Monday, 31 October 2016

Forward Looking Statement

Title as such because we all know plans change!


As a quick recap, we had a pretty busy spring and summer show season, followed by a quieter fall season. Looking ahead, I'm thinking we're going to keep things pretty quiet until early spring. (2017 goals include dressage shows at Second level, jumpers at 2'9" and eventing at pre-entry) We're in a bit of a weird spot training wise and I'm burnt out, so redirecting show $ to clinics and lessons, (plus the odd shopping splurge! ) seems the right thing to do.

Here's our tentative plan through Feb:

November:

-Lessons twice weekly.
-Dressage clinic
-Fraser Valley Hunt - Opening Day Hunt
-Clear Rounds Day

December:

-Lessons twice weekly
-Two week tropical vacation for me

January:

-Lessons twice weekly
-Dressage clinic

February:

-Lessons twice weekly
-Southlands dressage schooling show
-MREC schooling 2 phase

Following February, the calendar fills up super quickly! Expect a show season planning post sometime mid January.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Oops

As I was complaining about the mare herd's poor behaviour this week, I checked the weather forecast in hopes of some decent riding weather tonight. It was then that I noticed we had numerous storm warnings from earlier in the week, including 'damaging' winds and rain.

So sorry, baby Q mare, I didn't mean to hack you out in a hurricane. I thought it seemed a bit windy last night and I apologize for being frustrated with your spookiness :)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

October 10

"Can't Even" sums up all of my rides this week. The mares just can't horse right now, to the point where putting Q's blanket back on post (awful) ride last night caused a panic because "OMG the straps are touching my legs!!"....cue repeated scrambling all over the concrete barn aisle, then all the rest of the mares panicking because "OMG Q is being eaten by her blanket!!" and me just about getting trampled in the chaos as I tried to save her from herself and turn her out into the field.

Bridget fell on her face mid ride by spooking at one of the jumps (the same one Q mare spooked into and demolished on Monday) as we cantered past. She lost her footing and laid down to die. The jump obviously nearly got her and so for the rest of the ride she was giving it the evil eye.
Stay with us B, don't go towards the light.

Even my own brain has left the building, thinking it would be a great idea to keep me up all night with a random dream involving some weird guy creepy guy holding me hostage and trying to convince me training orcas for him would be a wise career choice. Natually, he had his own backyard aquarium complete with pissed off hungry untrainable orcas, because that totally makes sense, right? Messed up, but thanks subconscious, that might actually be a safer way to spend my days than with the horses in their current state of mind.


So, lets make a wise choice and end my ride updates with the lowlights above. Moving on, I'm going to answer LWilliams 10 questions for October before it's too late.

What do you consider “jumping high” for yourself?

2'9" feels challenging to me. I'm OK with the height in general, but tight related and/or bendy lines set this height make me nervous. Plus, I'm on a fat pony, so 2'9" is already a height where we can't just randomly jump from anywhere. I need to be accurate and on a good pace, otherwise it's quite difficult. On the plus side, if we can figure it out here, moving up a bit won't be a big deal.

What are your short-term goals for riding?

I want to get some good scores at First this winter. I also want to be more confident over bigger fences (2'9"+).

Do you think you’ll reach them? 

Confidence is a tricky thing, so setting a timeline is hard, but yes, for the jumping I'm optimistic. My confidence is in a low right now, but I think it's something we can work on over the winter. For the dressage, also optimistic, fingers crossed good scores at First should be a pretty soft goal.

Long term goals for riding?

PSG dressage with B in this lifetime:) and, Novice 3 day at Rebecca Farm in 2 years.

Do you think you’ll reach them? 

I'm super motivated and Bridget should be capable. Fingers crossed we get there together.

How many barns have you been at in your riding career?

15. But I move for work a lot!

How many different trainers have you been with in your riding career?

See above.  Currently, my main coach is an ex upper level eventer who is not averse to straight dressage, CDEs, and also coaches an excellent vaulting team. It's like 4 coaches in one;)

Ever worked at a barn?

