Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Heartland show wrap up

After a considerable amount of hemming and hawing (was Stella going to have an abscess, could I make some progress on my staggering fear of jumping this horse?) I entered the Heartland show at our local horse park. Most of my friends were going and I didn't want to avoid it.

Insert panic.

Stella and I were still quite inconsistent over fences but I felt like I had a bit of a handle on it.  When I feel like I'm getting a bit nervous, ACCELERATE!!

Schooling the night before was a mad house.  90 horses of varying stage of off the track, and 90 riders in varying stages of THIS IS OUR FIRST SHOW! made it insane.  I had to work hard remembering how to ride at a show and provide a stable support for Stella who had a lot to look at.

I had initially planned on schooling through all the rings, but at least one was occupied by a trainer giving lessons so I settled with schooling around the outsides of two, inside one, then changing venues and trying to perform a test in a new arena cold.

Dressage warm up Saturday was also bonkers.  The arena was huge, but the kids on ponies were all the places at once.  I worked on encouraging Stella to accept contact and maybe put her head down just a little itty bit?  I felt overall that she relaxed and focused quite a bit sooner than the night before but I knew I was going to lose most of it when we moved to the new ring. 

I felt our test was pretty decent for where we are in our training.  She was obedient to most of my aids, crooked where she normally was, but thankfully prompt in her transitions even when she had a lot to look at.  She spent most of the time bent to the outside so she could SEE ALL THE THINGS but in the end we got  a 40.9 which I felt was about right.

Jumping warm up was all about controlling my nerves.  She stopped at the first warm up fence.  Which I knew she was going to.  Yet failed to ride aggressively enough to prevent.  Doh.  Thankfully, I got her over it from a standstill to let her know that she knew her job and it was unacceptable to stop when it was a teeny tiny fence and her rider was being a moron.

After that it got easy.  She didn't care about the fences, she cantered away, and I even cantered the other two cold.  ME!  HA!

I went into the ring knowing that I was going to have a bit of a time getting her to focus on me and what was in front of her.  There was lots of stuff to look at.  I had a plan in place to school past a few things, change direction, walk and trot a couple times.  Get her sharp and focused.

She had a dramatic meltdown in front of fence one.  Was it the poop under the fence?  The fact that we had been trotting around and not jumped yet?  Me giving up my plan ahead of time?  The person on the ground?

Does it really matter.

I gathered myself, got to whacking, and whacked her butt right over one.  WOOO!

The rest of the fences were nothing.  She didn't look, she didn't question, she didn't stop.  I tried very hard to remember my trainer's voice in my head ACCELERATE!  GO FASTER!  When she landed in a canter I kept my leg on and for the love of God we actually cantered down to most of the fences.  It felt easy.  It felt fun.  It felt like I knew what I was doing!

Then I cantered right past fence 10.  Oooops.  Can't be 100% on it at once I guess.

In the end I was very happy.  When I got past our (My?) first fence jitters everything else felt easy.  I had most of a plan and carried it out.  Stella didn't know we had to circle back to 10.  It gave me a confidence boost for our next show and further lessons.  Unfortunately due to some scheduling mountains it will be three weeks before we have another jumping lesson, and for once this spring I can hardly wait!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Faster! To fences

It's no secret that I've had a bumpy road teaching Stella to jump.  One second she is bold, brave, and jumping 2' 6", the next she is rearing in front of a ground pole.  Currently I'm still on the fence if we are a good match over fences, she is a brave horse that occasionally needs a confidence boost from her rider, and she's not a take charge packer type.  I'm an inconsistent rider over fences, and I tend to drop a horse a few strides out when I'm nervous about fence height and let the horse figure it out.  When I lose confidence and she stops because she isn't going without motivation I lose more confidence and we end up rearing in front of cross rails.

My previous two horses worked well with this program.  One didn't care what I was doing as long as she was pointed at a fence, the other cared enough about me to figure it out on her own.  While they both had their flaws they allowed me to progress as a rider and even as a trainer while still having my own flaws.

