Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Improvements

Thank you for the helpful and supportive comments yesterday. The pony wasn't spectacular, but she was well behaved enough in our lesson last night that I'll go ahead and keep her another week;) As predicted, her issues with forward magically disappeared last night. So that was good. But, in exchange we had either the runaway giraffe impression or the runaway train impression. I'm sure I was visibly frustrated, but my coach is amazing. Just when Bridget has figured out how to evade a specific exercise or protest something, EC comes up with a new non-confrontational way of getting what we want. So, we ended on a good note, where I had things to work on in my riding and Bridget had things to work on too but we were generally getting along just fine. By the end of this little adventure, I'm going to have a ton of pony training tips and exercises in my toolbox. Also, a ridiculous amount of patience.


We have a dressage clinic coming up this Thurs/Fri and a clear rounds jump schooling show day on Sat. I'm crossing my fingers hard I'm not wasting my money.

On the plus side, B moved in with the boys yesterday. Currently, the barn is pretty much all mares, which is kind of weird given most people's preferences for geldings. To even paddock numbers out a bit, Bridget got moved. I'm all for the move, because the boys are pretty rowdy and active and might keep her moving a lot more. Also, they're pretty much all dominant to her and pretty aggressive about enforcing the rules. I'm wondering how long it will take for the pony sass to tire them out. I think that's what happened with the mares. She's pretty much at the bottom of the pecking order, but got away with a lot simply because I think she's so persistent that they get tired of constantly having to police her. In the boy's paddock, she might meet her match with some of the younger geldings.  There are multiple hay feeders with hay available 24/7, but I'm also hopeful she won't be able to stand around and eat quite as much since the boys are always hungry from playing!


B sulking outside this morning because she's now last in the breakfast line. "NO GIRLZ ALLOWED" in our fort, say the geldings.  The only downside for me is that her blanket sustained some major damage at some point last night. I almost feel sorry for her.
And, finally, I need to share my saddle fitting recap from last Saturday in which I go crazy and contemplate buying expensive, custom tack for the little monster :)

Monday, 30 January 2017

Stuck

Ughh. I've been having the most no-good-very-bad rides on the pony ever.

Long time readers will know that it's been a process to get Bridget even remotely forward and interested. Her default answer to anything resembling work is almost always a firm NO. Obviously, that's not an accepted answer around here, but we do compromise and try to keep things more fun and interesting for her than the average. But, we still seem to go in cycles where that NO answer gets tried over and over.

I feel like I've been winning the forward war...in general. She actually goes now, but I'd still say the majority of the she time needs frequent reminders that coming to a standstill isn't cool. (Think canter stride, canter stride, canter  stride, Bridget: "Stop?", me use leg (50% effective at getting response), me use more leg (75% effective), me use crop (100% effective), canter stride, canter stride, repeat. the same goes for walk...trot we are somehow cool to cruise around. We've been having a bit of a bootcamp on that topic and being much more firm about the time frame the corrections escalate/happen in, also Bridget being much more honest about staying forward to start with. I felt like progress was being made. We had a great jump lesson on Monday where she was excited, forward  and really taking me to the fences.

And...the wheels fell well and truly off this weekend. If you've ever attempted to jump school and been met with your horse attempting to stop/suck back every single stride prior to the fence, over the fence, and after the fence you have my sincere sympathies. Since getting her motivated that way failed, I moved on to just asking for a canter, and a gallop. Just keep it simple. Which resulted in a ton of angry faces and even more bucking. Little brat. I won the battle in that she eventually cantered off with no protests, but I had to compromise on the actual quickness of the response, and she was looking for any excuse to stop. So, pretty much back at square one. She goes, but not happily or freely.

Long saga short, she is wildly inconsistent day to day, week to week. She's always been this way.  I don't know why. My coach says it's  "pony mare" syndrome. I say the inconsistency is driving me nuts, particularly as she's amazing on the good days!


