Riding/Horses

Jumping

The weather was looking gross last weekend. Rain predicted all day Sunday and the reality didn’t disappoint. It poured buckets from 7 pm Saturday night to 10 pm Sunday. Gross. Knowing that in advance, I planned to ride on Saturday. A quick look into the jumping book had me shaking my head. Trotting a single ground pole wasn’t my idea of fun after a month of solid flat work. It was time to break out the jumps and go flying over some raised poles once again.

It had been since the beginning of November, so I kept it simple and set up an easy and very forgiving line of two verticals set on a turn. I haven’t measured the standards to know for sure the height but it was somewhere between 18″-2′. I wanted to make it easy enough for our first jump school in forever so as not to punish Gem in anyway for getting something wrong.

The biggest thing trainer yells at me for, and really the only time I officially get yelled at by her, is setting my sights on a jump, presenting Gem to it, then losing my lady balls and pulling her off at the last second. Not good. It basically teaches Gem that it is okay to say no and then adds in the escape route so that the next time she can take it on her own.

When I set up the two jumps, I kept that in mind giving myself plenty of room to circle after, go wide around the second jump etc…without her ever really locking onto the jump in advance.

In warming up, I kept to my more dedicated riding style. I made sure Gem always knew exactly where I wanted her to be traveling and how to get there. It really has made all the difference in how she goes. Gem doesn’t like being left to her own devices and that is my fault for not giving her the direction she needs.

I admit to having some butterflies when I turned and locked onto the first jump. I am a wimp after all. I had her trot in and she took it no big deal at all and then cantered away. The first time through I had her go wide around the second jump and then reapproached the first again and just began to play around with the two in both directions until I felt comfortable and then I asked her to do the very forgiving, not really related all that much, line.

She was very good and listened making the turn to the second jump super easy and never once said no. She didn’t even do her typical squirrelly go left no right no left again behavior leading up to the jump. On my end I made sure she was still between my legs and had plenty of time to see the jump before getting to it.

I’m not sure what has gotten into her lately, but I will take it!

Towards the end of the ride she started to get really fresh going into the jumps. She began taking long spots and launching herself over and then celebrating on the backside a bit. I didn’t want to punish her for having fun but I also didn’t want to reward her new found rushing behavior so after she did one last trip around nicely I called it a day.

I was so happy with her. And myself to be honest. After the initial butterflies disappeared they never returned and I even found myself laughing when she pulled me towards and over the jumps. It was a nice feeling knowing she was going over without question.

Riding/Horses

Exercise 3…Gem Shows Up To Play

Thursday night was the first time all week I could carve out time to ride after work. I had two goals for the ride: hold Gem more accountable and practice both bend and straightness, both things I got nailed on during the lesson.

Wags
Waggy looking down on her kingdom

Trainer basically had me doing exercise one for the lesson, so I looked up the third one to begin alternating with number two. It was the perfect post lesson exercise: a long figure eight over a single ground pole. Per the book, the goals are to ride the long diagonals straight, have bend through the arcs and hit the pole on an angle. This would meld everything from the lesson together nicely.

As for my primary goal, I’m very good at being super hard on myself when I ride. I’m constantly checking on my various body parts and internally chiding myself for letting my lower leg slip forward, white knuckling the reins, tilting forward etc…. The inside of my head isn’t the prettiest place at times. What I am bad at is doing the same for Gem. I should be making sure her body parts are doing what I ask. Instead I have a “good enough” approach. I wanted to go straight down a side and instead we weave. Good enough. I wanted to begin my circle here but overshot it. Good enough.

Wrong.

I’m tired of posting pics of a single lonely ground pole in the arena, so instead you get life pictures. Wyatt has become obsessed with fishing in the pond. 

It isn’t good enough. I need to hold Gem to doing the task at hand. So I entered this exercise determined to ride as deliberately as Trainer makes me in lessons.

I started it even in the warm up period before tackling the exercise. Instead of toodling around on Gem as I get myself under control, I immediately held her to walking a straight line. Instead of stuffing her into turns at the last minute because I forgot to plan ahead, I made sure each turn was thought out several strides out and ridden with purpose.

