Monday, July 31, 2017

XC Schooling with Kelly... aka #isurvivedbubbas2017

Today I hauled Dan up to Bubba's (Sandy Hills Farm) for a XC lesson with Kelly Eaton. That part of Aiken is really pretty! Anyways, when we got there Mr. Sandy greeted us with donuts! YES!!!  :) We chatted a bit while I was grooming and then he went to leave with his four wheeler. Dan had been giving it the hairy eyeball (and... when I went to take him out of his stall after breakfast he acted like he NEEDED to go do his gallop I had a feeling it was going to be that kind of day) so when he started it up, Dan jerked back and broke the trailer tie and trotted around. Luckily he only trotted around the trailers and let us catch him quickly. Mr. Sandy has a gallop track and I was so tempted to take Dan out there to warm him up. Unfortunately I didn't get tacked up quick enough and didn't have time.

But it didn't matter because despite my premonition, he was GOOD!! Like... the best behaved actually! #thatneverhappens! I rode with Caroline, who was riding a 7 year old Hanoverian who hadn't been off the farm in a year or two and he was a little bit rowdy at the beginning. He's also huge... like 17.3, 18 hands huge. It was odd to not be on the biggest rowdiest horse. ;) The other horse was a Hanoverian who never grew past pony size but she was cavorting a bit. Dan just warmed up like a professional. :) I sort of miss the antics. :) And he maintained his cool the entire lesson..... He's growing up!!!!

Anyways, Kelly asked what we wanted to work on and I told her that part of me wanted to put more money in the bank and let him look at the water.. but the competitor in me wanted to challenge it. In theory, there should be enough money in the bank now. So.. we decided to attack it and see what happened. Kelly had me do two logs and then a blonde coop (although I totally forgot about the coop) and then another log into the water. She told me to ride it very aggressively with my body position. In other words, sit up, sit back, shoulders wide, whip at the ready, and even give him a little tap after the log to get him paying attention. I was also going to pick a spot with my eye and ride to that spot!! The plan was forward to that spot. If he went left, I countered, if he went back, I countered... but we were going to that spot!!

So.. this is what happened.... Attacking the water
 Of course he was great!! ;) Even after "drowning" yesterday during our swim. :) Good boy!! So... there's that. I'm not sure it'll translate to AEC's, but we've got the water at Windridge to practice on going in blind again and then we'll have the Clayton clinic at Stableview for another water practice before AECs, so.. Fingers crossed. :) But I do think I can use that "ride" to my advantage. Maybe he was going in anyways, but maybe... because I rode like that... he went in. :)

So then we worked on some ditches. Dan just hopped on over like it was no big deal. Yay! We jumped a few other jumps too, all little stuff. Then we went back to the water and did some more fun stuff with it. We walked down the bank and then up the bank. Kelly made me keep my butt in the saddle. It's been a forever issue with me. I've constantly struggled with it. And I tried holding my saddle or neck strap to keep my butt in place, but... I can't seem to make it work. So today I tried something different. I didn't hold on! I thought, maybe... if I stop trying to hold myself IN the saddle, I wouldn't push against my stirrups so much. And.. it worked!! Or maybe it's timing... maybe it's my saddle...maybe it's Danny dropping instead of launching... who knows? But I got it!! Not every single time, but... more often than not. :) :) 

 So then we upped the ante and trotted in and out and then we even cantered in and out. :) We did the sunken road.... Cantered down the bank into the water, through the water, and then out over the bank. :) And then Kelly added a small vertical one stride after the out and we did that! It was tight and he sort of peeked at it, but... he did it without hesitating. It was more of a peek like... "how do I do this?... oh, that's how!". :) Then Kelly raised it a bit bigger and we did it again! Wheeee!!

So then we moved on the bank complex and Dan went up and down again and I worked on my seat again. So then Kelly made me a mini course. I had mentioned that I was sort of interested in doing the ditch and wall. Because he had done the one at Ashland.. and I had Kelly there if we had any issues... But I also said that it might be bigger and more impressive than I was willing to do today. Kelly walked over and looked at it. The height was small but the ditch in front was fairly deep. I probably wouldn't have tried it on my own (well, maybe... you never know, but... ) but Kelly said it was doable, so.. she made me a course. And we did it! On the first attempt!! He peeked a little bit, but not bad. And again it was more of a "what is this?" peek than a "OMG DITCH OF DEATH" peek. :) hee hee...
The ditch and wall!

