Sunday, 31 December 2017

Things I Would Like To Do



Number 1 is already checked off!

Things I would like to do AKA Goals, but goals I won't beat myself up over if I don't get them done in 2018, some of them are longer term/ongoing. There are a heap of things on this list, and as with all things life all I can do is try my hardest!

Shows: As mentioned in our recap posts, a bigger focus on dressage this year than in the past. Fingers crossed B is on that wavelength too! I'd still maybe like to event, but am leaning towards a lower key one mid or late season so there is not as much pressure to get the pony fit over the winter. I like the idea of a back to back one over a long weekend, since we travel so far and pay so much to attend anyway. Ditto the dressage shows, I'm only interested in the multi day ones this year, it's simply too expensive to travel to them just for one day.

Training - Bridget: I'd like to get B solid at Second level by the end of this year, which depending on her outlook, might be a soft goal or an impossible one. (This was my goal last year too, after all) We'll see what she thinks - she knows all the individual movements and is more than capable physically, but she's not always on board mentally.

Training - me: I'll keep on keepin' on, riding as often as possible, with small, progressive goal posts in mind. I'd like to be able to organize regular clinics and lessons with EC up north, and if finanicially viable, continue the weekly lessons on Audrey. I'd still also like to get my instructor certifications, which is a giant goal for me that I've mentioned here before and still haven't got done...honestly, the time commitment and the amount of paperwork and testing is intimidating and so I keep putting it on the back burner, thinking that prioritizing building more experience and becoming a better rider can't hurt in the long term. I do want to do it - I'd love teaching the kids and the responsible thing to do is to be evaluated properly and proven qualified first!

Work Life: Ha! Winning! I got this sorted to my liking just before Christmas. I'm now officially working from home 2 days a week for at least the next 6 months (and loving it!)

Health: Better fitness for both Bridget and I. I say this every year because it's a great goal. Last year I succeeded quite well with B, but beyond riding, my own suffered greatly as I simply had no time for myself. Part of my motivation for switching up my work situation includes removing a ridiculous commute and replacing it with time to spend at the gym or out on the trails.

Things: B is going to stay boarded at home, and so purchasing my own trailer would be a great plus for me and make it easier to get down to EC's for clinics and rides to shows.

Finances: It costs me about $200 a month here to keep Bridget, vs the $600 plus bill I was paying on the lower coast. I also got a small raise at work recently that gives me an extra $200 a month. So, I'd like to be able to put $500 a month into my horse trailer/property down payment acct while Bridget is living here.


Thursday, 28 December 2017

Things We Learned


I feel like 2017 was a bit tough, learning wise. The super steep learning curve of the previous year was gone, and in it's place was a lot of miniscule breakthroughs.


Bridget's biggest breakthrough came towards the end of the year, when she regained the forward we worked so hard for, and figured out how to keep the energy even as we ask for collection. I've heard dressage people talk about a Second Level wall, and I'd have to say it was a thing for us. I think in general, we were able to tie a lot of concepts together this year - she needs to have more strength and balance and react more quickly, but she knows all of the movements at second now. A big improvement over last year when I felt like she thought it was all too hard and pulled the "don't wanna" card every ride.

Fingers super crossed re: the bucking me off downhill thing. The little brat certainly learned how at our spring XC camp, but it's a skill that's not been put to use recently.



As for me...the big change here is that I'm finally admitting dressage is my happy place and shifting my focus there. It seems a bit wasteful to be at a really good eventing barn and decide to do dressage only, but luckily my coach EC has been making a similar switch in her own riding over the past few years. We'll still jump now and then for fun, but I'm letting go of any show/event goals involving moving up a level or two this year.

Getting out to a few more "big" shows really helped with my show nerves this year, although I nearly had a meltdown on SJ day of our last event. Another reason I'm sticking mostly to dressage shows next year...remembering all the rules and courses x3 still gives me enough anxiety on the day that it's not much fun. I think a good part of why I relaxed and rode better at the dressage show was because I knew the tests inside and out and wasn't worried about forgetting them.





Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Things We Did

I've put together a short series of posts recapping our year and looking forward to 2018, First up, a recap of what we did! For a year that felt seriously hindered by time and money constraints, we got a lot done!



As always, I focused my budget and time mainly on learning. I'm starting to enjoy shows, but let's be real, for the amount it costs to attend just one, I could pay for lessons for months! My long term goals still include teaching, and to do that responsibly and successfully, I feel like I need to invest heavily in my own riding education.