To recap: She's checked regularly by the vet,  farrier, and saddle fitter. We take lessons twice a week. Her teeth are current, her saddle fits, her back isn't sore (just checked by fitter this weekend!), her feet are in great shape, she's never been unsound. she's fit enough for what we ask. I have professional help. I'm not a beginner, the basic expectations for her remain consistent. My own mood, the time of day, the weather, none seem to overly affect her. She does a variety of things, and although jumping is her favorite, that's still no guarantee she'll actually be in the mood on the day. She is inconsistent as well with my coach and other riders, so we can likely eliminate rider issues as the sole problem, although I freely admit I'm likely part of it. Of further interest might be that she behaves exactly the same in the pasture with her buddies. She gets beat up more than she should, simply because she can't be bothered to move away from the dominant horses after repeated warnings. They finally kick/bite etc, and she sort of takes it for a bit before she meanders off with a pissy look and gets more beatings because of it. Pony 'tude - she's got it.
Ancient picture, still representative of an average don't touch me/don't wanna go forward moment.

Since Bridget and I have had multiple discussions this weekend regarding showing up to work, and respect in the workplace, I expect she'll be fantastic tonight. I'll be excited and happy and think my hard work is paying off. And so the cycle continues.

I won't lie, after the recent antics I'm pretty down on  eventing this year. I almost changed focus this winter because I felt like getting her forward and honest enough was always going to be more work than the fun of jumping XC, or even stadium on her bad days. Then we had some good outings, and I sort of talked myself into thinking it's not a super big deal if she doesn't show up to work a few times this season. The times she does show up are fun.

For my own sanity, I'm going to give it one more season. If it's still not fun overall and her work ethic is still crazy inconsistent by next fall we'll re-evaluate things.

Thanks for hanging in for my vent! She's a great pony, and I can't see myself ever selling, because that laid back, intelligent, opinionated view of life brings with it a ton of positive attributes..

However, something needs to change. Whether that's something we can fix with me and/or Bridget, or it means moving on to another ride or redefining some goals is something I'm going to discuss with my coach.




Saturday, 28 January 2017

Ride Schedule

Since I'm in super duper show season planning/getting fit mode, I thought it might be interesting to discuss what sort of riding schedule and activities everyone does with their horses on a weekly basis through the winter.

Since B and I are currently planning another year with a mostly eventing focus, my priority right now is mostly fitness, along with keeping Bridget interested amd happy.

Mondays:

Riding lesson. We alternate jumping and dressage each week.
Jumping in the dark.

Tuesdays:

Bridget does a vaulting class for little kids. Its adorable. This essentially amounts to lunging in side reins, mostly at a walk, while kids jump all over her. She likes this, and I think it's a nice change for her after our normally difficult lesson night.

Cute

Wednesdays:

Riding lesson, usually a progression of whatever we worked on in Monday's lesson.

Thursdays:

Fitness. Depending on how hard she worked on Wednesday, and how much daylight we have, this can be anything from canter sets in the arena, to walking/trotting up and down the big mile long hill near the barn. It's a very steep hill, so we walk down and mostly walk up. I usually do a lot on a loose rein and try to keep her forward and stretching in all gaits.
Hill is steeper than it appears

Fridays:

Flatwork, the odd jump at the beginning or end as a reward. Depending on my schedule, I might switch this with Sunday to be her day off.
I tried to set up video yesterday, amd failed. You get a blurry screenshot.

Saturdays:

Free for all. If the weather's awful, we jump. If it's even halfway good, or we've already had jumping lessons during the week,  we trail ride, usually 1-2 hours, mostly walk in the forest. Our trails are quite technical, so there's only a few spots for trot and canter. Another day that I try to sneak in some fitness work while disguising it as "fun" :)

Sundays:

Usually her day off, although I do switch it with Fridays now and then.








Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Course Du Jour

Less of a lesson recap, more of course graphic...I have very little to say about last night: pony was on her A game, I stayed on ;). The course rode well, we had adjustable turns, enough forward and even some gears in the canter. I just basically needed to stay soft and quiet and let Ms B do her job. It was a good lesson!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Book Review: Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride





Instead of one giant book review post for the entire year, in 2017 I'm opting to only review the books I have purchased and enjoyed. 'Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride' is one of them.


