Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Winter Fitness Plan


With my new (temporary?) work schedule comes some new challenges in my neverending 'keeping pony fit' battle. Basically, I am going to be unavailable a minimum of two consecutive days a week, sometimes 3. A further 2 days, I will only be available after work (ie when it's dark, and I won't be boarding at a place with lights or even an arena). So yeah, basically weekends I can ride whenever, the rest of the week is going to be a bit...challenging.





Lucky for me, B is going to live in a large-ish paddock so it's not like she's locked in a stall when I don't ride. She is also fine to hack in the dark, and the road is quiet. The road also leads directly to the equestrian club grounds, which do contain a small indoor with lights (no jumping allowed in there, though) I have outfitted B with bike lights and reflective gear previously, so riding in the dark between the barn and arena isn't out of the question.


A trusted barn mate and I came up with the following strategy:

Monday/Tuesday: OFF. I am away for work

Wednesday: Can likely ride in evening every second week, depending on what ferry I catch home. Hack to arena, light flatwork or quick longe.

Thursday: Evening ride. hack to indoor, work on dressage.

Friday: Evening ride. hack to outdoor and work on fitness. This could be a bit adventuresome, but the outdoor is  about 200x400 ft and good footing. I think I'm probably safe to do trot and canter sets along the rail with my bike lights assisting? If not, we'll attempt it in the tiny indoor.

Saturday: Long walking trail ride (1.5-2hrs), or light flat work if the weather is unsafe for trails (high wind or snow, mostly)

Sunday: Outdoor arena - jump school.

I've tried to alternate 'hard' (jumping/fitness) days with easier days as much as possible.The name of the game here is going to be multitasking - ie I'm going to work on 'dressage' stuff at the walk while we're hacking to and from, and my jump courses are going to be long and gallop-y in places for fitness. Trail rides are definitely incorporating some hills.

I'm not super attached to this schedule, so if anyone has alternate suggestions, or ideas to make my time more effective, I'm all ears.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Weekend Shenanigans

This past weekend was our Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend. *Spoiler alert*, I am a bad person and tend to avoid traditional long weekend shenanigans like the plague. I knew the ferries would be a zoo, G was otherwise occupied, and I just couldn't find a good reason to brave crazy travel and family commitments without the moral support he provides.  So, I, stayed on the lower coast and instead gave my thanks for an extra day at the barn.

For those of you curious about the LOA thing, it was...denied! But, that's actually a good thing because we talked about it and decided there are other options. It sounds like they're going to allow me to work from home (up coast with G) 2 or 3 days a week instead, on a trial basis in Nov/Dec. This is a great thing, because I didn't actually want to not work...I  really just wanted less time travelling and being pulled in all directions, and more time with G. Traditionally, my work has been very inflexible, so to accomplish my vision of a simpler life I thought I'd just need to take the time off. Luckily, my new boss is from the 21st century, and now there may be better options on the table!
Off topic, but remember my 'friend' from the dressage show? I need to confirm whether this is a true story, but I heard second hand that at the last horse trials my barnmate was held on course due to him hanging out in front of her next fence. This pic that came across my facebook feed shows him at a clinic this past weekend and seems to confirm that the story I heard might be true!  Pretty sure he must be an eventing fan, at least?

So, with that news, I spent part of this weekend scheming and planning. Since I'll only need to sit at my 'real' desk 2 or 3 days a week, it makes sense to move Bridget home with me temporarily. I've found a basic boarding situation near enough to my house, and super close to the best trails and the local club grounds, so it looks like riding 4 or 5 days a week can still be a thing! I'm just leasing a paddock and a shelter, so I'm looking forward to taking back full control of Bridget's diet, fitness, and daily routine.

