Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stephen Clinic

Today was day 1 of the Stephen Bradley clinic put on by GDCTA. It was hosted at Montclaire Stables and thank goodness for the covered arena. As I was driving to the clinic the radio said "Today is the hottest day of the year so far!" It really wasn't too bad though in the covered. There was a fairly decent breeze and the shade was nice. 

We had fun. Stephen set up two great grids. We started trotting over the cross rail and then he built it up eventually to a trot pole before and after the cross rail and then we went to a vertical and then eventually it became an oxer. We focused on straightness and keeping the same rhythm before, over, and after the jump. It was good for the young horses. Danny was pretty good. 

I had told Stephen that he tended to be lazy and behind my leg OR.... rowdy. And sure enough, he started out unimpressed and a bit sluggish. He would trot up happily and at the last second before the fence he would slow down. So Stephen told me to wake him up a bit and get through the grid in 3.5 seconds instead of 5 seconds. So.... we came to it with a bit more animation and Danny flipped to rowdy. We jumped big and a bit quicker and landed in a crow hopping bucking spree. Hee hee. Stephen laughed and said "okay... now I see what you mean". But after that he was pretty good and I was able to keep him a bit more animated without the antics.  
So then we switched the next grid. This one was tough. We cantered in over a vertical and then came back down to the trot for some trot poles about 6 strides out. And then the trot poles became a vertical too. This was hard!!! Mostly because Danny and I can't figure out how to canter over poles in front of fences without messing up. I just can't figure out how to ride to the canter pole without looking like a monkey. And I'm not sure if it's because Danny is green too and can't figure out his footfall.... or maybe because he prefers to take the slightly longer spot when he has to get in closer he contorts? I don't know, but it was embarassing. I couldn't quite figure it out. But after about 8 times we finally got it. And he wasn't too bad about coming back down to the trot for the second fence. It was hard not to ride too conservatively to the first fence in order to make it easier to come down to the trot to the second fence. Stephen called me out on it though, so... I couldn't keep cheating. ;) 
 It was a very educational day. I think every student and horse learned a good bit and we ended on a good note. Hopefully it'll carry over tomorrow!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Respect my (Leg) Authority!

Hee hee. Fun lesson with Kelly today! Despite wanting to take advantage of the jump course from the jumper show the night before, I decided to do a flat lesson. Partly because I had been wanting to flat with Kelly as I really enjoy her teaching, partly because I hadn't had my dressage lessons with Cindy in two weeks for her vacation, and partly because we were jumping Sat and Sun at the clinic. So we did. And I'm so glad! It was an excellent ride and so helpful!

Kelly hasn't taught me and Dan on the flat before and it had been awhile since Fleck even. So she started off by watching me warm up a little bit. She said that he was quite round and through, if inconsistent at times, but that he was a bit sluggish. Ha!! No kidding. She said I was working way too hard. Yes. Much yes! And it's been a struggle since day 1 and Cindy and I have been working on it too. 

So she had me start off the lesson with some tactics! :) It wasn't shock and awe. Different, and perhaps better for his big ol' Irish self. She had me pick up the reins in one hand, sink my heels way down (she said she didn't want to be responsible for getting me launched again!), and to tap him with the whip. Either on his butt of behind my leg. Not hard... but not too wimpy. But persistent! Tap, tap, tap, tap.. until he trotted. And NO leg. Then lots and lots of praise. And after a few times, we progressed to a good solid trot, not just a trot. We did both directions. After a few times of doing that he got to where it didn't take 12 taps with the whip to get him picking up the trot. And then it almost even got to he'd leap into the trot as soon as I picked the whip up. :) Or the reins. :) Yay! So then we progressed to keeping a nice forward trot without me having to leg him every step. We'd get the trot, and he had to keep a happy swinging forward momentum until I asked him to walk. If he got sluggish, tap with the whip. If he didn't respond, keep tapping persistently til he surged forward. He's a smart cookie and it wasn't too long before he was trucking around like a rockstar. 

Now... The problem is as much me as him. So I had to really focus on not constantly asking with my leg. It was probably harder for me than him. :) And he is a bit lazy, so we had to remind him some. 