Here's the summary from Amazon.ca:

 "Possessing the right mind-set and relevant mental skills has long been considered vital in achieving top performances in all sports. And yet, to many riders, mental fitness still remains something of an afterthought. In Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride, the author demonstrates how to develop and achieve the right kind of attitude, motivation and mental skills to make the most of the rider's abilities whether it be riding as a recreation or as a competitive sport. Horses are highly sensitive flight animals - they will react first and ask questions, well, never...! In essence, this means that every time riders get on their horse, they need to be fully committed, aware and in control of their body, their thoughts and their emotions, in order to communicate with their horse in precisely the right kind of manner."

My short review:

Book: Perfect Mind: Perfect Ride - Sport Psychology For Successful Riding
T's Synopsis: My mind is unorganized, therefore my riding is.
T's Thoughts: I really liked this book. Concise, easy to read, super encouraging and positive. Covers all the big mind traps we all fall into as riders and gives you numerous tips towards being stronger mentally. The chapters progress from identifying your strengths and weaknesses, through to planning your goals, and finishing with some super relevant chapters surrounding your 'big' goals or competition. I enjoyed the quotes from the big name riders, but enjoyed equally that this is a book for all levels of riders, with tips that are useful in all parts of life.
T's rating*: 4.5/5
Would Recommend?: Yes. If you're remotely interested in the subject, this is an excellent, easy to read intro.


Longer review/thoughts:

I have enough anxiety that riding in shows can actually be a fairly miserable experience for me. Particularly if things don't go to plan! I can get into panic mode and pretty much sabotage myself. I've of course done multiple google searches and read numerous articles on handling your nervousness, but I've only been partially successful in fixing things. My last show of the season was a real low point, so I picked up this book hoping I would find some further insight.

And...I did! I'm going to refer back to this book and follow the chapters step by step. As mentioned, this is a very readable book. The author writes like she's in a conversation with you, so it's not overly dry or serious at any point. I enjoyed how well edited and laid out this book was - there even some useful tables for planning and examining your goals and strengths/weaknesses that I'll probably fill in at the start and end of the season.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a bit of an edge, and also anyone looking to make their riding experience healthier mentally. I found the sections on anxiety quite useful, but there is also a lot of useful information on strategy, goals, planning, and generally being strong mentally.

Some useful take homes off the top of my head:

- Never set a goal 'to win'. You can't control everyone else's day, including the other riders and the judge. Instead set goals you can potentially control, like your dressage test having a specific feel, or trying to not have any stops cross country. Essentially, have a goal of improving your best, and don't worry about how that compares to others. Control what you can, don't waste energy worrying, assigning blame or being resentful of what you can't.

- Be realistic about your (and your horses) strengths and weaknesses. No one is perfect, and you're not going to magically put in that perfect ride on show day without acknowledging and working on your weaknesses. On the same note, be quick to recognize your strengths and don't focus too hard on all the things that are 'wrong'

- Prioritize. Visualize. Have a plan. If something goes wrong in the moment, acknowledge it, but quickly assess, prioritize, and move on. (Lots of tools provided in the book to help you get good at this) Focus on problem solving mistakes after the actual ride, instead of letting them distract you in the moment!

- After a fall, getting back on immediately may not always be the best thing. If you're legitimately fearful or hurt while you're riding, there's evidence that's only going to make matters worse...now your brain remembers and associates those feelings even more with being in the saddle! Instead, take the time to think on things, make a plan, and do whatever your comfortable with. Build up those positive associations again!

-Anxiety is a good thing! (Within reason - there's some useful exercises to pinpoint what level of anxiety can work in your favour - it varies for everyone) Anxiety doesn't differ in any big way from excitement, and it shouldn't have negative connotations. It can give you an edge by giving you extra energy and focus.