Yes, numerous. My first job was at a barn, and I still like to work part time where I board if possible. I enjoy it and like having a feel for the day to day happenings. 

Feeding in the dark this morning. My little wheelbarrow ride loving friend is named Thug, because she is one :)


Scariest thing that has happened at your barn? 

Current barn is owned/run by a pony club and provincial developing riders coach, so fingers crossed, there is a huge emphasis on safety and no truly scary incidents I've seen. Probably the most scared I've been around horses was a couple of years ago when my friend fell and hit her head and was unconscious and having a seizure...meanwhile her horse loose was on the road and I couldn't get thru to 911. (It all ended fine...everyone emerged safe and OK)

Have you ever given a lesson?

I've given the odd beginner one, and used to take newbies out on trail rides as my job, if that counts :) Longer terms goals include getting my EC coaching certification - I was going to do it this fall, but life got in the way!

What level was the rider?

See above

What is your opinion on the accuracy of critiquing riders online?

Pictures? Such a moment in time. That being said, I did find the George Morris photo critiques helpful growing up, but generally speaking I don't think a picture gives you enough info about a rider to make any judgments as to their ability at all. I think video could allow a pro to make an educated guess, but even then, I don't think it's an appropriate thing to base a critique from, and certainly a completely inappropriate thing for the average person to do.

What is the ideal height of a horse for you?

I'm 5'2" and umm..."curvy" and I think a medium athletic build 15hh would be perfect. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Hold On! (But Don't)

Jump lesson night and Bridget was feeling very, very fresh. It's been almost a year since the last time she bucked me off, and I held onto to that record and managed to stay in the saddle :)

Weekend ears pic to help you identify Bridget in KateRose's Between The Ears Contest. 
Since our lesson topic Included successfully riding naughty ponies, here's a couple of handy tips:

- Rearing = behind the leg. Get them forward and feeling like they're up and under you, then they don't have an opportunity to rear.

- Bucking. Likely behind the leg, could also be not accepting the leg. Too bad so sad, leg stays on and forward is helpful.

- Bucking, if you fail to stop it from happening. Keeping a solid upper body, shoulders back, weight in heels makes things easy. Counter-intuitively, rather than pulling the head up, you should slip the reins to help avoid getting pulled forward. Then make the pony go!

- Bucking upon landing from a jump (Bridget's go to when she's excited). Need to be super solid about sitting up after fences while re balancing and packaging canter under me RIGHT AWAY. Pony that is working properly and has a job has a harder time doing stunts.

Even with the antics,  we had a super lesson and I felt like there was a lot of progress made in building and keeping the jumping canter we've been looking for for so long. I'm not at all worried about the naughty behaviour - it's Bridget and so rare I don't take it too seriously. I never longe prior to riding her and she's in a tiny winter paddock with no room to really run. Even Bridget gets a little stir crazy sometimes! She still certainly got corrected for the silliness, and was a good pony for the last half of our lesson.
No tricky lines here, just a focus on a nice steady pace and timely/accurate simple changes.

Homework: More of that forward, adjustable, uphill canter that feels like it's under me at all times. She's far enough along that we can start asking her to lengthen/come back between fences as needed AND expect her to remain uphill and in balance while doing so.




Monday, 24 October 2016

Time (to shop!) - Asmar Jacket Review

We're at the time of year where I'm driving in the dark to get to the barn in the mornings before work, and driving home in the dark after my post work ride. I'm struggling a little with the lack of daylight hours, and have been perusing job opportunities with a more flexible work day. (Only to daydream and make myself feel better though, honestly I love the town and my current coach, I'd be reluctant to go anywhere, better job or no!)



I feel like the best thing I can do right now is to take advantage of every last minute of daylight, even better if I'm doing that on the trail with Bridget.


