Crop to the Rescue

I have found the best and most effective tool (in my opinion) to quiet and level your hands while allowing the correct bend in the elbow.  It then causes your body to be more quiet and life becomes so much easier.  For real people.

This wonderful tool is your everyday, ordinary crop!

During our warm-up my trainer asked her assistant to grab me a crop.  My stomach about fell through my stomach because last time I used a stick on the O she had done some pretty snazzy legwork that about left me in the dirt.  She laughed at my face and quickly explained that I was going to ride around with it under both of my thumbs (across the tops of my hands) for the rest of my lesson.  It was plenty awkward at first, and pretty sure I dropped the reins like 3 times, but as soon as I had my had coordinated it was so cool.  It caused me to keep my hands at the same point a part, and off her neck.  No more moving hands or stretching elbows.

Elbows are supposed to bend!!

Elbows are supposed to bend!!

So with my stead hands, bent elbows and a strong grip on the reins I was able to bring my body back and stay out of her way.  O trotted and cantered around quietly, no head bobbing at the contact at all.  It also clued me in to how lovely and sensitive she is about steering now.  No more green horse rein cranking.  I barely needed the reins to move her around, even over the fences.  We did a neat little wiggly course to end the lesson.  Jumps were small, we were focused on timing and keeping with the steady hand theme.  She was bold and exactly what I needed, we ended on a neat little hop over the baby roll top.

She got loves and a nice walk-out since it was still cold (about 28 degrees), then all tucked into her blanket for the night.

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Plus, good pony gets lots of treats!

Give them all!

Give them all cookie lady!

Just Too Cold

It went from 75 and sunny to freezing and blustery overnight about a week and a half ago.  Since then it’s continued to be freezing outside.  No snow yet, but I’m sure that luck will run out at some point.  Coupled with me being sick again (stupid sinuses) I feel like I have barely ridden.

Last night it was 18 degrees (felt like 8) and just too cold to do much of anything.  I snatched pony from her field and was oo-ing and aw–ing over her poor frozen self, but when I finally got her in she was toasty warm under her blanket.  Point for equine-kind, they do know how to keep warm.  She’s also a bit fat and very content so life is good.

TBT: winter 2013.  Pony all bundled up.

TBT: winter 2013. Pony all bundled up.

I tossed her on the lunge and she worked out of some seriously stiffness to eventually have a nice walk/trot/and canter sesson on the line.  

I know we’ve spoken about this before, but what is your temperature that you say it’s just too cold to work them?  My trainer prefers it to be over 20 for a ride, and then only light work.  Anything below can be evaluated with her (or she posts somewhere).  I agree with it.  Since I’m not on some epic showing rampage right now I’m content to keep her warm and comfortable rather than work her butt off in the frigid cold.

Side note: don’t forget to check out these discount codes and get entered to win free bionic gloves!!  I’m going to go ahead and close the giveaway on Thanksgiving and get my winners shortly after.

Top Five Memories

This idea is stolen from Beka!

1. Best horse memory: Probably this summer, cruising around our first 2’6” classes like we knew what we were doing.  Accumulation of so much work, plus the blue ribbons were a nice bonus.

2. Worst horse memory: The day the vet told us O might not ever be totally sound for work. TIED WITH the day my leased hunter mare fell in our lesson and we discovered a nasty bone chip.  I felt like I had broken both of them–worst feeling.

I love me a chestnut mare!

Such a special mare.

3. First horse memory: They kind of blur together, but my very first show when my appy lesson mare refused move forwards and I got stuck in a corner for a bit.

4. Last horse memory: Getting cookie mugged when I turned O out yesterday.

5. Most memorable horse story: This one is really hard to pick, I’m going to go with my first trail ride with my husbands family.  They do a huge group trail ride with all their clients, family, friends and it was about 6 months after we started dating.  I tossed my english saddle on the hub’s fiery chestnut mare thinking I was a total badass, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.  That day I learned how incredibly reactive and fast ranch horses are.  I had her so fired up by lunch that I got off and switched horses.  Respect the power of those ranch ponies…and never piss off a redheaded mare.  Since then I usually play western rider that day and let the hubs handle his spicy little horse.

She says "Get on me, I dare you."

Hub’s spicy mare says “Get on me, I dare you.”

 

 

 

Show Pictures

This past show had a cute little photo booth set up by a 1 woman company (I think?) and she was doing show photos for only $5 a pop.  I ordered one and incidentally got a bonus photo! Whoop!

I admit that when I picked out the photos I was all “OMG cute pony, cute!” and barely looked at myself.  But then I got them on my computer and I have to say that I look a bit messy.