As a small brag, this year we achieved our best ever scores and results.

Bridget has a ribbon jar now
In reality, though, this felt like a pretty tough year progress wise. B was feeling pretty sour and unenthusiastic last winter and spring, and we spent SO many hours on the fitness struggle bus too - another thing she is not overly fond of. Our eventing and dressage competitions were at the same levels as 2016, when I had obviously hoped to move up. On the plus side, fun was had, and the 'easier' tests and jump heights kept us both confident. I had a fabulous time at the Canada Cup dressage competition, and have penciled it in thr calendar for 2018. We had a super result at Campbell Valley Horse Trails, but I think eventing might get put on the back burner in 2018. We'll see.

While it remains to be seen what the future holds for us, I'm still proud of what we accomplished this year and have a lot of really fun memories to take away.

Next up: Things We Learned in 2017

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

A is for Awesome

In keeping with my own personal holiday tradition, I woke up this morning with some kind of death plague. I hate that I catch everything so easily. 1 holiday get together on the 24th = 1 death plague coming right up. Why didn't I learn practical math like this in high school?

I forced myself to go to the barn, and got there to find the water pipe to it had burst. Luckily, barn owner is smart and had filled multiple large buckets of water in case the taps froze in the cold (welcome to the west coast, where it doesn't stay freezing long enough to justify permanent options like heat tape or bucket heaters, lol) so it's not like there's no water at all. If the pipe had to go, this was actually not too bad as far as timing.
Did I even clip her?! Wow, it grew back fast.

Carrying buckets of water back and forth with death plague made me just about forget about riding, but Bridget seemed keen to get out ( what kind of alternate universe is this, where B is motivated one in our partnership?!)

Number of horses I trust to safely navigate icy roads =1

Off to the indoor we went. I spent an extra long time warming up in walk, since we were sharing for the first bit and the baby horse we were sharing with was nervous of B's stampiness. She's not light on her feet, lol.

B felt fantastic - we did a ton of suppling work and transitions in walk. Traver right on the circle felt the easiest ever, and only slightly worse to the left. Yay!

Our friend left, and I pushed B up to trot. And It was fantastic! She felt like Audrey, there was so much cadence and suspension there. Normally her trot is nice, but nowhere near Audrey nice! It was totally adjustable, so powerful, and offered up so easily. One of those moments I think I'll be remembering well into the future. I trotted around on my fancy pony telling her how awesome she was, adding in some changes of direction, some forward and back, and of course a bit of traver and renver, until I felt her start to tire a little, called it good, and hacked back home. I don't think we even cantered.
"Ok B, at A, youre going to trot, doing your best Audrey impression."

So, thanks B, for the best holiday gift ever - a most amazing dressage ride.


Monday, 25 December 2017

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Budget Christmas Shopping

For myself and Bridget, cause I'm grinchy like that. Anyone else take advantage of the holiday sales to stock up on stuff for themselves? Surely I can't be alone in this?


Since I am excessively budget conscious, I first keep a list of things I "need" and the cheapest price I can buy it for. No spur of the moment shopping here. Things can sometimes sit on the list forever, especially if it's more of a want than need, but if it's been on the list more than a couple of months it's a pretty safe bet I'll eventually buy it.

I did buy compressed hay yesterday at the feedstore tho, for 21.95 a bale(!) to last until the hay truck comes (when I will save money by paying $570/ton for timothy). The fun part of being isolated, hay is NEVER on sale, part of my weak justification for being grinchy elsewhere in life.

Anyway, first on the list. I needed a new helmet desperately. Horselife is closing out, and has lots of high end helmets on sale. I opted for this one at half price tho:

Still too nice considering how often I fall off. Ovation Z-6, I actually love it.
Next up, I wanted a short sleeved shirt I could wear at shows when jackets are waived. I have a couple of lovely Asmar long sleeves, but both are white and the white on white look isn't flattering on someone as round as myself. So, I ordered this one. At $25 courtesy of Amazon.com, I figured it was worth a try.
Horse Blaire shirt in navy blue
A very long term resident of my wish list has been new tall boots. I am short and round and finding anything in my budget that fits is very difficult. Ive had my Mountain Horse richmonds forever, so the heels are worn almost off and the stitching is coming undone. I'm not confident they'll make it another year. I had originally bought a pair of Ariats to replace them a couple of years ago, but they have not held up at all and the zippers never really did stay up. The Mountain Horse ones ended up being put back in service. So, I was excited when I found this old stock of treadstone boots on eBay...all in my size! Best part of all, they are super sale priced, at under $100, even with shipping from the UK. Totally worth a try, right? If they save me from ordering custom for even one more year, I'll be happy.