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Yield, Please

I started out the evening with a ride on Q mare, who was absolutely fabulous, particularly as our cold snap was replaced with torrential rain and 50mph wind gusts. Super forward, but soft and willing to listen to my half halts and balance herself. A big contrast to last week's zero brakes routine and wish for airs above the ground :) The joy of babies in winter. I was left wishing I had used this week as my week to lesson on her, but it may have been better for me to have eyes on the ground and a pep talk last week when I was struggling confidence wise and with how to ride her sass. I hope to feel like I've learned to ride her properly one day, she's amazing and quality and talent wise well beyond anything I'll likely ever own myself. She has a ton to teach me!

On to my lesson on Bridget. Bridget once again brought her "A" game, as did I. I knew we were going to have a tough lesson, so my warm up consisted of our tune up (go NOW from my leg) from earlier in the week, mixed with a lot of walking forward on the buckle. Anytime she slowed, and ignored a gentle reminder, she got to gallop off. Once again, there were a lot of angry pony theatrics (seriously, when did bucking down the long side become a regular part of our warmup?!), but she got the message quickly and figured out walking around on a loose rein with a bit of energy is much preferable.

We started our lesson with an exercise from Monday night. basically, leg yield on the wall, do a quarter turn on the haunches, and leg yield back down the wall off the opposite leg. Repeat until pony is quick off your leg and with the program, until it flows and even the turn on the haunches is in the same tempo as the rest. This is tough for B, as she's not overly fond of things changing quickly...like bend or direction ;)


On Monday night, we practiced this at walk. Last night we progressed to trot, transitioning to walk for the turns, then immediately back to trot, holding the correct bend. Hard work.

Finally, we moved up to canter, and just did simple leg yields from the quarter line to the wall. Midge was well with the program and totally rocked it to the right. It was awesome, I could ask for one step at a time and keep her totally straight. She was also totally sitting on her bum and collecting the canter way more than I ever achieve normally. The challenge after the leg yield was to hold that same collected canter for one 20m circle. Challenge accepted and completed. A pretty cool insight into where we might get with a lot more practice and strength.

To the left was obviously not as balanced or effortless, but we got it done. Miracles :)

Poor Midge was exhausted. Even though it was a fairly short lesson without a lot of cardio, it's a lot of work for pony to bend herself and move her body where we ask when she's not overly experienced. We gave her a well deserved early exit along with some time snuggled in a cozy fleece cooler with her dinner.
She finally grew a winter coat just before Christmas, and already she is shedding it...so no clipping this year, but an extra hairy pony to cool out for a few weeks. It's OK, what else do I have to do in the evenings?  :)


Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Tune Up

I was on my own for last night's lesson due to the weather complicating life, so we got to work on T and Bridget specific issues exclusively. I love having lesson mates, but private lessons are the way to go for real progress (and an overwhelming amount of feedback!).

The inside of my truck/ice palace.


I had made the comment in last week's lesson on Q that I wished Bridget was as sensitive and forward as Q mare.

Last night, EC showed us the way. Nothing ground breaking here, we started off with me dropping the reins, grabbing mane and asking quietly. When that didn't get the desired answer, I asked loudly, then clucked, then spanked with the crop. This all needed to happen within a second or two and she needed to gallop off immediately.  Legs need to stay very still and off the pony unless I want something. opposite to a hot horse where you want to keep your leg gently against them. So, the stuff we all know how to do, just with someone supervising and making sure I was being super consistent in my requests. Which obviously, I wasn't.
We did this on the weekend. Much warmer.

The funny part was, B was actually pretty forward thinking when I got on, so I thought we might have an easy time of it. While I wouldn't say it was difficult, there was definitely some sucking back and bucking, as well as some giraffe faces to start. We quickly got to the point where a light touch had her cantering off. She knows what I want, she just needed a reminder to react more quickly. Then I picked up the reins with the task of that same light touch having her move out immediately while keeping round and straight, as well as consistent in the bridle. Difficult for B, but she's getting better all the time.
B likes to relax and take the time to stop and smell the roses poo.

