Sunday, June 10, 2018

Our First Novice!!!!

So.. this week was crazyness!! We had a lesson Tuesday with Cindy and tried the epiphany again after my lesson. I also tried the 17.5 inch seat, but I like the 17 inch seat better. So yay! Done deal. Chocolate brown :) Now to wait 3 months and try to sell both of my dressage saddles to help pay for it. :) And honestly, at this point I'm so brain fried that I can't remember much about my lesson. Ugh..

So then Thursday I worked instead of taking the day off since I took the day off Friday to go to Chatt and XC school with Liz and show. 

So... Friday we went to Chatt and XC schooled. Danny was a bit on edge and after having a light week, he needed a run. So once we got out there I let him gallop a hair. I kept him in check and didn't let him go full out because I didn't want to overdo it or have him hurt himself. We still had to school XC and then do a one day the next day. And it was our first novice! So I kept him under wraps but let him gallop. We still clocked at 27 mph. And he was cross cantering/galloping some. And then we schooled. I felt a little bit like I was cheating because I jumped all but the last two novice fences. But you know... it's been 10 months since our last event and we have never done novice at a show and we've only XC schooled at Gibbs, cedar ridge and then ashland, so... I felt like that it was putting money in the bank more than cheating. ;) We had to jump them all individually for the most part because of other people schooling but it was okay. We did one or two training tables for fun. He was good! We jumped the up bank to the table out and as we came up to the novice one, he spooked at the training log stack next to it, so I figured we could just continue up the BN bank and out and then we circled around and jumped the novice one and he was fine. Hee hee. Then they had a nice table with wings on the side (kind of like up in the air wings, so... half a keyhole in a way) and I joked that I kind of wanted to jump that. Turns out, it was on the novice course (shared with training) so... I did. :) I let Dan walk up and see it and then we circled and he jumped right on over it like it was nothing :) Yay!

So then I iced him and wrapped him and walked him some after dinner and went to bed. Saturday was so freakin' hot!!! It was sweltering! And it's only June! So he mostly stayed in his stall with the fans. 
Dressage was good. He warmed up nicely but one of us was hanging on the right rein. Our test went better than warm up I thought! I thought it was quite a nice test. We scored a 32.6 which put us 4th out of 7. Oops. Oh well. 

Stadium was tough.  That was a really hard time for me. The fences looked HUGE compared to what I was expecting although once we started on course, they didn't necessarily look as big. But my eye was off. I kept riding him and then checking and half halting and shutting him down and/or burying him under the big fences. He was getting pissed at me. I thought maybe it was the tight warm up space but even on course I did it. Granted it was a tight course and the jumps came up super quick. I just couldn't get in the groove. I think I managed one decent fence out of all 9. Ugh. Danny was a saint and got us out of all of them with no rails. But he was mad!! He tried to spook at someone hitching their trailer and bolt up the hill to the barn. Sigh... 
But we finished on a great note! We had one warm up fence on XC and then headed out. It was great. He was super and I was able to get my eye to cooperate a bit more. We only had a few funky fences. He was brave and bold and went right in the water! He tried to drift out of the V jump but once I closed my leg, he was like "oh, okay then" and politely went to it. We finished JUST before speed faults and had to zig zag a good bit before the second to last fence but we had fun!! Yahoo!!!!

We finished in 3rd place on our dressage score. :) Yay!
I'm so bummed as my helmet cam didn't cooperate and it should have been recording but there were "SD card issues". Ugh.. Drats.. So the only video I got was one schooling over the V and then my terrible stadium round. Oh well. :) 

But he's now a novice horse :) :) :) 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Jumping Bean!!!

Oh I love this horse!! We had a great lesson today! We got to ride with Jamie and Atlas so we got to be cool and ride with the big kids. ;) 

It was grid day, so we started off over the tidy collected bounce pole, vertical, bounce pole "grid" to start.  From the very beginning Dan was better. Well... let me rephrase. I rode better so Dan was better. :) We got a pretty nice bouncy canter and for the most part, he stayed in front of my leg. So then we headed to the grid. It was a bounce of little verticals to a one stride big oxer then another one stride to another set of bounce little verticals. Beth said the goal was to keep that tidy collected canter through the bounces, then jump the big fence in a slightly more open stride, and then land and let the bounce teach the horses how to collect back up. It should have been pretty tough but both Atlas and Dan rocked through it from the very beginning. :) I mean, it was still fairly tough and we both had to ride hard, but it wasn't as disastrous as I was expecting! 

