Hunter Pace Fun

This Saturday practically the entire barn emptied out in order to attend a hunter pace put on by a local hunt group. The day was nearly perfect with temps in the mid 80s, sunshine, dry ground, a little bit of a breeze, and low humidity.

From last year, I knew that the course would be about 45 – 50 minutes long with a few water crossing and a bunch of jumps, almost all of which were jump-able for May and I. Last year, we lost a shoe, which kept us from jumping most things, but this year, my goal was to jump pretty much everything.

This year, I also remembered to grab my cambox! While I have the ENTIRE 45 minutes pace on video, I picked out a few clips that are, in my opinion, the most interesting. Eventually, I will get the whole video up on youtube, but that is a project for another weekend. I figure, as a result, it makes sense for this post to follow a similar highlights reel haha.

The start of the pace was a line of a few, smaller jumps, which I think everyone in my group easily popped over. Actually, now that I think about it, May was the least experiences horse in the group, as every other horse had gone at least Training. Oh well, she was the best as far as I am concerned. 😉

When we got to the first water crossing, I had a slight spike in nerves. Last year, May launched herself awkwardly over every water crossing. One of which ended up with the butt of my crop colliding with my lip and lower teeth… which of course left a GIANT bruise and a nearly busted lip. This year, I have a new set of head-shots scheduled at work on Thursday so… COULD NOT afford to have a busted face.

animated-5Luckily, all the work we have been doing with water obstacles seems to have paid off. May took a look at the water, decided where to put her feet, and then stepped carefully through the mud/water/rocks. Good girl!

One of the big elements of this hunter pace is this GIANT HILL coming out of the woods. You can see the video of it in the below instagram post. BUT what you can’t really tell is the fact that May’s ego got a bit bigger than her legs. Halfway up the hill, one of the teammates went to pass us on the OTTB she was riding. Normally, this makes total sense. Big OTTB has a huge gallop stride vs. May and May isn’t one to get pissy.

EXCEPT, this time, May decided she was going to RACE the nearly 17h OTTB. Halfway up the hill, she suddenly SUNK down and TOOK OFF. I took the audio off the video because it was literally just me HOWLING with laughter. Oh mare. ❤

The middle of the pace kind of went along similarly. Although, I could tell May got pretty frustrated towards the middle with the stop/go/stop/go rhythm we had. Luckily, my group was great so we took a nice long walk break in the middle and then spent most of the last few minutes just going forward.

In fact, so forward, that I jumped the biggest XC jump I have ever jumped on May… As we cantered towards the coup in the below video, I was convinced that it was only like BN height. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why two of our teammates were skipped it. I figured they just weren’t interested in jumping on the slight downhill. So I cantered down to it… and about the time the below GIF starts, I realized it was quite a bit bigger than I anticipated. In true adult amateur form, I proceeded to chip into it.

I later learned that it was about Novice height, but the downhill approach may make it more of a training level fence… go figure. May, as usual, couldn’t have cared less and thought all the jumping was great.

All in all, it was a SUPER fun day. I am hoping to get more media, so maybe you all will get a wordless Wednesday out of the rest of it.

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Perfect Princess Pony

To start, May probably wasn’t a total perfect princess last night in our lesson, but she was still totally amazing. Also, I like alliteration. I only got to ride May once this weekend since my mom was in town for a visit. However, since I had someone with me on Saturday, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to work continue to work on the idea of May listening my cues regarding what lead to land on over fences without sacrificing our balance, rhythm, or straightness.

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Random old media

We popped over a few fences to warm up. Again, I just kept the emphasis on landing on the lead I was asking for, and she was really listening and getting into the “game”. I decided that we would go for pulling a little course together.

Then I jumped around a little course. After the first line, she landed on the left lead (her favorite), even though we were clearly turning right after it. I corrected her by moved her off my right leg before picking up the canter again. We popped over a little vertical over a liverpool to change directions. (Again, no issues landing on the left lead).