I've discussed with EC, and it sounds like she'd be willing to come up for a clinic once a month if a can find some people to share, so our progress doesn't need to be put on hold. Honestly, though, as you all know organizing clinics is like herding angry cats (and owing money for it after) so I'm hesitant to put it on the to-do list quite yet. We'll see.
Still too chubby :)

As for my actual rides lately, they've been stinky at best. I've tried a few bits that should have been quieter in her mouth, and they all resulted in crazy-running-through-the-bridle-giraffe pony. Zero respect, and instead of needing to move her up into the contact, instead I was dealing with mouth gaping, bracing  steamroller pony with no brakes or steering. Fun times. Her talent for avoiding using herself properly is strong. In an effort to eliminate my hands as a suspect in all of this, I brought back her old bit and the trusty neckrope (hold it in addition to reins, it basically makes it so you cannot inadvertently pull or move your hands) and saw no difference...pony just doesn't want to go forward into contact consistently. There was an incredibly large, time consuming bit of a scene, but eventually she did go forward immediately when I put my leg on, without any dramatics. She does her vaulting classes on the lunge in side reins, but insider sources tell me she's been difficult there too of late and requiring multiple reminders about sucking back in the up transitions and falling through the down. Ughh, ponies.
Ginger recently using her smarts to stretch her topline herself. This was deliberate, and very funny as there was much groaning invloved.
Yesterday, I just didn't have it in me to handle any more pony 'tude, so I planned a long trail ride with a barnmate. When B started out by wobbling along and sucking back the nice loose rein trail ride I planned turned into a marching medium walk most of the way. Oh, and a canter which still required too much "encouragement" for my tastes.  She was sweaty and sad about that, but I had reached my limit of rude pony behaviour. EC told me a while ago that Bridget has abused the system long enough, she doesn't get to be ridden on a loose rein, meandering down the trail anymore until she deserves the reward. I was like "Ohh, harsh, we have to have fun sometimes!" But I think now I'm starting to see her point. Consistency in every.single.ride is going to be the only thing that might put the rude pony behavior to bed for once and all..
No rest for the wicked!



Thursday, 5 October 2017

10 Great Things About Boarding

We all know boarding comes with it downsides. I'm personally ready to move my girls home again and take a breather, but, to be fair, there are lots of really great things about boarding that I miss when the horses are at home. Here's my impromptu list:

1. Better Amenities. If you're anything like me, you'd be hard pressed to compete with a good barn as far as amenities go. It's not that I couldn't theoretically build my own indoor to ride in, it's just when realistic budgets are considered, I'd rather have a house to live in or pay for 11 million years of boarding with that money:)

Someone else can build and maintain this, I'll just ride there
2. Vacations. You can keep the horses at home, hire a farmsitter and plan accordingly. OR, you can give the boarding barn manager a text the day before and book that last minute deal. I do appreciate the second option.


3. Participation. Good boarding barn buddies help make it fun to be there. Fun to be there =  a greater likelihood I'll tag along to more shows and attend more lessons. With a built in barn support team, it's a lot easier to push outside your comfort zone. Also, did I mention, fun?

4. They're watching you.your horse. I enjoy knowing that there are knowledgeable horse people at the barn for a good majority of every day. If anything happens, the time frame before it's noticed and I'm told is way shorter than when I'm the only eyes on my horse.

5. Travel Logistics. Not only is attending shows with barnmates more fun, the trailer sharing opportunities are generally much broader at a boarding barn. The horses are happy to have a friend in the trailer, I'm happy to save money. It's a win/win.

6.Not My Problem. That crappy feeling when you notice the driveway gate is broken, again, 5 minutes before you need to leave for work? Or when the hydro bill arrives mid winter and you're pretty sure they accidentally double billed you? Yeah, that doesn't really happen when you're boarding :)

7. Perspective. There's nothing like being involved peripherally with other people's horses and barn life to help you appreciate what you've got, or to motivate you to get better.

