Monday 29 February 2016

SRC Dressage Show

Apologies yet again for the lack of media...the weather was absolutely terrible and I just couldn't ask someone to stand in it to take pictures or video of our test. Next time we'll have to bring rain suits and an underwater camera!

Day 1 of our weekend adventure started with a morning ferry ride to Vancouver. There was a bit of a hold up when the big truck and trailer nearly got high centered on the ramp. We were told they may not be able to load the trailer, so there were a tense few minutes until they figured things out. Apparently next time we are going to have to be aware of the tide charts - the joys of living on the coast! I always wonder what the horses are thinking, parked on the big noisy and shaky ship, the truck and trailer wedged in amongst all the commercial trucks on the bottom vehicle level. They've all done it a million times, so I would hope at this point it's more interesting than scary.
Trucks get to be on the very bottom middle - no windows, it's kinda creepy.

Following the ferry, off we drove to Southlands Riding Club. Southlands is an interesting place - it's a private equestrian club in the heart of the city. As such, we had to drive right through downtown Vancouver - it was a little surreal to check the mirrors and see Ms Bridget eyeing up her reflection in the windows of the Gucci store.

I hadn't been to Southlands before so was unsure what to expect. I was expecting your typical equestrian center type place, but given the neighborhood I thought it might be extra fancy.
The reality is it is literally just a club grounds - there are no barns or horses stabled on site. Everyone hacks or trailers in from the surrounding neighborhoods. Again, super surreal, as the area definitely feels like part of the city, albeit with a number of big mansions and estates. A quick google search tells me this is a part of the world I'll never be able to afford. If I win the lottery, perhaps I'll buy this fixer upper for a cool 8.5 million and let Bridget roam the yard!

The facility itself was nice, and the grounds themselves were gorgeous and included all the amenities you'd want - even a polo field! I admit I felt quite out of place in my budget clothing with my not so fancy pony, but that's on me - the judges don't care about that, right? :)
Wood chip track that circles the polo grounds. Photo from SRC website
Two of the other mares with us were absolutely hysterical. Neither is overly green or inexperienced, they're both just drama queens. Midge picked up those vibes and was more anxious than I've ever seen her, calling back to her buddies and generally getting a little panicky. Poor girl. We moved her to a stall next to some of the calmer members of our little team, but although quiet and polite, she was still stressed - she didn't eat much of her hay which as we all know is very out of character for her!
let me out!

Our test times came up too quickly, and I never did get her feeling that great. My nerves were certainly not helping, either! The weather was absolutely horrible, and by that point, we were soaking wet, cold, and miserable. I don't think either of us were feeling the love for showing. Poor Midge still didn't have a lot of focus, and was tense and calling to the other mares.

 On the plus side, I remembered the test (Training 2), the geometry and transitions were accurate, and the judge loved how forward Midge was. She got great marks on her free walk and for her gaits, and the trot work had some great moments too. On the negative, we lost marks since she wasn't consistently on the bit, and the canter was rushy and unbalanced. The second test rode much the same way, and I was left feeling a little disappointed since our rides at home have been so fabulous. Our final scores were a 62 and a 63 (rounding the numbers as I don't remember the decimals), putting us in a three way tie for 15/17. I was embarrassed to place almost last, but after some thought, I'm proud of those tests. I'm not going to get hung up on the placings. I know it sounds like a cop out, but the other horses looked so amazing and well trained - I'm pretty sure I had the only green horse there. Going into the weekend, my goal was to have a positive first experience for us both and to get a mark over 60 and we did that (twice!). Midge did pretty darn good for her first real show, particularly considering all the drama her trailer mates were causing.

Since this was a two for one weekend, we immediately loaded up and headed out to MREC for a two phase event on Sunday...

Friday 26 February 2016

Slow Mo

Yesterday, we had an absolutely wild pony and an absolutely unproductive lesson. We quit early and opted to try again the following day.

Today, feeling rather stiff and sore (- side note: I average about 1 fall a year, always somersaulting off over the shoulder. The answer is simple, I need to keep my heels down and my butt in the saddle. Apparently that is a concept I do not grasp. As a further countermeasure I am considering signing up for vaulting class* with the sole purpose of learning how to do a forward flip off a horse and land on my feet - because seriously, the awesomeness of that move would totally outweigh the shame of falling- ) and not wanting to risk lightning striking twice, I took Bridget for a short visit with Mr Round Pen. 

The Devil Pony pretty much instantly revealed herself. So much rudeness, so much anger that she wasn't getting her way. Good thing I brought a long longe whip. I might need to look into a part time job as a lion tamer or something ;) A little while later, the devil pony was exorcised and a reformed, polite pony followed me out to the arena.

