Sunday, June 28, 2015

How to Train Your Dragon

So ooops! This actually happened before the XC lesson, which is partly why I was a little worried about getting bucked off. ;) 

Tuesday was our dressage lesson and as soon as I got on Danny that day, I could feel that it was going to be an exciting day. He welled up but didn't do anything as we walked off. He was being VERY distracted though and looking around and only minimally minding me. So Cindy got after me for allowing it and we managed to get him working. As we were passing the opening at A during some trot work, Dan took the opportunity to drop his shoulder, spin, bolt and crowhop halfway down the arena. I sat it and then tried to keep him moving and make him work. Cindy wanted me to make that hind end work but doing turn on the forehand or spiral in and out, so we attempted that. He settled and we went back to work. Then later he made a dragon face at Titus as they went past us. He was just in a mood that day!

So then as we were working on our leg yields, he wasn't moving over to the left so I gave him a little pop on the side and he kicked out. Opinionated little turd! We did manage to get some good work in although I was so embarassed at the end because of our canter stuff. At the end of my lesson, I had Peri show up to watch and then Christina and Guardian were there waiting their turn. And Cindy. So... all these fancy upper level riders there watching me and hooligan head. So we're working on spiral in and out and then canter. Well, Dan spirals in and out pretty good, but even with me doing the change of post and then asking for the canter, we kept getting the left lead instead of the right. Like 6 times in a row. Sigh... Cindy said he was throwing himself to the outside, so she wanted me to balance him by riding inside leg to outside hand but blocking the outside shoulder. Oh my goodness was it hard!!! Like really hard. It's so hard for my brain to do that. So we were struggling. It was embarassing. But we got through it and by keeping a firm connection but allowing some give on the outside rein and really riding with my inside leg, and my outside leg slightly back, we were able to get the left shoulder straight and then get the right lead. Ugh... but it was rough. So I'll need to revisit that.

And funny enough... Cindy was so mad at Dan that she wouldn't give him a treat. Hee hee. He's so naughty sometimes. 


XC Lesson with Kelly E

Such a fun day! I'm so glad I decided to do the lesson. I was thinking that Dan didn't need to jump for a bit and almost didn't join in, but I LOVE Kelly E lessons and wasn't quite ready to be jumping with Fleck, so... when Julie asked me to join her and Romeo, I couldn't say no. :)
And I'm glad I didn't, because not only was it fun, but it was super helpful! I rode Fleck first so I was a little rushed and didn't get to warm him up in the arena like I wanted. I was a little afraid that he was going to dump me in the XC field in front of Kelly, Julie, and Lynda, but... oh well. We got out there and started to warm up. He was his typical bouncy self for the first 10 minutes. He was distracted and playing so we had quite a few porpoise bucks and some scurrying. But nothing too major. Kelly said that I needed to be a bit more in the backseat and wanted me to kick my legs out in front just a hair. Then she said to collect him a bit more going down the hill and encourage a forward stride up the hill. She said we needed to start working on half halts.
Danny and Romeo warming up

So we finished warming up and Dan was starting to behave somewhat. Kelly called me over and shortened my stirrups a hole and told me to thin about kicking my feet in front of me and sinking down and then asking for a downward transition. She said this way, he'd do his downwards from his butt, and eventually, I'll add leg and use that to half halt and encourage collection rather than take it to the full downward. So we did a few transitions and within 2 or 3 of them, he was coming down a gait without reins. :) Smart baby! So then we were ready to jump!

