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

Fun With Canter Poles

Today’s riding lesson was one of my favourites yet (in fairness, pretty much every lesson is my new “favourite so far”). I was assigned to Dakota, a beautiful grey horse who’s sweet as can be, but has the most uncomfortable saddle I’ve ever endured. Sitting down hurts for 3 days after riding him.

I put down my brushes outside his stall and entered empty handed to say hello. Our instructor says that school horses can sometimes feel like motorcycles – we come in, ride them for an hour, then park them back in their stall and walk off – so it’s important to spend some time talking to them and petting them without tying them up or asking anything of them. Dakota had a heap of hay that demanded all his attention, so he wasn’t much interested in my attempt to make him feel important. Still, I enjoyed it.

After grooming and tacking up, I went down to the ring. The lesson started with a posting trot over some trot poles. I had trouble finding my rhythm. I don’t ride Dakota very often, and his trot is much more bouncy than Popeye’s (Popeye is the horse I’ve ridden for the last couple months). On Popeye, I really have to use my legs to get myself out of the saddle. After a few laps on Dakota, I found that I just needed to sink my weight into my heels and let him fall away from me then rise back up. Right or wrong, it helped me get a better rhythm and avoid slamming down on his back. Posting is hard, and I think it’ll be a while yet before I fully “get it”. I’m getting better at picking the right diagonal though. I still get it wrong sometimes and have to sit a beat to correct, but at least I can usually tell when I’m on the wrong diagonal!

Next the instructor set up the poles in a canter line. We lined up on one side of the ring, trotted one length, then went up in our two-point and cantered down the centre line over the poles. It was great fun! I’ve never cantered in two-point before. Dakota’s canter is bouncy too, so it was actually easier at the two-point than trying to sit the saddle. Our instructor pointed out that I was leaning forward and slumping my shoulders. The next time around I pulled my shoulders back. Wow! It felt completely different, I was finally able to find my balance. For the rest of the lesson I focused on keeping my shoulders back and sinking into my heals with each step.

The canter is such a beautiful gait. The gentle rising and falling, the familiar pat-pat-pat 3 beat rhythm, the sheer power of it; it’s all so quintessentially horse-like. Even though it’s only a few paces in a small arena, in my mind it’s just me and my horse, cantering over vast rolling fields of green grass and sunshine. For those few moments, there’s nothing more perfect in the entire world.

We finished by walking our horses out while the next lesson group mounted up. They worked hard today, so we let them walk for a full twenty minutes before taking them back to their stalls for grooming. I gave Dakota a carrot to say thank you for letting a noob like me flop around on his back for an hour.

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Introduction

I’ve decided that for now, at least, this site will be a personal blog. And since the most interesting thing in my unemployed, recently-graduated-from-a-dead-end-university-degree life is horseback riding and horses in general, that will be what this blog is mostly about. I figure an introduction to my riding background is in order.

I use the word “background” loosely, because I only started riding in August of 2011. Unlike many people who seem to have started riding before they learned how to walk, I only recently realized that horseback riding was accessible even to those of us without a six figure income. I found a barn right in the city that offered reasonable rates, and was surprisingly serviced by major bus routes. I signed up for a summer camp with my mom, two sisters, and brother. The camp ran for five days, three hours per day, and served as an introduction to horse care and riding. We learned how to brush a horse and pick their hooves, how to tack up, clean our tack, and of course, some simple riding. I was immediately addicted. In September I signed up for weekly riding lessons, along with my mom and sisters.

As of this post I’ve been riding once per week for 5 months. We’ve been introduced to the walk, trot (posting and sitting), and canter, and are working on getting better at all of them. I love every second of it. I’m also pursuing a career in horse care, so I can be around horses while I earn money to pay to ride horses!

Sunday, January 29th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Trying this again

So I’m trying out setting up this wordpress site again. For now at least it’s no longer going to be a portfolio page, and rather just a random blog on which I can post my musings. It’ll probably be a while before I finish the design… if I ever do this time. Ignorance is bliss in some situations, and the more I learned about design in university, the more I became crippled by indecision.

Anyway! Until I get the proper credits and such up, the site’s background image is from here, credit contemplicity.

Friday, January 20th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments