Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jumping, lesson, and accidental swimming...

Some of the same, some different version of the same...

Monday, I had a limited amount of time, but still wanted to ride. Lola did really well. I've realized she needs to build up her conditioning some, so I set timers and stuck to one gait until the timer went off. So we cantered for two minutes, which is surprisingly only a few laps around the arena.

We had another great lesson on Tuesday, despite the weather! We were stuck in the little indoor arena because it poured all day Tuesday. (Plus is was drizzling all through the lesson. Stupid rain!) So even though the indoor arena is perfect for free lunging over jumps, its tight for riding. So we worked on 20meter circles and started working on figure 8s. She was feeling silly, understandable for the weather, and was really looking and shying from a corner of the arena. This was great actually, because it was the first time the trainer has ever seen her have an issue with spooking, and gave us some great tips on how to work through it. The thing is, if I have her full attention, she's too focused to look at things. We didn't try any canter work since it is a small space, and there were some slick spots from being over watered.

Wednesday I went out at lunch and just turned Lola and Bear out to run through the puddles in the big arena, good enough footing still to gallop around like wild beasties, but I sure didn't want to ride in it! They had fun, and rolled, and that was it for the day.

Thursday we had our free lunge over jumps session. She did fantastic! Plus I got video! YEAH!
Here are just a few clips of the fun we had!

Then I hopped on her bareback with just the halter and rope (and helmet) and she was great considering she wasn't too sure about the whole yielding from the pull of the halter on a turn. She figured it out pretty quick.

Friday I was able to sneak in a quick ride before other plans. We warmed up really good with the circles and serpentines at the walk, then big trot circles. We had to get creative to ride in the very wet arena without hitting the deep mud spots. It meant splashing straight through puddles a few times, so she had to get over that. We ended with a big canter. Overall a good ride for the time I had.

Saturday was trail day!! Yeah! We had lots of ups and downs for building their butts, then came back to the trails that were a little less rocky to do some trot and cantering. Lots of fun! We did have two scary incidents! While crossing through some water up to their bellies, Lola suddenly hit a hole or a sinking spots because her head suddenly crashed into the water! She took two huge leaps forward to get out of it. She came out fine and the friend riding was fine, but watching it happen was scary, I thought they were both going down in the water! The second incident happened to Bear. The was a big old snake in the trail (rattler I'm pretty sure) and when Lola passed by it she trotted forward without my friend even seeing it. But having a horse walk right passed it got the snake pretty pissed off, so just as I came upon it and the snake came straight at me and Bear with its head raised to strike! VERY AGRESSIVE! I FREAKED out! I hauled Bear backwards as fast as I could and started to turn to go back the other direction, but as soon as I gave the snake a good five foot space again the snake slithered off to the bushes. CRAZY! It was like three feet long!

Sunday she had off, so Monday night I went out and did a little over fences work.

We started with just trotting over the poles on the ground.

Next we went to the little cross bar with trot poles leading in.

She was going really well, so I put up just a tiny vertical.

The vertical got better the second time since she got the canter stride after the poles.

Then made it into a little 2ft oxer. Excuse the equitation, it was 80 degrees with major humidity, and I was beat before I ever got to the barn, so I was very loose in the tack and getting left behind. She looks cute though!

We ended by just going back to the easy relaxing trot circle. She still isn't relaxing and stretching down in the bit because she's all hyped up about the fences, but over all it was a great improvement over last time. She's staying pretty steady up to the fence.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More jumping, more lesson, more RAIN?!?!?!

Wow, a whole week since last update...

Well Monday she got her feet trimmed, as usual she was a perfect angel compared to my four year old gelding!

Tuesday we had our dressage lesson. which was more work than that either of us have had to do before! The trainer had us just going for a half hour solid of hard work without much of a breather! He trot is getting great, very easy to push out or collect back, and she's really getting into the long stretchy trot that we do at the end! We worked on pushing her hind leg underneath her more, especially to the right, to pick up her right lead correctly. Tough stuff! She had to mover her haunches towards the outside, but she really got the idea. Lateral work has always come pretty easy to her.