Finally, I ordered this blanket for B on a half price sale.

It's a Horseware Mio blanket, discounted to $50. Fingers crossed it works well enough to use as a spare. So far, the polka dot one is still going strong!

As of now, my wish list is down to one item - short (52"-54") black stirrup leathers for my dressage saddle. Oh, and actually if my dressage saddle could come home sometime from being reflocked and getting new billets at the fitters that'd  be cool too! So maybe the leathers can wait.

Phew, can you believe I only spent $225 on all that (if we don't count the hay, obviously)?  I actually had money left over to buy presents for other people;)

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Vacation Rides

I've had some fantastic rides this week. Thursday night we went to the indoor. It's great, my Thursday night rides are rapidly becoming a group event. A couple of the riders that rode in the last clinic also have homework and want to practice. So, its part social outing, part practice.

Friday, I got off work early, but still rode in the indoor - we're getting sub zero temps right now and everything outside is frozen solid since we had so much rain and standing water before this cold spell. I took the opportunity to run through bits of all three first level tests. I've tentatively committed to our first show mid March, which I'm sure will feel like it's here far too soon!


Dressagin' so good last summer lol

The walk and trot work felt fantastic, the canter was  too rushed and on the forehand. She's funny, if I can get her pushing and working in the walk and trot, the wheels sometimes fall off in canter. It's  like she's got all this energy, but not the strength to do much with it in the canter.  Although, if she's sucked back and fussy in walk and trot, the canter is beautiful and fixes the walk and trot, so maybe its just relative, for whatever reason the canter is adding heaps of energy and excitement no matter what. Can't have it all, I guess! We did a ton of square corners, a ton of transitions, spirals, and my very favorite trick for sassy Bridget right now, cantering down the centerline or even across the area focusing on staying perfectly straight, until I feel her start to dive her shoulder and guess which way we're turning. Then I immediately and quietly ask for the opposite or even ask her to halt straight, then . So mean, I know, but it really works to get her to slow down, listen, and think a little.
Chilling in her humble abode

Today, we chilled (literally, ha ha) on the trail. Just a quick 1.5 hr walking loop to the lake and back with a barn buddy. B had her easyboot gloves on, and they were disappointingly tractionless on the icy roads and grass, so walking it was. I think the horses enjoyed the outing, and B was happy to make a new horse friend,  but I was pretty happy to get home and warm up.

West coast wimps - the lake doesn't even have ice!


Our office is closed for the holidays, so B and I have an entire week to prep for spring shows and trail ride. Living the dream!

I'm so glad we're home for the next few months. I love EC's barn and miss it, but on the flip side, I think I'm the type of rider who needs to think things through on my own time, preferably in a quiet arena or on the trail. I've been piecing together ideas to solve a lot of long term riding and challenges lately, and I think it's because I'm being forced to think for myself, rather than just listening to my coach. I miss the constant input and affirmation I get with eyes on the ground, but I won't lie, the ability to think for myself, run through entire tests and implement focused schooling exercises on the fly without dodging other riders is also pretty nice! Progress will likely be slower, but I think I'll learn more in the end, if that makes sense.
My ferry rides have no cell service or internet, so I've been entertaining myself  with photo apps. I like this one - I want to print it and frame it.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Best Gifts

What's the best gift for the busy working equestrian? MORE DAYLIGHT!


Yay! Daylight is coming!


What's the best gift I could have personally been given today? 

A PONY! 

No, but close, I like your thinking!

A 6 MONTH EXTENSION OF MY WORK SCHEDULE!

Given all the drama surrounding it recently, I thought for sure it would be a no-go. I sucked it up and presented my case anyway, because I had nothing to lose. And they said yes! And as a bonus, found a way to justify it with the union as well!

So, that means six more months of sleeping at home most of the week. Six more months of seeing G almost any time I like. Six more months of Bridget living here. Six more months of saving a lot of money (board here is about a quarter the cost as compared to the lower coast). Six more months of being super happy!

Just 4 more months until this!

As a side note, (although I know I should not care) after the initial drama, I think the whole thing with nasty coworker only served to make HR/the union/management more sympathetic to me and determined to make things right. Although I was furious at the time, I'm glad now I didn't get involved in it - the people I needed to have my back apparently do.

Six months brings us to June, when I'd like to be back at EC's barn for extra coaching and competition access a few months anyway - we've got big goals this year!


Monday, 18 December 2017

Shut The Front Door!

Monday nights right now still = lesson nights on the incomparable Audrey.
Hitting a new media low: old pics of Audrey and Bridget, different filter

The start of today's lesson was all about FORWARD. Like no matter how forward I thought she was, she needed to be more so. A and I both got tuned on and did medium trots and extended canters around and around the arena until I was gasping for air. My fitness leaves a lot to be desired right now.  I was like "why oh why is EC putting me through this hell?". And she was like "MORE, WHY ARE YOU NOT ASKING FOR MORE!?! Here, let me shout at you motivate you until you understand I really, truly, mean MORE!"

The method to her madness became apparent when we took all that forward energy and the newly energized Audrey I had built and then compressed that power. Whoa, I so wish I had video, because we were getting some really collected, like sitting almost on the spot, bouncing, trot steps. I hesitate to call it piaffe, because it was only a couple of steps here and there, but, mind blowing for a still very much learning rider like me. That medium trot was still happening, except it was going up instead of forward, carrying itself, until I pushed it back out again. So cool! We followed by recreating that feel in walk, and then cantering from that walk and spiralling in travers to what felt like some almost canter pirouettes, to a walk transition, and spiral back out to canter transition and spiral back in. Repeat.


So, so cool. But my mind is just a little bit blown. The amount of power and quickness in the hind end that I needed to create that is far beyond what I've been asking for or honestly even thought possible!

Anyway, tying in with the feedback from Saturday's clinic on Bridget. Creating that same power and quickness consistently is my homework for Bridget. Not a big goal this month, or anything, lol.

As a bit of a reality check, we did need to discuss that Bridget will only ever be capable and willing to do so much. I'm totally cool with that. She's already far exceeded any expectations I had of her, so if we can get to 3rd/schooling 4th in the next couple of years that's just icing on the cake. She's got a lifetime home here regardless of what the future brings.

Holy crap am I loving this dressage thing right now, though. I'm learning so much and cannot wait for our next lesson!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Lesson Day!

Saturday, I organized a clinic for the first ever time, and I think it was a success!

Everyone showed up, everyone seemed to have great lessons, and I got nothing but positive feedback from everyone who stopped by. Each of the riders later approached either myself or EC about scheduling another lesson day next month, plus we had two people who happened to be riding at the facility stay and watch and ask if they could join in next time. So, it sounds hopeful that we'll be doing this all over again soon!
And...no pictures of the day. G was enlisted to take EC's son mountain biking while I was busy with my lesson. Disappointing for me and blog pictures, but a good trade off - the kid deserved something fun to break up what must have been a long day for him. Also, pretty sure G had more fun that way too.

I rode first and had an alright ride. After all her energy of late, Bridget chose Saturday to feel a bit dull and lethargic. As compared to a couple of months ago, I'm still very happy. EC's input matched my own feelings, which was great to hear. She feels B is really solid right now, she's soft, forward, and obedient. She's working through, she knows all the movements we're asking. The thing to work on? It's all happening too slowly. Not pace wise, but response time. I ask, and rather than an immediate answer, I consistently get anywhere from a half stride to a few strides delay before the change is fully implemented. That was ok before because we were focusing on it being correct rather than quick, but now she' s far enough along we'd like her to think a little faster.

Look out dressage world, Bridget is coming! Lol, do I somewhat redeem myself media wise with this classy work of art?

The other lessons aren't for me to recap, but my feeling with all were that huge changes were made from start to finish. I'm glad I rode early before too many people showed up because I think my lesson was probably the least interesting to watch, because it was more of a check in than anything life changing.

As far as the actual organizing of the day went, things ran smoothly and on time, but there are a few little things I'll do differently next time just for my own sanity (like bring snacks, lunch fixings  and coffee in the morning rather than running back and forth to town between rides, oh and NOT having a farrier appt and hay delivery the same day too). I would have been run off my feet if G hadn't stuck around this time.

