Quick Update

I wanted to give a quick update on May, since I have gone a bit radio silent. 

I decided to have a Dressage lesson early last week. My trainer is riding again, so when I started explaining to her an issue I was having, she hopped on. In all fairness, my explanation was “I keep losing her shoulder in this one corner and I don’t know what or what I’m doing.”

Yeah… Super descriptive. So my trainer gets on and slows things waaaayyyyyy down. She explains that we are really losing our balance about 6 steps before true corner and by the time we hit the corner, she is so far on her forehand there’s really no hope. 

This was all well and good but I noticed something else. “Does she feel strange behind?” (Another brilliantly clear question) 

My trainer did some very slow changes of direction and the trot. And affirmed my suspicions. She wasn’t clearly lame, but she wasn’t perfect. We had the vet out and decided to go forth with some hock injections. 

Meanwhile, May got a spa day and one walk-only bareback ride. Today I’ll start putting her back to work. Wish me luck!


Finally – Jumping Lesson

After our Dressage lesson, I had originally planned to spend the rest of week getting accustomed to some jumping again. I was going to focus on rhythm and impulsion over crossrails and small verticals (maybe 2’ max). Instead, I showed up on Saturday and my trainer asked if I wanted to join the weekly group jumping lesson. I was about 45 minutes early for it. My initial reaction was to tell her we weren’t ready for it. Instead, I asked her if it would be easy. She said it would be everyone’s first jumping lesson back, so I agreed to do it.

I am super happy I did.


The lesson started out with a quick flat warmup, asking us to get our horses thinking of moving forward and light. May and I are getting to be experts at this one. (Finally. This is hours and hours of just asking her not to run around on her forehand.) Then, we started with cantering through a set of poles to the right, getting the correct 6 strides, then adding for 7, then opening for 5. May was able to do the 6 and the 7 without any issues. The 5 was pretty elusive for us, as she doesn’t have a very big stride, so we ended with a 5.25 strides and called that close enough.


When we went to the left, we just asked for the regular 6 strides, since we were coming toward home. The first time through I over corrected for the change in direction and we got 6.25 strides. Then, I pushed through the line and got 5.75. My trainer and I got a bit of a laugh out of this, as I definitely have a more adjustable horse than I had last time I jumped.


Then, it was time to begin jumping. The goal of today was to make sure that everyone had breaks and had a positive experience (horses and riders). So we put up the first part of the line to a small vertical. We were asked to trot in and halt. May was actually really, really good about this. See below:


See? Not kidding. Really good. Which was great because the next step was to trot in, halt, and then trot out of the line. May was lazy off my leg and the small verticals didn’t entice her to try. Everyone tried this, but May and I didn’t have to try it again. The next time through, we had to canter into the line and canter out in the 6 strides then halt. How was May? Perfect again…


Oooook. So everything just kind of kept going really, really well. We did the one stride and halted without an issue.


Next up was the roll top then three strides to the pink vertical. This is not an easy exercise for May and I. May tends to fall out through her left shoulder and this was a left turn past the in-gate. As a result, we got crooked into the line and ended up doing 4 strides a couple of times. Finally, I figured out how to keep contact with my right rein and pushed my right spur (soft touch spurs) into her rib cage of the fence. And Voila! We got the 3 strides.


Then, we jumped the skinny to the Liverpool in 4 strides. This is the point May started to get tired. Can you tell? I can because all of a sudden her nice steady head start flinging around like she’s in a rock band. It’s her way of fighting me because she wants to drop back onto her forehand. Solution? Fitness. Fitness. Fitness.


From there, we added a 5-stride bending line from the first part of the outside line to the coupe. This was an awkward line, as you had to go almost a full 4 strides straight before turning to the coupe. Of course, that is also a jump that has no standards or wings, so you have to be pretty spot on with your steering. If you all remember, May and I have a history with this jump and May thinking that it was a stupid idea to jump it. Now though, she seems to have gotten over it, and she jumped it great. Our line was wonky and we got 6 strides. I landed and let my reins slip through my fingers and let her stretch down, and got told to put knots in my reins so I stop doing that and to do it again.


So here I am, in my mid-20s, knotting my reins so that I stop letting them slip through as soon as I finish an exercise. The next time through, we found the proper line and had no issues getting the 5 or making it over the coupe. I had no issues with letting my reins run through my fingers at the end, and we watched as others gave the line a go. For the most part, it was the same. Everyone had an awkward first attempt but found the first line on the second try.