Danny jumps two logs

Danny's mini course

We started off over the log. We trotted in and then cantered out. Dan ducked his head once but other than that, he was quite polite on landing and we were able to canter politely and pull up fairly straight even. :) Kelly had me shorten/weaken his stride a bit, almost to an underpowered trot, but he was still jumping pretty well. She said for now, let it be underpowered. :) Then we progressed to two logs and then even to the two logs from the trot and then cantering on up the hill over another log. I thought for sure that when we kept cantering up the hill, Dan would decide to bolt for home, but he was a gentleman and we had a very polite little 3 log course going. :)
So then we headed to the ditches. Dan walked over it like it was no big deal. (Because it's not.. he's been hand walked, ponies, long lined and ridden over them for years!). Romeo had some issues so we had to walk over it a few times as a lead. And then a few more times. Danny was a hoot. He kept walking and grazing and looking at Romeo like "what dude?! It's just a ditch". So then we moved over to the BN one and we trotted it a few times. He was a little goofy but not bad.
Danny jumps the ditch
We then carried on to the bank. And of course Dan was a superstar and hopped on up like it was nothing. I joked that the downhill would be exciting and that goofy horse just dropped down like he'd been doing it his whole life. (Which, he kind of has, but he's never been that calm and collected about it!). So we worked on me. Kelly had me almost pinch with my knee going up the bank, and then coming down, she had me keep my butt in the saddle and slide/scoop it sort of. I swear that I had tried it with Fleck but could never master it, but I was able to get it done correctly with Dan. Yay! So then we were done. :) Both baby spotties are superstars in the making!
As their reward, we headed to the lake for a splash. Dan had fun playing. Romeo took some convincing to get in and then he wanted to roll. But they had fun. :)

Bareback fun day

So.. did I mention it's HOT!? Like... really really hot!! So... we were going to meet up with Missy and Indi and Zhar and play in the lake. I opted to go in shorts and then ride Fleck afterwards in proper clothes. But since Dan was having a fun day, he got to go bareback and play.

It was super fun. We almost went for a swim too but not quite. He got pretty deep though. My boots got so wet and submerged. I was pouring water out of them afterwards. :) Fun times

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fun times

Since I promised Dan we would back off on the work some, we took a fun hack tonight. We hit the trails and while I knew we needed to mostly walk, it was hot and buggy, so we added some fun stuff. We did a bit of trot and a bit of canter. We jumped over two little logs and he was great. We trotted the first one and landed in a nice forward canter, which he politely came down from. Then the second one he broke to the canter a stride or two out, but jumped nicely and didn't bolt on the backside too bad! ;) Really, he didn't. He got big and happy for a few strides but came right back. Then we had a deer bolt across the field in front of us. He was chill about it. But the deer reminded me of him. It was taking such huge airborne strides and just covered the distance quickly. :)
 We splashed in the lake a bit but it's not as much fun without pals. Then as we were heading back, I tried to get a picture of the lake from the trail beside it. It was gorgeous out as it was getting to be dusk and was a bit misty over the lake and the lighting was great. Well, Dan was getting antsy anyways and as we rounded the corner he saw a bait bucket. A big green bait bucket. TERRIFYING! He spooked, spun, and bolted. I got him back after a step or two and we tried to go back and look. It took a few tries and he was honestly scared. But once I reassured him, he was brave and got much closer. It was so cute because you could tell he was honestly scared, but as soon as I reassured him, he took a few steps forward before spooking himself again. :) Yay!!! He trusts me! Mostly. ;) 

So yep, a nice fun relaxing ride. :) 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sneaking it in

I couldn't help myself. We came back from the beach with enough time to go for a ride. And Mike wanted to move some dirt and needed the horses out of the way so he could work with the tractor. So... of course I'll go ride! No matter that it's 95 degrees. 

When we got home from the beach they were sweaty so I had already hosed them off once. But then they rolled in the dirt. So I hosed them off again before putting them in the trailer to go to Ashland. They were still dirty but I quickly brushed Fleck and rode him. The plan was to ride him first and do some ring work and then hit the trails. However, I ended up meeting Alex and Lisa and Rebecca so I did a quick bit of ring work and then hit the trails. So... by the time we got back, I had barely enough time for Dan. On the plus side, it was much cooler and almost quite pleasant at 8:45 when I finally got on him. :)

With the light fading, I decided to just take him in the ring for a quick work out. He was super good considering he's had the week off. No bad baby pony stuff. :) We had some really nice turn on the haunches!! Like, really nice! And some pretty decent leg yields. And when I did the "sit one stride" thing before the right lead canter, we got it. :) Whoo hooo. And sure, it was a very forward canter or two, but we had some decent work with a decent connection. 
I finished after only 20 minutes and gave him a third rinse of the night and home we went. 

So... hopefully tomorrow he can get his trail ride in. I know he deserves some light work and I promised him that. :) But I was super proud of him today. Especially since he stood on the trailer calmly and politely for the hour and a half I was on Fleck with everyone else. Then he was pretty good with Ti and Alex in the ring next to us. And he was non-plussed when Alex and Ti left the ring and went home. GOOD BABY HORSE!


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Upping the dressage ante

So... it's time for baby horse to start growing up. :)

Today in our lesson we worked on connection. Cindy kept reminding me that when I feel wiggles in the bridle, to focus on the hindquarters. If the hindquarters are straight and there is impulsion, the front end will also go straight.
To help with that, we're adding connection. I'm NOT asking him to go into a frame with the reins... but I am riding him up into that connection and asking him to go there, rather than pull me around. I need to remember that my elbows belong to me and I need to use my core to remain stable. He tends to pull me out of my position and then I collapse on him. But I also can't just hang on him because then he will hang right back. So.. if I feel like he's hanging on the right rein, it's because he's bracing on it and not supple. In order to create suppleness I need to soften and shorten that outside. So.. inside leg to a more connected outside rein. I need to think of shortening the outside of his body so that he is up underneath himself. He can do it. And he did. :)

And we had a most lovely canter at one point in one direction. Cindy said it was a 9!! Whoo hooo. I just need to remember to ride the front of my saddle and not drive, but keep my seat cantering. That's also important in the downwards. I can't just stop my seat from moving.

So a good lesson! I swear, this horse just gets better and better with every ride. :) 
Apparently Tess thinks he's hot stuff, because she was shunning Fleck and even Guardian!

Chatt Hills.... Money in the bank!

Oh what a weekend!!

So.. I had been feeling bad about jumping Dan and feeling like I was overfacing him. So I was a little worried about taking him to Chatt. But I'm sooooo glad I did! It was such a great experience for us both, despite being quite the exciting weekend. ;)

We loaded up Saturday morning with me barely managing to get everything done in time. We got to Chatt hills and I took him straight to the wash rack for his bath. I got him all sparkling clean and let him hang out in his stall while I went and got my packet. He didn't even have shavings in his stall yet. But there was no time so I took him to the trailer and tacked him up. I hopped on and dropped my video camera off at the stall. Then we headed down to the arenas. Oh dear!! From the barn down to the jump arena Dan was on springs!! Springs!!!! We were passaging and piaffing like fools. Some kind person even yelled "Nice Springs". hee hee. Great, but we were attempting to walk. Somebody was NOT as chill as he was at Rolling Hills. But... I asked for it. ;) I had said that he was a little too blase at Chatt. hee hee. When will I learn?! ;) So then I managed to get him down to the jump arena, with all the flags, and went past to get to the dressage arenas. That was super exciting so we did about 16 porpoise jumps and crow hops and spins and mini bolts. We got about halfway through and came up on a woman with a stroller with a baby in it. Uh oh! She was super nice and just stopped. I managed to get Dan to go past her, partly in thanks to another horse on the other side of the fence in the arena heading the same direction as us. Unfortunately right as I passed the stroller and woman we came upon a giant pile of poles. Well, Dan spooked, spun and ran a few steps back towards the barns. I managed to wrangle him in before we ran into the stroller. (Not that close, but I was terrified it was going to be that close). I noted that he was spooking at the poles and not the stroller so I mentioned to the woman that she may be better off calmly walking ahead a bit since he wasn't scared of her. She gratefully did so and then I was a little less worried about clobbering them. We then managed to get past the poles and hopped our way into the warm up arena. We managed to walk around a bit, while leaping and shying and then help arrived! Elisa Wallace was on KC and walked up and said "hey...let me help you!". THANK YOU!! She basically had me put him to work. Forward march baby! No sight seeing, no antics, just in a frame in a forward trot. So we managed to get him focused and like typical Dan, he settled after about 10 minutes. He was still naughty but he was manageable now.

