Saturday, October 18, 2008


No, not the bad kind.

Suspension is a good thing - it means that when Blue is trotting, we sometimes hit these golden moments where he doesn't just put one foot in the track of the other (there's no way I'll ever get him to track up in a phenomenal way, but I've accepted that), but he also gets a bit of hang time in where none of his feet touch the ground. Ya know, LIKE HE'S SUPPOSED TO.

But seriously, I love my goober. He was very good today, and for some reason he was very generous with the euphoric moments. Head down, striding out, suspension...he was even beginning to yield more at the canter instead of charging down the long side like he usually does.

I do feel bad, because I ride the canter oh-so-crappily. I don't know if it's because of Blue or stiff hips, but I have a very hard time having the swivel-hips necessary to follow the motion of his canter. This means when I canter in three-point, I often come up and out of the saddle before coming back in. It's not a thump, but it's noticeable. Or I canter in two-point. But he's noticeably uncomfortable when I sit, not with anyone else. Same saddles, everything. I'm almost sure it's me, I don't want to ruin the horse's back.

So, don't laugh at me, but I practice in the mirror. I just pick a lead and try to simulate the motion. I won't lie - I look ridiculous. But it can't hurt...right?

Yesterday, my boldness got the best of me. We had a loopy, windy course that I was just thrilled about. Being thrilled, I rode semi-aggressively to each fence.

Not good for a loopy, windy course.

It was rough. We both had fun, but there was also that moment after the infamous two-stride in-and-out that Blue let out a "WHOOPEE!" buck that had all of the horse show mothers gasping.

It was fun, but it would have been decidedly less so if I had fallen.

The next time I decided to go for the Add. Because Adds are good for loopy, windy courses. I don't care if it's tight, if he makes it around the next turn (and it's not TOO tight).

MUCH better. We had an awesome tight turn that most people were blowing - I looked around my turn, sat back and everything.

I have a show (most likely the last one of the season) coming up on November 2nd, and I'd like to do the Junior Hunters and Hunter Classic with Blue. It's 2'6" or 3', and I think we'll go for 2'6" because I am pathetically inexperienced over 3' courses and it would be nice to end the season with something that will be easy and fun for both of us. It's a small show, so we could actually pin in the Hunters. If he keeps being as round as he is, he could clean up the flat classes at least. Oh, and the top 6 in the Hunter Classic get a cash prize. I've never competed in a money class in my life, and though the odds are slim that I'll take home any dough, it can't hurt to dream!

My instructor is in absentia for the next week, and Blue gets a week off of jumping. I'm optimistic, because I have so many flatwork ideas and hopefully when she returns we'll have some cool new skills to show off that will translate to our over fences work! Yay!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If It's Not One Thing...'s another.

Actually, before I have you thinking otherwise, the show went very well. Blue was quite good for his younger rider, and right on par for me. We swept Low Hunter, taking every blue ribbon, division Champion, and year-end Champion. So Blue now has another plate for his collection. ;)

I was a bit disappointed with my equitation. I think I really have to stop working gate the morning of the show because I just get so tired and unmotivated by the time my classes come around that courses wear me out. I do just fine, but I feel I don't compete at my best. But we have another show coming on the 2nd (my 1/2 birthday, coincidentally) and I now have my sights set on that.

We had a rather small lesson on Tuesday, just three of us, and it allowed us some time to really work on things. We first worked on straightness. I never realized how much Blue leans on the rail before now! He really does, and he's the type that likes to dip his shoulder around turns.

Over fences, we did some turning. Ironically, the straightness exercises really helped with turning! We found nice distances to fences each time, sometimes getting a little tight because I felt he needed to collect more to make the turn after the jump, but he changed his leads over fences and felt really responsive around the course. Blue tends to lose his head a bit jumping because he gets overexcited. We had a two-stride in-and-out that Blue kept getting long and flat over at the show, so I rode him to it so he'd get a tighter distance and really have to round over it. When my trainer asked about it, I told her about what I had observed at the show and told me I was really starting to figure Blue out! It really made me feel good, because I really respect her opinion.

Talk to ya later about tomorrow's lesson!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Shades of Gray

Besides being the show name of my friend's horse, shades of gray has begun to take on a new meaning.

I think my initiative to re-sensitize Blue to my aids got off to a rousing start. He seemed much happier than he usually is, and his canter seemed a lot less up-and-down, and he was beginning to show more signs of rounding his back at the canter. That's exciting because although Blue's walk is solid and his trot is coming along nicely, we struggle a lot at the canter. These are some of the first signs of accumulating progress that I hope leads us to a better-quality canter.

Another positive effect is that when we tried some lead changes down the diagonal as we do sometimes and Blue gave me not one, but two clean lead changes! Normally he does a quick step change (note that the vet has checked him out and he is physically capable of doing them, but he seems to just have a mental block about how to shift his balance and his legs with me on top of him), and I think I can count on one hand the number of clean changes I've gotten that weren't over jumps.

After a very chippy course over the lower jumps (we both don't really know what to do with them), I experimented again with pushing my hands forward but ended up being too extreme and charging at jumps with loopy reins. I've noticed that in the course of my habit-fixing I must bounce between extremes a couple of times before I finally settle into a good place. Considering that, the course was pretty good. Blue handled the bending line well, got the right number of strides in the in-and-out, and even got the four where my friend's long-strided, 17 hh Thoroughbred gelding got the five. Granted, it was a short four, but who's counting?

So, as I mentioned I have a horse show on Saturday. It's the series end of our home show series, and I'm in contention for a Year End Champion for Low Hunter! I have another lesson on Friday, but I am thinking there won't be time until after the show to post. Hopefully I'll have some nice pictures to share! On November 2 we plan on going to another small show in the area, and I'm hoping to compete in the Hunter Classic. It's got a cash prize, which would be nice but I really am just looking forward to the challenge. The neat part is theirs is judged equally on Hunter and Equitation, so it would be a test of me and Blue's ability to work together. I'll let you know as it goes. There's a two-week window in there during which I hope to clip Blue for the winter - he gets a very shaggy winter coat early and considering the amount I plan to ride (and hope to show) it's the most fair option for both of us.

Monday, October 6, 2008

You Can't Always Get What You Want...

...but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

In this case, I needed a bolder, quicker pace to the lines of jumps we were doing. See, Blue has a really short, flat stride...great if you like to sit the trot (he has an awesome trail jog) or the canter but not so much if you like to get the correct distances to jumps. What I wanted was to be able to have that hold on his mouth that makes me feel secure...not a death grip, but enough so that he feels I don't want him to move forward. Combined with my leg, that results in...surprise! Even shorter distances...leading to chips. Yuck.

