Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Lesson Recap

Our lesson slot started off with further scheming re: the future of Ms Ginger and Bridget. Result: I'm incapable of making any horsey decisions at the moment! Breed B or buy a prospect next spring? Sell or lease Ginger? Or keep her and breed next spring? The great thing about all of this discussion is that I don't think there's a bad decision to be made, they're all solid choices. Plus, I have a super experienced and supportive coach to discuss it all with, so while it is getting time to make a firm decision and start planning to follow that path, I'm not overly worried about it, just excited. I know she has a better handle on my abilities and the most likely paths to achieve my goals than I do, and I'm very appreciative of that. Also..Bridget. She's not going anywhere, so I have a fun pony to play around on no matter what level we end up at.

Then, we rode! We ran through some walk pirouettes to start, because Midge could not possibly bend left. We then moved them out onto a larger circle, so essentially like so:
Back legs on the inside track, pony bent around my inside leg, front legs come around on the outside track. Spiral in and out as needed.

Then, up into trot. Practicing letting her stretch/take the reins and then picking the contact back up without any pony 'tude. That's tough for Midge, but she was actually stellar (for her) about keeping a consistent, forward, pace and being steady in the bridle. Then we moved up to canter and practiced some trot/canter transitions which were a bit 'meh'...she's still popping that outside shoulder (my fault - too slow catching her with my outside aids!) slightly as I ask, so there's a moment where she's wiggly and above the bit, but then the canter itself is lovely. So, baby steps - we've got the transition in the walk to canter really nice, so I'm sure we'll get back there from the trot too. We sort of messed things up a bit when we added lengthening and collecting and all that lateral work this winter...the wheels fell off elsewhere because I feel like B is really overthinking things now and anticipating me asking for a change in pace or bend and potentially her balance when we don't need one....much pony drama results because of course she knows best and thinks boring straight lines with nothing else to do are beneath her obvious talents...best to invent some new moves like any other dedicated Welsh Cob ;)
Ginger with her besties this morning

I was sort of left a bit by myself for all the above. Not to say there wasn't attention being paid or guidance being offered, but I was kind of trusted to sort out the little things myself and just use the exercise and get to work  I'm good with that...it's been the same program for so long now I feel like I recognize what is needed and have the tools I need a lot of the time. It's confidence boosting for me because I take her silence to mean I'm using those tools effectively.

Finally, the place where we needed help - riding through some dressage tests! Our centerlines are actually quite straight, but for now I feel like I need to sit the trot and really push her forward to keep her connected....see above about wiggly giraffe pony. We cantered a couple to emphasize forward and straight in her mind, then went outside the box and turned the opposite way in counter canter to keep her guessing. Fun times.
Treats for being a good girl?

Changing the left bend as we ran through the tests was also a current weak point. It's not bad, per say, but it's not her favorite side, so anywhere there is a change of bend or transition to the left we get that above mentioned moment of trying to pop to the outside and brace above the bit. At least it's minimal, but certainly something to work on as I'm sure it's not a very appealing picture to see the pony resist, even momentarily. I need to prep better for it and generally just school on a left bend a bit more, I think. It used to be our good side, but such is life :) 

We finished with some discussion on how to ride the loops in Training 3...I've seen different things suggested, and even had different feedback from different judges on this last summer. EC suggests more of a triangle shape, ie turn and go straight for a few strides as if you're going across the diagonal, before changing the bend for a half circle over x, then straight again "across the diagonal" before changing back just after the quarterline. Think of the exercise as like riding two short diagonals. That seems like it would keep life simple for me.
This deer is just cute...same one that has been living in or around the yard for a year or two now. We don't feed him, but he seems to stay and has a nest he sleeps in near the gate.  It's ridiculous here - so many deer. He and his buddies in the area are smart enough to wait for traffic and walk in the bike lanes when they travel by road, they're kind of suburban deer now.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Barn Rat

This was the first weekend in a while where I've had nothing on the agenda except barn time., so obviously I spent pretty much the entire weekend, including Friday night, there.
B is like a dog and will not make direct eye contact when she thinks she's in trouble...so we get pictures like this, where I tell her to 'stay!' so I can take a pic...and she's like "hide and maybe she'll give me the treats?'

Summer at this particular barn is the best time of year.  The kids are off school so their schedule less resembles mine,and a lot of people tend to be away either on vacation or at competitions during summer. I really enjoy the quieter, more laid back vibe. I find it quite easy to spend more time there without feeling rushed.

In no particular order, here's all the things I got up to this weekend (often with Best Barn Rat's company):


- Jump school on Bridget. We had a couple of sticky moments due to me getting a funky distance and freezing, but overall it was forward and positive and just fun!