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Then, I decided to really test my correction. I jumped a vertical diagonal and then made right, bending line, to an oxer with the intention of turning right after the oxer. This did a couple of things. It gave May the opportunity to fall through her right shoulder while turning right, while also finishing at a jump that is square to the rail (i.e. could easily turn right OR left after).

And you know what? She landed on the right lead. So I gave her pats and let her be done with that.

So last night, I came out to my lesson with the plan of working on the same concept over a longer, more complicated course. (outside line, diagonal, bending line isn’t exactly a SJ course…) As always, Mandy did not disappoint.

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The first exercise was a gymnastic along the short side of the arena. It contained 4 rails as one stride bounces, an oxer, one stride to a last placing rail. Since it was set along the short side, you only really had one or two straight strides before the first pole and had to turn immediately after the placement pole after the jump. AND we came at the whole thing from our right lead.

The first time through? I kicked May past her point of balance and, while she fixed it because she’s awesome, it was not pretty. We came through again, and I figured out the right balance, while maintaining the forward. Like all my jumping, I had to really remember to move her right shoulder over coming around the turn to help us stay straight.

Mandy put the oxer up a bit, and we cruised through again. By this point, May had figured out the game, so it became my job to keep her as straight as possible. Even when I didn’t do the best job of that, she still landed on her right lead, so I felt pretty confident about our ability to bring that new still over to course work.

Our first course was over the liverpool, bending to the black oxer, right turn to the pink oxer, and around to the yellow line. There were a couple of bogies in this course. First, the liverpool was on the ground with no standards or anything over it, so it was a bit like riding a ditch. Fun fact, May could care less about ditches but always puts a HUGE effort over liverpools the first time she jumps them.

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5A and B we added in the second course. 

This time was no exception as she jumped a bit long with her knees around her eyeballs and even jumped us past our line a bit. As a result, I had to really contain the right shoulder and get her super straight to the oxer. We ended up a bit right of center but were straight as a pin, so it rode great.

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The left turn to the pink oxer was a hard turn for us. It was both away from home and a sharp left turn. I wrangled the right shoulder a bit late (when we were almost already out of the turn), and then didn’t have the impulsion I needed. I added leg, but the distance wasn’t there. HOWEVER, I am super happy that I made the decision to add leg vs. either making NO decision (my favorite) or pulling (also my favorite). May can get us out of most ugly situations as long as I ride forward.

Not surprisingly, we didn’t get our right lead over the pink oxer. I corrected it, and came down to the yellow line. Now, it is worth noting that the yellow line was deliberately set at 4.5 strides. I find that once you get above 4 strides, it becomes a bit of a choice on a horse like May regarding if you want to add or ride the forward stride. The first time to it, she jumped a bit under the oxer coming into it, and just lost her balance on the landing side, so I gave a fairly firm correction (deep seat, leg on, lifting hands).

It was the right call though, since the firm correction during the first 2 strides allowed me to soften into the last five strides. AND it left her in a good enough balance to land on the right lead. (on Saturday, this was the jump where she wanted to always land left). Not a perfect first course, but one where I made good decisions and May listened to me.

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At this point, Mandy got to listen to my word vomit about all the things I needed to do the next time. Seriously, I am not sure how that woman puts up with me. No matter how long-winded I get in my blog posts, trust me, I am WAY MORE rambly in person. However, here were my takeaways:

  • Keep my right leg on over my liverpool, so we don’t shoot past the line for the oxer.
  • Counter bend a bit BEFORE the turn to the pink so that I can wrangle that shoulder early and then ride forward through the corner.
  • I have a long ride from the pink to the yellow line, so make sure that, while i need to push her forward for a bit, I get the balance back BEFORE the oxer.

