite 'surprisingly' well. Super well, actually. The Midge showed up to play! Canter, obviously more difficult since pony simply does not have the strength to really collect, sit and turn through multiple corners in a row, but there were lots of good moments and I was super proud of her. She was really correct and using herself well, so what more can we ask for? We're not too far from some consistently decent jumper turns, and dare I dream one day that our quarter turn will turn into a circle and become the beginnings of pirouette? Pony's reward was to be done early and watch our good friend Ginger mare and her lovely rider make some amazing progress with the same exercises. They are both doing so well, I feel very lucky to be able to watch them progress!
Bookends

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Go. Just Go.

Sounds like a Bridget ride!

I was pleased and sad at the same time when Bridget pulled out some 'don't wanna' stunts for EC. She's ridden her a couple of times before and made her look fabulous, so it was a bit disconcerting to see all the same drama I encounter, plus some extra because EC is more assertive and has better timing to correct things than I ever will. 

On the plus side, maybe I don't need to feel guilty about really enforcing things day after day? Sometimes I feel like I'm being a bully, but really it seems that's what is needing to be done at this point in time. 

The past week or so, B has been really difficult about going forward into contact. It's a little odd, since she was so soft and wonderful for so long, but it seems to be something we come back to now and then, and no rhyme or reason to it...pony just doesn't wanna sometimes! The only correlation I've noticed is she's more apt to be that way when she's generally being pushy and rude and needing some reminders about her manners. In other words, being a pony. At any rate, EC got the full taste of how a bad day on the pony feels.

Don't let the cuteness fool you

She jumped her quite a bit, and tried to manufacture some stops. On the plus side, she found Midge honest about getting over the jumps if she gets there to a reasonable spot, on the downside, the stops are happening due to issues in the canter. Pony can get a long forward stride all day long, but try to shorten it up and she can get all argumentative and quit. Makes sense, since we struggle a little with that off and on on the flat too, although not nearly on the same level as when we add jumps. Still doesn't explain the flat out "Nope" I was getting at other times. And, towards the end, we found that button too...when pony was getting tired and just not that into it anymore. Still, EC had a lot of fun on her and had the following feedback:

-I really and truly need to stop nagging and carrying her. Go means go. Also, B must carry herself on her own four feet, and take me where I point her - no holding her together!

-B seems to like jumping, but is probably always going to be a kick ride...she's not really into voluntarily expending extra energy doing anything :)

-B seriously needs to be fitter at speed....I should be doing canter and gallop sets on her, forget so much long slow stuff.

-Need to fix the canter and get it more reliably adjustable over fences - lots of small twisty courses with related distances in our future.

This pony is so easy in some ways...in others she's the most difficult horse I've ever ridden. I admit to being a little down and out when I saw all the drama she was giving EC about some pretty basic things we've addressed time and time again... will it ever end, will the pony ever develop an honest work ethic? EC says, no, she's a pony mare, it's what they do :) I do love the little beastie so I don't stay sad/mad for long.
Reposting because it's probably my favorite photo of us ever

She got borrowed for a kid's vaulting class yesterday and apparently was a super star. That's a win for her, because if the eventing thing doesn't work out she can get swarmed and jumped on by cute children all day - a career we all know she'd love! Just kidding, sort of, because we already have dressage as a back up plan too, poor pony. The vaulting thing is currently a double win for me because borrowing her means I get to borrow a horse from EC for a ride if I choose, also means Bridget has to canter around in side reins once a week, which is convenient timing for where we're at with the canter. That's one day less every week that I have to potentially fight with her myself about the whole going slowly into a contact thing...I think it will be good for her to find the rules are the rules and don't change no matter who is handling her or what she's doing :)


Tuesday, 21 June 2016

1*

That's how many stars my ride last night competes at in eventing, coincidentally it's also the number of stars (out of 5) I'd rate my riding of said wonder pony☺

I was all on my own lesson wise last night, so EC suggested she put a training ride on Bridget while I rode her giant eventing machine. Yes, please! Cue excitement.

Shortly followed by "Wait. HE IS GINORMOUS, And we're jumping? I haven't ridden a strange horse in 2 years..." Oh hello, butterflies, I was wondering when you'd fly back into my tummy next...
Tempting, to "save the expense, care, and anxiety" but does it jump stuff? 

My barn mates, sensing potential comedy gold, stuck around to watch. And, were rewarded well. We aim to please. On the plus side, I've never had so much fun sucking quite so badly at anything.

