Friday, 23 June 2017

Relationship vs Goals

Emma had a great post the other day delving into how her riding goals relate to her purchase of Charlie the Wonder Horse.

I've talked about this a bit in the past, but since it's a subject frequently on my mind, here are my current thoughts on myself and Bridget's partnership.

First for some context, we'd better mention the backstory.

When I first started this blog, it was all things Ginger. Ginger and I were going to do all the things! Sadly, on our way to doing all the things, I had a couple of not so nice falls and my hot, sensitive, athletic mare didn't feel like such a fun project anymore. In fact, riding any horse got a bit scary for me over time. Cue sadness and stress. Give up horses? Maybe. I took a few months time out and missed them though. So I took some lessons on a lovely confidence building mare. I was still nervous, but started to consider a second horse...a nice quiet, confidence boosting one, a la lesson mare. One to just trail ride and have fun on, get my confidence completely back, then move back onto Ginger and crush those competition goals!
Ginger.

Cue Bridget's purchase. What could be less intimidating than an adorable young pony that was missing a go button?
Bridget. (Am I the only one seeing the resemblance/;)



Real Bridget. So cute, so fluffy, so little. Also eats watermelon.

So inelegant.

And so, off we went on our adventures, and this blog started to become less Ginger, and all Bridget. Bridget trail riding everywhere, going to her first clinics, eventually jumping a bit, then trying some dressage. The change back to Ginger never happened because Bridget kept on exceeding my expectations. Bridget also got hotter and sassier the fitter she got, so boredom on my part has never really been a thing.
B even knows how to pose over fences ;)

So that brings us here. I have a lot of fun with the pony. Is she going to meet my eventing goals? No. But she might exceed any dressage goals I have. Will we be competitive at dressage? No, but we can learn all the things and have fun. Is she my dream horse? No. She's absolutely not what any sane person would have chosen as their next competition prospect, I love her dearly, but no, no one would look at her and think 'athletic'  :) I bought her because she was safe and didn't scare me and I thought she'd be an easy resale. End of story.

So, I'm at a funny place. I still have the same riding goals I've always had, but for the first time I also have a horse I'd consider a real partner and that means more to me than anything. So we do what we can do, and have fun. My long term plans still involve the purchase or breeding of a horse or pony more suited to my goals (and still keeping B, obviously). And yet, even with the opportunity to go shopping, I keep procrastinating because I still just like riding and being with the pony I've got. Even when she pulls out the Pony Mare Armageddon 'tude.
Bridget's wheel of fortune.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Keeping It Real

After over a week of good behaviour, you knew we were due for a visit from Naughty Midge. If you've read this blog at all, you know Naughty Midge = stuck in the tar pits/dragging 100 ton cart/probably dying so cannot move Midge


I had a decent ride on Sunday,  just running through the parts of our upcoming dressage test I knew we could pick up half marks here and there on. A little crisper halt to trot depart, and a bit more consistent in the coming back and going forward, as always there's a half stride where it feels like shes coming back up and at you before she starts using her hind end and collecting or lengthening a little. I felt like it went well, but what do I know because pony was awful today. Maybe it was too warm for angry mares, maybe she was tired, maybe I was too nitpicky yesterday and pissed her off. I'd lean towards the third option, likely influenced by the first and second too.

Our lesson consisted of running through our test a couple of times, and I could not for the life of me get B in front of my leg. As soon as a picked up contact, boom, pony was hiding behind the leg and no amount of encouragement would get her forward enough.  Wiggling? Yep. Bouncing like a kangaroo? Yep ( becoming masters of the Snake and Kangaroo levels of our training scale...also the Giraffe was quite proficient ;) So, that was super discouraging. EC says to go back to wearing her big spurs next time, because nagging at Midge to just go forward benefits no one. I think that's a plan.

I have mixed feelings about that, as always...I'd love for B to be light off my leg without any spurs at all, but I get a ride or two like that at most before she figures it out and we have to go back to spurs again...and then depending on her energy and mood sometimes even that's not enough and the big spurs need to make an appearance. I guess better to touch her with rowels and get a response than kick her repeatedly with no spurs and get no response? A stick, as always does nothing, and voice a la her vaulting lessons is hit or miss when she's in a mood, too. Nor does changing it up - for the love of everything do not try to trail ride or jump her in that mood! Life with ponies who sometimes don't wanna is always interesting :)

I''m curious to see what tonight's ride will bring!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Good Things

Good thing number 1: My work is open to me taking a leave of absence. I'm not sure when and if that will happen, but just knowing it's an option and my decision making process doesn't need to be black and white (stay or quit!) has taken a lot of my self imposed decision related stress away. I'm dreaming now of a few weeks off this fall to catch up on all things home and husband related. And obviously Bridget would come home too :)
She follows me everywhere anyway.