Last week we had a jumping lesson that I hope is the tip of the iceberg.  It was a lot about controlling my own confidence and mainting a jump or die attitude even if I felt like death was imminent.  Stella can be a horse that quickly gets behind the leg so we spent a lot of time GALLOPING down to fences while my poor ever suffering trainer screamed GO FASTER!!  While it might look initially like the beginning of one of those "Should I leave my trainer?" threads on COTH she was able to break it down for me.

I'm really not going that fast.  My GO FASTER is probably more of a reasonable hand gallop.  I can see my distances, make my turns, and the reminder to ACCELERATE toward the fence helps me keep my leg on and keep Stella motivated.  When I did things went remarkably well.  I boldly galloped down to fences we had not jumped since last summer before THE INCIDENT.

Here's a nifty helmet cam video of the end result of  our GO FASTER! lesson.  I'm still adjusting to the helmet cam and which angle it should be for best viewing.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Eventing Bingo

Emma, over at Fraidy Cat Eventing  has a great contest going called Eventing Bingo, where you get an assigned Bingo card and have to write a believable story around the card spots to get BINGO!

Here's my entry!

Annie wasn't always the most perfect horse out there.  In fact, we had some rough patches in our show career together as Annie learned how to be a team player, and how to trust my judgement and respect my wishes.

I had a hard time getting Annie to pick her her canter when I restarted her, she had been shanked in the mouth in order to get a "lope" so many times she either wouldn't pick the canter up at all, or would throw her head constantly.  I had her picking her left lead pretty good, but I foolishly entered her first CT ever and didn't realize it was a WTC canter test until three weeks out.  We still didn't have a right lead.

Morning of the test it was snowing.  I felt like I was doomed.  However, Annie was a very good girl and promptly picked up her right lead when asked.  Judge called it EXUBERANT, and we got a four on the movement when she quickly swapped to the wrong lead.

Our dressage woes gradually went away but cropped back up when Annie realized I was less likely to whack her for being lazy in the dressage ring.  Which lead to this lovely test when I brought the hammer down for the lack of obedience to my leg.  She jigged through the entire free walk so we got a big fat "free walk not shown" but the next test was amazing!!

Luckily she was never THAT HORSE in the warm up as she was always pretty good on the flat.  Nothing compares to Nikki running backwards out of the dressage warm up because she couldn't deal with the crowd.  When in doubt, back out.  Nikki eventually mostly became comfortable with crowded dressage warm ups, although oddly she never had the same fears in jumping warm up, even crazy ones.  Go figure.

Nikki also never had a problem going forward on the XC course so I was quite surprised during Annie's first XC run when we racked up 2 minutes of penalties.  Due to a golf cart.  Lurking in the woods.  Suspiciously.  No amount of beating got her to move while she remained on high alert.  Eventually the golf cart inhabitants got tired of waiting and moved on and so did we.

Would you believe that we actually got a ribbon?  Apparently we didn't have any stops at the fences on stadium and XC and our dressage by that point was decent enough!

I always like to look back at past shows and years and it makes me all fuzzy and warm to see the improvements.  From horses who were in dead last after dressage to horses that won on their dressage score.  Horses that spooked and snorted over a pile of poles on the ground at their first show over fences to horses that bravely jumped their first roll top.

Eventing, never the same ride twice!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Trailer organization

I tend to get really anxious if things aren't running on time or according to plan so I combat my anxiety by organizing.  Everything has a place so I can quickly access things I need.  Works in life and in trailer organization.  Unless it's leaving a show, in which case I chuck everything in as fast as possible and head home for a shower and nap.  Nobody's perfect.

I've been working on organizing and increasing the storage capacity of my little dressing room while keeping things easy to reach and off the floor.

I really like the things offered at the Organized Barn but it's out of my price change (and I'm a do it yourselfer)  so for this blog post, I'm going to show you how I did my own organized wall.

I started with these  Grid Storage Cubes.  You can get them pretty much anywhere that offers home improvement items.  I got mine at Target.

I never actually got them to organize stuff, but to house my bunny.  House rabbit people use these grids to construct all sorts of sturdy and amazing cages that far exceed the availability in your local pet store.

Here's my bunny in his cage as well as my cat,  Simon.