A disclaimer, my little mare jumps very, very round so be gentle on the critiques.

Photo 1:  I remember riding to this one defensively (she was staring it down)  and it looks like I was more worried about keeping hold of her and getting over the jump than looking pretty.  My elbows look like they are about to help me take flight…But yeah, look at the pretty horse who is trying to use her body correctly.

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Photo 2: This little oxer was one of the only jumps on course she took seriously.  Note evil orange flowers of death in front of it.  I like myself better here, although that round jump of hers makes me really want to press my chest to her neck I have  strong heel, my back is flat, head up, and I am giving her the release she deserves for the jump.   Plus-look how cute she is!

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It’s funny how much photos reveal, and while I’m not thrilled with the whole picture, it’s just more proof that we are learning and changing every ride.  Onward and upwards folks!

 

 

Our First Clinic

I had put “participate in a clinic” on my 2014 goals because it is something O and I have never done.  So I was geared up and ready to take on the world on Oct. 26th, and also very nervous.

Anyway, we walk/trot/cantered our own warm-up while he read up on us (cheat sheet provided by trainer) and watched us with our mounts.  O was fabulous, forward but not naughty in the extremely foggy, wet morning.  After a warm-up he drew us to the center to explain our first exercise.

trot fan

Very exciting representation.

I’m sure someone out there has a name for it.  I call it the fan.  First we had to trot through it on a circle.  I admit the first time through we only managed 3 out of the 4 poles, he immediately swooped in on our need to be bending more, focusing on holding the contact on the inside, while moving the shoulder to the outside.  My biggest issue-he wanted me to stop tipping forward (opps) and keep ahold of her the whole time.

I can’t expect her to know what I’m asking if I’m not talking to her.  Big ‘ah ha’ moment for me.  A few rounds later he praised O, saying ‘he’ was a good horse, and was stretching down into the bend now.  It felt awesome the few times I coordinated enough to ask all the right questions.  We did it both ways, then adding some space between poles, gave it a try at the canter.  This was much easier, probably because we’d already loosened her up, but it was a lot of fun.  Plus I could actually feel her focus and attention directly on me.

Good pony cantering, bad me tipping forward.

Good pony cantering to poles, but bad me tipping forward.

Then we switched to do a little jumping.  O was already huffing, and my thighs were shaking!  Obviously we have some conditioning to work on.  First exercise was two trot poles to a small vertical.  The point was to stay soft, maintain the bend and halt in a straight line after the jump.

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Baby vertical was baby.

Like a boss, Olive trotted through it, gave a little hop and halted nicely.  Pats for pony.

Love the artsy iPhone one.

Love the artsy iPhone one.

Then he just started building a little course, each time it got a bit longer, more intense.  Final course was this:

joe course

First words out of his mouth after we jumped a line.  “Wow, big step.”   Yeah dude, tell me about it.

It was great practice on lots of maintaining the bend with correct contact and planning ahead.  His big push was that you basically can’t do anything about the jump you’re a stride out on;  you must be thinking forward, how to ride the next part of the course.  It really helped with my micromanaging to be thinking constantly forward.  O did great, her rough lead change is the left to right which would be after jump 4, but since there was a pole there she did great getting to jump 6.  You can see her hop over the pole to change in the video at the bottom.

Focusing on bend.

Focusing on bend.

Trot pretty.

Trot pretty.

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It wasn’t without issues, and even in the video you can see I lack leg in places and she breaks a bit.  Plus we had an awkward stop (like 2 strides out) heading to the end of the rings jump (above photo) which she hadn’t seen before (no video footage though).  She went over it fine right after.

But overall I was thrilled.  It was hard work, but getting an outside opinion really opened my eyes to some big things to work on this winter. The clinician deemed me “Mrs. Smooth” and said that I ride very smoothly and consistently while on course.  I have been trying so hard to quiet my body and hands lately, it felt great to be validated.

Bonus: my friend took a video of one of our last rounds!!

 

Main takeaways: Be present and riding constantly.  Lean back and hold the feel.  Think forward, you should always be planning the next move.

10 Things I didn’t Know

After the show this past weekend O got the next day off, then last night I just went out, groomed her, stuffed her full of treats and made her tote me around bareback for a bit.  Her new winter coat is coming in and it is so soft and dark.  Anyway it was fun to see her, and I think she’ll get back into more work later this week.  I’m tentatively putting a show (or two if I’m feeling wild) on the calendars for December to keep the good pony action going!

She puts up with me.

She puts up with me.