We ended up focusing on that pesky left lead canter because that's where everything falls apart, even on a good day. B had definitely got the message about moving immediately from my leg, but the straightness proved an issue. Jumping sideways or counterbending in the transition are problems for us on a good day, with the added energy things got a little more "expressive". Left is her hard side and while she's pretty honest walk/trot, in canter it's pretty easy for her to use the momentum to throw herself through my outside aids. So, we got some better work, and went back to shoulder in walk and trot transitions to really enforce/exaggerate the bend we want in the canter transition. Back up to canter from shoulder in at trot, and improvement was made.

So, a good lesson. I was happy with B - she's matured so much in the last while. The whole "move immediately" thing used to make her shut down. Weird, I know, when horses are flight animals and should be all about moving. But, B is a girl who likes to think things through and ponder life a bit before taking action. While I would never say she's unintelligent, she definitely is very slow to act, make any decisions, or try new things. Pressure her before she's ready, and be prepared for her to shut down completely. I don't think she'd survive long in the wild. By the time she starts thinking about catching up to her herdmates, they're usually already  across the pasture.  She's gradually been thinking a little quicker as I've owned her, and apparently now we've made it to the walk to gallop stage without planning ahead first...maybe we'll no longer be the ones eaten by the lion? ;) All joking aside, I was impressed that she met us halfway last night and got right to work and tried to do what we asked.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Tentative Plans

I'm pretty sure I did a show planning post last year and since the reality ended up bearing a passing resemblance to the plan, we'll go for a 2017 version. These are the dates I've booked off work and have budgeted for. Horses and life may have other ideas.

(Also, let's be honest, even if my plans ended up looking nothing like the reality, I'd still write this post because planning the upcoming season is really fun!)

February:

-Dressage clinic

March:

-MREC 2 phase

-Local clear rounds day

April:

-Spring eventing clinic. Possibly x2

May:

-MREC May Horse Trials

- Local jumper show

- Local dressage show

June:

-CVES XC schooling and Dressage % day

July:

-Topline Back to Back HT

-MREC Dressage

August:

-CVES Horse Trials

Sept:

-Local dressage % day

-TBird dressage show

Oct-Dec:

-Sleep in, save  $, prep for 2018!

Bonus:

-The plan this year is still to breed Ginger for a spring 2018 foal.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

In Which I Ride...Poorly

The arena was super busy last night, and Bridget was unimpressed. Pony mare was feeling the need to let the others know she is super tough by making nasty faces at each and every one. Obviously that  = a pony mare who is less than focused on her rider. Also included for free with every angry pony who doesn't like to share arena space:  An extra dose of independence! "I am so bad ass no rider tells ME what to do!", says Bridget.

Obviously we worked through it, but we didn't get to a great place, more of a compromise place where the pony mostly kept her ears on in a neutral manner and went forward politely where I pointed her. Soft and relaxed might have come eventually, but I ran out of time. I'm coming for you again today, Midge :)
At least she's cute.
 I've been feeling a little lost with Q mare of late. The trails are too icy to safely navigate, and it's dark so early that I've been forced to spend most of the time in the arena. I need help in there! So, I chose Q for my lesson mount du jour. As I explained to EC prior to the lesson, the super forward big stride that makes me happy out on the trail is slightly intimidating to try to contain in the arena. Particularly as she's very large and powerful and quick to be offended should you really get after her about slowing the train down...quite the opposite of Bridget pony, really.