Thursday we had a continuation of our jumping gymnastics. Some were the same some were different. I also popped her over a cross rail a couple times on the lunge line since we haven't free jumped for awhile and I think that's important for keeping her confidence growing.

And then a little bigger to see how she's doing.

We started out nice and quiet, working on basic trot poles to small cross bars.

You can tell she's just a bit wiggly still on the approach, but once we get in straight she keeps going.

Our very first little course. You can see by the third jump she is starting to get a little fussy. She was listening pretty well though.

We had to change up the course every so often to keep her from anticipating too much, then started to mix the trot poles in to steady her back to her happy little self.

You can see by the end she started to get a little fussy and pop her head up and be resistant a bit. We had been working for a really long time, so we were both pooped.

So we went back to just plain trotting, she was up and down and all around. So I went back to the basic of just asking her to hold herself together at a good trot. She got antsy whenever we passed the jumps... silly girl. So we will just be working at this level until she can keep her cool and her rhythm going through little courses like this. No big deal, no change in pace, or attitude.

As for the weather... I've never seen this much rain in California in May! Crazy! Weird rain and cold weather, plus my busy schedule meant we weren't up to much this weekend. She got some well deserved time off, and we're back at it this week!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another fun weekend of trail rides and new riders!

I had another friend come out on Sunday for a repeat of last weekend. She hopped on Lola at the barn and played around with her for a while. She cantered her around the big jumping arena, and even took her through the little gymnastics that were still set up from my big ride on Thursday. She was good as usual!

We took the two horses out to the lake after that. What a fun day. They were LOADS better than last time. Still a few piles of wood had monsters in them, but over all they tackled the rocks and steps and tricky trails like pros.
We got them to go into the lake, and then cross a spot that came just about up to their bellies.
We found something kind of cool sitting in the middle of the trail…

A turtle! After she picked it up, she informed me it was a SNAPPING turtle, and then asked me to hold it while she got back on! WHAT?!?!? Yes, she was determined to get him back to the water somewhere since some how he had wandered up to the top of the hill with no water in sight. There may have been some natural streams with all the rains, but now those are all gone and dry.
So she rode Lola one handed back down the tricky spots of the trail carrying a turtle. I just laughed!
We found a pretty little pond, where he quickly jumped in and hid under the water. So the turtle was saved! That is he was saved unless he really WANTED to be at the top of the hill! Then we sort of ruined his plan!

Anyway, we had a blast. Its been so much fun to be a 5 minute trailer ride from some of the most fabulous trails in northern California. My weekends are starting to get so crazy I think I'll see about squeezing in a weeknight ride!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Jumping! WEEEE!!!!

So first of all, I have to say how proud I was that I successfully squeezed in a lunch ride on Wednesday! Totally has nothing to do with this post, but I had to buy my supplement feed and drop it at the barn while on lunch break, and I couldn't resist throwing a bridle and bareback pad on Lola. I set my phone timer for 10 minutes so I didn't get carried away. We did some really good walk to sitting trot transitions! Fun! Then I went back to work and work didn't seem so bad... Nothing like a horse to put you in a good mood!

Tonight, though, is the big post! Tonight we actually started doing the jumping gymnastics under saddle! Its time. I've put it off long enough, and that's because I'm chicken. So we stuck to really easy low stuff, because I'm chicken. But despite the fact that I'm a big ol', that's right, CHICKEN, Lola did fantastic! We even got video! Thanks to an ever so patient boyfriend.

So its all pretty low, and after looking at it, it doesn't seem very impressive, and I realize I need some major work on myself jumping... which is why I'm so chicken... my sense of self preservation tells me I'm wobbly! Despite that I felt GREAT right after the ride!!! She was being SO GOOD! Considering it was her first time, she did fantastic! She tried her little heart out, and she was focused and paying attention, which are all good things!

So in this first one we weren't too straight, my fault, but she jumped it anyway, just a bit bigger than I was expecting... See my butt come up in the air??? Lola's response was, "Hey I'm working hard enough down here, at least keep yourself up right!" You could read that in her "bouncing" canter after the jump!

