After Dressage, I had nearly 2 hours until Show Jumping. I took a look at both the show jumping and cross country course, but I wasn’t able to fully walk either due to the late start we had in the morning. Oh well, show jumping was 8 jumps with 1 related distance, and XC was basically one big loop.
May got to hang out in the shade and enjoy the breeze and grass, while I got to actually eat some real food. It might have been 10:30 in the morning, but I needed lunch! Once we were about a half hour to my SJ time, I pulled May off the trailer, threw on our jumping stuff, and got back on. Given that XC was running immediately after SJ, I just put all of May’s XC gear on and wore my vest. And then promptly forgot my armband. Whomp Whomp.
The husband ran back to the trailer while I warmed up again. It was a short, but good warmup, so I cut it a bit short. I wanted to watch a couple of rounds before I went in. Unfortunately, May had other plans and wasn’t super interested in just standing at the in gate, so while I caught bits and pieces of other rounds, I wasn’t able to watch the whole thing through. I do not think I saw anyone go through the related distance line (remember how I didn’t get a chance to walk it?)
Entering the ring for the round was a bit awkward, as you had to check in with the volunteer at the in gate, and then trot to the other end of the SJ field to check in with the judge. I also wanted to trot by 7 because, for BN, there was a 7B. As a result, right after 7 there were a bunch of poles in the grass, and I wanted to make sure May saw them before we were at the base of 7.
So once we checked in with the judge, I trotted along past 5, since that was a couple of hay bales and sometimes hay bales are scary. I picked up my canter, and May immediately started throwing her head around. Ugh. I got her attention back somewhere around 4, as I made my turn to jump 1. Unfortunately, our lack of focus meant my line wasn’t as crisp as I wanted, as May drifted behind my leg and towards the in gate. What does this all mean? It means we pretty much clobbered jump 1.
I kicked forward and got a slightly better rhythm and line to jump 2. We jumped in a touch weak, so I decided to balance up and do the add. Except I HADN’T WALKED the line. SO I got 3/4 of the way down the line, and I realized it was SET SHORT. It was also too late to chase her for what would have been a MASSIVE distance, or just faster shuffling corgi steps toward the nothing distance we already had lined up. Oops… we got to the oxer with no step, no impulsion, and no distance. Cool. May HEFTED herself over it, somehow leaving it up. Seriously, there is video evidence of this that I need to upload for you all.
By this point, I was pretty angry at myself for riding the first 3 jumps like a monkey. I kicked on to 4 and actually had a pretty nice jump. I keep kicking to 5. I am DETERMINED to have almost a “hunter gap” to this fence. We. Will. Not. Chip. For some reason, I had it in my head that she might look at that one, so I needed to ride strong. It was an oxer, which I hate, and it had some hay bales under it. Now, I am not sure we have ever jumped hay bales, but I know many horses that have taken offense to them. (I got an awesome nose bleed once after a horse took serious offense to some hay bales.)
I think it went fine though. 😉 It ended up probably being our nicest jump on course. Jump 6 I don’t even remember jumping. I probably stopped breathing that point. At 7, I was determined not to have the same issue I had at 1, and I rode more determined through my line. As a result, 7 was a non issue. I turned to 8. Kicked on, and was over. So SJ finished with just one jump down, but I was pretty frustrated for myself for not starting the round well.
SJ was pretty messy for a lot of people, and I later heard that the first jump when down a lot for people. Overall, we moved from 4th to 6th out of 19. No matter the score though, I was determined to go out and attack XC.
Of note, all the professional photos were purchased by me from Bluegrass Equine Photography for digital use. I am a big believer in supporting horse show photographers, so I was more than happy to pay for these happy memories!
Let me start my saying, my horse is a magnet for attention. More than once, I found myself surrounded by multiple girls, as they asked questions, petted May, and even gave her kisses. The horse, who is usually so aloof, really loves all this at shows. Go figure.