Finally, it was time to string the whole thing together. Below is what the course looked like: (1. Purple Vertical, 2. Barrels, 3a. block oxer, 3b. America Vertical, 4a. Roll top, 4b. Pink Vertical, 5. Teal skinny, 6. Liverpool, 7. Purple Vertical, 8. Coupe)


I also have video of how it went! For our first time back jumping, and the end of an hour long lesson, I am really happy with how I rode and how May listened.

May was tired and fought me a bit on staying light. In an (entirely misguided) effort to keep her light, I held onto my right rein entirely too much. By the end she was popping her whole shoulder through my right rein and leg (because endless nagging doesn’t make a soft horse). As a result, the bending line at the end ended up being a super direct line, and we got 4.25 strides. It was an ugly chip and May was exhausted, but I still see a lot of positives.


I think once we get the fitness back, May is going to be a super easy ride. We are able to start courses with the same forward rhythm as we are ending them on and the lightness of May’s forehand is allowing her to start finding her own spots without a whole lot of input from me other than maintaining the rhythm and the impulsion.

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My #wcw everyday #may #eventing

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Things to work on include getting May to supple more on her right side. Again – as she gets tired, she gets disproportionately heavy on that side, which I am about 90% sure is the result of my weaknesses on that side. I also want to get May really fit again. My trainer suggested some interval training routines for us and recommended utilizing poles more in our flatwork. Of course, hill work is always encouraged.

Summer Dog (Dressage) Days

The month of July was mostly a bust for May and I. Even when trying to ride at 7PM, we were still struggling against 90% humidity and 90 degree temps: aka – too hot to actually do anything. We also took down all the jumps at my barn while my trainer was absent. Given the number of leasers on school horses without my trainer there, I agreed with the decisions and decided to focus on our flatwork. As a result, May has pretty much reverted to being completely out of shape. We did, however, get a chance to work on something that has plagued us since I bought her – lateral work.

The great thing about lateral work is that you don’t need to do it at speed. We did a lot of work at the walk. So I would take May out of her stall, throw on a bridle and hop on. Then, we would spend 20 minutes just walking. We worked on tracking up and moving through her back at the walk. I love working on this bareback, because you can really feel if you have it correct. You can also tell how much your own balance influences the horse’s ability to lift its back muscles and push from behind. Unfortunately, walking around doing leg yields and spiraling circles in and out makes for a REALLY boring blog. (it is also super boring to watch, just ask my poor fiancé)

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Rainy Sunday's mean indoor Dressage days #dressage #may

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Fortunately, my trainer came back to work last week after having her baby. Yes, she is a badass. Thanks for asking. The first lesson we did was a Dressage lesson. I mostly wanted feedback on how we have been doing with the exercises we worked on. Overall, we made some really good progress. May is pretty consistently moving from the inside leg to the outside rein and I can push her body both ways. The problem, I can only push her WHOLE body each way. When a shoulder escapes me, I can shove it back into place, but I can’t move the shoulders enough to influence how the hind end is tracking up. As a result, May likes to swing her haunches in, instead of truly collecting.


So where does that leave us? In desperate need of some shoulder-ins. So we began practicing them. To the right, May got them fairly easily, stepping over and moving through a couple of w/t/w transitions in that alignment. We even did a couple of w/c transitions. Then, we went left. May was… just not having it. Flinging her head, prancing forward, and overall just telling me she didn’t understand. I sat patient and got a few walk steps in shoulder in and she got big pats. We finished with some stretchy trot, but it was definitely a walk-centric lesson; however, the lateral work left us both sweaty and sore. May, of course, demanded to be rewarded for her Dressage prowess with several huge mouthfuls of grass that can only be correctly appreciated with slow-mo.

I went up again a couple of days later and played with the same idea. And Voila! There was suddenly a lot less fight going to the left. I also just did a couple of transitions to the right before going left. I figured part of our issue earlier in the week was just her getting fatigued, and that has definitely been a theme for us lately. Once she gets fatigued, she gets slower off my right leg and heavier into the right hand. When we jump, this turns into a full on counter bend. On the flat, I can circle until she gives me the bend again, but I know it’s something she’s going to continue to struggle with until she’s strong enough to hold.


Definitely something to work on. Later in the week though, we switched gears and got back into what both May and I really love, jumping!