So we did it again, and I WISH I had video of it. (It kept raining on and off last night, so made it a bit hard to have the phones out.) This second time, though, we added in the purple line, which was a vertical, on stride, to an oxer off the right lead. This was set for a true one stride, so a bit open for May.

As expected, the liverpool jump was a bit more reasonable this time, so I got a better line to the oxer. I landed and checked in on that right shoulder before riding forward around the turn. I know you are all shocked to know that the pink rode super well when I did my job.

Again, she landed on the left lead after the pink. (UGH) However, this time I just kept the counter canter. She jumped MUCH better over the yellow oxer, and I saw the four strides being RIGHT there. So I just kept my shoulders back and my leg on, and it was easy peasy.

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I cut the right turn to the one stride. I KNOW I KNOW. BUT I did get SUPER straight to it on a nice open stride and May happily pinged through it. All the pats, all the cookies. Good girl! At that point, we decided to be done. It wasn’t a ton of jumping, but with a hunter pace this weekend, I wanted to keep it a bit on the lighter side.

Don’t worry though, Mandy got a solid 8 minutes of word vomit after that round too. Mostly about how I actually executed on my plan and how May actually listened to me and OMG isn’t she the BEST.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at. Right?

Riding Through the Ugly

It’s always interesting to compare how training is so different from showing. At shows, the goals is to keep all the rails in the cups (and do the million other things required to  make this one thing happen). However, in training, we sometimes need to correct the issues that sometimes pop up and cause those rails to go down. When I got May, the biggest issue was balance.

Then, we started trying to get more forward while maintaining this balance, and things fell apart for a while.

Then… we moved to KY hahaha. So this really didn’t get fixed for a while. Recently though, this balance and forward thing has REALLY been coming together.

However, when I was watching Mandy ride May last Tuesday, I realized that she was having to make some pretty clear corrections. Almost all of these corrections were keeping the straightness to the base of the jumps.

Go back, rewatch that last video. Do you see what I see? I see a rider who tries to get her horse straight coming out of the corner, and then about three strides away from the fence, just gets soft and let’s her horse get crooked. That rider is me hahaha. I don’t hold May to any real standard as we get to the base of the jumps, and many times, it costs us our balance over the fence and on the landing side. When the jumps get bigger, it gets even more obvious.

So when I showed up to my lesson on Tuesday, I asked for one thing: Teach me to make corrections to the base of fences even if it means an ugly jump. As I soften over those last three strides, I just invite May’s right shoulder over. Sooo we want to land on our left lead and fall a bit right through our turns after our fences. UGH

The lesson started out pretty conservatively. We went down the line near the seating area next to the ring that Mandy did last week. It was set on a short turn to an open 3 strides. So Mandy had us come in with more collected canter, get super straight, and stay straight and collected for four strides.

First time? A bit rough, as she popped her shoulder right over the first fence. Second time? She tried to blow through me and we got 3.5 strides. Third time? Finally nailed it in a soft and even four. Then we had to get it in three, and I sliced around the corner and made it all ugly and ugh. We finally nailed that though, and went out to do a course.

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Mandy clearly being more influential over fences than I am. 

The course had several jumps set off the short side of the arena, so you really had to square your turns, get straight, and be prepared for another square turn after. May though? She felt she had all the time in the world and could counter canter all the things. (We did A LOT Of jumping out of counter canter this week by pure default). We did the same vertical to oxer line Mandy did and then beant it to the three stride we warmed up through and… I COULD NOT nail this.

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Cute pic, but even here she is pushing through my right leg. 

I could not get the right lead over either of the jumps set off the short side. I kept pushing too much through the bending line to the oxer, almost getting 4 strides instead of 5 at one point, and I kept slicing the turn to the last line. At times, May threw her head up and had full meltdowns when I insisted that she not fall through her right shoulder. It was… not pretty, but I could feel the holes in our training. As a result, Mandy and I figured out a plan to fix them, complete with my own homework.