Good thing number 2: Best working student is wanting to get her coaching certifications too, so I'll have a buddy to study with and stress with prior to the evaluations. She wants to get it done this summer, so that may be the nudge I need to make it more of a priority.

Good thing number 3: Bridget! She's been so, so excellent. It could be the new saddle, or it could be I am finally on the receiving end of GOOD unpredictable pony mare behaviour. Who knows. She was super forward and fun for our jump school last night, attacking the jumps and overjumping in great style....which is entirely unlike her normally minimalist attitude towards getting around. For the first time in a long time, I was having so much fun jumping the pony!  The previous nights flat school was great too. As always much to work on, but generally speaking she felt loose and forward and full of positive energy. She's been quite fussy in the contact, but not so that night! Happy ears the whole time :) And then today, we went for about an hour trail ride with her good friend Q mare and best working student.  There have been a few super up close and personal meetings with bears recently and the trails are super overgrown right now.
Last night, I walked from the barn to my truck while texting and checking emails on my phone. I got in my truck, closed the door, put the key in the ignition, looked up, and a scene very similar to this was directly in front of my truck (maybe 5' away and looking at me). I'm sort of glad I didn't see the bear until I was already "safe" in the truck.
And yet, both mares happily and confidently went along on the buckle even when we heard some suspicious rustling in the bushes nearby. When we got to the road we take home there was some heavy equipment and some guys trimming tree branches overhead and then chipping them behind a fence where the horses couldn't quite see. No problem, said both mares. I know Bridget is super solid with everything, but I'm still always surprised just HOW solid.
Magical unicorn saddle turns B into a good girl.

Next up: practice our dressage test for next Sunday! I registered for the wrong one, apparently per coach, leg yields were supposed to be on order, which is obviously not the case in 1-1. I may see if its possible to change, but I'm tempted to stay with the one I've memorized and just have fun with it. We aim to underachieve:) Also, I should probably practice not crying or generally doing dumb things. Because Saturday is xc schooling day and I'm running about 50/50 on crying and/or falling off during those things lol
This was a fun day, but I'm pretty sure I fell off twice. Unaderacheiver goal 2: To NOT be THAT person in the lesson :)

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Training Scale 2.0

We're all aware of the standard training scale:




I now present our version of the above, with the animal we more closely resemble for each step of the pyramid:
Currently, we are solidly at Dolphin level ;)

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

We Live To Jump Another Day

I know I said I was joking that if this last saddle didn't fit I was going to give up and do dressage. But, I kind of wasn't joking. After nearly a year of searching and trying everything, I'm feeling pretty over the whole used saddle shopping thing. I'm not inclined to shell out for new and custom, because obviously there is no saddle in existence or that can be created that will ever fit the both of us I'm too cheap and I could buy a nice prospect pony for the same price. Or 3 corgis. A thousand more $5 cats. Whichever.

Next time we'll double the budget and give the kids $10 to see if that buys us a friendly one ;).

 I've also read too many CoTH forums custom saddle fitting and ordering nightmare threads. If there's a saddle shopping anxiety disorder I think I now have it...even the thought of getting the fitter out makes me worried.

Luckily, we can now save the dramatics and frustration for another worthwhile cause, because (I can't even believe I'm typing this) - THE SADDLE WE TRIED TONIGHT FITS! It fits both of us! We had a jump lesson! Using our own saddle! There was no saddle slipping, there was no pony bucking. I rode in my usual less than stellar manner, but still felt safe and secure (side note - I think I might need to start my own CoTH inspired "Missed It Mondays" for my Monday night jump lessons, then I will be failing for a cause.
This, then circle and do the same jumps in backwards order to make a 12 jump 'proper' course. Midge said the leg yielding was the hardest, particularly to the left away from the gate. Dressage isn't supposed to happen in jump lessons, she says. The 2 stride bendy line actually rode fine.

The saddle in question is a 20 year old County Pro Fit. I'm told it was intended as a hunter saddle and built on a Stabilizer tree. I had my fingers crossed because I know a wide tree stablizer of the same vintage nearly fits. After a year of searching for a used XW stablizer without success, this will do! This saddle is obviously not perfect, and comes with a few pros and cons:

Same pic as yesterday...I failed at getting a pic of B wearing it, all part of my Missed It Mondays ;)

Con: It's 20 years old! I'm definitely not going to be trendy or cool.
Pro: It appears to have been sitting for at least the last 15. It actually looks in nearly new condition now that it's been cleaned up.

Con: it will need some adjusting for a perfect fit for Bridget, possibly adding a bit of gusseting.
Pro: The tree shape is perfect for her, and we have an excellent master saddler available to work on it. It fits well enough to use as is for the summer. Also, it cost only half of my desired budget so I don't mind spending a bit on it.