We got a really lovely trot though. And when he was more consistently forward, the contact was more consistent and happy. Yay!!! 

We also worked very briefly on the canter. It was lovely too. She did give me a brilliant thought that worked for me! I mentioned that he gets so long on the right side and throws that shoulder out. So instead of just thinking of shortening that side, she told me to bring my reins in. She had me riding with wider hands than I'm used to. Mid thigh to mid thigh, which "is in the rulebooks". :) So when we're tracking left and he's throwing that right shoulder out and getting long on that right side.... I just bring both hands to the left, effectively bringing my right hand to his withers and pressing in, encouraging him to move that shoulder over, and then opening my left rein, giving him the open door. Duh!! He really moved that shoulder over easily. Yay!!

So yep.. we had a great ride. Now to just remember to ride this way EVERY RIDE!! It's so much less exhausting on my part. ;) And he moves nicer. And like Cindy has said... if I'm constantly using my leg... how can I ask for the extended trot?? Or bend?! Yay. Now my leg can mean "more" or "bend" instead of just "for the love of all that is holy keeeeeeep trotting"!. :) 

Good day!

 Oh yeah.. we did a little hack before hand because I was actually EARLY! :)
 He's such a goof ball!! Today was fun. I wasn't as sore as I was expecting. :) Granted we had a few days off. ;) We met Kelli for a hack in the morning. Danny was a little bit bouncy but not too bad. Kelli asked if we wanted to take a lap around the XC field to burn off some steam before we started our trail ride since he was a little bouncy. Not one to turn down the opportunity for speed... we said Sure! 
He wasn't super amped up so we took a few leisurely canter laps around the field. I thought we were done so I headed back towards Kelli, who was standing by the tree line. Well, Dan decided he wanted to get moving a little more heading back to Arwyn, so I headed him off a bit and made him canter/gallop past her towards the lake. We did that and he kept up the pace a bit. Then we turned around and he picked up the pace again and ran back towards Arwyn again. Only this time we had a bit more of a gravitational pull. Despite me trying to steer him away we ended up going between the prelim and training roll tops. Which was a little scary considering that he was galloping towards them!!! Luckily he went through the gap of the two rather than over. ;) So then he was content to settle down and we were able to continue on with our trail ride.

It was fun. We had a nice long hack and then finished in the jump arena. I didn't jump as we had jumped Saturday and I knew I was having a lesson in two days with Kelly and then doing the Stephen clinic Sat and Sun. So we just played with some lateral work. We actually got a few little baby steps of shoulder in and haunches in both directions. Fun!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Grid Day.... Lesson learned

Today was an interesting day. :) I was just thinking to myself that I was about due to come off of Dan. And yep.... It happened. Lawn dart #2. Doh!
Beth had a grid day planned today so Danny and I hauled over. When we got on, Rusty and Danielle were warming up and then Ashleigh was riding Darcy. Darcy was being a bit naughty and crow hopping some, so Dan joined in on the fun. But it was fine. He started with that super bouncy piaffey trot that is near impossible to ride! Then he put in a few little bolts and crow hops too. But it wasn't bad. And he settled nicely. 

