Getting Comfortable with More Height

This lesson was a bit different than our usual lessons because we ended up doing a semi-private instead of a private lesson! The girl in the lesson before me jumps a bit bigger than I do on her horse, but when her horse lost a shoe while she was warming up yesterday, she ended up taking a catch ride on another friend’s horse (barefoot horses for the win).

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Since I was already pretty much tacked up, a bit behind schedule, and it was 90-something degrees out with humidity, I asked her if she wanted to share the lesson. Luckily, she said yes!

I gave May a super light warm up, since the heat really isn’t her friend. Then, the lesson started really simply. We just looped a figure 8 back and forth over two verticals. The idea was so keep the balance through the turn and get straight before the jumps. It was a good exercise to get me focused on managing that right shoulder.

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This face says it all. 

When we reversed the exercise, Mandy put the jumps up a bit. May and I are pretty comfortable with the whole 2’3″ to 2’6″ thing. However, this lesson ended up pushing a little over the upper end of that. Honestly, I think if it was a private, I would have chickened out.

Once we figured out our rhythm, balance, and straightness over the figure 8, we moved onto course work. We did the same course as last week, but we added the two stride combination to it.

Good thing this little mare is game…

Now, the set up of that two stride was REALLY hard for me. We jumped big over the corner… then I CHASED her to try to get 6 strides… which didn’t work… then I jumped up her neck… (enjoy the below pic)

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Can I say again how lucky I am to have this little mare?

Luckily, I have mostly fixed my historic reaction to this mistake. Not so long ago, I would have pulled to try to shove 3 strides into the two stride… Now, I kicked on and focused on getting her super straight. Guess what? We were able to jump out of it fine. I kept that rhythm around the rest of the course, and everything else worked out really well. The jumps I was the most concerned about (the corner and the triple bar) rode the best.

Then, we did the same course again. May, by this point, was hot and tired, so you can see her just kind of getting lazy with the verticals, but I was super happy with this course. Perfect? Nope, but I made the necessary changes and smoothed most of it out really well.

You can see the full video below:

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IEA Horse Trials – View from the SJ Ring

The Hoosier Horse Park is… in a lot of ways, the exactly opposite of the Kentucky Horse Park. Where the Kentucky Horse Park prides itself on museums, offices, and it’s general “horse amusement park” theme, the Hoosier Horse Park bring me back to when I was a kid. There’s a little less polish, but a whole lot of heart.

It’s that heart that is so clearly visible at IEA Horse Trials. I showed up to the facility at 7:30AM… Yes… remember that post that said the first ride was at 10AM? WELL, with threatening weather, the first ride got moved down to a little after 9AM. There was still some morning-of prep, so I showed up bright and early.

As usually, I parked about as far from SJ as physically possible. Part of me always forgets that I can park right next to the SJ booth… Oh well. A quick greeting to like… everyone, and I made my way to SJ. The place was alive with activity. No one had any idea if the weather would hold out, but everyone was still showing up with their A game. I crept through the trailer parking… doing a bit of window shopping as I did.

IEA has a long format for both Novice and Training, and in the more rustic setting, it feels like what eventing might have felt like a couple of decades ago. The jumps that I have seen from XC (practically none of them outside of pictures) favor a more natural style. Buuuut it also has some of the amenities we all know and love at this point: permanent stalls, sand arenas, and air conditioning in the SJ booth. 😉

Scribing show jumping all day (I mean ALL DAY 9AM – 6PM) is always an experience. I think the number 4 is permanently inscribed on my brain. SJ was really good though. We saw some great rounds, and some rounds that definitely fell short of rider’s expectations.

My favorite is always the commentary in the booth. Sure, between the four people in there, we typically know quite a few people in the ring (and/or their trainer, horse’s breeder, etc etc). However, every single rider had at least us four cheering for them. A sticky horse had us all quietly cheering and encouraging it forward with “Come on!” “Kick on!” and “You got it!” A rail near the end of a great round garnered a groan from all of us… and then we would frantically check scores to see if that person maybe just MAYBE had a rail in hand.