For now, the plan is to continue to work on her responsiveness on the flat and to add in smaller verticals or large crossrails and loop through them with straight approaches and lots of changes in direction.

Definitely not the jump lesson that leaves you on a high of confidence, but it was so necessary at this point.

The Horsey Part of the Equation

Last night, as I got changed at work for my lesson, I realized I was missing one of the most important part of my riding wardrobe… a sport bra. Damn… At first, I was debating what to do. Do I try to run home and get one, putting me half an hour behind schedule at LEAST? Do I ride without one?  Do I wrap my chest in a polo wrap?!

In the end, I realized that it was probably a great opportunity to give May another pro ride. While warm last night, there was a good breeze that kept it from being ungodly hot, and Mandy has set up a new course in the arena. On top of that, it has been more than two months since she has sat on my horse, and as we are looking at some bigger heights (for us), I wanted to get her opinion on where May’s confidence/ability really was.

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Lucky for me, Mandy was happy to hop on and put May through her paces. Of course… May first decided to try to run away as she was getting on… which was met with a reminder that, “unicorns don’t run away with their riders.” That got a quick correction, dismount, remount. And then… May proceeded to be pretty spicy warming up.

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Sassy Tail Swish

As a result, they started with an exercise that I have actually done quite a bit with May, but not in a while. They looped back and forth over a vertical with a placing pole 9.5′ behind the jump. The idea was two fold, get May to rock back over fences, and get her to take the cue on what lead to land on. The first few times, she tried to blow through the half half and required a solid halt and back, but then they got into a rhythm.

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They moved onto a full course, and honestly, May just popped around like she had jumped that course a thousand times. Was it perfect? No. Mandy puts a lot more pressure on May to be straight and adjustable (vs. me just trying to get out of the damn way). When May softened and listened, the jumps were smooth and easy. When she locked up like a donkey, the distances weren’t as nice.

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The left turn to this oxer apparently meant that outside aids and half halts meant nothing. 

Eventually, we pushed the yellow and black oxer up to closer to training height, as she was consistently nailing the bending five to that jump. Mandy wanted to give her a bit of confidence over a slightly bigger height without pushing her too much over a fence that they weren’t 100% agreeing on.

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You mean a left turn PAST the gate??

At the same time, Mandy also mentioned that she was going to jump the chevron. My response? “She’s never jumped the chevrons so… just steer.” Like… yes… my pro rider is definitely going to steer to the narrow chevron jump… Luckily, Mandy humors me and allows me to pretend like I am helpful.

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Mandy “You need to take off at the base.” May “Hold my beer”

The full video is below. Of course, the very first jump didn’t come up quite the way Mandy wanted it to. However, May still easily moved forward down the five line to the larger oxer and popped over it. The rest of the course went super well, so they just repeated the last line one more time, and they nailed it. You can see both courses at the bottom of this post, but I just had to share the last line they did.

Overall, I got some really good feedback from Mandy. She’s definitely not as finished as she needs to be to do a full course at Novice height. Mandy pointed out that she probably could get around, but it might rock her confidence, which is just so important. She said that, for right now, our goal should be to fix the straightness/balance issues at the height where May can “figure it out” when it goes wrong, and then move May up when she is a bit more reliable. However, it’s not that she has any difficulty with the Novice height, but we don’t want her to start feeling like her job is hard or not fun. I couldn’t agree more and am so thankful to have a pro that enjoys my “spicy dijon” pony.

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:

When It Clicks – Jump Lesson Recap

Once again, I walked into a jump lesson feeling totally dumpy. Stress and hormones were taking their toll, and as I warmed up, I felt like my body was loose and unwieldy. Why couldn’t I sit in the saddle or put my leg on right or do anything right? The world may never know.

As usual, I debated about telling my trainer (can we just call her Mandy now?) that I wanted to keep it easy and simple and whatever. Also as usual, I didn’t. I took the hour of time to lay myself at her feet and let her do what she thought was best. Sometimes, that is oddly therapeutic.