I got on, and...nada. Literally, nothing. She could barely summon the energy to trot, let alone jump.  Like a toddler after a tantrum, Bridget was ready for nap time.
Rolling here, rather than sleeping, but you get the idea

Back to the barn I went and grabbed my spurs. And viola, we were back in business. I started out riding too defensively and my timing felt really off as a result. Bridget wasn't really taking me to the jumps, either, which felt weird - it's been a long time since I've felt like I needed to really ride her forward to them. Luckily, we picked up momentum as the lesson went on and finished with a couple of small courses that felt really good. 

In virtual news, we've added another 2 weeks of miles. Our tally so far for 7 weeks of riding is 31 hours in the saddle and 313 km estimated distance. I'm OK with that given my work schedule and the fact I didn't ride for 2 of those weeks due a plague virus!

This looked like a nice field to place our virtual campsite in

I'm feeling a little more optimistic that we'll survive the weekend. Seems like lots of bloggers are getting out for shows this weekend - best of luck to everyone and see you Monday!

*Provided I can be exempt from wearing spandex suits. Cause those are a total deal breaker for me.

Thursday 25 February 2016

An...Interesting Outing

Last night was jump lesson and prep for this weekend's outings.

I brought Bridget in and immediately wondered if we were going to have one of 'those' rides. Little mare had a big time grumpy face on and was really put out about having to stand in the cross ties. That's really unlike her as she's normally quite cheerful and content to stand for hours to be pampered. She was driving me nuts with her wiggling and pawing and ear pinning (then being SUPER offended when I corrected her) that I opted to just walk away and watch my barn mate's lesson rather than pick the fight Ms B seemed to so desperately want. After her pony time out, she seemed grateful to see me again, and stayed relatively well behaved while I tacked her up.

She warmed up feeling a little icky - really trying to run through my outside aids and generally feeling stiff and sucked back. Really getting offended when I (quietly) made corrections. Oh, and tons of nasty mare faces at the other horses in the ring. I was starting to suspect Ms B was bringing her best A (for Attitude/Ass*!@E) game to ride...then the other horses left and my lesson began.

And pony well and truly lost it. The other horses were in the barn, dinner was being served and oh, the drama. Long story short, we could not jump without bucking and bolting, we could not trot without sucking back and leaping sideways, we could not canter without it being a rodeo. Even a walk proved a challenge, with pony wanting to either stop or bolt off (and get hugely offended by any use of leg or rein) We checked the saddle, we checked the bit/bridle, I removed my spurs. Still...SO much offended pony drama. (Why is Ginger the one I'm selling, again?) Really, really unlike Midget and I was honestly starting to get a bit worried. After much inspection, EC was of the opinion pony was just feeling fresh and very, very naughty.

We managed to end on a somewhat good note, with a fairly calmly executed cross rail. The halt after would normally be of such rudeness we'd go again, but it was substantially better than the previous hour and we had to find somewhere 'good' to end! EC's comment: "We have to find somewhere good to end, I don't want you going home hating your horse and then abandon this monster here with me!" ;)

End Rodeo Win/Loss Tally:

 T ~ 20
 B - 1 (Yep, first fall in what feels like a long time)

I don't feel secure enough yet over fences to time a good release with sitting up after the fence and sorting out a rodeo within the first stride. I was ending up getting dragged forward/not sitting back quick enough about half the time, and that one time I ended up over her shoulder and in the dirt. Good lesson for me in how to ride fences defensively and always keep those heels down!

Since this obviously wasn't great prep for the show, we're going to have another lesson tonight. And oh boy is she getting worked before hand!


Tuesday 23 February 2016

Getting Some Confidence

Over the weekend, I was having some serious anxiety about our upcoming shows. I'm not an overly competitive person, I'm not worried about about having a bad ride, or 'failing' in the traditional sense. I do, however, have some pretty serious anxiety about remembering my dressage tests and jump courses. In real life I'm THAT person - the one who has to stop and think about left vs right, the one who will randomly start using her utensils in reverse hands or mount from the right side and not notice. Remembering patterns that involve a lot of left vs right can cause me a great deal of worry, particularly if I'm just reading it off a page. Our barn is awesome, but if I had one complaint, it would be that there are jumps in the arena 24/7. Great for when you are jumping, not so great when you're needing to ride up the centerline. Or if you're me, and start thinking the detours might actually be part of Training 2 come show day :)

Unrelated to this post, but I have to share - while I was on vacation worrying, Ginger went to that police horse clinic and did pretty well with EC!
So, I was relieved when I drove into the barn for my lesson Monday night and the jumps were gone and a 20x60 area was measured out. My lesson consisted of running through the test a few times while I got some handy tips from EC. I do not have a lot of experience riding dressage tests, so it's pretty basic stuff. I will include them here in case they might be helpful to anyone else:

- Most of the lower level tests are mirror image type patterns. If the trot circle is in the middle of the arena on the right rein, chances are it will be in the middle on the left rein too.
- Prepare further before the letter than you might think you need to. For the stretchy trot circle, start picking up your reins for the walk transition half to three quarters of the way through the circle. For the canter transitions, start preparing the corner before.
- Crossing the diagonal - aim a bit before the letter so the center of your turn at the wall is happening AT the letter.
- Look up, look ahead, plan 1-2 movements in advance. Check in with your horse, remind a turn or transition
is coming.
- RELAX, BREATHE. For me, even if I feel like I am taking my time, that probably still means I should go slower.
- On a related note, don't rush the transitions (up or down) Good transitions > being precisely on the letter.
- Pick a few places in your test to mentally check in with yourself.
Midge (middle) got drafted for police horse day 2 with one of the lesson kids. Midge of course didn't see the big problem with any of the spooky stuff and led the other horses through. I like how she's obviously on a big stride walking forward in this pic while the other two are not quite so sure. I'm sad the clinic filled up so quickly, but the silver lining is a good one with both my ponies getting borrowed to attend even if I didn't get to ride.

Maybe because that police clinic got Midge extra, extra confident, she was not on her best bevaviour for the lesson. Big tough ponies don't do dressage, I guess. Still, we've definitely improved since our last test prep lesson in the fall. EC was pleased, saying "What a difference from your last run through!" My reply "Yes, because we were literally RUNNING THROUGH the test last time...through the test and out of the arena even ;)" Staying inside the letters for the win!

I'm feeling a lot better about the dressage, do I try to memorize the eventing test for the next day at the risk of confusing myself? Nope. We're agreed Entry Test 1 is going to be a last minute effort :)
Both my girls doing their thing with the lesson kids. Love them :)


Monday 22 February 2016

Book Review: Chasing The Wind

In the not so distant past, I caught some version of the pneumonia plague. I basically laid in bed for a week and felt sorry for myself while reading multiple books. 

While I wouldn't credit the following book entirely with my survival (thanks again, modern medicine!), I would definitely credit it with making my weekend much more enjoyable and providing a welcome distraction from real life. Sorry George Morris and Mary King - your books are great and I will get back to them again - but this is the book that kept going to the top of the virtual pile and kept my attention through a death plague ;)

Champions are made by the adversity they overcome. When tragedy strikes Aspen Valley Stables, racehorse trainer Jack Carmichael is in danger of losing everything – his wife, his reputation, his sanity… then in walks Lucy Kendrick, a young reporter, all set to shadow him. Every journalist has an agenda and Lucy is no different. Can she uphold her cover when charismatic jockey Finn O’Donaghue makes her want to be no one but herself? The Grand National beckons once more, but when the yard’s runners start to foul fall of the authorities, the future of Aspen Valley Stables is threatened. Is the wreckage that is his personal life compromising Jack’s ability to train or is there something more sinister going on?

Fair warning: this book may or may not have made me cry a couple of times. It wasn't at all what I expected. Hannah's previous books have been fun adventures into the British racing world. There's a bit of mystery, lots of likable characters (including horses!), and happy endings for most. Light, fun reading that is well researched, witty, and written well enough that you can enjoy it without feeling guilty about it later.

 Chasing The Wind is a continuation of those stories and still contains a lot of the feel of the other books, but it differs significantly in that it is more mature and serious than her earlier writing. I admittedly hate books or movies that make me have "the feels", but this one balances the story in such a way that I identified with the characters rather than my pet hate of feeling like the author was manipulating my emotions (Nicholas Sparks, I'm looking hard at you here!)

As always, the characters are well developed and easy to root for, and there's a bit of a mystery woven into the story. All the great racing scenes are there, and there's a love story too. What more could you ask for? Her writing is as sharp and witty as ever, and I really enjoyed the added depth this novel offers. I honestly think this is the best thing she's written. Although technically part of a series, this one would easily stand on it's own. I would have no reservations recommending this to you, or even my non horsey friends who are looking for a good weekend read.

If you'd like to purchase Chasing The Wind, here are some handy links:

Finally, the not so fine print. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review. While I certainly appreciate that, it in no way colors my review of the book. I wouldn't recommend this book to you if I didn't honestly like it!

Friday 19 February 2016

Just Do Nothing

 I'm getting a little stressy about how quickly show season is approaching. Just when I feel like we're close to being prepared, trainer mentions moving up a division. Cue further stress!
Daffodils are blooming already! Spring show season is coming!
Since I like to feel prepared (and Ginger is on full lease so I have a few spare horsey $), I'm back to two lessons per week - 1 jumping, 1 flat/dressage. Tonight was dressage night, and for the first time in just about forever, we had lesson buddies. Yay! 

Bridget was not nearly as pleased about that as me and spent the first half hour or so being downright rude and naughty, trying to follow/gravitate towards the other horses but then getting all bitchy if they actually got near. Ginger was there too and Midge was like "Hey T! Ginger is here! Hi Ginger! T YOU ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME GINGER IS HERE. GINGER IS AMAZING AND WE NEED TO ADMIRE HER."