Any bad luck, from our first I/P riders all the way to our Jr Starters was met with sympathy. Great rounds were met with pure joy. It didn’t matter who that person was. We loved the hairy ponies of unknown breeding as much as the OTTBs and as much as the fancier warmblood types. We weren’t looking for flash. We appreciated the horse that looked like a fun, confidence building type.

Then, as the show rolled into the Jr. Starter division, it was after 5PM. XC had wrapped up. Dressage had wrapped up. We were the only ring still going. And where was everyone? Around the SJ arena. The bleachers were packed. People stood around all sides of the arena. And we all cheered on our Jr. Starters.

Everyone was tired, dirty, and ready for a drink, but we were more ready to support one another. On a day it should have rained, the sun shone on. At the end of the day, that’s why IEA is on my “Bucket list” of horse trials. For 3 days out of the year, it’s all about the horses, riders, and the sport.

If you want to read about the history of the Hoosier Horse Park and IEA, check out this US Eventing’s article.

For more about the IEA Horse Trials long format divisions, click here.

First XC Schooling at the Kentucky Horse Park

Alternative Title: Denial is a Powerful Force

After hacking around on Saturday morning, my plan on Sunday was to give May the day off while I got my closet organized. Seriously, my life is that exciting guys. Then, I got a text from my trainer:

“Hey, I’m contemplating running down to KHP to school after the show. Any interest in going with?”

Ermmmm Yes! I knew my trainer wanted to go to school her own horse, but I figured it would be a fun opportunity to hack around the XC course and pop over a few questions. My main goal was to get May’s feet into a couple of different water complexes.

I arrived at the barn just as one storm cloud decided to open up over us. No big deal. The weather at the horse park is usually way different than whatever we get in Louisville. It delayed us about 20 minutes getting out of the barn, but again, not a big deal.

As we drove through the rain, I double, triple, and quadruple checked the radar. Everything indicated that storms would kick up in Lexington around 5:30PM. We were planning to be on the XC course by 4PM, so that was PLENTY of time. We laughed about summer storms and were more concerned about how busy it all would be.

When we got to the horse park, we basically threw cash at the secretary and ran to tack up. I don’t think I have ever thrown equipment on my horse that quickly. While I had grabbed my ogilvy pad and my cambox… I left both of them in the trailer as clouds looked a little closer than they should be.

As I hopped on, I told NT that it’s always good to practice in less than ideal conditions. She agreed, and we were off! We saw several people trotting towards the XC fields, and a dozen more already out on course, jumping stuff. I even commented, “We can’t be that crazy if we’re not alone!”

We warmed up near the start gate for the event. I popped over a Starter/BN log a few times. As usual, May felt great and game. Fun!

MayXC Jump2

NT turned to me and asked me what I wanted to do. I waved her off and reminded her that we were there for her to school, so I would just jump whatever around her. We trotted out to one water complex with the Rolex Arena hanging around in the background (iconic). As we headed that way, I jumped basically every Starter jump I could find (most of the BN stuff was occupied by trainers and groups of horses). I even strung together some Starter jumps in more technical ways than they would be done for an actual starter trial.

By this point, the wind was picking up… and so was the rain… I think at one point I felt a piece of hail nail me in the back of the neck. But again, we weren’t alone. We even passed a kid on a very upset cute pony. May kind of flicked an ear at me, but honestly, she loves hanging out in the rain in her field at home, even though she has a covered shed.

We gamely trotted into the first water complex… and saw some lightning. Cool. A group of horses and people were hiding behind a couple of trees, so we traveled to the next copse of trees and figured we would wait out the wind and rain there. We were at least 10 minutes from our trailer anyway.

Part of me wishes we had taken pictures at this point… part of me is happy we didn’t. Despite being out of the worst of it, water streamed down our helmets and tack. However, both the horses just rested their back feet and chilled while the storm moved through. It took maybe 15 minutes for it all to blow through.

When we emerged from behind our tree… everyone else had left. I am not sure how many people can say they got a private XC school at the Kentucky Horse Park, but I can officially say that I am one of them!

MayXC Trot1We played around a bit more in the water complex we started at. I told NT that she just HAD to jump the ditch with a stream running through it. The jump was literally part of a creek that had been structured up to be a little jump. And… NT’s horse just could not figure out what the answer to the question was. We spend so much time teaching horses to step calmly into water… that when a question asks them to jump OVER water, sometimes it just doesn’t click.

