Riding/Horses

In Which Gem Redeems Herself Yet Again

Sunday was a whole other story and this folks is why I keep my Gemmie around. Well, that and nobody else would want her and I’d never forgive myself if she ended up in an auction or feed lot.

Anyway….

After a ridiculously disgusting Saturday (seriously weather yo-yoing from 79 Friday to 45 and raining Saturday then back to 75 and sunny Sunday is ridiculous. Take your meds please) Sunday dawned gorgeous. Just that morning I saw that RB is hosting a spring H/J show March 10 and I plan to be there so it was time to get jumping.

Nap time. Sunny 75 and with a gentle breeze. Had me wishing I had a hammock so I could join in. 

With my new found bravery, I set the jumps at 2′ verticals and set three in a generous circle with two on the long side and one set perpendicular on the short side.  I really like this placement for Gem. It allows me room for my newbie errors which avoids me inadvertently punishing Gem, but still keeps me honest and steering. By having it on such a large circle, it forces me to ride her straight away from the jump and then set up my turn which helps fight my really bad habit of only riding up to a fence and then leaving Gem hanging on the backside with no directions.

The third jump is just off screen against the far fence line and just in front of the near fence. 

Gem came out well behaved and listening. Sure she still wanted to go faster than I did, but she actually listened to my half halts and would slow down for multiple strides at a time. It felt good and rideable on the flat so I proceeded to the jumps and went right to start.

Gem was amazing. She locked on, never said no or tried to run out and while it wasn’t always pretty going over she did try her best.

After the first two jumps I settled myself and really focused hard on my own position. I paid attention to sitting back before the jump instead of leaning forward (a very bad habit I do for fear of not getting into two point fast enough once she does jump), sinking those heels down, shoving my butt back (while I two point nicely on the flat it goes out the window in favor of standing in the stirrups over jumps which isn’t good) and grabbing that neck strap. It felt good to know she was going over so I could focus on myself.

I had a creeper the entire time I rode. Now that the horses are out in the  big pasture, they have access right up to the arena gate. There is a back entrance right off the barn which avoids entering or exiting via the horse pasture. But it does allow little creepers to stand and stare hard at me the entire time. Thanks for the judgement Nash!

After a few go rounds of doing each fence individually I focused on doing all three in a row with the turns. Going right she nailed it every time, coming back to the trot between fences so we could make the turn. I praised that crap out of her each time, loudly telling her how amazing she was and giving her great big pats.

I may have over done it because it definitely went to her head. Shortly thereafter she began celebrating after each jump and began to get a bit harder to get under control on the back side.

After a really good go to the right where she hit every jump near perfectly, made the turns and listened I gave her a walk break. She was starting to have that sweaty horse smell to her and I wanted to reward her effort.

Then we went left and it wasn’t near as good. Left is her harder side as it is and by that point she was feeling pretty proud of herself which typically translates into her believing I am no longer necessary and that she has it from here. Plus she was also just about done with me.

She stayed with me going into the first jump but then took off after and it took me circling all the way back to the start to get her to trot again. Needless to say we didn’t make it over the other two fences that time.

We suck at selfies

The next time she listened well enough to make the turn to the center jump but then I lost her after when she yet again took off. I’m not ready to start getting after her after jumps since she is finally saying yes 90% of the time now. Instead I let her canter back to the start and tried again all the while praising her for saying yes and going over.

It took a few more attempts to get her over all three going to the left but once she did I quit for the day. I was really proud of her for going over, trying hard and the fact that the jumps were set at 2′. I was never brave enough to go that high before.

I texted Trainer and set up a jump lesson out at RB which will be the first time I’ve trailered there since early November or maybe late October. Its been a while. But I want to be able to work a more complicated course before we go to the jumper show there in March. My plan is to hit up as many classes as possible this time: cross rails through 2′ both the hunter and the jumper classes both to try and stave off boredom as well as to get us as many low key miles as I can. I really believe Gem actually deep down enjoys this jumping game after all. It gives her a purpose in the arena and I can really feel her start to understand and take to it. She gets super proud of herself once she completes a task she didn’t think she could and it is big confidence boost for us both.