The second best thing I can do to keep myself positive is to shop. Normally, I am not much of a consumer, but if I'm going to buy stuff fall is the time. I've had a riding appropriate waterproof coat on my wish list forever (remember that weekend show last winter when it poured rain and I was soaking wet and freezing cold all weekend? I sure do, weekend ruined all because I was too lazy and cheap to find a good winter coat upon moving back to the coast.) This year is going to be different, because I bought THE coat. The one I've been wishing for:

Asmar Equestrian City Jacket

I bought it in black so it will work on those rainy winter show days. Retail is $260 USD, but the Spruce Meadows Shop has it on sale for  $182 CAD about ($135 US) plus they ship free and there is no provincial sales tax in AB. Still a bit of an investment for me, but doable for a nice waterproof coat.

Initial impressions: I LOVE this coat. It's lightweight, stretchy, breathable. and so far has kept me dry in some pretty rough weather. Perfect for our rainy, but not super cold climate. The fit is really flattering, in and out of the saddle. I've actually been wearing it more as an everyday coat than a riding coat though...it looks nicer on than my usual 'good' coat. The quality is really nice. There's a zipper on the back that you can easily unzip so it works really well to keep you comfortable and dry in the saddle. I also like the big collar/hood - it makes me feel super cozy. Honestly, I am not a wealthy person, but if this coat lasts (which I think it will!) I'd say it's worth even full price....it goes with everything and it's functional too. I can justify it by saying it's my riding/biking/hiking/grocery shopping/3 season/everyday/rainy day adventure coats all in one. Lots of value there, see? ;)



Thursday, 20 October 2016

Push and Pull

We're already in the time of year where I'm riding in the dark. I tacked up Q mare for a trail ride anyway, but quickly discovered that due to the multiple trees that came down in the last storm, I'm temporarily unable to trail ride off property. At least I tried?

We returned to the indoor and it became very apparent the Q mare was super fresh. A difficult situation for me, because the arena was packed with not a lot of room to maneuver, also she is huge and I am not 100% confident about picking fights with her yet. So, I did a ton of walk transitions, a ton of reminding her my leg being there does not mean go, and lots and lots of bendy changes of direction because hauling me around isn't cool. And oh my goodness, does she love to try to set her neck and pull you along. We moved up to trot and played with the same stuff there, but just as I felt she was starting to go nicely it was already past time to get Bridget ready for my lesson. It's funny, if Bridget has an off day or I ride poorly, I'm like "Oh well." With Q mare I put pressure on myself to make it good because she's not my horse. Time for another lesson on her, I think.

I quickly tacked up Bridget and hopped on her, and she had the same energy levels as Q. With Bridget though, rather than dragging around and pulling, it manifests as wanting to wiggle and go up and/or get stuck and buck in place. It felt a little weird after an hour of trying to get Q mare back off the forehand and then I need to push B because she's wanting to bounce around on her hind legs! Its funny that what is consistent between the two is their movement. B is more bouncy when asked, but generally speaking, when each is going well they feel oddly alike - even with a 3 hand height difference! Both are definitely my type.
How I imagine Bridget would look if she was 17hh

We were in the middle of another windstorm and for whatever reason the arena lights weren't all cooperating, so our lesson was mostly in the dark. You'd think all that plus the excess energy would be a recipe for disaster, but I actually had a super good ride on Midge! Once she warmed up, she was totally looking for the contact and our exercise from Monday of bringing her into a collected walk to rebalance totally helped.

My homework is lots and lots of transitions, up to trot and canter until the balance is lost, then back to walk to rebalance and immediately back to trot or canter. The trick is to keep her using her back and hind legs consistently regardless of what we're doing. I'm thankful I know her so well, it makes it much easier to time my corrections and transitions appropriately!
Having fun with photo apps again 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Embracing The Suck

I'm sure I mentioned my weekend rides weren't anything fabulous. In fact, I feel like we've been in a rough patch for a month or two now. There's this really awkward place in the training process and we're there. Big time.

The good news: I'm told it's normal. I'm told we'll survive and be much better for it.
The bad news: It sucks. It's not fun. My pony and I are arguing, often.