Our day got off to a bit of a rough start, as a scheduling conflict at the barn meant that we couldn’t get on the road until 9AM, vs. the 8:30AM I had been planning on. Luckily, the show venue was maybe 10 minutes down the road, so we weren’t in danger of missing my 10:06 ride time. I did, however, change into my boots, my hairnet, and my helmet while we drove.
As soon as we got to the venue, I sent my husband off the office to get my number and whatever information he could glean from the staff there. This was the same place we had went to for XC schooling the prior week, but I wasn’t sure where everything was set up for the actual competition. While he was gone, I pulled May off the trailer myself. For some reason, she isn’t a fan of my trainer’s 2+1 trailer, but she was patient as I worked out how to get her off of it myself.
The husband arrived back in time to help me finish tacking up, and then May decided to be a total beast to get on. Now, my husband is not a small man, and May full body shoved him out of the way as I was swinging a leg over… I guess It’s truly time to get serious about the standing at the mounting block thing at home.
I then wandered aimlessly around where SJ and XC were, trying to figure out how one gets to the Dressage arena on the other side of the pond. I finally found someone to ask, and it turns out you had to go down what looked like a private driveway, take a right onto a dirt path past a hot walker, walk up into a random field and around the fence line to the dressage arena. I am not going to lie, being lost like that and on a bit of a time crunch really stressed me out.
Whew! When we finally found the Dressage warm-up, it was broken into two areas: a big grassy field that was mostly flat, and an actual dressage court. I rode around in the field for a while before the Dressage court emptied. Then, I moved to the court. Of course, as soon as I got in there, someone else, let’s call her Competition Crazy (CC), decided she needed to run through her WHOLE test in that little court multiple times in a row. Maybe I am naive, but I feel like there is no scrubbing a test right before you go in. Practice the movements to get your horse as connected and tuned in as possible, and then go into the ring. (more on CC later too)
With a couple of riders left to go, I just let her walk around in the shade for a bit, hoping that would help relieve her of some of our combined tenseness. As I was watching the last rider go before me, a couple of girls came up to pet May. It’s amazing how just talking to people about my pony helps keep my nerves at bay. The rider before me wasn’t ready, so I happily agreed to go a bit early.
I wandered down to the arena and gave the judge and scribe my number. ANNNND they couldn’t find me. They asked for my name, and I gave it. They said my number didn’t match my name… cool. Then I gave them my horse’s name, and they were like “OOOHHHH. We thought YOU were May”. I may be a bit short, a bit round, and quite pale, but I am definitely not May.
We got it sorted out, and I got to trot a bit around the arena before they honked the horn, and we headed down centerline for the first time in 2 years. Below is how it went.
(a copy of the test can be found here, I am just going to give the scores and comments for each movement below)
8.0 – No Comment
8.0 – Nice Energy
7.5 – Slight Head Tossing
7.0 – Could Have More Balance
7.0 – Slight Loss of Bend
6.5 – Could Have More march
8.0 – 2-3 jiggy steps, but very nice stretch (This was VERY generous)
6.0 – Could March More. Slight Tension
8.0 – No Comment
7.0 – Could Have Been Cleaner
6.5 – Losing Bend. Slight Loss of Balance
7.0 – No Comment
8.0 – No Comment
9.0 – No Comment
Overall Comments: Well Matched Pair. Lovely Test. Work on Canter transitions and tension.
Final Score: 24.1
So my thoughts? The scoring was CLEARLY generous, but it was equally generous for everyone. I was happy with how May stayed connected and engaged throughout the trot work, and I thought the canter work was a lot less scrambly then the last time we competed. However, the tension in the walk is definitely something we need to work on, as it comes up at home too.
The score was good enough to put us in 4th place out of 19, so that was very encouraging. Either way, we had about 2 hours to cool off. Then it was going to be time for jumping!
Big thanks for Olivia for some blogspiration. She recently posted this topic on her blog, and I just had to tackle the idea!
Apparently, I am having a bit of a throwback week this week. (sorry, not sorry). I am going to go back a few years, to just before I bought my first horse. Let’s call it, “5 things I didn’t know I didn’t know about owning a horse”.
