Weird Jumpity Stuff

You guys, my lesson last night ‘sploded my little brain. I knew we were in for trouble when my trainer asked me to put the jumping saddle on Louie. We had a co-lesson, of sorts, with another rider at the barn. I hadn’t met her before but her palomino western convert is super charming. Louie was displeased to see me and pinned his ears multiple times while I was tacking him up- so uncharacteristic of him! I guess he was mad I took off his blankie.

I wore spurs for only the second time ever (at my trainer’s suggestion) and I think they probably helped more than I thought they would. It’s been a vicious cycle for the last few lessons I’ve had on Louie. He can be lazy, which was making me naggy with my leg, which was, of course, only making him more dull. Wearing the spurs made me more deliberate with my leg aids. I nagged less (out of worry, but, whatever works) and obviously my leg aids were more effective.

I have ridden in this saddle before and it fits me quite well but I am unaccustomed to riding with my stirrups shorter so I feel like I have a tough time finding my center of balance. We warmed up and my trainer asked us to canter a little in both directions to get things moving. She asked that I try to stand lightly in my stirrups on the second half of the circle while cantering. This was an epic fail- every time I adjusted my position in the saddle, I lost the canter. I threw the rhythm off? I just feel so unconnected when my butt isn’t in the saddle- how the heck do you influence anything in a half seat?! And how do you use your legs independently when you are standing on them?! I fully realize these questions make it sound like this is my first rodeo, but I am a fish out of water if my butt is out of the saddle.

We trotted some ground poles with pretty good success, although I chose to post the trot over the poles rather than display my ineffective two-point.

Next she added a little height to the poles. I don’t know if this set-up has a name (please feel free to help out so I don’t sound like such an idiot) but she raised the poles slightly on one side, alternating.

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I watched my lesson mate go through this first and her horse clunked into every pole and knocked a couple down. I immediately yelled out that I didn’t want to do it anymore, to which my trainer replied…”your turn!”

I get no sympathy…

We also made a mess of this exercise the first time through and then decided to “better respect the obstacles” the next time around. I posted through this thing as well, though I tried to stay out of the way when I could feel Louie lifting his back over the poles. I was proud of myself for two things last night: I did a pretty good job of looking ahead and not looking down at the poles; and even though we didn’t do it perfectly and I’m sure it wasn’t pretty-we got it done, every time! I’ve had very frustrating lessons in the past where my trainer’s heart-to-heart chat was “even if it doesn’t look or feel perfect, you have got to get it done.” This was some tough love I needed at the time and something I’ve tried to follow through on ever since.

We finished up the lesson cantering over poles with one stride in between. “Not a bounce” my trainer said (like I know what THAT means…) and that went ok, Louie broke from the canter in the middle of the grid in both directions, but I did do a few things right. I was happy he didn’t break on the turn to approach the grid and I did a good job standing up a bit in my stirrups over the first two poles and then I screwed up the rhythm, the saddle slapped my ass, I sat up, and then he broke into the trot. oh well, much was learned.

I’m glad Louie knew what to do. My lesson mate had the opposite issue- she looked like she knew what she was doing but the palomino had never done it before. I’ve always only had private lessons at this barn but I have to say I enjoyed being able to watch someone else do the same exercise I was working on. For stuff like this that I’ve never done before, it’s great getting the explanation from my trainer, seeing it ridden (whether perfectly or not) and then giving it a go myself.

I survived a non-dressage lesson!

“Working” on Labor Day

I rode Sunny yesterday afternoon and had a much better ride than I did on Saturday. He was still his normal opinionated self though, and it seemed to particularly chap his bum when I asked for a bit of canter mid-way through some nice trot work. He exploded into the canter, tossed his head, crow hopped, and generally careened around the arena until I determined we ought to trot again. It took quite awhile after the canter tantrum for Sunny to put his big boy pants on again and focus on what I was asking him to do. He finally got his emotions under control and gave me some very respectable figure eights at the trot as well as some lovely walk.

 

ugh my stoopid elbows

ugh my stoopid elbows, Sunny looks nice though

 

I appreciate this walk

I appreciate this walk

 

Having a stretch. Him...obviously not my hip flexors.

Having a stretch. Him…obviously not my hip flexors.

 

This is how Sunny feels about selfies.

This is how Sunny feels about selfies. Sweaty human is salty delicious!

 

It can be fall anytime now… I am so freaking sick of this weather.

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Horsplosion!

In a good way!

I have ridden everyday this past weekend and will be riding almost everyday for the foreseeable future. I’m a happy camper, as long as I don’t get too burnt out. The owner of the therapeutic riding barn I volunteer at hasn’t been able to ride her own horse much lately and asked me if I would be interested. YES was the answer. So, I ride a handsome, dressage trained, Appendix Quarter Horse gelding three days a week; I ride Louie, the lovely draft cross for my Wednesday lessons; and I will be exercise riding a couple of the therapy horses to get them prepped for an instructor certification course in June. All of this coming just as the weather is starting to get nice!

