He likes me… He likes me not…

So, Misty is crushing pretty hard on Paddy (one of the other lesson horses). She pees about 4 times per lesson, and I always know where in the arena he is by the direction Misty is yanking her nose. Today she was extremely hard to get moving away from Paddy, and nearly impossible to halt when she got behind him. Yay mares!

We did some figure eight trots over poles. Nothing much to say about this exercise. I was supposed to be working on bend and roundness and such, but I had to spend most of the time getting her attention on me instead of Paddy. We did the same thing in the canter next, and I was finally able to get her feet moving. We did some awesome transitions from canter to trot back to canter.

Jumps! Instructor set up small jumps in the centre so that we jumped in the middle of the figure eight, tried to land on the opposite lead, then came around and jumped again. It was crazy fun. Misty did awesome, and I wasn’t horrible. I stayed off her back pretty well and didn’t collapse on the landing. I kept my elbows mostly soft.

No real breakthroughs or tips from this lesson, just tons of fun. I’m off to Mexico soon, so I won’t be riding for the next 2 weeks.

Friday, April 11th, 2014 Lessons No Comments

Spring is here!

Last week’s lesson was fun and challenging. The most important exercise I learned was about flexion.

Exaggerated Flexion on a Circle

Instructor had me get Misty moving with lots of impulsion on a twenty metre circle. Then I had to take my inside hand all the way back to my hip to really bend Misty’s neck. Give with the outside rein enough for her to flex but without losing contact, and keep her on the circle with my inside leg. This proved… challenging. I kept letting her fall in. In between attempts I let her go straight and stretch out her neck with her nose near the ground. Instructor’s tips were to give the aid clearly, then let it happen. If I start nagging or fiddling, she’ll just put her head up and fall apart, so if that happens, go forward then start again. We did get a few awesome steps in each direction, which I was thrilled with. Misty is apparently quite a hard horse to get on the bridle. I look forward to trying this with Mr Bean next time I get to ride him, since I bet he’d be awesome at it.

*tweedle deedle time ripple to today’s lease day*

It was a gorgeous, sunny day today. 11 degrees and no wind. Somehow I was still the only one in the outdoor arena this morning. Misty was a brat at first and refused to walk up to the mounting block, then stopped repeatedly during warm up. After a couple minutes of arguing though we agreed that I was the leader. After some loose rein trotting and stretching, the canter warm up went great. Misty doesn’t even try to buck anymore. She offered right lead canter without too much trouble.

I worked on three exercises at the trot today. First we did circles with flexion like we learned in lesson last week. I had a bit of trouble judging how well we were actually completing the exercise, but it did feel a lot better than before. I was able to keep her on some semblance of a circle with my leg. In between bends I let her neck down, then switched direction. Next I tried for a bit of roundness. A few times I had to do a short canter transition to remind her to keep her feet moving. We did some figure eights so I could practice changing to my new inside leg and outside hand. I kept repeating to myself “hold the outside rein, keep it off her neck”. Finally I did a couple leg yeilds. Misty was unusually responsive and bendy by this point. The slightest movement from my hand and she flexed. I should try doing quick versions of these exercises in warm ups to get this responsiveness more often! The leg yields themselves were mediocre, though definitely way better than past attempts. I need to figure out how to get her moving her back legs in response to my aids. I’ll try to remember to ask my instructor tomorrow.

I didn’t do too much canter work, since I’d been doing a bit of canter already to keep Misty going forward. We did have a couple awesome transitions while doing figure eights though, and of course the pure joy of careening around the arena. I got immediate left lead transitions and right lead transitions within 3 steps, so that’s a big improvement.

After the ride I washed her tail and back legs. Look how pretty! (Also I finally updated my iPhone to iOS 7 and I swear it takes worse pictures now :( Realistically I probably just had dirt on the lens).

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Someone was unloading hay to the barn rafters and blocking our way out with the big scary truck, so we did a few carrot stretches in her stall. “Why you take picture instead of giving me treats?”

