“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.

img_1791

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.

img_0554

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.

img_0569

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.

Advertisements

2019 Spring Bay Horse Trials – Show Jumping

While my background is completely hunter jumper (from ages 6 – 23), somehow, show jumping is the only phase that wants to give me pause. However, this time I was armed with some new rider psychology tips via the Brain Training for Riders. (Big thanks to Amanda for the recommendation)

I did have one advantage on Show Jump day though. We walked the course when it was set for Prelim. In case you are wondering, walking a course when it is set for Prelim makes Starter look REALLY small. Still though, it was a complicated course with 0 straight lines in it… I wish I was kidding.

However, I had a plan. I was going to ride May forward enough that I wanted to pull… and then not pull… Other than that, I was going to get her body straight and square to ever fence. I wasn’t going to worry about distances but concentrate on my pace, line, and balance.

Spring Bay Show Jump

I also got the whole thing on video! (Sorry for Youtube killing the quality.)

All photo credit goes to Vic’s Pics. They had an AMAZING deal at the show to get ALL your pics for $50 on a USB. And honestly, they got so many great pics, especially in SJ, that I put in my order before I even ran XC (and when I was questioning if XC was even going to happen). Oh and that cambox you see? I forgot to turn it on for SJ. >.<

Jump 1 was the best jump 1 I think I have ever ridden in my life, and May jumped it so well. (It’s the top pic of this post). Then, we bent around to get a great jump at 2…. and again to jump 3. It felt AWESOME. Usually, my first three jumps on course are me getting into a rhythm and don’t flow great. This time, I HAD the rhythm, balance, and line, and they jumped GREAT.

So here I am. So super excited about how things are going. I made a great turn to Jump 4… I got her square… and she suddenly decided to RUN at it. It’s really hard to see in the video, but she wanted to get flat on me. I halt halted, but it threw us off enough to tap 4 pretty hard (I am shocked it didn’t come down). That also meant that we didn’t land as balanced as we needed to in order to get a good turn to 5. I didn’t put my leg on as soon as I should have, and the distance came up ugly. She jumped that one awkwardly but kept it up.

The turn to 6 was seriously what jumping dreams are made of, and she jumped it out of stride. Then an easy bending line to 7. Despite our cross cantering, the rhythm and line were good, so she popped over it easily. Then… we made kind of an awkward turn to 8, so she jumped it kind of funky. Oh well, it was still easy for her.

Jump 9 just came up out of stride, and we made a sweeping turn to jump 10. I had to put my leg on for the big spot, and she jumped it great.

Obviously, I was super happy to have a double clear round. I think that it, honestly, would have rode BETTER if the jumps had been a little bigger. May was super unconcerned with distances to the point where it actually made things more difficult. She was also very unconcerned with what any of the jumps looked like. There was no peaking or over jumping. Just happily cantering around.

However, I am VERY VERY happy that I managed to execute my plan. I am also happy that, in the pics, when the distances got ugly, I kept my shoulder back and my body over her center of gravity… instead of throwing my whole body up her neck.

As a result, we maintained our 29.3 score and 2nd place standing going into cross country on Sunday!

2019 Spring Bay Horse Trails – Dressage

I want to start the recap of this weekend’s event with so many “thank you”s. I am not sure who I can thank first or even the most.

Obviously, a massive shout out goes to my friend that really pushed me to sign up for this event. Over the last several months, she has gone from a girl I knew at the barn, to the girl I go to the gym with, to one of my biggest cheerleaders. She got 5,000 questions from me about pretty much everything, and she had to reassure me maybe another 5,000 times. However, I am so happy she pushed me to do this horse trial. Hereby, she shall be dubbed “Motivational Friend” hahaha.

I woke up poor Remus on Sunday morning 🙂

On that note, I need to thank the rest of the barn family. We had tons of people show up both days of the show to watch and help. We had people help out at the barn while we were gone. Our younger riders volunteered both days and were a massive help to the show. My teammates all stepped up to help one another and make sure our ponies were as comfortable as possible over a crazy weather weekend.