Since we are doing cat pictures all of a sudden, here's another view of the cage and my other cat, Zoe.

I pieced together the bunny cage and my grid using regular zipties.

If you don't want to go with the storage cubes a slightly more expensive way are Grid Wall Panels.  It's what you use at a store to hang merchandise.  You can get them by googling and pick them up from any number of stores or right off of Amazon.

While you're at it, pick up some grid wall baskets (the kind with regular hooks and not peg hooks).  You can also use the kitchen organization baskets with the little hooks for hanging on the inside of your kitchen cabinet doors.

I got a couple that I actually zip-tied on because they didn't come with hooks.

Now for the attaching part.  The downsides of a steel trailer are weight and rust.  The upside is that anything magnetic sticks!  I have multiple magnets, they hold up my organizer on the door, a tack hook rack, and even my broom.  I use these 65lb hooks from Master Magnetics.  Careful when attaching these, they are VERY hard to remove and do a great job at holding heavy things.  If you have an aluminum trailer it's a little harder because you need to get your grid welded on.

Here's the finished project.  I don't have the right stuff in the right baskets, but you get the idea.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Even more Obstacles!!

Well, my plan to take a jumping lesson every week in February until trainer left town for Pine Top ended abruptly after one lesson when Stella came up with bruised heels, most likely from running like a ninny on the frozen ground.

I ended up biting the bullet and putting hind shoes on her.  As much as I'd rather keep her barefoot totally, or bare behind, or bare behind until competition season, I just can't keep losing weeks at a time from abscesses or bruises.  If we had (God forbid) more snow cover, or dryer weather I think she'd be fine.  It was still almost a week in shoes before she came sound enough to work, which left us with not enough riding for a jumping lesson, but enough riding for another obstacle fun day.

Fun for WHO???????  Says Stella who was suspicious when I went out to catch her in the field the other day.

A friend of mine who apparently has nothing better to do than think up ways to bother her long suffering steed (according to the steed) brought a ton of her personal course out to a local pony club barn for a bit of a despooking/when is winter going to end clinic.  It just so happened to be an awesome day and I rode outside in my T shirt with temps in the 60s!!

Most of these pics are of other people, but rest assured Stella was a star!  She was a great demo horse, doing almost all the obstacles without blinking, lead other horses through several, and represented the arabians very well.

Here's the curtain.  She did this one great, and she should because it belonged to me!  I was a little unsure how this would go as it was blowing around in the wind but that seemed to make it easier since the streamers were up in the air.

You can also see the bridge, which Stella had no problems with.

This was a pole bending exercise, you had to weave behind all the poles which all had helium balloons waving off them.  Didn't bother Stella.

This was the only obstacle Stella didn't do.  We have really spent no time on platforms and she just doesn't get them.  Several of the pony club kids discovered that they had hidden circus ponies as they climbed right up!!

Evidence that Stella was there!  Here she is standing next to the tarp obstacle, which she walked over like it wasn't there.

This is a plastic bottle box.  Your horse steps inside and all the bottles go CRUNCH!!!!! under their feet.  Stella had no problem with this one.

I'm adding this picture of a horse NOPEing hardcore at the curtain because he belongs to a fellow blogger!!!  Can anyone guess who the horse belongs to?  He's handled here by his part owner, who handled the entire situation with a sense of humor.  A good thing to have when you take a baby saddlebred with saddlebred style training into an arena full of scary stuff.  He might need some counseling to get over his obstacle course PTSD but he handled it great for his first time.

 It was great to meet the horse in person, and maybe some day I will meet the blog owner herself!

Stella noped a bit over this obstacle.  She's not real big on pushing through things because she thinks they are solid.  This guy here shared her feelings, but both got over it and went through this obstacle both in hand and under saddle.

Overall it was a pretty awesome day!  The only thing Stella had an issue with was the crowd, when everyone entered she notched up a bit and started circling me and calling out but as the day wore on she quieted down and became bored with the entire thing.  Considering where Stella started the first time we did obstacles, and where she was this day, I'm super happy!