Lately, I've been trying to compromise between requiring Blue to do what I request and not pissing him off. He's not entirely happy about yielding to a shoulder in or similar lateral movements - it's usually met with tail swishing and neck arching. But if I back off the aids, he cheats and just bends his neck. I've decided to attack this problem twofold. First of all, I need to make sure my aids are clear enough so that I know he understands what I'm asking...if that means taking it step by step, maybe starting a circle and gently "tricking" him into a shoulder in or first just asking for a simple bend and escalating from there. Next, I need to establish the aid I want a response from in the beginning of the ride. If I want to be able to use a feather-light nudge of the heel, I need to be consistent and require that before we start anything. Otherwise he just gets very dull until I have to take my foot out of the stirrup and really thump against him - he's very dead-sided. I might have to pair the spurs with my trusty dressage whip instead of the crop...another problem I've been failing to address is the fact that Blue anticipates the crop and as soon as I remove my hands from the reins, he moves away from that leg and I let him alone, after which he becomes dead-sided again.

So, as you can see, I have quite a few schooling goals I'd like to address. I'm hoping that for a couple of these, if we really improve on one of them the others will begin to fall into place. If not, I've got patience.

Anyway, back to jumping, I learned that I had to release my too-tight hold on his mouth, otherwise he'd never feel comfortable opening up.

Boy, what a difference it made!

Don't get me wrong, I still supported his head and I didn't drop him before the fence, but I did push my hands forward so that there was a LIGHT contact.

The difference was amazing. I felt like I actually had an adjustable horse! We actually hit all the distances I aimed to hit, and doing so put us in good take-off spots. Boy do I love breakthroughs!

Here's a pic from our last lesson. I, regrettably, wasn't completely focused on my position, so I'm gripping with my knee, and because I didn't remember to press my heels down before the fence, my crotch is on top of the pommel and my leg slipped back. Grr. On the other hand, I'm not bracing against my hands nearly so much as I usually do, and my back is arched for once, and I'm closing my hip angle a lot more. I'm also really looking around my cool is that? Best part is, Blue looks happy. That's the most important part. The jump isn't very big, so he's not really using himself as much as he could, but he isn't being lazy either.

I've got show pictures as well (I'm reluctant to post them as at shows I get...well, tense...and my position gets worse) but I'm going to wait until the pictures from the show coming up this Saturday make it to the photographer's website. The lesson pic above was taken by my friend's dad.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Little Push

Sometimes, no matter how convinced your heart is that you'd like to do something, your brain stops you. And all you need is a little push.
I saw my boy for the first time in a week yesterday. I walked out to his pasture determined not to let the fact that I have both a Calculus and Physics test tomorrow get in the way of enjoying my favorite horse. Luckily, Blue agreed, as all I had to do was call "BOYS!" to have him, Tex, and Sequel all gallop up to greet me. Fortunately they're pretty gentlemanly - they each stopped clear of me and didn't threaten to run me over like some others I know would.
I have decided to try coconut oil on his mane and tail - he's part Appaloosa and has the hair to prove it, and he likes to rub his tail anyway, so what did I have to lose? Coconut oil is a natural oil that is unique in its ability to moisturize and nourish hair from the inside out - yes, it permeates into the hair. I bought a 1 lb-tub at Wal-Mart for $10, and the less you use the better, so I consider it a worthwhile investment, especially since it's only applied once a week. I wiped the excess on his hooves...apparently people report it's a great conditioner. Unfortunately I forgot the fact that coconut oil congeals below 76 degrees...and today was one of those 69 degree September days. >:-(
After an uneventful warm-up, we began the lesson with lots of lateral movements. That means shoulder-in, shoulder-out, haunches-in, and haunches-out. This gets Blue to really listen to leg cues, and of course really makes him collect and use his back if he is to do the movement properly. The result of this is that he was very willing to round up at the trot and canter and move freely forward. His trot today was pure ecstasy...I like the feeling, and it's happening more and more!
And, as it often does, this transferred to our over-fences work, as well. Though, annoyingly, he did canter the trot jump, as he tends to do when he thinks we're not jumping fast enough, he picked up a nice pace and we hit a nice pace to the warm-up oxer.
When we jumped our 2'6" course, we were very consistent and got all of the distances I aimed to get! He was very responsive, and I have had none of the hesitation or crankiness that I had last week that contributed to my stress. Of course, the footing was much better today, too, so that could have contributed. Hey, I'm just happy to have the horse I know and love back, and not that cranky bronco!
Then, probably the real subject of my entry today, three of the jumps were raised to 3'. I have jumped single 3' fences but never more than one in a lesson, and since I was just thrilled to have the horse I had lost briefly back, I was a bit nervous. Six inches is kinda a big difference! My heart rate rose, and I told my trainer I felt uncomfortable. Yet, at the same time, I knew if I didn't try, I would be mad at myself. Trainer told me, "Please, just try and if you have trouble we'll lower them." After hemming and hawing, I finally just decided the worst that would happen is that he'd refuse and I'd fall and we'd jump the lower jumps.
I think we only got tight to one jump...the rest were pretty good and consistent! We did have to hustle a bit to make the distances, but, hey, the horse was responsive, so why not? We still drift a bit to the left down the line, but that's fixable. I'm mainly proud at my horse for supporting me and myself for just sucking it up and trying.
Best part is, my trainer is going away for a week in October, so although I won't have a lesson, I'll be staying in the house at the farm all week, meaning tons of time to ride and generally be with the horses! Yay!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sorry for Not Posting!

Yeah, I know, I only have one follower, but I still need to apologize.

Part of the reason is that inclement weather has prevented me from riding. The other reason is that when I have been riding, all the stresses surrounding me (college, school, friends being dumb, parents) have been getting to me, and I haven't been very fair to Blue. There's no reason I should make him have to deal with me and the weight of my worries.