1. This is your responsibility only.
This one seems obvious right? You’re buying a horse and that horse is your responsibility. However, it really comes down to how it is YOUR responsibility ONLY. Your trainer, barn manager, and friends may all be incredible resources for you on this journey, but this horse’s training, happiness, welfare, and health all fall on your shoulders. Be ready to educate yourself beyond your core group.
2. You will feel guilty, and that is ok.
Shocking to no one, owning a horse is expensive. Owning a horse you want to train and compete is VERY expensive. I have always made enough money to support my horse habit, and I have always responsibly reined back my expectations for myself and my horse when funding just didn’t cover my goals. However, it is still expensive. Even spending the bare minimum, I still often feel guilt. I should be riding more, doing more, succeeding more.
Horses don’t work that way though. Just enjoy what you are doing, make sure you aren’t spending beyond your means, and remember that a horse doesn’t care if it has the newest, fanciest anything. She really just wants a carrot.
3. You will fail, and it will make you better.
Failure in horse ownership takes so many paths. I have failed to prepare my horse properly for a competition. I have failed to recognize the signs of ulcers. I have failed to call the vet immediately for an injury that I thought was minor that turned out to need more extensive help. I even failed to make my first horse into what I hoped he would be. Now, however, I am a more educated horse owner, rider, and trainer, and every horse I touch is better off because of it.
4. You will succeed.
I recently downloaded a mood tracker on my cell phone. I wanted a better sense of what impacts my moods (food, caffeine, hormones, etc.). Most of my ratings hang out in the middle of the scale, kind of like a Dressage test. There are lots of 5’s and 6’s and 7’s, even the occasional 4. However, after my first lesson of the season, I pulled out a 10. I was beyond myself. I called my husband just to word vomit to him all the amazing things I did with my horse in 28 minutes. I get the same high after a great horse trial and, sometimes, even after that perfect Dressage transition.
5. Ignore the Rail birds
Rail birds take all forms. They are the catty teenagers (and adults!) on the sidelines at show that feel the need to comment on your troubles. (Fun fact, it is not fun to watch the video after a rough SJ round and hear this commentary in the background.) There are friends and trainers that will try to put you into a box surrounded by what you “should” and “should not” do. There are COUNTLESS people on the internet that will love to critique your position, horse, tack, weight, and more. These people don’t matter. The beauty of riding, and eventing in general, is that this is a sport of you and your horse. Buy the horse you want to ride everyday, and then go out and ride it whenever you can.
After 6 years of horse ownership, I have grown a ridiculous amount, and I know I still have so much to learn. What about you? Do you have any advice for yourself prehorse ownership?
So yesterday was my birthday, so I am not going to apologize for the lack of media here (although, that should be changing soon!). It was one of those birthday that just happens between the time you can legally drink and the symbolic “decade” birthdays. Solidly out of my Mid-Twenties though and into my Late-Twenties. As an extra special surprise, I got a text from my trainer on Monday morning. All it said was, “Lesson at 6:30 on Tuesday? Jump? :-D”
Obviously, I answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” (followed by about a million smiley faced). Then, I sort of panicked. See, May and I have only kind of loped around fences super casually, and I didn’t get the weekend at all to prepare. Saturday we did some long and stretchy stuff, and Sunday we did some walking.
We also have only had 3(?) jumping lessons with this trainer over the course of the year and a half I have been at this barn. The last jump lesson was a year ago. (I am not counting the impromptu lesson we had where I jumped around tiny jumps in my dressage saddle… but I guess I could.)
Most of my trainer’s clientele are either actively competing or planning on competing at the Training/Prelim levels this year, so sometimes, she cranks the jumps up. So, in a totally normal reaction to stress, I polished my boots up, wiped my saddle down before my lesson, and worried about having forgotten to grab a clean white pad to replace my teal, fuzzy, and now very hairy saddle pad. (I don’t think my trainer cares about any of this in reality, but I needed to do something to “prepare.”)