May, however, really dislikes stepping in water. Even on trail rides, she greatly prefers to LEAP over small creeks and such, so I knew she would jump over it. So… after watching NT’s horse struggle to figure out the answer, I asked her if she wanted a lead. We figured it couldn’t hurt, so I headed to the side of the ditch she was one, picked up the trot, and faced May at this thing.

I grabbed my neck strap with my right hand and took the back seat… because no one wants to end up in the water… no matter how wet I already was. May trotted up to the ditch, stuck her face down at it, and then LAUNCHED herself over it. Jumped me out of my wet and slippery tack, and then politely loped away. Luckily, I stayed on (thanks neck strap), but I definitely jammed my thumb in its joint.

NT’s horse followed merrily behind us, and that seemed to completely help him figure out the answer. You could see him grow in confidence after that one question. Honestly, at this point, I can’t even remember if it was still raining… we were so damn soaked. I DO remember the way my breeches squelched against my saddle. Yum.

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We moved on to another water complex. It had a nice up bank to a semi-narrow option and a Prelim-level coffin pretty close together for NT, and it had some BN and Starter jumps for me. I cantered off and jumped the Starter stuff. Of note, probably best not to jump TOWARDS the trailers when your horse has been standing in the rain for the last hour… They might try to run towards it. 😉

After reining May back in, I watched NT jump the bank combination. I popped through the water and over the BN coup without an issue. Then NT gave me a little course. Through the water, over the N coup, left turn, BN coup back to the water. Coming out of the water, I lost May’s right shoulder, and she LAUNCHED over the N coup. Thanks Mare. It gave my knee a good torque in my… again… really wet tack. We still looped back to the BN coup and popped over that and through the water without an issue.

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Not surprisingly, NT had us do it again. This time, I nailed it, and it felt easy and fun, even in the muck. I was proud of May for cantering through the water, a skill she has just recently required.

NT jumped through the Prelim coffin a couple of times, and then asked if there was anything else I wanted to do. Nope! We tackled some water stuff, a lot of single jumps, and a few more technical questions. I was happy to get back to the trailer.

As we rode back… still in the rain… we saw no one else mounted. When we got back to the trailer, we snapped this picture, while trying to hold in our hysterical laughter. It was an… unconventional schooling… but it was a good one.

 

That’s my velvet helmet… which was so wet it looks Matte.

On the way home, I checked the radar one more time… I guess it was a little more serious than we had thought. 😉

Once home, the ponies got dinner and got to go out… in what was then a beautiful 75 degree evening with little humidity and even fewer bugs. Obviously, there was no way to get media in that weather, but I am 100% certain that it is a day that I will never forget.

 

“Real Eventing” & Imposter Syndrome

Apologies in advance for a rather rambly, stream of consciousness post.

Riding at the horse park for our competition was a bit surreal. Spring Bay is a bit of a unique horse trial in a lot of ways. Obviously, running XC at a different venue than SJ and Dressage is interesting, but it is more than that.

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As we walked from the trailers to Dressage or SJ at the horse park, you could see the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event coming together. Crews worked to build tents and platforms around Rolex Stadium. The grass on the XC field was being mowed and tended to. Even the barns not being used for our event were cleaned and prepped, ready for the 5* horses to show up.

It’s easy enough to go to a schooling show, especially in eventing, and feel like you belong. Most everyone is on either an OTTB or a QH or a mutt of some kind. (sorry May). It’s pretty rare to see the newest or the best tack/equipment etc on the school ponies poking around baby starter. If you go often enough, you get to know most of the riders/trainers/horses on sight.

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So I have gotten… pretty comfortable in that atmosphere.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I ventured to the Kentucky Horse Park, as it preps for KY3DE, my over-sized thelwell pony siting in the trailer, ready for Starter. I watched the Prelim riders perform their long and complicated Dressage tests (to me anyway). I walked the SJ course when it included 3 combinations, a triple bar, and was set to full prelim height. Thinking back on it, it was the first time I have ever been in a competition ring with jumps set to that height.

Then I picked up on the chatter, which horses were just out to do the CT to start off their season, and which horses were stepping down for a confidence building start. Confidence building?!

