Saturday, June 24, 2017

Stephen Bradley and Linda Zang Lessons

Last week Soonie and I went to our awesome trainer's place and had our second lesson with Stephen Bradley.  I love working with Stephen, his input is so on point, clear, and concise.  He's also perfectly pleasant and patient, as we learned this time out.  Soon had a lot of difficulty with the Liverpool - we had jumped it before, but it wasn't unfolded. 

Impressed with the folded Liverpool back in April
Yeah...Stephen started unfolding the Liverpool and having us trot over it, and Soon promptly checked his brain at the door and came unglued. 

Actual footage of Soon approaching the Liverpool

There was some minor drama with some quick, borderline dirty stops.  Soon actually got me off when he stopped dirty (after he had already jumped it!!), but I just jumped off and landed on my feet, no big deal.  At one point I was having to canter down to it one-handed, driving him forward, with my free hand ready to hit him with the bat at the slightest twitch.  Stephen was incredibly patient and took his time. We got Soonie over it each direction, at different heights, and he got to the point where he rode pretty normally to it.  We did broken lines to/from it and he didn't use that as an excuse to be silly.  The rest of the lesson was great - Bubba was jumping well, soft, and our new approach of soft hand and supporting leg to the jumps to assist with distances is still working beautifully.  I was disappointed to have such a meltdown over the Liverpool, but I'm glad Stephen was there.  He said "it was a discussion that needed to happen, and maybe from time to time you need to have that discussion with him, so that he knows to stay in front of your leg and just go."  Fair enough.

In other news..

This past Thursday we went to a nearby, beautiful private farm for our second lesson with dressage guru, Linda Zang.

Yep that's Linda Zang in the USDF Hall of Fame
Soonie was such a star.  We had ridden with Linda back in October, and it was extremely productive despite some tension.  This time Bubba was much more relaxed thanks to the short trip and very quiet atmosphere.  He was completely quiet and zero drama, and I was happy to see the seasoned veteran come out again.  He warmed up well and was getting to nice places much faster.  Linda was very complimentary, and we started focusing more on getting him to move through his shoulder more.  We warmed up with lots of changes of directions at the trot.  Then we did walking turns on the forehand to get him to step under with the inside hind and move the haunches some more.  We then did a canter transition out of the turn, and did canter leg yields off the wall. 

We got to some lovely places and he was soft, light, and felt much more through.  Linda was very complimentary, and once again I go home with some easy exercises to replicate what she taught me.  Once again, some of the greatest horsemen are great because they know how to keep things simple.  I will never fail to be amazed and how well horses and riders transform and improve with a session with Linda.  I can't wait to ride with her again!

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat...

Adult Great White shark. Jumps and dressage.  Does 1.15m easily w/changes, schooling 2nd level, hacks out alone or in company. Jumps XC. Loads, trailers, clips like a dream. Athletic and talented.  Talks and does tricks for treats. "Cute." Shark cage not included. Will consider trade for bottle nosed dolphin of like ability.

This isn't cute.

Not cute.

 This happened this morning.  Came out to the barn very early because I needed to ride and then go to the local dressage show and braid a couple of horses.  I arrived and went out to grab Soon and his new turnout buddy, Z, from their field.  After they both walked up to me looking for carrots, I haltered them like I always do and we started walking toward the barn.  

Then I guess Soon decided THAT was a good time to remind Z who was in charge in the field (poor horse judgment), so he came across and ended up hitting me behind my left shoulder blade.  I think he might have panicked when he hit me instead of the other horse, because he clamped down (as scared horses sometimes do) and held on for what was probably only three or four seconds, but felt like forever.  He started to pull backward, but my shoulder was still in his teeth so that didn't feel great at all being dragged to the left.

He let go and immediately regretted his decision.  I was screaming at him as that was extremely painful.  I mean, there's being bitten and then there's "removing a pound of flesh off my bones" and it definitely fell in the latter category...I was in so much pain that I was at one point down on one knee holding on to two horses in the field.  But...after some more cursing at the top of my lungs, we dropped Z off in his stall, Soon and I had a Manners 101 refresher in the round pen, and then we had a pretty good refresher of the Linda Zang lesson.  