So then we did another course. She told me to do the open oxer lincoln log thing... EEEKSS!! I hate those things. They freak me out. And our course finished over the fairly big (training level?) mushroom cap thing. So.. I started out and the first attempt he was a little behind my leg. Or maybe not so much behind my leg as I had him a bit too compact and not forward enough. (Although I suppose he was too collected without the in front of my leg part). So he got over all of it but it was a bit ... oofy!. So Kelly told me to let him open up just a bit and it was MUCH better. He jumped the big coop thing too. :)
Mini course

So yep... tons of fun!! And very helpful! I learned how to keep my butt in the saddle on drops... hint.. don't hold myself down with my hands.. just keep them up and focus on my seat. Now I've got to figure out my darn hands... sigh...  I also need to focus on my landing gear, although that was better today. She didn't have to say anything about it but I did find myself pinching with my knee some.

We also figured out a good thing for me to think of... Dan tends to lengthen to the fence and at the last stride or two, he drops his shoulders while he's lengthening and "peeks". It's not a real peek but for lack of a better word, he peeks. In order to avoid this, I need to keep him from lengthening to the fence but also keep myself up and my shoulders up and keep my hands up to keep him up. I am worried that I'm holding his head and neck and preventing him from using himself jumping well, but Kelly reminded me that it's a good solid connection, and I'm not catching him in the mouth. And it's helping keeping him from ducking his head down and dropping his shoulders. So if I can figure out how to accomplish this without holding him and preventing the bascule OR looking like a moron, we'll be on our way to looking better in our photos. :)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Shark Week

Ahhhh, I needed today. Yesterday was a long day and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. I was pretty tired but I got up early(ish) so that I could ride before the pony club demo I was doing. I didn't get up quite early enough to ride Fleck too, which I'm sad about but, I just couldn't do it. 

The weather is actually quite lovely comparatively, so it was a great day. We started out in the arena and did some dressage. It started a bit stiff and icky but I managed to save it somehow and we got some really lovely work. Actually, it started quite nice but then got a little wonky and then I saved it. Or perhaps I ruined it and then Dan saved it. ;) 

We started at the walk doing haunches in and shoulder in since the arena was freshly groomed. I was looking at my tracks and it was actually really quite nice. We had 3 tracks and in some places almost a legit 4 tracks!! (I know, it's supposed to be 3, but... 4 is better than 2). Then we worked on the trot and getting him to soften and let go with his neck and get the correct muscling. We also did some transitions and they got smoother. Yay! Then we went to the canter and did some counter canter. He actually held it for the most part! I think we only dropped it once and that was the third time.  However, we started blowing the leads from the trot. Sigh... I ran through my test and he picked up the wrong lead at first. ACK!! That is NOT AEC ACCEPTABLE!!! I went back and focused on me and I think that in an effort to get my outside leg back, I'm actually asking with my outside leg. Ugh. So when I started asking with my inside leg and not worrying about my outside leg, it resolved itself. Seriously.... how can I have been riding for THIS long and still not know how to coordinate my aids for the canter??? Sigh... 

So then we ran through the test once and then I did a little bit of canter work and then a stretchy trot and then we were done. Poor Dan was dripping and pretty warm but still happy to keep going. I pulled off his saddle and my boots and put on the bareback pad and we headed to the lake. :) On our way we stopped and talked to some friends and he grazed. And then we got to the XC field and some friends were out there jumping. So..... I ended up hopping over a few fences. The first one was a flyer. That's a little scary when you're bareback. But the good news is that it motivated me to keep him to the base. :) So we did a few of those. Then I went to jump the roll top into the water and... he cantered very happily into the water and then slammed on the brakes and then drank and drank and drank. Hee hee. Jessica was like "You better hope that he doesn't do that on XC". Umm..... yeah, so...  doh. :) But he was really thirsty so... I let him drink and then we properly jumped through the water. We did the drop a few times into the water. We even did the small vertical into the water. Wheeee.