Going through the Grid

Danny kept himself fairly collected and other than a time or two that we got a funky distance to the first fence (but we fixed it before we finished the line!!!) where he either got a little behind my leg or he asked if she should move up or rock back and I just ignored the question so he had to flounder a little.... he was great! He kind of clocked right through them! It was a blast! Beth kept raising it and that middle oxer got kind of wide and scary looking with the rails up in an X form. But it rode great. 

A little behind the leg over the first bounce, but we fixed it

So what we did work on, since Dan was being so super, was my release today. Beth had me ride with my hands a bit farther up on the reins and that way I could half halt with just a little bit rather than having to make too much movement with my hands and arms. And... while I was afraid at first that it was going to put me too tipped forward and in front of the saddle... It helped my position. I think anyways. It felt like I almost had to push my shoulders away from hands so it helped. Beth said I needed to release more down, not just forward. Like hugging Dan! So we worked on that. It's a lot easier to work on it in a grid rather than over each fence individually. I also worked on my leg position and keeping my feet in front of me a hair. And then Dan was drifting a little bit to the right in the beginning, but by the end, he stopped. Whether I got better about closing my right leg and opening the left rein or he just got straighter because his canter was more correct and he wasn't trying to find more room... I don't know. But he was straight. :) 

So yep... a really fun lesson! Hot though.. holy moly it was hot!  And Dan even got his front feet iced because Jamie had the ice in the boots all ready to go and Beth needed her so.. instead of having it melt before Atlas could get in the boots, she let me use it for Dan. So he got spoiled. He was a good boy too and we managed to even keep the boots upright the entire time and not spill them when he came out of them. :) Yay!

After we got back, the boys got turned out and Mike and I went to the lake for some fun!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Leif Clinic

So.. today we did something different. :) We went to Dana Clarks place for a lesson with Leif Aho. He trained with Mary Wanless and is big into biomechanics. I was excited!

I ended up having the boys in all day yesterday because it was so hot so I turned them out last night. And I knew Danny would be muddy. So he got a bath this morning and then I left him in his stall for a bit while I went to watch the beginning of the clinic. It was neat! I like Leif. I was able to watch all of Nikki's ride, some of Dana's and most of Peri's before I had to go get Dan. Pam was there too but had gotten her truck and trailer stuck. I was paranoid and threatened to park in the church next door and walk over. But I didn't. I took Nikki's spot after she left and stayed on high ground. We've just had SOOOOOO much rain lately. So anyways... I got Dan there and he was a bit alert but not bad, since it was a new place. We had gotten on and were just starting to let him look around when the two truck pulled up. So... props to the kid because he held it together while they wrenched her truck out. They couldn't get her trailer. So I kept walking him around. Dana has 3 sets of mirrors in her arena. Danny was funny. He'd look at himself and then try to peer behind the mirror. Hee hee. Then we started to trot and he was hilarious!! He'd see himself in the mirror and head that way, then catch himself in the corner of his eye in the other mirror and whirl around like "where'd he come from" and then catch the other mirror and turn the other way. Hee hee. He was funny. So then he got himself all worked up and was doing his springs imitation. My post was lasting about 12 seconds each post. Hee hee. Lots of up and down but very little forward. Of course after about 6 laps he got bored and we just went to work. :)

Leif changed a few things, which was tough. Not so much tough in theory.. just tough to change my body memory and tough a little bit because of how my body is built. He had me bring my lower leg back a bit so that my leg was more underneath me and had me drape more thigh on Danny, rather than just calf. He also wanted me to open my knees a little but not pinch with them, but keep my upper thigh on the saddle. Then he wanted me to just rise a bit more in the up part of the trot. Which... was a little tricky because as I rode in the saddle, with my legs a bit more behind me, I was tipping and it wasn't allowing my hips to open as well as they should have. But I tried it. Not sure how successful I was, but we tried.

We also discussed how I allow that right side of his to get longer and longer. So Leif had me picture two things or rebar up the back of my shoulders and two up the front of my shoulders. He said to keep the right hind rebar nice and straight because I was collapsing my right side and allowing those muscles to be weak and thus allowing Dan to just get longer and weaker. And to keep my elbow attached to my side. So basically... the magic bullet Cindy had taught me that I have to keep fighting to maintain and work against body habit. So that helped a bit. He also suggested that I don't overturn my body (hmm..... I am positive Cindy has said that too!) in the turns and instead almost turn a little to the left when turning right and vice versa. Oh, and another helpful image he added was to picture vaulting handles just in front of my saddle and have my pull the right one to the right to get Dan to turn right. It was a helpful analogy.

