Saturday, 30 July 2016

a friendly nudge in the right direction

It felt kind of weird to roll into the barn after so many days away. I was excited to say hi to Midge, but as I grabbed her halter and opened the gate to the pasture, I noticed she was hiding from the heat (and likely me) under a tree in the furthest corner of the field. Oh well.

My favorite barn mates were mucking out, so in a move to put off trekking across the field, I stopped in the shade of the barn to catch up on the adventures of the past week, and of course all things Rebecca Farm. The girl who was riding Bridget for me reported she'd been awesome and super fun, which is always a good thing to hear about my occasionally naughty pony. At this point, there was much drama occurring behind me, with the mares squabbling over space, so I moved to a safer location, totally absorbed in barn mate's recap of how the 1* rode and what the competitors party was like. "It sounds like you had so much fun. You're super inspiring", i was saying, "maybe one day I'll get to Rebecca. I have my doubts it will be with Bridget, but..." As I was saying that, I felt a gentle nudge on my back. Oh hi, Midge...wait, how did you get here? Were you the one causing the commotion? Yes indeed, it seems the pony couldn't wait to say hi, even if it meant moving the boss mares out of her way. Too long without treats, or did she miss me? Whichever the case, it was one of those moments that remind me why I do this - it's definitely more about the pony than it is about progress or competitive results.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Intermission

We made it back from our epic road trip late last night. We had so much fun, it's a little hard to return to reality...I'm pretty sure I left a piece of my heart in Montana! After Rebecca Farm, we camped for a while near Missoula and it was wonderful...if only we could have brought Bridget too!
Rebecca Farm area looks a lot like Alberta. I miss Alberta, now I also miss Montana. And Idaho. Idaho was nice too :)
I'm now at work for 2 days and will try to fit in a couple of rides on the pony, but the good news for me is I'm off again Friday for a long weekend away. Then, maybe, just maybe, I'll get some focus back and get back to lessons and competing. I don't know though, I'm still thinking a lot about things. It's a good thing to reevaluate your life and choices now and then and right now I'm in that place.


Thoughts on Rebecca Farm, road trips, life and horses to follow...right now I'm going to continue with my brief intermission and enjoy a little more vacation time :) Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Ride recaps and Rebecca Farm


I had a great dressage lesson Monday night. We progress at a snails pace but it was one of those rides where I got a glimpse of things hopefully to come. Midge is starting to get the idea of pushing with her front legs, shifting that weight back, so we had a stride or two here and there of real medium trot and a big engaged and collected trot. She's obviously not strong enough to hold it, but she seems to be keen to offer and I'm certainly pleased with that! We also delved into the travers on a circle thing which is our nemesis but improving in spite of ourselves. Finished with leg yield in which we changed the bend to half pass a stride or two and pony found that very hard indeed! Even though we are not good at this dressage thing, I'm finding it very exciting that the basics are there and the wheels don't fall off anymore when we try new things. I'm feeling hopeful First level will be no big thing this fall.

Jumping wise, after a day of baby confidence building stuff and pony being like "why are we wasting our time with these tiny boring things?", this past weekend I set myself a solid course that scared me a little and was a good range of 2'6" to 3' (biggest thing on our XC clinic adventures was maybe 2'6" - yes it seems I had something to prove ;)  Midge was happy to jump that all day long with minimal to no encouragement and it felt great so I've got a little more to think about.

And finally, most importantly, we are off to Montana Wednesday to spectate at Rebecca Farm this weekend. I have some amazing barn mates to cheer on, one of whom is making her first 1* appearance! So bad ass. I'm super excited for her and wishing her the best of luck. Best husband G is coming along and sacrificing a few days of our limited vacation time for horses, but I think he's going to love it too. Any bloggers going to be there and want to say hi, shoot me an email: projectgingersnap at gmail dot com

Otherwise, I'll see you in a week!

Monday, 18 July 2016

July 10

Stolen from VivaCarlos. Thanks, LWilliams!

1. Do you actually always pick the horse’s feet? Always? Really?

Nope. Zero legit excuses for it too...my back hurts and I'm lazy. This is a twice a week task, but then I do spray them with whatever antibacterial/antifungal/magical potion I happen to have on hand. That probably doesn't make up for my laziness, but it seems to work for us.