I'm sure a lot of you have been here. There's baby horse land where we go forward and turn and bend and even go in a nice long-ish connection. Then there's the next step where we want to add more impulsion, we want to be able to collect, we want to take that baby forward and make it powerful. And for Midge and I, that's a really, really hard place to be.

Midge: "This is hard. Let me move my feet faster! Not what you want? Well then I can't go forward at all. I knew forward was a stupid idea."

Me: "No, no Midge, go forward. You're good!" *leans forward, drops contact*

Midge: "Ah hah, see I can go forward, just don't touch me! Good T, I've trained you well"

Me: "Arghh, but we need to contain this, somehow" *Posts taller, sits deeper, takes back contact*

Midge: "NO!NO!NO! This is not how it works! I do not work this hard!" *Sucks back, wiggles, and does best giraffe impression*

At which point, I kick her forward and the cycle repeats.

So, we needed an intervention. We've been playing with collected steps here and there for a while, and I felt like progress was being made. Lately though, Midge has definitely decided the whole going forward into contact thing is optional, and I have been at a bit of a loss how to fix it...she's naturally very balanced and good through her back so she can go super forward all day long (and even look quite correct about it) without giving you much of a feel in the bridle or lifting half as much as we know she can. She is also very, very supple and bendy and quite willing to use that as an evasion, which makes it even more difficult for me to consistently get an even feel between both legs and rein. I wish so much I was a more experienced rider, but I'm told Midge is legit tricky and if I can figure this out and teach her, I'll be able to do it for most. So at least there's that.


"She lies, I'm an angel"

"OK, well maybe I'm partly at fault. But notice I am practicing rubbing out my mane as I reach through the gate and steal others food pulling my own mane as a gesture of peace" 


Thank goodness for our awesome coach.

Se had us looking and feeling great in less than 45 min. With results like that, the lady needs her own infomercial or something :)

Tips:

-For now, it's going to feel like Bridget's going too slow. That's ok, as long as she's lifting her back and getting those hind legs more active and it feels like there's power and the ability to go forward the instant I ask,

-No big deal if things go haywire. When in doubt, go back to walk, establish the awesome collected walk she is capable of, then go forward into trot or canter keeping the same feel.

-As the rider, resist all temptation to adjust self, fiddle with reins, make any big changes. Stay quiet, keep a consistent, elastic contact. Shoulders back. Ride like she's going super well regardless of what's really going on. Forward does not equal power. Power equals lift.

-She's plenty strong enough, but overall fitness as always is an issue. Work mostly in walk, if she's tired and that's what I need to do to keep the connection and activity consistent. The big thing right now is to establish that we would like her to balance and use her hind end and back that little bit more, consistently, all the time. Leg yields, haunches in, shoulder in, on the wall and on a circle are still my best friends for helping her understand better what we want those hind legs doing.

For a super exciting note to end on, we had excellent canter work throughout, and even a few strides of real, actual, amazing collected canter. It's been TWO YEARS, but I'm almost ready to say my trotting cart pony might actually have a real, consistent canter.



Monday, 17 October 2016

Equestrian Priorities

Saturday morning, our little part of the world was hit with some fairly crazy weather warnings and storm path predictions.





With T minus 4 hours until predicted landfall in our town, my options were:

1. Stay inside and get the flashlights and candles ready
2. Venture out for last minute food, gas, and emergency supplies
3. Fit in one last ride before the weekend went haywire

You can guess what I chose. 


And..what everyone else riding here chose too...this is a small barn and this is maybe half the cars in the parking lot lol
I had a not so great ride, but no regrets about my life choices. Particularly since although the storm did hit us directly, it was way less destructive than forecasted and I only needed to survive about 8 hours without power. Even less than the storm a few days before!

A trip to the barn on Sunday showed a couple of the big trees in the paddock were blown over, but beyond a couple of squished fences, everything there survived just fine. In fact, rather than squished fences, lets look at it as gaining a few xc logs to jump ;)

My ride on Sunday was also not the greatest, Midge was on a storm fueled rampage and was very naughty. I look forward to dressage lesson boot camp tonight!