So the feelings started to creep in. This wasn’t really eventing. Who was I to call myself an eventer? Even a recent article on Eventing Nation seemed to acknowledged it:

I think we should respect the person that chooses to compete at Novice because that’s where they are happy and are enjoying the sport just as much as the person who is running around Kentucky.

Against the Move Up Mentality 

HAH! NOVICE?! Girl, those BN jumps look big right now. Did this person purposefully skip the very lowest levels of our sport? The levels that run multiple divisions in nearly every event and help pay for the judges, venues, secretaries etc etc etc? I like to think not…

I have told myself for years that getting to Novice would be really eventing, but the truth is, a couple of weeks ago, me and my horse went to compete three times in three different phases. And we were competent and competitive in each phase. To me, that is eventing.

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And you know what? I had FUN! By Sunday, I was eyeing the BN XC fences with excitement instead of anxiety. (May still thinks it would have been WAY MORE fun to “gallop” through the mud over the bigger fences.)

So I look my own doubts head on, and I remind them that being an eventer and a horseperson means showing off your horse to the best of your abilities in that moment. My choice to run Starter doesn’t need any explanation beyond the choice to set myself and my horse up for success. In fact, it needs FAR LESS explanation then anyone who pushes their horses up the level without proper fitness or training.

Moral of this story? Do right by your horse, and the eventing community will always support you.

First Thoughts – The Rest of the Dover Haul

Remember when I was pretending I was going to be all responsible and save my extra gift cards for new breeches? Well… that plan went out the window REAL FAST once I was in an actual tack shop. (Funny how that happens). I ended up going a bit… wild… for me, and I bought things I just generally wanted instead of things I in any way really need. It’s been a long time since I let myself indulge like this, and it felt pretty good. SO WHAT DID I GET?

Flexi Spur Set

So I haven’t even tried these out yet, so have no real opinion on them. I really love my new boots (and will love them more once it’s not winter and I can wear normal pants under them). Unfortunately, I love them so much that I have hesitated putting spurs on them for fear of scratching them. My favorite spurs are… somewhere… I have no idea where, and the spurs I have been using are just little nubs that I am 90% convinced only have a placebo effect.

flexi spur setSo when I spied the spur rack, I immediately wondered if I could find a pair of rubber coated spurs. The rubber coated Stubben ones were $60…. I hemmed and hawed, and then looked at the basket at the bottom. There sat some unobtrusive black and rubber spurs. I liked the length and smoothness of the actual spur, the rubber coated interior, and the price point ($18… including fabric straps.) SOLD.

Then, I got home and mildly panicked that they weren’t legal because they weren’t metal. Here’s the actual rule (bolding is mine):

Spurs are optional for all three tests. Spurs capable of wounding a horse are forbidden. Spurs must be of smooth metal. If there is a shank it must not be longer than 4 cm (1 9/16 inches, measured from the boot to the end of the spur) and must point only towards the rear. If the shank is curved, the spurs must be worn only with the shank directed downwards. Metal or plastic spurs with round hard plastic or metal knobs “Impulse spurs” and “Dummy spurs” with no shank are allowed.

Since these are smooth and not particularly long, I think we are good. Anyone reading this differently? Worst case scenario, I can always change out my spurs for shows, but I like the idea of having the rubberized material stabilizing the spur against my boot.

LeMieux™ X-Grip EuroJump Square Pad in Navy

Alright, this dude is on sale for $130 right now… so it is still above what I typically pay for saddle pads (my white, smartpak branded pads.)

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56970721092__40a8415f-09ab-4146-ba4a-ab7280861807I have wanted something grippy and stock absorbing for XC. I have been using a ECP pad (the ecogold knockoff), and I like it…. but it definitely doesn’t fit quite right under the stubben. (also, if I do end up going to any rated shows, it would be nice to have one pad for SJ and another for XC). I also wanted to have a color with my next pad and NAVY! so YAY!

I rode in it on Tuesday. It seemed to have some shock absorption, but I didn’t feel as disconnected from the saddle as I did with my ogilvy. Everything stayed in place for the short ride, and it fit far better under my 18″ stubben. So far so good! And I am excited to have a fancy pad for things… because that’s important? I told you guys, this haul was not totally rational.