8. Borrowing Stuff. Yes, I know this is a tricky one and the downsides could go on a "10 Things I Hate About Boarding" list...I've learned kids in particular can have a pretty vague sense of who owns what. But on the plus side, at most barns you'll know someone who you can comfortably swap ideas and supplies with in a pinch or borrow before committing to purchasing your own. Using my current adventures into trying different bits as an example...I'm really, really appreciating the inventory of "I'm not using it, go ahead and try it" stuff in the tack room right now. On the flip side, I like knowing my extra stuff is useful to someone else.
In this photo: borrowed giant hay net from that time I forgot to pack a  net...or grain...for Bridget. No worries, the barn kids had it all under control

9. On Site Clinics/Coaching/Shows. You can make it happen from home, but it's really much more likely that those things are going to be available on a regular basis at a boarding barn.

10. Regular Appointments. In a similar vein to #9, I love the convenience and cost savings of having the farrier, vet, hay delivery, saddle fitter, etc come to the barn for a group of us at regular intervals. No more trying to plan and fit everything into the calendar!

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Sick Day Spa Day

I'm pretty much the worst person at confrontation. And emotions. And adulting. Exhibit A: Yesterday, instead of acting like a grownup and arranging a meeting at work to request/discuss a LOA, I got out of bed and started worrying about it and...called in sick. Then went to the horses.

Because karma frowns on such deceitful behaviour, when I got to the barn it was immediately apparent B was feeling sassy, but had the world's grossest nose goop. I guess one of us had to be sick for real.

Tail game on point
Fingers crossed, so far she just has a snotty nose and a bit of a fever. Fingers crossed so, so hard, because I DO NOT want it to progress to a never ending cough and multiple vet visits a la 2015. A couple of the other horses have been coughing, which is just...ugh. I pay for vaccinations why? (Google answered this for me: If you vaccinate, there's no guarantee your horse won't get sick, BUT there's a better likelihood if/when they catch something they'll only suffer minor symptoms)

Because I'm a worrier, I'm going to ask blog land...is your horse getting a virus once or twice a year a normal thing for you? I have literally never had this happen so often, as in actually, I've never had one get any type of respiratory virus prior to the past couple of years.

Shiny B from last week
So, B is getting a few days off.  I've been using the spare time to give her spa days instead. Yesterday she got her pony beard and bridle path buzzed off, then her tail washed, trimmed and detangled.  Today, she's getting her feet trimmed up. Her winter coat is coming in, all shiny and fluffy. She looks adorable, so there's that.


In jail. The note says to please only feed her in a haynet...at meal times. You can see that it's very effective LOL

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Old Pics

Once upon a time I bought the worst laptop ever...and a few years ago I got frustrated with it's continuous warnings and overheatings and may or may not have closed it with slightly more force than necessary. And..since it's a piece of shite a finely tuned machine, it hasn't worked since. Getting my pony pictures off of it has been on the to do list for about 3? years now. Finally, I've checked it off the list and the world's worst laptop can go visit the recycling depot and stop taking up shelf space.

I'm sure I've shared some of these before, but even so, I thought it might be fun to delve into the world of Ginger and Bridget circa 3-5 years ago.

Ginger and me, 2013ish?

Baby Bridget! I think she's 2 here.
Bridget, first trot poles

Bridget's first day jumping tiny things. 2014.

Both girls playing twinsies.


She still waits at the gate like this

Ginger, where we used to board prior to our current place

B - so fluffy!

Love this one of Ginger

B's first clinic. LOL

First clinic

More polite

Turning was an issue for us

Where did this big reachy trot go? :(

Learning about bridges.

Ginger

Oh, Gingersnap!



Ginger eyeing up dinner

So much canter struggle bus with B, likely fall of 2013. She really couldn't even. I should look at this pic everytime I'm discouraged about our progress, lol

Ginger's mane is roached nowadays, flashback to when I used to pull it.

B's first trip to the lake

B's sire. She sure took after him,

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Bit of an Update

I've had some good rides this week, and that's made a big difference in my motivation levels. For the past month or so, and honestly a good part of the summer, I've been kind of doing the fake it til you make it thing. I still enjoyed barn time, but it felt like one more thing on the to do list, if that makes sense.

