Saturday, October 31, 2015

Video Lesson #9

My Initial Thoughts:

We started off to the left fairly nicely.  When we switched to the right, he got a little sassy, but I think I handled it fairly well.  In these moments I really need get my butt tucked under me.

Our first canter to the right is a little wild (4:00).  I do like how quickly he came back to me after we went back to the trot.  The second canter (5:00) is better, even if we had some lead issues.  I feel like in the third (6:00), I had a bit more control.

When I picked him back up to the left he was anticipating (7:50).  He launched into the canter the first time (8:14).  The kissing you hear at 8:30ish is NOT me for the record.  I need to post slower (9:20) and get my ass under me.  When we try the left again it is very bolty.

Is this how a canter depart is supposed to look??  It is uphill...

Overall, I liked how willing he was to let me get the trot back, even when the canter was wild.  We did end on a relaxed note with some "stretching" I use the term loosely, but for Gatsby it was stretching.

D's Thoughts:

OK so this week's big theme is your legs. They are pushed way out in front of you most of the time which isn't giving you any base for your seat to tuck under you. This needs to happen in your two point. That's also why he can run out to the outside on you all the time because you have no outside leg guarding that body. This was even more evident in the canter when he picked up the wrong lead. Your reins also need to be shorter in your two point. 

We always say lazy horses your leg needs to be come off and hot horses they need to always be on. Yours are always or mostly off

2:57 You needed an outside half halt sooner you got to it later.
3:21 Really nice posting rhythm. 
3:24 His neck is nice here. It could be longer but for the arc it has he is working correctly through it.

Now you have to make sure nose doesn't tuck with it. Think push just his nose out. Picture like if you were lifting his nose after giving him paste. This feeling is different than when you want to lengthen his whole neck which requires you to extend your arms.

This is where I need to get his nose out a bit more to open everything up.

Engage those outside aids more now. You are missing those a lot which as of this ride is what he needed. I know we've been working on him not falling in but his balance was nice today and therefore he needed those outside aids to shrink the outside of his body. 

Trust him in the canter a bit more and go back to basics a bit and use the outside leg in order to ask for the canter this is more for you to remember that you have that aid than for him.

Still be proactive on that left bend being exaggerated when you turn left and he stays there when on the left. He was a little too straight on the left usually just when you were in the cantering mode. If you were just trotting you had a better hold on it.

You were also shrinking your leg up a lot. Your knee looked high and your heels were even with his belly. Your legs are too long to be even with his belly. Only when you need a big aid if he is leaving can your heel be up that high.

I'm seeing him being confident with the canter and him getting worried after because you are. I think you can trust him a bit more and just follow.

You've gotten him much more organized we get to go back to picking on you!

My Rebuttal/Progress:

I agree completely about the legs. I realized today I am only using my thigh and no lower leg. When I do put my lower leg on he gets very frazzled so I need to work on altering that reaction.  Also, I need to up the yoga and get my hip flexors stretched so I can keep my legs under me.  And by up the yoga, I mean get my A** in gear, because I have been slacking.

Legs are about a foot in front of my hip, but Stinker is actually tracking up.

I was not sure I understood the paste part when D was talking about where his nose was. Basically she wants me to wiggle my fingers to *hopefully* get him to start reaching for the bit.  This will help open up his neck at the throat latch and stretching to the contact.

I am definitely getting a bit discombobulated in the canter. Everything starts to feel more like a bolt than an actual canter and I start to worry and forget to ride.  I realized when I rode today, that I also need to add in flexing him in the canter.  He gets very locked in the neck, and I think when I can start unlocking that, it will help me feel more in control.

Basically we are in the same situation I started with at the trot. He is a little tense and quick, so I start getting tense and then we fall apart. He assumes he is doing something wrong and gets a little frantic. I assume I'm doing something wrong and stop riding because I'm thinking.

Still terrible position on my part, but we were in a nice rhythm.

To Do List:

Legs Under ME!
Leg yields

As a side note, I finally got my act together and used my video system that tracks me without having a technology fail.  YAY!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Video Lesson #8

We played with poles again.  I did a slightly better job with my pole circle still not great.  I need to take notes from setting up the circle jump grid.  I only had a short line of poles that was straight.  I was short on time, and leading Stinker every where when I was setting up poles.  He didn't think much of that, especially when I was trying to drag two.

My Initial Thoughts:

We had some scooting left problems starting at about 2:40.  From 3:00-4:15 we were scooting left (did I mention we had some scooting problems?).  I tried sending him back right and he blew through all of my aids.  I took his head away to the left first, then to the right and there was no change.  We finally stopped scooting when he just about put us in the fence.  That was the only thing that broke the cycle.  When I tried to make him step back to the right (he had no more room to go left), he started vibrating.

At that point, I decided since I didn't know what was causing the problem I didn't want to accidentally do something that put us into the fence.  So, I let him circle to the left and then brought him back around to the camera.  The same thing happened at 4:30.  He got very up and down so I tried to send him forward and it resulted in running out through the left again.  You can tell in the video that he is ready to launch.  At 5:03 we leave the camera frame yet again.

When I brought him back around, you can see he is very unhappy about circling right.  I managed to use the poles and keep us on camera.  Mostly I was just trying to get some sort of a circle and stick with him.  Around 6:00 I seem to get his brain back.  I still can't figure out what happened.  He lost his marbles and I don't know what triggered it or what to do to fix it.

I do think that I did a decent job of keeping his head lower.  Also, I think we had some nice moments in there, aside from the fact that I suck at setting circles and I haven't quite figured out the distance to set the poles.  The last time through the poles, I managed to half halt him effectively, so he didn't just start launching himself over the poles.

D's Thoughts:

I don't have a ton of comments, which is a good thing.  I like what I am seeing in the trot and I feel like you two handled the poles much better this week.  I am really liking how you are dealing with the tough moments.  Not that it always goes your direction, but I see you staying with it and I see him stopping the chaos.  Also, I don't hear you verbally calming yourself.  I think it is time to start tackling that canter.

On the note of the dragging you away the first time, it is really hard to say even seeing it.  Probably would have been something I would have needed to feel.  But if he hasn't repeated the behavior then I would say it was a baby horse day and for get it.