EC seemed happy and content with the day. It's a long day for her, with the travel time, but it sounds like she'll happily return when she next has a day to spare.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Audrey Lesson Recap 12/11/2017

I miss EC's barn in some ways, in so many other ways I'm happy where I am - loving the peace and quiet (and space! and cost savings!) in our current digs.

The big thing I miss from EC's barn is EC herself. Too bad there's no frickin way I'd ever convince her to move further northward!

My lesson on Audrey started off pretty much where we ended last time, and progressed from there. If you'll recall, Audrey is just as wiggly and fussy as Bridget, so getting her to work properly is tricky, at least for me. Particularly as she is quite athletic and supple, so sometimes I'm fooled into thinking something is great, when she's barely putting any effort in and it could be so much better.

Feels like we are doing this, to me.
But this is far closer to my reality.
It's embarrassing, but this lesson marks the first time she's really, truly been on my aids for most of the ride, and going around like a proper dressage horse. Previously, I resorted to long and low more often than not, due to not wanting to annoy her and risk some excitement, lol. I've finally got a good feel for the amount of contact she likes (a lot more than Bridget!) and the amount of outside rein/straightness/impulsion needed (surprisingly almost the same as B). So, with that, it became a whole lot easier to ride her. I think a good part of my problem before was not wanting to pressure her enough. Now that I'm more familiar with her quirkiness, I'm a lot more confident about getting after her and less inclined to always blame myself when things get weird. Plus, while she's very opinionated and very expressive, I'm learning it's almost all bark and very little bite - honestly, when it comes down to it she's far less likely to hold a grudge/start a war when you correct her than my sassy Bridget pony is.
I am the WORST at media. Here's Audrey eating her dinner, after my lesson when I finally remembered blogging and pictures.

What I still really need to work on is my leg, my outside leg in particular. I'm far too strong with it, and A is not amused. It was especially noticeable in our canter departs...we were back to having intermittent issues there again. She really just needs me quickly sweep my outside leg lightly back and then sit and ask from my inside WITHOUT ANY OUTSIDE LEG ANYWHERE NEAR HER THANK YOU. Guilty as charged, apparently I am still in the habit of draping my leg there "just in case", which on B actually works as a threat to help to keep her bending correctly :) On A, it means she's thinking I may ask for travers and she is like "enough already! Ask for real, or else!" and gets quite quickly fed up with me.

Mini interlude for Cathryn

Honestly, A is fussy and grumpy, and while that is excellent for telling on all of my own quirks...there's a happy medium where she could be a little more tolerant of me - thank goodness A is just a wb mare and not a pony mare or the level of 'tude might break records. So, the take home for Bridget isn't that I never touch her a la Audrey - it's that I need to stop "helping" so much and hold B more accountable for her actions. She particularly needs to be more responsive off my outside rein, and I need to stop using so much leg to 'help' shape her.
That's right, Bridget. You're going to learn from this lesson too.

I'm gaining so, so much from this opportunity. Audrey is about a year further along training wise than B (and, like 3 dressage levels, because...talent), and a surprisingly similar ride in a lot of ways. Yes, A is far more naturally talented, but training is training, and it's pretty neat to compare the similar "feel" that two vastly different horses have, mostly I think from sharing  a nearly identical program (OK, and the mare 'tude sisterhood is strong between them too, true pony sisters or not, lol). It's like a sneak preview into where I hope to be with Bridget next year, and gives me not just inspiration, but some more training tools in advance as well. Also, motivation to be better, because let's be honest, its a challenge right now for me to ride A mare well...keeping all 4 corners contained and moving the same way is a challenge in itself on her, and nothing like what I'm used to on my cobby pony whose legs simply aren't long enough to get too far out from under her belly/ center of gravity :)

What it feels like going from riding Bridget to Audrey

Looking ahead, it's clinic weekend coming up already! I haven't had a lesson on B in 7 weeks, so it will be interesting to get feedback on where we're at.



Monday, 11 December 2017

Deja Poo

You'd think, being a middle aged adult, I'd have a better handle on the mind games my negative inner voice likes to let loose with if at all given the opportunity. Sadly, it seems like anytime there's stress or pressure in other parts of my life it seems to creep into my general horsey outlook and confidence too.
Yep, here we go again with the random confidence issues.

