I snuck in rides last Wednesday and Thursday knowing the forecast looked pretty bleak through the weekend. Saturday was actually nearly perfect weather-wise, but the husband worked in the morning and we had family plans all afternoon and into the evening. It was a great time.
Sunday was weird. This being SC, everyone freaks out at even the mention of a possible storm. I swear every locally grown S. Carolinian is Chicken Little personified. Which is why I ignored everything and then found myself outside in a lightning storm at 930pm without any pants on bringing the horses in. And then all we got was some rain and high winds. There was an EF1 tornado in the town next door though right by my work. Too bad it didn’t take my building out.
Anyway, the day was just odd with randomly darkening skies, a bit of a dump of rain and then back to sunny and clear. Every time I thought about riding it would get eerie looking outside and by the time I settled on not riding, it would clear again. Frustrating. It did manage to dump enough rain to put my arena under water by Monday morning so even with a gorgeous sunny, blue skied 74 degree Monday, I couldn’t do a whole lot but stare forlornly and take pictures.
It should be dry enough by this afternoon to get a flat work ride in. I’ve left my new favorite exercise up with the goal to eventually raise all 5 poles to verticals and work on the true jumping form of the exercise. Currently, I am at two jumps and three poles, but if the footing isn’t nice enough to jump in I will return the jumps back to poles and work on figures over them again. I really want to incorporate more canter work with figures. Right now my cantering is mostly in very large circles with a lot of drift and “good enoughs” thrown in the mix. As I’m getting more and more comfortable with my seat in the canter, I’d like to start dialing it in as a gait that I am actively a participant in and not just a passenger hoping to not run through the arena fence.
I have a half day at work today due to it being spring break and was planning on working on office stuff all afternoon but then taking a half day Friday. Looks like 100% chance of over 1″ of rain all day Friday which makes for perfect working weather. With that in mind, I’m heading home at lunch today to do spring bath day. It is one of my most favorite horse days of the year – removing all the grime from the winter. The weather so far hasn’t been quite warm enough for long enough to allow proper dry time before the night comes and it dips back into the 40s. I think today may finally be the day!
Than spending an early summer evening on a good horse jumping as a storm blows in?
The answer is no. Not really.
Last night I turned the farthest straight and the nearest diagonal pole into a vertical. The ground was the best to these two and I figured it would still give plenty of opportunities to mix things up.
H’Appy was on his A game from the start and only got better from there. We jumped. We circled. We serpentined. We cantered over poles. We cantered over jumps. We strung the two jumps together and then the next pass added coming back to the trot and doing a pole or two before picking the canter back up again.
Liz hooked me up with a bunch of exercise ideas on Pinterest. Apparently I have a Pinterest account that I had long forgotten about and she found me there to share a ton of ideas. Eeyore now hates you Liz 😉
The last time I rode was Thursday last week. The forecasted rain hit Friday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and it was a bad rain. Thunderstorms and down pours. The ground was getting really hard and the pollen absurdly bad so the rain was much needed, but Fat Boy did not need a week off right now.
Still he was calm and cool to get groomed and tacked. I think it’s probably time to stop mentioning that as it is now the norm. Yay for progress!!!
The arena had been flooded by Tuesday night. Thankfully yesterday was 80 and sunny so most of the standing water was gone by dinner and I felt comfortable doing w/t/c over ground poles. I quickly scanned through all my new options and landed on this one. It was perfect looking.
It didn’t disappoint either. I’ve mentioned before how I gravitate towards exercises that give me plenty of options for work on different skills without having to get off and change anything. Laziness mostly, but when you ride alone it’s not as practical to have to spend 20 minutes dragging poles and standards all over the place.
This one is…wow. So much fun.
He warmed up pretty well for having not been worked for a week. He was loose through his back and his halt was fully installed off my seat which is my barometer for his readiness to get to the real work.
I started using the three straight poles to form a big serpentine down the entire arena focusing on straightness before and after each pole and proper bend in my turns. At first he was pretty game and listening but after a couple trips through it must have dawned on him that this was a real working ride and he started getting pissy about it.
A quick come to Jesus talk had him back to mostly behaving in short order. I’m tired of his BS so when he tried to get out of work by cantering instead of trotting nicely over the poles I decided to shut him down immediately to a halt and I was not being polite about it. If he wants to be a bully I will to. And you know what? After only three times he stopped pulling that crap and got to work.
After he performed the serpentine I began work on using the near two straight poles to create a circle and then head to the far two straight poles to circle down there. That then turned into a large figure 8.
The two diagonal poles I was a bit unsure how to work with. I think I need to make them at a steeper angle and maybe it will work out better but they seemed to be a bit crammed to use off a straight pole and at a funky angle to use off one another. I need to play around with those a bit more.
After he was fully settled and had stopped trying to convince me it was impossible for him to hold his own head up, I let him canter. He had been dying to canter the entire ride so obviously when I cued for it he had no desire whatsoever.