So I'm going to take a deep breath, forget all of it, and come back fresh with a post on how Tuesday's lesson goes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RIP Ladybug "Bugsy"

I rode today, and I'll post about it tomorrow, but I'd like to dedicate today's post to one spunky little pony mare.
Yesterday, my instructor's pony Bugsy was put down. She didn't suffer from any acute ailment or injury, but she did suffer a high bowed tendon that, at age 23, was not healing as it should and rendered her pasture sound only. Most riding instructors with 5 other horses and a business to look after don't have the time or money to dedicate to an old, unsound, retired school pony, and it would not have been fair to sell her or even give her away as a companion horse, as Bugsy was very closely bonded with a mare, Lisa, at our barn and would've been devastated to have to leave her. There are retirement barns around, but most are quite expensive and the one with the best reputation, Ryerss Home for Retired Equines, has a 5-year waiting list and a $5,000 fee. It was decided that the most responsible thing to do would be to put Bugsy to rest while she was still happy and comfortable.
I should note that, in addition, Bugsy's eyesight was beginning to go, making her even more spooky and reliant on Lisa for communicating danger. Putting her into a totally different situation would have been unfairly stressful on her.
I write this because Bugsy was one of those ponies that taught me what I needed to know to get to where I am today. She was a toughie, and if you weren't totally committed to getting her over a fence or keeping her pace up, she would simply plant her feet until you managed to figure out what you were doing. I had my fair share of falls from her, but I think she also taught me some of the most important lessons in my riding career, including the importance of using both leg and a supporting contact before a fence. When I did win blue ribbons with her, it was sweet - when she stopped at the first fence three times, it strengthened my convictions and showed me the importance of riding each stride. Everyone at my barn has a Bugsy story to share...I have more than one. :)
So here's to Bugsy - maybe not the easiest or my favorite horse to ride, but definitely one of my best teachers. She will live forever in my heart and memory, and also those of the people who loved her more than I did. It still hasn't truly sunk in yet; I suppose I wrote this post in hopes that it would help me realize this fact. I know she is no longer with us, yet I will not stop expecting to see her grazing side-by-side with Lisa, whinnying to any horse that would care to answer.

Rest in peace, Ladybug. 1985 - 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Now That Life Has Settled...

...I can get back to blogging again! Yay!

Since last episode, I was in Big County Fair Show (did not go so well...Blue was having a bad day and I chalked it up to experience) and Local Schooling Show (went very well...Blue was stellar except for those pesky lead changes, and we ended up coming home with two Grand Champion ribbons, one in Equitation for me and one in Low Children's Hunter for him). I had a couple of less-than-good lessons in a row, and I rode Tex again (that went fairly well, though I was a bit out of my comfort zone). I'm finally beginning to fall into a regular schedule again, and I'm planning on clipping the big hairy beast after our last planned schooling show in October. There's a new, younger girl leasing Blue. Her name is Maddie and she's very sweet - I think she'll learn a lot from my goof.

Sorry for the short catch-up post. I just am too tired and don't feel like going into a ton of detail. Rest assured that Blue and I continue to try and hear the other, even if we do get a little pissed off by each other at times.

In other news, I discovered three of his scratchy spots. His withers and chest are good places, and he likes his belly button scratched if I get my fingertips in there. After so much battling with him to clean his sheath (his owner was very lax about it and let it go too long, and Blue formed quite the sour opinion about the process in general), he's finally starting to twitch his lips for that, too. I always try to "make friends" with him by getting those spots (well, except the sheath) each time I ride, it's so much more gratifying to bring a little happiness to my horse without the pushiness that results from treats.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Zen in Horsemanship

Tension has always been a big problem for me, with my work with horses and elsewhere. I don't like new experiences, and my heart always races when I think about it.
I was reading Many Misadventures' post on her talk at leadership camp, and it really got me thinking. If I let my unrelated tension seep into my riding, Blue will respond by getting tense himself. This, in turn, makes me more tense, and there we go in a vicious cycle!
So I've been working on ways to try and release that tension so that Blue and I can work together productively. I'd like to share them with you.
*There is nothing like barn drama. Unfortunately, when you take lessons with someone you are on the outs with, it makes your lesson more than a bit awkward. I have a habit of watching my friends ride (which is hard because almost all my best friends ride in my lessons!), so I've been stopping that and I try to focus on myself. I do let myself watch their courses, since when we're jumping we're going one at a time and Blue's on a loose rein anyway. I've also stopped worrying about what the people behind me are doing. I can only control the space in front of me.
*Grooming is a great stress-reliever. Do a thorough grooming of your horse before you hop on (though make sure to give yourself plenty of time, so you don't stress out more). Curry your daily worries away!
*Don't feel the need to ride in the ring all the time. A good hack out does wonders for both you and your horse's mental clarity. Take the time to see the sights. If you can't afford to leave your schooling for the day, then take some work to the trail! There are plenty of exercises you can use on the trail (shoulder-in, leg yields, circling when you're in fields) and your horse will love you forever if you get up off of his back when going uphill!
*At shows, don't sweat the small stuff. There's always the possibility that the judge didn't see your mistake! I try to ride with a never-look-back philosophy - when I'm in the saddle, I'm only concerned with the here and now. Detailed analysis, I save for the blog!
*Pick a song with a soothing rhythm to hum to yourself or sing in your head. It helps you get your mind off of things, if you're like me and you try too hard. I like to switch songs each ride, and I like to pick a song that will match the beats of the walk, trot, canter, and hand-gallop.

In other news, next Sunday I'm riding Blue in the annual horse show/county fair! I like to think that the main attraction is the horse show - otherwise it's a pretty lame fair. We've got riders showing each day. I may try to catch Saturday's show (a lot of my friends and some younger riders I've "taken under my wing" are showing that day) but I'm definitely going Monday to groom for my mentor (other than my instructor), who's taking the cross-training post to heart and trying her hand at Hopeful Jumpers on her 17hh TB gelding! I'm riding in Novice Hunter - I think Blue would pin better (or maybe even at all!) in Pleasure Horse but it's the last class of the day and none of the three rings have lights. :'( The nice thing is that we've begun to get a more forward, what my trainer calls a "hunt field canter" going and I've gotten to be more bold at riding to the fences. I no longer fear the long five - I embrace it as a challenge! I'm not sure how much the show ring will "jazz him up", so I'm taking my spurs just in case. I do actually kind of hope he needs them - I like to know that he's not fazed by all the people and other horses! They also really sharpen his responses. We've also been working on a very strong, forward hunter trot, complete with a frame that isn't induced by hand, but by leg pushing into a slightly resistant hand! Oh, these moments of ecstasy - I'm enlightened and feeling very Zen tonight.
That would be a great title for this post.
I'll update you tomorrow - I'm hacking with a close friend and her fat mare to see if we can't get some hillwork and conditioning in before the big show day! Time to get myself psyched up for 5 AM baths and braiding and that oh-so-stylish light blue Sportsmanship armband!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jumper Show Review