This down tree lives in one of the back pastures. I asked Dusty to clean it u so I could jump it. He laughed knowing full well I’ll never be brave enough to do so

Gem responded by immediately softening and listening. Who would have thought that by giving your horse actual directions to follow that they would become more rideable? *Head desk*

After I did the rectangle a few times in each direction, I headed to the ground pole and picked up the trot. And Gem was amazing. The best I’ve ever felt under me.

beautiful sunrise going to work one morning

She rode straight along the long diagonal as I focused on a specific fence post to aim for. Since she was balanced and sure of her direction, the ground pole was met in stride and rode as if not even there. What really impressed me was that she actually had real bend in the turn. I was working hard to plan the turn several strides out and do as Trainer tells me all the time: ride her like an old lady driving on ice.

Gem is super athletic and can handle being jammed around tight corners but that doesn’t mean it is right to do it plus it kills all momentum and pace. By planning my turns more carefully she can more easily maintain her balance and rhythm through the turn.

Once we went through my planned arc I could actually feel her body straighten again under me as I switched my focus to the far fence line and picked my line down the diagonal and over the pole at an angle. It felt amazing. I’ve never actually felt her be so bendy and malleable under me before.

AMAZING.

He hooked one of his dump trucks to his tractor and was pulling it all over. Waggy was happy to chase it.

After 15 minutes I called it quits. She was being so good it felt more harmful than good to keep repeating the exercise. She had this one mastered and deserved to be done for the night. Eventually I’m going to have to stop doing that and ride her longer or we will never gain any endurance back but for now I’m happy to give her a big pat and tell her how good she was.

This ride left me grinning all night long. Hopefully I can remember how much better things go when I ride very deliberately and we can continue moving forward and having fun.

Riding/Horses

Wyatt Rides!

Finally, finally, the girth and bit decided to show up and Wyatt was about peeing himself with excitement to ride. He pulled Nashville in while I was finishing up riding and had him brushed and all four hooves picked out by the time I returned to the barn (with a little help from Dusty but honestly not much, he is pretty good at grooming.)

I hate buying a girth. I wrote about it here regarding Gem and it still sucks now. I can’t for the life of me pick the right length it seems and then it still varies between brands as some have more stretch than others. Anyway, I had tried Gem’s 24″ dressage girth and it was too short. Dusty was there and I asked him what size he would get. It looked to be about 6″ off so we agreed a 30″ would work.

Um, nope. It didn’t even come close to fitting.

I should have tried this before, but had figured there was no way Gem’s 48″ jump girth would come close to fitting the 12 hand Nashers.

Um, yup. It does.

It snugged up on the very top hole on each side and had a bit more wiggle than I’d like for hard work, but I’ll be damned if the thing didn’t fit well enough for Wyatt to ride at a walk. His saddle is tiny and has the shortest billets I have ever seen so that played a big part in it but still. No way it should have worked.

Once we figured that out, we tried the new bit and new to us bridle. The bit worked great (4 1/2″ D ring snaffle) but the pony size bridle was way too big. The throat latch strap was on the top most hole and I could fit two fists between it and his head. The nose band was on the last hole and was both low and too loose but again, good enough for Wyatt’s purposes for one night. Sigh. Some day I will learn to measure these things.

I’m not sure which is the cutest: the kiddo, the pony or that tiny little saddle

Eventually we had it together enough for him to get on. Poor little man was pretty scared. Last time he rode, Dusty had him trot bareback without a ground person to grab him and he hit the dirt hard. He got back on but hasn’t been too thrilled to try again. As soon as he got on he tightened up and started to panic.

I grabbed him though and told him I’d hold on and walk beside him until he was comfortable. He agreed but was still shaking.

As soon as Nash walked on, I asked Wyatt how to stop him and Wyatt pulled back on both reins and said whoa. Nash stopped immediately just as I knew he would.

Wyatt grinned and looked at me.

He then kicked him on and they walked off.

He stopped him again and grinned some more.

Now confident that he was in control, he let me let go and take pictures and video. My ground pole was still down and we used that to teach him steering. He was a bit abrupt and harder than he needed to be, he is 5 after all, but all in all he did a great job steering all on his own without my input to keep Nash lined up and going over the pole.

 

 

At one point he turned to face the pole and overshot to the left. He fixed it by turning back right and I heard him say “there we go Nash”. It made my heart melt.

By the time he was done he was grinning and telling me how he was going to train so he could win another blue ribbon at his next show.

It made my night.

Of course I then went online a ordered a 42″ girth, smaller bridle and new pad. Hubby can’t argue cause it is for the kiddo. It’s a sneaky way to get in some good horse shopping.


Remember…get your information submitted by 12 am 1/31/18 to be eligible for January’s Volunteer Challenge random drawing. So far I have $900 Facebook Pony with 8 points and 3 Day Adventures with Horses with 2 points.

Riding/Horses

Bareback Lesson. Nash Style

After I put Gemmie up, it was time to introduce Trainer and Nash. I had hoped to get Wyatt on him in a real lesson, but my Smartpak order for a pony sized girth and bit got delayed due to the snow twice and still hadn’t arrived by Sunday. Instead I talked to her about my issues with lunging him since that is a task he will absolutely have to perform at our house and she was game to tackle it with me.

Wyatt grabbed Nashville for us and I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous about what Trainer would think. He was pretty much the opposite of what she had wanted me to get for Wyatt and I was really hoping she wouldn’t hate him right off the bat. I needn’t have worried though. She LOVED him. She couldn’t say enough good things about his conformation and then when she watched him move her face split into a massive grin. The boy is FANCY.

But he is also a bit naughty and likes to test the waters to see what he actually has to do (everything according to me) and what is only a mere suggestion (everything according to him). She plopped him on the lunge line and grabbed my dressage whip since my lunge whip is still MIA after a certain 5 year used it to fight aliens. It wasn’t the best set up but it got the job done.

I’m not used to seeing a horse go along without looking like a giraffe. What is this posture?!

He did the same to her, but she is better at it and eventually got him moving out way better than I ever did. Watching him trot made me wish I was riding him instead. He did test her quite a bit and her end analysis is that he was never properly trained to lunge, but he is also a bit naughty and stubborn. Go figure.

After about 10 minutes she had me hop on him bareback to act as a back up aid system. Every time he tried to whip into the center to face her and thus avoid work, I’d stop him with my outside rein. If he tried to halt randomly, my legs were there to keep him moving. When she tried to halt him on voice, I’d be there to halt him as a back up.

And guys??

While Nashville may be a bit hard headed on the lunge, under “saddle” he is AMAZING. All it took was a tiny motion of my butt backwards and a very slight tightening of my ring fingers on the reins and he stopped. Instantly. None of this petering out, tightening my core all the way, hauling on the resin, seriously I mean halt you darn mare, bull crap. I thought halt and he did. I thought walk and he did.

Cutest face. Ever. 

What he lacks in ground work he more than makes up for under saddle. I CAN NOT FREAKING WAIT UNTIL THE GIRTH SHOWS UP!!!

 

Riding/Horses

The Mare Learns to Bend.. Kinda

The word of the day Sunday was BEND. We had none the last few times I rode on my own and I was growing frustrated trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Turns out a lot. Go figure.

We stuck to the near end of the arena, using my ground pole chute from a few days before as the farthest point. It is much easier to keep Gem contained in a smaller space than let her gain speed in the arena at large. The lesson was a tale of the bi polar horse. The first 30 minutes Gem was lazy. Like walking as slow as physically possible while still doing what I asked lazy. It was a nice change of pace and allowed me to get some good work in.