Saturday, G came up to the barn to help me set up an awesome jump course. It was fun to set up, and I was excited. Then I started warming B up, and was like "Actually, I feel a little nervous right now". So, we jumped a smaller vertical a few times, and I pretended to be confident. Midge was on fire.

Gangster pony

We then had this conversation:

Midge: "YAASSSS!JUMPING! Let me gallop, please, please, let me gallop"
Me: "No, actually, please let's just keep it to a working canter"
Midge, 5 or 6 strides out: "But I see it! We need to move up to this, trust me!"
Me: "No, lets add...oh no that's not going to work...ok fine, GO!" *awkwardly buries pony*
Midge: "You suck!!!" *gets head down on backside of jump, crowhops a few times and I roll off over her shoulder*
Me, to G: "OMG, did you see that? She's feeling way to good!"
G: "I saw her do...something. She barely bucked and you fell off."

Thanks for the understanding and support, G and B :)

My brain: "That really was the lamest way to fall off ever. Wow, you really suck!"
Me: "Shut up. I want to jump stuff, and you need to shut up so I can get that done today"
My brain: "Go ahead, try, but you'll never be any good at this!"

Sidenote for Canadian friends: They have this at the grocery store now! Happy, comfort indulgence in chocolate-y sugar form after a cold and miserable day.

So, that's the story of how I had a minor meltdown for no special reason, but still made myself jump most of the course. When G pushed me for a reason why I was so frustrated with myself/needed to jump anything, I was like:

-You helped me build a course so now I need to jump it. It's ungrateful not to.

?

-Midge is having so much fun. I'm letting her down if I don't do this.

?

- OK, but I need to get better.

?

-Because I can't keep doing the same height forever and I need to move up.

?

-Because I don't know why.

Being the awesome guy he is, he gently offered to come back and help me build a new course on Sunday. To which I said no one needs to suffer adults having tantrums and we went for a nice trail ride instead.
Lake view yesterday

The End :)








Friday, 8 December 2017

One Foot In Front Of The Other

Reading through everyone's blogs this week, it seems like a lot of us are feeling the winter blues. The weather and the lack of daylight hours are so tough.  My heart is breaking too, for all those in California who are dealing with so much more than short days and poor weather.

I can't believe how tough everyone is, though. So many of you not just buckling down and getting it done, but also doing things like upping your gym schedules, volunteering extra time and money to help others, and coming up with dedicated plans for continued education and self improvement. It's really kind of a kick in the butt for people like me who, if left to my own devices, would be very tempted to hide by the fireplace with a good book and ignore the outside world for the next couple of months.

So, over here, we're taking your lead, but kind of just by doing the one foot in front of the other thing. Here's a pic of me riding last night:

Fake positive voice to G: "Of course it's not too foggy or dark to ride outside tonight, honey! Come on, it will be fun!" (that little reflection you see is Bridget and I, lol)

Our ride in the outdoor was strictly a fitness ride, since I have no idea if our circles were perfectly round or our transitions evenly spaced. The arena is huge, and I've ridden in it forever, so I have a good idea what sort of bend I need to stay on a big circle in there, but beyond that, yeah, I got nothing as far as where exactly we were in there beyond some vehicle noise and lights on some adjacent roads giving me intermittent clues. B can see fairly well in the dark, so I mostly just trust her to keep us out of trouble! I can tell you fitness rides via trotting and cantering along in the dark are remarkably easy in some respects, it's actually very simple to pay attention to your horse's footfalls and the tempo remaining consistent without other distractions.

B hanging out in the fog earlier in the week.

All of this brings you my resulting (small) contribution this week to your equine knowledge: When it's so dark and foggy you literally can't see anything, it's entirely possible to get seasick while riding. For real, in 30 minutes I went from 'Wow, it's so much easier to ride and feel what's going on without visual distractions" to feeling all spatially disoriented (normal, I thought, for the circumstances), then suddenly, I felt pretty ill and needed to stand still for a bit. Learn something new every day.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Small Life Updates


- The "clinic" (set up more like a lesson day with my coach) is a go! We have more than enough people signed up to make it happen. December 16th is the day, now I just need to pray for decent weather.
Checked the weather on a recent ferry ride, and as always, the WTForecast App entertained me!