I feel like some of the prancing/leaping reaction that goes on around 4:55 looks like he is trying to avoid life.  May it may have been a hey let's take a run day?  Then maybe work on the trot, then gallop again.  The important thing is he would leap and you were not over correcting, then he would stop.  The dialog going on between you two was something you were both still hearing through the chaos.

My Progress:

I think D hit the nail on the head about it being a baby day and him just needing to get out and run.  I thought about that, but I wasn't feeling very secure and really wanted to get the video.  In the future I won't pass on the letting him take a lap around the pasture.  Since then I have ridden him in S's jump saddle (she has it on demo and its the same one I ordered).  He was so good.  It was during the clinic so there was a lot going on, but he stayed with me and actually walked.  I really need to do something about the saddle fit.  I think that is one of our major problems right now, but I am going to try him in the jump saddle a couple more times and see if the relaxed Stinker is still there or if it was a fluke.

Pony be like "you want me to do what???"

To Do List:

Leg Yields

He can stand and drop his head AND stretch his neck!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sinead Halpin Day 2

Day two of the clinic was cross country day!!!  It was a super fun day and I have a very long introduction video (very crappy sound; it was super windy) with Sinead Halpin explaining pretty much everything.  To start things off, she had us find our natural balance.  To do this we stood up in our stirrups (no dropping your heels), leaned forward to rest our knuckles on the horses neck.  This put our crotch above the pommel.  Once we had our balance here, we were instructed to remove our feet from the stirrups.  Say what?? I felt like I was in yoga class doing the weird inversions.  Once we were "comfortable" without our stirrups we put our hands out to the side.  This was to test if we were truly balanced.  Pongo only sort of tried to wander off when I was wiggling around.

This was to be our position.  It seemed difficult at first, but it was actually much easier to maintain than true two-point.  As a side note I have played too much basketball.  When a coach puts you in something like this, you don't stop until they say stop.  So I was holding myself while Sinead was talking away, my legs started shaking and I looked around.  Everyone else was back in their saddles... Do I get bonus points?

So there are three basic positions, there is cruising, prep, and sitting.  In cruising position, you are in your balanced position.  The goal of this position is to be as still as possible so the horse can just gallop without you influencing them.  Any time your body moves it affects the horse.  When there is something coming, you shift your upper body slightly (the amount depends on how sensitive your horse is) to the rear.  This is something you want to practice until your horse is dialed in and knows that the shift means there is something coming.  Ideally, you can use this to bring your horse all the way back to a walk.  The final position is sitting seat.  This is good for ditches, banks, young horses, and such.  When you are in your prep position, you shift your hips back until they are at the back of your saddle.  This leaves your feet out in front of you which will help if your horse stops.  Make sure your butt doesn't actually drop into the saddle, because this becomes a driving aid.

In this video I canter in the cruise position, then shift back to the prep position, and finally drop down into a walk.  This next video, is all based on the sitting seat position aka ugly sitting trot.  I struggled with this (please ignore my concentrating is terrible) because my dressage queen self wants to sit pretty not sit ugly.

Finally, we add jumps into this.  It is all baby stuff still to get a feel for things, but I was very pleased with how well Pongo was responding.  I was smart and in warm up he got a pop with the whip to get him up in front of my leg which improves everything.

After this, we moved on to the ditch which I already blogged about, so I will gloss over it.  The summery is Pongo doesn't like ditches and over jumps.  We were doing well, then I gave him a bad set up, so we had a few refusals.  Then we got over it and to the cross rail.  Yay ending on a success!

Then we went to play in the water complex.  This was fun and relaxing after the ditch.  We did have one little hitch with the first drop, but that was mostly because I forgot my leg and was too far forward.  You can see it coming from a mile away.

I have some other interesting tidbits from the other groups.  In one of the groups there was a beautiful grey mare.  She was a five year old (I think) OTTB with tons of potential.  Since she was green to a lot of the cross country I was happy to pay close attention to all the tips thrown their way.  One thing that I thought was very useful was when they were approaching a fence/ditch/bank that the horse might refuse because they hadn't seen it before, Sinead had the rider remove leg (and all forward aids).  The reasoning behind this was if the rider is not saying forward and the horse chooses to stop, then the horse did nothing wrong.  As long as the horse was still thinking about going forward it was fine to stop.  I missed this at a couple of regular fences, but I saw it in action at the ditch.

First Sinead had another girl jump her horse over the ditch a couple times so the young horse could see.  Sinead always used a slow approach to new objects.  She says speed doesn't solve problems and it only creates them more in the future.  So everything was done at the trot.  The first 5ish times the mare was still thinking forward, so the rider and Sinead were ok with her stopping.  After the first couple, Sinead had the other girl act as a lead in for the mare.  When the mare stopped thinking forward, the rider got after her and it took a couple more tries to finally get her over the ditch.  Like Pongo she was over jumping, but they kept taking her back and forth over the ditch until she was calmer.  Sinead didn't let the rider make a big deal out the mare jumping the ditch, because it is something that is expected and not something that is huge.  The rider was allowed to tell her good job, but nothing excessive.

My elbows are always going rogue.

Overall, I learned a ton in this clinic and I would love to ride with Sinead again.  I am so proud of Pongo and the fact that he was such a good boy.  In fact, Sinead used the words "drunken sailor" this weekend and it wasn't in reference to him!!!  Yay! Drunken sailor no more.  My only regret for the weekend is I didn't think to have her sign anything.  I totally should have had her sign the bottle of wine we drank (well it was only half the bottle, but it is all gone now).

Such a cutie pie!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sinead Halpin Day 1

First and foremost, if you have a chance to ride with Sinead take it.  She is an excellent teacher and I am actually regretting not signing Stinker up for a flat lesson.  Oh well, you live and you learn.  I was super nervous going into the day (in case you couldn't tell from my previous freak out post), and I stood up at the barn for about ten minutes doing yoga breath.  I was concerned that my nerves would make Pongo nervous and things would go poorly.  Luckily he either ignored them or I actually had them under control.

My group (Pre-Beginner Novice) was the first one of the day, so we did not have the advantage of seeing anyone ride the exercises.  I was also the first lucky victim.  My group was a very good group to be in and some how I was the one with the most confidence.  One lady had a bad fall a while back and has been trying to get her confidence back.  Another rides a Missouri Fox Trotter (super adorable, but they struggle with the trot when there are nerves involved).  The final one is a college student who only rides when she is in town, so both her and her horse were out of practice.  I figured I would take one from the team.