Our attempts at soft and round were more "angry and distracted giraffe". The joys of a mare in heat. My attempts to get her between my aids were a big fat fail and there was much pony drama.
EC's words of wisdom? Back to the walk, remind naughty Midget she needs to put her body where I ask (the dreaded spiral exercise again). Then this: "Bridget has come a long way in the last bit. She's starting to be halfway trained. Let her know your expectations, then just sit quietly and try to do as little as possible. Think about doing nothing. Carry your hands, relax your legs, let her carry you. Correct her in the moment you need to, then let her do her job. She is past the point of needing to be micromanaged."

In short: "Hey T! Stop being a dummy and nagging/picking a fight with your pony!"

I'm normally very quiet when she is going well, but it honestly never occurred to me to ride like that when she feels awful. I want to fix all the things! Discipline for the naughty ponies! It makes perfect sense, though - as with people, I need to remember to expect the best from her in the moment rather than dwelling on the mistakes in the past (even the 5 seconds ago past). Give the poor pony the chance to be good!
There is a good pony in here, promise
I took those words to heart, and spent the last half of the lesson very conscious of riding with a strong core, keeping my elbows following, and NOT nagging with my legs/hands when B got fussy. Just counterflexing when she got crooked, and lots of up/down transitions depending in whether she was trying to suck back or run through the bridle. 

Further EC comment: "It's no big deal. We've been here before with her , so we can expect to revisit it now and again. She's stronger and better balanced now and she knows her job, so these rides are going to become less and less frequent. Just work through it in the moment."
The reward? The last 20 minutes or so of our ride was really, really nice. Not mind blowing amazing, but pretty darn good considering where we were at a half hour before. EC was going to put a training ride on naughty pony, but then opted not to, saying we worked through the problems just fine on our own and I did nothing different riding wise than she would have done. That makes me happy, because even more than wanting to be a good rider, I really want to learn to be a fair and effective trainer. 

Summary: Give the minimum amount of input for the output you want. Quiet but effective. Not the best ride, but a very good learning experience.  Oh, and Ginger really did look amazing.

On an unrelated note, there are a couple of these cabinets in the barn that have motivational advice and equestrian related quotes written on them. Great idea!
And, the barn owner's 8 year old son added one. It makes me laugh every time. It's concise and direct. The kid is awesome :)

Tuesday 16 February 2016

RTR Blog Hop: Training Exercise of Death

Jodi at Racing to Ride has a great idea for a blog hop and asks the following question:

What are the exercises you would prefer to avoid in your lessons and daily riding? 

1. Spirals with any added degree of difficulty: ie transitions, shoulder in, renvers, whatever. This is my coaches go to warm up exercise. I get the idea - we want to check in and make sure we can move pony off the leg and bend pony in different directions. As one of those people with issues deciphering left and right, this one makes me feel really stupid almost every time.

What typically happens to me attempting this one
 2. Circle of death, or the below cloverleaf exercise. Again, I get that this is super useful for finding your line, finding your stride, and making sure those outside aids are working. However, this is another one I don't attempt alone, since I'm too proud to cry if someone is watching  I really need someone to talk me through it ;)


Having Fun

So, I know my 10 Ways To Get Along At The Barn post mentioned making a point of NOT offering unsolicited advice. But tonight I just can't help myself!

My big piece of advice to the horsey world? Ride/own the horse you have fun with. For so many years, I rode the horses no one else wanted to because those are the ones broke teenagers with little formal training get offered. Then I progressed to owning the ones I thought I should own for the (ambitious) goals I had. I worked my butt off to make it work, cause that's my default rather than giving up. I got tired, I got burnt out, I lost almost all my confidence as a rider and pretty much was one more bad ride from giving up.

Thank goodness the world intervened and I got the little Midget pony who checked absolutely none of the boxes on my original wish list (beyond being a healthy and sound equine).

Poor Midge. All locked up in the jail for heave-y ponies

And, as documented on this blog , we've proceeded to have so much fun. Even on the bad days, it doesn't feel like a chore to get out there and ride so a surprising amount of progress gets made. Because it's fun, most of my bigger picture goals don't matter as much anymore. We'll get wherever we get when we get there :)

Tonight, the Midge was very fresh. I was not thinking rider safety and definitely should have longed her first. While 5% of my brain was anxiously hoping I didn't get turfed, the other 95% was kicking on, laughing, and enjoying the show. That's a good feeling :)

When EC came out and started setting jumps for our first jump lesson since before Christmas I was like "I'm nervous, but I know Midge has got this, and I know as the lesson goes on I'll be having more and more fun". When she started setting a proper course with a full 2'6" oxer on a line to a second oxer containing the spooky ex Christmas tree, I was mentally going hmmmm. Add in a tight rollback that felt like it would put us on top of the vertical, then ending with a skinny, and I was like "Well, if we die, at least it was while we were having fun!"