I also realize now that I'm looking at the footage, that he was in a terrible spot to get video! I REALLY don't want to look at myself from THAT angle! But he doesn't know what angle to get horse shots from. So its unfortunate that he never got one from out in front. Next time...

She was good about trotting in right to the base. She was quiet and responsive. She cantered off nicely each time, and halted when asked. Pretty darn good start!

These are taking ages to load tonight... so there pretty much in here in no particular order. I'm not even sure which is which anymore...

Now I'm off to bed...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesdays rock!

I love these lessons... a good combination of hearing that I am sort of a crappy rider and a freaking awesome one for getting anywhere at all! ;D

Lola is really good when I just ride correctly. The rest of the time, she is patient, which I appreciate! We had some good break through's tonight. She is really trotting well now with bend and suppleness and rhythm and she responds to my seat to slow down or step out again. She also is starting to learn to stretch her neck down at the trot. I love when horses know how to do this because its such a great warm up and cool down exercise.

We also succeeded in a balanced relaxed canter depart while staying on the bit! WOO HOO!!!! We had a great canter for a half a circle and a good transition back to the nice calm trot, without loosing contact. I was amazed how different it felt from her uncoordinated attempts to figure out what I wanted as I was half running her, half dropping her into the canter like I have been. This was wonderful. Now lets hope I can recreate it alone this week!

The trainer also recommended lunging as little as possible now that we are building her idea of a "tick-tock steady clock" trot and canter rhythm. The lunging just wasn't helping. So instead of warming up with that each ride, we'll save the lunging for the handful of times that I lunge or free lunge over fences. She's not a hot horse that needs lunging before riding... I've just always done it as a courtesy to the horse to allow them to warm up their muscles. But as it is we're spending a half hour undersaddle doing warm up exercises, so I guess we'll be just fine.

Man oh man that canter depart was good. It was the kind of ride that lingers with you. I'm looking forward to cantering this week!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lola is going to make a fantastic jumper!

I've been taking the jumping training slow with Lola. I think that too many people push horses past what they physically and mentally can do in the beginning, and you end up discouraging and souring the horse before you even get started. So we've done as much as possible to build up her confidence and her athleticism by lunging and free jumping over plenty of poles, and low gymnastics. Tonight I made the best of the rain and free lunged in the small indoor and I was finally able to get some video of some of the stuff we've been up to over the last few months.

She's learned to trot through the trot poles...

She's learned to canter through a bounce, going left...

Going right...

And then building up one side of the bounce...

Then raising both sides...

Gotta do it both ways...

She's learned to see a one stride distance between fences.

Now she's learning to jump a little bigger...

Tonight was the first time she jumped a cross bar this size. The funny thing is that the center of the cross rail was no bigger than the caveletti, but she still over jumps everything, and you can see when you pause the video that she's actually jumping higher than the tops of the barrels! Silly girl... the jump really was less than 2ft, and she gave herself a whole foot of clearance!

I hopped on her bareback again for just 10-15 minutes of walking around doing our bending and circles and stretching her nose out and down. I think she had a blast tonight!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A couple new things to add to her resume

A couple new things to add to her resume Well, having a green horse is all about exposure to new experiences. So we're starting to check them off the list!

Thursday I didn't have much time, so I free lunged her over a few jumping gymnastic combos in the indoor arena, and then tried something new... I rode her bareback! I slipped on a bridle and bareback pad, and tested her out a little by lying over her back and walking off, then sliding back to the ground. She did fine, so I took her back to the mounting block and got on. She was fine! We worked on the circles and stretching her nose down at the walk exercises. Next time I'll try a little jog, but as usual, we're taking things in baby steps so that she's set up for success.

Friday we had a workout ride. We're trying to do one other big ride a week outside of the lesson ride since that’s always a work out that pushes both Lola and me past what we’d putter around and do on our own. So we did a little bit of everything. Warming up with the side reins on the lunge line, some trot poles both on the lunge and under saddle, walk-trot-canter under saddle, circles, bends, stretching, and everything in between. I was pooped! Lola seemed just fine.