No the look of a mare wanting to get work done

First Trainer had me ride a large rectangle working on keeping Gem straight until the turn and then creating the bend in the turn while quickly regaining the straightness after. The teaching point here was that you can’t work on bend if you are never straight in the first place. I had to work on keeping her between my aides on the lines I chose and needed to be more deliberate in my path. It wasn’t good enough to get from A to B. I had to get there on an exact path that I planned in advance and then turn exactly where I wanted.

Shedding has begun!!

From there we added in a circle using my chute to anchor the circle at 20 m. Trainer immediately called me out for over compensating with my upper body as I tried to create the bend for Gem by twisting like a tornado. Not useful. Instead I was to have just enough bend in my shoulders to allow me to look 1/4 of the circle ahead at all times and just enough in my waist to shift my weight in the saddle to cue Gem to bend around the inside leg.

Still not enthused

Since Gem was being lazy, she actually accepted my lower leg on her side pushing her out into my outside rein. It felt delicious. Is that a word I can use when describing riding? Typically any inside leg results in going faster, so I have to use it judiciously. However, without the proper aides our circle tends to turn into a spiral getting ever smaller as I can’t push her out with my inside leg and catch her with the outside rein. Sunday however I could at least for a few small steps at a time and it created a lovely geometry.

Grumpy mare ears were the flavor of the day

The biggest learning point in the first half was to be more deliberate with my path, my turns and in riding in general. I tend to not hold myself as firm when riding and I need to be greedy with everything.

Then the second half happened and Gem woke up and got angry that I was still asking her to work when…gasp..she began to sweat. Mare hates the sweat. As soon as she starts, she shuts down and quits. Silly Princess.

I love shadow pictures. The arena footing is a whole other story.

We had just taken a short walk break where I got nailed for throwing her away and not continuing to ride (oops!) and took the trot back up when my nice, calm and quiet mare became speed demon. Sigh. The next 30 minutes were then spent getting her head screwed back on and paying attention.

When the circle became too much for her and all we were doing was zooming around throwing in half halts every 2 steps, half of which were being ignored, Trainer had me go back out on the rectangle adding in a 10 meter circle at each corner with the goal being to maintain the pace and not fall into it. We were semi capable of this, but still I heard the tell tale “slow down, slower” from Trainer about half a million times.

Gorgeous day for a ride

Still, there were good things to come out of the second half. First, I didn’t give up. Sometimes when Gem is like this my head shuts down and I get tense, braced and want to get off and cry in the corner. Sunday though I actually laughed at her. I knew she was tired and that this was getting hard for her which is why she acted out however I also knew that if she just calmed the heck down and did what I asked it would all be over and she could go chill out int he pasture again. The biggest teaching point here was that I needed to be patiently persistent in what I wanted. Gem could act out all she wanted but she darn well better stay on my circle or rectangle or whatever and maintain the bend. I had to keep asking and asking and asking until she realized I wasn’t going to go away ever and she had just better cave and do the thing.

By the end of the hour, Gem was pretty sweaty and I was really happy with all I had driven into my head. Basically it boils down to me holding both of us more responsible to getting the work done. No more letting her get away with pushing out on the circle or falling in. I need to be firmer about exactly where I want her to be at all times while actively working and that is a big shift from what I have always done.

The only part f her that tells on her age is her ever greying mane

With endurance, Gem and I had come to an understanding. She was in charge of her feet and tackling the trail in the safest and most efficient way possible and I was in charge of setting the pace. If she needed to canter a certain section, as long as our pace didn’t change, she could. I didn’t mess with her very much and she didn’t challenge my sense of direction or pace requirements. But this is a whole new ball game and I need to get more firm with every part of her. Our path is just as important as the speed in which we get there now and it is a big mental change for me.

Riding/Horses

Finally, a Lesson!! But First..the Warm Up

Sunday was 68F, sunny and with a breeze. I walked out of my back door at 10:30 am and never walked back inside again until 6 pm. It was glorious. Not only the weather, but the fact that I live where I can always find something outside to entertain myself with for that long and never once get bored. Bliss.

This wasn’t Sunday and it wasn’t bliss, but it was pretty. We got 2″ on Wednesday and it shut the town down. 