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I finally managed to jump the middle 😉

Our first exercise was a classic… but something that I realized I had never done with May. We trotted into a 4 stride line. Halted, and then cantered out over a low, wide oxer. It got… better… but we never really nailed it. May think that whole idea is dumb. We should just jump the thing and then the other thing, no stopping needed. She did, however, jump the stuff out of the oxer EVERY TIME. Seriously, this is probably the best thing we have ever done to help strengthen her back end.

Since it was so hot (mid 80s with humidity and no breeze, yuck), we didn’t want to push things too much, so after doing the line exercise a few times, we moved onto a course.

Almost asked Mandy to make this one smaller/narrower…

The course was a short approach to the pink vertical, bending right to the oxer, loop left over the corner fence, long approach to another wide oxer, right turn over the plank vertical, then a long approach to the triple bar. I do not doubt that the reason both approached to the long oxer were off the left lead is because I tend to let May fade right on that lead.

This time though, I didn’t! For years, we have worked on getting the right balance and rhythm. Now? We are adding the straightness, and it is clearly making ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

I honestly got a bit lost going to the first jump, so I just put my leg on and got her straight. She jumped it great but a bit big… and I panicked and cut my turn to the oxer. It kind of surprised her, but she jumped the snot out of it.

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The left turn to the corner was great. We got a bit close, but I would rather do that then take a flyer to a corner. I kind of just let her coast around until we made the turn to the red black and white oxer. I really pushed her off my inside leg. While she was surprised by the slightly bigger height of it and tapped the rail, she landed on the right lead. Yay!

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Almost asked Mandy to make this one smaller/narrower…

I should’ve kept her moving through the corner but didn’t, so we had a bit of a long spot to the plank. The nice thing about the plank is it looks a bit more solid, so she jumped it night. Then the triple bar. Mandy specifically told me to just keep my leg on to it and DON’T PULL. So I didn’t I got her straight off my leg, kept my leg on, and she jumped it great!

So was it hoof perfect? Nope, but it was the best I have ridden a course on the first try in a LONG TIME… like maybe ever. And, it’s a long way from this Way Back Wednesday Post!

Since it was so good, we decided to just end on that. No point in making a pony tired when she just laid down a trip like that!

Flashback Friday Feels

We are approached three years since I moved to NJ. Ever since moving, I have been striving to get back to a place where I felt I was when we left. We had been competing at BN and, in my head, were totally comfortable cruising around that height. The other day, I shared a post on my insta from a clinic I took around that time (full blog post here).

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And it’s a decent photo. That saddle never did me any favors, but you can clearly see our efforts to move down the line. In a moment of nostalgia, I decided to dig up the video and give it a watch.

Wait… what? I remember it being VERY hot and humid that day, but there is a lot going on here not related to the heat. Mainly, why on green Earth are we SO crooked. AND, as always, I remember the jumps being bigger hahaha.

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Clearly, this jump was not as good as I remember hahaha

This can’t be right, I decided, so I looked up another video from that time.

What do I see? A horse that is pretty far behind my leg. One that isn’t comfortable in a more uphill balance with power, and a rider who has decided that sucking back around corners and gunning it down lines is the best way to ride… oops.

None of this is a reflection of my trainer at the time. May really only had a few months of eventing training under her belt at this point, and I had some serious PTSD from my previous horse. (aka – riding forward was NOT my thing). Honestly, it is shocking that she got me to jump anything larger than 2′ at all at this point.

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Prime form May…

Then I had a moment of… maybe my lessons recently haven’t been going as well as I thought. So I went back and watched one…

And this is why media is so important. That last video shows a forward horse who is clearly more comfortable at that balance (and not DIVING at fences) and a rider who has learned to put her leg on.

So my advice to everyone this weekend? Just keep on trying. I promise, you are getting somewhere. Happy Friday friends!