It's such a head game with me, because now that show season is pretty much over and my coach is off travelling and enjoying some well deserved R&R,  I don't feel like I 'have to' ride on such a strict schedule. So,  of course, now riding is all I want to do!
Bridget: "C'mon, lazy human, get up here and let's go!"

The other thing that cheered me up a bit was that the girl who rides Bridget when I am away recently had similar comments with how she's been going with her and my coach (I'm never there to watch). And, they are both amazing riders, so maybe I don't need to blame all of the bad days on my riding, more on my busy schedule and less than effective communication skills (why did I assume I was the only one having not so stellar rides, when I actually haven't taken the time to talk to the other two, pretty much at all, lol?)
An accurate portrayal of my responses to their texts lately. Why type when one emoji is all you need? I fail at adult communication   lol
So, as mentioned, I have had a few good rides. I had a good lesson on Monday, and then a nice hack and a couple of decent flat rides. I havent jumped since forever, so i need to put that on the to do list. I have also started testing out bit suggestion #1. My coach has a wall of bits we're free to use, so I'm going to use that option before I start ordering things to try. Luckily,  she's got several of the bits you so helpfully suggested on my last post!. Wish me luck! I hope everyone's having a fantastic weekend!

Heading out to the trails on best pony.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Talk to Me of Bits

Thanks for the welcome back and the good wishes!

I've made you a thank you gift. Free word vomit for everyone!!! (You're welcome, aren't I the best?)

For the tl;dr crowd (or anyone halfway sane): 

I want to try a new bit on my pony. It needs to be dressage legal. The problem is an aversion to/hiding behind the contact. Not stopping power, we have tons of that. We can nix plain eggbutt snaffles and loose ring french links. Anything else is fair game. I'd love to hear suggestions or comments on what is working for you.

bonus gift of pony mare side eye


 For the more...detail oriented...:


Regarding the riding recap, a  few of you mentioned trying out a new bit might not be such a bad idea. Honestly, I sort of put that thought on hold a while ago because I tried a new bit and my coach (who rides B now and then) immediately commented she really liked her in it. It's a loose ring french link I put on her dressage bridle (and meant to remove, lol). Obviously, that wasn't the feedback I was expecting, because I actually didn't find her better at all in it. I actually still find her slightly easier in the eggbutt snaffle I have on my jump bridle.

II'm trying to turn over a new leaf and have more media for this blog. This is what happens when you expect barn cats to pose for last minute cute pics. More practice is required  - my iPhone is for photos, not a target for attack.

Better. Good kitty.
I thought on that and chalked it up to me needing to ride better...my suspicion being my hands are not as steady as my coach's and with the loose ring that translated to being noisier than B would prefer. I do have a solid position and seat, so my hands are independent and actually fairly good, but I do not have the finesse EC has. I feel like this new added focus on keeping my hands very still is having the undesired side effect of making me a bit tight in my shoulders. Not good, either, because we've gone from maybe being slightly 'noisy' to not giving enough. We're talking really minor changes here, but it's B. Despite her laziness, she's very sensitive and fussy. I'm sure partly that's just how she is, but partly it's probably I am her main rider so we've had plenty of time to annoy each other. Like in any long term relationship, seemingly minor issues in communication can have quite dramatic results if given enough time to fester :)
A quiet forest scene to make up for the communication breakdown drama. breathe in....breathe out.
Actually, I was out walking last weekend and a bear ran across my path in this very spot.  I took this pic as kind of a CSI hint should they find my phone and not my body. But don't let that bother you. And, relaaaaxxx....
Long story slightly shorter, my coach is away for a month, so my schedule is temporarily more flexible and I have time to try out some new bits without worrying about paying for a non productive lesson due to bit change shenanigans. It's all well and fine for me to learn to ride better, (and spending time and focus on that is never something I'll regret doing) but maybe I am looking at this wrong and there is a bit that works for both of us, as we are now. Maybe it is simply an issue we need to work through and it's not about the bit so much as the riding and training. This evading contact thing has been an ongoing since I bought her (Seriously, when I bought her they told me she didn't go in a bridle...and yet, she had driving experience. Also, zero issues with the actual bridling and wearing of, tons of issues with any rein contact. I suspect there's a story there) So, although the improvement in general has been  huge, we've hit a wall the past few months and it can't hurt to try new things.