I had a lesson on Thursday, but was...gulp..."too busy to blog". But I'd like to quickly recount today's jumper show.
I didn't school, as I had to supervise the tacking, prep, and schooling of four thirteen-year-olds and their stoic mounts. Wasn't really that nervous, as Blue has been in the "point me at it and I'll jump it" mode and the jumps weren't that big.
My goals for this show were:
1. Plan ahead. Memorize your courses AND their jump-offs. Plan every stride of your ride, but be willing to change that plan if necessary. Make sure both you and the horse know which jump is next.
2. Be bold. Jumpers is about forward, and nothing sucks the fun out of it like a horse who sucks back. Jump-offs are won by daring rides, tight turns and plans that may or may not go accordingly.
3. Have fun! You have to do the big hunter show in two weeks - consider this your vacation!
Happy to report that I achieved all three goals! I did learn a couple of things, though:
1. You shouldn't expect yourself to be able to top the girls who do this EVERY weekend.
2. Straightaways where you need to go fast are great for two-point. For turns, however, you want as much weight as possible on the horse's hindquarters.
3. You can't let one mistake ruin the whole course. Accept it, and let it go and FOCUS ON THE NEXT JUMP!
4. If your trainer gives you a plan for your course but it becomes evident that the plan needs to change, be willing to be flexible. If your horse is settling in and getting the bigger distances, don't hold him unnecessarily.
5. Ride the horse you have at the moment. Just because your horse is lazy at home doesn't mean he needs a ton of encouragement at a show. This means you have to be able to read your horse, and experiment to see what he needs.
Out of 16 riders, we got a 5th and a 6th. Due to a rail in the first course (on the first jump!) I didn't pin. I'm still very proud of myself, for really stepping up to the plate, and Blue for being such a trooper!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Showing - Yay or Neigh?

I've been having a great debate of sorts with some of my friends.

Me: Pro-Showing

I believe showing is a measure of progress - how well you and your horse are improving, and learning; how you and horse are progressing in training; how well you two can band together during stressful situations.
I view my riding career as a journey - the destination, I guess, being the best rider I can possibly be. That means different things for different people. Horse shows are kind of like rest stops for me, where I can check the map and make sure I'm headed in the direction I want to be going, and then analyze the journey so far and try to make improvements. Where a lot of people get messed up is when they make showing the destination.
Plus, for me, showing is fun! Sure, sometimes I get wrapped up in the drama of it all - frustration, disappointment, politics - but mostly I savor the competition! I may be anthropomorphizing too much, but Blue seems to enjoy it, too. He really steps up to the occasion and appears to be more well-behaved at shows than he is at home!

Friend: Anti-Showing

Horse shows are a nice concept, but really not worth it. If you have any serious showing aspirations, you must have a certain type of horse, and you have to shell out some serious money to do so. Judges will refuse to place you for minutiae, and take one daring step and you become the scorn of your peers. You have no life, and you're much better off sticking to pleasure riding.

I can see an argument for either side. What do you think?

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Well, kinda, anyway.

So next Saturday we're going to a jumper show. No judges, no monogrammed stocks, no under saddle classes. Just a rider, a horse, a timer, and some seriously kick-ass jump courses.

So this Saturday we had a little lesson on tight turns. What did I learn?

1. My first instinct when riding jumpers is to go fast. On straightaways, being up in a two-point and urging Blue forward is quite acceptable. Around tight turns, though, a solid three-point, a bit of collection, and a ton of planning ahead is in order.
2. Our goal for the course is to be forward - not fast, not lollygagging - and clear. Our goal for the jump-off is to be fast and clear. Our goal for the show is to remember the course!

Since I was off at State College defending my title as State Hippology (study of the horse) Championship, I hadn't ridden in quite a bit. So after the lesson we did some nice hillwork to get back into the swing of things. Blue feels great.

Might help that we went on a trail ride the day before, which out of necessity includes hillwork. We also got caught in a thunderstorm - let's just say I have new appreciation for my Blue Horse. Nothing like a scary experience to bring your horse and you closer together. Up until then, the trail was delightful - we jumped and galloped a bit and explored. And Blue might have flinched a bit at the thunder, but he trucked along as if he knew how important it was to get home quickly.

Have fun with your horses this week, and get out there and try something new! Ride in a Western saddle if you're a hunter (it's so fun!), do some basic dressage with your barrel horse. You won't regret it!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Of Progress and Body Awareness, Setting Goals

I think the key to becoming a good rider (and, actually, a good horse trainer) is being aware of what your body is doing. The only times I can ever begin to fix my position is if I know what's going on. Oftentimes, the cycle is set in motion by looking at horse show pictures. This is how I discovered my lower leg slipping back after the jump. Then, at my next lesson, I began concentrating on the feeling of my leg slipping back.
The next step was to go back to the Bible, aka George Morris's Hunter Seat Equitation, THE guide to equitation over fences. Studying pictures of what you want to look like over fences is a really great step to not only discover ways to fix the problem, but aid in fixing it by visualizing the position you want to have. If you've ever read Jane Savoie's book, That Winning Feeling!, you know as well as I do that if you visualize yourself jumping in perfect form often enough, it can actually make a real difference! And don't you want all the help you can get?
I tend to analyze a lot during lessons. I'm a very intellectual rider, and I really have to have time between rounds or during flatwork to process what just happened, whether it went well, and how it could improve, either on my part or my horse's. It does really help; it helped me figure out that in order to counteract the forces that sent my leg flying back, I needed to really sink my weight into my heels before each fence. It's still a work in progress, but it's getting stronger every day!
Next, I found that though my leg was staying put more, I was still really throwing my upper body forward, and for those of you who don't ride hunt seat, this is called getting ahead and is a VERY VERY bad thing. Not only do you throw all of your weight onto your horse's forehand (which I think we can agree is a bad thing across the board) but you're also in a very precarious position should something go wrong. Your weight isn't under your leg. Now, my leg was beginning to come back under me, but it still wasn't effective because I wasn't balanced over it. And since I couldn't use my leg, I braced against my hands, causing a stiff-armed look that Blue couldn't have appreciated. Luckily, today I showed some improvement on that. I really do enjoy making progress like this; it's one of my favorite parts of riding - well, after those awesome connection moments, of course!
We had more of those today, too! I can feel it most after canter-trot transitions; he's on the bit from the transition, but really striding out and reaching. It's a high that I'll bet beats drugs any day.
I think when it comes to working with horses, you also have to have body awareness. There's a clear difference in the behavior of a horse handled by a confident, poised handler and a horse handled by a timid, wimpy handler. Even if you're not confident, try to present yourself as if you are! You'd be surprised at the difference! I think the most important part of any horse-human relationship is mutual respect - something Mugwump has said for awhile but bears repeating. The best part is, after you gain your horse's respect, you gain their trust - and that's when a bond develops. Not all horses are the cuddly, friendly types - but if you have their trust, you've definitely got something.
This progress is getting me all excited. Our next scheduled show is on Labor Day Weekend, the big county show. There will be tons of horses and riders who show more regularly there; I'm not in it to win, but I'd like to turn in a respectable performance. We'll see how preparation goes!

PS: I don't know how many, if any, people read this, but please share your experiences! I'm eager to hear them!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Just in Time for the Olympics - Gymnastics!

Of the equestrian variety, of course!

Our final week of horse camp began this week with building a small course. One of the primary features of that course? A gymnastic! I love gymnastics...I love being able to feel my horse analyze and figure out the striding, and of course I love the fact that I can work on my toughest challenge - doing nothing! A great opportunity to work on position over fences!
I hadn't ridden Blue in over a week, though I did get a ride on Tex, an aforementioned OTTB who is probably the equine equivalent of my personality - very cautious, a perfectionist, eager to please, but can't really overcome himself without an authoritative partner. It was a good experience - Tex is a pleasure to ride on the flat, and he really helps me get my eyes up over fences. Then, there was the trail ride, which was relaxing but definitely a workout (2 hours posting in a Western saddle!).
So it's the first time I've been on Blue in awhile, and you'd have thought I'd never left. I'm beginning to maintain a solid connection, and there have been some moments that have bordered on...nirvana. You know, the moment where you can finally feel the horse and yourself working together, and you both understand what each other is asking? Yeah, that one. =D
The gymnastic went well. My smart boy settled right into it, and I have been working on slipping my hips back over jumps. This has the effect of keeping my upper body from climbing his neck, and pressing my weight into my heels. This position thing is like piecing together a puzzle - each time I turn the piece, I see a place where it can fit and make the whole picture a little bit clearer.
We ended the day learning how to identify lameness. It's still pretty challenging, but I figure it's one of those things you learn by experience. I'll keep you posted, I promise.

Friday, July 25, 2008

So Lost In Thought, I Couldn't Blog...

...or something like that. ;)

I'll make a long story short. For the past two weeks, I've grown more confident than I believed I could. I realized that if I kept my heels down, sank my hips back, and looked up over a fence, Blue would jump it.

So, I had to change the name and purpose of the blog. Especially after I rode the chicken OTTB cross-country and he almost galloped off with me and I stayed on and lived. Maybe acknowledging the fact I was chickenshit in the blog helped me accept and move past it?

Or, more likely, I've reached the end of a long plateau. Time to move up the steppe now.

What I've discovered are that most of the problems I have with Blue, his owner also has. Granted, these problems only show up when she has a bad day, but at their core they are the same. Which has helped me accept them, and that we may never eliminate them altogether. The horse is, after all, 11, and old dogs can only learn so many new tricks.

But we can certainly try to improve. It's happened already. You know my short-strided guy? He got the normal distance down a line, and then left a stride out.

No, I don't expect ALL our progress to move so quickly. It's just that a lot of analysis and work have gone into this progress, and you know I'll keep you posted on the next batch. When I remember to blog, that is.

Oh, and did I mention I galloped Blue bareback in the field in a snaffle? Yeah, comfort zone expanding and all that. =D

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Three Rides in Three Days

I got a bit caught up in the events of the last couple days, so I'll condense the accounts of my last three rides on Blue.
THURSDAY - Sara had to leave camp early due to an emergency, and we had to wait to ride until the farrier finished up with the horses, so I had full access to Blue. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, our flatwork was rushed, meaning that Blue was a bit dull and late to respond over fences. Nothing horrible, but it could've been a lot better.
FRIDAY - The end of camp culminated in a mini-horse trials. I rode the dressage part on Mia. I thought she was pokey so I didn't restrain her head at all for fear it would interfere with her impulsion, though I was told later she seemed to be going at a good, consistent pace. She bent around corners and circles well, and overall I was quite pleased with how far we'd come in just three days. After the dressage test, I put Mia up in her stall and prepared for our cross-country course.
This course was a thing of beauty. Our farm encompasses four fields, three adjacent to each other and one just a bit away. The "starting box" was the arena, and the challenges on-course involved jumping from the arena, jumping obstacles placed where the pasture gates would be, and odd challenges such as jumping water buckets. Blue is such a brave boy - he jumped everything the first time. Blue and I cruised through the course to set the fastest time. But the part I was happiest about was the fact that I was never truly intimidated by the course. I stayed with Blue's jump for the most part, and overall I think it was a course well-ridden! In lieu of the stadium round, we chose to do the course again, since it took so much effort to put up (though I had voted to continue to stadium!) which produced similar results. We ended up winning the event, and Blue got a nice, bracing liniment bath.
SATURDAY - But you know what they say about horses? They don't really tolerate ego strokes well. Which is why Blue did a great job of showing me that I really am not done learning yet. On the contrary, I've got quite a ways to go.
I rode in the field with spurs, which upon reflection was a good idea. Unfortunately, since I wasn't used to it I underestimated the effect it would have over fences. I guess first I should mention that flatwork went fairly well, though I must be careful to avoid nagging Blue with my legs - he was quite perky but I have a hard time accepting anything less than my ideal, which I'm working on.
A spook before the warm-up jump (a vertical in a hollow, so both directions meant a downhill approach) made us both tense. Blue has a disdain for trotting jumps in the first place.
Increased Momentum Downhill + Tense Horse = Cantering the Jump
Both of us eventually settled down, and we trotted the jump a couple of times.
For the figure-8 course making its appearance again this week, it went pretty well until a downhill vertical. I asked for the big jump, and then didn't think I'd get it, so I got left behind when Blue followed my advice. See, the spurs sharpened the aid and I wasn't used to such a prompt response, but Blue got the signal loud and clear. Spurs are proving to be an education for both of us, but at the same time I am getting results from Mr. Non-Responsive that I never would get otherwise with them. In other news, the rest of the course went pretty well (when I looked up and got into proper jumping position) except I need to stop ALWAYS asking for the big jump. I guess I need to start learning to adjust Blue's stride BEFORE the last three strides, but that comes with experience.
We moved the jumps into the ring for the barn's student show next week, which I'm not riding in for various reasons (it's going to be one of Sara's last shows before college, finances, I want to see what kind of horse show photographer I can be) but I'd like to see how riding in the field has translated to my courses in the ring. Believe me, I'll let you know as it happens!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I'm Too Old For This (But Too Young For the Consequences!)