Survived being in the mouth of the angry dragon storm; possibly because Midge absorbed the anger

Friday, 14 October 2016

So Fresh. So Silly. It's Spring!

Since the weather and news media are warning  of a series of  "potentially life threatening" storms from today onwards, I opted to hedge my bets and ride last night. I won't rule out riding in hurricane force winds and rain this weekend - it's Bridget and we do have an indoor, and I've done it before with zero issues. My concern is that there is only one main road between me and the barn and I wouldn't like to bet on the odds of it not being blocked at some points along the 30km part I use.

Bridget was feeling very fresh and super silly, so we cantered a lot. I love it when she's got energy, unfortunately her version of excess energy always seems to show itself in a heavy, tight, dramatic running through the bridle sort of way. So, pretty much the exact opposite of Normal Midge. Since I do enjoy the big go button, I didn't fuss too much about keeping her round or soft...I more just encouraged the immediate transitions and responses to my leg on offer and thanked her for being so good about that. Lots of squares and spirals and shoulder in, basically letting the exercises do the work for me. She's been wanting to revert to being wiggly and behind the leg recently, so I don't think it was a bad idea to reinforce that all the forwards are what we like and that it's really not so hard to do. Eventually, of course she did tire a bit and soften on her own and I told her that's exactly what we want (soft, but with energy!) and that she was amazing. We ended there.

Bridget is also currently shedding, in a big way. Must be spring! Or no...wait...Fall?!

One of Bridget's BFF's is also shedding...unattractive, patchy shedding leaving bald spots. The barn owner called the vet, because weird. right? 

The good news is that no one has mange or rain scald or some weird skin or nutritional disease. The working theory is that since school has been back in, people are coming and staying later into the evenings at the barn, and the lights are on til 8 or 9 every night. Combine that with the fact that most of the fluorescent lights got switched out to a more natural spectrum light this summer, and we've inadvertently tricked some of the horses into thinking the days have got longer, or, it's spring! 

It will be interesting to see whether Bridget regrows a proper winter coat or whether it just stays kind of slightly longer than her summer coat. Our winters here are pretty mild and I blanket for convenience sake so I'm not worried she'll be cold. Plus, there's no need to clip any time in my immediate future. So, for the time being, I'm calling this interesting misadventure a win.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Getting Back On

EC set a deceptively difficult course for us last night. The biggest fence was maybe 2'6", with the majority I'm guessing set somewhere in the 2'-2'3" range. It looked pretty unintimidating, to the point where I was wondering what I had done wrong to be back jumping the baby courses. It turns out the difficulty is in the details. Rather than the track I thought we might follow, ours featured rollbacks and bendy lines, and she complicated it further by asking for one fence to be a trot fence, and one of the bending lines to be a one stride going one direction, and a two stride going the other.

MSPaint kind of letting me down here, but I spent time on this therefore must use it.


First run through, Bridget was on fire, taking me to the fences with almost too much enthusiasm. For the two stride, Bridget jumped in on my line like a pro but I got caught out big time since she had way more gas in the tank than I expected and took my leg staying on to mean we were going for a long one stride...and so I got left a bit behind, did not slip my reins, we ended up on a weird angle,  and I managed to have quite a spectacular fall when Bridget took her giant leap and merrily galloped on. EC actually ran over, which is how you know it must have looked impressive...normally she is very much the calm and collected one. So embarrassing,  particularly after my talk last post of being disciplined and expecting immediate forward thinking pony! Then Bridget offers it up and I'm so surprised I fall off :) All I could do was laugh. (Although it's a bit frustrating now that I think on it - I definitely need to replace my helmet now and was silly and didn't buy one during the international helmet awareness day sales. Boo hoo for me.)

Also rode the big bad Q mare (and did not fall off.) Love her.

The rest of our lesson was less exciting for the bystanders. I remembered how to ride, Bridget was a pro, and I actually feel like it was one of the better rides on her I've had in a while - she was totally on the ball and responsive and was super about the up and down transitions and remaining straight and accurate without much reminding.

