Sunday, October 30, 2016

Was in a ...photoshoot?

Went out to the barn this morning, hoping to get Soonie jumped in time so he and his buddy could go outside on time, and then maybe hop on one of the training horses.  Ended up in jumping in a magazine photoshoot??

Literally me
...I don't know.  Someone was trying to feature the TB charity in some magazine or something something so a professional photography crew came out.  And lots of people in country fashion.  In all seriousness, the people were perfectly lovely and it's super duper awesome that the charity may or may not be featured, or at least some music academy one of them is associated with will benefit (clearly, I did not follow the explanation of why there was a photoshoot in the first place).  I am all for Thoroughbreds and/or music education benefiting from some pretty horsey photoshoots, so I am happy they came out and got what they needed.  Sharing the farm is the fun part.

But on that topic of country fashion, if you haven't read Amanda's post over on The $900 Facebook Pony on "equestrian fashion," please do.  Because after laughing hysterically over that yesterday.... TODAY IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

I will preface this with the fact that I used to see "equestrienne" fashionistas all over the place when I lived in Middleburg.  Particularly at the big races, where ALLLLLL the Washington, D.C. city folk would come dressed in fashion tweeds, faux riding pants and faux riding boots with their cute scarves and giant hats.  Either they knew exactly how they looked, or they actually thought that's what us equestrians actually wore.  Ironically enough, the actual horse people would either be dressed in dirty barn clothes (because, horses) or would be dressed in distinctly "normal person" clothing because it was probably one of the few days on our calendar where we DIDN'T have to wear barn clothes.  So you have the city folk trying to dress like country folk, and the country folk dressing up like the city folk.

But while we're on this subject, SCARVES...are we supposed to wear fashion scarves when we ride?  Who in the fashion design world decided that was a thing anyway?

I mean what am I supposed to do with this when schooling

So back to today.... Bubba and I jumped some fences for them to photoshop into the background while the crew gathered around one of the other TBs who was there to look pretty.  Then it was over and everybody celebrated with Veuve.  No lie.

Actually, I'm just sad I couldn't partake in the champagne because I had other horses to get on and had to turn down the bubbly.  I'm grateful that they offered, but I figured green horses and Veuve was probably a bad combo.  And at the end of the day, the charity got featured and I'm getting a free, professional jumping photo out of the deal so color me thrilled.  :)

Back to the actual horse stuff, Soonie was fantastic today.  He only hacked out yesterday, given that I felt like garbage and we both had a long day on Friday.  I did a quick review of what we learned from Linda as our jumping warm up, and he felt great.  There was no fight today, when I repeated the application of the aids as Linda had taught me, he came right through and was moving nicely through his shoulder.  He got to that good place much quicker and much more honestly than he ever had before at home; so far it looks like that breakthrough is working!  I tried to keep it short though, given that is working some muscles that aren't used to being worked like that for very long.

Since I felt like we needed to jump something other than plain rails (Anne Kursinski clinic in a couple of weeks), so I set up a 3' vertical with the brick wall filler, and a triple bar with the lattice gate.  He warmed up great and was perfect over everything.  Linda Zang was right, Soon jumped so well with our new approach to throughness.  I just wanted to get him forward and soft to some fences that actually were interesting to look at (which, by the way, were not that exciting because zero shits were given).  I intend to ship out one evening this week to jump at the new trainer's place, so today's jump school was meant to be light and easy.  And it was.

Additionally, the photoshoot nonsense was a great schooling opportunity.  That's why I agreed to it.  Any chance I can get at home for Soon to have to work around or through some distraction and shenanigans, I take.  In this case, it was a group of new people making noise, a dog, a dude on a ladder, a photo umbrella and flash photography, and another horse in the middle of that chaos - and Bubba had to jump into that.  And he did, repeatedly, with no issues.  Sometimes it's just about using situations as growth opportunities and taking advantage of them.  He was super all day and was happy to play ball with the circus in town.  I was super proud of him once again!  :)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Linda Zang Lesson and WIHS 2016

Watching the Jack Russell terrier races at Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) on live feed so I don't know how this blog entry is going to go with the distraction factor...


So yesterday...WHAT A DAY! :)  Successfully hauled Soonie out to the ever-beautiful The Plains, Virginia to take our first lesson with dressage guru, Linda Zang.  My day started with a 0400 wake-up so I could get to the barn by 0500 to feed Soon, hook up the trailer, get him prepped and do a last check to make sure I had everything.  He walked out of the barn and straight on the trailer like a pro, in the dark, and we were on the road shortly before 0600 for our nearly two-hour trip.

For the record, driving a loaded horse trailer in the DC area during rush hour is the single most terrifying thing I've ever done, and that's coming from someone who is A) not a nervous hauler and B) used to DC traffic.  Seriously.  The buffoonery is absurd.

Here is where we were heading:

We got to the farm with plenty of time to spare and I was SO HAPPY I had sprung for a day stall.  Bubba stepped calmly off the trailer and walked very pleasantly into his courtyard stall.  I loved how he took everything in like a pro.  He didn't scream, he wasn't looking around for anyone or acting frantic.  He was calm and curious, and seemed to be like, "Okay, this is fine" after he had a look at his digs for the day.  Went right for the hay and I knew I'd be fine to go audit some of the other lessons prior to ours.