My trainer gets a HUGE shout out. Not only did she compete her own horse, but she was completely committed to each of us competing in the lower divisions. She took my warmups and prep just as seriously as everyone else, even though I was only doing starter. It was only my second time showing with her and the first show was a super soft schooling show. At this show, between the atmosphere and the weather, it was an incredible experience. It really is an amazing confidence boost to have a pro in your corner who knows you, knows your horse, and totally has faith.

Finally, I am so incredibly thankful for my amazing husband. I ended up recommending that he stay home on XC day due to the weather (more on that later), but as soon as I got home, he was combing through the pro pictures with me and watching my helmet cam footage. He was so proud of me and excited for me that he posted some of the pics (all purchased) on his facebook. If that doesn’t make your heart grow, I’m not sure what will.

ALRIGHT – ON TO THE COMPETITION

Both days were super long days since we had riders and horses in the first division of each day, and I was in the last division. Since Saturday and Sunday were held at different venues, we trailered out both days instead of stabling. However, that meant that May was on the trailer at 6AM on Saturday, and our first ride time was at nearly 2:30PM. May didn’t seem to mind. She drank really well all day and had plenty of grazing breaks throughout the day… and she took a few naps. All in all, a pretty good way to spend the day in May’s book.

img_1790
Bahaha… where am I going?

Since day parking at the KYHP is so far from the Dressage complex, we got on pretty early to walk over… and then got lost. Oops. Luckily, Best Husband Ever was there, and he helped navigate me in the right direction. I started warming up quickly, thinking I was running late. May felt AMAZING. We had floppy Dressage ears. Does anyone know what I am talking about? She was ON IT.

Then, there was a delay in our ring. so I let her walk on a long rein. Then, when we were one out, I picked her back up, did a few walk/trot transitions, as per my trainer’s recommendation. I threw in a quick canter transition, and we were ready to go in!

(Below are the movements, score, and a version of what the judge wrote. It’s not verbatim because… drawings. Any of my comments are in italics)

Movement Scores

  1. Entrance, Halt, Proceed at Working Trot: 7.0 – Obedient to Halt. Square. I am surprised this scored so well. There was a ring and warmup running behind the judge’s booth… As soon as we came down centerline, May REALLY wanted to watch those rings. 
  2. Track Right at C: 7.0 – Smooth Turn
  3. Circle Right 20M at B: 7.5 – Active Trot Steps. Well Shaped Circle
  4. Circle Right 20M at A, with Canter: 6.0 – Prompt Transition. Lack of Bend and Poor Circle Shape.  I got so excited about a decent up transition into the right lead canter, that I almost forgot to circle. 
  5. Transition in and out of Canter: 6.0 – Well planned up transition. Unbalanced down transition.
  6. Change Rein at working trot: 8.0 – Good quality trot shown
  7. Circle Left 20M at E: 7.0 – Becomes a bit rushed. Loses shape a bit. She actually thought about giving me a canter transition here… hence the loss of rhythm. 
  8. Circle Left 20M at A, with Canter: 7.0 – Better plan to start circle. Better quality canter.
  9. Transition in and out of Canter: 7.5 – Fairly good prep for transition.
  10. Medium Walk: 7.0 – Keep marching walk I was just super happy that she didn’t jig because she was getting VERY jiggy in warm-up. 
  11. Free Walk: 7.0 – Covers Ground in FW. Show more stretch down. Agreed. 
  12. Working Trot: 7.5 – Smooth and Forward
  13. Center line and Halt: 8.0 – Straight and Square.

Collective Marks:

Gaits: 7.0 – Some stiffness in Canter
Impulsion: 7.0 – No Comment
Submission: 7.0 – No Comment
Rider’s Position: 6.5 – Keep eyes up!
Rider’s Effectiveness: 7.0 – Effective Rider
Geometry and Accuracy: 7.5 – Well executed test

Overall Score: 29.3

How could I be anything other than thrilled with that? Scores at schooling shows tend to be pretty soft, so I wasn’t sure where we were going to end up. However, I was really pleasantly surprised to see that 29.3, and it put us in second going into SJ!