I got on about 20 minutes before my lesson to let us warm up before the lesson started. Unlike trainers of my past, my current trainer likes to get right into jumping or Dressage or whatever it is we are working on that day, so it is best to be warmed up before we get started (unless we are working on building or fixing a specific warm up routine for whatever reason).
While I was warming up, another lesson was going on. This woman at my barn competes Saddlebreds in the breed competitions, but she has fallen in love in eventing and is retraining her REALLY successful Saddlebred mare to be an eventer. I think this was one of their first jumping lessons, and let me tell you, that girl has hops! My trainer was laughing about the variety of horses in her barn, going from training a Saddlebred to my little draft cross mare. It makes it fun and interesting, and it shows just how many tools she has in her tool kit.
Onto my actual lesson! Below was the general set up of the arena. There were two outside lines that aren’t shown on the below, but we didn’t jump them, so I didn’t include them. I think it’s busy enough as is!
So where did we start? Well, we started with my trainer explaining that this would be a gymnastic-type lesson to see where we’re at. Works for me!
We started with trotting that single orange pole at the top. Literally. One pole on the ground, at the trot. My trainer had me establish rhythm and had me focus on NOT pushing May past her rhythm, which was actually a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. We ended up having to do this twice, each direction, to get it right. Then, we moved to the set of three, teal, poles next to it. Each of these were raised on one side in an alternating fashion.
Again, the focus was keeping the rhythm even and a little slow. To get the power and push from behind without the horse trying to run through the exercise. Thanks to the first exercise, this one was pretty easy. We got it quickly, and were able to move on.
We moved onto the “Circle of Love”, which is the circle of blue jumps and blue cones in the above diagram. (my trainer REFUSES to call it the Circle of Death). Either way, it was a 20M circle with 4 jumps, and 4 sets of cones. At first, she only had 2 of the jumps up, but we were able to do that with absolutely no problem, so she made it up to all 4 jumps after 1 circle. Moral of this story? I do not need to throw my body over fences, and I need to be more comfortable with correcting quickly after a fence. I would say the first time through in each direction was rough, but once I got over the idea of letting May lift me out of the tack instead of throwing my body around, it got a lot easier.
My trainer explained that the goal of an exercise like that would be to first be able to get through the exercise comfortable in both direction. Then, to get the same number of strides between each fence. Once that is established, then you can make it more difficult by going outside the cones and adding 1 additional stride between each fine, and then weaving inside the cones and getting 1 fewer stride between each fence. She said this is something you would build over time, and wasn’t something we should try to drill into the horse in a single session.
She was pretty impressed with how quickly we figured it out, and was even more impressed with the fact that May wasn’t huffing and puffing after it. Fitness is working! (for her… this was the hardest I had worked in the saddle in a while, and I was feeling it!)
So what was next??
Next was an exercise in adjust-ability. We moved onto the three purple poles in a straight line down the middle of the arena. Not sure if any of you remember an earlier post, but I had jumped through these in a super open 3 to try and jump from a more open stride. Yeah… not the focus of this lesson. I was told to jump in and just let it happen in 4. We did that once in each direction, and then my trainer told me to do each of them in 5.
Now, May now knew that these were a 4, and turning an open 3 into a 5 is a pretty big ask from the big lady. The first time in, she blew off my half halt before the first fence, blew it off between the first and second fence, and my trainer told me to halt before the last fence. We did, and then we tried again. It continued to be REALLY difficult for her, and there was a told of dramatic head throwing. However, she was completely capable of doing it. For my part, I had to think of getting a real Dressage-Like canter. I mean, I was visualizing the canter I need to get a solid leg yield across a diagonal type of Dressage canter. I needed to keep May really high through the poll and shoulders. I don’t think I have ever asked this horse to collect her canter this much, and you know what, I should be. A couple of times, we close momentum and ended up in the trot, but I just circled and asked again. If she went through the jumps correctly, she got to canter on a more forward stride and looser rein as a reward.
So how do you build on that? You jump a very technical course with very low jumps!