I mean honestly, this is PRETTY OK LET'S BE HONEST

The lesson went very well overall.  Soonie walked in the indoor, was pretty chill about the whole thing, but was very tense once we got down to work.  Part of that was on me because I didn't have him warmed up - next time I'll ask where I can school prior to the lesson, but it did seem like the procedure was to just walk in the indoor 10 minutes before your lesson and hang out until it was your turn at the other end of the ring.  So I walked in with 15 minutes to go, but the lesson ahead of me ended early so poor Bubba had to go in front of Linda Zang a giant ball of tension.  I guess at the end of the day, she saw us at our not-so-greatest (worst?) and didn't kick us out, so...YAY!

Sadly I did not get any video this time, but she gave us a lot of great feedback, lots to work on at home, and exercises that I can easily continue going forward.  She got me working him on a 10-15 meter circle, getting him to move through his shoulder off my inside leg into my outside rein.  I had to really hold the outside rein and block him running through it with the support of my outside leg, while also opening my inside rein and using it as an opening/guiding rein while pushing off my inside leg as the driving aid.  She had me tap him on the inside shoulder with the dressage whip to help manipulate him a bit there, and it helped.  It was a bit of a fight to get through his tension and distraction factor in the beginning, but once he got loose and more focused, he started to come through very well.  Linda was very complimentary when he finally started to round up and use himself.

The trot work improved quite a bit once we got going.  We had to work through some issues at the canter with him swapping out behind as he has done on occasion the last few weeks.  I asked why she thought he was doing that and she was quite frank that it was him trying to evade having to use himself.  Which makes sense, because the other trainer we had ridden with a couple times also emphasized getting him more balanced off the outside rein, getting him straighter and more through (much like Linda, but perhaps not to the degree Linda was asking for).  The swapping out started when I started asking him to put forth a little more effort to be correct.  Things were starting to click in my brain.

We essentially did that circle exercise for about a half hour at different sizes (10, 15, 20 meters) at all three gaits.  I had to ride him THROUGH the lead swapping nonsense instead of coming down to the walk to correct it (which was essentially rewarding him with a break for swapping).  Instead, I had to demand the inside bend and connection to the outside rein while keeping the canter.  At one point I was having to pull my left hand out to my knee and really push off that inside leg in order to do this, but once I figured out how to ride him through it, he corrected himself within a stride or so.  After a few changes of direction and more repetition, he actually got to the point where he was totally round and through, AND was extremely light in the bridle.  He felt SO GOOD!

It reminded me of that scene in Armageddon where they have to go through that 11.5 Gs in order to get around the moon and into smooth space...Soon fought and leaned just about as hard as he ever had on me and it was a real arm wrestling match for a few minutes, but the breakthrough was incredible and definitely something I can build on for the future!  He felt great at the end.

I will definitely be replicating this at home and taking to heart what she said about pushing him and demanding more from him.  He's so lovely and perfect and pleasant that I've lulled myself into this zone where I don't really push him, and only get a little bit from him and am happy with that.  He can do more, and I know it, but that's why I've been needing to ride with folks.  Thankfully the feedback has been consistent, as has the training advice, so I know the progress from here on out is going to be significant.

Riding with Linda was just as I hoped it would be.  She was tough, exact with her observations and demanding, but riding with her was fun.  She made it enjoyable, I could laugh at myself a little bit and open my eyes to what I was sitting on, and the progress we made in one ride was pretty incredible.  My barnmate has had the same breakthroughs with her TB after riding with Linda a couple of times.  I'm excited to continue with Linda, as well as our home trainer. Next time I'll be sure to get video because holy shit I want to see this goodness.

I got Bubba put away and once our buddy was done with her lesson, I got him loaded up and we went home.  He was a total pro about the whole day, which just builds my enthusiasm for more clinic adventures in the future.  Up next:  Anne Kursinski in November!

Good boy, Brother!

He had a long day, but at least we got home and he got about an hour or so of turnout.  My long day continued because after a quick-ish turnaround at the farm, I ran home to get cleaned up for Puissance Night at WIHS!! :)

I love WIHS, I'm just sorry I can't spend more time here when it rolls into town.  But hey, a great night with friends and a meet up with a college buddy will put a smile on my face any day. :)

I love this horse show
 The vendor area was chock full of goodness as usual, and per the usual I could only afford about 5% of it.  But being surrounded by beautiful, expensive things made of leather made me want to look at everything because TREAT YO SELF.

There were beautiful saddles, beautiful Barbour things, beautiful handbags I would probably never use but would look amazing to all those high class things I never have time to go to...

I could afford the unicorns-farting-rainbows socks though
 Special shout out to Model Horse Jumps and their ridiculously beautiful and detailed line of jumps for model horses!  Not going to lie, my fellow 30+ horse buddy and I spend about 10 minutes gawking at the insanely realistic jumps and all the things we really wanted to play with.  But we have young nieces so we convinced each other that we can BUY ALL THE THINGS and live vicariously through them.  But also, how cute are their jump picture frames?  Yes, I think I will have three.

We pulled ourselves away from the tiny horse jump course and back to our seats to watch the great puissance competition.  McLain Ward and Aaron Vale tied for first by jumping 7' in the fifth round.  Awesome!  Here's the view from ringside:

We got our photo in front of the puissance wall thanks to my amazing college friend.  She is the best.  It was a great way to cap off what had been a truly perfect day.  :)