The Rest of the Jump Lesson

I kind of hesitated yesterday when I posted the “fail” part of the lesson first. To be honest, it was one of the best lessons May and I have had in a LONG time, and it would be pretty short sighted to define the whole lesson by 18 seconds. Either way though, I knew that the rest of the lesson needed its own post!

I showed up to the barn on Tuesday to find a freshly dragged ring and a new course. (No joke, I have never known a trainer who moves her courses around so often!)

The inspiration for the lesson was a grid that Lainey Ashker had shared on her instagram. In fact, my trainer said that she really thought of May with this one’s focus on a horse jumping over their back and really sitting before fences.

View this post on Instagram

Now that spring has arrived it’s time for another #GOTD! This easy to set up exercise works on sitting the horse down on his/her hind quarters simultaneously tightening up the front end! The ground poles keep the horse working over his/her back and the “Vees” encourage he/she to slow and sit over the GATE. The idea is for the rider to compliment this “sit” and hopefully be able to maintain this feel throughout the rest of the coursework! Enjoy the cameo from my longtime student @rheventing and her OTTB Dadarewethereyet. Hope you like this one friends! Feel free to comment below and share away! Will post a picture or grid in my albums as well👌🏽#mondaymotivation #læsquad #traintobegreat

A post shared by Lainey Ashker (@laineyea) on

Obviously… we didn’t jump it that big. We started with the two oxers practically on the ground, and we first worked from the longer approach into the grid. We nailed it a few times in each direction before trying it the other direction. The short approach off the left consistently caused issues, so we decided to keep working on that turn before each course.

The nice thing about the grid was it forced you to set your rhythm early and then maintain it throughout the course.

326Course1

The course came through the grid off the short approach, a sweeping left turn to a narrowish oxer, 6 or 7 strides bending line to another oxer, long approach to a vertical, finishing with a right turn around to a wide oxer.

Our first time around the course was just a bit choppy. Obviously, I missed coming into that grid (story of my life). She didn’t really respect the small, narrow oxer at 2, so just kind of rolled past my half halt. I was thinking seven through the bending line and it was fine, but maybe a touch tight. The vertical was fine. Then I made some weird line decision to the last oxer? Like got ahead of myself, came off the rail, didn’t see a distance, and just kind of puttered over it. None of it was TERRIBLE, but it wasn’t good.

NT raised up the narrow oxer to more like BN height (I think?), and we tried again.

To me, that shows big improvement! I was able to make adjustments to the oxer to oxer line, a better distance made the 6 really easy.

I landed off the oxer line and rode… really forward? Like what I am thinking in this picture?

Me: “XC here we come!” May: “uh… ok crazy lady”

So I had to whoa pretty good coming into the vertical, so May didn’t get her lead. She DID end up fixing it before the oxer, but the counter cantering pushed us off our rhythm juuuuuust enough to mess up the distance. However, I rode forward and she gave me the long spot. Yay!

At this point, the camera died, so no more media hahaha. Our last course was the gymnastic, right turn to the pink (set a bit bigger), right turn bending around to the yellow and black oxer, right turn to the purple and blue plank we hadn’t jumped yet and finishing over the oxer to oxer line.

326Course2

Shocker… I messed up the intro to the gymnastic. Then… I kind of got lost on my way to 2. I kind of rode to nothing again, but it was fine. When my pace, balance, and line are good, May can easily deal with a less than ideal distance. Amazing how that works, right? 😉

However, I rode forward after 2 and had a GREAT distance to 3. The loop to 4 was easy, so we turned before the gymnastic to get back to the oxer to oxer line. Seriously, as much as I get weird feelings about oxers, I LOVED that oxer to oxer line all day.