We started off with a pretty basic exercise that you can make as complicated as desired.  This is an exercise Sinead uses at the beginning and end of the majority of her rides.  There were three poles on the ground that were roughly 48 feet apart or 4 strides.  The way they were set in our field there was a slight incline and I am not sure if it was intentional or not.  The intention of this was to test our adjustability and ride ability.  This went pretty well for Pongo and I minus the fact that I counted the pole when I was counting strides.  Darn nerves.  We ended up not doing too much with this, but we did have to make a trot transition.

Canter poles where I can't count...

Some of the other groups did exercises that I am super excited to try.  Some people rode the line 4-5 simple lead change with a turn 5-4.  Sinead said everyone should do this exercise until the can rapidly pick up either their "4 stride" canter or their "5 stride" canter.  This will help with being comfortable with being able to adjust your horse's canter in any situation.  You can play with this forward/back feeling at any time.  As the levels moved up, she added in canter the first pole, trot, simple lead change, second pole, 4 strides, final pole.  Like with all of her exercises, these can be changed and altered to suit what you need to focus on, but the main point is all about adjustability and ride ability.

With trot transition

One group was really interesting.  They were all struggling with the simple lead change, so she went around and asked the group what their cue was for smaller canter vs. trot.  Most of the girls (they were all teenagers) didn't have a difference, it was just slow slow slow then trot.  This is why they were unable to get the trot then back to the canter between the poles.  Sinead made it very apparent that your horse needs a distinct cue between collecting the canter and the trot.  Of course the dressage queen in me was going duh, but then I realized I am guilty of this with Pongo.  Possibly one of reasons our down transitions are still sluggish and braced.

Another girl (not my group) was having some serious issues with her horse.  He was wanting to rush the poles, slam his head sky high (almost got her in the face), and generally be a butt head.  Sinead had them canter circles (dressage canter) then when the horse was calm, he could canter a pole.  If he tossed his head at all or became inverted at all, he had to circle between poles until he was back to his dressage canter.  She slowly moved this down the line of poles.  Circling between the poles and over the poles as necessary.  Also alternating directions (right lead vs left lead).  Slowly the horse became calmer, while he would still get a little up, he was manageable.

The next exercise we did was a line of three jumps 4 strides to 3 strides (I think) when you are in a nice canter.  There were poles that made a straight line along either side of the line with gaps before and after the jump and in between the two poles.  For this one, I cantered the line to start and had to say now every time Pongo was supposed to jump.  I had one little hiccup (he made the right choice to fit an extra stride in, but I was expecting the long launch).  Then I cantered in, trotted between 1 and 2 and he was allowed to canter out after 3.  Our down transition almost didn't happen, so 2 was super awkward.

Canter Line

Canter Line Reverse

Then we started to make things interesting.  We trotted in exited the line through the gap between the poles circled left.  Came back into the the line through the gap by jump 1 trotted 2 made a right hand circle and trot three.  Then I was able to progress to canter in, leave at canter, trot on circle, trot 2, pick up the canter on the circle between 2 and 3, then canter 3.  Again all of this was to test adjustability and ride ability.  We struggled a bit with this mostly due to transitions being a little sluggish (he felt slightly behind my leg and I should have popped him in warm up to get him up, but I didn't so the sluggishness stuck with us).  Overall, I was very pleased with this.

Once the groups were higher aka not us, Sinead removed the poles and let them canter the entire thing.  Personally I liked the transitions because they made your riding be on point.  I felt like Pongo and I could have managed the canter circles easier than the trot transitions.  With some of the higher groups, this line was then fed into the next exercise.

Trot with Circle

Canter Trot Circles

We had a circle...aka the blender.  I loved this analogy.  Basically, Sinead said jumps set in a circle were like ice in a blender.  At first everything is a little rough, but then all of a sudden things smooth out and it gets quiet.  This circle was set up so the jumps had 60 feet between them.  I went all math nerd when we were struggling to get them set.  I calculated the radius, stood in the middle then we set the jumps based off the radius.  No jumps moved when we started jumping.  Math for the win! (I might be a little bit proud of myself for thinking of that).

We are in the blender

Everyone had me terrified of the circle, but honestly I thought it was a lot of fun.  We started off with skipping one jump, then as things felt comfortable we could add the jumps in, if something got off we could skip jumps.  So there was no pressure of OMG I have to make this circle.  So that was nice.  I don't have much more to say about the circle, other than in some of the more advanced groups she linked it into the line.

Overall, day one was really about being able to adjust your horse and having ride ability.  The only group that the jumps really got raised for was the prelim group.  Sinead said she doesn't necessarily try to jump her horses big a lot (obviously before competitions you need to jump them the height they will see), but instead she really focuses on being able to create the right canter.  When the horse is in balance with a nice canter, the distances take care of themselves.  She is very big on not making any adjustments the last few strides.  Sinead said, "Once you are to the last few strides you are stuck with what you have.  Ride through it and when you are on the other side fix it."

I really liked that you could tell she truly likes dressage and sees the benefit it has for the horses jumping.  Like I said before, I really wish that I had signed up for a flat lesson with Stinker.  I also, really appreciated the fact that Sinead took time for the horse I mentioned above (that was rushing fences and generally being bad).  She made a point to take 30 minutes to get on the horse to see if it was an unsafe horse issue, a training issue, or a health issue.  Then the following day (since she didn't feel comfortable having the girl do cross country), Sinead made time to give her a 30 minute lesson on stadium.  The difference between the first day and the second day was amazing.  I really hope things keep progressing for the girl, because it is a lovely horse and she is a lovely rider.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Oh S*** Ditch!

I was going to write about things in order, but I am still a little too focused on the ditch to write about yesterday.  This can be a sneak peak at XC with Sinead Halpin.  She is AMAZING by the way.  Ride with her if you ever get a chance.

So Pongo and I haven't done a lot of cross country, but we have a pretty solid handle on the whole jumping thing.  We have made a lot of progress with trust and me being able to give him confidence.  Pretty sure I did my best to ruin that today.  I had previously done the ditch and I knew it was spooky to him and he would over jump it.


It isn't pretty but we can get it done...Until that lovely little cross rail is added into the mix and I being the genius that I am screw up the ditch and totally ruin Pongo's confidence.