We were instruction to come down the purple line of jumps in a 5 to a 4, go around the 9 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go between the cones, jump the 6 o’clock jump on the circle of love, go through the next set of cones. Then, we had to complete the S patter, by jumping the gray diagonal jump, turn to jump the last 2 jumps of the purple pattern in a 4, and then make a right turn to jump the oxer. After the oxer, we had to keep our line to fit through the super tight opening between the middle purple jump and the teal, raise poles.
So how did it go? Well, the first time, I wasn’t able to get the 5 to the 4. I didn’t push May forward over the second jump, and we just didn’t have the power to get 4, so we started again, and we nailed it. I came around to jump 4, which she jumped a bit big, which left us big to jump 5… and then I promptly forgot where I was going. My trainer told me, “I knew you forgot because you were looking at the wrong end of the arena.” whoops!
We restarted at jump 4, since May seemed to really understand the purple exercise. I rocked her back for jump 4, kept the bouncy canter for jump 5, demolished jump 6, cross cantered to jump 7, got my balance back around the corner, and jumped 8 beautifully before easily keeping our line through the small opening before ending our course. Was it pretty? Nope. That’s why you do these types of things with small jumps.
We decided to end on that note. Sure, the 4,5,6,7 line could’ve been cleaned up a bit, but we kept our rhythm and our line, which was the whole point. Since she jumped 8 so well, we through that was a great note to end on.
And today? I am so sore! hahaha. Can’t wait for the next lesson! (we also might have put a local schooling horse trial on the calendar for next month. Stay tuned!)
I was scrolling back through my posts to see if I could confirm this, but I am pretty sure Sunday was the first day I did an actual course of jumps in my new jumping saddle… I have popped over a few single fences here and there, but hadn’t actually strung a course together… nor do I think I had jumped an oxer in that saddle… and I know I wasn’t jumping oxers in my Dressage saddle… so how long had it been since we had jumped an oxer… Oops. Oh well.
(I think that might have been our last oxer… 11 months ago) Sunday was actually really beautiful in KY. We had about 18 hours of dry weather, which was enough for the amazing footing in our outdoor arena to dry up. So I begged and pleaded for the husband to come take video for me. (Really, I just asked since the weather was finally nice enough.)
Hindsight? I should’ve brought my crop with me. The horse with the carriage was out there when I went to get on, so I got on in the indoor and then walked over to the outdoor. No reason to get dumped because I didn’t want to bother to walk an extra 50 feet to a less busy arena. May didn’t seem to have a problem with the carriage this time, which was definitely improvement, but she was definitely just preoccupied with thoughts of what the cart was doing. I couldn’t really get her totally in front of my leg, but she was relaxed and obedient.
Since the jumps were set pretty small, I figured I would just warm up a bit and hope she woke up a bit. (This is terrible horsemanship, but… oh well… I had a relaxed horse.) There was a small box (maybe 12″) set up so that you could canter a 20 meter circle over it, so I started with that. I worked on establishing rhythm without losing suppleness through her body.
After a few times in both directions, I asked the husband to turn on the camera, and I pointed out the few jumps I was planning on doing. The footing nearest where he was filming was a bit deep and wet still, so I just avoided that line, but I wanted to pretty much jump everything else. haha
My original plan was to get through the course and then clean up the parts that I felt were messy. Mind you, early in the week I had tried to jump a few fences, and I missed to Ever. Single. One. I COULD NOT find a distance. This time, I shortened up my reins a bit, and focused on keeping my hands a bit higher than what I am used to (but what is probably correct), and keeping my reins short enough that my hands were about halfway up her neck. Below is what we got:
Overall? I am really happy with that. The biggest issue is obviously pace. Our pace should be closer to what we have in this clip:
However, the most important thing to me when reintroducing a horse to jumping is to make it as nonchalant as possible. It should feel like no big deal, just popping over a few fences. I can always light a fire under a horse’s butt if I need to… It’s a special skill of mine, so a quieter than expected jump school is a good place to start. Our simple changes were pretty good (although very numerous), and our only small argument was coming to the oxer, where I wanted to hold for no reason coming around the corner. I was wrong, she was right, and I had to pony-club kick for the long spot. Enjoy our small fail photo below:
It is probably also worth noting that I was testing a different bit in this video. A Myler D ring with hooks. No chain, but hooks. Jury is still out on it, but I clearly don’t need the pelham if she keeps going like this! So how do I feel about my jumping saddle around a course and over an oxer? I am pretty damn happy with it still. It doesn’t rock over fences like other saddles I tried. May clearly seems relaxed and happy giving me the long spot in it, and I felt my position was fairly solid given how long it has actually been.