At this point, we decided to just try the gymnastic one more time, and I think I said I would try the right turn to number 2 again, since I messed that up last time. Welp, as you all know, I never made it to 2. By the end though, we had figured it out, but I don’t think anyone wanted to jinx it by trying to get it on video at that point! haha

All in all though, it was a really great lesson, and I feel good heading into Spring Bay in like 10 days!

Jump Dysmorphia

Is this a thing? I think it’s a thing. Hold on, let me explain.

During my lesson this week, I was convinced the jumps were HUGE. Ok, not huge, but “a good size”. That they required effort from my little horse, an accurate ride, and that they needed a healthy dose of respect.

Then, I saw these photos:

Do you know what I see? some pretty small jumps… Not that I shouldn’t aim to ride them properly but… less than ideal distances, lines, and pace wouldn’t cause us to crash or have any significant impact on May’s confidence. It would just make them ugly.

Somehow, my brain had convinced me that I had something to fear from these jumps, from this course. As I made my way to start each round, I felt my chest tighten and my legs go weak. Even know, I can feel that drowning feeling that I get before any show jumping round.

img_0543
Baby Jump – Major heart attack. 

Right now, I am coping by doing the following:

  1. Leg on. Always. Having pace bails me out of a lot of issues, so I ride forward… almost to a fault at this point, since a couple of distances on Tuesday would’ve been fine if I had just sat pretty. Luckily, my internal metronome hasn’t gotten slow on me.
  2. Riding with a neck strap. This lesson, I made the decision to ride with my neck strap. I promised myself that, if I started to feel the UNDYING need to pull, I would just hold onto it. I will say that I am a bit proud of not grabbing it.
  3. Getting media. I think this helps. It puts everything in perspective. And, honestly, it helps me remember. When I get this nervous, I go blank. My memory goes BLACK. I remember showing as a junior and not remembering ANYTHING about a course as soon as I finished it. I was never the brave kid hahaha. That being said, I should break the habit of going back and watching the whole thing in slow-mo, so that I can judge every millisecond of myself.
  4. Getting Regular Lessons. I will say that this was like my third jump lesson since the beginning of the year so… I am not doing great on this front, but I am doing better. Tuesday nights are officially my lesson night now, and I don’t see any reason for us to miss our next couple of weeks of lessons before our show. Both of them will be jump lessons. The Dressage stuff I can polish up a bit myself. (which is hilarious to me as my entire foundation is H/J)

But I really want to move past the management of these feelings and hopefully banish them away for good. Any recommendations of good sports psychology books or things that have helped you?

Jump Lesson Recap!

So yesterday our weekly lesson was a jumping one. One I was REALLY excited about. May has been feeling great since she got her hocks injected, and I was looking forward to trying the upgrade over some fences. I even threw on May’s breastplate and neck strap because I started a new rule for myself: I cannot ask my trainer to lower fences. She sets them – I ride them.

Buuuuuuut I took a new fitness class on Monday night. My spin class instructor had recommended that my friend and I try the new piloxing class. “It’s a mix of pilates and kick boxing. You’ll love it!” In my head, this meant that it would be cycles of kickboxing to get your heart rate up, followed by sets of Pilates exercises. Right? NOPE. It was 45 minutes of NON STOP, HIGH IMPACT CARDIO… my least favorite thing in the world. We got 10 second breaks every few minutes, but the goal was to never let our heart rate come down? No clue, but half the class left mid-way through.

The result? I was damn near crippled before my lesson even started. This feeling of overall stiffness and lack of strength definitely didn’t help my confidence, but I promised myself that if I got nervous and felt myself riding backwards, I would just grab my neck strap.

The lesson started out simple enough. We just did a figure 8 over a vertical with maybe 15M circles crossing over the jump. At first, the jump was set at maybe 2’3″, but after a few reps, my trainer raised it to around BN height. It was actually significantly harder to ride at the smaller height. May just didn’t respect it and wanted to add the extra stride whenever possible. Then, the first time the height was raised, I overcompensated and pushed her really ACROSS the jump… and blew past our turn. Once we had it figured out, it ended up being the perfect exercise to get us in the right rhythm and balance for our course!