Professional´s Choice® VenTECH™ Contoured Jump Girth

Is this not the worst stock photo you have ever seen? And it’s literally the only photo of this product available… cool guys.

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I have been putting off getting a new girth for May for basically… forever. Her old as dirt SmartPak girth is starting to rust… and since the Stubben has really short billets (and May can hold her breath like no horse I have ever met), it’s also too short. I guess a new girth was somewhat sitting in the back of my mind when we went to look at helmets.

Then, after I put the helmet on the counter… this girth was RIGHT THERE.

First thoughts:

  • I love that the liner removes for easy washing (it was a feature of my old girth that I actually used)
  • The carabiner clip is held flat with a sturdy (seeming) piece of leather. I haven’t played around with this yet, but it’s always a handy feature. (But something I would 100% avoid if May was ever in bar shoes. I don’t care how “safe” it looks at the onset.)
  • The elastic is surprisingly long. I guess this is to keep down the bulk under your leg? In my case, it just made it somewhat easier to get on a fat horse who chooses to be fatter when saddles.
  • Speaking of fat horses, non slip is my friend and non-negotiable.
  • May HATES long leather girths, so I was a bit worried that the stiffer exterior on this one (Dover says it’s a TPU shell? but it just feels like plastic) would bother her. But it is flexible enough to be comfortable, and is better shaped for her forward girth groove than a traditional girth.

After using it on Tuesday, I was pretty pleased with how well it distributes pressure, despite the shape. May seemed to like it as well, and it looks quite nice with my saddle.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my “impulse” purchases at first glance, but I will definitely let you all know how these things age!

Have you bought anything “fun but not totally necessary” lately?

In Need Of Opinions – Helmets

Hello friends! I am on the hunt for a new helmet. The One-K is three years old, and while that is well within the life-span of a helmet, it is starting to look a bit sad. Also, I have no back up helmet laying around for A. Riding in Terrible Weather and B. if I fall off. So, I am looking for some input from all of you! (Keep in mind, my head fits pretty well in a Samshield and about perfectly in a One-K)

1 – Trauma Void™ EQ3™

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Who doesn’t love new technology in equestrian sports? Who in eventing doesn’t love new SAFETY technology?

Enter the Trauma Void. Top Safety Results, and Modern Look. Sounds like a home run!

Buuuut I know other One-K wearers who they just didn’t work for. (looking at you Centered In the Saddle)

 

2 – Charles Owen AYR8® Plus Helmet

COGYR8.JPGSo technically, the study linked above references the Charles Owen AYR8® Leather Look helmet as a “Good Choice”. Buuuuuut I don’t think that one has a removable/washable liner, and after having that feature in a Samshield and my One-K… I just cannot live without it.

The CO is classic for any ring/venue/english discipline. And I think they are flattering on most people. HOWEVER, I am not sure this would come event remotely close to fitting my head.

Honestly… I think that might be it. I could always get another One-K, and I REALLY like my One-K. I could even get the Defender with fun colors. Is there anything that I am missing that I should seriously consider? This is a BIG decision people! 🙂

Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

Big shout out to Amanda for providing inspiration when things are a bit light on the content side of things. I don’t tend to do a lot of year-end wrap ups, so this is right up my alley!

Favorite Show Picture

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PC Bluegrass Equine Photography

Getting back in the show ring this year was a massive goal for me… and we managed to make it to TWO shows and make MAJOR improvements between the two.

Favorite non-Show Picture

Gosh… I did NOT get a lot of media this year…

Favorite Thing You Bought

Well… I didn’t buy it, but the husband bought it for me. That counts, right?

Favorite Moment on Horseback

This whole video…

If I had to pick a picture though… it would be this one. Getting through the water safely was BIG for us. I will admit that our hunter pace this year came in a CLOSE second.

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Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle

Uh yeah… another video. BUT getting to volunteer was something on my list ever since I started eventing. This year, I did it twice. Both times were a GREAT experience. 10/10 highly recommend.