Things I know and *forgot*.
1) Pongo has to be straight
2) Pongo will take an out if it is left open
3) Pongo has to be STRAIGHT!!!

I am so ashamed of my decision making with this.  I knew that it wasn't going to go well and I didn't do anything about it.  So, we had jumped the ditch a couple of times (see over jumping videos above) and Sinead wanted to add in the cross rail.  I was so worried about the cross rail (in the Nick clinic in August we kept glancing off the cross rails) that I forgot to ride the freaking ditch.  Apparently, I thought it would be good to angle the ditch to line up with the cross rail.  No idea why this seemed like a good idea (math logic: shortest distance between two points is a straight line???), but I did.  I knew I was losing that outside shoulder, but did I decide I needed to abort and get a straight line? No, that would be so smart.

He ducked out of the ditch.  Then, the next time, I was so sure that I wasn't going to let him get his left shoulder out that, I let him get his right shoulder out.  Then I finally managed to keep him straight and get over the ditch, but it was super ugly and I could tell he only went because he got popped with the whip and I had all the leg on that I could get.  Not exactly a trust building exercise.  Not to mention, I got rather flustered/frustrated through the whole thing because I *knew* I screwed up and created the problem.  I might have gotten a little teary.  We had to throw in a few extra circles so I could get my shit together.  Here is the video of our struggles (it is about 3.5 min long sorry).

We did finally get over the ditch and the cross rail, but this pretty much summed up our ditch experience.  I did stay on, and I wasn't even the closest to falling off.

Holy Ugly Face (it makes me laugh)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Clinic Freak Out

I came very close to having a melt down over the clinic this weekend.  I have been super busy at work (think 10+ hour days with a couple of 12+ hour days).  Last week I only got lunch two out of the five days and managed to put in 6 hours on Saturday before scribing etc.  If you know me, you know I get hangry (a polite way of saying I turn into a raving bitch without food), so me not getting lunch and working 12 hours doesn't go so well.  The point of all of that was since work is crazy and I can't control that I fixate on other things.  The big thing was/is (it is still an ongoing process even if I am in denial) the Sinead Halpin clinic this weekend.

I am in the pre-beginner novice group, which is fine.  There are only people from my barn in my group which is fine.  So what do I have to freak out about? The fact I don't know when I will have time to bathe Pongo.  He is brown so it really shouldn't be a big deal, but I almost lost my shit over it.  The fact that Sinead is staying with me.  This is a legitimate freak out point, but what I went neurotic about not so much.  I started freaking out that my house smells funky.  I don't have a good sense of smell and yesterday I decided it had to smell funny and I just couldn't smell it and everything was going to be a disaster.  Like freak out to borderline tears over the potential that my house might smell funny.  It doesn't...but WHAT IF???  Did I mention I am nuts?

Today I am much better and I think I know what my problem was yesterday.  Tuesday I had a lesson and since we are doing stadium and cross country this weekend, S didn't want to do a true jump lesson this week.  We decided to do ground poles and work on some more technical stuff without really jumping.  I was cool with that because I really wanted to focus on flat work and getting him nice and balanced and supple.  Freaking ground poles are going to be the death of me.

It IS possible to bend left...

First he was being weird and trying to jump the ground poles.  Really Pongo?? I think he was feeling sassy since it was cool.  He was also screwing around with his leads.  I was cuing correctly, but at the last second he would pop his shoulder and pick up the wrong lead (both sides).  I would bring him back to trot then before I could cue the canter he would pick of the correct lead.  Sass master.  Anyway, we were supposed to be trotting some ground poles and he tripped.  He went down to his knees and was scrambling.  Somehow I managed to clinch my legs and stay on, keep my reins, and keep his head up so he didn't roll.  I got pitched forward and almost came off, but somehow clinched (so hard I gave myself a calf cramp) my legs and clung.

We checked his legs to make sure in the scrambling that he didn't whack a leg.  They were fine, but I was a little shook up.  Last fall, a similar thing happened (over ground poles), but the horse and I went down.  My ankle got caught between the horse and a pole.  Nothing was broken, but it didn't help my messed up ankles any.  After that, I think I got in my mind with what ifs.  The rest of the lesson went well.  We even worked on adjustability and I was able to collect him between jumps.  But somewhere along the way my crazy switch was flipped.

We can dressage.

Thursday, I had another lesson and we did dressage.  It was one of the best rides I have had on Pongo.  He felt very loose and swinging through the back.  His neck and poll (especially to the left) were still a bit braced but that is pretty standard for him.  And it is improving.  S was very impressed with his leg yields.  They have gotten pretty good.  Every time he is an ass when I am riding him, he gets put in a leg yield.  There were several minor meltdowns over having to move sideways when we were doing hill work (when his sass usually comes out the most), but it has drastically improved his leg yields.  After this lesson I was closer to resembling a sane person, which made me realize my confidence had taken a hit and I *think* that is why I lost my mind about the clinic.

I am super excited about the clinic and I am not worried that Pongo and I won't be able to step up to the challenge.  I actually feel like we know what we are doing, unlike the last clinic.  I hadn't done cross country and I had barely jumped him.  Now, we are really clicking and have been jumping really well.  I just need to keep my confidence up because Pongo really needs it.  So here is to having a fun weekend with lots of learning.  Hopefully I can get pictures and video.  Yay!!!

Filthy monster!  Go clean yourself :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sticking With It

I like to torture myself and look at horse sale ads when I have down time at work. I saw one the other day for a very nice horse, but it also sadden me. It stated the only reason this horse was for sale was because the owner (teenager) was ready to move up but the horse wasn't confident and needed more time at novice. This horse was 7 and has the potential, but the owner wasn't willing to put in the time. I don't necessarily fault the owner and I am passing judgment without the full story, but it saddens me that the parents and or trainer don't step up to the plate and make the rider put in the time.

So cute.

This is one of the reasons I have so much respect for S and D. They stick with their horses. S has brought her mare from cross rails up to prelim/1*. That is sticking with it. They had their share of problems along the way. A's wife who was S's trainer passed away from breast cancer about 6 years ago. Since then S has been without consistent training. There have been people along the way that told her she needed to sell her horse and they wouldn't make it. Not only have they been successful, but S has also graduated from college, managed the barn, and built a successful lesson program. All of this was not done with out help, but it was done with a lot of hard work. This is why I will always support S in anyway I can. (PS if you ever read this S, I hope you don't mind me sharing your story.)