Q mare was feeling very very fresh last night. You know that yucky feeling where their back is so tight you just know the explosion is imminent? Just like that. On Midge, I tend to laugh about it and poke the bear to see if she'll bite. On giant drafty freight trains, I'm a big chicken. We did a ton of transitions to get her to actually stop/wait/slow down, but that seemed to increase the tension, so we did a bunch of lateral work to try to loosen her up that way. I stuck it out for about half the lesson,  rode poorly because I didn't want to press the wrong button and die, then gave up, got off and lunged the sillies out.  I got back on to cool her out, but am sort of beating myself up about it. Particularly as the lunging just made her more energetic and excited! Shes 3/4TB, and it shows - she's got an incredible base level of fitness, unlimited energy, and has no concept of quitting. She can be kind of intense!  Combine that TB brain with a 16.3 part Percheron body, and I'll admit to feeling overhorsed last night.  That's fine, but rather than stepping up to the challenge and using it as a learning opportunity, I backed off and took the easy way out, even though I had EC there to help. Confidence is such a weird thing!  

Q mare, I'm coming for you again too. I'm feeling in need of some redemption. (Also, some warmer weather and turnout for the horses so the winter crazies go away. I want my forward, but sane hacking buddy back!)
Pretty AND cute :)

On the plus side, our lesson mate was my hot, quirky Ginger mare and she looked positively straightforward in comparison to my two rides. Good girl! (But, we cannot underestimate Ginger's lease rider, who does a super job with her and makes it look easy. Pretty sure if it was me in the tack we may have had a trifecta of poor rides :) Maybe, just maybe, the big mare is finally all grown up.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Defrosting

An entire unfrozen arena for the first time in a month = an opportunity to defrost our jumping skills!

EC has been quite creative about integrating gymnastics and pole work into our lessons, but with crazy cold temps (for here) freezing at least a third of the arena on a regular basis, it's been pretty much impossible to ride "real" courses (or really anything that doesn't fit into about an 80'x80' square) We finally got a good old pacific rainstorm today to thaw us out temporarily, so of course we had a jumping lesson!


We started with my nemesis (nemesises? nemesii?)...bending lines and bounces. Oh, and spoiler alert, we finished with them too ;)

Our course du jour (everything set small, about 2'):

Still not setting jumps in the entire arena as we're supposed to freeze again indefinitely starting today!


My tasks: remembering where my body parts go when jumping. Planning ahead. Changing leads in a timely fashion (we don't do flying changes yet, saving them for dressage, so one walk or trot stride to balance, then change). Controlling B's outside shoulder.

B's tasks: Going where I point her. Turning those shoulders. Staying in front of the leg. Not bucking, even when it's super tempting to do so.

General challenge: Our lesson was shared with a baby Clydesdale with minimal adjustability in the canter, so the distances were set for her. 2 baby Clyde strides = 2.5 normal Bridget strides. Good practice for me to sit and wait and stay out of B's way when we got to things weird.  Also good practice for finding a collected canter on the 2 or 3 stride lines,  and a forward one through the bounce! Confidence boosting, because even though I definitely failed a bit, nothing bad or scary happened, just an awkward jump or two.

I'm happy to say our new years restart paid dividends, because generally speaking, the pony was wonderful. Quick off my leg, maneuverable, and forward. Both EC and I were amazed that B didn't even think about quitting, even when she started to visibly tire!

I feel like I was the part of our partnership kind of phoning it in and letting the team down, but as I got back in the groove it got better. It's weird, dressage wise I almost always think I have a good feel for where I need to be and what I need to do as a rider. With jumping, if I go even a few days without I immediately lose what little I have learned and need to fumble around a bit before it comes back. I guess that's normal given jumping is a fairly recent development in my riding life?

At least there's always dressage ;)


Monday, 9 January 2017

Learning to Be Independent (Again)

I'm finding with a great coach at my disposal it's very easy to put off any problems until lesson day. I  know I'm going to get immediate and effective help then, so it does make sense that way. The negative side is that I end up being a little inconsistent in my expectations for my rides, and I feel like I've ended up not actively problem solving on my own unless I absolutely have to.

That doesn't mean I don't school things in my daily rides. I do, but I tend to pick things I know I/we can do well, or things we worked on in our lesson. Things where the results are going to be very predictable and I have the tools fresh in my mind.