Also, the month is coming up fast and I don’t have any hours entered for the volunteer challenge. It’s going to be an easy random drawing with no names in the invisible hat. If you’ve volunteered in February get those hours submitted!

Riding/Horses

Working on Halt

Was it fun to go back to the very basic of basics and spend 45 minutes fighting to get a true halt? Nope.

Did I have moments day dreaming of selling her and riding a better behaved horse? Yup.

Did I deserve a shit ride that night? Probably.

Wyatt caught his first fish!! A decent size bass too. He was so excited!! Of course now I will never swim in our pond ever. 

Friday night was the first time I rode Gem in two weeks. Not smart and I know that. Between the rain and the flu and then Wyatt stealing Wednesday night from me, it was the first shot I had.

Beyond the two weeks off, it was dark, the wind was gusting hard and it went from 50 and raining Thursday to 79 and sunny Friday. So many reasons to have a tense and unhappy Gem.

I rode anyway and should have had low expectations given all the above and nearly a decade of experience with her. Instead I planned to jump. I even added a third jump and jacked it all the way up to 2′ (I know I’m a wimp).

Followed 20 minutes later by a blue gill!

As soon as I got on I knew that plan was screwed. She was jigging instead of walking and the moment I asked for trot she tore off at a gallop. Sigh.

Now, the bright side? A year ago I would have slid off her in defeat. Not now. Instead I changed my plan. If she couldn’t be trusted to walk or trot we would work on halting.

She has been amazing at halting for several months now. Friday night? It all went out the window and it was like we went back in time 12 months. She would walk through my aides. When she did finally stop moving forward she would swing her big old butt around to face wherever she wanted, mostly the gate, and then back up.

It was annoying.

 He watched while Dusty filleted them

I hung in there though and kept persisting. Once she stopped moving and right before her butt swung around, I praised the ever living crap out of her. Then we walked quickly forward before she could do something stupid. Repeat.

For 45 minutes until she finally halted three times in a row and didn’t move a muscle until asked to. Then I called it quits, went inside to cook dinner and wished I liked alcohol. I could have used a hard beverage.

And then scarfed down not only his bass and blue gill fillet, but then Dusty’s blue gill fillet as well. He was so proud that he caught his own lunch. I tried them both and thought the blue gill was pretty tasty, but did not enjoy the bass. 
Riding/Horses

3 Day Adventures with Horses Blog Hop: 3 words

Three Day Adventures with Horses posted a great idea for a blog hop: What three words best describe your horse?

Opinionated

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Working wasn’t on my social planner for today

Anyone who has met Gem for even the briefest of moments immediately comments on how opinionated the mare is. Not only does she have an opinion about everything, but she also feels the need to express it. Oh, and she is always right by the way. It wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t always seem to have the opposite opinion as I do. The jump is scary – it is the same plain cross rail you have seen a dozen times.  I need to be going 10 mph – no you don’t Gemmie we are in an arena. You are stupid – no, I’m not Gem and that is just plain mean anyway. It doesn’t help that she is so dang smart as well, but it would be nice if she just went with the flow a little every now and then.

 

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Still not in the mood to work

Honest

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While she won’t make up for my mistakes, she also isn’t dirty. Here I stuffed her at the jump last minute. She said no. 

Gem tells it like it is and I never have to worry that she is being overly dramatic. A hang nail doesn’t cause her to be three legged lame. On the flip side, she also isn’t so stoic that she will keep going with one leg missing. I can 100% trust that when she tells me something is wrong, that it is. This fact was really helpful in the endurance world. I never spent time second guessing or stressing if she was off physically, mentally or metabolically. She’d tell me if she was.