The wonder pony is probably pushing 17hh, so it felt weird coming from my 14hh legit pony. Strangely, though, his stride is actually smallish for a large horse so he feels quite a bit like Bridget (who has a giant stride for her size) as far as the basic feel goes. So, I felt at home up there pretty quickly. He is much heavier in the contact, and not so forgiving of me and my too tight elbows - he was quite happy to set his neck and run off with me in a non scary kind of way every time I got into a pulling match. Where it got kind of obvious there was a whole lot of rider error going on was in the canter...I am so used to nagging Bridget along that I'm riding the canter with too much upper thigh and knee. Even though I don't need to use leg on him, my heels still come up as a result of my pinchy knees, my body language encouraging giant pony to race around and drag me further...then when I sit up I am still sitting too light and shifting in the saddle so he collects and obediently does tempi changes...poor pony. I may have even made the saintly boy angry enough for a mini rodeo at one point! A bit of a wake up call for me as far as what I really need to work on. Shoulders back, leg off, butt in the saddle. Nasty habits I've developed - I suspect I am currently a loud rider shouting "GO GO GO!" to Bridget all the time...maybe I should try being quieter and being stricter about having the pony do the work?☺Still, there were moments where it felt amazing, and I was appreciative that EC left me alone for bits of time to figure it out. The buttons are all there and I fumbled my way through collected canter and extended trot...also half passes where I just needed to close my thigh and look, and BOOM, magic. 

It was a jumping lesson, but on a horse that large the little 2'6" jumps felt like a non event and were honestly the least of my worries - I struggled more with making nice turns and keeping a good canter. At this point I want more lessons on him in order to fix my bad habits rather than our original plan of jumping bigger and getting more confident over fences! That's obviously still a goal, but maybe an easier one since he'll happily take you to the fences all day long and I suspect 3' on him feels like 2' on B. I'm sidetracked, because oh boy, would I like to able to ride him WELL on the flat!

Since the giant pony is one in a million, he will still be teaching the odd beginner and intermediate lesson even as he gets ready for Rebecca Farm next month. I can't wait until the next time the stars align and I can borrow him for an hour!
Have I mentioned that I'm going along to Montana? That will be me on the hill watching and beign inspired next month! Photo via RebeccaFarm.org

Tomorrow, I'll recap how the training ride on Bridget went...also much fun had and much for me to think about there.




Saturday, 18 June 2016

Showed Up, Had Fun

First off, once again I have zero media. We've been to six shows this year and every single one has had terrible weather. There is a market here for a photographer with a waterproof camera and the ability to fake some good lighting. I'm sure such a person exists, but they are apparently not motivated to come hang out in the monsoons all day for virtually no compensation. Much smarter than us crazy horse girls who actually pay to go swimming, I mean riding, in such weather.


Our only show photo to date. We're  there, I promise ;)

Our warmup was awful, Midge was just not that into it and was super stuck and icky feeling. I channelled my inner Mary King and made the pony go, even though she hated me for it. My persistence helped, but since I still felt like I had zero gas in the tank, we skipped the crossrails and started at 2'. I wasn't overly optimistic Midge was going to show up to the party and honestly just wanted to go home!

The 2' round went ok: the jumps seem tiny to us both now, but Midge was a little spooky and backed off because they are new and scary with lots of fill we dont see at home. So, starting small was a wise decision. I feel like I rode this round really well and made it happen the best I could. It felt kind of icky since the pony wasn't at all committing to jumping anything, but it looked good from the ground, so we got a nice blue ribbon which I half feel like we stole because I saw the second place round and it looked pretty much perfect. ☺

Our second round was 2'3" and a new course with some more huntery jumps. Midge showed up for this one and it was probably my favorite course on her ever. She was over jumping everything like crazy and there were more than a few moments where she was like "Yep, got this, where's the next?" I had a big crazy grin on my face the whole time. Second place in that class, but seriously so proud of how far the Midge has come in the past few months. Remember last fall when it was an accomplishment to have her coordinated enough to simply canter a circle and we trotted around the crossrails?

I was happy to end there, but I had paid for three classes and EC had missed the second, so  off we went for another.


This one went really well, all the way up to the natural oxer with lattice. My own fault, I got a funny distance in and kind of abandoned the pony in hopes she'd figure it out. She half stopped, then was a good honest pony and jumped, but talk about an awkward muddle. The rest of the course went well, and since this is a super positive show series, they were encouraging riders to come back and school any fences/lines they had trouble with. It went much better the second time and we ended there. Obviously no ribbons for that round. Actually, no ribbons for the last 2 rounds since I think the person handing them out abandoned ship in favor of somewhere warm and dry 😊

So, not a bad outing for a not very huntery pony and her definitely not a hunter rider. An excellent schooling opportunity and even a tiny bit of satin to take home. We may try the jumpers next time, since EC and I are both thinking that might encourage me to give her the super positive and forward ride she needs right now as she gains confidence. Also, they start at 2'6" so better practice for us if we want to get to an event or two this year. Even better, the jumpers go after lunch so there is no getting up super early and waiting around all morning!