- Our regular farrier from the south coast has time to fit B in next week! (This is exciting because my hometown has no local farrier at the moment. It's crazy, but on the plus side, lots of local owners are becoming quite competent at trims! I half expected south coast farrier to say she's too busy to travel here/fit us in, so yay for that!)

-Work. (Re: the whole working remotely part of the week). So, I never did hear anything from the union, and you guessed it, the story they were told by disgruntled coworker didn't hold up to truth and it quickly became apparent her issue was personal and not work related at all. There are a lot of office politics at play, and more changes on the way, I'm sure. For now, I'm keeping my head down and continuing to work hard.

But look what came in the mail today to cheer me up! Thank you to Cathryn and If The Bonnet Fits - it's going to match our black and grey scheme perfectly! Can't wait to dress B up for a real photo shoot.

-Riding. As mentioned, B is more dragon and less pony these days. I'm working from home this entire week, so I'm able to ride after work every day. I'm having so much fun, B is the happiest I've ever seen,  and I have a ton of riding thoughts and questions I need to mull over.

-Future planning. Tis the season to be planning for next spring. Would you believe I have had no success nailing down details re: breeding B (or Ginger, for that matter) to the stallion of my dreams? Apparently being in Canada complicates matters, but I'm disappointed too in the lack of communication from all parties regarding my questions. It's early days yet, but I'm looking into other options....and honestly considering the whole work drama outlined above, maybe it's best to wait and not add any financial pressure. Still, one can dream. I've been eying up some small warmblood stallions and GRPs, just to think outside the box a little. B will be 8 this year, and Ginger 11 (!) so that's why it's on my mind for this year, time is ticking for a first foal from either.

B would have such awesome babies.



Monday, 4 December 2017

Like A Dragon

I only rode twice this week, and both times were a little more exciting than ideal.

On the plus side, B is feeling fantastic. On the downside, I'm not exercising her enough so we've lost the relaxation temporarily to all that excess energy. Our flat work is more a combination of dragon and manic giraffe than anything resembling dressage on a pony.

Cutest dragon pony

She's hilarious, tho. I get on at the barn and she power walks the 15 min to the arena, all puffed up, shaking her head and snorting like a dragon the whole way. And yet, she's just walking on a loose rein. I guess in her mind she is walking SO FAST though that she's pretty impressive and bad ass.

At the arena, I let her trot around then canter on a loose rein. Again, lots of fire breathing dragon impersonations, but little actual bad behaviour beyond the odd scoot or spook. The canter is the best, because she's like "look at me, I'm cantering! So fast! IM THE LITERAL FASTEST COB EVER. Want to jump the rail? No? You want to walk? OK, good, because actually being a dragon is exhausting and I need to rest"

Power walking

I spent some extra time today making her stay in walk before cantering. When she gets feisty she wants to drag me around, until she gets tired and then she wants to suck back. So, walk to canter and lots of related transitions and lateral work are my friend for keeping her honest.

I actually like the overly excited and naughty Bridget way better than the lazy, uninterested one, so I don't do much to correct her beyond the above exercises. I spend a lot of time just letting her cruise around while I practice my two point.  I like that she's having fun right now. We'll get back to more dressagelike behaviour some other time, for now I'm spoiling her and can't bring myself to regret it.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Cold And Wet

I recently saw this from our regional news channel:



So, I wasn't imagining it, November this year was exceptionally difficult to deal with. It wasn't just rain every day, either, it was RAIN. And wind. I really struggled with getting rides in. This past week was no exception, particularly as the indoor arena was closed Friday/Saturday for a public event, and the outdoor really needs 24hrs to drain. Obviously the forested trails are a no go in storms too, we don't need any trees or branches falling on us. So, instead of riding as much as I'd like, I spend too much money on bedding and rainsheets for B. Just like human rain gear, I've come to the conclusion there simply is no waterproof blanket that can handle our weather on a consistent basis. B's developed a bit of a skin funk from the last time her blanket leaked, which is of course incredibly frustrating
.

In good news the "Twister" blanket is 30 days in and still adequate, in bad news I needed to wash it, which brings us to a quick review:
                                      

Impromptu review: Dry Guy Waterproofing helped B's blankets, but didn't return them to 100% effectiveness. It did help though, so for the price (about $5 worth per blanket), it might still be worth it to you if you're looking for something to prolong the life of an otherwise good blanket.