D is very similar but was able to capitalize on several working student/assistant trainer positions before she struck out on her own. It hasn't been easy but she is sticking with it. She had to make the tough decision to sell her older competition horse so she could fund the young ones. Nothing in the horse world comes easily.

Not easy...

I have not heard a single upper level rider in any discipline talk about how easy their horse is. How wonderful, yes. Easy? Nope. It is the hard parts that make the end so wonderful. It's about the magical connection that can only come with time and trust. It saddens me that some people will never learn this because when things get hard they buy a new horse. 

Don't misunderstand me and think I am condemning everyone who sells their horse. There are many good reasons to sell your horse. If your confidence is damaged, you just don't click, they max out, they hate what you love, and many other reasons are all good reasons. In fact the seller may have a good reason and thought saying the horse wasn't ready to move up would be better. It just saddens me because all horses are one bad owner away from the slaughterhouse. Morbid I know, but there is truth in there. I would hate to think what would have happened to Stinker in the wrong hands. He has enough issues as it is, but with the wrong rider he could have learned some nasty tricks. I'm well aware that if he wanted to, he could dump my ass daily. Thankfully he hasn't ever truly tried. I am glad that I was taught to stick with horses and that I have people to guide me with the same mentality.

Forgive the crap photo.  Pongo was such a good boy.
It was sunset and I hopped on him bareback with a halter and
rode him up to his pasture.  Isn't that what you do with every 6 yo OTTB?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Welcome to Crazy Town...aka Saddle Fitting

I have gone off the deep end when it comes to saddle fitting and I am over thinking and being totally neurotic.  Welcome to the twisted world of my brain aka crazy town.  So after I started bringing Stinker back into work and he started gaining weight/putting muscle back on I realized my saddle was no longer fitting properly.

Stinker's back last January.

He was starting to get puffy spots at the base of the withers.  I thought this was due to having rear risers in, so I removed them and started searching in ernest for a saddle fitter that would come to our barn.  We are in a bit of a waste land.  There is one lady that is a few hours north, but she refuses to respond to anyone as soon as she learns our location.  There have been at least five individual people in this area that have contacted her.  I sent her so many message (email and Facebook) that I felt like a crazy ex girlfriend.  The part that annoyed me the most is she would not even take the time to say "no I won't come down there."  At this point I would have happily taken a message that said "Fuck off."  At least then I would know where I stood.

This is from August. And you can kind of see the puffy.  He also looks wider to me.

You can kind of see the puffy here.  I really need to take better pictures.

Removing the rear riser helped for awhile, but I really struggled to maintain my position.  I am constantly fighting not to get dumped off the back of the saddle.  So I decided to try a County rep that another lady had used.  I wasn't sold on the whole idea, but I was desperate.  My plan was to try jump saddles (then find a used one) and get my current dressage saddle fitted.  I love my dressage saddle and I have an old jump saddle I use on Pongo, but the tree is way too curvy for Stinker's flat back.  Like most well laid plans, nothing happened the way I planned.

And...someone bought a new jump saddle.  It so wasn't the plan.  Of course I liked one that is a new model and used just aren't floating around yet. What really sold it for me was how much fun Stinker had jumping.  He is so freaking cute and no I had a massive fail and don't have any pictures or videos.

He was his typical self and very antsy/prancy to start.  Getting into two point at the trot on him is hell.  Once I am up there, its fine.  But he is so uphill it took me awhile to find my balance.  Also there is the whole thing of I use my seat bones so much that as soon as I lift out of the saddle that he wants to shoot forward.  I have not figured out the whole half halt in two point thing.  We got it together and trotted a cross rail a couple of times.

The first couple of times were rather uneventful.  He only sort of jumped and sort of trotted.  The third time he didn't pick up his feet and knocked the rail.  The next time through he over jumped it by more than a foot.  The thing that really got me was how much he perked up.  His energy changed from OMG I am waiting for something bad to happen to OMG this is fun.  It didn't look different but it felt different.

I am super excited to get the saddle, but I have to wait and wait and wait.  Hopefully, everything will fit correctly.  It was after I had time to think that I started going to crazy town.  The saddle is a narrow, and I am now freaking out that it won't fit him and I will have spent a crap ton of money and not have a saddle that fits.  After I talked with D (she talks me off the ledge way too often), she made me feel better about the saddle for him.  I then started worrying about the saddle fitting me.  I have bad hips and some saddles are hell on them.  If I ride in the wrong saddle I can piss my hips off so much that they cause my lower back to spasm and then I can't walk much less do anything else.  So yeah, I am trying to keep the crazy down and focus on being excited to have a jump saddle (in a few months) and being able to jump Stinker.

Back to the dressage saddle...I made a major mistake.  I agreed to try some dressage saddle, which caused her to focus on getting me into a new saddle and not fixing the fit of my current saddle.  I didn't like any of the dressage saddles for me, but I did like Stinker in one.  There is no way in hell I am buying a saddle I don't love not to mention I don't have the budget for two custom saddles at the moment.  I didn't really have the budget for the one, but I am young and allowed to make some dumb decisions right??

The end of the dressage saddle fitting was the fitter shimmed a pad to make my saddle sit level, which has made the puffiness at the withers even worse.  I really don't know what to do.  I know she will be back in a couple of months, so hopefully I will find my balls and get more forceful and get her to fix the flocking at the front of my saddle and resolve the pressure.  Until them I am limiting my time in the saddle to 1-2 times a week.  I think I am going to go back to no pad and fight with my position rather than continue to put too much pressure up front.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Scribing and Cross Country Jump Pics

I was bragging about all the awesome jumps we have, so I took pictures this weekend before the show started. Enjoy the pictures plus my ramblings about scribing. I highly recommend scribing (maybe not for the 10+ hours I did)...

 This is the Scrabble jump, that Pongo was unsure of

I love scribing because it is a chance to see inside the judge's mind. And also if you know the judge well you can ask questions. Word of warning some judges just want their scribe to sit there and write. The judge I was working with this weekend is someone I have ridden with in clinics many times and she has stayed at my house on a couple of occasions, so we are on very friendly terms.