This lesson was really about building a course, so our first course ended up being the first half of our second course.

Course3201

The course was over the single natural, left turn before 4A to get to the oxer (2), right turn to 3, seven strides to 4A and 4B. 4 was a one stride combination. Before my round, NT noted that since the jumps were small, I would likely get 8 strides from 3 to four. However, I was not allowed to get 2 strides in the combination. Cool.

Well – I never got straight to one, so we added an extra step there. Two rode great. My turn to 3 was a little funky, but I kept her with me and she jumped across it nicely. I kept that forward rhythm, and we got down to 4A in seven easy strides. As a result, the combination rode really well. Yay!

We caught our breath as NT raised some jumps. Our second course started with the first course. After 4B, It was a squared off left turn to 5, bending to 6, a fairly tight turn to the oxer at 7, and then a SLIGHTLY bending line to finish over 8.

Course3202

How’d it go? Well check out the video below!

 

Jump 1 rode better this time, despite me almost running over the dog. 2 was easy, but she felt a bit behind my leg. I moved her forward around the corner to 3 and she jumped that great. Then I kind of definitely overrode the line to 4A. After 4 strides… I realized I was in danger of doing 6 and taking a flyer into the combination. A quickly half halt and we got in on a short stride, but not a total ship or flyer. Obviously, the one stride rode great after that.

NT warned me that everyone had been messing up the corner to 5, so I made sure to square it off and ride her shoulder through the turn… Then instead of bending to 6, I rode STRAIGHT to it, resulting in an awkward chip. Oops. My turn to 7 was great, and the five strides to 8 was easy peasy.

After, we were both out of breath. May had a busy weekend going to the combined test with her half leaser (they finished on their Dressage score!), and whatever was left in my muscles had left around jump 6. So, I decided to call it a day on that.

While my body is even MORE sore today (anyone ever been woken up at 3AM by their own soreness?), I can’t help but bask in a successful jump lesson. This post is long enough, so more fun updates coming later this week!

How to Have a Dressage Lesson Next to Polo Practice

Typically, my lessons are on Tuesday nights, which tend to be unusually quiet at the barn, and honestly, I love that. By the time my lesson is over, the barn has mostly cleared out, and I get some quiet time to reflect on my lesson, pet my pony, and just relax. However, this week my lesson was on a Wednesday, sneaking it in right before NT spends a couple of weeks in Aiken (so jealous!).

This week, I pulled into the driveway to see a few horses tied to trailer by the indoor. Not thinking much of it. I got May all ready for a Dressage lesson. Since May has done a lot of jumping lately, I wanted to reestablish our connection and get some homework while NT was out of town. So the white boots and pad went on, I threw on my new spurs, and I headed out to the indoor. I got halfway there when I saw a white ball fly past the entrance, followed by a HERD of polo ponies.

Alright then… outdoor it is! While it was pretty warm (in the 50s and I ambitiously rode in a t-shirt because I only had heavy jackets and fleeces in my car), it was WINDY and CLOUDY. Since May had a fairly easy few days after last week’s jump-heavy rides, she was a bit up. Plus we were in the outdoor, with the jumps! And the polo team was in the indoor right next door to the outdoor. While May couldn’t really SEE them, she could definitely HEAR them.

I had a few minutes before NT headed to the ring, so I started with my usual “my aids mean something and you need to listen” routine. So we walked on the bit, and we halted. I try to be REALLY methodical about my aids when she’s like this, so I shifted my weight back, engaged my core, halted my seat, closed my thighs, and then rocked my hands back.

And she ignored me.

So then I pulled, and she threw her head up and halted.