2. What is the biggest obstacle/reason preventing you from becoming a professional or competing full time with ease?

Being a professional: Talent. And, since George Morris doesn't think that's a good excuse, I'll add in a lack of determination. I'm not prepared to put in the hours I would need to be good enough to be a pro. I like the other parts of my life too much :)
Competing full time: Money. Talent. And again, determination/dedication. A life of full time showing would be too much time on the road for me, and honestly, I like keeping shows fun because they're a novelty. Also, I could never justify the cost even if I had an unlimited horse budget, I'd rather see the money go to tangible, potential life altering things, like helping animals or people in need.

3. Do you think it will ever not be about the money?

Maybe I'm dumb, but will what not be about the money? Horses? Showing? Life? I'm probably super naive, but I don't think anything is about the money. It's about enjoying the moment, hard work and maybe a little luck. Money is for losers ;) 

4. Was there ever a horse that you loved and really wanted to have a connection with, but it just never panned out?

Honestly, no. But I don't feel like I'm prone to love at first sight with horses (or humans). I need a long "getting to know you" period and don't invest much effort before I'm sure things could work :) I'm such a cynic.

5. What is one weakness in your riding that even your trainer doesn’t pick up on, only you?

I'm quite good at putting my body in a technically correct position that looks ok but is not the most effective for me...my trainer is big on letting everyone find what works for their body type so I have no idea why I keep forcing my body to fit 'inside the box'. She's starting to notice, though, after realizing I ride quite differently/in her opinion better when I hack out and think no one is watching:)

6. What is the biggest doubt/insecurity you ask or tell yourself in your head?

That I'm going to ruin my horse by: being a terrible rider, being too heavy, being too inexperienced. 

7. There is a barn fire. You are the first person to discover it and see that the roof is collapsing in slowly, and you can tell it’s going to come down any time. Do you call people first or head straight in to save the horses?

I'd never board at a barn without exterior runs from the stalls, so cheater answer is I would make sure all the exterior doors and gates I could get to were open. Barring that, as awful as it sounds, I'd stand back and call for help...if the barn is burning so bad the roof is seriously caving in at any moment it's doubtful anyone is surviving anyways.

8. What is one event in your riding career/horse/anything that you’re still not over, even though you might tell others you are?

My first horse was a nasty bolter. He could go from a relaxed sleepy walk to a gallop way faster than my little kid brain and body could react. We ended up running down the middle of a highway, stuck in a forested ravine, falling upside down in a ditch, wiping out over the arena fence...you name it, it happened. Super dangerous, but hey, the only horse I had so I rode him for 4 years. Doubt I'll ever get past it though.

9. If you could tell off one person you just don’t like, what would you say?
To mind their own business and to get out and live their own life. Try to be happy. Life is way too short to waste time on the negative you think you see in everyone else's lives.

10. Have you ever seen questionable riding or training practices, but let it go/ignored it? How do you feel about it in hindsight?

For sure. I'm good with it...there's more than one way to do things and I'm no expert, nor do I usually know much about the backstory/reason (and there almost always is one!) Maybe it's a cop out, but I hate drama and I mind my own business. At most barns there is usually at least one person who has the desire to tell everyone what they think, so I let them 'handle' it ;) Joking aside, if I see someone doing something horribly dangerous through ignorance I will say something in a very non confrontational way.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Things We Did OK

My thought process this morning:
1. Wake up. Excitement, need to send in event entries today!
2. But that clinic...maybe we aren't cut out for this and I'm being stupid to keep trying. I'll be that person and look like an idiot. Also, lots of money to spend if it might not be fun...
3. Considering quitting feels really freeing and really good. But then hugely disappointing. I still want to do this, but does Bridget?
4. Am I a bad owner? Would I recognize if she hates it?
4b. What does she even like? She doesn't get excited about much...but jumping, yes I think most days she likes it.
5. Madly google event closing date.
6. Ughh....need to make up mind soon.
7. Maybe there are pictures somewhere of the previous years courses?
8. Bingo!

So, I bring you pictures, courtesy of CourseWalk.com, of some of the stuff we jumped last week:

Trot out, turn around and drop back in.
This one was uphill heading home and rode so nicely
Met with skepticism, but jumped it every time presented

Keeping it real, the house that made me cry
No big deal
Ditch and baby log pile
9. And, drumroll please, the Starter course walk looked pretty much like this:


Times twelve.
 