This is the "eyelash" jump.  It is built in a curve which is kind of hard to see

Overall, I thought she was very generous with her scores compared to the other judges I have scribed for. All the scores were very consistent, she just didn't slam the pairs like some. For example, one judge if the horse went behind the vertical the score was not going to be above a 5. This judge would comment on it but not drop the score as much. Also youthful exuberance was not dinged as much. This was nice to see, since I am sure we will have some exuberance our first few outings.

Titan's Tavern (I haven't jumped this.  It is a novice jump)

The hardest stretch was about an hour after lunch (2:30-3:30ish), we had a string of Into A and B.  There was a lack of energy in these tests that made it rough.  The free walk across the diagional seemed to last an eternity.  There are only so many ways you can say "needs more energy"/"use your leg" and I am pretty sure I wrote all of them at least ten times.

Close up of Titan's Tavern.

The biggest take away from the day was you can always have more bend and suppleness.  Keep in mind the highest level test I saw was training level eventing.  That is roughly first level, without the lateral work.  So everything was very basic, but it is good to see where there are holes in the basics.

This is the novice bench, but the beginner novice bench I jumped looks just like it...well smaller

There are so many horses that lacked in bend and suppleness, which some of that is due to the riders being beginners.  It takes a pretty talented child/a very kind horse to create the bend and suppleness desired.  There were some very lovely pairs.  One was a very young girl and she is a very good rider. I have seen her at other shows on a very dirty pony.  That pony gave some of the dirtiest stops I had ever seen and she stuck with him.  She was now riding an adorable palomino pony and a very nice gray horse.  I can't wait to see how these partnerships develop.

I love the breast cancer jump.  A's (barn owner/manager) wife passed from breast cancer ~7 years ago.

It was a very long but fun weekend.  I had a lesson with the judge on Stinker which I will write about later.

Stadium all set up for the show.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jump Lessons

This week I had a stadium and a cross country lesson.  Let me just say Pongo is doing awesome!!  I am quite fond of this horse.  He is getting beefy (finally) and loves his job.  He tries so hard and when he gets something, he doesn't forget it.  Sure he is still green and occasionally tries to say no, but as soon as you say yes louder he says ok.  I am going to miss him when I have to give him back, which sadly I think is going to be soon.  On that note back to the fun stuff instead of me getting sad because I have to give up my loaner pony.

Such a cute pony

Wednesday, I had a stadium lesson and the course was already set for the schooling show this weekend.  I got to test ride it, since I am still pretty green and Pongo is greenish too S thought we would be a good pair to test the course.  It rode really well and had lots of bending lines, which I like.  There were two spots that I had a bit of trouble.  The first one was about half way through the course. We came off of a bending line and had to roll back to the left.  Pongo kept getting a little hot off the bending line, so I had to really sit up and bring him back to make the left turn and hit the next jump.  Towards the end of the course there was a triple, which S took down the first jump for me.  When we did the course the first time, Pongo tried to spook at the first set of standards.  I managed to keep him together and straight enough we made it through the double.  The second time through, coming out of the double I turned too sharp and almost missed a jump.  Pongo forgave me for the crappy set up and jumped it anyway.

S said this was the best she had seen us and I was doing really well keeping my leg quiet and my upper body in balance.  Initially, I struggled not throwing myself forward.  I feel like Pongo and I are really clicking and are building a nice relationship.  He trusts me enough to stay forward when he really wants to spook and go the other way.  And I trust him enough that I don't ride too defensive (I get a bit defensive on occasion, but it is usually when he gets behind my leg).

Someone got paint on his nose from messing with wet jumps.

Thursday, we did cross country.  I haven't done a lot of cross country.  I did the clinic in August and schooled one other time before I got hurt.  My biggest take away was I am hella out of shape.  The one good side of not riding Pongo as much soon will be the time.  Maybe I can actually get my butt in shape and maybe meet that goal I stupidly set when my ankle was still messed up (It is still funky.  Randomly swells up and occasionally sharp pain and the whole lack of mobility.)  Four jumps in a row and I was huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf.  Pongo was ready to go some more.

We started off fairly easy with some jumps around the water complex that I had previously done.  He was pulling nicely to the fences, but still letting me set the pace.  We struggle keeping things together going down hill, but he was staying with me and was nicely balanced.  Then we moved up to the top pasture.  I don't think I have jumped any of these.  But I got to jump the scrabble jump!!!  It is a brand new jump that A built (he builds some amazing jumps and we are so lucky to have him as the barn owner/manager).  It is built to look like the holder for the scrabble letters and has the barn name as tiles (points included).  The craftsmanship that went into the jump (and lots of the others) is astounding.

Pongo wasn't as excited about the jump as I was.  Once he locked on to the he tried to say no.  I told him yes, he then asked to go right, then left.  I just kept my legs on and said yes you are going over this thing.  He jumped it really well.  Didn't over jump or try to shove his head between his legs while we were in the air.  The second time over it, he didn't even try to say no.

Such a worried face

We did a variety of jumps up there, including the "eyelash" (series of poles that are upright in a curved line) which I thought was spooky, but Pongo was totally down with it.  I really hope there is another schooling show that some of the girls are going to this fall that maybe I can take Pongo to.  I think it would be so much fun.  The highlight of the day for me was the last series.  We ended with the beginner novice bench.  I had thought beginner novice looked big, but when Pongo and I were approaching, it didn't look big or scary.  I guess this feeds into our trust that we are building.  He knows I will take care of him and he will take care of me.  He jumped it beautifully out of a really nice forward gallop.  No over jumping, no peeking between the knees.  S was really happy with the way we looked.

We ended on that, mostly because I was starting to get tired and I didn't want to ruin a good lesson and the confidence that Pongo is building by pushing myself to where I was getting sloppy.  I can't express how happy I am with the improvement Pongo has made since I first rode him in the spring.  He was braced, wiggly, and quite frankly steered like a drunken sailor.  We still have some bracing, wiggles, and drunken sailor moments, but they are decreasing.  He supples to the left (before it was like trying to bend a 2x4).  He has a top line and proper muscling in the neck.  I am so impressed with the way he is getting beefy and filling out.  He lets me correct his shoulders and will go in a straight line.  I really wish I had a before and after picture or video.  But all I have is this adorable picture of the Stinker and Pongo.

I was waiting for squealing, but they were good boys

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Video Lesson #7

The set up:  6 poles in a half "circle" (I failed at the circle part), three warm up poles in a line, a line of 5 cavaletti two strides cavaletti line of 3.  The line was a little intense for him, but we managed.