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Last on the agenda was a nice walk/graze. It’s definitely spring now, and the nearby paths get greener every week. We’re back to a pace of approximately 1 metre per 5 minutes since she has so much to eat. This tall grass wasn’t there last week:

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Apparently it’s horse catnip, because Misty went nuts for it. She didn’t even look up as a few dogs walked by barking.

Before going back inside, I took Misty to the wash pad and asked to her stand there for a minute. She was so good! She walked on with almost no hesitation, and stood mostly still. She snorted a little, but had a good sniff and seemed to settle down. I even pulled out the good treats, so she called it a win. I hope I can get her comfortable enough to give her some full-body quicksilver baths this summer!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 Exercises, Lease Day, Lessons No Comments

Double Time

Today I got to ride two lessons in a row, since Instructor will be away next week. My first lesson was on Misty, and it was a jump lesson since it was beautiful weather.

Working Between Two Poles

We started very simply by trotting over two poles, placed quite far apart. I was supposed to imagine they were jumps, and come at them with the quality of trot I would want to jump with. I didn’t do very well the first time, but I upped the attitude and got Misty going the next time around. Then we cantered in and trotted out over the second pole. I had to work on doing a big half halt if she didn’t come back to trot right away. Finally, we cantered the whole way (in two-point) and I counted my strides. The first time we got an awkward six and a half strides because I let the canter die out in the middle. Next time I kept my leg on and we got a nice steady six.

Jump to Pole

Once Misty was feeling nice and adjustable, Instructor set up the first obstacle as a jump and we went a couple times in each direction. I had to trot in and canter out, then canter in and trot out, then canter the whole way. It really got me thinking about getting Misty back immediately after the jump. I focused hard on keeping myself out of the saddle the whole way over the jump, like I’d been working on last week. Instructor said I was much better at that this week. Yay! I did tip forward a couple of times though, so I have to keep telling myself to wait for the jump and stay tall.

Combination

To finish, Instructor raised the second obstacle to a jump as well. I had to come in at the canter, then half halt and trot over the second jump. It was a pretty big challenge, since Misty loves to get quick when she sees a jump. The first time I didn’t work hard enough and we had to canter the second jump. The next time I focused and got the trot. Then Instructor told me to circle and come right away in the canter for the whole combination. She had raised the second obstacle to a taller oxer. At the first jump, another student’s horse spooked and bolted, so I pulled out and stopped. I should have known better, because as soon as I came again, Misty ran out to the left. The same direction I had just pulled out in. I should have been ready with my inside leg, but my brain was just going “sit up, soft elbows, wait for the jump!”. Silly me. Anyway, we came again right away and got it. On one attempt I had a terrible jump in (read: we got to the jump deep and I tipped WAY forward, completely getting in Misty’s way), but we salvaged it and jumped the oxer very well.

I definitely had a lot of stupid moments, but I feel like I improved a lot from last week. I have to simultaneously work on saying the right things to myself before a jump, while also shutting my brain the hell up and just going with it. I’m so excited to see where we are by the end of summer!

Once my lesson on Misty was done, I had to hoof it up to the barn and tack up Mr Bean for the lesson right after. Unfortunately we passed his friend on the walk back to the ring, so he screamed a bit, but was overall pretty well behaved. My lesson on Mr Bean was basically all the same exercises again, so I won’t list them all. The idea was to practice getting the same feeling and the same results on a completely different horse. Bean is small and athletic. He goes forward easily, but is hard to steer. He likes to bulge, cut in, and counter bend. He’s pretty much the exact opposite of Misty. It was a great learning experience for me to ride the same exercises back to back, since it highlighted which parts were my fault. I definitely have a tendency to tip forward, particularly on the second jump when I’m cantering in and trotting out. I anticipate the jump, and instead of going to a tall two-point, I just bend forward. Bean was awesome though, and we had a couple spectacular attempts. It took me a while to find my balance, but by the end I was able to get out of his way. I’ll try to get a picture of him to post next week!