- Spa day! Bath time for Bridget, also a quick trim of her bridle path, lady beard, and tail to get her looking presentable for our upcoming adventures.

- Flat rides x2. She was great in both warmups until I picked up a more solid contact, then the wheels fell off because she cannot possibly go forward at trot into any true connection at the moment. Weird. I wish I could see inside that pony mind! Second best option, I have a lesson tonite and will pick EC'S.

- Hill/neighbourhood hack. She was forward and feisty, and her feet still felt ok on the summertime packed gravel and rocks. Yay for tough cob feet and cheap farrier bills.

General barn stuff:

-Cleaned and conditioned all my tack, washed saddle pads, and generally got things organized for the next two weekends away.

- Built courses and set jumps for others. I need to do this more often. Super helpful to see how things actually rode for others, and watching and absorbing tips and tricks from more experienced horses and riders was a bonus!

-Finalized show entries for later in the month and walked my dressage tests  without Bridget's help,  lol

-Crept the live scores for the weekend's event. Ginger finished on her dressage score, 8th in a huge pre-entry class and more importantly,  looked after her young rider well. So proud.
And...B did not stay clean for long

Other horses:

-Warmed up a lovely mare for Best Barn Rat to school over fences. I've said it before, but I do think sometimes I learn far more about riding from other people's horses than my own. I really ended up liking her and would like to try to schedule some more rides on her - she reminds me a lot of Ginger, but without my mental baggage riding along!

-And, not done yet! There are "baby" horses at the barn right now learning about life! I know I've mentioned it before, but I LOVE working with babies. It's been far too long. There is one cutie who has a serious case of stranger danger (luckily not to the extent Ginger used to)! I felt really rusty with the groundwork, but got her tacked up and just did some light lunging and a bit of the usual putting weight in the stirrups and standing on the mounting block over top of her, generally making noise and touching her all over. She's had one ride so far, but don't worry, I had no plans on being the second!
Approx 30min post bath. At least I tried :)

-Cute little mare got to hang out with me and be my jump setting assistant, as best barn rat schooled yet another horse. Good practice for baby, because jumps falling and horses cantering around her are still new and interesting things.

-There's also a baby TB who has the attention span of a teenage boy. He just got some grooming and handling. He's a cutie, but oh my,  I forgot what a pain in the butt 3 year old geldings can be...everything is a game! I preferred the mare to Mr Play Biteyface, lol.

Definitely the most barn rat type weekend I've had in years, and still so much fun!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Then And Now - Pony Boot Camp Update

How's the pony fitness/weight loss adventure going?

I can tell you she feels far more energetic, and that I need a smaller girth for both saddles, so I think progress is being made. But, don't just take my word for it, I think you'll be able to see the difference for yourselves:

April 2017. The food baby is real, and I kept this pic then because it made her look the least fat, lol.

Today. I think I can see a difference!
Also today. I tried to pick the worst angle for her belly,but it still looks better than the April photo! Also, dapples:)
I think she's always going to have a round pony belly, but I'm loving that nowadays she's visually looking more proportionate  (ahem, less "round" overall). She actually has legs and a neck now, who knew? Still a few more pounds to go, though!  Progress has been slow and painful, but it's definitely been worth the effort.

 I actually can't believe how little she requires to thrive...those dapples  (and that belly) brought to you by rationed hay, a dry lot, and the world's teensiest scoop of minerals every day....oh, and 6 days a week of work! She literally costs as much to feed as our cat, lol, but needs more exercise than any creature I've ever owned, so I guess it all balances out! 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Just Go With It

Our flatwork has been horribly inconsistent the past few months. The general trend is upward and good, but when it's a bad day, it's a BAD day.
Scientifically accurate chart of our progress

So obviously the smart thing to do in such a situation is to sign up for a very expensive multi day dressage show in a very competitive region, right? Good, because thats what I just did :) We're just going to do Training 2 and 3, and no, I'm not under any illusions the stars will all align on the day and we'll be competitive against the big fancy horses. But, you know what, this is a bucket list thing for me, so why let a stupid thing like that stop me?

It could be excellent experience for the future. Right now I have a fun little pony who's sound and able enough to go to a fancy show. I have a great support crew and an even better coach. So, even though the timing doesn't feel right, and this isn't the level I wanted to ride at, I'm just going to embrace it and go enjoy myself. I'm super excited to see some our future up and comers, particularly in the FEI classes. My plan is to watch and learn as much as I can when I'm not riding or caring for the pony.

Watch out world, here we come :)

Bridget: "Uh oh, here she goes with those crazy plans again"

"I'd best build up my reserves, when she gets excited about something it usually means work for me...poor, starving, downtrodden pony that I am!"