The past few days, I've made an effort to start changing that. We've been discussing show plans for the upcoming year, and I'm feeling unprepared on pretty much every level. Time to show some initiative and get back to work without requiring someone to supervise and motivate me every step of the way :)
"Why do you make me work so hard?!"


I think I recapped Thursdays ride under the unsuccessful saddle trial label. We don't need to get too detailed, suffice to say pony was unimpressed and there was some very naughty behaviour, partly saddle related, and partly I think pony tude related. Since she is a pony, we did need to work through a bit of it before putting her away and taking the offensive saddle off.

Friday was her day off.

Saturday, I put our normal saddle back on, but the pony of Thursday still returned. Told you she is smart. This time the bad behaviour did not win her any breaks or a shorter ride. She worked super hard. I really needed to reinforce the forward thing, since she misremembered bucking and running sideays through the oursude shoulder as being a reasonable way of expressing her feelings re moving her feet forward.  Of course, once she was forward and straight, it was all angry, downhill, pulling, snorty dragon style, so some further reminders were required re carrying herself. It was a really tough ride, but she was going fairly well by the end and was once again the cooperative, cheerful pony we actually like to have around.

Sunday's ride started where Saturday's left off. Generally cooperative pony, but still testing the whole hiding behind the leg and popping the shoulder thing now and then. On a normal day, I might have actually left it as good enough. We have a lesson Mondays, after all. But I was still a little grumpy from the previous days, so we worked on walk to canter transitions ie "Put your body and feet exactly where I ask and go forward to canter immediately" Hard, hard punishment for lazy, wiggly ponies.

Since I'm not all mean, I set it up so we did a 8-10m collected walk circle off the wall, then cantered as we came back to the wall. This is helpful because it sets up the correct bend, it's predictable so she knows she's going to need to organize herself to canter before the wall, and the wall is there to help keep that outside shoulder under wraps in the transition.  Her right lead departs are actually already really nice, so we worked to the left the majority of the time as that's where it's harder for her and there's usually a fight waiting to happen since she is not one to enjoy a challenge :)
Another diagram brought to you by MS Paint

In typical Midge fashion, it took a few tries and way too much encouragement before she remembered it's not an impossible task, then she steadily got better. The transition itself is a work in progress and a little unbalanced, but we finished with some of the best canter work we've ever done.

As a side benefit, as the ride went on, Midge became really sharp and forward and totally got her game face on. She wasn't even sticky in the bit of lateral work I threw in, which is of course our other regular nemesis.
Happy ears

A huge difference over the course of a few days, and I'm happy I actually worked through it on my own, chose appropriate exercises to help, and didn't get frustrated/give up when it got really hard. Rider education progressing, one tiny forward step at a time :)




Friday, 6 January 2017

New Year, New Ride?

My first rides of the new year went so well, and so terribly all at the same time!

For my first ride, our cold, but sunny weather continued and Q mare and I had just enough light for a short trail ride, our first since mid October. What a treat!

Bridget and I had a great ride in a trial dressage saddle. I actually hated the saddle  (it was a nice Custom Solo, just didn't fit me at all), but B LOVED it and went really nicely, giving me much hope that I haven't actually ruined her training, am riding her with undiagnosed lameness issues, or any of the other multiple dramatic scenarios that keep me up at night if I let them :)

B looking very fat

We tried a couple more saddles earlier in the week - same thing, pony was happy and super free in her shoulders and back. Almost everything we've tried has fit her reasonably well, which is a relief. Unfortunately,  it seems I'm more difficult to fit, and we haven't yet found the perfect match that allows me to actually use my leg and have a place to sit.

Last night, I got desperate and tried an ancient Wintec. It's truly an ugly, awful thing but at least the flap and knee rolls are pretty non existent, so +1 for letting me use my body, albeit in a chair seat. It's literally duct taped together,  so I don't blame B for HATING it and giving me the worst ride ever. Actually, that was a bit of a relief, because if she'd loved it and I was ok with it something tragic could have happened to our tack room of beautiful saddles.
Q mare impatient for a ride

We went back to my jumping saddle for our lesson.