10. OK, let's give it a go. We won't know unless we try ☺






Friday, 15 July 2016

Virtual Updates

I've been keeping track of our hours and miles logged in the saddle here this year. We passed the 6 month mark recently, and here are some of the numbers:



Thursday, 14 July 2016

Tough Love

I felt like I was skipping school by taking Wednesday off work to ride horses. Better yet, it was for a XC clinic in the city. Tough life, am I right? :)

The morning started out positively - somehow we got three trailer loads of horses and all their belongings and associated people to the ferry on time. Yay for being on schedule!

The equestrian park we went to was gorgeous, and had what felt like hundreds of jumps set up everywhere. Even better, they had tons of starter and pre entry stuff, little versions of basically everything the big kids get to jump.

Upper field has a bunch of baby sized stuff
Midge was quite honestly being a bit of a jerk as we warmed up...ignoring me and screaming at all her new friends instead. Also, she was being quite sour about going away from the trailer/her friends. We've been out and about enough and hack out alone all the time, so I had very little sympathy for her and just got down to work, reinforcing the forward button and bending and changing directions to keep her busy and focused on me.

Our lesson started with centering a single starter level log. Midge thought that was exciting and super fun. We then added in some more logs, and a little pre entry ramp type thing. She felt a little sticky at the ramp, but I read the situation right and got her forward enough that stopping wasn't an option. Next, we added some little houses...and the wheels fell off.

 I was given some tough love and reamed out a bit for my part in whatever was happening. Honestly, that made me mad/upset/overwhelmed because I didn't/don't understand what I need to do differently. It was made known to everyone that I Was Riding Very Badly (and there is no excuse, ever, for doing that)  While I agree, I was pretty down because honestly, I was doing the very best I could and trying really hard to just follow instructions and have a really positive outing. Also, as mentioned above, I wasn't really picking up on what exactly I was doing so wrong.

Following that, we had a bunch more misadventures at that line of houses....Midge was super about being forward, but something was happening in the last second. She'd canter up to the fence and convince everyone she was going, but in the last stride slam on the brakes and kind of duck her shoulder/slide over/through...basically the momentum was the only thing getting us to the other side, if we got there. So, we got banished in shame from the exercise and never did get a good run through there. Boo. I may have shed a few tears of frustration, but I was careful to keep some distance because if no one sees you cry it obviously didn't happen, right?; )

By this point the Bridget E-Brake was stuck firmly on and it felt icky.

We moved on to a different part of the course and trainer offered to ride Bridget. Yes please...please someone tell me whatever secret ingredients I am failing to understand! And, Bridget stopped. And stopped again. Oh my. I'm a terrible person, because I was torn between "Ha ha, see, she's very tricky!" and "Yep, I ruined my pony and now she won't even jump for a pro"

Luckily, there is a reason she is the pro. Bridget was made to scramble over from a standstill. My take home for that was that she can jump 2'6" from a standstill, so if that's what you need to do to get to the other side, then do it. Eventually she'll figure out we are going no matter what and that it would be easier to canter up and jump. She galloped B around a bit and jumped some more things but honestly it looked like a lot of work. It was also mentioned that maybe it wasn't all me riding so very badly, the pony is just really tricky to get to and over the jumps. I wasn't feeling it, because honestly, once someone loses their temper or overwhelms me I have a hard time moving past it.

I hopped on and did a little course, and it was sticky, but we got around. Maybe I am being negative, but I didn't feel much better about things, since coach had already made her scramble over the same jumps a few minutes before and it didn't feel much better for me - also I have a funny feeling if we added something new the refusals and misadventures would have started again.

So, a rough day. The pony and I started out having the best day, but then both kinda shut down and wanted to be anywhere but there. If I look back on this blog, I can see pretty much all the new or difficult things with B were initially met with "Nope, don't wanna, can't make me!" Even stuff she loves now like trail riding or jumping in the arena. So there is hope that with hard work we'll conquer this too. But the other part of me is thinking things like being advised to wear bigger spurs are maybe a sign we're on the wrong path. I don't know...will have to think on this a lot more.


Not us. I want so badly for this to be us :(



Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Floppy

The drugs and/or time are doing their job and fingers crossed The Midge seemed almost as good as new last night. She was lazy and still had a tiny bit of a runny nose, but she was more than willing and able to play for our dressage lesson.