Elisa continued to help me and finally it was our turn to go in. They were running about 20 minutes late. Dan walked down to other arenas without a care in the world and went in and did his test. He was actually quite nice and it was probably our best test. We still flopped the right lead. He picked it up correctly in front but was on the left lead behind. About 4 strides in he swapped in front and then I knew for sure we were off and broke to the trot. He picked it right up on the second attempt and we cantered around. I was quite proud of him. We ended up scoring a 61.4, which put us in 6th out of 8 or 9. I was really proud! Not a great score, but not horrid. And I knew he wasn't really ready for training level just yet frame wise, but I liked that test better for him than trying to cram in a tiny canter. So for where he's at, I was quite pleased. Our comments were that his hindquarters were out behind him. And yep. I agree. That's why he's not quite ready for training level, but we're working on it. The goof seemed to enjoy being in the ring by himself, getting to show off. He wasn't worried about being alone or anything. He's such a show off. Then we headed back and he was still full of it, bouncing some more.


 Here is our dressage test on video. In pieces because poor Liz couldn't find my camera so she stole some sweet ladies phone and took them in pieces so she could email me! Awesome!! :)
 Halt, Salute, Trot on
Right lead Canter
Crazy walk pattern 2/5
 Left Lead Canter
Stretchy trot: 4/5
Halt and Salute 5/5
He got some carrots and was rinsed and then sent back to his stall so I could go watch Liz. She was rushed because she was watching me so her test was a little hurried but it wasn't bad at all. We headed back and let the ponies graze for a little bit and then they got shavings, fresh water and hay. We hung out and watched friends and then went for dinner, letting the ponies enjoy the fans. At dinner, we convinced our waiter to put the Belmont on. And we saw it!! We saw American Pharoah win the Triple Crown. It was awesome. He wasn't even trying. So neat :) :)

We walked the ponies some and had a good time chatting. Dan was NOT cooperative for pictures. ;) Then we put the ponies to bed and went to bed ourselves.

 The next morning we took our time a bit and got the ponies fed. Then it was time to school XC. I was nervous! Luckily we were smart and stayed Sat and Sun instead of Fri and Sat so we were pretty much the only ones there. I'm so glad because I think it was a MUCH better experience for me and Dan than if we had tried to school while it was busy and hectic out on the field.
 (PS... Dan CLEARLY needs his breastplate in the future! Or some sort of fancy girth. Or both!)

 I told Liz that I was sort of tempted to go back to the arenas past the flags to prove that it wasn't scary but I wasn't sure I wanted to get him agitated before being out in the giant 400 acre field. She smiled and turned Party for the arena and flags. Ha! But we did go back into the arena and worked on some flat work to get his kicks out first. Smart! Not cheating, smart. :) And I'm glad we did. He wasn't horrible but he was definitely excited so it was good to let him burn off some steam before we hit the open field. AND... Liz helped me with the right lead canter. She told me an old hunter trick. Somehow I was asking at the wrong moment so he was almost having to pick up his right hind first, which put him on the left lead. So she had me sit a stride, then pick up the wrong diagonal for one post, then ask for the canter. And sure enough, it worked like a charm. He picked up the right lead 3 times in a row. Yay!! I'm so glad because he was getting frustrated with not getting the right lead too. Then the fourth time I asked, he picked it up as soon as I sat the post. Hee hee. Smart baby horse, but no... that's not when I asked. She joked that they would do that but to ignore it because eventually they get the hang of it and eventually my body learns to ask for the right lead at the right time and I wont' have to do the funky diagonal change. Yay

After that we went over to the jump arena and went it. The jumps were set at prelim height but it's such a big atmosphere that we figured we would take advantage of the situation and show them around. So we went in and weaved around and then took a "victory canter" around. Dan didn't seem to mind anything.