Since I'm here writing this post, you can be assured we had fun and didn't die. My equitation was all over the place to start, but felt ok once we got going. Midge had a couple of stops at the skinny because she'd never seen one and the way it was set adjacent to some barrels made it look like it might be a corner. Still, the pony was on fire. Walk to canter transitions, check. Changing leads over fences, check. Simple changes through a trot stride or two, yep boom, done. Compress the canter, sure. The rollback, no worries, she's got it. And finally, that skinny? In her mind, she owned it. My toe tapped the top of the standard, she was taking no chances there! 
Ginger says "Stop talking about Bridget and FEED ME!"

We discussed long term future plans again tonight as I sought advice on what tests to ride in the dressage show and what level to enter for the two phase (A: Training Test 2 for the dressage, with an option for a second test at First if it goes well. Starter (2'3") for the two phase the following day with a second jumping only round at Pre-Entry (2'6") ) 

Long term advice? "KEEP THIS PONY!"
Like I'd have it any other way :) As a bonus, because I enjoy getting out there and the pony enjoys her job, we slowly progress. We progress to the point that EC thinks some of my big picture long term goals are going to be achievable on the pony I didn't at all purchase for that purpose. Funny how life works out.


Sunday 14 February 2016

Weekend Rides/COPD Update

I've been making up for lost time and riding every day. Poor Midge! And, poor readers! Prepare yourselves for multiple ride recaps...or do yourselves a favor and go read something more interesting :)

Friday: The Midge felt really, really good physically. Loose and soft and bendy, light in the contact. I asked for transitions everywhere: within the gait, on a circle, through a leg yield, etc. Besides all the things that happen because she is green, my only little critique would be she felt a little bit stuck now and then, resulting in some wiggliness.
Sassy thing.

Saturday: Felt awful. That bit of wiggliness turned into full on revolt, including more impressive rodeos when we discussed forward and straight being a thing. Partly my fault for not wearing my spurs and maybe not picking enough of a fight the day before. Problems were somewhat resolved by incorporating some poles on our canter circles. Poles = jumping fun in Midget land and require immense amounts of focus and enthusiasm. Up transition issues were solved easily with this, bolting off after the poles being my new challenge. I finished on a good note, and immediately signed up for an extra lesson next week, since we both felt awful and need help!
Ginger and her lover last Valentines Day

Sunday: Valentines Day and love is in the air. Midget Pony is in heat, as evidenced by her attempts to get the boss mare in the paddock to breed her. Silly horses. I tacked up and we went for a trail ride in the rain and wind. Bridget was less than impressed by this, being slightly ridiculous about the neighbours alpacas, and completely ridiculous about an empty garbage can in front of the house beyond that. Obviously all the running water in the culverts and creek crossings were cause for concern - we never see rain here, after all </sarcasm>
I wasn't holding out much hope for a great ride in the arena, but since pony loves to mess with my mind and play the opposite game, we had a really good ride! The soft/loose/supple pony from Friday reappeared, without the stickiness. Ride highlights : some quality walk to canter transitions where I really felt her think it through and sit to make it happen (rather than the default of trying to rush through the bridle). As always, left lead wasn't quite as fluid, but she really, really tried to do what I asked,  and what more can you wish for?  I asked for leg yields in the canter and got them, like no big deal. Our spirals are paying off! Lots and lots of pets and praise for Ms Bridget.
The world is so scary

COPD update: the meds helped significantly, but as soon as we took her off them the coughing reappeared.  I spent yesterday morning helping the barn owner make a separate paddock for Bridget and her best buddy, Scout. Scout is an older Arabian mare who's worth her weight in gold for the lesson kids, but who is also a little heave-y.  Separating them allows us to soak their hay and hang nets especially for them (eventually they will have their own special feeder to make it easier). The hay we're feeding is beautiful quality, but apparently that doesn't matter. The ponies could have an allergy to any part of the hay or the inherent bits of dust, or even if there was a bit of fertilizer used to grow it. We switched hay from a late cut Timothy to a first cut grass/alfalfa mix from a different area, but it didn't help. So, we're trying soaking it.  Today, I put in a fairly intense ride and there was zero coughing . Crossing my fingers hard it's the soaked hay making the difference and not a fluke! It would be such an easy solution!

