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?

When Your Horse is a Teenage Girl

I was pretty impressed when I came out on Sunday and May was ready to play. I started my Dressage ride with some pretty strict rules for my. INCLUDING, sticking my crop under both thumbs to keep my hands from doing funky things or wandering. I know everyone is shocked to hear that doing this meant May came pretty reliably into the contact, including bending in both directions without my hands having to enter much of the conversation.

After a quick warm up, we played with some turns on the haunches, which were actually pretty good. So I moved into the shoulder-in exercise on a 20M circle. The left, as expected, was great. And the right was pretty good too. She was able to give me a few steps of true shoulder in. Instead of drilling this willingness, I let her drop down into the contact and switch directions after each good attempt.

not suspicious at all

Alright, so then I figured we should play with the shallow counter canter loops. We picked up the right lead first… and when I got to M, I directed her to the quarter line, then bent back to F, wash and repeat on the other side. It was OK. I still didn’t feel like she was really wrapping around my inside leg. Again though, I didn’t want to discourage the try or drill it. So we moved onto the other side and repeated…

Or at least, I went to repeat… and she immediately spooked at the corner of the arena. It was one of those moments where she was spooking, and I was looking around trying to figure out what she was spooking at… mid spook. No clue, so I circled around, and it was  now a non issue. Maybe she saw something through the door. Maybe she felt I was getting too comfortable up there. Who knows.

Either way, we repeated the same counter canter loops with pretty much the same results. Ugh.

So I stopped for a minute. What was I trying to achieve? As always, I am trying to quicken the hind end and shift more weight backwards while improving jump. Sooo I decided to pick up the right lead again and try some baby shoulder fore. I mean… not even totally three tracks, just offsetting the shoulder to the inside.

May’s reaction? Well, I am apparently the MOST UNFAIR MOM EVER. Seriously. I half halted, asked for the bend, put my inside leg on, moved my hands over, shifted my weight, and she started flinging her head around.

May:

Me:

I swear, I ended up with mouth foam on my helmet. I was just sitting there, no contact in my hand, just maintaining the bend with my leg and seat, staring at her like…. As soon as she softened, I let her go back to straight. I asked one more time, less dramatics, and I let her be done with a lap of stretchy trot around the arena and a nice walk hack.

Fingers crossed that it translates to our next Dressage ride with less drama.

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.

Heat, Work, Life

Last week was the first week in a long time where I only rode my horse once. On Tuesday, my trainer rode her, and I had all the plans in the world to ride on Thursday evening. Then… I got stuck at work until almost 7:30PM. UGH. Friday wasn’t an option because #Life. And then Saturday I had some adulting duties to attend to.

Before

So Sunday, I got to the barn relatively early (before 9AM), and I pulled May out of the field. (Turns out, if it’s not too hot out yet, she is right near the gait eating grass. Good to know.) I threw her in her stall to give her a chance to drink some water, as I pull out my tack. Her field has an automatic waterer, which I have seen her use many times, but when the grazing is good, May would much prefer damp grass over actual water. (I feel the same way about a milkshake vs. actual water)

By the time I threw tack on, it was around 9:30, and I was already covered in sweat. Glorious. Given that she hadn’t been ridden since Tuesday, I figured I would do a fitness ride. 5 min of walk. 4 sets of 3 min of trot with 1 min of walk in between. 2 sets of 2 min of canter with 1 min walk in between. 5 min walk. Total ride, about 32 minutes with about half of that walking.

The cool think about our farm is there is ALMOST a complete track loop around the property. Unfortunately, it is kind of disrupted by the arenas/indoor/driveway. and it is super hilly between the arenas and the paddocks, so you can only really walk up and down that section.

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My solution? I started looping and reversing direction through the arena, since the gaits are left open enough to trot though them (with some caution). I for sure wouldn’t canter through them, and I probably wouldn’t have done this if anyone else was riding in the outdoor, but it was just me and May. It worked out really well, especially since one loop around what part of the loop is available is about 1.5 minutes of canter. Winning.

I figured May was going to be kind of forward and want to blow through my half halts, so I was surprised when she came out kind of behind my leg. I think I spent the first two trot sets kicking her along and wishing I had my Dressage whip with me. Oh well, notes for next time. She really does not like the heat.

However, a ton of walk breaks meant that, by the time we were done, she was hot and tired but not overly uncomfortable. We just about broke a full body sweat before finishing, so I figure that’s a job well done in this weather. How did May feel about it though? Less than enthused.

After

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!

25 More – Blog Hop

Jumping on the blog hop train. L found the questions on Tumblr, and after a few other people chimed in (Amanda & Olivia among others) I just had to join.

1. What is the first thing you do when you get to the barn?

My work is incredibly… non social. I work with a lot of analytical types, so when I get to the barn, I want to actually interact with people. So usually, I seek out the peoples first! haha. I think it gives May a chance to adjust to the reality of having to work again.

2. Is there a breed that you would never own?

Gosh… Probably a paso fino. I LOVE them. When I did Welsh breed shows, they were often around, and they are the COOLEST. However, if we got a gaited horse, it would be something my husband could ride. At 6’6″ish… a paso fino is just too small.

3. Describe your last ride?

Our jump lesson this week! Still on cloud nine from it! Even if all my muscles and joints hate me.