Right now, I'd say I'm still having more fun with dressage, but that second hunter class gave me some serious inspiration and I think if we persist jumping will be super fun all the time too - we both just need more miles and confidence. Good thing this is an eventing barn and jumping and dressage lessons are both readily available.

To finish, thanks to everyone for the encouraging and supportive comments - attending today's show was totally the right decision and we had a lot of fun.
We've started a tiny ribbon collection 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

bring it

As predicted, my admission of simply being a big sulky baby about the show didn't pass muster as an excuse not to attend. In fact, it not only didn't work, it made my life more challenging by instantly getting EC on the phone organizing my late entry as she set a big ass course for me to jump. The lady has a talent for evil multitasking :)

Our lesson went quite well, although Bridget was in a bit of a mare mood and quite fussy and a little stuck feeling. Good practice, though, because that's her standard reaction to a new place and what I struggle most with at shows. As always, forward!now! had to be established, but we put together some pretty respectable rounds, and even managed the bending lines away from the barn without too much Bridget stalling between fences. When I really got her up in front of my leg, it felt amazing! She's plenty scopey for a short pony, so we were sailing over the bigger stuff with room to spare and it felt easy. I continue to appreciate how nice our corners are and how straight she stays between my legs thanks to all that dressage. Super cool to be able to pick a line and have the pony hold it really honestly no matter what else I'm doing up there. I'm still struggling with keeping that nice forward pace, Midge isn't nearly so honest about that!
old bad pic


Plan for the show? Treat it as schooling. If we accomplish nothing else, reinforce that she is responsible for staying in front of my leg and getting over whatever I point her at no matter what, strange venue or no. Don't overthink it! Start at 2' and go up to 2'6" if all goes well. If not, do a second unjudged round at wherever things get weird.

If I could reliably get that big, rolling uphill jumping canter and keep it, I'd be totally sold on jumping all the things all the time. For now, the moments that feel great give me hope and encourage me to persist down the eventing pony path.


Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Still Thinking

My coach sent out the trailering schedule for the show this morning, and I replied that I hadn't entered the show and am feeling unprepared so am going to pass.

Her reply was to go, have fun, and just only do cross rails as a schooling round if I was worried.

Which is really good advice. Except I'm not nervous about the jumps or even the show...I'm more just a little bit discouraged/frustrated with our inconsistencies of late jumping wise and pretty sure we are not 'show ready'.

How do I tell her I'm basically sulking and being a bad sport because I know we won't be competitive? Actually, it's easy - I'll just tell her exactly that tonight at my lesson and she will laugh at me and sign me up for the show. So...look forward to a show recap this weekend ;)


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Jumping = Fun, too

After all my whining and worrying, we had a super jump school Friday night.

That most likely happened because I went into the ride with zero expectations and no anxiety. I was actually just going to warm up and head out for a trail ride, but there were a couple of inviting little jumps set up. So, we popped over those and it was fun. Of course then I was eyeing up the bigger stuff and the next thing you know we're cantering around jumping all the things and both pony and I are having a great time. Bridget still felt really soft and adjustable from our dressage ride the day before, so it felt easy. I was in a rare kind of mood and next we were doing a 3' course and somehow it looked like we knew what we were doing. She was right on my aids and the distances rode very well first try. I was very mindful of quitting while I was ahead/before I inevitably f'd things up, so we ended there and ventured out on our trail ride feeling pretty good about life. 

We saw our first bear of the year, sadly I was too slow with the camera so I have no proof. Midge isn't overly concerned about them, so it's a bit of a non event provided the bears don't make suspicious noises in the bushes without showing themselves first!

I'm still undecided about the show. I'm taking a bit of a mini vacation right now so Bridget is going to have a few days off as well. We'll get back at it Wednesday, and the show is Saturday. They do take late entries so I'm not going to worry about it and will just make a game time decision.

Sorry for the lack of media - as mentioned I'm away for a long weekend and am posting on my phone while we ride the ferry to my "real" home for a couple of days of relaxation  :)

Dressage = Fun

Yep, I'm admitting it, dressage is currently FUN. I pulled Midge out for another dressage lesson last night and she was totally tuned in and responsive again.  I have no idea where the super opinionated, argumentative I-don't-wanna-and-you-can't-make-me Midge went (maybe she only comes out for jumping now? IDK, but she hasn't made an appearance in a flat lesson for months) After over a year of almost daily drama, I am truly grateful for our current peaceful existence.
Although it looks here like she could be thinking of a new plan to rule the world.