WHEW! Just happy to be doing more than fancy prancing and trot sets though!
Also – who is going to the event-formerly-known-as-Rolex, aka KY3DE, aka Land Rover 3 Day… AKA who knows what they’re calling it now? I will be there for XC with the husband!
In the theme of, get all of the maintenance work done before real training starts for the season, May saw the Dentist. Now, I originally was going to put this off a bit, as she wasn’t technically due. However, at May’s lameness eval, the vet stuck her hand in May’s mouth, gave me the hairy eyeball, and asked how long it’s been since she had been done… “Uh… about 8 months,” I managed to stammer.
The vet gave me a strange look, stuck her hand back into May’s mouth and said, “Who did you use?” Of course, I couldn’t remember the name of the guy I used once… 8 months ago. She just shook her head and recommended I try someone different this time and get them done sooner, rather than later. Well… Ugh.
So, in true horse-mom fashion, May had a dentist appointment about 10 days later. I opted for someone that doesn’t sedate unless he has to. I know this is a controversial subject, so all I will say on it is that I have a horse that can be tricky to drug (due to her draft blood), and the horse had just been sedated 10 days prior. If you get your horse injected 2x a year and you do their teeth 2x a year by someone who automatically sedates, that means you are a sedating 4x a year. (you can try to combine the visits, but at the levels we drug May, she only stays “sedated” for about 30 – 45 minutes… not really enough for injections and a full teeth float). I have 0 evidence that this is bad for your horse, but I know all sedation comes with risks (again – especially with certain breeds), so I chose to try someone who doesn’t sedate.
The dentist was recommended by basically the entire barn, and he even showed up on time. It was a good start. He also gave me a weird look when he put his hands into my horse’s mouth… I had just gotten done telling him how she had been done 8 months ago, but that I didn’t think they did a good job. He clearly agreed with me. Although, he was surprised at how fat she was able to be “despite how bad her teeth were.” Not sure if that one was a compliment May… I told him that if she ever started really dropping weight, she’d be at a full blown clinic the next day. At least he laughed at that one.
He was great though. He took the extra few minutes to get May comfortable, and he also took the time to educate me a bit. I have seen teeth being done many times on sedated horses and non sedated horses. I have spoken to many vets, equine dentists, barn mangers, horse owners, etc etc about teeth. I have looked into horse’s mouths, but this was the first time anyone actually took my hand, put it into my horse’s mouth, and showed me exactly where his concerns were. He ran my thumb over the issue areas, and showed me where to massage May’s face to check for any sensitivity. Then, when he was done, he went through the whole thing with me again, so that I could clearly feel the difference between right and wrong. It was a great moment in my education as a horse person.
I keep talking about her history, and I mention that, when I got her, she still had a wolf tooth on the left side. I gave myself a small, humble brag and talked about how I immediately had it removed. He, once again, gave me the hairy eyeball… oh what now!
“She still has a wolf tooth on the left side.” I stared at him, incredulous.
“What? I saw the tooth they pulled 3 years ago.”
“Well, there’s still one here. Can I take it out?”
“Yeah… of course.” I should probably mention here that this MADE SENSE. I have been struggling forever to get May onto my left rein when tracking right (aka – into the outside rein). This is not at all an issue going left, but it is nearly impossible going right. I was, of course, blaming myself. I figured that I was just better with my right hand because it’s my dominant hand. In reality, it’s a lot more likely that the wolf tooth was causing her pain.