I made him anyway and we had a pretty nice canter both directions including some pole work before I let him be done. I need to start timing my rides because I could ride him for hours and not realize it. I think it ended up being just over an hour of saddle time.
I’m hoping to get on him and work on this again tonight. If the arena is a bit more firm I’d like to turn at least two into a vertical. I’m not quite ready to do all 5 as jumps yet. Debating between the two diagonal or the near and far straight poles. Thunderstorms are back Friday through Sunday which is a shame. I took Friday off work as my yearly birthday present to myself. The boy goes to school and the husband goes to work and I give myself one day out of 365 to have nobody needing me for anything and the ability to do whatever I want whenever I want to do it. It’s the best day of the year and it’s going to storm all day. I guess I’ll just divert to making a me shaped lump in my couch instead. Or I’ll take a trip to Farm House Tack and get him a few items I’ve been eyeing. Ooooh! Or a little farther up to TIEC and final get that pad at Dover I’ve been eyeing. Hmmm…..a rainy day may get expensive.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve had this nagging fear of being in a rut. College/medical school and residency suited me very well in that every semester in school and every month in residency saw a big change. New classes, a new rotation, new schedule. It was paradise.
My adult life has few opportunities for change. I’ve worked in the same building for 5 years doing the same stuff on the same schedule. Wyatt gets dropped off and picked up at the same time at the same place each day. Heck, even the weekends are pretty static: laundry on saturday mornings, grocery shopping sunday mornings, etc… It’s a lovely life and I am not complaining about getting to live this one. I’ve set it up this way and with work and a 6 year old, well, structure is a necessity.
Its just…well..there is that nagging little voice worrying about being in a rut.
A couple of months ago I listened to a podcast on this very subject. When looking at your life, are you in a groove chugging steadily along working towards something or are you stuck in a rut spinning your own wheels? It was one that really hit me hard mostly because at the end of the day, it all comes down to perspective.
Ignoring the rest of my middle aged angst, I want to focus this topic on my riding. Groove or Rut?
With Gem, I was very solidly in a rut. Sure we were making some progress and I was doing some things, but by that point in our relationship we were both pretty solidly stuck in our ways and I had neither the time, money or skills to advance her past some pretty major road blocks. So she got retired and is living, um…large…in the pasture happy as can be these days.
I refuse to be in a rut with H’Appy. Its all about the groove now folks. I find myself in an odd place currently with him. I’m a bit…gasp….bored. Wait, what?! No, I’m not bored with him as a horse. His potential and my future with him is currently limitless. I ride him and I can feel the future moving under me. Its amazing and motivating.
I have however moved past my own self prescribed “getting to know him” phase. Its taken longer than I anticipated and had more bumps that I would have preferred, but after my last several rides I can honestly say that I am comfortable with him, his base line reactions, and his ability to take pressure and deal. He isn’t always an easy horse. He has his days when he hates the world and everyone in it and oh by the way why don’t I take my ideas for the ride and shove them where the sun doesn’t shine. He also has his days where our guinea pig could ride him and he would do everything as asked. The thing is that now, I am finally comfortable with both of my bi polar horse’s personalities. Not always super effective or knowledgeable about riding him both ways, but comfortable with it. That is a big step for me.
It means that I’m ready to push beyond simple walk/trot/canter rides and single 2′ fences at home. Beyond the ground poles I can figure out how to set up and ride over. Most importantly, I am ready to push beyond “good enough” and into the real work of riding. Except…this is where my knowledge base and skills in this discipline run out. I’m out of ideas on my own. Out of things to do.
For that, I need a trainer. A real trainer versus an instructor. One who rides and competes and is able to hop on my horse on a bad day to get a feel for what I’m feeling. A trainer who is able to push me beyond my comfort zone but is also able to read when it is too much, too fast or my addled brain is getting confused at what I’m trying to do.
I’m finally ready to get serious. To start working in my groove towards something. Right now that something is a HT at amoeba level (w/t dressage, 18″ stadium, 18″ xc with only 3 mandatory fences and no time) though I may be convinced to try tadpole (BN dressage, 2′ stadium, 2′ xc with a full course and a time limit) if things are moving along nicely and we are doing ok in the canter work. The 2′ height doesn’t bother me, it is the canter work that has me feeling really iffy.
To that end, I will be on a mission this week, as the never ending thunderstorm continues to pummel the area leaving everything under water, to contact as many training facilities as I can find within a reachable drive to locate this mystery trainer. Someone who I can build a relationship with over time and who will help me reach my goals. It is time to stop meandering and start working!