A Not Bad, Very Good Lesson

Let me start out by saying that… I did not want to ride last night. I did not want to see my horse last night. I did not want to interact with the world last night. If it was actually a thing that dark clouds follow you when you are in a bad mood, mine had lightning, tornadoes, and hail.

This is about right. 

I thought about canceling. I thought about just doing a Dressage lesson. I thought about asking NT to keep it simple and boring. I thought about a million ways to make sure I just didn’t make things worse. And then, I did none of those things.

I threw on my jump tack and headed over to the ring. Let NT know I was in a shitty mood in general, since I was oddly quiet and reserved starting out. And then I just did what she told me to. May… started out like a total lug head. She just wanted to LEAN on that right shoulder like her life depended on it.

So again, we started with the nice long approaches to the gymnastic set in the middle. This time, they were set as low verticals, so we just looped around, asking for shorter and longer distances until I felt like she was mostly settled.

Then, we moved onto the more straight forward gymnastic along the outside of the arena. Four verticals set on slightly short two strides, loop through the middle to catch the vertical and change direction and then back up the same gymnastic going the other way. Nice easy and something we actually jumped on our own a few weeks ago. The jumps were set super small, maybe 2′.

after we raised the gymnastic… 

So maybe I rode into it a little lackadaisical… and May was still dead set on running through that right shoulder. So… we jumped into the gymnastic, and she fell right. I kicked on, and she decided to jump SUPER big and SUPER round through it… Ummm ok mare. The vertical was fine. Then back up the gymnastic the other way… I over compensated for the right drift and we went left… Just ride STRAIGHT hahaha.

We did the same gymnastic to vertical on the diagonal combination to fix the right drift issue. Then, we turned right and looped around to another vertical. Left turn and over the oxer. It’s the first clip in the video at the bottom. (Sorry the first clip is so dark… not totally sure what happened there)

Weee!

Honestly, it all went swimmingly and I was really happy about it. May was still kind of being a lug head after fences, but at least she wasn’t dragging me down to everything anymore. I am proud of myself for putting my leg on to the oxer. Coming around the corner… I saw nothing, so I just put my leg on and it worked out. NT pointed out that I am a bit lucky that May is forward thinking because a horse that is less confident probably wouldn’t have just stepped up like that.

Since May was just kind of running through the gymnastic (not the point of a gymnastic), NT raised them up 2 holes. I wanted to throw up, but threw that feeling into my back pocket. This time, we went down the two, then looped left to the oxer. We took the inside turn to the corner fence… which I jumped conservatively… Then fixed the lead and did basically nothing going to the vertical on the diagonal. Hard miss there.

Then… I decided to just canter over one of the poles marking the dressage arena… and May hopped over it in the most awkward manner and landed cross cantering. Cool mare. Soooo then I realized I kind of needed to hustle that cross canter forward to get to the gymnastic ok. I did that… and then just had to balance through the combination. THEN, we jumped over our makeshift “water jump” hahaha. It was a skinny into a puddle. But, it was good to practice because May REALLY wanted to drift left to avoid getting her toes wet.

Since we decided that May had the hang of the gymnastic and oxer, we decided to just do the corner jump, vertical and “water” jump. I really smoothed out the first two (yay!) but was still jumping the water awkwardly. I did it one last time, smoothed it out, and we were done!

After a lesson like that, it was no surprise that my little black cloud lifted. I know it’s pretty rare to have a mare that you can depend on day in and day out, but I am so thankful for mine. ❤

I did actually remember to put my helmet cam on, so hopefully I will be able to share that footage later this week… Wordless Friday? hahaha

A Lesson in Adjust-ability and Balance

Have you ever felt like you have been eating really well/clean, and then you track your food and it turns out you are basically eating like a 18 yr old their first week of college? No? Just me? Well, I feel like we have been super consistent with our lessons, but as always, the blog is here with the truth.