She isn’t mean about anything and won’t pull a dirty trick, but she also won’t hand me anything either. I’ve had to work for every tiny minuscule improvement I’ve gotten from her.

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Aloof

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Road block last summer while mowing the pasture. She never even glanced my way. Never came up to say hello.

In your pocket, she is not. It took me three years to get her to open up even a little bit. Most days she still stands in the pasture and watches me walk to her. Some times she still runs and hides behind a tree. Rarely, she meets me at the gate with a nicker. She tolerates grooming and if she could roll her eyes I am sure she would every time I give her my bug hugs and lots of kisses. Mostly I annoy her with my affection. She isn’t a goof ball, she isn’t nerdy. She is just…all Gem all the time and I love her for it.

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Still my favorite equine

This was a lot of fun!

Riding/Horses

Windridge Cross Country School

When Trainer invited me to a cross country school I was really excited…until I found out the venue was going to be Windridge. Not that I have anything against the facility. It is gorgeous and rolling. It’s not a schooling course though. They have nothing below starter and all the jumps are beefy. However, they started a new winter series and announced an 18″ division. I said yes banking on the fact that those new jumps would be out specially since they were to host the first event the previous weekend and another the next Wednesday.

Beautiful morning to be out on my horse

When I pulled in and looked around though there wasn’t a single 18″ fence to be seen. I knew immediately this wasn’t going to be about jumping.

It ended up being a great day even if I only jumped one actual cross country fence in 1 1/2 hours. Gem jumped four others without me (someone else climbed up) though so she got some good schooling in.

Trainer had me use a neck strap for the first time and now I am addicted. Seriously, how did I ever jump without it??

I’m not really sure what has happened to my mare, but guys…it’s been eight years in the making and holy crap does it feel amazing. We started by warming up walk and trot in a flattish section of the field. Less than a year ago this simple task would have been a complete disaster full of spooks, bolts, hollow tenseness and probably me getting dumped.

Not Saturday. I’m starting to feel like a broken record but….it’s all so new to me! She was relaxed, forward without rushing and listening perfectly. Our transitions were spot on and it was overall pleasant. Trainer was impressed!

Shedding has begun in full force

The other girl with me was riding Training level so while those two got a few jumps planned out, I wandered over to the warm up fences. They have three stadium fences and a few log piles and I popped Gem over the stadium fences a few times going both up and down the slope.

Then we moved on down the course and Trainer spotted a little red fence with a log on top and wanted me to try it. I couldn’t. I completely wussed out and handed the ride over to the other girl who was asking to try.

She promptly fell off.

I felt bad yet slightly vindicated. Does that make me a bad person? Probably.

Several attempts later she got her over and then promptly stopped asking to ride her. Sorry, Gem. Few people ask twice to take your ride.

Not me, but it is Gem going over the starter sized jump on like the 12th attempt. 

As we wandered around I could tell Trainer felt bad. She knew there wasn’t anything I was going to jump out there and didn’t understand why the 18″ fences hadn’t been put out.

I told her I was ok though. I knew it was a risk going there and I was just so happy with how rideable Gem was remaining with big open spaces, lots of standing around breaks and another horse. Any one of those things would have resulted in a terrible ride as recently as last summer and yet here she was being fun. I had no regrets.

So instead she had me working on riding Gem deliberately, getting walk-trot-canter transitions throughout the field along a specified track. We were working on the tasks between the jumps which is something that has always terrified me with Gem’s history. It was fun and Gem was being so good. We cantered and trotted up and down hills and around jumps all with the focus on me being deliberate with the track and Gem maintaining the same pace regardless of the terrain.

The only thing I am brave enough to jump at Windridge

Eventually we found the fake ditch I had done last time and she had me work Gem over it going both directions. Gem was hesitant and this is where my biggest learning point of the day came in.