No actual pictures of Bridget today, but here's Ginger sulking last night because her favorite lease girl left her alone in the wash rack for 0.5 of a second.
Some final thoughts: We've had a few mishaps together in the past year.  Scary, right? Except no, it's actually not.  Every weird thing that happens has been just that...a momentary lapse of judgement,  a misstep, some awkward moment where one or both of us is learning the best we can and pushing the limits. Honestly, every time I get back up in the saddle after a fall like that I get more confident and less worried about making mistakes. Bad things happen, and we learn from them and move on to better things. It's funny, because I used to struggle with nerves and always thought the more non eventful miles I could put in, the less worried I'd be about falling or getting hurt. I think there is still some value to that but honestly it's the rides where it all goes kind of wrong but then we fix it and get it right where I learn the most and feel like I gain the most knowledge and confidence.

Tis the season, here's our weather for the upcoming week, which likely had much to do with the super fresh horses last night. Thanks Typhoon Songda!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Small Updates

Last week, I took EC's advice and really asked for MORE from my adorable, but rotten, pony. I had my doubts on Day 1, since I was met with a ton of resistance and tantrums. I have zero issues disciplining the pony for things that are dangerous or willfully 'bad', but there's a huge grey area that honestly keeps me up at night sometimes wondering if I'm doing it right. my comfort zone is really 'Good Cop' and I like to be quite encouraging and patient...too much so, apparently! Last week, Midge was sticky moving her hindquarters to the left. Not bad, but certainly less responsive than what I'd like.
Bridget tantrums: dramatic reinactment. Actually, just a pic that amuses me because Ginger is like "WTH Bridget!?"

If you remember, EC's advice was to go with my gut and not be so nice, so I did, feeling that Bridget was giving me the bare minimum and was capable of more. I was really disciplined about my expectations for the pony. We've schooled this before, you know how to do this, and you're athletic enough to make it happen NOW. It was hard for me to be so uncompromising and not start second guessing myself or my riding! As mentioned, Day 1 of that was not super productive...a lot of tantrums for a result less than what I'd hoped for. But, after sleeping on it overnight, Midge came out the following day and was still a bit disgruntled, but oh my, those leg yields and haunches in were absolutely amazing! So, moving forward, picking the fight might be a good thing, no matter how painful it is in the moment.

Currently, I'm feeling like we're in a weird spot training wise, so I'm happy to put any shows on hold, maybe even until the new year. I'm good with all the things we've accomplished show wise this year. I also feel like I want to take a time out from the stress both mentally and financially, and spend the saved $ on clinics and lessons (ok, and also a few things on my wish list!)
maybe there will be more trail riding happy ears in our immediate future
This weekend, I moved up to our house further up the coast for a long weekend of Netflix and good food. G and I are both feeling under the weather so it was nice to have a weekend with nothing to do, although as always I miss the horses. I should note, I pitched the whole Ginger as a broodmare thing to G and he is actually more motivated than me to discuss options further. Our long term plan is to buy a farm up there, so I guess G is already planning for the future inhabitants :) It's surprising that I seem to be the only one with reservations about this. If only there was a guarantee that a perfect Cardi baby would pop out next spring with minimal stress, then I'd be on board for sure!

In sad news, I returned to the lower coast this morning and found the barn has been reconfigured for winter. I know a lot of us deal with minimal paddock space and turn out for a few months every year, but I always feel pretty down about it when the monsoons return and it's time for everyone to come in. Bridget and Ginger in particular really seem to enjoy having space to run and play.
Another image from the vault, back when they had a big pasture to play in. (and eat, apparently, B looks rather chunky!)

Lesson night is tomorrow night... due to me being sick and/or away it's been 10 days since the last one and I'm excited!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Storm Season

We're getting hit with our first big storm of the season tonight on the south BC coast. This is the one that always makes me nervous, because the first one is when the majority of damage seems to occur. With this being a coastal rainforest, of course there are multiple giant trees right outside my window and the ocean is smashing the cliff base below the house I rent here. The trees provide slope stability, so its better they stay...but on nights like this I wish they were slightly less apt to blow over and we humans had less of an attraction to building alongside the water :) Im putting a lot of faith right now in the geotechnical engineer people and the tree topping/inspector guy. My future farm design will not include trees within squishing distance of houses and barns!