The process was relatively quick, and as soon as it was over, May was visibly more comfortable (and totally ready to go back to her hay). Turns out, this was about half a wolf tooth… but enough to cause a problem. As the dentist rinsed off his tools, he said to me, “So for pleasure, companion animals, I only really recommend we do them ever year unless there’s a problem.” I blinked up at him for a second.
“Oh… actually… she’s my competition horse. We event.” Now, it was his turn to be shocked. I pulled out a picture of May jumping, and he took the phone from my hand, as if making sure it was the same horse.
“Well look at that, she really gets up there! If that’s the case, then I like to see them ever 6 months.” Sounded fair to me, and I feel a lot better knowing May is more comfortable now and being a bit more educated on the subject. Unfortunately, I haven’t really gotten to test out how she feels. I gave her the rest of the day off on Saturday, rode her really lightly on Sunday. On Monday, our dryer died and I had to meet the husband after work to pick up a new one, and then it decided to snow 5″ on Tuesday in KY…
Oh well, back at it tonight! Have you ever had any nasty surprises when you’ve had routine work done on your horse?
Trot sets… or really any kind of planned interval training for horses is still a relatively new concept to me. When I rode in H/J, horses were just ridden for 30 – 60 minutes 4 – 6 days a week. You tried to balance out W/T/C and add in jumping as necessary.
Then, I entered the eventing world, and I had a trainer tell me that my horse needed fitness… “Just add some trot sets into your routine.” (not her exact words, but most of her explanation just kind of rolled off. “How does one do a trot set?” was my first thought. Does one simply trot around aimlessly until they get a bit fatigued and then walk until they’re ready to trot again? Nope. I learned quickly that there should be some kind of plan to this…
Ok, how does on make a plan? I started reading as much as I could on the topic, but I definitely lack the most important element of knowledge in this area: experience.
This year, I am making a more conscious effort to really plan out my interval training with May and to make sure we are gearing up for this season in an appropriate manner. So, our rides lately have consisted of long walks or interval sets to improve fitness… so our rides lately have been boring.
The fields aren’t open for riding yet, and our barn doesn’t have access to trails. As a result, long walks are done along the road through the barn (a whole lap takes about 40 minutes so I try to do it twice), and interval training is done in the main arena (thankfully, very large).
Last week, we completed a 54 minute ride that included a lot of walking, 2 – 10 minute sets of trotting, and a couple of short canter intervals. What did I learn? That May is probably in better shape than I am. While she was a bit fatigued after the ride, my back was on FIRE. Definitely time to add some core strengthening exercises to my out of the saddle routine!
One thing May has really lacked as we have bumped up her fitness is true connection. Sure, she’ll put her head down and look cute, but the back end wasn’t taking on the workload like it should. Part of this was likely the soreness of the hind end that has since resolved with the injections. My original plan was to do a long and slow walk on Saturday, when the weather was supposed to get up to around 50, and then do real work on Sunday when it was going to be a bit cooler.
Instead, about 40 minutes into our long and slow walk, I realized something. I had no breaks. She wasn’t “running” away with me, but any aids I gave to halt were met with straight up refusal. The head got flung in the air, and she just barreled on. No mare… That’s not how this works. So I spent the next 20 minutes establishing a halt, and I decided that we probably needed a few minutes of actual work.
I hopped into the outdoor arena and began asking her to move off each leg, and I was met with… nothing. I swear some days this horse puts in ear plugs, decides that she knows how to be a trail horse, and that should be her true occupation. Today, however, I had my Dressage whip in my hand. So after she ignored my rather wrong leg aids, I gave her the slightest tap with end of the whip just behind my leg. Cue May flinging herself sideways and throwing her head around like I was beating her to death. The yield got rewarded, and the dramatics got ignored.
After a few more leg yields each way, with less and less drama and definitely no more of the whip, I asked her to step into the trot… And I got “ER MAH GAWD, RUNNING NOW!” I just concentrated on keeping my body still and slowing the front end. Slowly, the weight rocked back, and we finally got some solid work in.