Con: It's a hunter saddle.
Pro: It's the right shape for me. And master saddler can add the blocks I've become accustomed to from our xc saddles. Also, who am I kidding...we don't need a xc saddle to go Starter.

Con: Seats were hard back then!
Pro: It fits right...and my last jump saddle was a Stubben. Also, I have plenty of my own padding ;) I can cope with a hard seat.

Con: the two tone color. Icky,  my least favorite.
Pro: It fits. Also, I have a matching lovely quality, but icky colored bridle I may need to embrace, thereby possibly portraying confidence in the awesomeness of orange tack :)

Con: It's a true XW jump saddle with short rider dimensions. I expect resale would not be easy.
Pro: it's a unicorn saddle and I plan to use it until it dies.




Monday, 12 June 2017

Meh

As always, I'm very busy, I'm riding tons, and Bridget is her fantastic, if slightly sassy and overweight, self.

I'm still feeling pretty burnt, the job is stressful and being away from home 99% of the time is also difficult. There's a bunch of (good) change on the horizon. It's looking increasingly likely I will be moving home AND have a viable career there too! I am lucky to have several potential paths to choose from, not to mention an extremely supportive husband. However, the plan does not feel solid enough yet to get overly excited about, or even blog in detail about. I'm feeling sort of in limbo as I wait and that feeling is leaving me uninspired to blog.

Our cat has the right idea...sleep and be unashamed about being grouchy if woken

Bridget's been doing great. I've entered her in our First level debut in two weeks. I'm not feeling super confident, but I'm not feeling overwhelmed - it's a solid, although conservative choice for where we're at, and appropriate for my show nerves.

Sausage pony

That same weekend, we have a cross country clinic scheduled. I'm pretty nervous about that.

Bridget's new (to us) jump saddle arrived last week at home. I picked it up this weekend and gave it a bunch of TLC - it was very sad and thirsty and drank half a tub of conditioner. I would have been disappointed at the condition it arrived in, but honestly I got it for such a good price, it was a needle in a haystack size wise, and I'm just happy it came back to life. I'll try it on her tonight. Fair warning, if it doesn't fit, I'm giving up jumping (joking...maybe)
After a million coats of leather conditioner. I'll take a final one soon...the color has evened out a bunch now.

Ginger is also doing well, she even got a 4th place ribbon in the Entry division at Mustang Powder horse trials last month against some very nice horses! I believe they're moving up to Pre-Training next time out. Ginger is turning into a cool event horse.

As far as baby ponies go, I've tossed around all the options, but opted to wait until next year. With the above mentioned changes pending, it's tempting to go for it, but really I think the wiser thing to do is to not add to my immediate stress load. I'm sad, but next year for sure!


Monday, 5 June 2017

Counter Canter

As the title would indicate,  the topic of tonight's lesson: counter canter.

As EC outlined technique and goals for the ride, I was equal parts excited and nervous.  ("For the love of everything, it's taken us 2.5 years just to get a decent canter on this pony! Please let's not mess it up now!") Also, my mind drifted to life choices - our lesson mate was on a green baby, but the canter/counter canter thing is perfectly timely for them too. That's certainly an argument for purpose bred, although B always wins for cuteness and I guess I have nothing but time and a love for a good challenge :)

So, if you can't guess from the above thought process, I was determined to own this lesson. Things to prove (in my own mind), and all that.

We started with a recap of our walk/canter/walk transitions. The one where we spiral in for the down transition, and out for the up. Bridget was on it, and was a good girl.

Next, we moved into adding shallow loops to our canter on the long side, changing bend as you come back to the wall. B said this was no big deal, so we increased the loops to come to the centre line and back. Harder, said B, but doable. I could feel her trying so hard, such a good pony.
Another random assortment of recent photos...B looking for the post ride treats she surely deserves 
Next up, asking her to strike off in counter canter from the walk. Standard baby horse way, wait until you're past the corner,change the bend, ask, ride the counter canter to the next corner or until the balance starts to feel like it might go, and walk. She's straighter on her right lead and can continue through the corners, the left lead is harder and I was asking for a walk transition a stride or two into the corner, before it got too hard for her. Add in some suppling by changing the bend to the inside a stride or two down the long side where you can while still holding the outside lead.