And there is May in a nutshell. She KNOWS these aids. We do them EVERY TIME I ride, but she will always give that little baby test to see if I REALLY mean them. If not corrected at that point, it all snowballs into a big hot mess of her questioning if I REALLY mean that aid…

img_3855
An old pic… but still valid

So we walked again, and again, I shifted my weight back, engaged my core, halted my seat, closed my thighs, and then rocked my hands back. And she slowwwllllyyy came to a halt. I let her move forward again, and repeated it in the other direction. After 3 – 5 repetitions, she is tuned in. So at that point, we can finally trot.

The trot was still a bit tuned out, so we just did big, loopy figure eights. I asked her to move off my legs and flex through her body. Buuuuut I actually don’t think this is still the best method of getting her to tune in at the trot. The walk/halt stuff is super important. And Trot/walk/halt tends to make her more tense instead of less.

img_0038

BUT NT to the rescue. I told her that May just felt really tuned out, so she had us trot and just work through our gaits within the gait. So we started with working trot, then stretchy trot, then working trot, then collected, then working etc etc etc. By the time we rotated to her “bad” side (going to the right), she was on my aids and listening. The right bend has gotten SO MUCH better.

Once we had all three variations of trot nailed down, we moved into the same exercise at the canter, but replaced stretchy trot with a medium canter. My left lead transition was really good. She was actually a bit sticky off my leg to go into the medium, and that stickiness created some struggled at the collected canter.

You know how I knew when we got the collected canter? May GRUNTED. She sounded like me mid spin class when I realize I have another 20 min to go and the instructor says we are going to “ramp up the resistance”. UGH. sunset-trot

To the right, I was not surprised to get a little more resistance with some head tossing and breaking down to the trot. Ultimately though, we did get a few steps of true collection, so that was pretty cool.

Finally, we moved onto a serpentine exercise. Trot across the short side of the arena, turn left, do a 10m half circle, trot across the short side, turn right, do a 10m half circle etc etc etc. All the way to the end of the arena and then back.

Given that there are a TON of jumps in the ring, I had to get a bit creative with my half circles. However, by the end of the exercise, May was the most connected and steady in the connection as I have ever felt her. She was tracking up, in front of my leg, and I felt like we could spring forward or halt dead with ease.

So when we finished the exercise, and NT said to do it again at the canter with simple, trot changes in between, I was super excited. The first half circle to the left was GLORIOUS. I really felt her step under herself and bring her shoulders around.

Then we went right… and it was a little messy. I sat back further. I added more leg. I engaged my seat more… but she was clearly over it. We managed to mostly pull it together to finish, but it was clear she was tired, and it was really hard. While it wasn’t perfect, it definitely gives me a great set of things to work on while NT is away, AND it gives me a great baseline before her injections on Saturday.

XCG

Obviously though… she wasn’t THAT tired. Because when I turned her out that night, she GALLOPED down the hill, JUMPED over the ditch at the bottom, GALLOPED back up the hill to get to the new hay bale in her field…

Do you have a specific routine you go through that helps your horse settle into work?

Getting With The Program

Last night, I had my first lesson in… a while. Anyone else sick of hearing me say this? I AM sick of hearing ME say this.

I had originally wanted to take a jumping lesson, but the flooded status of KY in general, ridiculous winds, the threat of MORE rain, and a dropping temperature meant that I decided on a Dressage lesson instead.

The barn was oddly quiet last night with just me and NT around that evening, so our lesson was a bit more casual than usual with lots of chatting and catching up on the state of May. (Future injections, 2019 plans, etc). I’ll probably write about the lesson tomorrow, but suffice to say, we have both seen a lot of progress thanks to her help this past fall and the work my half leaser has been putting in.

As with most eventers at this time of year, I am looking at the 2019 competition season. My grand goals are, and have been, to get back to a recognized horse trial at Beginner Novice. Last year was a “I am hope we get back into the show ring.” This year is a “I want to do this.”

So I started looking back. What made May and I capable of moving form starter to BN in 2016? How did we get to the point where we were schooling Novice sized SJ course with relative ease that summer?

img_4469
I remember this being fun.

