Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Today's jump school was....

After last week's Holy Shit Fest, I decided to have a little jumping appetizer in preparation for tomorrow's jumping lesson (which may or may not happen for various conflicts not at all relating to horsey's mood).  Soonie was WAY better today.  Trot jumps were good - he was his normal, quiet self.  We worked a lot in the box and I used turns, rollbacks, and a lot of riding in/around the other fences to keep his focus.  By putting him to work right on landing, he didn't have time to run/buck/descend into stupidity.  We did the full rollback from one outside fence, through the middle, to the other outside fence, and he was a champ!  Overall he was good.  Not spectacular, but "surprisingly okay" (you get 100 Schrute Bucks if you know what TV reference that is).  Still wanting to rush a little bit, but he waited when I asked and stayed in rhythm.  He was rideable from the start today, and I was very pleased.

So when you come off a bad ride, and the next one actually goes according to plan, you feel like:

Crappy rides make the ok ones feel like you just won the Olympics

And then on the way home from your good horsey back ride you realize that you still have some Neapolitan ice cream left in the freezer to enjoy:

Sunday, August 17, 2014

More trail ride photos

So our little weekly trail ride outing is getting more and more popular, since we add more people to the list all the time.  The weather cooperated, the horses were great, and yet another great adventure is in the books.  And Soonie is still adorable.

And that moment when the overcast weather suddenly turns sunny and balls hot, and you whip out your sunglasses that you stashed on your sports bra just in case?  Yeah....

..It's like THIS.  #winning

I was also somewhat relieved to hear that several other horses reached lunatic status in the last couple of days.  Something's in the water!  ;)   Maybe because it's Shark Week?  Hmm.

Oh...I caved and got a couple of custom bonnets for Soon.  We're going to stick with a navy blue/grey/white color scheme when we venture out there and do some jumpers.  Check out FireFly Custom Bonnets!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Making the most out of it

So this week's jumping lesson was really not what I was hoping for.  Soon was very up (excited), while he's had a few "whee" moments out in the wide open jump field in the past, he was like a totally different horse in the lesson.  Hot, running through my aids, running on the landing side of the fences, just overall being a much more difficult ride than I'm used to having with him.  Where the first lesson we did some very tough questions with turns, this past lesson we had to take a few steps back and simplify in order to just concentrate on having some rhythm.  Technical questions were definitely not happening, we were just shooting for a couple of fences where he didn't completely blow me off.

I'm trying to just chock it up to a bad day, we are all subject to having an off day here and there.  I felt a little stupid having to explain to the trainer that this horse will jump around like a hunter (quiet, metronome-like canter, very soft and easy going ride and consistent) when we were struggling like that.  No, I don't think it's his grain.  Yes, the open jump field is still relatively new for him.  Yes, he just jumped last Saturday.  No, this is absolutely not normal.  Yes, I know how to ride my own horse.  No, I am not a crazy excuse making person.  When you're so used to a certain ride, and out of nowhere the horse does a complete 180 and you have a totally different horse underneath you, it can be a surprise.  Part of me wanted to just call it about halfway through given how poorly it was going, but thankfully we got to a good spot by the end, had a couple of good, soft fences, and called it a night.

This trainer is fantastic and we all have bad rides, but coming off of so many great lessons where we accomplish so much, and then having one where we take about 10 steps backward is disappointing, I suppose.  I was also in a bit of physical pain due to some ongoing issues, so that wasn't helping either.  However, it's all about finding perspective.  Before I left the barn, I tried to think of it in terms of what I learned.  Yes, I just shelled out cash for that rodeo exhibition, but there is always something valuable in even the worst ride ever (which this was far from in the grand scheme of things).  I learned a new technique to use to get a hot horse to the base of the jump (ask yourself which front foot left last.  Seriously, try it, it's amazing!).  We worked through staying softer in the seat/taller in the upper body to the base on a rushing horse.  We got a horse who by all means was saying "fuck you I'm running" to take a breath, stay in the rhythm, and have a couple of decent jumps.  It wasn't the ass-kicking awesome lesson that we had several of prior to, but it was still productive.  And the horse was happy.

Soon might be a little sore from the work we've been doing with him on the flat (bringing his outline up and shorter), as that is asking more from him in terms of balance and muscling, so he got Friday off and today's flat school was light.  He felt good today, and both on the shorter rein and in the stretch he was giving me a nice, big swinging trot.  We stretched in the canter a bit too.  I really wanted to work out in the jump field, around the fences, up and down the hill, and have him just relax and take a breath out there.  He did, it was overall a nice flat ride.  I gave him a liniment bath afterward (not sure he was a fan of that, he didn't like the smell!) and I hope that might help with any muscle soreness.  We have a hack tomorrow and will probably do another liniment bath as a follow up.