I'm just glad I didn't leave the barn angry with him.  Still had a good ride (of course he was very sorry and very perfect in the round pen as well), he was still sweet, and there's still a lot of love and appreciation for an otherwise good morning at the barn.  So, while I joked with friends that I had to murder him, or that I was selling my Land Shark, that's not the case.  He's not going anywhere.  But he has earned himself some new nicknames, AND he's lost his stall guard privileges.  He and Z won't be making faces at each other in the barn anymore.  

Won't lie...after I got home from the horse show, I was hoping there'd be some kind of mark.  I had bitched to my friends about it all morning, and I'd feel dumb if there was nothing showing for it.  But I did NOT expect the carnage above.  I ran out to my truck after it happened to check in the mirror to see if I was bleeding - it felt bad enough to break skin, but I didn't see anything showing through the shirt.  Most of the red is just blood blistering, there are a few bloody scratches in there, but I'm happy it wasn't worse because that would have meant an ER visit.  I don't screw with animal bites.

But it hurts like a bitch, so I'm chilling on the couch with some ice and ibuprofen and cider and writing blog posts.  Whee. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Upperville Photos

All photos by Equine Event Photos.

He's just reminding me he has hops if one day I ever find the balls to do 1.20m

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Upperville 2017 Recap!

 About a month ago, I had this crazy idea in my head to go to an AA rated horse show with a horse who had never shown off the property before.

And we just did it.

And he was perfect.  PERFECT.

"Who, me?"

Imma do the sappy thing here when I say I cannot thank this little horse and his enormous heart enough.  He went into the oldest and one of the most prestigious horse shows in the country, took it completely in stride, and put in two clear jumping rounds.  He was foot perfect all weekend.  And the fact that he was relaxed, happy, and seemed to be enjoying all the attention was all the reward I could ever ask for.

I went out to Upperville on Saturday and set up stalls, so that when we rolled into the show on Sunday afternoon, the horses could step right off the trailer and get settled.  We shipped out there with three Thoroughbreds total - Soon, plus a former hunter and a former eventer, who were both venturing into rated jumperland for the first time.  Soonie stepped off the truck and settled into his tent stall right away.  No fuss, no drama, absolutely zero shits given.  The other boys settled pretty quickly too.  We schooled on the flat in the warm up rings on Sunday afternoon, and then went out into the gorgeous hacking field immediately afterward to cool the horses out, and enjoy the unbeatable Virginia hunt country view.

Soon was a star the whole time.  A little tense the first time in the warm ups on Sunday, and in the show ring hacking on Monday morning, but by the time it came time to show, he was looking and acting like he'd shown at big rated shows all his life.

"Seriously this is old news already so stop it..."

We were lucky in that both days (Monday and Tuesday) we showed in the first class, and then were done for the day.  So both morning were busy, but productive: we got to the show grounds around 0630 (Kim had already fed, watered, and picked stalls), got on around 0700 and hacked in the show ring, then hopped over a couple of jumps in the warm up while it was still deserted.  We returned to show at 0900 and then were done for the day.  I'm glad we jumped earlier in the morning, versus waiting until just before the class.  It's nice to see that the warm up rings at rated shows are still like Game of Thrones.

King's Landing??

Both the Monday and Tuesday jump rounds were good by any standards, and downright excellent by "third time off the farm green bean" standards.  Bubba went in the ring quiet, and jumped around like a hunter.  It was a single round jumper course, and I already knew we wouldn't make time without doing stupid shit, so my only goal was to go in and have a quiet, hunter-like round and get some valuable experience.  Pace, balance, and softness was most important to me with a horse still that green to the jumper ring, speed was of no interest to me.

Soonie jumped like a champ.  I could have opened him up more, but that's something we'll work on in future lessons for upcoming shows.  I made sure to keep my entire arm soft, to give with the hand and close my leg on the approach and let him find the base on his own.  This worked beautifully, especially since he was slightly backed-off already with the show environment, and needed some extra support from my leg.  He still went around very quiet and soft, and I couldn't have been happier with him.  I had a few minor decision making issues, but nothing major and I think it was a great first rated outing for both of us.  I was thrilled to bits with him at the end of each round.  So proud of him, coming into that horse show and handling it like such a professional.  My mind is a little blown.

While I wait for the official photos to come in, enjoy some cell phone pics and the ShowNet videos!

Waiting on horse show photos like...