Friday 12 February 2016

Virtual Adventures, and Real Ones Too

After two weeks off, I've finally ridden enough miles to update our Virtual Adventure page.
Here's a sample of where we've been:

Not a real hospital, obviously

In Real Adventure news, Bridget and I are all signed up for eventing camp! (AKA the HTBC Spring Clinic). It's a 3 day eventing clinic with a great list of clinicians and coaches. I'm super excited! The only tiny catch? It's in mid April in Pritchard (Johvale), BC - the interior of the province where the winters aren't quite as friendly as ours (but the summers are amazing - it's almost a desert and so wonderfully hot and dry!) It may be more than a little cold that time of year...and we're camping. I chose this clinic rather than the one on the coast, since this one is an extra day and I liked the line up of clinicians better. Also, this is the one Ginger is going to with her lease girl, along with some of my favorite barn mates. I think it will be fun to ride with them! G is also planning on coming along so I'm crossing my fingers hard for nice spring weather - I'd love for him to have a good time and want to go to some of the other events we've got planned this year. He's the most supportive/non complaining husband ever, but it would be nice if he didn't have to fake a good time lol. We've been promised lots of wine and I know we'll have great company, so that will definitely help my case!

Here's a fun summary of our West Coast Eventing scene - Bridget and I are planning on going to a few of the places and riding with a few of the people mentioned in the above article this summer.


Thursday 11 February 2016

Not So Bad!

Tuesday, my first ride in a million years, felt not so bad. I'm still tired very easy, so I just W/T/C both ways and called it a day. It was maybe a half hour ride. Bridget was feeling super fresh (no coughing!) but I was feeling rather wobbly and uncoordinated (plus lots of coughing!) Still, it felt great to be back.

Last night was lesson night.

There was enough daylight left that I was able to take Bridget for a quick hack off property as a warm up. What a treat after these last few months of arriving at the barn after work and never seeing the light of day. When we got back to the arena, the girls ahead of me were having a jumping lesson and Bridget started getting all hyped up for that. We stuck with flatwork because I didn't feel up for anything too physically demanding, plus honestly, the time off made the jumps look HUGE!
Look! I'm riding AND it's still daylight! A miracle :)

We did our normal shoulder in and haunches in on a spiral as the warm up. Midge felt kind of sticky and stiff, but that's to be expected after 2 weeks of trail rides on the buckle. She gave it her best though, and we moved on to playing a little with collecting and lengthening. The collected stuff felt awesome. EC told me to imagine being so round and up we are trotting in place, and Bridget actually offered that up for a couple of steps, surprising us all - that's not actually what we thought would happen! The lengthenings felt good for a baby horse, she is getting the idea of using her hind end and pushing. They wouldn't get us great marks at a dressage show, but the idea is becoming more solid every ride, and her strength and balance seems to improve daily.

Right canter - the up transitions were amazing! We can get almost an entire 20m circle where she is relaxed and round (and straight - finally not running through the outside aids) Huge progress! I transition down when she loses balance and she's getting quite good at finding her balance and getting back into that nice round trot within 2 or 3 strides. Then back up to canter we go! So fun.

Left canter - still more of the struggle bus side. At this point it's more me than her. Bridget is definitely more unbalanced this way, but I am still doing that dumb thing where I react by giving with my outside aids and hanging on the inside. EC has me thinking counterflexing Bridget almost immediately after the transition, which is a great help in actually staying straight and keeping my hands where they need to be. When she loses balance this way it's almost always falling out of the circle, so in addition to our trot transition we add in a spiral in shoulder fore (is it called that? Shoulders to the center or the circle, haunches out, but counter flexed to the outside...) to remind us both what the outside aids are for.

Dressage show in two weeks. Are we ready? Nope. Are we going to have fun? Yep, I think so!

Wednesday 10 February 2016

10 Ways To Get Along At The Barn

Cathryn at That Red Mare posted an interesting blog hop about your biggest pet peeves. I went a little overboard, so you're welcome in advance for my 10 item list about how to get along at the barn ;)

1. Pay Your Bills On Time
Seriously, just do it. It doesn't matter if the service provider is disorganized about billing, or if you know Suzie pays late without penalty. Just pay your bills on the day of service. You'll sleep better at night. The vet, farrier, barn owner, etc will probably love you based on this alone. E-Transfers work great for people not so inclined to invoice you. You get a built in record of the transaction and there's no wondering when the cheque is getting cashed.

2. Gossip If You Must
But it had better be nice. Never, ever, say anything negative about another person or horse. It doesn't matter if you hate Trainer B, or you know Boarder C is ruining their horse.Easy rules: If the person being negatively talked about isn't present, you're in the wrong. If the person is present, but didn't ask your opinion, you're still in the wrong. Counter negative chat with a positive comment or two.

3. Clean Up After Yourself
As with Tip 1, even if no one else does, please just do it. You don't need to clean up everyone else's messes, but you should pick up after yourself. Sweep up the grooming area when you're done. Put your gear away neatly. Pick up any poop your horse left in the barn or arena. Turn out lights and close doors if you're the last one there. It doesn't matter if there's staff for that, or you pay a lot for board. It's common courtesy and will be appreciated.

4. Compromise
Be open minded. The barn might have a different system than your previous barn. They might have a rule or two that seem silly or like it maybe shouldn't apply to you. Keep quiet and give it a chance anyway. Hopefully, you chose your barn based on good recommendations, the quality of care and how happy the other horses seemed. If it's working for everyone else, it just might work for you. 