Little Miss Zensational got the Gold Star today.  Her trot is coming together a little more with each ride, today she was much more consistent in the bridle, better bending around my leg, and had a little more push from behind.  She just felt so much more balanced than ever before, even if it's only for 10 or so strides at a time.  We cantered a little bit today too, just so I could see what she was like.  No drama, quiet in the upward and downward transitions, and a complete mess in the middle.  If I put flippers on and tried to run, that's what her canter felt like.  But she was super willing, well behaved as usual, and was trying her little heart out.  We did a couple loops on each lead and then went back for a quick trot review before I called it a day.  I'll revisit the canter at a later time after her trot work comes together better.  At least now I can say she's fine in the canter.  Afterward, we went on an adventure to the jump field, took a sniff of all the fences, and she was totally chill.  I'll work her out there instead of the indoor in the future.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday trail ride and picture post

Another Sunday, another fun trail ride!  My barn buddies rock, and our horses are awesome.

Sunday morning nap time!

Wakey wakey

Soonie are you excited for the trail adventure?


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Weekly Report, 9 Aug 14

Yep, I have zero witty or even remotely thoughtful titles for this post, so that's what I went with.  It is descriptive if not entirely boring.

Soonie and I had three days off to begin the week, and then had a dressage lesson on Thursday evening.  I think we have made some very serious progress just in the last couple of lessons thanks to the refocus and good-natured ass kicking I'm getting.  He is getting stronger and much more consistent in the shorter/higher outline, and the "up and out" ride is really starting to click for us (a little bit at a time).  While we haven't played much with lengthenings, we got some real push and even a very little bit of suspension across the diagonal.  We then did serpentines (three loops), asking him to lengthen across the straight line between loops.  That helped carry the energy forward into the turn, he filled up that outside rein so much better, and we had that "up and out" feeling around the bend.  The icing on the cake was our canter work that evening - we did canter loops for the first time, to the quarter line at first and then to center.

Canter loop to the quarter line

Soon was great for this, and as Awesome Dressage Lady noted, it helps me "ride both sides of the horse" and keeps him more focused and balanced in the canter.  The center bend in the loop is a counter canter, which requires the horse's weight to shift back some.  Our final exercise was cantering down the quarter line and leg yielding back to the rail in canter.  I haven't done much leg yielding in the canter with him, with the exception of a few steps we do prior to schooling flying lead changes.  He was super obedient and did these well, and this helped to further encourage some of that "sit" in the canter, with him stepping more underneath himself.  Overall, it was a super lesson, more challenging and very rewarding.  It is so cool to feel the development that we're making!

We had an easy walk/trot session on Friday, and we did a light jump school today.  I lowered a couple of the fences, as I wanted to review some of the questions from the jumping lesson, but not worry about schooling height (not that they were super high to begin with, but still).  He started off a little bouncy due to the storm blowing in, but settled pretty quickly and he was very good jumping through the box and making the short turns from either the outside fence through the middle, or from the middle to one of the outside fences.  I made a point to ride more forward through this, and he made it easily in four strides and felt very confident.  It was a successful, quick review!  What a good boy.  :)

No pics, except this one from last weekend where I caught him napping hard core:

I also need to do a quick brag on Zen today too.  Despite the rain storm (extra noise in the arena) and lots of very exciting traffic in the indoor, I elected to just get on her without lunging and see how she'd be.  I also rode her in my CWD and left my blunt spurs on to see how she'd do with those too.  I tried my figure eight bridle with a regular, loose ring French link bit, but to my complete  shock and dismay (read:  WTF HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?!) it was too big on her.  That bridle was Mr. Princess Face's bridle before I got Soonie his new one, and I still can't believe Zen's head is smaller than his.  The hell.  I put her back in her normal bridle and bit.  And after watching a horse from another barn go round and round and round and round (for about 10 minutes) attempting to jump, the ring finally cleared and I hopped on.