I'm getting spoiled right now because it seems like everyone I normally share lessons with is on vacation. That means private lessons at the usual group rate, and I'm learning a ton. I love my lesson mates, but if I could afford/trainer had time for private lessons once a week I'd be all over it - the extra focus and feedback are invaluable, and the ability to really focus on whatever problem I bring on the day is very helpful. Also, on my own I tend to pick EC's brain and do an extra dressage ride...in our Monday group the teenagers are usually pushing for a jumping lesson :) The flip side to all that attention and not taking breaks to set courses is that it's very hard to take a break and/or hide when you're the only one in the lesson! No slacking off for the Midge and I.

We started with a bunch of leg yield zig zags. 4 to 5 strides off the left leg, straight for a stride, 4 to 5 off the right, repeat. This tied in nicely with our figure eight exercise from last week...changing the bend frequently keeps the Midge on her toes, and stops her from getting tired and popping a shoulder or running through the bridle. Eventually we moved to "grown up" leg yields from the center line and I was able to keep her straight and honest from the outside aids without needing to add in any forward and straight strides. Next time we'll try some leg yields in canter. Such a cool feeling, my baby pony is getting stronger and more grown up all the time!

Next up, walk pirouette to canter. Here's where it became apparent I am not "floppy" enough. I never thought I'd hear any riding coach tell me that, but hey...I guess if someone tells me my lower leg shouldn't move and my hands should stay here and my shoulders there, I take it to the next level, lol. I dropped my stirrups for the remainder of the lesson and was instructed to sit up tall and to feel like my legs are just kind of hanging there, "flopping around", NOT being used as a base of support with a light seat...sigh, guess who is still riding like she's still in that "no hands/no stirrups" jumping lesson from two weeks ago? Anyway, I did my best to follow instructions and it actually felt all sorts of wiggly and loose and wrong as far as what previous instructors might have said, but from a basic riding perspective it felt completely right and so.much.easier. I'm 99% sure me feeling floppy and loose actually = normal riding. It certainly felt a lot less forced and difficult. We did our standard walk to canter, trot a stride, canter a few, trot a stride, canter etc and it was an entirely new level of soft and awesome. Poor Midge, such a simple position fix made all the difference. No stirrups for me for the foreseeable future...at least on the flat.  As a rider, I'm enjoying being at a multi discipline barn...it's a learning experience for sure, but interesting to be able to learn and feel how the different riding positions and styles influence myself and my horse.

This picture (from facebook) reminded me of Midge somehow....;)

Monday, 11 July 2016

Cold and Hot

One of the (very few) things that I find frustrating about being at my current barn is that the horses go on many adventures and then bring home and share germs like a bunch of school kids. Its a small, busy barn, and despite best efforts colds do spread through the barn once a year or so. Despite everyone receiving regular vaccinations, I guess there is always a different cold virus out there. One is currently making the rounds and poor Ms Bridget has been a little under the weather with a bit of a runny nose and a teeny bit of a cough. I've been proactive with the ventipulmin on the off chance her COPD is playing into things. It's the first time I've used it since her initial diagnosis, and maybe it's not necessary, but I live in fear of her getting permanent damage in her lungs at such a young age. I don't know if it helped, but she was quite lively by Sunday.
Working hard holding her own grooming supplies

As a quick recap of the past few days, we had our lesson Wednesday and she seemed a little off, running out of steam about half an hour in. So, I gave her Thursday and Friday off just to play it safe. On Saturday, she seemed quite bright and eager to do something, but coughed lightly a couple of times as I warmed up. So, we did a mostly walking ride and focused on lateral work and correct bend. I then added in a ton of free walk/medium walk/collected walk transitions. Super exciting stuff that I am normally guilty of ignoring a little too much because her walk is her best gait and I seem to be drawn to a project, ie fussing with the trot and canter :) .