Sunday also happened to be the day I finally started lessons again. It had been since the middle of November and it was long overdue.

Gem and Pete are no strangers to the cold fluffy stuff. We gave them access to the barn yard and the front half of the barn for shelter which nobody decided to use. 

But before I get into the actual lesson, trust me it isn’t that exciting anyway, I need to hash out something that I completely failed at not only in the execution, but also in discussing it with Trainer. Something about following my Gemmie lesson with a  bareback lesson on Nash got me all distracted.

Who me?

Anyway…

The last year of lessoning out at RB was great, but it was also a bit stressful getting home from work, loading up Gem and hitting the road in rush hour to drive through downtown with the trailer and make it there in time. Most of the time I got there with just enough time to tack and hurry into the arena. The few times I was lucky enough to have a bit of extra time, Trainer would start the lesson as soon as I got in the arena anyway. This all meant no warm up before a lesson. I’d hop on and we would get busy learning. Or flailing around. Which was more common.

I do miss how pretty the world is under a blanket of fresh snow

Sunday though Trainer came to me and after I realized that I could in fact perform a proper warm up before the lesson. So I got Gem at 1 pm for a 2 pm lesson, took my time grooming her (mare is staring her spring shed) and tacked up at 1:30 pm. Gem was in no mood to work in a winter coat at 68F, so I planned to take it a bit easy on her and we began by walking.

After 10 minutes I was like…umm ok we walked. Are we warmed up now? I don’t know. Lets trot.

So I trotted for 10 minutes. She was loose, responsive and listening really ell although we didn’t actually do much except trot all around the arena. Was that a warm up? I wasn’t sure but I still had 10 minutes before Trainer was due and had no clue what to do to fill the gap.

You see Gem doesn’t do repetition. She also tends to lose her marbles one allowed to canter and I didn’t want to lose the wonderful horse I had under me before the lesson. I was clueless what all to do and chose to sit on her and wait for Trainer to ask her and then promptly forgot when she arrived.

Which brings me to my question for all of you..what constitutes a warm up? I know it is different for each horse, each ride depending on what you will be working on and likely the day but I’m sure there are some general rules to follow. Like, how long do you typically warm up for? What is the end goal? Waking Gem up and letting her get any wiggles out before the lesson started were my goals, but I’m not sure they were really sophisticated enough. Should I have worked on bend since that was going to be the focus of the lesson? I chose to let that slide and wait for the lesson so as not to hammer it home too much but then that meant we basically did nothing but walk around and trot a bit.

It felt like the 30 minutes I “rode” prior to the lesson were basically just me sitting on my horse. Not sure it really prepared her for anything. Or was very useful. It was enjoyable though so there is that.

2018 Volunteer Challenge

2018 Volunteer Challenge Participants

Thank you to everyone who signed up! I was a bit nervous posting it. I would have felt like a big loser with no friends had nobody signed up 🙂 Hopefully this becomes the motivation people need to get out and donate their time back to the sport they love.

Below is a list of everyone I have that signed up. If you signed up but are missing from the list, please let me know and I’ll add you. There are 12 on the list which will make it a fun contest for the year!!

Grain Before Groceries

The $900 Facebook Pony

‘Fraidy Cat Eventing

Riding to B

Trails to Lead Old Cowboys Home

In Omnia Paratus

3 Day Adventures with Horses

Poor Woman Showing

Quantum Chrome

DIY Horse Ownership

Betsy Wood – I know you don’t have a blog, so I’m just placing your name here.

Three Chestnuts

A page has been created as well where I will post points as they come in and act as a way for you guys to double check me and make sure I don’t miss anything.

I’ll post reminders as we go to help you guys send in your activity for the drawings. Remember, prizes are given monthly and quarterly! You can submit on any blog post, by emailing me at agemofahorse at gmail dot com or by commenting on the page itself. Lots of chances to submit and win!

If anyone has volunteer hours to submit for January, get on it and be eligible for the first random drawing to take place on 2/1/18!

Get out there and volunteer!