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. 😉

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May Gets a Pro Ride

My pro has ridden May all of twice before this week. The first time was to disentangle whatever was going on with our right rein on the flat. (That post is over here, in case you missed it.) Then… when I fell off going through that grid a few weeks ago (that post is here), I threw my pro up for her first ever jump school on May.

Since then, things have been chugging along, but we have definitely moved from May’s 100% comfort zone (2’3″ – 2’7″) and are starting to flirt with heights that she is considerably greener at. Then, on Monday, I managed to tweak a tendon in my ankle while getting on and off my horse 1,000xs while trying saddles. So… it seemed like the perfect time to throw the pro up.

I guess the method to my madness is two fold. 1 – I wanted to see how a stronger, more confident ride, helped May stay straighter and better over slightly larger fences. AND 2 – I wanted to get my trainer’s thoughts on my saddle.

Honestly, It was a great idea. The biggest comment? May is a HECK OF A LOT fitter now then she was last time she got on. It’s amazing what a month of fitness work can do. Annnnnd my saddle isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t do me any favors. It’s hard to sit in without getting “stuck” in it.

Random still shot of our Skinny Legend

Her schooling mostly followed my lesson from last week, but with the jumps set a bit higher. Honestly, she came across a lot of the same issues too. May really wants to just pop through that right shoulder, especially coming away from home. The difference is that NT is strong enough and quick enough to insist on the adjustment without causing major issues. AND is brave enough to keep riding forward when stuff doesn’t go 100% perfectly.

I have a ton of media, but most of it is for me. Either way, I feel like the below sums up the whole schooling. May really wanted to fall through her inside shoulder around the corner. NT corrects it and rides forward. The distance comes up long due to the argument around the corner, but NT keeps the positive ride, stays balanced, keeps May’s front end up, and it turns out great.

Super excited to get back on the mare and give it a go myself next week!

Grid Redemption – Jump Lesson Recap

I’m not sure if you all remember my last grid attempt, but I sure do. In case you forgot, it went something like this:

So when I saw a long grid set up in the middle of the arena (complete with guide poles), I found myself a bit hesitant. You have to turn away from the barn to it off the short side, so again, super important to control the shoulders while keeping the energy coming forward. Soooo similar to the last grid. Fun.

I warmed up quickly with a focus on getting May supple. Supple both going forward and coming back, as well as from side to side. We actually had a bit of an argument about that right shoulder on the flat. Cue some more nerves.

So I had a quick chat with my fear bird, and then turned on the helmet cam.

The grid started pretty small, so it ended up requiring a super quiet ride for me as May thought about just plowing through the whole thing.

We approached from one direction, then the other. Down the long side, I tried to just get out of the tack and let May coast along a bit (like she would through most of XC) and then sat and rebalanced before the turn. I do like taking opportunities to let horses carry their own balance as much as possible, and I like to think it’s a habit that has helped improve May’s balance over the last few years.

We only went through it once at this lower height since… well it just went really well. We popped the rails up a bit, and I went through it again. Same results, so we moved onto courses! Since the gymnastic is obviously a bit tough on the horses, the courses were fairly short with an emphasis on riding accurate lines on a forward step. You know… show jumping haha.

A for Effort from Ms. May!

For our first course, the gymnastic was first.( I made the ground poles light blue and the actual jumps dark blue). Right turn to an oxer set on a turn off the rail. You know, the type I LOVE to cut the corner to. Left turn to a 7 or 8 stride bending line from the swedish oxer to vertical.

April2019Course1

Tuesday was also the day of needing the second try for me. Both times, May landed from the grid on the left lead (probably because that is how we turned while warming up).

First time through this course, I pulled May around the corner to jump two, pulling her off the counter canter in the front. The jump was fiiiiiiiine, but we didn’t get the lead over the jump (because I was pulling right). Sooo the swedish came up super awkward, and I slipped my reins. As a result, I rode with super long reins to the pink vertical in 8 squirrelly strides.

So then we tried again. The second time through, I kept the left lead to the square oxer (yay), but just didn’t see anything coming to the swedish and didn’t insist on the forward and straight, so she chipped and fell right. (Leave it to us to jump the highest part of a swedish oxer) Falling right made the bending 7 strides to the vertical a bit long; however,  I rode forward and straight (hah), so it was fine. You can see that round in the first slide of the below insta:

The next course is in the second slide of that insta. No grid this time, so had to set our own rhythm right off the bat.

April2019Course2

First jump was the pink vertical bending to the swedish, which rode great. Then… she jumped a bit right and faded right after the swedish, so our turn was super awkward to the square oxer. Again though, forward and straight. The LONG (see below for how long) distance towards the rail ended up with May cross cantering after the fence

I had basically…. 12 strides of complete indecision. (future self, just let her get straight). She fixed it (with no help from me) when we got straight to the fence… but again, I saw nothing and kind of did nothing. The awkward distance to fence four meant the four bending strides to fence five came up SUPER quick… and I didn’t do anything to fix the distance. So it was also awkward. (Yay for consistency?)