Pictures would go here, if I had them, but they turned out uniformly black. I guess it was dark out today!

I need to get home for the long weekend, so I felt like I should get a ride in tonight, regardless of the weather. I went to the barn after work and was somewhat successful getting a ride in, but didn't push it. All the horses were super on edge, it's amazing how good they are at forecasting incoming weather. Added into the chaos of the day, a random llama who made a great escape from somewhere and decided to run around the perimeter of the farm, further terrifying the occupants.  Bridget and her elderly Arabian pony friend Scout were the only two whose brains remained intact tonight, seriously worth their weight in gold, the pair of them. I left them tucked in with rainsheets and big piles of hay, plus they have access to the barn if they want in, so let's hope they're cozy and settled and sleep well tonight. The lovely C (Q mare's owner) has volunteered to ride Bridget while I'm gone, so I'm sure she'll be in good hands.

Of course, I'm also thinking tonight of all those affected by the hurricane in Florida and on the east coast. Hoping everyone is safe and warm and dry tonight!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A Lot To Think About

Monday night, dressage lesson night.

Midge felt a little tired warming up, but otherwise good - soft and forward and generally I felt pretty happy with her. EC always checks in with us during warm up, and I gave her that exact feedback.

She put us to work, watched a bit, offered a few tips, then laid our the challenge: (Paraphrasing here, this was an ongoing commentary throughout the lesson) I need to expect MORE. I need to ask for more from Bridget, and I need to hold myself to a higher standard too. It would be a shame to 'waste' such a good pony.  I AM quite serious about this riding thing, and she knows that, so she only let me puzzle on that for a minute (HOW can I be more serious? I devote nearly every spare minute to this as it is!? Or is she saying I suck and Bridget needs a better rider??) before adding that it's a confidence thing. I can do this, Bridget can do this, I have the 'feel' to teach her and ask her for what I want...so just do it, don't wait for a lesson to verify I'm on the right track. Trust myself, hold us both to that higher standard, every.single. ride. Do not worry about making mistakes. I am too nice, too compromising right now and Bridget is fully capable and athletic enough to do all the things, she doesn't need to be babied and she is definitely past the point where she gets to have any opinions about showing up for work every day. In short, I'm very lucky to have a pony this nice, so take the opportunity and make something of it! (and oh yeah, and no pressure, but don't mess it up. But actually don't worry about that, because I won't mess it up ;)


OK then. My brain hurts a little.

In other thought provoking news, I've been asked a few times whether I'd be interested in breeding Ginger. I haven't overly thought about it, because this spring I wasn't at a place where it was a priority or the financial outlay and stress made sense. It's been on my 'someday' list forever.  It's now evolved that someone is very interested in a Ginger baby and would like a breeding lease. Again, I kind of didn't think on it too hard, she's happy in the job she has.  I said as much recently, and added, "Besides. if she had a Cardi baby I'd probably have to buy it!" To which the reply was..."ummm, you wouldn't have to. That foal would be yours. That's how the breeding lease works...every second foal is yours." Oh goodness, that changes things. EC of course supports this plan 100% "because Ginger is lovely and you will want/need another pony prospect eventually!"Somebody stop me, bribing me with Cardi babies is not a fair negotiating tactic.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Fitness Plan Paying Off

There's a plus side to being pretty much the only rider at the barn who didn't go to the MREC Octoberfest event this year. I was the only person at the barn all weekend. Those of you who board at busy barns will understand the joy in not having to share the barn or the arena for an entire weekend! So, I spent a zillion hours in the grooming/wash stall getting Bridget looking pretty, including her first beard trim of the year (shh,  don't tell, but in the wild she'd be a bearded lady!), the neverending job that is thinning her mane, and combing out and conditioning her tail in preparation for it's winter braid.
pony selfie

I also hauled all the random stuff out of my bin in the tack room and did my annual sort and clean of everything that's been shoved in there this show season. It felt really, really nice to have everything neat and clean and tidy, pony included.