 Long story short:  she was awesome, we worked on bending left and right at the walk, getting a good quality walk, and her trot finally felt connected and somewhat balanced today for the first time, which is real progress.  She was more consistent on the contact in the trot today, which made her feel rideable.  Good attitude as usual.  I also liked her in the spurs; I'm one of those people that prefers always riding with spurs unless the horse just flat out does not tolerate them.  She didn't mind, and I liked that she was more responsive and lighter off the leg.  I was super pleased with her today as well, two great Thoroughbreds to make my day spectacular!  :)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Trail day

Soonie and I discovered a whole new world of possibilities today with our intrepid trail buddies!  :)  The elusive path to the nearby state park (a secluded part of the park, anyway) has finally been found.  All I've heard sine arriving is that there are trails in the park, but no one knows how to get there.  We were so unbelievably excited to explore some new territory complete with quiet wooded road, and discovered that it makes for great riding at any gait (let the Rowdy Trail Rides commence!  Ok, maybe just mildly exciting).  Now we just have to find the access points to the other side of the park, which has actual trails.  I think I may have a line on how to get into that area, so here's hoping in the near future we can enjoy those too.  This barn just gets better and better, we love it here! :)

Sleeping in before the Sunday morning trail ride

Pathetic  ;)


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Turnin' turnin' turnin....

We had our first over fences lesson on Thursday night with our new eventing trainer.  The course we set on Monday rode wonderfully when we tried it out on Tuesday, and I was very excited to see what kind of challenges we'd face in an actual lesson.  The goal was to help Soon focus more on what I was telling him versus what he thought we were going to do.  Sometimes having an intelligent horse means having to keep them guessing.  Below is the current layout for the jump field:

All fences except triple bar were approachable from either direction

Fences 1, 2, 3, and 4 form what we call the "box" in the middle of the large field.  The two lines were both set at 60' (four strides), and the middle fence placed specifically to allow turns from any of the four fences in that box (rollbacks, S-turns).  Fence 7 is a tire jump/wall on top of a small hill, which rode nicely as the horses have to maintain pace/rhythm up and balance coming down. Fence 6 is a small box placed on the slope of the hill (jump up or down).  The triple bar is out on its own quite a ways, which offers a chance to have a nice, forward rolling canter right up to it, and plenty of space to get organized afterward to head to several options.  The unnumbered fence is just a little box with no standards that didn't want to stand up and play, so I told it to fuck off and walked away.

I wanted this to feel a little like a derby course, but also some options to make trickier questions if desired.  The four stride lines ride forward and flowing (not huge though), so with those and the perimeter fences there is plenty of room to gallop around.  Working inside the box requires a shorter canter and the horse to shift its weight back.  It also requires the rider to not ride like a drunken monkey.

We did several rollback (ex: 1-5-4 or 2-5-3) and S-turns (ex: 1-5-3 or 2-5-4) through the box.  It came up quick and was tricky because you have to not allow yourself and the horse to get lazy and the stride to be too open as you approach (hard to do in a big field).  Any turn off a fence to that vertical in the middle of the box rode in a flowing four strides, so it happens fast.  Unfortunately at first I was not using enough of my leg and seat to manage the turn, and our ride in some of the rollbacks got backward.  Soon is still pretty green over fences, and with the exception of the one jumper clinic we did back in February, he hasn't done much of this rollback/bending/broken line stuff at all.  It's tough for him to land and turn that quickly, only because it's a completely new question to him.  We did have a couple of stops because I was relying too much on the reins in the turn, and not being soft enough through the arm and allowing him to come forward off the leg.  Once we broke things down a little and did a couple of the elements at a lower height to help explain to Soon how to read and answer the question, he jumped through it all perfectly fine and happily.  Fences went back up a little, and we did the full exercise with great success.  From there on in the jump school was just one awesome jump after another.

Soonie is actually quite a catty jumper.  He uses himself pretty well (when he wants to), and CAN do the quick/tight turns (he just need to know what to do!).  He's like a little sports car.  We ended with a couple little courses, the last one was triple bar (8) up the hill to 7, down the hill turn left and jump the line from 1 to 2, right turn around 8 and 3 and jump 5 left turn to 1 in the bending four strides.  Soonie was AMAZING!  The course flowed beautifully, and when it came to that last turn from 5 to 1, I stayed soft through the arm, let him roll forward in four strides, and we jumped the final vertical nicely.  It's so great to feel him ride both off that more open, flowing stride on some of the perimeter fences, and sitting back/shortening for the stuff in/around the box.  All I had to do with him is bring my shoulders back, hands up a bit, seat lightly in the saddle, and maintain leg and he comes right back.  That feeling is just so, so cool.  He is already super fun over fences, and I am so excited to see how he progresses as he gets more mileage and more confidence.   Some of the jumps were actually up around 2'9"- 3' too (the ones in the box were), so that's the higher end of what he's jumped thus far.  He handled the extra few inches and the redonkulous turns with no issue. 

We went for a short hack yesterday since he jumped twice in three days, and he had an easy walk/trot school today in the indoor.  Felt fantastic, and tomorrow is trail ride day if the rain holds out! :)

Our little slice of heaven

Most awesomest man ever <3