It wasn’t because I was younger (26 – 29 is not a huge jump… unlike 22 – 25 which seems MASSIVE). It wasn’t because I had access to a better trainer. (There are some serious similarities between NJ trainer and NT.) It wasn’t because May was more educated.

It was because I was in a regular program… and I haven’t been in one since.

Late 2016, we moved from NJ to KY just as show season was winding down and trainers in KY were looking towards Aiken and Ocala rather than their own backyards. Money was tight, and I let lessons fall into the category of “nice to have.”

^This feels like a lifetime ago…

Then in 2017, I had committed to lessons with my trainer at the time, but due to a job that had me traveling and her own schedule, we would average maybe 2 lessons a month… at best. Money was still tight, I got married in mid-summer, and the lack of competition goals meant that again, lessons fells to the back burner.

img_4177
Our First Lesson Together.

2018… I moved barns in mid competition season, but I still made it out to a couple of shows to get our feet wet again. (Literally and figuratively). Lessons started up again, and I was surprised at how much I felt like a fish out of water. My whole riding career had been focused on weekly lessons (and catch riding). Here I was, on my own horse, and feeling odd about lessons.

Then this year… I find myself really prioritizing lessons. So, for the first time since Spring of 2016, I have put myself into the weekly lesson rotation schedule. Fingers crossed that this has really been the missing link in my confidence lately!

So I really want to know – Are you a “weekly lessoner” or more of a “when I need them” or even a “don’t need no trainer” type of rider?

A Tale of Two Rides

First of all, a GIANT thank you to everyone who commented on my post and facebook and instagram regarding the great helmet search! I think I will have to suck it up and make the pilgrimage to Dover (turns out, it is a full hour and a half away), to try on all the helmets. Be ready for an epic blog post about all the helmets.

As for Ms. May… she’s been both a delight and a frustration lately hahaha. I think the wet weather has been keeping her from really moving around in her field like she usually does, so she has been a bit more tense and flighty lately.

img_0038

I rode her last Tuesday night, and it was just a really odd ride for a lot of reasons. First of all, the weather made a SHARP 180 during the day on Tuesday. From 65 during the day, to close to 40 when I was actually riding… and we were riding under the lights trying to stay out of the way of a pretty interesting jumping lesson.

During that ride, she was tense through her whole body, half halts were considered to be suggestions, and the idea of coming off her forehand was a foreign language. I ended up taking my winter gloves off and riding bare-handing (something I NEVER do) because I couldn’t figure out why the connection was SO bad. It varied between her hiding behind the contact to her leaning down and bearing into it.

So what do you do? You do a ton of transitions. Trying to get the horse to accept both the reins and the leg. Or at least… that was my plan for action. The canter was just an impressive feat of holding the horse together with all the aids. Leg stayed on until the hind end engaged, seat stayed deep until shoulders came back to me, hands stayed engaged until she flexed around the contact. Then, suddenly, it all softened, and I had a really nice horse on my hands.

She still wasn’t super supple laterally, but she was engaged and listening. Cool. Then, I spotted my trainer doing a cool exercise.

spindaljump

The exercise had you jump one wing (maybe 2′ high), loop around to the second wing (maybe 2′ high), and then come back to a trot or walk and go over the center piece (maybe 18″). The piece was really more of a spindle shape than a barrel, so it had small sides on it as well. However, it was REALLY narrow. (I would think the same method would work with a small barrel, but they definitely need to be LITTLE.)

The goal was to go perfectly straight over the center piece and really have the horse between your legs. May’s feeling on it? That it wasn’t worth jumping. She was great over one, and two, which looked like proper jumps to her. But over the spindle? Nope… she just stepped over it and knocked poles everywhere. But, she was straight, and I felt bad making NT reset jumps for me when I wasn’t even in her lesson. So we called it good. She was straight, she was brave, she was just UTTERLY UNIMPRESSED.