Favorite “Between the Ears” Photo

Do I get multiples? This photo is so representative of how my horsey-life has changed since switching barns. Tons of new friends, and I am rarely at the barn alone. (And May likes the trail riding opportunities)

Favorite Horse Book or Article

Uhhh… I am going blank on this one. I don’t read a lot of horse books, BUT I do read a lot of books that can apply to horses. This year’s stand out book? “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. It sounds SUPER cheesy, but Shonda is a down to Earth and relatable woman with a fantastic writing style. (not surprising considering she is the creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder…)

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Favorite Horse Ridden (or groomed/cared for) Aside from Your Own

So… I only rode 2 horses other than May this year. I am going to give this one to Cal,

May’s neighbor. I got to hop on him for some fun, while his mom got on May. Let’s just say, as a 16.2ish OTTB, he was a totally different ride from May, but a really cool horse. Image stolen from the barn’s website, so shoot me. But you can see just how adorable he is!

 

Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse

Multiple pictures with this one…

My sister and I showing up to the barn to find a free May was one of the funniest moments of the year. So far, the new stall guard SEEMS to have solved the problem.

Favorite Fence that you Successfully Jumped or Movement you Conquered

The water probably should be here. Buuuuuut you all are getting ANOTHER VIDEO! hahaha. This year wasn’t so much about individual fences or elements but about upping the complexity of our exercises at home to produce results at shows. Like this clip from one of our lessons:

Favorite Horse Meme or Funny Picture

Image result for healthy as a horse meme

This wasn’t the exact one I was looking for, but same concept and it gave me a giggle.

Ugh Horse Why?

I wish I had a more elegant title to this post, but this is basically where I am at. Saturday ended up being a decent day weather wise. Sure, it was damp and in the 40s, but it wasn’t actively raining. So I was able to ride in the outdoor. All good things. My plan was to put in a Dressage ride with a focus on connection and bending since May was coming off of back to back jump lessons. (by back to back, I mean lessons on Tuesday and Thursday but no flat ride in between)

The ride started out well. I carried a crop, just in case I needed to reinforce the leg aid, but she was in front of my leg and even a bit spicy. No big deal. We did a lot of walk/halt/walk transitions before stepping into the trot. When we moved into the trot, she threw her right shoulder into my right leg to come off the connection and fling her head up in the transition. UGH.

I brought her back to the walk and tried again. Same result. I halted and asked her to move her right shoulder around in a turn on the haunches. Nope. Nope. Nope. She did not need to do these things, she is a JUMP HORSE now. NOT a DRESSAGE horse. (These pics disagree)

MMMmmmmk. Let’s break it down further. Walk on a small circle and bend her neck around the circle. NOPE. She flung her head up and threw her whole body to the outside, stumbling sideways and flinging her tongue out of her mouth.

Alright, I am thinking… maybe this is physical. Maybe she is pretty sore and stiff from the jump lessons and bending her neck hurts. (Anyone else immediately fall down this rabbit hole?) Then, she saw a horse being ridden over across the field from the other barn. And She Lost Her Mind.

Suddenly, she could bend all the way around to the right, while cantering, to try and see the horse behind her. Any kind of half halt was met with head flinging and tongue wagging. It was 45 minutes of me just trying to get SOME kind of response from her so that I could end on a good note. I ended up just riding her super straight and doing some collected/extended transitions in the trot (where to be honest, she had some moments of actual suspension).

Unfortunately, I still got off feeling frustrated and annoyed. I gave May a proper cool down, put some thrush stuff in her feet (standing in the mud at the hay bale for hours on end is a great recipe for thrush), and used from probios cookies to do some stretches JUST IN CASE.

However, it is one thing to have a really bad ride and have to go back to basics consistently with a horse that has talent. It is another to do it with a horse that is basically a BN horse AND has been a BN horse for 3 years.

I know other people have worse rides. Rides that are genuinely dangerous. This ride wasn’t dangerous. It was just like… (trying to find a not super crude thing to write here)…. it was like writing a post where every time you finished a paragraph, it totally disappears on you.

I think May got Sunday off, so today will be the follow up ride to Saturday. Then, my half leaser is out of town for the holidays, so I have her to myself for a while… and some extra time to actually ride. Maybe the weather will hold out, and we can go on a hack. BUT as Michele knows… it will probably rain.