Our lesson was good. Dressage, with some canter poles on a 15m circle for an additional final challenge. B was a little less good in her shoulders and back with the return of the jumping saddle, making it more apparent some of of current woes are saddle related. It's really quite minor but it's there -  she's slightly less forgiving and I have to be slightly more precise to get the same results so easily found in the dressage saddle.
canter poles

 I do think the majority of the struggle remains her fitness. Luckily, I have a plan for that! At least she's been quite fresh and forward this past week. Cold weather apparently =  a short term increase in pony energy levels, fit or not! Dressage is a lot easier when there's an energetic pony engine pushing you along.


Luckily, the saddle fitter is coming this weekend to adjust my jumping saddle, so we'll have that sorted quickly. The wool has compressed a little on one side and it's a bit uneven and pinching one shoulder a tiny bit.  She's also a County rep, so I get to try a few of their dressage saddles. We've got another person coming in two weeks, so I'm hoping between the two I'll have some good suggestions for what might work. My budget is about 2k, so sadly I cannot afford to order anything new or custom. Fingers crossed we can find something used that suits us both.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The Haul

So, what did I buy on our fantastic post Boxing Day adventure?

I looked at and tried on a ton of stuff, which was nice. Normally I need to order things online, so it was a treat to be able to check out things in person. A lot of things that were on my wish list didn't end up making the cut once I saw them in person. Either I was disappointed with the quality, or the fit, or couldn't bring myself to spend the cash, even at significant savings. Here's the list of things that actually made it home with me, with a few being impulse buys, rather than my carefully planned shopping list:

(Bear with me, it's a long list, but it's all pictures and few words :)

Asmar bamboo tees x2 (pink and navy) 

BR event pad in black and grey 

Mine came with '666' pre installed? 

Asmar City jacket. I bought a black one earlier in the fall for riding, but the pink was calling my name for daily use in our dark rainy winters. In my defense, it was the last one and marked down to $75

Can never have too many. 

Bridget approved 

Cheap gloves. Again, can never have too many 

Asmar polka dot pony sunshirt. This feels too heavy to be a sunshirt, but it's cute and is super flattering on. 

Under Armour shirt. The most comfortable thing ever. 
BR Halter. Like but don't love because it says 'Horses 4 ever' or something like that all over it. But it was in the 9$ clearance bin and B needed a new barn halter! She's confident enough in her pony tude to advertise her love of horses too :)
Can you tell the Asmar stuff was getting cleared out? Also, can you tell I am a fan?
The best part about this entire shopping spree was that I spent less than $300 all in, including lunch!

We also bought a heap of stuff for the house, so G was also happy with our day. We unanimously voted to make this an annual event. I'm in! Particularly as I didn't buy a lot of things I actually *needed* like, a saddle...a dressage bridle, a new girth...oh well, there's always next time.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Restart



I was struggling quite a bit this fall to be motivated and present in my riding. Honestly, I've been so busy and my rides have been generally so subpar, that I was just kind of going through the motions and putting in the time because I knew I should.

The holiday season brought me a legit excuse to take a week off. No worries, no schedule to keep, multiple days in a row at home up the coast with G, and a super helpful barn mate to ride the pony in my absence.


In the midst of our week off, we took a trip to Vancouver to do some post holiday shopping. One of the tack stores was having a pretty spectacular sale. I didn't need much, and wouldn't have actually gone if it wasn't for G pushing me to 'just go look'. I'm glad I did! I found some great deals on new apparel for myself and the pony, and as I tried things on and picked out a new color scheme for B I suddenly realized I was excited again for show season. As the days went on, I found myself making a tentative schedule, reading up on all things fitness for B, and generally feeling optimistic and motivated. (Oh, and spending WAY too much money on all the new things!)

Moral of the story: If you're feeling burnt out, take a break. Think about things. Or don't. Come up with a plan. Or don't. Also, retail therapy is a thing, and it helps.