Friday night into Saturday morning it snowed, so I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the barn. However, by mid-day, the snow had melted off the roads for the most part, and I figured I should probably ride the beast again.

The barn was bustling with activity as NT and some working students and other boarders worked to make sure the place was fully winterfied before a serious cold snap passed through KY this week into next week. (The high this Sunday is 20 degrees, with a low of 4… I told the half leaser she can picks another day to ride haha)

I tacked up May… noting just how wet her feet are. Ugh. And I headed into the indoor. The trainer from the other barn was riding in there, doing one stride tempis around the outside of the arena… nbd. Let me just get on and try to bend right. I hopped on and we walked for a while.. I am not sure why I decided to just walk, but it was a good decision apparently. May got nice and limber, and by the time we went to trot, she was READY to get to work.

She was quick off my leg, but consistent in the contact. She wanted to get heavy through the transitions, so we did a lot of big loopy circles with transitions and changes in direction. I was concentrating so hard on maintaining this great feeling, that I did not see the working student approaching the arena with the massive wheelbarrow. May did, however, just as we passed by the arena entrance and the wheelbarrow was all of 5′ away from entering.

May popped off the contact, threw her head in the area, and SKITTERED away from the door. The WS kept apologizing as I put my leg on, lifted my hands, and reestablished the trot we had before. I told her it wasn’t her fault and no big deal… but I hope she took my word for it.

I spent a lot of time at a barn with some older ladies with some serious fear issues. Anything that you did the spooked their horses resulting in screaming, throwing things, and then at least a week of the silent treatment. I know it came from a place of fear, but I refuse to be that way. Spook my horse. Please. It gives me A LOT of information on where our holes are. (Or just confirming the fact that my horse is a bit high at the moment).

However, May settled right back into work. I did some shoulder ins and leg yields at the trot. They were great… ok. I picked up the canter and did some leg yields both away and towards the wall at the canter… also really good for something we haven’t touched in about 6 months. MMMMMK. I asked for a halt, and she rocked back and came right down, staying on the contact. I shrugged my shoulders. Gave her a pat. And called it good at about 25 minutes of work.

Just as I was leaving the arena, I noticed that a bunch of people were going on a trail ride, so we hopped into that group. What better reward for a yellow pony than a nice trail ride after a great dressage school?

WHEW! LONG POST. If you all made it this far, let me know, do you find that sometimes your best rides follow a ride where you really struggled?

2019 – First Thoughts

Typically, this would be a goals post, but goals are SO 2018. Right?

Joking aside, I was pretty torn about goals this year. I know a lot of people have forgone them this year, while others have set up broader or process-based goals. The truth is that even the first 8 days of January haven’t gone how I expected, so I don’t really feel like I am on steady enough ground to set any kind of goals…

img_4466

So instead, I am going to talk about the things I want to focus on this year.

Fitness – This started in 2018 and has been a great addition to my regular routine. I am not setting a goal of “x” number of times in the gym each week. Instead, I just want to keep an emphasis on moving and listening to my body.

img_5726

Blogging – I really LIKE blogging. I really want to get BETTER at blogging, AND AECs are in KY this year, so I even have a chance to see some of you. Blogging shall continue… but I would like to get some new media for you all.

img_5587

Friendships – 2018 was a weird year for me.  It marked 2 years of living in KY, and I have definitely felt the loss of some of my East Coast friends. I want to say yes to more things with my friends here in KY.

hunterpace.jpg

Enjoying May – I want to ride and have fun with my horse. I want to try new things and be in the moment. I want to let the bad rides go easier and hold onto the good ones a bit longer. Heavy competing still won’t be in the budget this year, but hopefully, we can find some fun things to do within our budget.

img_4143-1

Continue Improving our House – We have some projects that need finishing touches, and a lot of painting still to do. However, it has been a labor of love, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

xc-jump

And… that’s it. It’s short and sweet and without a lot of frills. I know a lot of you have already set your goals this year, so most of you are a whole week ahead of me already! Only 51 more to do. 🙂