So anyways... we worked on my alignment a bit, thus getting Danny straighter, and then we went on to the squigglies. The goal of this is to keep Danny's shoulders evenly "fluffed". Or "Stuffed". So.. a stuffed animal should have firm fluffed/stuffed arms on both sides. Dan's shoulders and contact in the bridle should also be evenly stuffed. When he bulges out the right shoulder, he's unstuffing the left shoulder blade and rein. So the squigglies helps keep that stuffing even. So... at the walk, trot, and canter, we would turn right, then turn left, then turn right, then turn left, etc. The goal was to get them to lift their shoulders and turn in the front, and the back would naturally follow. But he had to stay evenly fluffed. And it was a helpful way to think about it and to see the holes. When we turned left, a few times I could feel Danny just tip over that left shoulder rather than lifting it out of the way. So yeah.. Pretty helpful. And at the canter, it was a great tool, because it helped me realize that to improve my counter canter, Danny has to allow me to touch both reins and to keep both sides fluffed. He wants to swap every time I touch the outside rein because I'm throwing him off balance. So... this will help us realize that he can turn R and L within the canter and doesn't have to swap his leads. Leif said that if he does swap, to just get him back into the canter and carry on. No punishment, as it's not a true disobedience.. he was just offering an answer to a question I didn't meant to ask. (Again... Sounds like Cindy). So... yep. It was an interesting ride. I feel like I got some good takeaways. And Danny was good in a new place.

After I walked him out a bit and we were able to open and close Dana's gate. He even closed it with his nose. Hee hee. Then I had him tied to the trailer for a bit and I was bragging on him as Dana and Sherry were impressed he'd stay there. And not 2 minutes later he got all animated and starting dancing at the end of the lead rope. I knew it was coming and sure enough... he pawed it with his foot and broke the haystring and went running around. He let me catch him quickly though and then he got put in the trailer.

Some Trot Work

Canter squigglies

Last batch of canter squigglies

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Yay! Getting our mojo back

Super fun lesson today!! Poor Danny. He's getting his hiney worked! But he seems to be eating it up. 

We hauled up to Morning Run for a lesson with Beth. It was HOT. And muggy. Ugh. We warmed up and then went to jumping. Todays lesson was adjustability. :) Great..... (that was written in a very sarcastic tone). But it actually went super well and I was quite pleased with the squirt. :) 

We started off with a small vertical with two ground poles set as bounces. The goal was to compress and get him tight and compact and bouncy. It took a bit. It took a long bit. BUT... when I got him in front of my leg (which didn't take that much work today despite the heat and humidity! Yay!) and got him on the bit, it was a lot easier. 

From there we went to the next line, which was two ground poles one stride out on each side over a gate. That was a "normal" gait. And that was a bit easier to get done but i still had to ride better. It helped when I shortened my reins and got my hands down at the neck and in front of me, rather than flailing around behind me. ;) 

Then we added in the final line which was 3 wide oxers that were set long. So I had to push for reach. However.. the first time through, I rode the same and we ended up getting 4. And it was a poopy four. So then Beth told me to get a bigger stride, but I cheated and basically XC galloped into the line. Yep, that was easier. Ha! So she wanted me to get a bigger stride before the fences but really ask for the reach within the line. THe whole point is adjustability and NOW not... when he feels like it. So the third time was much better and sure enough, like she said, a few more times in and I was almost having to half halt. 

So then we put it all together. And... bless his heart.. my horse is a saint and incredibly athletic! I came gung ho through the 3 stride but didn't bother collecting him enough for the one stride. And when we hit the first pole I think my brain thought "bounce" and I threw myself up his neck. (Funny how earlier the long spot was scary and I held him back and now I'm throwing myself at him.. ugh). But he saved the day but jumping it. And not just jumping it but somehow getting practically underneath it and jumping it with me on his neck, somehow without even touching it, and then getting out over the pole after. Good grief!! He's such a good boy. He got lots of praise and then we came back to it and he didn't bat an eye. Just kept coming and this time I rode better and collected him more correctly and we had a nice ride. Then we headed down to the collected bounce poles and got through there. Not as nicely as when we started there. But we got it done. So then she had us do it backwards. We actually managed that fairly nicely. 