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 Exercises, Lessons No Comments

A New Centre

So today I resolved to practice balancing in my new jump stirrup length. I warmed up at my normal length, then hiked them up. At first it was quite uncomfortable. I kept feeling like I was tipping up Misty’s neck, or that I would just topple off. Some things that helped me feel more comfortable were holding Misty’s mane to keep my hands moving, bending my knees, and consciously engaging my core. I definitely didn’t get it perfect at the walk or trot, but I think I made some big improvements. I did some posting where I went between two point and standing. We had a few great moments where she was very responsive to my leg, and I tried to keep it interesting for her by doing lots of turns, figure eights, and changes of direction.

The canter was amazing today. By this point I had the ring to myself, so I was able to barrel around without a care. We careened around corners, weaved back and forth, flew up the diagonal, and twisted our way through the centre. Misty had her ears pricked forward the whole time and seemed so happy. I can’t believe how far we’ve come. Two weeks ago I was getting to the point where I was almost scared to even try to canter. Now our transitions are snappy and I don’t tense up at all. By the end I was feeling quite comfortable in my shorter stirrups. I wasn’t quite staying up without touching the saddle at all, but I was able to go for eight to ten strides consistently before losing it.

Since we were having so much fun already, I popped her tack off and cooled her out bareback. She’s not the most comfortable, but it’s still awesome.

IMG_1888Ah, the joys of a grey horse that loves rolling in… everything.

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Bareback “selfie”!

 

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Flying High

Tonight’s lesson was amazing! It was a private, since the girl I normally ride with booked the day off. The weather was a perfect 15 degrees with light clouds. Jumping time! Warm up was getting Misty on the aids and getting a quick and responsive canter transition. We did lots of fast transitions to get her moving, and she responded nicely.

Small Crossrail

We started with a simple crossrail. Enter at the trot, canter out. First attempt I focused entirely on shoulders up, stay tall, out of the tack the whole ride. My position over the jump was awesome, but I failed to get a canter. We trotted in and out. Next attempt I added a little oomph. We got the canter out, but I fell into the saddle. My instructor had me grab mane to help me balance and give her the freedom to go forward afterwards, and it helped. “Shoulders back, soft elbows, stand up, go forward”.

Crossrail Bounce

Next, she set up a second small crossrail to make a bounce. My goal was to keep my butt from touching the saddle the entire way through, and a few strides after. After a couple attempts though, I was still touching the back of the saddle in the middle of the bounce. Instructor told me to swing my hips, and stick my belly button out. This helped, and I did get a couple good jumps.

Triple Bounce

I’m not sure if that’s what it’s called, but Instructor set up a taller vertical after the two crossrails so that we did three jumps in a row. It suddenly became obvious that my stirrups were much too long, and that was why I wasn’t able to get out of the tack and bend my knees. We brought them up three holes on each side. It felt super strange. I did a few circles in trot and canter, testing out my two point position. I felt like I was standing on Misty’s back. It made a huge difference though. I was able to get into two point, bend my knees, and not touch the saddle. It will take practice to not feel so precarious with short stirrups, but I think it will help a lot. We did the exercise again, and I was able to stay up and forward much more easily.

Triple Bounce with a Turn

To finish up, we did the same jump sequence, but with a turn at the end. Just as we entered the bounce, Instructor called out left or right. It wasn’t a tight turn, but I had to collect the canter and make the turn quite quickly. I failed pretty hard at this. We missed a couple times, and I tipped forward a lot. I was still working on my balance with the short stirrups. I can definitely improve on this by practicing on my lease day.

One of the coolest feelings this lesson was making the tight turn in the canter to get into the jump sequence. The jumps were in the middle of the arena, so I had to come down the rail and turn up the centre line in the canter. It was pretty tight for me. I imagined the way the riders in Rolex look when they did tight turns. The really sit, centre themselves, and help their horses through. I imagined myself looking like them, and there were a few awesome feeling turns.

My homework is to practice “posting” out of the tack in the trot and canter, doing two point to standing over and over again. I also have to think “belly forward” and “elbows soft”.