Aah, Games Day! The one day of camp where acting like a total idiot doesn't screw you over for the rest of the week.
Bet you can't guess who I was riding. That's right - Mia! And let me tell you, Mia was less than thrilled to be a games pony. She'd much rather be getting a poop facial or making faces at the boys or anything more productive. You know, mare things.
But alas for Mia, today she was games pony and she had to live with it.
First up was the Ice Cube and Spoon Challenge, so named because we were lacking eggs. Now I don't know if you know how long it takes to melt an ice cube in 85 degree heat (hotter if you count the sun reflecting from the arena sand!), but when that spoon has got a nice pool of water under the cube, it makes for an interesting time! I think I've mentioned before that Mia hasn't been gifted with a long, smooth stride - so I was supposed to somehow compensate for this choppy motion AND control her destination simultaneously.
The first round, we didn't do a sitting trot for ten seconds before almost everyone lost their cube (Emily lost hers at the walk!). We learned posting is much easier on the cube, and you can hold onto the cube for longer by doing so. Not only did we manage to hold onto our new cube throughout both sitting and posting trot, but we even cantered both leads before I lost my cube. It sucked, because I was stuck behind Sara on Blue (Sara also leases Blue - it's kind of hard on me this week, not using him but also having to watch someone else ride my baby) who was not going very fast. We were taking on a new challenge - jumping with the ice cube on the spoon (there were three of us left by that point) but Mia tripped and I lost my ice cube before we got to it. Dammit, but I move on.
Simon Says involved me cantering with both reins in my left hand and my right hand on my hip jumping a teensy jump without stirrups. I won this game because I was the only one stupid enough (er...I mean brave) to do it.
Musical dismounts = worst game in the history of the world. I am not very agile, so even getting on 15.2 hh Mia was difficult. I feel really old, because I could not swing my hip up to get my foot in the stirrup, and the one time I managed to do so, her saddle slipped! Which sucked, because I had run out of holes on the billets. So I was out first. It's OK, I reasoned, I hate this game anyway.
Musical buckets had the added bonus of using the bucket to mount once you pushed some other oxygen sucker off your bucket. Of course, me being too nice caused me to lose this game, too - but being on bucket removal detail was fun!
I had really hoped to swindle Blue for a little bit of barrel racing (he and I won the event handily at the last barn show) but I had to settle for pole bending with Mia. Here's where her reluctance really hurt me - actually, I'm not sure it was reluctance so much as she didn't get the concept. She did the pattern correctly, but not quickly, partially because the other school horses are very accustomed to how the games work and don't need to be told what they were doing. Lots of hugs and pats for Mia, anyways, and then she was put away and we used the ickle ponies for bareback relays.
Luckily, I got to ride the former gymkhana star turned schoolmaster, Desi, so there was pretty much no way I could fail. And we didn't. Our team won each time, and I'd like to think it was due to teamwork and my teammate's agility rather than the fact that the other team's ponies either didn't want to canter or tried to buck with their riders.
Games day is fun, but I much prefer actual, challenging work. So, $5 says I ride Mia again tomorrow, and we'll see how we do jumping again. God help me if we decide to do some of the cross-country jumps, as Mia was less than sane last time THAT happened. For that escapade, I want my Blue-Boo back. :(

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm Not a Runaway - I Just Like to Run!

So I rode Mia again today, and we were on decidedly better terms. But my instructor and I knew that we were undertaking the ultimate test today - jumping in the field with Crazy Horse. We upped the ante in my favor - draw reins to help Mia learn to use her head and neck, and (less so) an insurance policy should the mare throw her head up in the air and refuse to listen to reason.
Mia went very well under saddle, and I think this is the first time I've gotten a shoulder-in from a horse with so little effort on my part. All I needed was to keep her from overbending (she started moving in four seperate tracks) and she would happily keep up the work. Normally with Blue, shoulder-in is a battle, in that he will overbend his neck so it appears that he's making an effort, but he keeps moving in two tracks. It takes a lot of sophisiticated signalling to convince him that yes, shoulder-in does mean actual effort.
I still hate her canter. I actually got her working very well at the trot, and she is beginning to understand the concept of contact, though she has a ways to go. Her canter, however, is still bouncy and short-strided and it really works my lower back to avoid slamming down on her back each stride.
When it came time to jump, I was a bit nervous. Mia very clearly needed no forward aids, but aside from that was being a star. She's got a very nice natural jump, and I'm not sure whether she always finds the right spot so easily or whether my holding her made it pretty clear. The only times she got fussy and quick were when we were approaching a downhill jump. At the last jump, an uphill "fun fence", she began to get very antsy and tried to gallop a bit. Luckily, some handy half-halting made her come back to a reasonable, though still quick pace.
I realized the fundamental difference between Blue and Mia is that while Blue needs constant corrections, Mia only wants direction. She won't have the constant feedback I'm used to giving. She only wants to know what jump she's going to, where she's going after that, where she's supposed to take off, and when her lead needs to change. She'd much prefer that I, aside from answering those questions, stay off her and let her do her job. Which is refreshing, as I get told that so rarely.
All in all, I'm actually starting to enjoy riding Mia. Sure, she likes to take charge on the course, but it's not like she's running away with me; her response to the half-halt today shows she's still with me mentally, and if I can convince her that my idea is a good one, she's apt to agree with me. Tomorrow's Game Day at camp; so we'll get to run around the barrels and poles and have some fun! (And work on know you can't ride those barrels unless your heels are down and you're looking up! :) )

Monday, June 30, 2008


Mares are tricky. They don't just take suggestions like geldings do. Oh, they'll let you ride them, but it's on their terms.
When I was told I was going to ride Mia today, I knew she had a reputation. A bad fall not a week earlier sent one of her riders to the hospital (luckily, it wasn't too bad, and the girl was back to her normal routine the next day). Now, Mia had behaved like an angel ever since, but the precedent was there, and she's not my ideal type, anyway. She's the kind that doesn't need a lot of drive, and she's a Drama Queen. It was actually her show name for awhile, before we found out that a much more successful jumper in the area had already claimed it.
I also thought back to my own previous Mia experiences. There was the scar on my arm, from when I held her when one of my friends was tightening her girth, and I didn't take the warning that she was girthy quite seriously enough. And then, that very morning, when I went to catch her to bring her in for breakfast, she turned her tail and cajoled her pony army to join her in fleeing the intruder.
So, upon receiving the news that I'd be riding the prissy 15.2 hh gray Thoroughbred hellion, I tried to make the best of it. Hey, I thought, maybe we'd click immediately. Maybe we'd be a good pair, and this could be an enjoyable ride.
Then I got to her stall.
Imagine a grey mare with overo markings. Now turn those white markings green, you know, that unique manure shade.
The mare had laid down in the poop in her stall and turned her into a green and gray pinto. I never did curry it all off - I resigned myself to give her a bath after I finished riding.
One grooming session, a girth exchange, and two black polo wraps later, I finally mounted.
Though she's only 1 inch shorter than Blue, She immediately felt smaller. Maybe because she's not as leggy? But what she lacked in size, she made up for in barrel. Unlike my beloved slab-sided gelding, she has well-sprung ribs that accommodate my legs quite nicely.
She started out pokey, but I found that she was quite responsive to the crop. Unfortunately, though I KNOW she's well-versed in the lateral aids, she decided to pretend she wasn't, and made me keep on her to do simple things. My Blue horse, on the other hand, once you get past his little 5-minute "I don't like spurs" temper tantrum, doesn't pull any punches and listens to leg aids like a good boy (I didn't wear spurs with Mia because a] I haven't ridden her before and didn't want to take chances and b] from what I have seen, they would have sent her into the next county).
While she understands the forward aids, the resisting aids, and the aids for half-halt, she can't seem to allow herself to trust me and give me a bit of flexion at the poll. It's perfectly possible that my arms were stiff...I mean, even though I had relaxed a bit knowing she wouldn't take off with me, I was still on my guard more than I would have been. Who knows, maybe I'll ride her tomorrow and we can work farther towards that.
We didn't jump today, since we were trying to make the New Holland Horse Auction before camp ended, but we did do a simple little dressage test in a small dressage arena we built to scale within our actual ring. And I do mean simple, with nothing more challenging than some 20 meter circles and cantering. However, Miss Priss decides that since there isn't really a wall there, she'll fall out around every corner and just, in general, be more difficult to slow down than she had been.
It also bears mentioning that the first time I cantered her was in the little dressage ring, and boy, she is not comfortable, trot or canter. She's got one of those jarring, bounce-your-seat-out-of-the-saddle canters, both directions. I had to sit very deeply and sink my weight way down into my heels to keep from pounding on her poor back.
Overall, it was a decent ride for my first time riding her (or any touchy mare for a very long time), but the true test with Mia will be jumping, especially since all of our jumps are out in the field and invite horseplay. :) Well, I suppose you'll get the play-by-play tomorrow.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hooray for Bravery!

I don't know when I got guts. Now, OK, maybe not eventing or steeplechase guts. But for me, this was guts.
So all of our pretty hunter jumps are out in the field now, which of course brings new challenges.
Like terrain challenges. Now offering uphill (fun!) and downhill (err...not so much), from the people who brought you towards the trees (lots of leg) and towards the barn (hold down the line!).
Like your horse realizing he's back on his turf. "Ooh, I know this place! It's where I buck and run and roll and do things unrelated to being supple around turns and being on the bit and jumping in a sane, collected manner!"
Well, OK, two challenges. But big challenges nonetheless.
I guess, to be fair, we started out in the ring with a nice little Training Level dressage test. So far, so good. We were actually bending today, and even being fairly consistent about maintaining that round, on-the-bit feeling (you know, that one that makes you feel like beaming for the rest of the day? That, in "fun size"). A little wiggly around our makeshift dressage arena, but I know that's an issue that won't be resolved in a day.
We seemed to be sane over the brick warm-up jump in the field, though there was a trotting pole, and God forbid we should trot a pole when it can be cantered. Actually, with a little half-halt to remind Blue that he didn't have to be a freight train to the jump and remind him of our frame from earlier, we resolved that. Yay us!
The course was jumps like a figure eight. There's a neat uphill bending line, from the aforementioned brick to a simple white vertical to a nice yellow gate. Simple. We mix things up with a downhill stone jump (to gently remind us of the perils of terrain) which leads further downhill to the cross country crossrail of horror. Which comes back to a nice level cross country gate. Which goes back to gently sloping stone, and then not-so-gently sloping red vertical, and then the nice, friendly, and fun gate going uphill. None of these are large, but what I lovingly refer to as "confidence builders".
The brick was chipped, from my recollection, and I believe the ground line on the white was on the wrong side, so Blue did a double take and chipped that, too. I growled, "No more chips!" and we jumped the yellow gate nicely. I wisely sat back for the downhill stone, and wasted no time turning to my crop in to aid in picking up the correct lead (darn this horse! flying lead changes are so much less effort, even on his part!) and FLYING downhill to the crossrail of torture. Using a pulsating outside rein to no avail, we get in deep to the crossrail but it's OK because it gives Blue an excuse to lift his knees like I know he can! We had a fun little "stick my neck out and pretend I'm a racehorse" gallop, and I got left behind at the white gate but managed to halfway redeem myself by not smacking his back in mid-air and somehow learning to slip him the reins and not catch him in the mouth. Back to the semi-friendly stone, which goes nicely but we AGAIN pick up the wrong lead and manage to change right before the not-so-friendly red vertical. Getting my weight WAY behind on his hindquarters is now a priority, and it pays off because the vertical goes nicely. And, as a piece d'resistance, we have a spirited hand-gallop to a big, bold last fence, the inviting gate.
My instructor and I managed to have a nice chat over salad wraps this evening, and she says she's been quite impressed with my show of confidence over the last weeks. I tell her I honestly had no idea I had it in me. Oh no! I am turning into one of those typical teenage riders who can ride anything without fear! Must I change the name of the blog???
Let's not go crazy. Let's remember that I'm on Bombproof Jumper Who's Been There, Done That and Bought The T-Shirt who wouldn't pull nearly the shit that a non-comatose horse would, he's being ridden by two other people currently, and when faced with a more flighty mount (as I surely will next week at Summer Camp Where I Don't Have Blue Until Friday) I would surely live up my expectations.
In more disappointing news, even though this lesson was focusing on preparing for the Starter Horse Trials we will attend next month, I don't think I can wrest Blue from the grip of the two other eventing die-hards that ride him. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but truth be told I live for the ring and I'm going to save my good karma from bowing out to land my place in one of the summer's coming jumper shows. Whee! Do I truly have what it takes? Guess we'll find out! I'll go groom though, so I'll definitely have a report on how Blue does.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Being Super Busy Doesn't Bode Well For Sanity