The Quarter horse, Sunny, came with a bit of a reputation. His owner even politely warned me of his personality quirks. He supposedly does NOT enjoy cantering and will let you know with the occasional crow hop or buck when asked to pick up the canter. He also apparently does this stomping thing if he is being pushed to the edge as a precursor to the alleged bucking.

Now, I am in no way a canter master as I have clearly detailed on this very blog. But so far, knock on wood, that horse hasn’t put a foot wrong for me yet! Of course he could dump me next ride for having said this out loud… but so far so good! The first couple times I rode him I didn’t ask him to canter at all but around the third ride I thought “well, we better have a look at what we’ve got to work with”. After watching him being lunged by the owner previously and seeing him, rather begrudgingly, pick up the canter, I assumed he wouldn’t choose it for himself so when he popped into a relaxed left lead canter while I was riding him I just decided to go with it and see how he acted. He seemed to want to get a bit of his energy out but he wasn’t particularly hot, he was listening to my aids when I asked him back into the trot. We swapped directions and this time I asked him to pick up the canter, he pinned his ears for a second and seemed upset that this time it wasn’t HIS idea to pick of the canter but he did, and we have cantered a little every time I have ridden him since and not a single buck or stomp. I can tell he would benefit from more canter transitions but we will approach that slowly and I’ll be very careful to push him just enough that I don’t break this thin thread of trust/comfort.

Not only is it nice to get some extra time in the saddle but it’s great to have a mini-“project” or something specific to work on with a horse- I’ve never really had that opportunity before and, if I really think about it, I have probably never been at the right level in my own training to take on a project.

There is a local show going on this Saturday that a friend and I are going to attend. It will be a fun day of pony and people watching!

Also, I am fundraising for one of our therapy horses for the next few weeks and would be so pleased if someone from the blog community decided to help me support the handsome Bodacious Martini (barn name Walter). Click here to check it out!

 

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Left Behind

My canter departs suck.

This is my current inner monologue when my instructor mentions the c-word:

“oh good lord, ok… um sure, I can do this! working trot posting…with energy but not out of control…ok now sit three beats of the trot, suck in a big breath, support with inside leg, swipe outside leg, there is a tiger chasing us please please please”

This usually produces one of two possible results:

Option A: (most common result) Horse tactfully translates my poor excuse for an aid, explodes into canter, I get left behind the motion (every stinkin time), horse hauls me forward where I finally regain at least a passible seat, and we continue until my seat decays into overzealous thigh squeezing which horse interprets as a decent reason to break into a trot or I lose my right stirrup.

Option B: Horse has no clue what I am asking, practically startles at whatever uncoordinated “leg-swipey panic thing” just occurred on his back and tries to offer a faster trot in case that may have been what I wanted or Horse ignores glorified potato sack with helmet on and takes advantage of the situation by running out in a fast trot and innocently looking at the instructor like “well, if she wanted me to canter why didn’t she just say so?”

Oh, how I desperately want to get this right! It is just so hard to relax while simultaneously focusing so hard.

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Stressage

 

A picture really is worth a thousand words, isn’t it? Last night’s lesson proved to be…exciting. My sweet instructor conned me into riding the awesome Trakehner mare at our barn so I could feel her lovely gaits and enjoy her high level of experience. What she failed to mention is that all of the mares at the barn seem to be going into heat at the moment. Oh joy…

Truth: her gaits were quite lovely. Her trot was floaty and easy to follow and her canter was very nice… what I got of it anyway. Our lateral work was extremely encouraging and I was able to connect with her for some monster reach on our leg yields. Mini “yay”, for the fun was yet to come.

The canter. Well, we did get a decent transition from the walk into canter on a circle tracking left but she broke prematurely and it took me three tries to collect the trot enough to ask her into canter again…which she broke, again. After that, the whole thing went down hill. With my instructor talking me through it we tried to get her back into canter one more time but every time I set her up for it and asked she would squirt out into a fast trot. I re-balanced her at the trot and asked again, and then I re-balanced and asked with a kiss, and then I re-balanced and asked with a kick, and finally, even though at this point I was almost as out of breath as she was, I asked again. She shot forward and left me way behind, then bucked and I lost a stirrup and almost rode her neck for a moment before I regained my balance and circled. Weeee! Crisis averted, though, and I managed to stay in the saddle. My trainer was miffed (not at me) and got on her immediately to ahem…explain that her behavior was not acceptable and that a cue to canter means canter. She took her up into canter until the transition was prompt and smooth. I watched from the ground visualizing the whiskey mixed drink I certainly must have earned upon my arrival at home. She gave her back to me and told me she was being sluggish and stubborn even for her and that she isn’t usually like that. She said if I felt I needed to, I could get back on her and trot around a bit, but since she was already standing there with her legs splayed in exhaustion and a dejected “I’m sorry” look on her face, I opted just to cool her out. I really didn’t need the whole “get right back up when you fall off” thing because, well, I didn’t actually fall off, plus it certainly won’t make me apprehensive to ride again. I was more worried my instructor would assume I never wanted to ride her again after this. Instead she said it was just because she was going into heat and that she really liked me on her and that our lateral work was excellent.  Made me feel better, even if she was just throwing me a bone. 🙂

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