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 Exercises, Lessons No Comments

Canter NOW

It was a beautiful, sunny day today, with highs of 14. I was so excited to ride outside! The outdoor arena was still a little frosty when I arrived at 9:30am, so I took the time to wash Misty’s tail. Some workers were up on the roof drilling and dropping things. All the horses were pretty spooky, but Misty did very well. She pranced and backed up a few times, but she always calmed down and stood with me. Needless to say, she got quite a lot of cookies!

Here’s the result of her bath. Her tail isn’t quite “white”, but at least it isn’t full of poop and twigs. And I can get a brush through it again. I cleaned up her back legs a bit too, since she’s quite good at aiming her poop all over them.

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She got a shiny new blanket, too! I’ve never seen the 3 lesson horses with blankets that aren’t patched up and faded. I think she looks pretty striking. Also, look how glowing white she is! (shh, it has nothing to do with the photo being overexposed, nope).

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By the time I was done, the outdoor arena was sunny and warm. We had an amazing ride. After a long walk warm up, we did some nice trot. Then it was time to test out my canter trick. I mentally prepared myself – no wimping out, use the whip! I can do this! Deep breath… I asked nicely and clucked. She pinned her ears. I tapped her with the whip. She started to buck. I sat my butt down and pulled her head up. She went “what the crap… ok, canter”.  Wow. I grinned ear to ear as we cantered around a circle. Then it was back to trotting and walk breaks for a little bit. We didn’t do much hard work in the trot. A couple lame attempts at leg yielding, and some circles with bending in then out. Once she was nicely stretched out, I went back to canter. The trick worked again! Over and over I was able to get her cantering within a few steps of asking. She didn’t get one buck out the entire ride. We did some canter serpentines, and she was amazing. I didn’t have to use the whip at all after the first couple times. I couldn’t stop smiling.

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Misty says “I don’t like it when you figure out my tricks”.

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Oops, forgot my lesson post!

Apparently I forgot to post about my lesson last week. It was a good one. The arena was super busy when I first came in – there were 8 horses at one point. Luckily it calmed down before my lesson started.

I can’t quite remember the trotting exercises we did, but there weren’t any breakthroughs there. We did a bit of getting her round, some bending, some halt transitions. The important part was this:

Controlling the Canter Depart

We continue to struggle with the trot > canter transition. I sometimes do a whole circle clucking and kicking like an idiot, and Misty just gets a faster trot. Instructor told me to use my whip, then right away stop her from bucking by sitting deep and holding the reins firm. This tip to stop her bucking really helped my confidence. To be honest I’ve been nervous to use my whip, because she always does a big buck when I do. She sure had me trained. Now that I’m learning to pull her head up when I feel her getting ready to buck, I can stop her before she starts. It was tough and I still got a few bucks, but I definitely got it right a couple times, so I know what it feels like. Now to practice!

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 Exercises, Lessons No Comments

Another nice ride

Misty was an angel in her stall today. She stood calmly while I got her ready to go. I know there’s a lesson that ends at 10am and often the indoor is empty for a while after that, so I aimed to get there right at 10. That didn’t work out today. Someone else was starting just as I walked in. Luckily it was someone I really like. She’s friendly, a great rider, and it’s easy to share the whole ring with her. Hurray!

The walk went well. I let Misty meander around for a couple laps since it was cold. Then I took off her cooler and asked for more rhythm. She moved forward nicely. I focused on not nagging. Squeeze, let her keep the rhythm, squeeze again only if she slows down. She responded nicely. We had a few stalls where she decided to stand still, but we got going again.

She picked up the trot quite easily. I did a few walk trot transitions to get her listening. I’ve learned that also gets her moving in a faster trot, too. We worked on shortening and extending, bending, and roundness. I still have trouble feeling when she’s round, but I think I got a few steps.

Canter transitions were not good. We did a couple circles of fast fast trot instead. Then I remembered what Instructor said about how you have to half halt and take the reins, give her something to move into. So I pulled her back. Bam! She dropped into canter and I grinned from ear to ear. We cruised around once in two point as a reward – she loves going fast. I negotiated my space in the arena and tried not to be a bother on the other rider, and managed to do one figure eight canter exercise like we’d done in class last week. It went pretty well! As soon as I got a good transition, I gave her lots of “good girl”s and did one more bolt around the ring. Yay Misty!