My Initial Thoughts:

When I was riding, Stinker felt very loaded.  There was a lot of energy simmering, and honestly I thought this video would look much different.  He really doesn't look different from our more "relaxed" days.  I am using the word relaxed as a relative term, because relaxed does not fit him.  He was a bit more expressive with his front legs, but I think that was due to the coiled spring feeling I had most of the ride.

I tried to keep my reins short and I really tried to balance the amount of left and right.  Also, I tried to make sure I finished all my circles and didn't lose the outside of his body.  I still lost the outside of his body in places, but I stuck with things until I got it back.

I am discovering that Stinker really likes consistency in his routine.  Between his saddle fitting yesterday and the jump field today, I think he was just a little out of sorts.  Obviously this is something that we need to work through, but it is a little nugget I like to have at the back of my mind.  I see myself getting too forward, and I think I need to shorten my stirrups a hole.  On the circle poles, I didn't do a very good job putting him at the spot he needed to be to be able to get the striding right.

When we were going to the left (3:30ish) our half circle didn't look too bad.
At 4:15 I took him through the line with the cavalettis and I think he was a little overwhelmed but it doesn't look as bad as it felt.
4:50 I need to get him in a bigger trot going into the line.  He was too small and the spacing was off, so by the end he was just trying to shoot forward to stretch and make the distances.
5:10 We look like a sidewinder.  I really need to get him straight.

5:25 It was still too small but I think it looks much better.
5:50 I totally got left behind on this one, but he looks good going through.  It was a little quick, but I like him stretching.
7:00 He didn't want to give without running out through the outside.  When I told him no, he had a bit of a temper tantrum, but I think we worked through it well.
9:25 I was very happy with how well he is giving me his head.
10:05 The half circle looks fairly nice.

D's Thoughts:

I see progress again!  On a note that doesn't involve a time, you stopped three or four times to pet him and he didn't dance around.  And you reached up to stroke him and he didn't jog himself off.  Yay!

0:29  His feet are a touch quick, however I am happier about the neck, back, and butt.  So you can ignore that touch for now.
0:37  Your posting mimicked his rhythm after the poles (quick and choppy).
0:47  Those steps before he broke were super.  He just couldn't hold it longer and lost his balance.  No big deal.
0:57  The poles were nice.
1:31  He isn't quite as flow in the wither and front as we would like.  However, this is the best longer trot you have had while keeping a good pace.
1:52  I love how you handled that. (He was cantering, I brought him back and promptly sent him over poles.)
3:44  That is actually a nice trot he is just not confident there so he feels more tense.
3:53  Nice job and your voice was totally relaxed.  That wouldn't have happened two weeks ago. (We flubbed some poles and I made a no no noise followed up with "yeah, that happened".  My running commentary leaves something to be desired.)
4:51  Really well managed on your part at the entrance.  You have a long line of poles there and that is hard for him to maintain.  That is totally OK.

5:05  Ok, when he looks like this take both hands in the direction he is putting his butt and bring his withers over to match the butt.
5:30  Same mistake in the poles that's ok.
5:57  That is perfect for him.  It's ok if he hits.  We aren't after leg height, we want rhythm and relaxation from the poles.

6:31  Well managed on your part!  Before he would have hit the breaks and just danced in place. (There were some people on a trail ride that came by and I lost his focus a bit.)
7:17  Good girl! That is exactly how I would have handled it and how he would have reacted with me.  You have have never stuck it out before and insisted he turn.  Then he calmed down.
7:34  Temper Tantrum

8:00  And you got him back!
8:24  Way to keep turning until he settled down.
8:50  So you have a nice trot and consistent head.  Now go for lower neck if he will let you.

Your rein length was much better.  I thought you were way braver in the hyper moments and you didn't freeze up and do nothing at any point.  You always tried to do something to fix it and you usually made the right choice because he would calm down.

Anytime I could see the under neck rap you either did something to make him give or it was just that your hands were steady and not up, because it didn't stay locked.

My Progress/Rebuttal:

I have been really pleased with our progress since we have started doing the video lessons.  While we still have our stupid moments, I now have the tools to correct things without thinking.  Before I would spend 5 seconds going WTF do i DO???? And now, it is an easy reaction which helps to prevent the crazy from escalating.

PS I totally went GIF crazy after I figured out how to make them.  Props to Emma from 'Fraidy Cat Eventing for giving me the idea.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Jumpity Jumpity Jump

Wednesday I had a jump lesson on Pongo and we struggled.  Straightness has always been a problem for him, and he was fairly wiggly.  Read he was bouncing off my legs and reins, but not so much he bailed on a jump.  One good thing about him is even when he is wiggling and asking to bail if you say no he says ok.  On top of the wiggles, he was seriously over jumping everything.  It went something like this, "Ok Pongo lets trot this cross rail (~18")."  His response, "I will jump this like there is a horse eater underneath it/like it is a 3'6" jump."

His neck is looking my totally unbiased opinion

Talk about awkward.  I could never quite get my balance to stick with the over jumping.  Everything felt awkward.  I was never close to falling off, but I never felt very secure.  Every distance felt awkward and we couldn't establish a rhythm.  I was feeling a little discouraged because there really isn't much you can do when your horse decides to jump higher.  Long, short, crooked you can fix, but height that is kind of up to him.  He was balanced going into the jumps, but we looked a mess.

Fastforward to Thursday.  He got it together! We had one of our best jump sessions.  We were balanced and made it through a full course twice.  The first time we had some bobbles with the leads (my fault) and the second he forgot to pick up his knees and kind of stumbled.  It wasn't bad and we recovered smoothly.  It was a fun course and we even had an oxer, which I don't think I had done before.  It was a baby one, but still new and different.

I am thankful for my training in sticky situations when I was a kid.  Jumping doesn't phase me when things go wrong.  I just keep his head up, send him forward, rebalance, and continue on.  It didn't even occur to me that I should have been nervous until S told me it was a really good recovery.  I was also shocked when she told me my lower leg was really steady.  I need to get my heels down more, but right now I don't have any more stretch in them.  I guess I could crank them down, but that will cause tension else where and I prefer the balance over having my heels cranked down.  Damn ankles and their lack of mobility.  Overall, I was pleased with our lesson.

