Archive for March, 2014

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