Are peacocks proud? Who came up with this saying? Have you ever heard a peacock? When we first moved to SC, the barn we boarded at had a very eccentric and rich old man across the street. At first I thought the weirdest things were the fully functional and very real cannons he not only had but would also fire randomly. I still have no idea where he aimed the cannon balls. Until I heard it. It sounded like an old woman in a nursing home screaming for help. I nearly had a stroke reaching for my phone to call 911 when the BO told me it was just his peacocks. I still shudder at the noise.
Last night H’Appy decided that the most interesting thing in all the world was the Hubby mending the fence he broke in the pasture adjacent to the arena. H’Appy is extremely nosy. He must investigate everything anyone is doing and hates not being the center of attention. It’s one of the things I love about him.
Maybe not so much when riding though.
I wasn’t super in the mood to ride last night but knew I needed to before the rain came in Fri-Sun leaving my world a puddly mess once again. I’m not complaining. The ground was getting pretty hard and the arena mighty dusty. Some rain is needed.
What I really wanted was to have a nice walk hack around the property but we aren’t there yet and the last thing I was in the mood for was a fight. Instead I planned on a relaxed easy ride in the arena without the mental complexity of poles or jumps.
Things were going great. He was light in my hands, prompt off my aides and halted the first time square and without attitude. Things were going exceedingly well.
And then Dusty entered the pasture and began his work on the fence. H’Appy caught sight of him and just had to know what he was doing. He craned his neck and contorted himself to keep his eye on the work. He began a strong pull towards that end of the arena.
But you know what? He remained relaxed and calm about it. He listened to my halts immediately. He never once threw a temper tantrum about it.
Once I felt his attention wander off to more exciting things than me, I began work on transitions. Lots and lots of walk, halt and trot transitions all over the place with a few random 20 m circles thrown in for funsies.
And while he still used his side eye super power to try to watch Dusty, he kept his ears checking back on me, remained relaxed and supple and did everything I asked of him.
I ended it after about 30 minutes and felt so so proud of him. This ride would not have happened a few months ago. Things are really coming together! Are you tired of reading that sentence yet?
Trainer J’s past words floated through my head the moment I did it. I could hear her anger. It was the only time she ever got annoyed with me. Or at least the only time she let it show. You’d think I would have learned but old habits die hard.
It’s a knee jerk reaction. My lizard brain thinks “Imminent death! Abort! Abort!” and next thing you know I am pulling my horse off the jump he locked on to.
Bam. I just taught him how to run out.
It took a long while to fix it again. He is a smart cookie. He learns everything the first time, good and bad.
I had set my jump circle too tight for my skill level. I couldn’t make the turn and knew I needed to make it more forgiving, so I hopped off and moved the center jump farther out creating a larger circle. Once I got back on he he got angry that he had to return to work and he lost his calm and cool work like attitude he had had from the very start of the ride.
So he was looking for a fight. He knows he won’t get out of it by squealing, curling behind the bit, or shaking his head. He barely even tries that anymore. Even after two full days off and a cold snap returning.
When I picked up the trot he was tense and tucked his chin to his chest but I ignored it and we went over the first vertical at the top left of the above picture heading right. Once he landed he took off. I had him semi steering and made the arc to the second jump but he sped up at the last minute and I knew it was going to be a launcher. I’m just starting to get comfortable cantering my jumps and I am not to a point where I have even the slightest idea how to get his canter more adjustable or fix the last minute super rush.
I should have sat back and let it happen. It’s only 2′. Let him figure out that that won’t work. At the last minute he veered slightly left and was heading towards the standard. A well timed left leg would have pushed him over and centered him on the jump to go over.
Except there was that “Abort! Abort! Death! Pain!” screaming inside my head and I pulled left off the jump instead of shoving him right with my left leg.
It wasn’t a true run out. Not that time. I had given him permission to say no at the last minute.
It took 45 minutes to convince him I didn’t mean it. The next time I went to jump he veered left and out of the jump.
Damn. I broke my horse.
I made him circle immediately all the while scolding myself pretty hard. Never teach your horse it is ok to say no to a jump. Never. Commit and go over or die trying. Well, maybe not that hard core, but you get the point.
I circled him tight and made him jump that jump and then he tried to barrel away again to avoid the next one but I got him under control and over we went. Jump three he ran out. I could feel it coming. I knew I needed more left leg. I didn’t pull him off but I didn’t stop it either.
Eventually I got my crap together and forced his butt over every jump every time. I dug my left leg in and over he went. We went around going left and once we did all three jumps in a row he got a break before we went right.
Only he smashed through a jump and I had to get off to fix it and then mount again. Once again he was angry we were not finished but I made it happen. It took only three or four attempts before we could canter around the circle over all three jumps without any issues and then I called it a day.
I’m really hoping I didn’t break him. I didn’t stop until I had fixed it but ugh. I knew not to do that. I knew it!!!!
Thankfully while he is wicked and smart and lazy he is also pretty forgiving and tries to give me what I want so fingers crossed this isn’t a new habit I’m going to be fighting for years to come.