Saturday we had the next big adventure… trail riding! She also got test ridden by a friend of mine! Double new…

I had the friend come ride because I want to make sure she is calm and safe for anyone prospective buyers who come to try her out. She’s a good rider, so there were no worries, I just wanted to see how Lola behaved with a totally new rider. She was just fine! Of course I have a pretty good idea how to get the best out of Lola, so with the new rider Lola was obedient not as quick to really work to trot correctly. She wasn’t nervous or naughty or quick, she was safe, and probably quite happy to not have to work too hard. By the end of about 10 to 15 minutes, they had figured it out and were trotting along nicely. She also cantered her, which was about as good as when I canter her, a little disorganized, but Lola is always good about trying! We’ve got work to do…

So since the friend had started on Lola, I had her stick to her on the trail, and I rode my 4 year old gelding who has more trail experience, but has not been trailered out somewhere since last fall. Now, Lola has been out on a couple of hand walks down the road, she’s been ridden out in the 40 acre pasture, but until Saturday, she had never really been down a trail. It was more difficult terrain than I was hoping for this first time out, but she got the hang of it. Those rocky spots are extra scary with shadows and patches of light across them, so she certainly stopped to look, and they both needed a little encouragement to go on. There were a handful of spots at the beginning where we both got off to walk them past, and by the end nothing really bothered them! It was great progress, and very impressive for her first time out. I mean we saw it all… horses, dogs, people, bikes, boats on the lake, slick granite spots, tricky stair spots, birds, creeks, mud, you name it, we saw it. We even walked into the lake with the help of some more seasoned trail horses that went in first! Such good brave ponies!

Overall it was really successful weekend and I feel good about keeping her on a balanced training schedule. I think she’s going to continue to improve by leaps and bounds this month. It seems like every month she’s a whole new horse!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Consistant work makes for a consistant horse

Lola is getting better and better each day. We had our lesson tonight, and of course I briefed my trainer on how the show went. I told her all the good stuff first... then the stuff that I should probably be working on.

So we started with this exercise. Of course she prefaced it with the comment that she starts all her horses with this as soon as they are steering and stopping under saddle. (Which means I'm about 3 months late starting it!) You start a small 10m circle at the walk really asking them to bend around your leg, and as soon as they start to take some steady contact on the outside rein you give a little to encourage them to lower their head while still maintaining the contact. If they keep the steady contact then you start making your circle bigger or change direction, if you loose it you go right back to the circle.

I've used small circles through my whole riding career, in different ways for different reasons, but somehow I've either forgotten this exercise or never quite understood it. Its awesome! She really got it and it really helped her to understand stretching down at the free walk. Now our task for the next week, every walk break that she takes in between working is still a time to be working on the free walk.

Then we started trotting, and boy oh, boy, did I get a lesson! Last week we worked on my right shoulder and right leg, basically I need to turn my shoulder to the inside of my turn more when we are doing circles to the right, and bring my right leg back. I was struggling because when I got into the position that was correct, I felt funky, even though it was the position that helped Lola to turn and use her shoulders correctly. Then, even though Lola did great at the show, my picture tattle on my right side not riding it right.

Tonight we broke it down further, and really its my right hip being too far back that isn't allowing me to get my leg back. So hip forward, shoulder back, leg back, it felt AWFUL! But it was correct. This means I ride crooked... and Lola's right hind is not naturally as strong as her left so she's showing off my problem, and I'm showing off hers! Going to the right I felt like I was fighting my right side to turn correctly. So going to the left I expected to have to do the same to the left... no... still the right side causing problems!

So the moral of the story is, sometimes your horse feels different on one side from the other because they are naturally stronger or more flexible on one side or the other. Sometimes they feel different because YOU are naturally stronger or more flexible on one side or the other, and YOU are causing them to move that way!

She is very steady on the bit lately. We worked on extending just a little then collecting without shortening her next. We'll be practicing that for the next week too. Extend out and let her start stretching her next out and down, then collect back using just my seat and body and encourage her to keep her head and neck stretched and relaxed on the contact.