So, since I last left you, I grew a pair and jumped three feet. IN THE FIELD! I'm not going to say I got over it the first time, or in textbook, George-Morris-would-be-proud form, but confidence is the first step to being able to cement these things, right?
And in celebration, what did I do today? Go on a trail ride.
OK, first off, I wasn't wussing out. I have another lesson tomorrow, and then I have horse camp starting Monday, where for four days, I have to...*gasp*...ride a different horse. But I was super stressed today, and I needed the break.
So my friend Jenny and I took out our horses. Blue, the 11-year-old who is mainly bold but does like to spook at unusual things, like odd rocks and canoes, and Gibson, the three-year-old who looks but gets over it. Needless to say, both horses weren't really acting their age - Gibson in a good way, Blue in a not-quite-as-good way. (Apparently I like hypens today.)
We rode for two hours, and after some nice galloping sessions and a bit of jumping, interspersed with some silly spooking, fly swishing, heat-complaining and odd observations (I can only get one bar of cell service at the barn, but four in the middle of the woods? What are the odds?) we returned home and took the sweaty horses in the pond for a nice swim. We were joined by Kira and Drummer, who might as well grow gills for the amount of time he spends in the water.
A good time was had by all, and each horse and rider got themselves thoroughly wet. Drummer's a bit sore so Kira probably won't ride tomorrow, and Jenny's out of town, and Caitlin's out of STATE, so I have to...*gulp*...ride without my ever-present support system. Well, except for P.A. :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

How Seemingly Bad Things Contribute to the Greater Good

Also known as the blessing in disguise.
Well, it wasn't overly hot yesterday, but it made up for that in humidity. Blue was quite sweaty by the end, but we beat the heat quite nicely. First, though, the work part.
We warmed up with the exercise we practiced Friday on our hack - walk-to-halt transitions. Simple, right? Wrong. There's a lot behind this transition that people don't stop to consider. My goals with Blue were a smooth transition to a square halt. I adapted the exercise to halt at each dressage letter. For me, this means that I need to build impulsion between letters, half-halt to collect about a fence post before the letter to produce a nice square halt at the letter.
Well, we're getting more square but the transitions are still fairly abrupt. I think I'm half-halting with too much hand. So I need to counter this with more leg pressure to a resistant, not pulling, hand. We'll try again next time.
The flat part of the lesson went pretty well. Blue needs the first fifteen minutes to regulate pace and figure out what the heck I mean by bending, but eventually he gets it and works nicely on the bit. We've both recently discovered the concept that you push first with the legs and receive this energy into a "breathing", sensitive hand. And man, the results are impressive. We even got some flexion at the canter! Look at how far we've come!
My legs are hurting today, so I know my vendetta against my level heels is working.
My other project today was quite related to the walk-halt transition one - we're working on adjustability by lengthening the trot on the long side and collecting it on the short side. This will, hopefully, do wonders for our over fences work.
Speaking of which, did not start well. It was really simple - teeny little 18" vertical off the rail at F, pick up the right lead canter and halt at A.
Only one problem - there were trot poles in front of the crossrail and IT WAS THE RIGHT LEAD!
Don't see the significance? Here's a bit of history on Blue - he dislikes trotting jumps and he equally dislikes picking up the right lead over fences.
The first time went well enough, in that he actually trotted the poles, but unfortunately he didn't get the memo on the lead. I would love to tell you I calmly and quietly asked him for the change and he gave it to me before the corner, but it was more like I opening reined his head to the right and thumped him repeatedly with my outside leg, getting the change in time for a rough halt at A.
Second time was pretty much a repeat of the first, except add in holding his head up and bounding over the trotting poles.
Which warranted a return to the vertical, with a mandate not to canter the poles.
No such luck. Halt and reinback. Running through my left leg is met with a smart smack with my stick.
Turn right and approach again. Make attempt at getting the rogue's head down with half-halts. Does not listen to hand, only leg. My trainer's polite request to "I DON'T CARE IF IT'S A SLIDING STOP, DON'T GO OE STRIDE FURTHER!" is met with an abrupt, seat-bouncing halt. I immediately forget the fact that horse will not settle and pity his long-suffering back.
Turn left and approach again. Halt and rein-back before the poles. Do our best Western jog (which is pretty good) to vertical. Actually trots poles but continues to pick up wrong lead. Rider gets tired of begging, bridges reins and REQUIRES a lead change. Gets it, sort of, but at least it's before the corner. Of course, we're not halting this time, but continuing around the short side of the arena to do the diagonal rolltop. Again, halt after the jump. Blue decides that it's finally OK to start running after the jump again (after all, there's no fence in his way!) My resolve to use more leg in halts backfires, and NOW he decides it's time for a flying change.
Great. At this point, I'm pretty frustrated and I know it's all my fault. I decide the time is ripe for my trainer's favorite request - don't override.
We're adding a rollback from the rolltop to a 2' vertical. It's a tough little turn, but it's a fitting challenge. After another disunited (but prompt) change, I aim Blue to meet the rolltop at an angle, for optimum turn length. I look too late, but we get over the vertical (though we must chip to fit in).
Luckily, my saving grace arrives with another try. Yet another prompt disunited change (we really need to work on this) to an angled rolltop. My eyes are spot on, and a smooth turn puts us in the center of the vertical, which Blue pops over easily. Lands on the correct lead, too...imagine that!
My poor, sweaty, long-suffering boy was rewarded with a bareback swim in the pond afterwards with my friend's visiting gelding, Drummer. He splashes water over all of us and I think all is forgiven.
Well, I've learned an important lesson today - ride quietly, but efficiently. 'Nuff said.

Friday, June 13, 2008

So Why'd I Start This Again?

Well, I guess the idea for a blog came to me today, really.
I have been a long-time reader of the Fugly Horse of the Day blog, the spinoff Training the Very Large Colt, and many of the other associated training blogs, so I figured, hey, what the heck?
Well, there are some other components, too. I have a different story to tell. I am not a re-rider, I am a teenage, longtime rider who doesn't fit the typical mold of the bold young rider. It's just not my personality. I'm very methodical, and Type A about everything, and paired with my timidness it makes me more likely to slow down and master skills individually before pushing to the next level. It is my greatest strength as a rider, but also my greatest weakness.
I half-lease (actually, right now, third lease) a slightly-fugly Appendix/Appaloosa gelding named Blue. I might be biased, but this horse has style to spare paired with a good (albeit lazy) mind and a zany personality. While I love him for who he is, it is my personal goal to make both of us better. I want to be more effective, and I want him to be more forward-thinking and less sticky over fences.
Part of the purpose of this blog is to chronicle our progress. I am by no means naturally talented, but I believe that I can improve by keeping track of where we are in what point of time.
I'll warn you now - I'll post pictures and while I'm striving to reach George Morris's classical seat, I'm not there yet. I welcome CONSTRUCTIVE critique, and thoughts.
Another disadvantage of mine that I hope to overcome with this blog is my inability to ride every day, or ride my own horse. Hopefully this will help me remember how Blue's responding to his training.
Yeah, I know this post is really boring, but the summer's only just begun and with a character like Blue in the barn, there's no doubt it'll be an interesting one.