Wheww, hopefully I didn't scare you all away. Overthink it much? LOL

This barn kitty is actually young and friendly, but his grumpy old man face is on point, and seems an appropriate reaction to my epic wordiness on bits.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Ridin' The Struggle Bus

Whew, it's been just about a month since my last post. When we left off, I was feel burnt out and heading off for some annual vacation time. The good news was, my vacation was wonderful. The bad news...coming back to real life was/is HARD. I spent a week or two thinking my struggles were just normal post vacation blues, but yep. there is more going on than that. It's no secret that fitting a busy barn schedule in with a full time work schedule is tough. Adding in a long distance relationship and the desire to travel home at least every second weekend and it's all maybe a little much for me at this point in time.
Some lake time was had...

B had a little vacay too...look at that face, dinner time is her happy time lol!

So, that's why I haven't been too keen to blog. Although the blogging community and horses are two of my more favorite things in life, I've started more than one post lately that sounds way too negative/defeated/sad and I'm like "Who is this Debbie Downer person writing on my blog?" I guess it's time to admit that she seems to be me, right now. But, the good news is, I don't like her, so she isn't welcome to stay long term :)

I've been riding and working as normal the past few weeks. I've had some good rides, and some really no so good ones. B had her teeth done, which had the result of making her extra tough and fussy in the contact for a good two weeks. This happened last year too, so definitely something to think about and schedule for. Her mouth/teeth are normal, so it's not like there are any big changes being done, just routine maintenance....still, something must happen that she doesn't agree with!
Happy trail outing ears

Bored arena ears

 I've been struggling too, with finding the magical place where she's in front of my leg and pushing through and steady in my hand. Unfortunately, I've developed a bit of a habit of kicking her forward every time she's crooked, above the bit, or just generally 'flat' which I'm now learning is just making her rush and evade more. I'm running her off her feet, and there is nothing in my hand, no power coming over her back. So tricky, and of course I feel bad for it - making her job harder isn't really one of my riding goals. I feel like the base problem is that she isn't trustworthy to carry herself or go at a consistent tempo in any gait. I need to do some reading, because quite honestly, I thought all this time the answer was to let her be, until she started evading or slowing, then correct it, usually by asking her to move up and give me more power from behind. Currently, that results in giraffe racing in the trot (walk and canter are better) She really, really, does not want me in contact with her mouth. At a walk it looks OK, but really she's wanting to be a bit behind the contact and I am needing to ask her to move up every few strides. At the trot, it's messy unless I really add some bend to help get those hind legs under. At a canter, she's less balanced so we run into problems with bracing and leaning because it's still a bit 'all or nothing' power wise. I'm unsure about just what I should be doing to fix things and not at all sure what I'm doing with my body isn't the problem. Previous feedback was that I'm fine, pony just thinks work is hard and forward is the answer to all the things, but I think I'm just not understanding my coach because that seems to not be the case now.

Gorgeous trails calling our names! I hiked this loop with G and it's pretty much all easy like this...but it's a really long distance and  took us about 3.5 hours. Next time a bike or a horse is going to have to be the mode of transport.

I didn't end up doing any showing this past month because I'm trying to cut back on the insanity that is my schedule, not to mention the above back-to-basics struggles making me feel the timing wasn't right.

In related time-out-to-think-it-through news, wish me luck...I have a request in for a short term leave of absence from work in order to recharge and spend some time at home with G (Bridget will of course come home too for a trail riding time out). I like my job and the barn I'm at,  so I'm a little worried my work will say no and I might be forced to make some bigger life decisions. Fingers crossed they accept my proposal, but I'll look at it as an opportunity, either way :)

In the meantime, I can't wait to catch up on everyone's blogs. It looks like September has held a lot of well deserved successes for many of you!