And then we finished with doing the long 3 strides straight to the short bouncy collected bounce line. Ugh. That was hard! And by this point Dan was getting tired. So... we made one big last effort where I really rode and did it quite nicely! The first time through we had to make too big of an effort over the last fence and while I was able to get him collected it was as he was going over the bounce pole instead of in the corner. And the second time it was better but I still waited too long. So Beth suggested that I make life easier by riding a bit bolder into the first of the 3, so that by the time he gets to the third fence I can be a bit more holding and then I can jump that last jump almost as a drop and keep my butt in the saddle a bit and my landing gear in front of me, so that I can half halt more effectively and get the canter for the bounce line easier. And it worked!! We nailed it! So we quit with that.

And Beth gave us great compliments today. She said that Dan was looking great and she was impressed because not many horses his age and level (even horses running novice) were that adjustable. :) YAY!! And then she said that I rode really well too. YAY!! We're getting our asses back in action. :)

So then I hosed him off and let him sit in front of the fan for a bit. And as we were getting ready to leave the bottoms opened up and it POURED! Beth was standing behind him and I was in front of him when a huge thunder boom hit. It scared all of us it was so loud. We all jumped. Luckily Dan didn't squish either of us. After about 10 minutes it settled down enough for us to leave but we had to haul home in the rain and lightning. 

But we made it. And he got a nice big dinner and turned out with Flecky. :) 

This picture isn't from today but.. how cute is he?! He looks so sleepy! Or stoned out of his mind. ;) 

Rodeo Riding

Ha! Not really....

We had a lesson today and because of all the rain there was about 5 or 6 of us riding in the indoor, plus about 6 jumps set up, and Jessica was sitting on the rail by the gate but there was a fence there too. So.. it was a bit of a tight squeeze. And Cindy wanted me to work on counter canter serpentines. It was tough! Steering was paramount and it was tricky enough, but then Dan kept swapping on me. And when he swapped Cindy wanted me to do a small circle into the rail to go back to true lead... Which was tough because it always seemed to happen when I was in a tight spot. So... yeah. It got a little crazy.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

XC Lesson with Kelly

I was a Princess today. Ha! Beth had mentioned XC schooling at Chatt Hills today a few weeks ago. So I put it on my calendar and was super excited. And then she cancelled because of the weather. I was so bummed. I thought about going by myself (or dragging Mike as a grounds person) but I know we're so out of practice and I would need help. Beth was teaching at Ashland but... I really wanted someplace different. I know that I can learn things and improve over the jumps at Ashland but I really just wanted a change of pace. (I know... I'm so spoiled... Ashland rocks... I'm so blessed!) So I messaged Kelly to see if she could teach at Cedar Ridge and she said yes! Luckily the weather cooperated and we got in a great school. 

Well, it was a great school but it was tough. It was disconcerting how "Off" we are. Well, I am. I don't know what happened but suddenly I want the deep spot instead of the flyers and now he feels too fast to me. Ugh... To be honest, both of us were a bit chicken today. BUT.... we worked through some things and made big progress. And Danny is a saint! I so love this horse!

So... we started off by him spooking and WAY overjumping the little ditch/stream of swamp water on our way to the XC field. Hee hee. But he did jump it. It took some convincing and it would have been at least one XC stop, but he did it. We did it twice but then headed to our lesson. Kelly had driven ahead and I didn't want to keep her waiting. We started off warming up and reminded Dan that leg means go. Shock and Awe! One of these days I hope to not have to remind him EVERY ride, but.. today was not that day. And that's okay. I need to be more consistent. I've gotten much better at doing it at the start of every ride, but as the ride goes on, I get a little less demanding in how little pressure I want to use to get a response. Which is totally not fair to him. As Kelly said today "that's a C". (Side bar... she mentioned my position was a B, which is good... and I said Nope... no it's not. I told her that I was a straight A student and B's were not acceptable. So... she then said my position was an A minus... really not bad and certainly not affecting Dan in any way but that if I wanted an A plus.....hence the C grade). So anyways, back to shock and awe. I need to taper it too. So... in the beginning, during transitions... shock and awe for sure. But out on course... if he's sluggish between fences, use my whip behind my leg and get a response. Just make sure I have enough time before the fence to resituate. And then, if he's been super but it's the end of the course and he's a little tired... and he doesn't respond, maybe instead of a "smack" I give him more of a cheerleading tap. So... useful information, especially as in an effort to be the straight A student I tend to go overboard... I need to hear that so my brain can focus on that and not be bonkers. 

So anyways, back to the lesson. We worked on my 2 point position. Kelly said that I tend to be a bit ahead of the motion. And I laughed as I was noticing that in a lot of my pictures. I feel like my position isn't bad (especially after reading the Jimmy Wofford article about galloping position and not standing in the stirrups) but that I was ahead of the motion a bit. I tended to hover about the withers rather than above the saddle. Kelly had me look down at my feet during my A minus position (Really, it's a B position but she was being nice). And I couldn't see my toes. They were JUST peeking out from my knee. Then she had me kick my feet a little ahead of me, and push my butt a little behind and that was my A plus position. However, I had to be careful not to let my shoulders drop too much or get sucked into the fetal position. She said this kept me closer to the tack too as I tended to make too big of movements. Then she had me look at my feet again. OH!! I can see almost my arch and all my toes. OHHHhhhhhhh... I didn't realize it was that big of a difference. So... now I have a visual check when I'm riding. 

So we started over the little baby tootsie rolls and worked on my position and making sure Danny was in front of my leg and responding to my leg. He was a good boy and I sort of got it figured out. Kelly said that I needed to get more bend in my ankle (Which is funny because I don't think I've ever heard that... but I get what she's saying). My ankles are bendy but I tend to put the weight on my toes rather than letting it sink into my heels. My ankles are bendy so it LOOKS like I have nicely bent ankles but I'm not actually using them like it's intended. I'm still sitting on my toes. So....she wanted me to sink my weight into my heels and know that my leg will move up and down a bit as my ankle moves as my weight goes into it. Then she said that I was really good at bending at the waist and in the ankle but my knee didn't seem to want to bend as much, so... if I felt like I was getting too "fetal position" or too "jockey style" or hunkered down... to make sure my knees were bending. 

Gracious! That's a lot to think about! So we started a little mini course and of course, I got a little too hunkered in the tack and abandoned Dan but once we got that figured out it got better. We started out okay and then she had us jump what I thought was a fairly substantial training level ramp jump. I hate ramps! She said it was novice height but could be on a training course. We walked up to it and discussed the theory of it. It's basically an oxer. Heck, almost EVERY XC course out there is an oxer or a vertical. Mostly square and ascending oxers though. So therefore, I didn't need to ride it as anything but. That helped. So we came around and the first time over it we nailed it!! Now granted, it felt a little fast and strung out but he jumped it right out of stride and it was lovely! And then... the next two times it was not good. I got too carried away with getting him in front of my leg and taking the flyer that I ran him at it and jumped up his neck a stride early. Luckily he is a saint and kept going over it both times, thus saving my hide. So we regrouped and attempted some other fences and fixed the issue. Basically what it boiled down to was a few things. One, I was being a bit of a chicken. Two, Dan was being a bit of a chicken. He wasn't quite confident jumping out of stride like that. Which is interesting, because both of us used to be much braver. But maybe that's because the fences were smaller. Maybe it's because we both have improved and our canter has improved and we realize we need a better canter. Who knows?! But we both chickened out a bit. Danny was better than me and it was more of a slight hesitation before take off and/or patting the ground rather than stopping. The other issue was that I was running him at it a bit in an effort to get him in front of my leg and totally forgot about balancing him. And I was riding to a spot vs riding the canter. So we tried again and got a much better jump even if it was a bit deeper of a spot. Kelly said it was perfect because the rhythm never changed and he jumped right out of stride. I told her it felt less "frantic" but like we didn't have quite enough impulsion. She said that perhaps yes we could have had more energy, but really, he jumped it out of stride and nicely so be glad with that! So we did a few more little courses, including through the water, and he was good. We worked out some kinks and once I started riding rather than just trying so hard to do exactly as she said.... it got great. Not that what she said wasn't important or worth following, just that I had to do that but also balance the canter and keep my shoulders up and count and etc. I had to RIDE. 

Phew... it was hard work for us both. But in the end, we got some really nice jumps and it built both of our confidences. :) Yay!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Danny turns 7!!!!!

Today Danny turns 7!! Eeeeks..... my little baby boy is growing up!! It's equally exciting and equally sad. I'm so proud of what he's become and how he is doing. And so excited about what is in store. But.... I kind of miss my little baby horse! 

We had a fun day celebrating! Cindy was letting me try the epiphany again so I wanted to do some dressage. It was a good ride although I made it quick. Then we went for a nice long hack :)