Anyone else just want to turn their horse out into a field for the rest of winter and hope that Spring is better? (Also, gave up on the new WP editor and went back to the classic. Best decision EVER)

12.11.2018 – Jumping Lesson

It had been MONTHS since my last jumping lesson. Actually, I just looked back and… Yup. It has been FOUR MONTHS… which makes it the fourth jumping lesson of 2018. BUT that also means that I got TWICE as many jumping lesson in during 2018 than I did in 2017. That counts as improvement, right?

I was totally inspired to take this lesson after watching a friend of mine tackle this exercise a week earlier. However, I am sure no one is surprised to find out that thing were a bit rough around the edges. (Also, apologies but the lesson was at night, under the lights, in the cold, and I didn’t want to expose the helmet cam to all of that… so there’s no media)

After warming up, we started trotting through a fan of poles at the end of the ring. It was similar to the exercise below, but there were four poles and they were just on the ground. 

I had a lot of trouble to this going to the left. May really wanted to fall out through her right shoulder, and I felt like I couldn’t quite keep it in the line I wanted. Definitely something to work on. The canter was somewhat better than the trot, but May kept wanting to jam in an extra step before the last pole (keep this in mind). 

Going to the right, the exercise was a lot easier, because all I had to do was regulate how fast her right shoulder came around… a lot easier than trying to pull the right shoulder in and around. 

Next, we started setting the groundwork for the main course. This:

Four verticals, one oxer with 2 placing poles. 

To get May moving forward and get me riding a line (the whole purpose of the above set up), we started with creating a circle from the yellow vertical to the green. In both directions, I messed up either my line or my rhythm the first time, but totally nailed it the second, so we didn’t spend much time on this. 

Then we moved onto the full exercise. The verticals are set exactly 4 strides to the placement poles and the placement poles are one stride from the oxer, so as long as you take a fairly direct line but jump all the elements straight, it is 5 strides from each vertical to the oxer and the oxer to each vertical. 

A couple more notes about what makes this a bit unique. Our ring is not 100% flat. It angles slightly towards the barn, which means that coming towards the barn things are easier than going away from it. This totally becomes relevant, I promise. 

An old pic of the ring. 

NT tells me that I am most likely going to get a forward 6 to the fences and trying for the 5 will likely leave us too unbalanced to do the exercise correctly. Doing 7 will either leave us dead in the water or on too wide a line. I nod, and then immediately tell her that I feel nervous. She gives me a funny look. 

Our first course went in this order: Green, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. I ride the green perfectly with a great pace… Then I take a feel coming towards the oxer, and May adds an extra stride. This means we are kind of dead in the water and we add again to the red… BLAH. I kick on, but the orange and yellow kind of go the same way. NT notes that she liked my pace coming in, but I took my foot off the pedal once I had to actually jump and turn. She’s not wrong. 

We do it again. The Green, Blue, Red combination goes REALLY well, and I am feeling good. BUT remember that the ring slopes down in that direction… I ride the Orange pretty well… and then don’t kick enough towards the oxer. It’s a bit of a stretch for May to get over the placement pole, and instead of stretching AGAIN over the low, wide oxer, she shoves in an extra stride… takes down most of the oxer… I do manage to kick on and get 7 or 8 strides to the Yellow, so we finish… but not in great form. The oxer gets rebuilt, but I can almost feel May losing a bit of confidence here. I am DETERMINED to give her a positive ride. 

We change up the course a bit to keep May from anticipating where we are going. It was SUPPOSED to be Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Yellow. Buuuuut I forgot where I was going at the end, and I end up doing Yellow, Blue, Red, Orange, Blue, Green. 

Why do I forget where I am going? That’s right, because I still can’t get the distance from the Orange to the Blue to work out properly. I close my leg, but May keeps giving me this response like “this is as forward as I will go.” I am not sure if I am having trouble committing, or if she is just used to a different ride from my half leaser, but either way, she is going forward… but she is not in front of my leg. 

“Gallop in a bit like you’re going XC this time.” I nod. I go. I gallop. I jump the orange. I get four PERFECT strides to the placement pole. I close my leg on the fifth stride. The distance and pace are REALLY good. I lean… and May JAMS in an extra stride and jumps pretty much straight in the air. I get thrown up IN FRONT of my saddle and on her neck. My thought? “I can’t afford a new helmet right now.”