 The truth? Our last jump lesson as 5/15… which was our first jump lesson since 4/23. Oops. Part of this was my wonderful and much needed Florida vacation… and part of this was us being derailed by our super fun XC schooling at KHP. Worth it.

Knowing this gap, I had actually jumped May on Friday afternoon. I don’t jump when we are totally alone, but the woman doing evening barn chores showed up just as I was considering ending my ride, so we popped through the cross rail line and then some vertical gymnastics. The problem? I had my Dressage bit in instead of my jumping bit, so May kind of dragged me around. Oh well. We would fix it on Tuesday.

AND FIX IT WE DID.

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I don’t think my trainer specifically set this course to fix all my issues… but damn if it didn’t go a great job of it. We started with three crossrails set in the middle of the ring at angles. The distance between each crossrail if you rode straight through them (center to center to center) was two strides.

We started by just looping through the crossrails, taking the long approaches. And you know what? It was pretty bad. May wanted to just rock along on her forehand and drag me to distances that weren’t there. This issue always becomes a bit prevalent whenever we do accuracy exercises over small jumps.

Ahhhh the right shoulder drift. My favorite.

Over larger jumps, she rocks herself back a bit. But when they are little, she treats them like the suggestion of a speed bump. Sooo I wrangled back control, and we did a lot of halting, leg yielding, backing exercises after fences. NT wanted me to focus on getting a lot of control over her shoulders and balance.

We then added to the three crossrail exercise. I looped through with the long approaches, and then jumped the first jump, did a circle to the right, jumped the second one, did a circle to the left, and then jumped the last one. I struggled to get May to land on the left lead over the second one.

Eventually though, she was listening and landing in a better balance for me. Sooooo we then moved to what was, honestly, the hardest part for me. Jump in, bending three strides to right to the second cross rail, then bending three strides to the left over the third crossrail. The first time through… I got a big distance to the first… made the second happen… and then missed the third.

Ugh. Second time? Got the first one, took down one of the rails in the second jump… and got two strides to the first jump. UGH! Finally, we nailed it, and I really felt May rocking back on her hind end and wrapping herself around my inside leg. Sweet!

So then we moved to jumping straight through the exercise. Two strides between crossrails. EASY PEASY! May lined up and went. I worked on staying tall with my body and keeping her shoulders lined up nice and straight.

 

Much happier to just go straight through

At this point, we had a pretty long lesson, but hadn’t jumped anything of height. Sooo we put together a course. Bending 3 crossrails, long approach to middle crossrail, straight through crossrails in 2 strides, loop around to the left and grab the oxer, then loop around to the right for the barrel jump, bending 6 strides to the other oxer. (sorry the first jump got cut out below… damn 60 seconds on instagram)

Super happy with it! At this point, she decided she didn’t want to land on the right lead anymore. Oh well. We fixed it pretty easily. The 6 strides were easy peasy, even when she sucked back and jumped a little round over the barrel. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had my horse back. Forward to the fences and easily getting the distances without her flinging her head around or me having to chase her around.

Room for improvement? Always! But definitely something positive to build on next week.

Another Lesson – Another Fall?

A quick background for this lesson, my left ankle has always been a mess. I messed it up a long time ago, and it likes to act up. If you remember a couple of lessons ago, I made my trainer get on because my ankle was in ridiculous pain. WELL on Sunday, I got up off the couch… and found myself in SERIOUS pain. Like got back on the couch, took an anti-inflammatory and was still WRITHING in pain.

By Tuesday, the ankle seemed fine, but I had it wrapped and warned my trainer that I wasn’t sure how long it would last. Since my trainer is awesome, her response was “alright, then let’s make the most out of whatever time we can get.”

We started over a fairly simple grid. A cross rail, bounce to vertical, bounce to crossrail, three strides, crossrail, bounce to vertical, bounce to crossrail. The idea was to keep the momentum coming forward through the bounces to make the three strides work. There was a fairly tight turn to the grid, so again, keep the momentum through the turn. Got it? Good!