We also worked on spiraling in and out on the circle as another way to encourage her to bend and step under herself. But then we got distracted by my hip, so we sort of got off track.

Great ride over all. Lots of good stuff to think about and work on. Again, my trainer just raved about what a fantastic girl she is! She's so sad that none of her students are looking for a horse right now, because she'd love to have Lola in training.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fantastic end to the weekend- Sunday's dressage show

What a fantastic day!

Today we did an Intro Test A and B, and we were awesome!

The first one was only halfway decent. She was pretty consistent, and really everything was rider error. I didn't leave enough time to warm up before the first test, so she was just a little bit sticky and stiff still. Our 20 m circle to the left was not a good as I would have liked, she was not bending and moving off my leg like I wanted so we ended up making it a funky shape. Surprise, surprise, that was the judges comment. I also tried to get more out of her free walk by pushing her forward hoping to get her to step out and start to stretch down, but she broke into a jog for a few strides. Again, this was my fault. Over all it felt ok, but I spent some good time between the tests warming up for real this time.

The second test (test B) rocked! We were on our game. I really nailed the circle to the left this time, had a good free walk as far as the shape. Instead of being across the diagonal its a broken diagonal, so starting across the diagonal up to X then heading back to the same side you started on. Plus we didn't break gate, I just let her do her thing. I also felt her step to the side with her front left at the last minute at our halt which was a shame.

The few riders before me had walked up to the judge and chatted with her. It was a schooling show, and the ring steward had said she was a really cool judge who was more than happy to offer some additional comments. So I started walking over there at the end of the second test and she said, "My question for you is... Did you go out and get another horse before coming back in??" I had to laugh. Of course I knew that we needed more warm up before the first test, and I could feel the difference after, but it was funny to hear just how different she was! She said she looked like a completely different horse. Warm up is important!

The results...

I got a 66 on the first one (Test A), with comments about her being counter-flexed a few strides, plenty of comment about her not stretching down at the free walk with a note that she jigged at X, and of course a note about the second circle (the one to the left) being a poorly shaped figure.

I got a 72 on the second one (Test B). YEAH!!! Comments were on her resisting my hand twice, again not enough stretching her nose down, and of course the shoulder moving over at the halt.

Other than that she did really well! I got lots of positive comments from people about what a nice horse she is. The judge definitely said that she looked like she had a lot of potential for dressage! This from a judge that has received Horse of the Year seven times on four different horses!

There were not that many riders out for the Intro classes, so its not like I beat out a ton of people, but I walked away with first place for both tests!!! I am SO pleased! What an unbelievable feeling.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A good start to the weekend

I hauled Lola just down the road today to a little schooling show.

We did a pattern class, which we blew because we didn't really get the pivot until the last half of the 180 degrees. We also halted crooked both times... hmmm... something to think about. But I also realized that one of my stirrups was shorter than the other from cleaning the saddle this week, so that might have contributed to that.
Leaving our class... she CAN stretch her nose to the ground!

We did a walk-trot equitation class that I felt she looked really good in.

I apparently looked reasonable enough to get fifth place. Not too shabby!
She still doesn't have much patience for standing too long for the line up. She starts out good then get bored!

We then had AGES to wait until we had a trot poles hunter course class. The idea was to give her something new to challenge her. It was certainly new... there were flowers! She also got really crabby about being tied to the trailer while waiting. It did take a very... long... time... We were fine for the first pole of the class, but the second two across the diagonal had the flowers that would eventually go under the fences, but for the time being were split to the sides creating a sort of flower shoot. She did not think much of those. Just as we got up to the pole, she looked at the flowers on the left, spooked right, saw that there were also flowers on the right and spooked back to the center. We walked over the pole! Then trotted up to the next pole, only to have her slam on the brakes and walk snorting over the next pole. Then she went right back to being a happy forward trotter.

My boyfriend reported to me that three little girls in the stands made fun of me! They thought it was pretty lame that she spooked at THAT! I wasn't there to defend myself, so I informed my boyfriend loudly that Lola has never seen flowers before, and that's the whole point of having her out at a schooling show, to have new experiences. Flowers don't eat horses... lesson learned.