I am proud of the fact that I didn’t just throw my body at her when things got weird. It helped her keep a bit of confidence and get over the fences without any rails coming down. I circled around (also in the video above) and did that line again. It rode great, so we finished on that!

Honestly, my nerves are starting to feel WAY MORE within my control at this point. I didn’t have that numb, panicky feeling before every course. However, I did make a note to let NT know when I was getting towards the end of my physical limit, since I think the accident a few weeks ago was partially due to my own fatigue.

Either way, we already feel ready for our move up to BN in the beginning of June, so I am excited to fine tune my issues before then.

My Complicated Relationship with Showing

Warning in advance – most of these videos are VERY OLD and of VERY POOR quality with annoying music. Mute and watch at your own discretion haha.

I have been showing basically since the beginning of my riding career. My first horse show couldn’t have been that long after I first started riding. The plan was simple: a walk/trot class at a schooling show at my barn.

I have it in my head that the show was only an “in barn” one, but who knows if that was true at this point. I don’t think I had a riding coat or any of the special “stuff”, so it must have been pretty casual. I really don’t remember much from that show, other than the horses.

Shortly before that show, the barn lost the horse I had been riding. The only horse I had ever really ridden. A quick plan was made to have me ride another school horse (who I did poorly on), but it was then that my complicated relationship started. Somehow, my first experience with death and loss coincided with my first horse show.

I moved barns and the next few years were filled with “horse shows” at the end of each week of horsey summer camp. I even remember a quick 4H show when I was maybe 12? I don’t remember much other than SPEED… in a hunter class. Needless to say, the barely schooled pony I rode in his first ever show was not competitive.

I did not really learn how to horse show, but I did learn how to ride green and rank horses of all shapes and sizes. I changed barns again, wanting to get more experience and more opportunities to ride. A small barn 15 minutes from my house seemed perfect!

Sunny
One of my first hunter paces… where my love for XC was born.

I still rode green horses, but I started to show more.

Hamlet

And you know what I remembered most from those days? Blackness. The kind of blackness where no sound, light, or feelings get in. Why do I remember blackness? Because I remember being SO TERRIFIED that I held my breath around my course of 8 cross-rails. Because my ability to ride the pants off anything at home did not translate to even an IOTA of success in the show ring.

The barn I was at changed a bit and had more of a focus on showing Welsh ponies. Again, I rode the green beans. But now, it was in whatever rail classes I qualified for. I went years without showing over fences. I did fairly well, all things considered. I learned how to get a horse to “show off” on the flat, how to hide the spook, and how to alleviate tension.

I wanted to get back into jumping… so I moved to a hunter jumper barn. I rode slightly more broke horses, and through pure repetition. The tension started to go away. I rode a really lovely little bay thoroughbred, and he taught me so much.

Bud, however, decided that jumping wasn’t really his thing anymore, and I switched to a gorgeous Chestnut mare… with one of the biggest bucks I have ever ridden. I showed more.

When she got hurt, I took the ride on a total pocket rocket of a pony. I learned to do the jumpers, and honestly, I LOVED the jumpers. The tension for perfection went away, and I just rode.

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#tbt #cowgirl #jumpers #whenicouldride

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When the chestnut mare was ready to start again, we figured her sassy attitude would be fine in the jumper ring, so that’s where we went… and frustration and fear started to set in again. I never knew what I was going to get. I couldn’t move up. My riding stagnated. I figured it was just the result of college, so I pledged to get back at it when I graduated.

I graduated, and as a very generous birthday gift from my dad, I got to go horse shopping. I saw a lot of lame… and a lot of crazy. My budget was HUGE for a 22 year old… but tiny for the hunter jumper world. “I’ll just get a jumper type that could maybe cross into the equitation classes.”

I found Winston. On paper? Perfect. 16.2 Quarter Horse type. Sweet as sugar. And tense as anything I had ever sat on. I have time. I thought. I have patience. What I didn’t have was a cool head in the show ring…

We never made it further than the lowest of the low classes. Trust broke down. I tried to move him to an eventing barn (since he was WONDERFUL out of the ring), but the combination of us together was miserable. Rides ended with tears and my habit of not breathing while on course came back. Tense rides turned into complete meltdowns for both of us.

I cried more, and I put him up for sale. I had a plan. I wouldn’t buy anything. I would just enjoy being horseless for a while… ride some school horses… learn to event on something more made. Instead, I was faced with the proposal to trade Winston for May. Obviously, I bought May… but I figured I would just do what I was good at (putting on miles at home) and then sell her.

I owned her for a few weeks… and we took her to her first show. It was even a combined test! I remember riding with my trainer to the show, asking her how to do a Dressage test… because I had never done one.

It was the first show I actually enjoyed since riding Cowgirl more than five years earlier, and I learned that horse shows aren’t about having the most talented horse… or winning ribbons.. or laying down a perfect trip. Horse shows are about competing with a horse you love.

GallopOn

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!

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.

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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

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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!