Sunday when I drove in, Midge was running around being silly, which was nice to see. She was waiting for me at the gate when I got there, another sure sign she was bored with energy to burn. After a slow warmup and a teeny bit of dressage I let her gallop around the arena twice and jump three or four teeny jumps. She quite liked that, but it's been quite hot out and I wanted to go easy so we ditched the saddle and went off for a 20 min walk hack around the neighbourhood. I love that she's sensible enough to do some dressage, gallop around and jump a little, and go out for a bareback hack on the road all in the same 45 min ride.
Meandering around on a nice summer day

Fingers crossed she's over the worst of the bug and we can resume our regularly scheduled activities this week. We have a lesson tonight and we'll see if she's feeling well enough to plan for our clinic Wednesday. Our countdown clock to optimum fitness for Rebecca Farm 2017 is ticking and we will need every minute of it ;)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

simple changes

Did I lure you in with hopes this post would be about easy ways to improve something? Sorry. G likes to say I am "famous" for doing things the hard way, and he's probably got a point. So let's not go there, let's just focus on the fact that he thinks I'm cool enough to be famous and move on :)


This is actually a post about lead changes, which I am definitely not famous for, at least in any good way.

Our lesson started with a very grumpy pony, who just couldn't even. Couldn't bend, couldn't do shoulder in, definitely could not make transitions from shoulder in. Eventually, she remembered dressage is a thing and got to work. Once we had our basics reestablished, we spent the remainder of our ride doing some figure eights.


As for the exercise, ride Bridget in as collected and balanced a canter as I can on about a 15m circle, then trot, change bend, and canter on the new circle. Repeat forever and ever. Focus is on balanced and accurate transitions, keeping the trot steps to a minimum and having pony on my aids throughout - any time she ran through it was down to walk, enforce the bend/softness, and immediately back to canter.  Midge thought the hardest part of the exercise was bending in a new direction quite so quickly. I found the hardest part was remembering to keep the down transitions forward and organized, I am lazy about dropping her a little and allowing her to pull my upper body forward.

Overall, it went super well, and is the next logical exercise from all those 20m canter 4-5 strides, trot 1, repeat until you want to die circles we do every lesson.  It's an excellent exercise for keeping me organized and planning ahead, and also keeping the pony honest between leg and hand.

As a final note, thank you for the words of encouragement on our big goals post! I'm not sure I'm a believer yet, but it's super flattering and motivating to have you all believing in us!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Big Goals

I'm bad and spent my long weekend far away from the barn. Luckily, there are some super keen teenagers happy to ride Bridget in my absence. I'm spoiled and don't have to come back to a super crazy pony if I take a long weekend here and there! Midge was a little up and spooky, but just as Jen finds with her Welsh Cob Connor, even on the worst days you never really feel like there's much danger of coming off. I still manage it sometimes, of course, because I'm amazing like that, but it's not high on my list of worries like it would be getting on a larger, more athletic horse.

We were scheduled for dressage, but with the higher than average energy levels Midge had, we opted to jump instead. I'm so happy we did, because it went super well. We jumped full courses from our new jumping canter and it just felt good. I felt like I was very solid in my position too, which is probably still due to our intense lesson last week. I remembered to ride positively and Midge met me halfway, so much fun was had.  EC talked me into taking a day off work next week for a xc clinic in Vancouver, see how positive I was feeling? :)

Yay, more of this!

 We discussed an event schedule for the remainder of the year. Dressage wise, we're doing First level in the fall, but the summer will be more about jumping and eventing with a couple of jumper shows, that xc clinic, and two events on the schedule. Then, EC had a moment of insanity inspired genius: "You've said Rebecca Farm is your dream event. Why are you not setting that as a goal with Bridget?" I laughed...because, well, Bridget?! In my mind, I envisioned some day in the future taking something a little more...thoroughbred-y?
Midge is skeptical

She's pushing for me to aim for the Novice Three Day next year. It will take at least a year of serious dedication to get my drafty pony fit enough.

Baseline fitness...sleeping in canter position not the same as cantering
 Challenge accepted. Because, steeplechasing. Also, because why not? Even if it doesn't come to fruition, an increased focus on horse and rider fitness can only help and I love the idea of learning how to prep a horse and compete in a long format.
View from my ferry commute home...and gives you an idea of how difficult it is to find a flat piece of land to do any sort of gallop set on.

In addition to our regularly scheduled programming, here's the remainder of our summer/fall schedule:

July 13: XC clinic at Campbell Valley
July 19-24: Vacation time at Rebecca Farm
Aug 12-14: Campbell Valley Event
Sept 17: Local jumper show
Sept 24: Local dressage show
Oct 1/2: MREC Horse Trials
Nov: Southlands Dressage and MREC 2 Phase

Come say hi if you're attending any of the above :)