Video Lesson #6

This one is a little longer, but I have my highlights. Best way to watch it is to skip around and watch our screw ups. There are some funnies in there.

My Initial Thoughts:

Overall, I think we are improving. There are several things that need attention, but I was rather pleased with this ride.

0:40 this is what I was talking about with the scooting hind then trying to canter when I try to close the door on the scoot
2:00 I think that he is developing a new type of tension. Instead of getting stuck he wants to bolt forward. I'm fine riding through it but is there something else I need to do?
2:20 he got quick through the corner and Teresa forgot small circles apparently
2:30ish I was trying to tighten the draw reins and get him to drop his head and stop bracing with the under neck
2:50 I think I had the draw rein too tight when I asked him to flex (I made D laugh here because I sounded so surprised when I told him he was a good boy. It was the first time he gave like this under saddle, so I was surprised.)
3:20ish we get a little quick when I post but he is reaching under with his hind more
4:00 I don't think I have gone right at all
4:25 I'm not sure where my balance is but I'm trying to do some contortions
4:35 and we have scoots. Is that his evasion so he doesn't have to bend his rib cage?
4:50 I'm not sure why he thought my leg was a monster
5:15 I think I'm trying to flex him because he was locked.
5:40 I tried going left to show him what I wanted
6:00 apparently I only want to have one ass cheek in the saddle
7:05 he let me bring his nose around. I was cheating with the fence but I'll take it.
8:30 finally remembered to do some smaller stuff and changes of direction
9:35 so much under neck
10:10 I tried some one loops. They were a little awkward.
11:30 tried some leg yield. Not as good as his...
12:40 technical difficulties...I think he felt too constricted
13:00 oh lord is all I have to say
14:20 we kind of got it together ish
15:00 poor guy is tired. He never feels tired when I'm riding.

I love this farm.

D's Thoughts:

Keep your shoulders back behind you and sit up taller for the downward transition more. You look a little mousey when you want him to slow. I didn't see anything with the hind scooting issue that had me saying "do this". I think you handled it well and worked through it. Remember forward is always better and you calmly brought him back and he came back to you. You have things lined up a bit better and he gets a little scared of his own butt when it's in the right place. Being a youngster in order to relieve the pressure it is easier to canter. At this time, I don't see any reason to over correct it. I like how you dealt with it and he didn't blow up.

Now, I see the scooting, but you aren't losing the haunches. He is running out through his shoulder. So, you need to use your outside half halt. It is completely obvious to the right. It starts in the shoulder then the haunches follow, so you need an outside half halt, then maybe left leg. Make sure you correct the wither/shoulder first. Think "elbow back to you." This makes him suck his shoulder up not out.

An absolute must is shorter reins. You must have shorter reins.

1:28 Slower seat
1:33 Mouse upper body
1:36 This is rooting when he does that sea saw on his mouth it's a rude behavior
1:41 Turn him left I know he hates it
1:51 Well done
2:12 You got the post! Now sloooooow post say out loud upppppppp doooown
2:20 But look he came back and ready his trot only got bigger he didn't get saddlebredy!
2:32 Couldn't see the full correction but whatever you did it worked
2:34 You wanted to post but you were hesitant so you flung yourself out of the saddle and he went OMG! LOL
2:39 Gather your reins (I think I've said this a lot)
3:12 Pause at this moment gorgemous seriously
3:37 He listened to your voice comment. Please praise him!
3:49 Outside half halt
4:10 Outside half halt
4:20 Work the neck
8:02 He blew you off because you had him totally set up for that turn correctly and last minute he went crap too hard so he ran. Whoa his behind small circles then proceed
8:28 We've recouped relaxation

So from 5:50 on, you both lost some focus and coordination. You lost confidence and a game plan. You wanted that relaxation back, but you weren't sure if he was done or if you were going to make that tension worse. So you kind of ran around in limbo. He felt you get out of the drivers seat, so he left the building. You had moments, but we lost the consistency from the beginning.

It could have been you guys got tired or it could have been in your heads. I am not sure, but get a good minute and then quit next time. He gave you a stellar 7 or so minutes. Always, end before it gets crazy and when you feel the crazy setting in and its not going away. You need to give him a task he can complete and then be done.

It is hard when you have that amazing feeling you had at the beginning. But you need to be careful not to push too far. It is great you two are getting there, but it will be baby steps on the longevity.

Notice how the trot poles in this video helped him. This will get even better with my trot pole boot camp instruction. Also, I need you to ride the head a bit more, ESPECIALLY when he wants to get all nutty on you. I need those reins at like half the length. I know it is a bit backwards from anything I have ever said, but you stay out of his face a bit too much. I need your hands guiding the energy down to the ground not up and out. If you scrutinize your hands they are directing that energy up.

I saw the most confidence from you I have seen since he has been back in work (when he is being good). I need you to transfer this to when he isn't being good. When he says no, I need you to say yes about double of what his no was. Think about how I sound when I have corrected something too many times in a lesson for you. It isn't mean, but my tone changes and makes you go "crap." Suck some air in and put yourself in the lines a bit more. I need you to hear that tone and transfer that to him.

You had some much improved canter transitions through. I need to show you how you need less seat and catch him in your hands. That will also force you to shorten your reins. What I want from you is to be out of his face when he is doing the right thing. When he is trying to hit the sky, I need you to be up in it. As soon as he is good you can go back to being out of his face.

Such a cute face

My Rebuttal/Progress:

I realized at the end that I pushed too far. I wanted to challenge him a little more to see how he would react, but I went too far. Most horses I feel when they start to get tired, but with him I don't feel the difference.

The head is a struggle. For some reason I don't realize he has it up. When it finally clicks, I bring it down (I think I managed to do it twice), but it doesn't last very long. As soon as his head starts creeping up my hands join it.

The canter transitions were not my idea, but D said they were pretty and I will still get 2 gold stars this time for them.

Overall, I haven't really had much time to practice these things. I already videoed my next lesson (work is about to get crazy busy and I didn't want to slack). But...we did do ground poles for the next one. I totally failed at the head/lower my hands thing. It does look better than it felt. My plan is to keep practicing and hope something clicks in my little noggin.

To Do List:
Head down and hands down.
Trot poles.
Shorten stirrups to do 2 point

This box still has the doughnuts...and the kitten passed out on them
Party hard!