In a funny turn of events, my previously "cant/won't canter" pony has decided canter is the answer to everything and is now prone to bouncing up and down in canter to avoid other things. Renvers in trot? Walk pirouette? Change the bend? Shorten your reins? Go near a corner? Glance at a jump? Definitely the answer is always canter!  I'm not too worried, as we all know B is lazy at heart and she'll tire of her new pogo stick pony game soon enough.
Exhibit A: let's just fall in and throw in a canter stride here

All in all, yep she was a superstar, and yes, I'm glad we waited. This is legit hard for her and even a few months ago would have blown her mind. It was nice to wait until a point where it was no big deal. I'm excited to have another tool in the toolbox, particularly one that's going to help her build an even stronger canter. I'm also definitely starting to feel a big sense of accomplishment and validation of all the hard work. Also, a huge appreciation for how hard Ms B has been trying for me the last year or so. Shes turning into such a fun ride! But honestly, while I wouldn't trade B for anything,  next time I'll probably look for something that knows how to canter, saving both the arena walls and my sanity from years of abuse;)

Superstar!

Friday, 2 June 2017

A Quiet Week

With my decision to let the eventing goals slide this year, came great freedom. I'm still putting in hours of fitness time, but I skipped a day this week and didn't feel too bad about it. Obviously, a fitter Midge is a good thing, but attempting to create an eventing fit Midge is a full time job I was starting to struggle with. The barn is just not set up in such a way to help her lose enough weight through diet (haynet feeders everywhere in the paddocks and shelters - we lock her in a stall at night, but that still leaves 12 hours of unlimited access to hay all day long). To work all those calories off through strictly exercise  is an uphill battle when you work full time at a 'real' job, part time at the barn, not to mention travel home every second weekend.
Round, but getting better

Midge herself was a little under the weather this week. There's a cold going around the barn and of course with Midge, that results in a tired pony with a minor cough.. I am always sure to keep her up to date on her shots, but I guess with all the competitions the horses are bound to catch something new once in a while. While I can't complain about the care or the facility, I do find myself wishing for somewhere a little quieter where we can also monitor her hay intake better.
"New hay net for Midge!" lol

Anyway, on to our actual activities this week!

Saturday: Jump school with best barn rat

Sunday: Off

Monday: Jump lesson. Spa day.

Tuesday: Vaulting

Wednesday: flatwork, 45 min of light work - she felt tired and had a bit of a cough to start

Thursday: Off

Friday: Trainer ride if she's up for it

Looking forward: Lessons Monday and Wednesday, barn jump school on Friday, Trail riding next weekend.

Further forward: All the local events, sticking to a budget. I've signed up for a XC schooling day June 24, and a dressage show June 25. There is a an english hack show on the 10th that might be a fun change, a western games day on the 11th that I definitely want to try, and a H/J show on the 17th that there's an outside chance we'll attend (if I can suck it up and not be mad at them for their shabby treatment last month :)

In July, we're hoping to attend a poker ride in my hometown, and a XC schooling day and dressage show in the city.





Thursday, 1 June 2017

Cheating

Midge just got a light flat ride in the ring last night. I'm finding my flat rides of  late both inspiring and frustrating. Slightly frustrating because I can never completely recreate the quality of work we see in our lessons, but still inspiring because we've made so much positive progress and I have ever more tools to use as a rider.

My number one disconnect from lessons would probably be because Midge is very difficult to get working properly. In lessons, EC just has me get her in front of my leg, and move her body all around, not caring that Midge gives us her best don't wanna be fancy/giraffe impression. It literally takes 20-30 min of this (after a lengthy warm up, so say 45min from when I get on) before she starts to really use herself and is even and solid in the contact. Since she lunges quite well in side reins and my hands are steady, this is just Midge saying it's hard and I can't make her.

When I ride on my own I am less apt to be patient and tend to be more rushed for time, which is obviously not a great recipe for anything. My go to compromise is to ride her on a longer rein than EC would like. She still needs to be forward and straight, and using her hind end, but I let her nose be a little in front of the vertical, and I let her poll be lower than is desirable. Midge is much less fussy, I don't get annoyed, and we get some stuff done, although like I said, the quality is not quite on par with lessons. Short reins supposedly win gold medals, slightly longer reins keep the peace around here :)
Being on the bit is for losers

My previous compromise was to get super tired of kicking her onwards and to let her get behind my leg provided she was still moving in a forward direction. We're WAY better about that these days, although it is a discussion that needs to be had at the beginning of every ride, and again when she decides she's had enough. 

I'm well aware that I should be consistent between lessons and my own rides, and not asking as much of her on my non lesson days is a recipe for a pony apocalypse. The pony is winning this war. Sometimes I just want to keep the peace.

I ride a couple of other horses on a fairly regular basis and both are super honest about getting to work right away. I'm envious. I want one. But, Midge is who she is, and I'm the one who gave the literal inch in this discussion :)

As EC is fond of saying, the Midge project is going to teach me more than any other. 
I am a super amazing giraffe

What compromises do you make when you ride?