Archive for February, 2014

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

We’re jumping again!

I’ve been surprised how good the weather has been this winter. It’s been dry enough to get a jumping lesson in every 4 weeks or so. Today was one of those days.¬†Quick roundup since I want to eat dinner!

1) Sit up after the jump! No seriously. My job isn’t done half way through the air. I have to remember to stay up in my half seat until well after we’ve landed as long as she’s being good.

2) Get the canter early. Do a circle if I have to. Don’t dash madly at the jump kicking and flapping, hoping it will all work out.

3) Shoulders up, look ahead rather than down at the jump.

I’ll try to say these things to myself every day until my next jump lesson, so I can do them at the start rather than at the end. I had so much fun tonight!

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 Lessons No Comments

Miss grumpy pants

Misty sticking her tongue out

This is what Misty thinks of your silly “riding” ideas

I was nervous as I pulled up to the barn today. Last week, Misty was a nightmare. She was rearing in her stall and managed to break the baling twine twice. She’s often grumpy in the arena, but I’ve never had her be anything but perfect in her stall. I thought maybe she was hurting, since she’s never been like that before. I opted to take her for a walk in hand rather than ride. But today, she didn’t get to pull that excuse again.

I got out of my car and imagined putting all my stress and anxiety in the trunk and locking it inside. If I’m afraid she’ll be naughty, then she will be. That’s not fair. I strode up to her stall thinking happy thoughts and gave her a big hug. As soon as I tied her up, she gave me a wild eye and tossed her head. She didn’t rear, but she danced around as if to say “I trust you, but I’m really scared right now”. I gave her a big pat to reassure her. Once she relaxed a little, I untied her and just looped a lead rope around to provide a little resistance. She stood nicely the rest of the time while I finished grooming and tacking. Yay!

With that victory completed, we went up to the ring for the actual ride. My goal today was to try tying the reins and riding with one or no hands. I didn’t make it to no hands, since Misty was really dropping her head and they kept sliding down her neck, but I alternated one handed riding. It was lots of fun. I always seem to have better balance when I let go of the reins, since it makes me focus on my core.

We got some good walk work in, including stopping facing the rail and doing a quarter turn on the forehands. We’re pretty terrible at them right now, but I did get her moving off a tiny bit faster today. I’ll have to keep practicing that a couple times each warm up. I think it will really help our leg yield if I can get her moving off my leg more easily. The trot was pretty mediocre, and she was none too happy to go forward. We finished up with a couple nice cruises around the ring in canter. I always love that part. I get up in two point and it feels like we’re flying. Once each way around, then I let her walk and cool off. I got off grinning like an idiot and gave her a huge hug.

The sun was bright and even a little warm, so Misty got out for a well deserved graze. She performed admirably when an off leash dog came running up yapping. The grass was way more interesting anyway. I felt a huge amount of trust today. Normally the back of my head is alert for scary horse eating monsters and making sure Misty doesn’t step too close to pot holes. Today I just pet her and enjoyed her company. We were both much more relaxed. I mixed in some ground work, which I’ve been doing for a past couple weeks and has really been paying off. Misty now stops right beside me when I do, and is improving at walking forward with me. Today I got her to take a couple steps backward with me, and to move her hind quarters quickly and freely when I ask. Misty very much enjoys getting her face stuffed with treats, so this works well for both of us.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lesson!

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments

Making the most of my lease days

I started leasing Misty in August of 2013. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to spend time just hanging out with “my” horse. I take her out to graze, wash her tail, and do groundwork with her. I get to lease her on Wednesdays, then I have my lesson on Thursday.

"my" horse Misty

The struggle I’m having now is how to really make the most of my riding time. I have come to appreciate how important it is to have someone on the ground telling you when you look like a floppy chicken. Just coming up with a lesson plan is a challenge, since I have trouble knowing how long to keep doing one exercise, when to move on, when to stick to my guns and keep asking, and so on.

I’ve decided to start picking one goal for each lease ride. Sometimes it will be a mantra like “keep your hands quiet” that I’ll work on through all gaits. Other times it could be “improve canter transitions” or “practice leg yields in walk and trot”. I think picking a goal will help me feel I’m accomplishing something without just riding around in circles for an hour.

I’ll also try to commit to keeping a log here of my rides. Things that worked, things that didn’t, and especially tips and homework from my instructor on lesson day.

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 Lease Day No Comments