So then we headed out to the XC field. We started over the first tadpole jump and it was awful. Dan jumped awkwardly, jumping me out of the saddle, and then we both landed on the forehand and felt like we were going to plow into the ground. We tried a few times and it was just as awful. So then we tried the beginner novice jump, thinking maybe size would help. Nope! I was getting very frustrated because I felt like I wasn't doing anything to help him at all. Liz said that he had to figure it out on his own essentially. So fine, but what could I do to not make it worse? I felt like I was making things worse. She had me grab my "oh crap" strap a few times and it helped but I was so afraid of us landing on his nose that I was pushing myself up and away and ended up getting left behind and being popped in the air. It felt like he was porpoising or crow hopping over the jump and landing the same way, back up and nose down. At one point I swear I thought we were going to go ass over teakettle. So then she did a few in a row and Dan didn't care that she was cantering away from us. Bonus! So I thought I would use it to my advantage thinking he'd be more inclined to stay upright. Hmm... he was more upright.. with all four feet! He took to bucking and crow hopping like a fool. But we got him over one and then I made him canter on til he settled and he did. So then Liz told me to grab my neck strap more like I would on Fleck. In my brain I decided that I was just going to get into jumping position and ride him like I would Fleck. I knew it was a little fence and I didn't need to "jump" it, but I thought perhaps that would help. And thank goodness!! I'm not sure what I was doing before, but once I actually rode it like a jump, shockers... it helped. I also had to kick him on upon landing and not fall on his face. But riding in jump position helped that. And by riding on after, he didn't fall on his face and picked himself up. Phew! We actually had some decent fences at that point, although I feel apart a bit more on the bigger fences. So we moved it along and did a few more tadpoles, one even with a little uphill and downhill landing. And yay! It became FUN. I let Dan canter on some and was laughing at how quickly he was covering ground.

We then went to the banks. They were a bit large so we just went up and down the giant mound, which was scary. Then we jumped another little jump and Liz jumped a faux trakehner. I wanted to also so I took Dan to it. Instead of trotting he broke into the canter. So I circled and made him trot. A few strides out he decided he was a big shot and cantered. He took the long spot and porpoised a few times on landing. Goober!
Dan thinks he's ready for Rolex!
So we then walked up to the next tadpole jump and I walked him right up to it and then let him hop over it. Then we came right back to the one next to it and did the same thing. Liz said this was a good way of "punishing" them for being too exuberant, without punishing them. So then we headed to the water. Dan played in it a bit and splashed while we watched Liz. Then we decided to trot into and out of the water and out over a cute little tadpole cabin. Well, again, Dan thought he was a big shot and cantered into the water. But he cantered happily in and stayed cantering til about half way in and then he broke to the trot. I let him and we trotted out and politely trotted over the cabin and cantered off. I made a BIG FUSS about how awesome he was and we quit with that. :)

I decided that this was a great weekend. We survived!! Ha. No, we did, but really, we accomplished a lot. He learned that the big exciting show atmosphere was doable. He was a gentleman in the arena and put in a respectable test. He stayed overnight in a stall. He went and schooled XC and we both learned how to jump politely and happily. But most importantly... he thought it was SUPER FUN. He was having a blast and came away thinking he was a big shot and ready for Rolex. That's all I wanted! I know he needs more time to grow before we jump again. But I didn't want to end with his frustrating grid jump session. I think that took money out of his bank. He's never felt like he was having to "work" and never said no. I'd like to keep it that way. So I'm glad this weekend. This reinforced that jumping is fun and I felt like I put a WHOLE lot of money in the bank. :)

We did go looking for some ditches and didn't find any but walked back by the lake. We had to pass a small stream running over some concrete that Party didn't like. Dan was goofy. He was so clueless. But he walked over it happily enough once Party got through it and then we saw a cool little meandering natural ditch. So I popped him over that a handful of times and he casually and happily popped over it.

So much fun!!! What a great weekend. And now Dan can take the summer off and just chill for a bit and grow some more. We'll do our Cindy lessons and play, but we probably won't do any more jumping other than occasional things in the field until this Fall. He deserves a little break. :)