Trainer told me that I actually have to give Gem permission to do what I’m asking her to do or else it isn’t fair. I tend to ask them get super defensive and in effect block Gem from answering correctly which is counter productive. To be fair to myself, when it comes to jumping Gem isn’t always honest and I respond by riding defensively in order to, you know…not die and die. But it isn’t helping

So I approached it again, put my leg on, grabbed the neck strap and asked her to jump. She was still squirrelly and hesitant but she went over and didn’t get punished by my rigidity. The next time she went even better.

That’s when the second learning point came up.

Trainer asked me what I’m focused on going over a jump. It’s been many months since I’ve looked at the jump (at least one bad habit gone?) and I do look out in the distance. My answer? “I’m focusing on not dying” she laughed and said it’s time to start focusing on my exit. When I jump I’m so focused on just getting Gem over that I forget to ride the backside. When I took the ditch with a very specific exit strategy, Gem felt more confident as a result and we had a much more balance ride.

It all boils down to me being a better leader at all times for my not very confident mare.

Muddy soup Gemmie used to have no interest in stepping in, but will now happily trot through

From there it was on to the water complex which had a broken pump so had mostly no water in it. More broken record here, but a few short months ago there was no way she would have stepped into this let only trotted through. Saturday though she did. I got nailed again for being tense and not letting Gem do what I asked of her, but once I loosened my death grip on the reins and let her trot she was floating and amazing.

We practiced trotting through, turning right, picking up the canter and cantering back to the starting point. The wheels fell off here a little as Gem took it as a race back to the beginning and then got cranky when I made her do simple things like have steering ability and not fall on her face

We followed the other girl around for another 20 minutes or so of watching her knock the socks off the Training level course. I’m not sure what her goals are but she was hitting the mark every single time out there.

After just over 90 minutes we called it quits and I waited for the next group to show up. A student of hers that is doing her first 1* this year was coming to ride Gem over some starter level jumps and I was excited to watch and learn. Part of me wanted Gem to be amazingly perfect and fly over everything, but another part wanted her to have the same issues with a better rider so it wouldn’t be all my fault for how she is. Mean? Maybe?

Also not me, but a different “not me”. 

Trainer jacked all the fences up to 2’3″ height and Gem didn’t say no and made the height look easy. Guess it’s time for me to man up and get used to a bit height sticks.

Then they moved to the course and a simple bright blue starter roll top. It took several attempts but she got her over. It was super eye opening to watch her go with this near pro on her. What I can feel under saddle looks about the same on the ground. Gem is squirrelly. She doesn’t go straight very well and I could see her thinking about noping her way out of it with each stride. It took a ton of leg to get her to go over. Once she popped over the first time she got super proud of herself and Trainer laughed telling the rider “let her think she is an Olympian after that”. The next time over she hopped it no problem and raced away like the king of the world.

 

Then they tried the starter box but Gem never went over. It was the largest she ever saw and it wasn’t going to happen. You can get an idea from this one though how she goes left a little, then right, then stops. You just never fully know where her body is going to be.

 

There was a starter green bench next to it and they re routed to that instead.

 

 

 

I talked to the rider on the way back to the trailer and she had good things to say. She had a lot of fun on her, but admitted she was difficult. She felt bad because she couldn’t stop having contact all the way up to and over the jump because the moment she would soften Gem would take that as an excuse to duck out. I know that feeling all too well and I struggle with it. But Gem is smart and hopefully she learns that going over is easier than saying no.

The other thing she commented on was the fact that Gem has no clue to look for jumps yet so each time it catches her off guard and she is surprised. Gem is so busy looking every where but in front of her that she never sees it coming. Her last horse took 6 months of solid xc schooling to learn to look for it so all hope isn’t lost I suppose.

I left wishing I could leave Gem with her for a month of training. Not only do I not have the cash for it but she is in college and couldnt do it anyway. Maybe this summer when she is on her break I can ship Gem off to her. Something to think about.

Regardless, Gem got more than a 15 minute ride in Saturday and some serious education 🙂

Not sure why I torture her like that
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.