Proof that she can stretch for it. 

Luckily, May is still my partner in this whole thing, and she flings her head up, throwing me mostly back into the saddle. I scramble my way back and manage to get her stopped before she carried me over the green. Everyone was very impressed with my save, but I was fully freaked out. May has always been the horse that as long as I have a decent pace, she will safely get us to the other side of the jump. That decision though, was not the safe decision. Honestly, I am still kind of freaked out by it.*

My trainer confirms that everything looked good, but May decided that she needed to make the final decision on that one. Again, a lot of this probably comes back to the fact that it has been 4 months since we had a jumping lesson and this set up was really difficult, but she had really just not been fully responding to my leg all night. I’m not sure who suggested it, but my trainer ran back to the barn to grab me a longer jump crop. Something I could reinforce my leg aid without taking my hands off the reins. 

To test the gas pedal, we went back to the second exercise of just circling from Yellow to Green. It was way better, and I felt like she wasn’t sucking back behind my leg to assess each jump. So we adjusted the exercise again:

As you can see, we were now starting on the line I was having the most difficulty with. ALL I WANTED was to get the first line right. We jumped in, I rode forward, we got 6! I turned to the green. Another 6! I rode forward to 4. Never got straight to it… and got down that line in 5…. Yup, definitely more in front of my leg this time. However, doing the five put us way too off balance for the Orange, so I had to bend it out a bit and I got 7. But it was SO MUCH better with the crop in my hand. May was taking me to the fences again, and I felt like we found our usual groove. She puffed herself up and pranced back to the middle of the ring. 

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NT was also MUCH happier with that performance. For our last course, she just wanted me to do just the Yellow, Blue, Orange line to fix those distance, and then circle back through the fan exercise we had started the day with. (I think she was checking my breaks and balance)

Either way, we nailed the bending line, and May came right back to a perfect dressagey-canter to bounce through the poles and then halted easily to end our ride. 

*I am going to add a note here. May HAS done similar things before when she loses confidence in me. The below video from Kent is a perfect example. After the combination, May was just DONE saving me, so we had a run out. Once I rode better, she went perfectly again. 

Today? I am sore and still feeling a bit back on the heels from the experience. BUT I am super proud of the fact that I didn’t give up in this lesson, and I didn’t decide it was just too hard for us. I kept riding, and I ended the lesson with a much more confident and trusting horse than I started with… even if things got REALLY messy in the interim. I will probably dissect my feelings a bit more in my next post. Until then, have you ever had a lesson that had to hit a pretty low LOW point before ending great?

Off Season – Cross Training

I have a lesson tonight that I am pretty excited about, but I figured I would set the stage with you all with an update of things I am doing outside the barn. Exactly a month ago yesterday, my friend and I joined our local YMCA. And yup – that’s the pic of it above. It is small, clean, and rivals Disney World as one of the friendliest places on Earth. 

Original plan? Take a couple of classes and stay fit and motivated through, what seems to have decided to be a ridiculously cold and unlivable, winter. Reality? Ummm yesterday marked our tenth visit, and that includes me basically taking the week of Thanksgiving off to be with family. 

This is my first experience with really taking classes, and it has been an incredible mix of completely intimating, a bit embarrassing, but totally fun.

Intimidation? When the entire class is there before you get there, and they have 6 pieces of equipment laid out in front of them in some kind of pattern that, even at the end of class, I am not sure I fully comprehended. Oh, and the super pregnant lady who was DEFINITELY lifting twice the weight I was able to, and she looked bored. 

Embarrassment? When the kettleball teacher spent half the class trying to keep me from shrugging my shoulder up past my ear on every lift. Even thinking about it makes my shoulder shrug. 

Fun? Fun was this weekend and CRUSHING my goal. The goal? Do 10 miles in the hour long spin class on Saturday morning. Result? Oh I did 10 miles. In fact, I did 11.4 miles. I also improved my average watts from the mid-40s to 60. I felt like I could push myself and really be a part of the class. 

Left? Second class ever. Right? Saturday. 

The best part? I really think all this cross training is going to have a seriously positive impact on my riding… once mother nature stops torturing us. What about you? Are you doing any cross training or trying something new in the off season?