The first time through, May was kind of like WTF when we turned the corner.

As a result, she sucked back a bit. I kept my leg on, and we made it work. Coming through the other direction, she was better, and it worked out a bit easier. NT put the crossrails up, and we worked through it a couple more times. Our distances weren’t always perfect coming into it, but May was jumping great. Sooo we didn’t drill it. I also admitted that the grid was putting a lot of stress on my ankle, and it was starting to ache. UGH

So we moved onto a little baby course. Diagonal, around to an oxer on the quarter line, then a roll back to another diagonal vertical. Easy peasy. And it was. Soooo the verticals got pushed up a bit higher, and we moved onto a longer course.

The course was one of those courses where you never really ride on the rail… Lots of distances just kind of floating around in space hahaha. So you have to be pretty deliberate about your line, pace, and balance to make things work.

To the first jump… I just didn’t have enough pace and kind of just did nothing. Cool Em. The pace LOOKS ok and FELT ok, but looking at the video, May wasn’t actually covering enough ground. Alright then, I fixed it coming around the corner to the square oxer. With the better pace, I could get the more open distance, and it was fine.

Same May… Same…

NT had warned me that the four strides on the diagonal line were a true four, and then the one stride was about 2ft short. As a result, the goal was to jump STRAIGHT and ACROSS the oxer into the line, and then keep my shoulders back through the verticals at the end.

If I throw my shoulders forward, do the distances come up better?

This… could have been ridden a touch better. I didn’t get May’s shoulders square until the VERY LAST stride before the oxer. (not a great feeling) Then, I got kind of ACTIVE with  my whole body down the line. As a result, I almost got TOO much step through the line. However, I kept my shoulders back and let May figure out the one stride.

We rolled back to the vertical. It was a good ride, and May just tapped the top rail. I think it was the highest jump on course, so she just misjudged it a bit. Since the spot was just “there”, I leaned forward a touch early, encouraging her front end to be a bit slow. Oh well.

I rode forward off of that… towards the triple bar. Have we ever jumped a triple bar? Maybe? Several years ago? Oh well. I just remind myself that horse’s jump triple bars well, and I rode at it.

My jump was pretty good. It was just a TOUCH close, which is kind of what you want with a triple bar. I actually BENT the line (versus SLICING it… like I love to do) and the seven strides worked out great.

Overall? Really happy with it. It was a course with a lot of different questions being asked, and we stepped up and answered each one as a team. I only got one real “head toss”, because a sassy queen realized she almost made it all the way through the horse without one.

My ankle was KILLING me by this point, so we called it a day. So? Where’s the fall?

WELLLLLLLLLL, while I was untacking May, it was only me and NT in the barn. I didn’t bother cross-tying May, and she was just chilling while I untacked. Well, I put the saddle on a saddle rack, and turned back towards May… then tripped over the end of a rubber mat.

I went FLYING at my horse, and I managed to HEADBUTT her on the side of the ass. Literally, there is a bruise on my head from this today. Poor May was BEWILDERED by the whole thing and spun around to snort at me. I ended up going ALL THE WAY DOWN, bruising the knuckles on my right hand, and scraping my knee bad enough for it to bleed through my breeches.

FEELINGS!

Honestly, I am just super thankful for two things:

  1. May didn’t kick me. Seriously – she would have had every right, but she didn’t. She didn’t even leave the barn. Just was… very confused. Someone got all the cookies last night.
  2. My breeches didn’t rip. I was wearing my forest green Sarafina breeches, and they… look as if nothing happened. Hopefully, the blood comes out, but at least they’re a dark color. I can’t believe my knee looks like something chewed on it, but my breeches are barely even scuffed.

I guess I live to fight another day. Maybe next time, I should keep my helmet on a little longer. 😉