So then we all headed to the lake. Dan and I had so much fun that everyone ended up pulling off their saddles for a swim party. :) We had so much fun. After we splashed around a good bit, Dan went for a swim. :) And then I had to leave because I had to get back in time for the pony club demo I did. (which was fun.. they are hilarious and good kids).  

Shark Attack.... RAWWRRRRRRR
(Or whatever noise sharks make)


Indi makes a good scratching post when your head is hot and sweaty and itchy. :)

Thursday, July 27, 2017


This morning I got up early(ish) and met Peri for a ride. Kelly had to cancel our lessons because she was sick. So I decided to do some dressage anyways. It's tough because I really like having a lesson with Kelly and a lesson with Cindy... but that really only leaves me two days to ride on my own. And if I end up doing fitness work or jumping, there's really no time to dressage on my own and work through some things. But it also keeps me from messing up too bad. :) But regardless, it was nice to be able to play with a few things. We had a great ride. It really wasn't too miserable either heat and humidity wise.

We started with some leg yields and he was really respectful of my leg and went sideways an actually stayed fairly soft too. Then we did some serpentines and directional changes. He's still doing that head bobbing thing... not a real head bob, but almost like he wants to leap into the canter but doesn't. I need to investigate. Anyways.. we also worked on the counter canter serpentine. And... he held it! Both ways for the full serpentine!! And it is keeping the outside rein open. So... almost creating a counterbend but not really.  So yay! We didn't stay soft and supple but it wasn't terrible. We worked on picking up the canter from the walk first. And.. the darn left lead is so tough. He keeps throwing his shoulders laterally into the right lead. But he picked it up the first time I asked and I didn't quite focus so hard on the "Now" part... So then after a few failed attempts I decided that perhaps I should just stop trying so hard and he picked it up. Hmmm... Not sure if this will screw me later or not, but... new plan.. :) Don't try so hard. Anyways, we got a nice canter, did some lengthening after our serpentines and had fun. Then we worked on some trotting again to get him back in front of my leg super well. He gets a little too collected sometimes when we do our canter work. But the good news is that he has suddenly gotten fairly in front of my leg. :) Routinely. :) We then ran through our test which was.. meh. But he thought he was done and I couldn't quite remember the test. 

After we went on a short hack with Gay. It was fun. 

So anyways... later today, while sitting at home and enjoying the air conditioning and my day off, I noticed Emma chasing Dan and Dan sprinting and bucking in the pasture. I went out to get her so she and him didn't overheat and called her in. I noticed that Dan's leg wrap was in the driveway so I went to grab it and HOLYMOTHERTHATBURNS!! A freakin' wasp nailed me in the cheek, right next to my eye. Man it burned.. it still burns. So I went inside and got some cortisone cream for it and then went to check Dan. Turns out he was stung too. He was rubbing his mouth/lip on the wall. Poor guy. He had a big red mark and a thick swelling right at the edge of his lips too. So... I cold hosed it and put calamine on it and gave him some hay. We took selfies with our calamine faces. :) 

Hose Party

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I'm actually improving!!!!

Today was a good ride! We started off with some trot work and Dan was inconsistent in the bridle but Cindy said that it was a balance issue. She said I could feel it but my answer was wrong. I need to collect the right side of his body rather than grabbing on for dear life to the left rein. Oops. 

We did some leg yields and Dan was much more reactive to my leg today. :) I think my german leg yielding in my lesson with Kelly made an impression. :) And of course, when I actually LOOK where I want to end up, Dan moves more laterally. Cindy only had to remind me of that once today though. I reminded myself the other times. Go me! 

We also worked on the canter serpentine. And it fell apart today. Ugh. We haven't done that in awhile. Interestingly enough, I'm pretty sure that the difficulty today was with the right lead when it's usually the left lead. I almost think that Dan was so reactive to my leg today that it mistook it for an aid??? I don't know. Maybe not... because once Cindy told me to use an opening rein (but I can't honestly remember if it was the inside rein or the outside rein! ACKKK!). The other direction he was good. (After my lesson I went out to the outdoor arena and did one more counter canter serpentine each way to help me nail it down. And this time I think the right side was the tough one. So.. who knows?! Maybe it was the right lead every time. Regardless, I was able to get it both ways at the end of the day. 