We started off with the ground poles. Beth had us walk straight through. Which was the hardest part of the day!! Getting Dan to march at the walk while he is in the arena is tough! He either wants to putz or trot. After two or three times through we trotted through. Then she set up an X. Then we progressed to 2 X's, then 3 X's, all one strides. I think it was about here that Beth was telling me that Danny was behind my leg, which was why he was jumping funky. Meanwhile, I had been asking him to go forward with my leg, and with my crop. And I had even done a few good solid smacks with the crop trying to get him in front of my leg. So when she mentioned it again, I decided to fix it and do some "shock and awe". But... I was a bad horse person. I think that I asked him to trot and he did. But it was a putzy trot. So instead of asking again with my leg, I just really whacked him with the crop. Well... it backfired. Literally! He let out a most gigantic buck, pulled the reins from my hands and I literally saw they fly out of my hands and over his head. So at this point I had NO REINS and he was in a huge buck. I briefly thought about grabbing the "Oh crap strap" and attempting to ride it out, but I was already unseated enough. And a little afraid about him getting tangled in the reins. And did I mention I had no reins!?! So I bailed. Not sure I would have been able to stick it out regardless. I went lawn darting into the ground. I landed on my knees, then belly flopped onto my chest and chin. It hurt. It knocked the wind out of me and for about 5 minutes I could only take shallow breaths. My thighs just above my right knee was sore, and my chest/sternum was awfully sore. My stomach was in knots too. I thought I might puke but didn't. I caught my breath. Then when I got up, I started crying. Not because of Danny.. because of Fleck. Sigh... stupid. So I caught my breath and got my horse. Who apparently let out the most gigantic of bucks after he lost me before running amuck to join the others in the middle of the arena. I was awfully embarassed that I had basically created the situation myself to get me dumped, but... oh well. I had smacked him fairly hard before and not gotten that kind of reaction! He was great the rest of the lesson (well, until the very end, but that wasn't bad). And... despite the side effects, my crop smack did work. He was actually in front of my leg from then on. ;) Ugh... 
So we carried on. I was actually really proud of both of us. We ended up doing 3 high X's in one strides, to a 2 stride oxer. The X's were at the top of the standards, actually sitting on top of them, not even in cups. And the oxer was fairly decent looking. It was probably novice height but could have been training level. He was jumping well and my leg was cooperating. My hands and upper body were getting there. Then Beth had us add in the barrel jump. It was two downed barrels with poles on top, so little. But it was set at a slight angle touching the last fence in the grid. She had us do the grid, then track right, roll back off the rail and come to the barrels. It was tough! But Danny was brave and jumped right over. Then we had to do the grid and land left, then cut in front of the fence 2 strides from the oxer and go to the barrels off the left turn. It was tougher! I couldn't quite get brave enough to ask for the longer spot with Dan and we kept chipping in, but he did it. Finally on our last attempt we did it much more boldly. Still, I was quite proud of him because it was tough! Beth said I needed to ride him more like an adult/educated horse. It helped to ride him like Fleck a little bit. 

We finished the ride with the grid, with the bigger fences, and worked on getting a more collected stride. He is so long that he tends to get long and flat. So I got him pretty collected, which made him a little mad and we got a little up and down again. But we circled and he settled and we had a really nice go. We did it 3 times in a row to burn it into our brains. The first time was a little sloppy but he was nice with his front end. Beth basically told me to help him out by keeping a tighter rein, a tighter connection, a more collected frame, and to keep my upper body up and my hands down. It felt a little bit like I was restricting his head and neck but in reality, while it was a little, it was helping him to jump better because he could still use his head and neck but he wasn't snaking it down and getting long and strung out. The second time through was better and he started to use his hind end. Beth had us do it one more time... to burn it in and it was AWESOME! He jumped beautifully and really rounded and my hands stayed right on his neck without having to grab my strap. My position felt great and I felt like I was really wrapped around him instead of hovering on top. We were a team! It was awesome. :)

So... quite a good day, aside from the whole belly flopping part. ;) My chin is a bit scabbed and my thigh just above my right knee is awfully sore. It hurts to push off the ground and lift that leg a certain way. But all in all I'm lucky. 


Up and At 'Em

Danny and I got up early to go for a nice fun hack. He was a good kid and we just played. Nothing too exciting, but that's a good thing. :)

It was such a nice morning too. After the last 4 or 5 days of 100-110 heat index ridiculousness, it was a lovely morning. (It got HOT later in the day though). We had a lovely breeze and it wasn't miserable. :) 


Dental Day

I was able to get the ponies scheduled for dentals on Tuesday. Unfortunately I had to cancel my lesson with Cindy, but luckily, she was out of town anyways. I thought I had enough time to get a ride in first, but I had just pulled Danny off the trailer when they texted me and told me they were on the last horse! Eeeks! I threw the tack on him and we did the quickest 20 minute dressage school and untack ever. He was pretty good though. We worked on our canter serpentines (need work) and did some leg yielding. He was good for the quick, down and dirty ride. :)
 Then he got his teeth done. They were in much better shape than last time. Yay! He's a cute drunk!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Chatt Hills: Our 2nd Tadpole 3 Phase