5. Share Well With Others
       Use good arena etiquette. If you're unsure about what is proper etiquette, research it, or ask the barn owner or another boarder. Don't use the wash stall if it's busy and you're only intending to tack up or groom. Do your laundry in a timely fashion. Don't borrow things that aren't yours, even if it's just for a minute or two. Don't give other horses treats or handle them without permission.

6. Mind Your Horse's Manners Too
      No one's horse is going to be a perfect angel 100% of the time. But please, please ensure that at a minimum, can be led and handled safely. If Pony has a quirk or training hole that's going to potentially make life difficult for other boarders or staff, please make it known ahead of time so it can be managed appropriately. Ask for advice or help if you need it! No one will think less of you, or at least they'll think more highly of you than if you leave them with an unwelcome surprise!

7. Be Reliable
    Show up on time for your lessons or other appointments. If you self board, be reliable about mucking out and keeping a supply of hay and grain. Lend a hand if someone needs one. Treat everyone equally and with respect.

8. Organize
     Keep your belongings contained to your designated area. Keep track of when your horse is due for the farrier or vet. If you're going to be away for any length of time, let those that need to know, know. Keep up to date on any relevant insurance or memberships. Be sure everyone has your current contact information and an idea of what they need to do/who to contact in case of emergency, for both you and your horse.

9. Be Honest
    Honesty is always a great policy. If you're happy at the barn, let them know! If you're nervous to jump over 2'6' let your coach know. If you're unhappy and wanting to move, let them know that too. Maybe they can recommend something better suited, maybe something can be changed to keep you around. You're easy to have around, and you pay your bills on time, right? ;)

10.Work At The Barn
    Seriously, you'll gain a whole new appreciation for the large amount of work and very little reward involved. And you'll quickly grow to love the people that tidy up after themselves and leave concise and current feeding and care notes!

Tuesday 9 February 2016

What To Do When You Can't Ride

Tonight will mark my first ride in two weeks. It's time. I was so stir crazy and miserable this weekend! I alternated between Plan A: wanting to quit my job, buy a farm and board horses/ride all day, and Plan B: keeping my job, but spending every last cent/spare moment on horses and riding lessons. Do you sense a theme? Then I got news I didn't get a spot in the mounted police clinic. Cue tears and sadness. Then I found out I'm either riding with Steph Rhodes-Bosch or Kristi Nunnink in April's eventing clinic and I was happy again. (Anyone have a preference either way? I can can go to either weekend, but not both! I bought a lottery ticket but I'm somehow not confident that I will be independently wealthy by next week) Then I slept a bunch while my body fought off this stupid virus.

I traveled home last night and woke up this morning super early. I was excited because it's my day to feed the horses breakfast  and I hadn't seen the ponies since last Wednesday due to my being sick and out of town visiting G. I walked into the barn this morning and breathed a huge sigh of relief. Whew, back where I belong, the world feels right again. Also, the sun was rising as I walked out my door to head out for the day - the days are getting longer! Yay!
Look! Bridget eating her breakfast in the daylight! ;)
Finally, since I'm reading more than a few of us are/have been off sick, here's my list of horse related things to do while you wait to die:

- Read a good book. I just re-read Horseplay by Judy Reene Singer and also read the final Aspen Valley book, Chasing the Wind (review to come). I also delved back into Hunter Seat Equitation, Dressage With Kyra, Basic Training of The Young Horse, the Mary King autobiography and Centered Riding, but honestly, being sick meant I just read a chapter here and there. The first two novels are much better for a sick day, good escapism to make you forget how awful you feel!

-Youtube. I watched a bunch of Carl Hester videos, then discovered they have the entire equestrian coverage from the London Olympics on there. The dressage alone is like 12 hours of coverage. It's also all narrated in a soothing, quiet, british voice, perfect for napping to.The GP freestyle in particular is great - wake up and be inspired, then let the classical music and quiet narrative put you back to sleep, then YAY OMG CHARLOTTE WON A GOLD MEDAL, everyone's happy, the world is a great place, back to soothing commentary/sleep :)

-Netflix. They have Unbranded, which is from the same lady as the Buck movie. I didn't love it, but gorgeous scenery and horses is never a bad thing.

-Blogs. Seriously, bloggers are the best.

-HorseHero. I still love my Horse Hero subscription. See above about soothing british accents and horses. Seriously though, there are a ton of great training videos on there featuring a nice mix of up and coming riders and established big name riders. When I'm sick I tend to watch the barn tour videos and drool over the facilities, or intros to foxhunting or polo rather than something more serious.