Monday, January 23, 2017

A lesson at the walk

It seems to be a winter tradition that I head west to Ed Chambers at Turning Point Equine Center.  Maybe it's because Ed has a 100 X 200 square foot heated arena.  Maybe it's because my horse is always feral in winter.  Or I can't get in with my other instructors.

In this case it was in the mid 60s in January but Stella was still pretty feral so I went out for a horsemanship lesson.  Ed's group lessons are mostly at the walk, with multiple long rein stretch breaks and a few trot laps to get everyone forward.  Don't assume because it's all walk work you aren't going to end up sore and sweaty.

Ed teaches obedience and control over the horse.  Does your horse flex (no not just put its head down or bear down on the bit)?  Can you move your horse 1/2 step right then 1/2 step left?  Can you do turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches?  Half pass, leg yield, and side pass?  While riding through obstacles?

Stella balked at this obstacle, even though she's pretty good with the tarp at home.  The combination of a lack of general obedience and a new place had her saying NOPE!

Ed lead her through the obstacle first, she wasn't scared of it and lead easily.

Then I was able to ride her through it alone.  No big deal!

Here Ed is showing me about flexions.  He wants the horse to yield its head down to slight pressure on the reins and then give.  Stella tried lots of evasions.  Throwing her head up, bearing her head down, going behind the pressure.  When she released Ed released.  He says that we always have the reward the horse with that release.  He says I can't get good work out of her if she isn't obedient enough to yield, and I can't get straight work out of her either.

He felt that Stella was a smart horse who was working way to hard to get out of work and not trying to be a listening horse even if she wasn't sure what I wanted her to do.  He wanted her to yield in her jaw, and to move obediently and swiftly off my leg.

We may have gotten chased down the long side by Ed with my whip when Stella felt that running backwards was an appropriate response to being asked to sidepass.  Fairly horrifying as I felt the end was near, but it also gave me a lot to think about.  Even though Ed's first response to her being disobedient was extreme she didn't do anything crazy stupid and learned swiftly that moving off of slight leg pressure was the better decision.

Here's an exercise we did on a circle.  Ed wanted us to take the shape of the circle with the correct bend and then to "knock" the horse a stride sideways and increase the size of the circle by a few feet while keeping the same bend.

Frankly I've been pretty timid with her this winter.  With a mystery lameness related to poor saddle fit and needing chiropractic work she'd gotten rather expressive with her displeasure at being ridden and I at first was afraid to push her through what I knew was discomfort, then was later afraid period when she was feeling better but had learned a little rearing could get her out of work.  Combined with the weather and my inconsistent riding schedule and I had grown a monster.

Ed's patient slow work requiring obedience from Stella and lightness from myself was a great wake up and just what we needed in the middle of winter.  I'd like to fit in slightly more regular lessons with him, such as when the other trainers are unavailable.  This "western" work is great for a responsive horse.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Safety features

Safety first, safety last, safety always!  

Also known as Proper Preparedness Prevents Piss Poor Procedure.

Have you ever left your trailer hitched up to your truck and then when you went to go somewhere the truck was dead?  Maybe because you left your trailer lights on?  Who hasn't!  

This little gadget is great for those emergencies.  It's a tiny pocket sized jump starter by Red Fuel.  It's small enough to fit in your glove box and powerful enough to jump a 3/4 ton truck.  It also has a flashlight and can charge your cell phones and tablets.  Although I usually unhook my brakes and lights as soon as I get to my campsite knowing me I'm bound to forget and I don't want to be two hours from home hoping someone has a set of jumper cables.  

I bought this reflective Hi Viz riding sheet made by Horze via Riding Warehouse during their %25 plus free shipping sale.  YEAH SALES!!!!  I got it mostly for trail riding, although I don't trail ride anywhere that allows hunting I have heard of poachers in those areas, and I assume that anyone poaching isn't making sure they are shooting a deer instead of my horse.

Since I also ride where there are a lot of mountain bikers I hope this makes me more visible for someone going a high rate of speed.

This quarter sheet is bright yellow, reflective, and mesh which is great for riding in the summer.  Although I bought it shortly before it was discontinued there are many other safe options out there.

What kinds of safety gear do you wear while riding?