 We basically continued on with the exercises from Monday night, tons of shoulder in and travers, followed by lots and lots of trot/canter/trot transitions in which we ask Ms B to use her bum and stay balanced throughout. She'd obviously thought things through from Monday and put in a super effort and once again I had a huge smile on my face almost the entire ride.

I hope I my recent dressage lesson posts don't come across as "wow we are so perfect and awesome!" because that's absolutely not what I'm trying to say. We've got tons of things to work on! The reason I'm so incredibly happy with our dressage lately is because all our hard work of the past year is starting to show dividends. The basics are installed, now we're having fun installing the cool stuff. What we're working on now is all green baby and rider needing to learn to ride better stuff. Normal stuff. Not the "Whoa! Emergency intervention! We seem to have a serious issue here!!" stuff I was previously bringing to almost all my rides ;) 
Booty shot, ha ha not the most flattering angle

 I'm writing that my dressage lessons have been amazing and wonderful and everything felt great because there hasn't been a single moment lately where I don't feel like we're a team and that B isn't putting in her very best effort. It feels like we can do anything together (with a little time and a lot of help!) and that's super empowering and confidence boosting for us both.

More booty. I'm liking the tail and the dapples :)
However, the real world is calling...it's not dressage on the schedule next, it's a hunter/jumper show next weekend. Decisions to be made. Do I scratch and wait until we're in a better place jumping wise, or go and view it as a schooling opportunity? Normally I say go to all the things and learn everything you can from them. The only reason I'm thinking hard on this one is because honestly I'm not sure I can let go enough to truly not care or be tempted to give up and just do dressage forever if we go and have a disastrous day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Downs and Ups

After feeling a little down and out last week, today I had the best ride ever. Horses...they sure keep things interesting!

I was scheduled for a dressage lesson, and had a choice of Ms Bridget or EC's super lovely warmblood mare. Call me crazy, but I chose Bridget - I've been having fun on the flat with her and feel like we're making huge progress lately. I don't feel like a few dressage rides on another horse are going to really make a magical difference in my riding that will transfer to my rides on B. (If only it were so easy! ;) I said as much to EC, and she agreed, so we'll save the rides I'm trading for jumping lessons where they (hopefully) will make a bigger difference.

Waiting for breakfast this morning


On to Bridget...oh wow, does this pony continue to surprise. I'm not sure she'll ever be look-at-me fancy, but she is bringing 110% to every dressage lesson right now and is going super well. Exercise of the day: collect the trot, add haunches in, change bend to travers, then forward and straight into a lengthening. Repeat. Pony was right there with me, and it felt super amazing. Zero nagging on my part, she was up in front of me and ready to work. Up we went into canter, 20m circle with her positioned in shoulder in. She still struggles a little there with holding a balanced canter and moving her body around at the same time, but it's coming along very quickly now. Next up, large-ish walk piroutte into canter. As with trot, focus on collected, bigger steps with her inside hind up under her, think feeling like we are marching in place, then ask for canter. I was literally laughing out loud at how amazing that felt! Super cool, and what a fabulous pony to try so hard .  I need to bribe someone to come video us...I'm hating the lack of media to be able to compare progress with.

Some waiting more patiently than others. B is forever 'starving'

Besides being fun to ride, I think the walk pirouette to canter is going to be really useful for me...it pretty much ensures I can't give the outside rein and let her run through in the transition, and it really sets the pony up well for a nice balanced canter. Hard to believe she's strong enough these days (and I'm coordinated enough!) for such things.

We ended there because it felt like we were capable of anything, and that's exactly the best place to end a ride :)

Homework: 

- Be super vigilant about having her stay balanced and round, particularly through transitions. Think bigger, rounder, and "more" than my current default happy place.

- Travers. Because we'll be wanting to introduce half pass soon.

-Be very aware of riding in a correct position on the flat, ditto in our jumping lessons. Help Ms B understand there is a difference in how I ride and how we want her to go for each. EC feels our jumping 'problems' are a somewhat normal phase and we'll be able to get back to a good place with a little work.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Rollin' Along

I've been not so great about the updates this past week...