Anyways, we finished with a 10 meter circle at the rail right after the corner, then shoulder in to B, then an 8 meter circle and then haunches in. It was tough but once I got my body in line it worked much better. Duh... I've been fighting my position because I don't want to put my inside leg on, but I know I need to. Today I did, and shocker... it worked. But I also moved my shoulders more appropriately. Yay! 

And Cindy commented today that I was turning my shoulders much better in the turns and not just turning my head. Yay!!! I'm getting it... little bit by little bit.  :) But still... better than not getting it. 

Dan was a really good boy today. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tough lesson

Okay... this was a great lesson but it was REALLY Hard!! Like way harder than it looked. Even Jamie, who rode after me, struggled. But it was super helpful and super effective. Sadly Dan learned more than I did. Or did better than I did. He's a saint!

But... we did end up with this!!! I had to put the robot over me because I look terrible. But look how awesome Dan looks?!?!
slow mo

So... the "grid" was a diagonal pole on the ground, which was later raised to cavaletti height, with four poles in a square around it. So... We started off by trotting through the two poles in a straight line, crossing over the diagonal pole. It made two bounces... so pole, bounce, diagonal pole, bounce, pole. We did a cloverleaf pattern, so we basically came at it from all four directions. We started out tracking left and Dan did pretty good. Then we did it tracking right and we kept landing on the left lead. Beth said that it looked like I was leaning some and asking for the left lead so when I focused on putting weight in my right stirrup and closing my right leg... he landed on the right lead. So...there's that. But... anyways, the grid sounds easy, but it was hard. Dan had to be on the bit and pretty rocked back and collected. BUT he also had to be snappy and in front of my leg, not lethargic and small in order to be collected. Almost a canter pirouette canter. So.. that was doable. It was tough at first but then I got him a little more in front of my leg and it was getting fairly doable. 

So then it got even more interesting. From the cloverlead, we then cantered to the oxer with the V poles. Beth wanted it in 6 strides, which meant I had to keep him fairly collected, but not quite as collected as I did through the cloverleaf. Okay.. easy enough. But NOPE! Not easy. It was really hard. I can get that pirouette canter on the flat and over teeny fences, but then I lose my nerve over the big fences and either shut down or gun him or let him get big. The first time over the oxer (maybe it was a vertical at that point) he stayed fairly small and didn't have to heave over it, but it wasn't a powerful push off. And it felt like if it had been bigger, it would have been a struggle. So then I tried to increase the power and allow the stride to get a smidge bigger, but not too big and that's when it all went to pieces. I just couldn't find the fine line. But that's why we worked on it. We got some really nice fences.. but we had some big super man reaching ones that were 5 long strides instead of 6. Then we had a really nice 5 stride that was lovely... and actually on purpose. But then going back to th 6 got tough again.

The other goal of this exercise was to improve Dan's form and get him rocking back and jumping. And it really seemed to work. He looks great. I, however, look like crap! I don't know if I just couldn't stay with this jump that is more powerful or if I was getting left behind or jumping ahead or what. It was tough! And a little disheartening, but... exactly what we needed. And.. my leg isn't too bad, but my hands are out of control again. I feel like Dan is jumping into my hand and I'm restricting him when he jumps better and from the deeper spot. When he takes the flyers, I feel like I release him more and better. So I have to figure out how to get him to the base, keep the connection and not abandon him, but release just a smidge more...
Grid work

Another attempt

And another

That wasn't 6 strides... NO ma'am!

Fitness Ride

Today was a great day! I got up early and went and rode Dan before it got too hot. And then Mike and I went to the lake. :) There was no wind and the engine wouldn't start so I floated in the marina while Mike worked on the boat and then we went to his mom's and rode the jet ski. That thing is fast!! It's crazy though that Dan can go 35 mph... The jet ski goes faster but still, 35 mph on the jet ski is pretty freakin' fast. And Dan does that!!

Anyways, Danny and I did some fitness work. We didn't do any sets or intervals, but did lots of trotting and some cantering while out hacking. It was still pretty humid and muggy despite me trying to be early.