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Back In The Tack

I've now ridden exactly twice in the last 2 weeks. However, the vacation is over and starting today I'm back to my normal 6 day a week ride schedule for the rest of my life until Xmas break.
EC thinks my stirrups on my jump saddle are still too long, looking at my limited media it does look that way...I'm not sure if it's our combined conformation or the tack, but I end up in a a bit of a chair seat on Bridget and so it feels better to leave the leathers longer. However,  that's not doing me any favors over fences so I'd best suck it up, shorten those stirrups,  and take the advice I pay for :)

I knew the break was needed, because I missed Bridget, and missed riding but I didn't miss riding BRIDGET.  Maybe that's a sign of bigger changes to come, maybe not. I don't have the energy or desire to think too hard on that right now, I like the pony and we'll muddle our way through the not so great rides and not so great months as we always do :)
Remember that time I tried to get media? Spoiler alert, I didn't repeat the attempt tonight. Here's a bad screenshot from that one time. Also, T, shorten your leathers already so you actually put weight in your heel!!

Tonight's lesson was a jump one. My saddle felt slippery and weird and the stirrups ever so short to start. Funny how little time off it takes before you start feeling those sorts of things.  Due to recent pony apocalypse events, I warmed up as if it was a dressage ride - namely she had to be round and soft in the contact, and super straight and forward. That's something I should probably do all the time anyway, but especially on jump nights, I've been known to let her go around with her nose poked out and shoulders drifting so long as she is honest about being forward. "Hey! Jumping is fun, like a little time out from real work even!". Obviously, that approach, although well intentioned, is not wise. Give a pony an inch...and being offended by anything slower and rounder becomes an option all the time. So flatwork now gets to be flatwork, regardless of what events are to follow.
But I did at least draw you our Course du jour, fences range 2'3 -2'9" ish (the oxers,  of course. Thanks for that, EC;)!

And, we actually had a super lesson. I've finally got a feel for the canter I need, she's finally got the gears to provide it. She's also feeling super confident, because Best Barn Rat has adopted the Bridget cause. She's pretty much the only person ever who claims to have fun jumping Bridget. Lucky for me! It's so easy to be envious of her talent,  but the girl works very hard and I'm sure will achieve her dreams based on that work ethic rather than the innate talent, leaving me with no excuses not to keep trying to be better too! Anyway, Best Barn Rat has been schooling B over all the things while Im away and I'm incredibly thankful for that. I highly recommend outside help if you're like me and don't always have the experience or timing to be training your pony over bigger fences. Highly confidence boosting for us both to have someone more experienced step in now and then, so B gains confidence and knows she's capable, and I get confidence from B. I have a much easier time riding her well when she's confident and taking me to the fences, so much easier to do things right when the pace is consistent and I'm supporting rather than actively driving her to the fences.  I still managed to biff the distance in the two stride multiple times, failing to keep quite enough pace coming out of the first, but I never got panicky about it and pony bailed us out like NBD. Yay for confidence jumping all the things!

More dressagin', coming up soon...and probably more fuzzy screenshots,  too!

Next events on the calendar: Friday: Barn jump school day. Monday: Dressage lesson. Next weekend: XC Clinic in Vancouver (Langley).

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Trying Too Hard

My first ride in a week was a dressage lesson last night, and confirmed that I think we need to take a time out to relax and not try so hard more often!

I have no media because I finally got a new phone and need to take pictures! Throwback Thursday to almost 3 years ago and my trial ride on Midge...also one of her first rides, I think.
Our lesson started out pretty rough and then got better and better. We found our trot again, which had been lost temporarily due to all the canter work and transitions we've been drilling. You'd think it would be impossible to 'lose' the trot on a Welsh Cob, but Midge has been anticipating the canter so much that her trot was getting too up and down and bouncy, losing that nice relaxed, lower and more forward working trot. On the plus side, the canter is getting really, really nice. I think EC thought all along that we could build a good canter in her, but I have to admit to having my doubts! I'm slightly in disbelief that her canter is now my favorite gait to ride on her.

As far as her back, she felt wonderful! The time off did us both good, and there seem to be no negative effects fitness wise. No regrets.

Rather than recap in detail, here's some input that resonated with me or that I am consistently using of late:

-Straight, straight, straight. Even if it's exaggerated and she's slightly counterbent to the outside. Straightness is needed for forward, and she's not allowed to 'hide' by throwing her shoulders out or hindquarters in even slightly.

-Try using 'big' spurs only for dressage lessons and shows. Like with her dressage tack, see if we can build an association that those spurs mean she needs to go to work and we expect her to work in a certain way (dressagin'!) Can continue to go without spurs on the trail as long as she's honest about marching along, and stick with roller spurs for her jumping days. (Side note: there's a real worry she'll start to ignore even the big spurs if we use them frequently, hence trying to use them only once or twice a week and compromising a little on the hack and jump days by not asking quite so much of her dressage wise, being consistent in making the difference in how we expect her to go very clear - I think it's worth a try!)