I have it in my mind to really work on Bridget's canter and fitness this fall, and something Denny Emerson posted on Facebook the other day hit home. I can't find the exact quote, but essentially if you want a better quality canter you'd better spend a lot of time cantering! In B's case, I think better fitness is also a huge component in her motivation levels...if she simply can't canter more than a few minutes at a time it is difficult to work on quality!

From tracking our virtual miles, I know that my normal flat ride averages 40% walk, 40% trot, and only about 20% canter. Lessons are more intense, but canter stays about the same - more trot work rather than canter replaces most of the walking. I've been saying for months I need to work on the canter, but it's been a little bit of a catch 22 in that Bridget is only so strong and I feel like cantering around out of balance and struggling simply for the sake of cantering isn't the most helpful. Instead, we've been working on a lot of strengthing work in walk and trot (shoulder in, haunches in, leg yields, spirals, etc) to add strength and coordination (not to mention tons of hill work on the trails).

Long story short, after months of bodybuilding, we're finally at a place where we can take Denny's advice and canter a lot more. Its a somewhat adjustable canter and it's exponentially more balanced than even a few months ago. I'm ridiculously excited about that....it's a point where we now have something to work with!

And...B stepped up this weekend in an absolutely huge way. It's that magical time of the year where the hormonal mare anger is gone, and we find out that she actually learned all that stuff we've taught her in recent weeks. So, as I walked around and collected the walk, I thought about setting up a nice canter depart. And, based simply on that thought, my wonderful pony rearranged her legs and offered up a beautiful, balanced walk to canter depart and continued on with a good half circle of lovely collected canter with the absolute minimum of input from her rider. She just offered it up like no big deal, after weeks on the struggle bus. It wasn't a fluke, either...it happened every time I asked to right, and I'm guessing 75% of the time to the left (she's still apt to get herself in a teeny bit of a muddle now and then to the left but I can feel she legit knows what we want and how to do it). Because I can't resist, I also set  up some big counter canter loops and some changes through walk across the diagonal and she absolutely had no issues with that.
blurry mirror selfie

Sunday was a repeat, so after a check in for a few minutes, we just cantered around and jumped some things instead. She's back into wannabe jumper pony mode, so it's a great way to reward her but also build up fitness and better transitions on the sly.

Shoulder in, no big deal, extend and come back also a thing all of the sudden. I'm not saying my weekend rides were all perfect, dressage worthy stuff with no losses of balance, but I can feel she absolutely knows what I'm asking and wants to try. It's just a matter of building more strength and balance. I'm feeling pretty happy right now.


Saturday, 1 October 2016

September Thoughts

This post inspiration brought to you once again by LWilliams. I'd like to think it's not so much that I am an uncreative, boring plagiarizer, it's just that she's so amazing at coming up with irresistibly great post ideas. Seriously, this is not my fault, it's hers. She's too awesome :)

Aiming: for bigger things
Borrowing: a dressage saddle
Craving: chocolate
Dreaming: of a vacation
Eating: tacos
Flying: all over SW BC
Guessing: Bridget needs to be fitter
Hating: the shorter days
Imagining: the perfect barn and acreage
Jumping: 2'9"
Killing: office plants
Listening: Led Zeppelin Mothership
Meeting: hundreds of IT people
Needing: more sleep
Opening: parcels containing recent purchases
Partaking: in all the craft beers
Questioning: work management's competence
Reading: George Morris "Unrelenting" biography, "West With The Night" Beryl Markham
Sharing: multiple pairs of barn scissors. Where do they go?
Talking: to G every day
Understanding: that I'm in a good place
Versioning: databases
Wishing: for a wood burning fireplace
Xeroxing: multiple copies of dressage tests
Yielding: to my desire to be lazy
Zeroing: my bank account