- Wednesday, I had a jumping lesson on Ms B that felt all sorts of awkward and backed off. It probably looked alright, but as the rider it wasn't overly confidence inspiring. I felt like I needed to be 200% committed to getting to the other side while Bridget contributed about 0%. Honestly, I think she is finding jumping to not be overly fun or exciting anymore. She's more forward and involved in our dressage lessons, which is kind off odd, I guess. She's a fabulous pony, so if dressage turns out to be more her thing, I'm cool with that. For now, we'll mix it up and try to keep her interested and happy :)

- Thursday/Friday, I went to the gym instead of riding. I was feeling a little burnt out.

- Saturday, we went along on a fitness ride with one of the upper level horses and riders. I obviously modified the workout for Bridget, but it was nice to be out on the roads in the sunshine with no real agenda. B was all competitive for about .0001 of a second, before she realized keeping up wasn't going to happen. Poor pony.
Happy ears


-Sunday, it was baking hot and humid, and poor B was quickly out of gas, so we just did a quick jump school and then ventured out on the trails. I got all crazy and popped on Ginger when I got back and had a short ride, more for my own benefit than hers, since just getting on and not having any weird anxiety about her was a win. We just walked and trotted and generally had fun. It's odd - I used to be a little intimidated of how powerful the big mare felt, but now she actually feels a little weak and uncoordinated compared to Midge. Funny how perspective changes depending on what your normal ride is like.

Bad pic, but look at the dapples and the sporty shape Bridget is getting!
In other news, Bridget is going to try her hoof at being a vaulting pony for the little kids once a week. Essentially, she just needs to walk around while they jump all over her. I think she'll quite like all the attention and the easy job. In exchange, I get to borrow one of the upper level horses for jumping lessons once a week. He's huge and badass and I'm pretty excited. What a great learning opportunity!

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Blahs

I've been riding and putting in a ton of miles, but I've hit a little bit of a low spot. Real life has been beating me up a little, as has barn life. Even with that, the main problem is that I am my own worst critic and my inner mean girl has been playing a ton of head games with me.

Riding wise, the anxiety from our little wreck is gone. In it's place is me thinking I'll never get better, I make too many mistakes to be fair to the pony, etc etc
So cute

The lack of confidence in my riding means I don't ride as well as I can, it means I get frustrated with myself, it means my coach is left scratching her head a little at my new inability to follow her directions...or you know, just smile and look like I'm having fun. We jumped a 2'9" course on Wednesday and rather than being excited, I was trying not to cry because pony is so awesome and I'm so sucky. Emotions, they stink.

Combine that with being a little burnt out from feeling like I should take every opportunity that comes my way (seriously, I'm still not used to having options and the option of staying in one place long enough to not need to do everything all at once!)  and I'm a bit ambivalent about the upcoming shows. I'm not sure I'm in the right head space to give B the positive ride she needs. I got the rather large bill from last month's XC schooling and show outings and I'm honestly like "whoa, I spent a lot of money being stressed out!" (Yes, yes I know, no regrets, learning opportunities and it went really well for the most part. I know no one really is looking at me thinking I'm terrible and don't belong there...like I said, head games!)
This deer has been living in or around the yard for the entire year I've been here. She is very tame and sleeps near my front door. We have an agreement where I don't bother her and she prunes the garden. I call her Nibbles :)

Luckily, I've been here before and still know exactly where I want future me to be and have an idea of what I need to do to address this...

Where I want to be:

-I want the confidence that comes with feeling capable.

-Big goals: I do want to ride the pony to the upper levels of dressage. EC says we can reasonably aim for PSG, and I like that idea.  I want to ride her to pre-Training eventing and jump 3'+ stadium courses confidently. I want to get to Training or Prelim one day eventing wise (not on this pony though, she is fabulous but her big heart is limited by her size and physique)

Essentially, I desperately want to do it all, but I am your average not talented at all adult ammy with a limited bank account and time limited by a full time job and lots of other commitments. My strengths are that I am quite motivated, hard working, good at prioritizing my riding, I get as many hours in the saddle as I can, and have a great coach. Most importantly, I've somehow lucked into a super pony partner.

What I can do right now:

-Scale back a little with the shows and other self imposed time frame/financial pressures. I will sign up at the last minute, if at all. No worries, there are lots to go to and options every weekend between now and October.

-Keep on with the lessons. Slacking off there will unfortunately not magically result in me riding at the level I'd like to.

-Get out for more fun rides. Hard work is good, fun is important though, too.
Bridget  is having fun surfing in Oregon on our virtual adventures

-Continue with fitness. Better fitness equals better riding.

-Do for myself what I do for Bridget - break it down into smaller chunks. Go back to things I know I'm good at, and prioritize one or two things I want to do better. Work on that until it's boring and I'm ready for new challenges.

-This week: Work on relaxing lower leg and having pony stay forward. (Stop the nagging, already)