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Yes, my hair is down, and I’m wearing a childs helmet.

 

The Semi Feral Equestrian blogged about this last week, and I thought it was really interesting.  In equestrian sports I feel there is always a pursuit to learn more, new things.  Anyway here is 10 things I didn’t know 10 years ago.

1.  How often horses got their teeth done.

2. How to wrap a diaper foot/abscess bandage.

Sadly I've become rather good at this part.

Sadly I’ve become rather good at this part.

3. How to use draw reins correctly.

4. What/how/when about anything hackamores.  Literally I was clueless.

5.  The basics of different types of shoeing, hoof care options.

Feet looking so much better this March.

Feet looking so much better this March.

6. What the heck natural horsemanship was.

7. That their were different heights within the pony world. (Small, Medium, Large)  Don’t hate-my first trainer refused to work with ponies if he could help it and I’ve been 5’10” since like 7th grade.

That poor pony.

That poor pony.  I think I’m 16 or 17 here?

8. That OTTB horses were going to become a huge, HUGE deal.  And I leased two of them!

9. That mules can jump like no one’s business.

10. How to handle/work with very young foals.

Still my favorite baby horse.  Even if he's three now.

Still my favorite baby horse. Even if he’s three now.

Go check out Beka’s contest at The Owls Approve!  Very cool new products!

Showing Off: Nov. 2nd Show

Well the morning started out on a rough note.  I was carrying a hot drink while staring at the ring full of horses, and walking…and walked right into a fan.  Needless to say I jumped around a bit, and spilled some of my trainer’s drink.

Secondly, I found my horse, got on, and did a little w/t/c then we headed to a little single vertical.  O was all “it’s scary, it’s scary, it’s scary….I’m going into bunny hop launch mode.”  And then changed her mind and she spun left HARD and I did a rather awkward slow motion dismount from the saddle.  As in, literally I put my left leg over and down to the dirt, then my right leg slid out and I landed on my feet.  I tried to convince my trainer it wasn’t even a real fall, she laughed but didn’t quite sound convinced.

Either way, with the warm up ring getting more busy, the trainer suggested the working student take her over the first few to get things rolling.  I was fine with that.  I was surprised (and guiltily a little bit pleased) that O did the same move again.  So hey, at least I’m not a total flop.

Fast forward to our warm-up class where O refused 2nd and 3rd jumps on course.  It was an outside line, and one that she hadn’t see during warm-up.  She wasn’t dirty about it, just simply slowed down (while I kicked like crazy) and finally stopped about a stride out before I got her to walk up to it.  She jumped around the rest of the course great and second time around she launched over the two she originally stopped at.  As soon as I came out my trainer said it was fine, she was just having a baby moment and to just keep thinking forward.

Our first judged class went well!  We were adding strides on this one to make sure pony was paying close attention, and wasn’t going to pull any wiggly stuff.  It wasn’t a concern, she jumped around quietly, and while I was a bit defensive (aka not pretty) around a few of the spooky jumps, I feel it went okay.  We did nail  the lead change and she landed correctly on the rest.  We grabbed a fourth place in this one out of 10 or so horses.  Sorry no video action from that one.

Hello uphill pony with shoulder muscle.

Hello uphill pony with shoulder muscle.

Second judged class was the one I was hunting for all morning.  Now that we had her attention, I could soften after the jump and let her move up for the correct strides. She ate them up, and took me down the lines like it was nothing.  These jumps were actually set to 2’6” with fill (let’s face it, sometimes the height varies a bit) , and she was cantering over them like it was no big deal.

"I got this Mom"

“I got this Mom”

Better yet, she responded well to my half-halts and was really ridable around the turns.  I came out of the ring smiling like a fool and giving her plenty of pats.  Trainer and husband met me at the gate!  They were super pleased with her just like I was.  We snagged the 2nd place ribbon in this class.  Video provided by my Mom is below.

It’s funny that the hubs is excited to see her jumping a bit bigger!  He says it’s way more fun to watch that way! Ha!   I’m really excited and proud to say that after that ride my trainer is planning to move us up!   Not very far mind you, as in our local circuit there are 2’6” classes (what we did at this show) and then 2’6”-2’9” Pre-Adult Hunter Classes which just bump up the oxers and maybe a vertical or two.  It’s only a hole higher, but dang it I’m so excited!  We got off to a very rough start that morning, but we pulled it together and did pretty well against some very nice horses (prepping for Zone finals) who were there.

The hack went really well, she was a little tense/fast at the trot, but I thought our transitions were much better than last show.  We came out 3rd out of 6!

Basically guys, I really, really like my horse.