-Online shopping. Oh boy, was I bad. My plague sickness/ulcers dieting has been going very, very well and what else to do but buy properly fitting clothes to celebrate? I have about a million dollars worth of products sitting in virtual shopping carts all over the world. Asmar equestrian, why must you have such nice stuff on sale? I actually bought new pair of full seat breeches in an eggplant color I couldn't resist, plus some odds and ends I actually needed (brushes, elastics, gloves, leather cleaner). I'm planning to buy a new coat, a new show shirt, (both from Asmar) and some super kick ass boots (Frye) when G isn't looking when I confirm they are in the budget/my desire for them hasn't faded after a few days of careful obsession.
Slightly more purple-y in real life.

Saturday 6 February 2016

Falling Behind

Monday will mark two weeks since I've been in the saddle. I don't even know the last time I went a week without riding, let alone two. I feel more than a little lost, and I definitely feel like we're falling behind and won't be ready for our shows at the end of the month. Still, it's been a necessary evil as Midge and I both recuperate.

Midge started her week of Ventipulmin last Tuesday. Fingers crossed it works. Fingers doubly crossed we're able to use it on an 'as needed' basis moving forward rather than a daily maintenance dose - even at pony sized dosing that stuff is expensive! (about $130 for a two week supply.) Pony is feeling very well and sassy so I have a couple of the working students getting her out for some light hacks while I rest up at our house up the coast. I'm not sure if or how much B's been coughing - I trust they won't push her if she's having a not so great day, and am hoping no news is good news!
Ginny last year

Ginger is now on a full/free lease to the barn owner/trainer, EC. She's been working out really well for the more advanced students, and EC has been enjoying riding her as well. Long term, I suspect I'll still sell her eventually (it's silly to keep a horse I don't ride), but for now I'm really enjoying having her around and seeing her happy and useful. I admit it's a little hard to watch Ginger go and see how easy she finds everything and how hard she tries compared to the struggle bus that is Midge, but if the chips were down I wouldn't trade back for the world - Midge and I are much more on the same wavelength. Ginger and I are opposites, which is why I think it actually worked for so long, but now that I have Midge, I find myself getting impatient with some of Ginger's quirks, particularly her spookiness. She is definitely more of a pro ride, and I don't have that level of commitment or focus on a consistent basis.
Spooky pony is suspicious of the outside world :)

Moving forward, Midge and I have that mounted police desensitizing clinic in two weeks. That should be fun! Following that, we have a dressage show at Southlands and a combined test at MREC.

The dressage show is part of a series of schooling shows, but I'm a bit apprehensive since we're coming off a break and they do attract large numbers of competitors. Also, they are an overnight trip for us and I don't like wasting $! The combined test is also part of a monthly winter series, but is slightly more 'official' and counts for provincial year end points/qualifying for a provincial championship series (for dressage and jumping, NOT the eventing championships, they are a separate thing :)

For the dressage show, we're doing the 2015 USEF Training Test 1. For the combined test we're entering the Starter division, which is 2'3" jumps and Canadian Eventing Entry Test 1 (pretty much the same as the USEF Training Test 1). I don't think any of the above poses any kind of technical issue, we're schooling First at home, and jumping 2'6". We're still going to be challenged though, these will be our first away shows, and our first dressage test in a 20x60 arena. First lesson back is on Wednesday, we're going to have our work cut out for us!
Midge last summer. "Enough with this dressage, lets go home!"


Monday 1 February 2016

Unexciting Updates

First off, thank you for all the positive stories and kind wishes, they do make me feel a lot better!

Ginger thanks you too, she does not enjoy it when I'm worried/sad:

I talked with the vet again this weekend and she called another vet for a second opinion. The other vet had some reservations about things. His concerns: There was a virus that went around the barn late October. While this could have been the trigger for the COPD, it could also mean a lingering bacterial infection aggravating things. The first vet didn't scope because she didn't have the equipment, second vet would prefer to have that done so we can see what's going on. We do not live in an area with a regular vet or equine vet hospital so he's comfortable trying Ventipulmin and seeing how that goes. He advised against Dex due to the side effects and his above mentioned concern that there might be a secondary issue requiring treatment. Both vets are fairly confident we are dealing with COPD, apparently it's been the "worst year ever" for it. Maybe the virus was the trigger/is complicating things though.

B's cough was worse yesterday, but her levels of sass were more than I've ever seen. My idea of having her walk around on the longe didn't mesh with her idea of leaping and bucking and generally being a disrespectful idiot. PiccoloPony, that sass Katai sent was received loud and clear :)

My understanding is we are going to start  Ms B on Ventipulmin just as soon as we can get it mailed to us. I'm wondering if we should be proactive with antibiotics, but I'll have to chat again with the vet - I think we are still waiting for some lab results.

In other news, the plague virus I caught is actually pneumonia. (Fun fact: I have really crappy lungs and allergy induced asthma as well, so Midge and I are a perfect team!)  So, life in this corner of the world is going to be a little slow while myself and the pony recuperate from our respective plagues.

"Bring out yer dead!" (Sorry, I couldn't resist):