 
Only rainwear that actually keeps you dry all day. Too bad it's not suitable for riding or horse blankets
:)
Finally, in the best news of all, its Sunday and the SUN IS SHINING! I'm off for a ride!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Fantastic Elastic


(No, not a review of the reins Carl Hester sells, although I'm sure they're great)

Rather, an apt description of tonight's learning in my weekly lesson with EC on the wonderful Audrey.
Same Audrey pic as last week, I'll get a new one next time

I was on my own tonight, which I always feel a little bad about loving so much. EC's time and my budget both being limited usually I share with one or two others. Which is awesome in so many ways, but you know how it is, there's only so much time you want to monopolize with questions when there are others sharing. So, I used tonight's solo lesson to the fullest, splitting the time between riding and picking her brain on everything dressage training and life planning.

We started out by discussing how Bridget has been going. My thoughts/questions for EC were basically that Bridget is feeling great. I have been spending time in the huge arena working on the canter since there is enough room there for B to find a steady balance and just go. No short sides, no corners to unbalance her.  We've got all the forward again, she's sharp off my leg, she's having fun.

So much room to run!

So...that's cool! What I've been also doing is starting her on a long rein and then gradually picking up the contact and asking her to keep the same energy, rhythm, and relaxation even as I compress things a little and ask for more. When she gets tight and stuck, I might bend and soften her, or I might back off a little and we reestablish the forward, balance, and contact again. We're not yet back at a place where the dressage judges are going to love us (it's much more of a training level frame), but..this feels like the right approach and if things continue as they have been, we'll get there.

Hacking to the ring last week. Off topic, but this pony better never be ditchy. I feel like half our rides on the wet coast are alongside one or finding places to cross.


EC previously had me warm Bridget up, then take up my reins, set them to a reasonable length and keep them steadily there a la side reins, and just worry about keeping B forward. All very simple. I think the concept might be useful sometimes, and I appreciate how simple it kept things for me as the rider, but I wasn't seeing a lot of success. One thing I love about EC - if something is not working for me, she is almost always supportive of my judgement and willing to switch up the program to try an alternate solution. In this case, she was 100% supportive of my decision to go back to the basics a little, and was happy to hear it was working and that B is starting to meet me halfway. I'm not saying the "arms as sidereins" approach was wrong, it was a useful stage for where I was at with my busy hands and where B was at, too, but now it's time to move back along.
We were previously doing some work using a neck rope similar to this concept...the idea being my hands are forced to stay steady - they can give forward, but not too far back. B gets a consistent length of rein at all times,  too. As the rider,  my job is to just keep her forward. While this is always a helpful way of seeing how handsy you really are and eliminating any fussiness in the contact that might be related to that, in our case, I didn't see much of a difference in B's way of going after a small initial improvement. It did help me fine tune turning off my seat and legs tho!

So, that discussion fed in to my lesson perfectly - because guess who else is very fussy about using their body as well as they should, and super difficult to get steady in the contact? Who else hates a naggingrider? Audrey! Her and Bridget are actually very much alike, both finding it quite easy to do all the things at 50% effort and tricking everyone but the rider into thinking they're working well.

I rode Audrey exactly as I have been riding Bridget, and EC talked me through it. I rode almost the entire lesson in either a stretchy frame or a more open, training level type contact, with short interludes of me picking up a more solid contact and having her rounder and more collected, the idea being we can move between all of it very smoothly and with no change of pace - just like I'm doing with Bridget.
Back to basics!

Eyes on the ground are so helpful!  I had a wonderful lesson. Focusing on keeping my shoulders and elbows really soft and elastic, giving when Audrey gave, and generally being disciplined about keeping the energy the same regardless of whether I was asking her to change the bend, move out or come back a little. Basic concepts, but always so important. She went from super braced and spooky to soft and happy (as did I, lol). We finished with some good canter spirals and shoulder in (with no inadvertent lead changes, yay!)

What is extra helpful for me with these lessons is not only that they're very similar rides, it's that Audrey is about a year further along in her training, and obviously way more talented. So not only is EC giving me feedback, Audrey is too. I  love that I'm able to show EC how Bridget is going and get feedback...by demonstrating on Audrey. Kind of weird, I guess, but neat!

Ohh...and the mare 'tude? It came out once or twice and EC had me get after Audrey a bit...and yeah, nothing bad happens beyond some minor antics I'm totally capable of handling. So, confidence levels on this mare are getting ever better.