Well.. .today was interesting. :) Danny was really really good. And green. And rowdy. :) 

Unfortunately I woke up this morning with my eyes burning and pouring tears. It took a good 15 minutes for me to be able to do anything and even then it took another 20 minutes to get my contacts in and be able to do anything. I managed to get the horses fed and Dan bathed and loaded but my eyes were still killing me. We got to Chatt late because of it, and I had about 15 minutes before my ride. Eeeks!! Luckily Judy went and got my packet, a few people helped me park, then Judy, Caroline, and Katherine helped me tack up. Phew. We made it in time. I even had about 6 minutes to warm up. Danny was actually fairly good, especially compared to next time. He only went up once or twice and warmed up fairly quiet. I was able to do a few canters and some trotting and then we went in. He was actually pretty darn good in the test, although he was a bit inattentive at time. We scored a 32, which I was quite happy with. That put us in 4th place out of 10. 
 Intro Test C

He got to go hang out in his stall with the fan for a bit before stadium. Then we got tacked up again and headed to warm up. He was kind of lazy and quiet so I let him chill to avoid overheating him. We did about 6 fences total and then headed into the ring. He was a bit looky with the flags and such. And then when they rang the bell, he bolted. Hee hee. Goofball. We just kept going forward and did our round. It was a bit spazzy. He was very on the muscle and I kept him a bit too tightly under wraps I think. Although maybe not... Maybe it would have been worse had I not. We managed about 1 decent fence but we survived. :) And went clean. I think he needs the bigger fences a bit. :) 

So anyways... back to the stall again to chill for a bit before XC. And now it's getting REALLY hot!! So we tacked up and took our 15 minute walk down to XC. He was a bit looky but we took our time and he did fine. We got to warm up and there was this poor girl on a gray young looking TB. He was being a bit bucky and hoppy and him and Dan fed on each other. I knew it was coming too with Dan. I could feel it. I knew that even though he was walking and being polite, once I put him over the fence he was going to bolt on the back side. And yep.. he did! Even though we trotted it. So the poor girls horse went to bucking and Dan went to bolting. We both got them under control. So I took it easy for a bit to give her a chance. Then I made Dan walk the log and he cooperated. And then we were able to get a somewhat sedate proper jump over it. I did it twice and then we chilled til it was our turn. The plan was to trot the first fence, let him open up a bit after fence 3, trot to fence 5 which was just before the water, and then go through the water and then carry on. The water wasn't flagged, but I wanted to use the opportunity. 
So we ended up trotting the first fence and that went fine. Then we cantered the next few. He wasn't really up for a gallop even though I was going to allow it. We clocked around quite well until we hit the bench thing before the water. I pulled him down to a trot and could feel him looking hard. I rode hard but not hard enough. We had a stop. I think. Control didn't call it a stop, but I think they should have. He didn't run out, just fizzled to a stop and then sort of weaved and then jumped. But then I couldn't get him into the water. We zigged and zagged and got kind of close. I figured with the stop, I might as well school the water. So we did. And then Jessica came up behind us so I stepped aside. (Probably should have stepped aside farther but was afraid it would create a ruckus and be distracting). Cuinn stopped too. Doh! It was kind of comical... both baby boys being stupid about the water bouncing into each other. Doh! Luckily Cuinn went in fairly quickly so Dan followed. Then Jessica offered to let us go first but I couldn't get Dan to move in the water. It was SCARY! ugh... So Jess and Cuinn left us and then Dan was brave. Then he wanted to bolt and catch Cuinn. I held him back even though I was itching to gallop. But there wasn't enough room to really go, so I held him back and we tried to stay a polite distance behind Cuinn. 

So... with all our time, we dropped from 2nd to 10th/last. Doh!! Although they didn't count the stop and they should have. So I'm glad that I took the opportunity to school the water.

All in all a very good and educational day. I think he improved from the last 3 phase and especially from the last Chatt. :) 


That view though!!!

Tonight we had a good dressage school and a nice short hack. :) We ran through our intro C test and had quite a nice go. :) And then the view was amazing for our hack. :)

Hopefully we won't melt tomorrow.
Our practice test