Midge says she approves of backyard pony life last week. (not my place, this was the farm up north we did our XC clinic at)
- Me "Maybe one day I'll learn how to ride my horse"
  EC "It's hard when your horse is changing and needs a different ride every time."

- So many walk pirouettes to help with the bend and unlock the pony. Ditto zig zag leg yields.

- EC "Don't settle anymore for a second or two of 100%. She's on to that game. Insist she gives 110% for as long as you ask, then give a little"

- She wiggles around...don't get sucked into the game of following her and trying to keep a consistent contact. Insist she stay forward and straight. Make her come into wherever I put my hands. Hold my hands steady and insist. Bring it back to the walk if necessary. (Simple concept, so much harder than it sounds - particularly in transitions where lately I start to put my leg on and she ducks out right and inverts for a split second, setting us up to be behind the leg in the transition)

-"THAT's your trot!" Besides the canter work, this was the high point of the ride - pony was even and pushing, taking me forward into a really nice working trot with a bit more suspension than normal. Didn't even know she had a trot like that in there! Although, bit of a sad face here because what takes a ton of work on Midge is super easy to find on the other horses I ride. Forward as the key to all things can't be emphasized enough...it's next to impossible to get anything when the default is to wiggle and suck back and generally want to avoid the contact above all. Oh well, the tough horses make you better, right?

- Me (contemplating attending upcoming show): "I'm worried we'd be seriously outclassed and look silly"
EC: "Well, you will be outclassed. There will be people at FEI levels there trying to get good scores and be considered for the Pan Am games team. (pause) ...but they won't be riding Training level with you!"

Ha ha, excellent point. Off I go to evaluate adding another show to the budget.

Today's Pony Wheel of Fortune ride status = equal parts "Dressage Star" and "Smarter Than U"

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

We're Back (Sorta)

I haven't ridden in a week! I can't even remember the last time that happened. I have a lesson scheduled for tomorrow and I suspect I might be feeling the pain after.

Swimming spot, also suited to swimming with your horse. One thing I really love about this area/province - the vast majority of land outside the cities is owned by the crown and publicly accessible, and almost all the ocean and lake shore is public - private beachfront, roads , or trails is not really a thing.
I hadn't even seen Bridget or been near a horse in a week and B let me know that I was missed by being super affectionate this morning. Cute pony. I have big plans of keeping her as a pet in my backyard when she retires. (The yard is large and has a barn and paddock, don't worry, much as I'm sure she'd love to be a house pet, we've got pony appropriate accommodations waiting for her!)

Went a little crazy with the potted herbs and veggies this year
We both had a week off because I was feeling burnt out and Bridget was feeling a bit back sore. Originally I was told that it was due to the borrowed saddle being slightly too long for her, but the bit of sensitivity behind the saddle wasn't going away with the new one, so I felt a bit of time off couldn't hurt. (For the record, it's very, very minor and consistent with the saddle fitter's opinion or I would have had a vet take a look before now!) Fingers crossed the time out has helped and we're both feeling loose and relaxed again! I know I loved my time off - I spent most of my days either gardening or floating around a lake in an inflatable chair. FYI - that balance and strength you build up riding is pretty handy for remaining dry while navigating large bodies of water on a pool floatie - untapped random talent right here :)
Beach, also one you can ride on when the tide is out

I've got a few options coming up this month competition wise, but the only thing I've committed to for sure is a XC school mid month at the place we'll be competing at in August. I missed the closing date for the next horse trials on our calendar (seriously, the entry window was like 5 days over the long weekend, why?), but my gut reaction was relief when I figured it out, time and horse money being in short supply right now. So maybe things are working out as they need to and we'll stay on track for an August event :). We remain on our twice weekly lesson schedule, which I still feel is better value for my money than entry fees, if that choice has to be made. There is a multi day dressage show at the end of the month I'd love to attend, but I need to have a chat with EC first. I'm the last person who feels strongly about winning anything, but I do get pretty sad if I feel like I wasted my money....like at our last dressage show! Also, I need a proper coat if I'm going to go to a rated show, and the coast and options are slightly overwhelming. First world problems!
Super low tide

Horses also give you the balance to safely navigate sketchy homemade 'docks' on this lake
Coming up next, since I loved my time out so much, I'm heading back for another long weekend of non competitive lake floating. My favorite swimming lake is the same one I used to take Bridget to, and it seems weird to go to the lake without her (if you're new here, I currently work on the southern coast during the week and both horses are living there with my coach - awesome opportunities there!) I don't know what the future will bring, but I'm thinking more and more it's time to move back home full time....the small town, more relaxed lifestyle is calling my name again!