I added in a couple of minutes of canter. (the canter was really nice, and we we were over the dramatics by then.) Then, we went back to walking for another 15 minutes, and we sprinkled in some really nice, soft halts. See the math? Ended up being an hour and a half ride… because she didn’t want to halt.
I did end up getting some (rather poor) media from this. May looks mostly the way she felt, which is a good thing, but GOOD LORD what are my hands doing? Definitely putting more of on emphasis on bending my elbows and riding her up into my hands again. However, I am really happy with how well she is doing with trot poles. This has to be the clearest point of improvement for her after injections. Before, she would try to stuff an extra step into the poles or even just knock them around. Now, she is properly pushing through them, even when she comes in under powered.
Does your horse ever have days where they prefer to be in charge?
Saturday was our “one week” mark from May getting her injections. I wish I had more media to share with you, but I will explain why that wasn’t possible. Promise!
All in all, May felt really good. She has always had trouble through trot poles.This weekend, there were 4 fairly spaced trot poles set up in the outdoor, and we could do them from a slow trot without an issue. She could push through them without falling on her forehand and running past my aides. But why no media? Well, both days this weekend we had to share the arena with the horse-eating carriage.
In fact, on Saturday, our ride lasted more than an hour. We walked, like usual, started our trot, then the carriage showed up. May was… not amused, so we walked. We followed the carriage for about 15 minutes. Then, they started trotting, which makes a lot more noise, and May had to be convinced to follow it again. By then half hour mark, we could reliably walk and trot with the carriage in the arena. Then, I tried to canter, and May put up a big fight. Flinging her head around, not allowing me to sit on her, and trying to run off with me… Fun. When I got a decent canter, I let her walk.
Then, the carriage needed a video, so I ended up walking around the arena while they took the video. After the video, I asked for the canter again, and I was able to get a mostly relaxed and collected canter. Whew!
The next day, I showed up to the barn still a bit sore from the day before (holding back the May freight train was a workout!). Of course, as soon as I tacked up, the carriage horse went out to get hooked to his trailer… cool. I went out and got on before they got out there, and another rider lamented that if the carriage came into the ring, she would probably end her ride.
Nope. No Way. Not doing that. It was one of the first 50 degree days with sunshine in a while. I didn’t have time to stop my ride and pick it up again. We were riding through this.
Luckily, May ended up being a lot more relaxed about the carriage this time around. Not totally relaxed, but at least, totally rideable. In fact, I ended up loping over a few fences with her, all of which she took quietly and out of stride. Good girl!
Hopefully, we can get a real jump school in soon. Has your horse ever seen a carriage? Or have there been any majorly “spooky” things you have had to school your horse through at home?
Amidst all the driving back and forth to the barn, I have had an opportunity to reflect on what I am more thankful for in my riding career. However, the thing I am most thankful for, is the mare that turned out to be much more than she was ever supposed to be.
I have talked a lot in the past about how May was a complete impulse buy. You can read the full story here: A May As Well Purchase However, I am not really sure I ever explained what I was expecting. Originally, when I bought her home, we joked that I had overpaid for her. After all, she couldn’t even do a 20M circle before she popped her shoulder and ran in the opposite direction, a canter took nearly 20 steps of trot to pick up, and I quickly learned that she had never seen a gymnastic.
To be honest, my original thought for buying her was that, if she didn’t work out, I could recoup most of my money and just sell her as a trail horse. She was sane, and sensible, and had color. All the things trail people want. Right? I mean, she could comfortable carry a larger rider for miles without discomfort. Then, we went to our first CT. It was a W/T Dressage Test and 18″ stadium round.
And we had SO MUCH FUN. She was a champion, and I finished with a giant smile on my face. I was hooked on competing this horse, and I think the man in this situation finally understood what it was all about. She never was supposed to be as cool as she is, but gosh… she is really cool…
I think she has turned out to be really cool… And I can’t wait to see what more she has to show me.