4. Have any irrational riding fears?

Oh so many. Because May isn’t the MOST athletic, I am convinced that we will miss big to an oxer one day, and we will both get seriously injured. Clearly… that fear is pretty unfounded at the heights I have any interest in.

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5. Describe your favorite lesson horse?

Oh definitely Buddy. I rode him on and off for like… a decade. So much love for that little thoroughbred. Because of him, I will never rule out owning an OTTB.

6. Would you ever lease out your horse?

Yeah. I probably will when Matt and I start a family. I think she would be a great horse for a pony club kid to play around with.

7. Mares: Yay or neigh?

Uh duh… hahaha. I have ridden and loved MANY mares. If they are smart mares, I tend to really enjoy them.

8. How many time per week do you get to see your horse?

I shoot for five days… which means that I typically make it there 4 days a week.

9. Favorite thing to do on an “easy day” with your pony?

Trail rides. We both love just wandering around wherever. It’s been a while since I hopped on bareback. Maybe I will this week. 🙂

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10. Conformational flaw that bothers you the most?

Ahahahaha…. well, my horse is kind of a conformation train wreck. That being said, a horse that is downhill would be pretty tough for what I want to do. Cantering downhill to a Novice oxer on something downhill? Just doesn’t sound fun to me, and I think it makes Dressage miserable for everyone

May Jump911. Thing about your riding that you’re most self conscious about?

My weight. I feel like being on the bigger side of the rider spectrum makes every flaw so much more noticeable.

12. Will you be participating in no stirrup November?

I actually dropped my stirrups this weekend for a while. I am not sure if I will totally leave my stirrups in November because I don’t think that’s fair to May. But I will definitely increase my focus on it.

13. What is your grooming routine?

Curry all over, brush with a hard brush, maybe a soft brush… wipe down with fly wipes. Pick feet. Either apply durasole or keratex depending on what we are dealing with. If I have time or before a lesson, I brush out her tail.

14. Describe a day in the life of your horse?

She gets night turnout. So she comes in for breakfast typically in the late morning. She hangs out in her stall in the afternoon. I ride in the early evening. Then she gets fed dinner and turned back out for the night. Most days, she spends less than 6 hours in a stall, which I LOVE.

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Lets roll CLOSER to the fence. 🙄🙃🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Emily (@may_as_well_event) on

15. Favorite season for riding?

I love the fall. Part of it is the weather, as it tends to be beautiful in KY. But a lot of it is how we feel in the fall. After a full season of lessons, hacking out, XC schoolings, shows etc, we feel pretty solid and in sync in summer. May is always super fit, and it’s just a really fun time of year for us.

16. If you could only have 1 ring: indoor or outdoor?

Outdoor. Always outdoor. I ride in the indoor at my barn so rarely, and I would probably ride in it even less if the outdoor was bigger. When we were at our old barn, I only rode in the indoor when it was too dark to ride outside (no lights).

17. What impresses you most about the opposite discipline (english vs. western)?

I think its incredible how quarter horse people have been able to breed these SUPER specialized horses with incredible instincts. Like cutting horses or western pleasure horses. It’s really interesting to me.

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My Wenglish Attempts lol

18. You have unlimited funds to buy one entire tack set for your horse, what is he/she wearing?

Oh gosh. I don’t even know. May is such special body type, that I think finding the saddle would be the biggest issue… even with a huge budget. Can I just go with custom everything that actually fits her? lol

19. How many blankets do you have? When do you blanket?

She has 4. A sheet, two mediums, and a heavy with a hood. I have two mediums because they tend to get the most wear in our climate. Especially since I just do a bib clip. We blanket when it gets cold? lol. May is a yak, so her tolerance for cold is pretty high, and she had a round bale in her field at night. However, we also get a lot of wet, so the blankets are more used to keep her dry and comfortable.

20. What is your horse’s favorite treat? Favorite place to be scratched?

Everything? Awkwardly, I think she loves probios cookies the most. Go figure. At this point, if I don’t cross tie her, she will creep towards my tack trunk when I go over there, hoping for a cookie. Confession time: I know it’s a bad habit.. but it’s cute so I don’t correct it. Oops.

As for scratches, she likes the inside of her ears rubbed and her tail. But only on her terms. When she is done with you, she would rather you just not. Ok?

21. Something about your barn that drives you crazy?

Gosh. Sometimes it is a damn zoo hahaha. We have horses and kids and dogs and a cat. It can be a lot, so I have learned what times/days are a bit quieter. At the same time, I really love all the activity and May just EATS it up. I think we both prefer it to all the nights we spent alone at my old barn.

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22. Roached manes, pulled manes, or long flowing manes?

I actually really prefer pulled manes, but May hates having her mane pulled. I really do think it is painful for her. I decided to roach to save her from that experience and because she gets SO HOT in the summer, a roached mane helps her stay cool.

23. Can you handle a buck or a rear better?

I used to be able to sit a buck, but honestly, it has been a while… I rode a couple of horses that rear, and I could ride it… but it’s not fun.

24. I would never buy a horse who ___________________?

Reared haha. I am with Amanda on this one. It is a deal breaker for me. It is just too dangerous.

25. Favorite facial marking?

Oh I love snips. Just too cute for words.

If you made it this far, you get a shameless plug to please buy my Dressage saddle. 😉
Ebay Link

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.

First XC Schooling at the Kentucky Horse Park

Alternative Title: Denial is a Powerful Force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MayXC Jump2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

animated

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

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

MayXC Jump7

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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. 😉