She was still sweaty after walking around the ring a few times, so I traded her tack for her cooler and took her out for a walk. The groundwork is paying off. She stops quickly when I do and follows me around much more easily. When I turn, she turns. She even backed up with me while I shut the gate. Here’s her “I did good, where’s my treat?” face:

We found a little bit of green on the ground for her to eat. The only issue was the very scary horse-eating woodpecker hiding on a light post. She spooked a few times, but not too badly.

Horse Eating WoodpeckerCan’t wait for my lesson tomorrow!

 

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Figure Eights

My lesson went great tonight! It may have been my imagination, but I swear that when I came into the arena, Misty stopped and stared at me (much to the annoyance of the poor girl in the lesson before me!). She stood nicely for me as I set my stirrups and lead her to the mounting block. The warmup was relatively uneventful, with her moving quite nicely. We even did a nice quarter turn on the haunches at the wall. The exercise focused on figure eights in all gaits.

Figure Eight Walking 

Do a circle in each direction at the walk. Focus on being straight in the middle, then bending to the new inside leg and outside rein. Practice flexing in for a couple steps, then straight, then out for a couple steps. I only did this a couple times before progressing to the trot, but it really showed me how hard I need to work on keeping a marching rhythm while bending.

Figure Eight Trotting

Do a circle in each direction at the trot. Focus on getting your horse round. Bend to the inside, then straight through the middle of your eight, then bend to the new inside. Keep the rhythm, don’t let her slow down. I also need to learn to ask for a little more. If she can trot around with her nose in the dirt, then she’s stretched out and ready to come up into a frame. Don’t let her be lazy, keep asking until I get a response.

Figure Eight Canter

I haven’t worked on flying changes yet, so we did a circle in the canter, followed by a step or two of trot in the straight centre, then right back up to canter in the other direction. This was such a fun exercise! I got her cantering, did a circle, then started my pattern. The first few were messy. We didn’t worry about her frame, just about the steering and the transitions. She was happy to pick up the right lead, but struggled on each left lead. I had to fight for a few steps to make it happen. Going back to the right lead though, I had a couple amazing transitions where we trotted for one step that straight back up to a beautiful canter. I tightened my core, softened my hands and elbows, and really felt connected to her for a few perfect moments. I felt like even though I was sitting, I wasn’t a burden on her back, because I was still carrying myself. Misty had some great movements and transitions. I do have to focus on keeping my shoulders square and my hips centered. I have a tendency to lean into turns and drop my hip, which can cause her to lose balance. I can’t wait to try this exercise again!

Friday, February 28th, 2014 Exercises, Lessons No Comments

Happy Human

I showed up at the barn with no idea what kind of horse I’d be greeting. I was prepared for rearing, ear pinning, and twine breaking. Instead I got the sweet mannered angel I was used to. Misty was perfect while I groomed and tacked her. While I was sorting out the straps on her bridle, she turned her head and craned her neck in order to stick her face into the bridle. She even grabbed the bit with her lip and sucked it in. So cute! I gave her a big hug. Up to the arena we went, through leftover snow. The rider inside was on her way out, warning me that snow was falling off the roof and spooking horses. Misty stood nicely as I picked the snow clods out of her feet, then toddled along at my side to the mounting block.

The ride went well. I focused on praise. Every time she did something I asked, or even tried, I showered her with praise. She responded well. I got a nice stretchy trot out of her. I did struggle a little bit with roundness and getting her on the bridle. She was much more content to run around with her nose on the ground. I practiced steering without my reins and controlling speed with my core. Then we went to the canter. The transitions weren’t exactly speedy, but she didn’t buck at all. I had trouble picking up the right lead. Even on a circle, she kept choosing the left lead. I repeated a few times until I got it, then we cruised around the arena in half seat for fun. I finished up with trying a few steps of collected canter. This proved tricky, and resulted in lots of breaks to trot, but we got it. I hugged her and told her she was good so many times.

Friday, February 28th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments