Tuesday 31 May 2016

Always Learning

Lesson day, again! This time, some dressage.

Guys, my pony...she's an absolute star. We started on a 20m circle (because guess who got dinged last weekend for not riding accurate 20m circles? Yep, me!) Name of the game was 20m circles everywhere, no markers to help...and when I finally got that nailed down, onwards to spiralling in to 15m and back out to 20. We also worked in collecting and extending, with pony working into the bridle and taking me. More than a few moments of amazing there!
Sparkly star pony is a little weird

Onwards to canter, focusing on a quality transition, and further refining the canter so I can ask her to extend and compress there too. It's a work in progress, but seriously, a lot of good moments. 

Finished with walk to canter transitions, on a small circle with haunches in, essentially forcing the pony to use that hind end in the transition. Body building for horses, we 're to do 4-5 reps each direction per ride for now to help her build strength for the grown up canter transitions we're looking for. We got an "8" this weekend on a movement involving medium walk to working trot transition and I'm told there are no excuses not to get those scores in all our transitions...that EC, she's just never satisfied! ;)

B felt soft and bendy and amazing. I could feel she was tired from our weekend adventures, so showing up to happily go to work was much appreciated and will be rewarded with a day off and an extra big breakfast delivered to her.  I couldn't be more happy with how she's progressing, both mentally and physically. Baby horses are super fun, but we're now at that fantastic place where potential is still there, but there is a bit more of a work ethic installed and also plenty of "fun" buttons starting to become fairly reliable.
Pictures are throwback to that time I downloaded a fun photo app and it somehow revamped all the pictures on my phone, maxing out my storage. Still, I do like some of the results, like the 'painting' above

Finally, the reason she gets a triple gold star - we had some adult lesson mates who are wonderful and fun and just starting out. For the trot work on the 20m circles, their instructions were to follow Bridget's lead, try to keep the same pace and path as us, try to keep the same distance away from us. That's a lot to do as a rider when you're first learning, so B's softness and focus was extra amazing considering we had horses up our butt and cutting us off and generally being everywhere but following us in a line at a reasonable distance. Our collected work was causing quite a pile up behind us and quite a bit of hilarity. We also had a random person riding who I think maybe thought they should follow along too? So we had a train of assorted horses and riders trying to follow us everywhere with varying levels of success :) So happy with B for keeping her focus on me. She actually seemed a bit proud to lead the parade, and I feel like it was probably a super fun lesson for all the horses and riders. 

 I pretty much grab a lesson spot wherever I can after work, so somethimes that means I end up alone, sometimes it means EC is lowering jumps for us while I tag along with the kids going prelim. My favorite is actually riding with the more beginner students - the enthusiasm and excitement is contagious :)

Monday 30 May 2016

XC Schooling

Another weekend filled with horse activities! Sunday was a lot kinder to us weather wise...instead of freezing rain and wind, we had a nice sunny summer day to play in.

Bridget is excited to go for an adventure

A picture of my warm up for the show the day prior. Noon ride time, not that you can tell ha ha

The farm we rode at was amazing...when I grow up I'd love my own 150 acre oceanfront equestrian paradise! It's about an hours drive on a windy road, but no ferries, so it's super convenient by our standards. The XC field was a little wet due to all the rain we had the day before, but still do-able, and the space to gallop much appreciated in our land of mountains and million dollar mini farms.

Is taking a screenshot of the aerial imagery of the farm creepy? Probably.
I was NERVOUS. That fall last week is SO messing with my head. What is working in my favour is that I've had far, far more wonderful rides on Bridget than scary ones, so I know if I push past the nerves I'll be ok and start enjoying things.

Bridget obviously felt my bad vibes and wasn't her normal confident self, spooking at everything and generally being a bit silly.

She wasn't overly keen to leave the group, so I had a good laugh about that. She'd canter when I asked, and it was big and bouncy...and pretty much not going anywhere. She's using the dressage against me lol, like "but I thought you want more canter, bigger, taller steps? Surely not galloping?" Smart pony, why did you not bring that game to the dressage show on Saturday? Also noted, she can sit her butt down in the canter plenty when she's so inclined! You've given the game away, Ms B.  

After some fairly rude antics we established forward and I started riding like I meant it. I forgot how assertive I need to be to get the pony galloping across country, not to mention getting her over the jumps! EC gave me a pep talk. "Just find a good pace and gallop around and jump whatever you're comfortable with. But you'd better mean it and you'd better tell her you're 100% confident doing it. If you can stick it out and ride like that for 20 minutes I guarantee you're going to have a different horse. You both just need confidence!"

So, I rode my butt off, and things were a little ugly, but I forgot to be nervous. Then, as predicted B started getting the idea and taking me to the jumps and galloping nicely and things were fun and magical. There may be hope for us yet :)

Highlight for me: There was a table(?) type thing with about a 2' step up, two canter strides and about a 2'6" drop off the back side. Not big by any means, but drops make me nervous. No issues though - Bridget easily cantered up and off like NBD. We worked it into our course, then added a couple of strides into water and out and over a small log. Then a big gallop around the field jumping whatever looked fun. So proud of the pony. The only thing that caught us out a little was a fair sized log in the forest that had a bit of a drop behind it. I wasn't expecting the drop and rode it poorly, and Bridget stumbled but I stayed in the tack for the win ;)
There is a ditch up there next to the tree we'd like to jump. Also, there are cows next to the tree.

Also, there were cows in the lower field...those caused more mayhem than anything. Brave event horses weren't so brave about that. Thankfully, with Bridget being Bridget, she was just wondering where all the new friends came from and was all pleased with suddenly being the bravest, most bad ass pony out there :)

While to start we weren't as confident as I'd have hoped, we had a super positive outing and had plenty of fun. I'm happy with what we accomplished this weekend, and am calling it a huge win since simply getting in the saddle and walking earlier in the week pretty much made me feel ill with nerves!

I'm definitely returning there next month for another xc lesson!

Saturday 28 May 2016

Show Notes

Apologies in advance for any formatting issues, I'm posting from my cell phone :)
Proof of life after our adventures of last weekend ;)

My goals going into this show were: 

- The judge today was our dressage clinician a year or so ago at a clinic that went all kinds of bad. Despite the feedback, I didn't lose faith in the pony, but it left me feeling like I was hopeless as a rider. This show was a good test for me as far as show nerves and confidence goes. I felt like if I could keep my head in the game and ride a good, confident test in front of this particular judge, it would be a huge. The mind games, I play them, and I play them poorly ;) It's petty, but I also wanted to do well enough to force her have to give us a good mark or two.

-Better the 64% that we've gotten at all three previous shows we've been to. (x2 tests at some of them, which means I have a larg-ish stack of assorted 64% tests) This was more of a secret hopeful  goal, I knew the judge today would be super tough so I would have actually been thrilled with another 64%.

The test ridden: EC Eventing Entry Test 2. Pretty straightforward test in a 20x40 area.

Since we have yet to ride a dressage test in anything but torrential downpour and wind the weather decided to cooperate and bring just that. I know some of you out there have found a niche at a certain level or even a certain test. Bridget and I are rapidly finding our niche - riding tests during weather warnings :)
Maybe easier to just stay home? Luckily, my truck is cool with flooded roads

Since there were a few cancellations, we ended up riding 30 min early which meant I was in the saddle for all of about 10 min before they were calling for me. A more dedicated person would have made them wait and finished their warmup, but honestly, Bridget felt ok and the thought of being 30 min closer to a warm shower and dry clothes was too tempting! So, in the arena we went!

Bridget was a little tense and looky at the judges tent blowing in the wind, but the test rode well and felt quite accurate. With B being a little fresh, our up transitions were bang on, but she was pulling me around a bit and not as soft/round as I had hoped. Our second medium walk had a bit of jigging as she anticipated the trot transition, but all in all I was pleased and felt it was by far our best test to date.

The second test was an opportunity to fix the mistakes of the first, and Bridget was such a good girl. She was a lot more warmed up, so things flowed a little more nicely and I felt bad for rushing into the first test. Lots of little things to work on, as always, but it felt like a really solid effort and I was beyond pleased with her - I felt like it was the best we're currently capable of bringing, and for B to go out in the such miserable weather and give me such a nice try had me grinning from ear to ear.

EC managed to watch our tests and was beyond happy with them, which of course made me feel great! She's a fabulous, positive coach, but compliments are rare and mean a lot to me.

So, as for what the judge saw...

Test 1: Two low marks of 5.5 for submission and that little jig in the medium walk, a single 8(!) for the free walk. Rest 6's and 7's. 

Comments: "Tactfully ridden. Keep up the very good work!"  (Yep, she immediately remembered us from the terrible clinic - my moving to a new town didn't make us any less distinctive, apparently!)

Score: 63.75% Another 64-ish percent test for our stack. Funny how some tests felt bad, and some felt really good for us, like this one, but the judges score the same! Seriously happy though, because as mentioned, tough judge and a more difficult test than our previous ones.

Test 2: Low mark of 6 (multiples). The ones that have comments note B was above the bit in one of the canter transitions, but steady, and that she needed to stretch down a little more in a couple of the trots. High of 8 (twice!), again for the free walk, and also for the medium walk and working trot. Remainder 6.5 - 7

Comments: "Everything improved, well done!"

Score: 67.75% I'm beyond thrilled with that and think we are ready to try some First level tests next time out. 

For the record, redemption feels quite nice :)

Thursday 26 May 2016

Mind Games

Quick thank you for all the amazing comments re: our misadventure, and also outfitting ourselves to look more professional. Looking more professional probably starts with not getting pancaked by your horse, but a cute outfit is still a positive in any circumstance, right?

After our rather spectacular fail over the weekend, I got right back on and ended the ride on a good note. Then I hobbled home and into bed and tried very hard not to move one single aching body part for the next 24 hours or so. I also tried very, very hard not to think too deeply on it.

48 hours later, the negative self talk and the butterflies were starting to creep in. 

72 hours later, I knew I needed to get back in the saddle and tell those feelings to shut up ASAP.

So, that's why last night found me riding in my regular scheduled lesson. My body wasn't ready, but my mind needed some bootcamp STAT!

EC did a pretty good job of calmly listening as I quickly described our little adventure, but Im sure I saw a very quickly covered up look of horror. The butterflies were like "See! This is crazy! Even EC is thinking you're lucky to be here! I bet she's thinking it's going to happen again because you're a terrible rider. You should probably give up riding right now and find a decent owner for poor Bridget. You should just watch horses on TV or something."

Thankfully, EC is amazing at pushing you to get back on track while also building confidence when you most need it.

We started with walk. Medium walk to free walk and back to medium, focus on straightness, keeping same tempo, keeping pony soft no matter what my rein length is. Just as I felt bored, we added in trot transitions. Big trot, little trot, halt, trot, halt, etc. Then some leg yield. Then canter, but on a 20m circle, and only 4-5 strides, then back to trot for a stride, then back to canter. 

And so, 30 minutes later, confidence was maybe not at an all time high, but certainly within acceptable limits. While my inner mean girl bully is still out and on the loose, the butterflies at least have been locked back in their little box. I like how it is getting easier and easier to lock them back away and move my focus to more positive things.

We ran through our dressage test a couple of times. Our first run through was acceptable, but I rushed the canter transitions and Midge was not impressed. She got tense, I got tense, and although the test was accurate, it wasn't our best effort. Second run through was about the best Midge and I can currently bring to the table, so I was really pleased to end the lesson on that note.

The judge this weekend is the person we had such a terrible clinic with last year. I know I shouldn't care, but oh my goodness would I like to put in a good test and prove her wrong! EC says that's silly, it was a year ago and she won't even remember us. The voice of reason, as always. But, again, I think I caught I slight crack in the facade...so just in case, I'm bringing my best A game to this one ;)

Then, on Sunday, XC schooling. 

SHUT UP ALREADY, butterflies...


Tuesday 24 May 2016

Be Safe

Learn from my stupidity, or at least let it serve as a friendly reminder to always wear your safety gear. We're both fine, but we're pretty lucky, I think.

The other day, Midge and I were having a really nice ride. I had wanted to practice my dressage tests for the upcoming show, so we ran through those a couple of times.We played with a few transitions. She was going super well but then during a walk to canter transition the wheels totally fell off,  as evidenced by the fact that she pretty much immediately lost her balance. I lost mine as well, and fell to the side, but did not let go of the reins, essentially directing her fall right on top of me.

What a lovely feeling to be laying flat on your back watching your horse coming down on top of you! The actual impact wasn't as bad as expected as she kind of fell and rolled up on me, and the sand was soft. She was super careful about getting up, and only lightly caught me with a hind hoof before realizing I wasn't solid ground and standing on two legs so I could get out from under her. Worth her weight in gold, this pony.

Today, I'm still super sore, all the way from my ankles to my collarbone. Getting steamrolled by a 900lb pony will do that I guess. I feel absolutely horrible for my part in the drama, maybe she wouldn't have fallen at all if I had ridden it better? Or maybe I would have ended up going down with the ship...who knows? Maybe I was putting too much pressure on her? Maybe she just made a super bad decision? I have no witnesses so can't really say exactly what happened, it felt like her front end came up and her back end sort of slid under her.

So, let this serve as your friendly reminder to wear your safety gear and have a plan in case of emergency. You can be 'just' doing dressage on a nice day in a flat arena on the quietest horse in the barn and everything can still change in a second. I'm wishing I wore my vest, but super glad I had a helmet on because my head is what got the accidental hoof.


Sunday 22 May 2016


There are a few girls at the barn that just always look put together and elegant on their horses. I am pretty sure I have never been described as one. I take my riding seriously and do feel I could take a cue from my fellow barn mates and dress more professionally in my day to day barn life. Particularly before a show, I am really finding my wardrobe lacking. My riding gear that is fit to be seen at a schooling show/clinic consists of exactly one pair of beige breeches, and one black polo. I do own a couple of hunt coats - a black one that is far too large, and a navy pinstripe that is pretty much a portable sauna. I have a couple of white shirts, but again, they are ginormous on me and only useful if I hide them under the sauna coat. I have a few nice pairs of breeches, but the colors are inappropriate for much more than schooling or lessons at home (Looking through my wardrobe, I have a serious fondness for black and navy!)

Even here, I just dumped all my bookmarked 'wanty'  items into Paint, and it would appear casual apparel is more my thing. Also, black and navy.

I'm finding it super overwhelming to outfit myself appropriately. I read everyone's reviews and think "WOW, that sounds/looks great!", then go book another clinic/lesson and deplete my bank account.  I'm telling myself it's smarter to spend my spare horsey money on lessons and shows rather than clothing and gear, and mostly I agree with myself. Except during the days leading up to a show. Then I get all 13 year old girl on the first day of school with absolutely NOTHING cool to wear. Ughhh.

It's a given that I'm going to buy a white show shirt that fits appropriately. Beyond that, any budget tips on making my riding wardrobe that little bit more professional? A key piece or two? Some accessories that help you look a little more trendy/put together? Something you can't live without? I'm all ears.


Thursday 19 May 2016

Here To Work

I love my lesson mates, but if I could afford to abandon them for private lessons I would totally do it on a more regular basis. Still, I am super spoiled. Every so often when the scheduling just doesn't work I get a private lesson added on at the end of the day for the cost of a group one. It's a good deal!

Tonight was one of those nights. I opted to focus on dressage, because it's been a while, also because I'm feeling like we're seriously underpowered. I ended up having a fantastic lesson. I'm a terrible eventer because I got way more out if it and had more fun than any jump lesson in recent memory. That feeling of having your horse soft and right there with you every stride is addictive! Maybe one day we'll get there over fences, for now that feeling is only found in our dressage lessons.

Shiny happy pony
The take homes:

- When I get in the saddle, I have to be in the mindset that we're here to work! Every time. I should not be slacking off or letting Bridget get away with anything, even on the trails. Marching forward, on the bit, responsive immediately to my aids. No "relaxing", wandering along on a loose rein dragging along on her forehand. She is a pony mare, giving an inch will result in her taking a mile ;)

-On the same theme: Bridget stays round when I ask, hind legs step under, become more active when I ask for forward. Forward = Bigger, rounder, never flatter. Again, consistency. This needs to happen in all the gaits, all the time.

-Lots of forwards, backwards within the gaits. If she gets behind my leg at any point, she goes forward IMMEDIATELY.

-Canter. Huge progress, is so close to being as adjustable as the trot. Keep working on it, keep focusing on it.

-Transitions. All the time, everywhere. To rebalance, also as a correction when she breaks gait or runs through the bridle. Focus on keeping her round through the transitions - she's experienced and fit enough she doesn't need to throw her head up anymore. She's solidly at first level - treat her like it!

In short, I need to expect more and be more disciplined.

-When people talk about horses working from behind or shifting their weight back, it's a bit misleading and not what is really happening. Really they are tucking their pelvis under and bringing the hind leg under, but pushing off more/bigger with the front feet. It feels different than what the biomechanics show. 

-Advised reading up on  Dr Hilary Clayton's work if interested.

And, the good stuff:

-XC schooling is booked for the day after the dressage show (May 28/29).

More tiny logs!
-Will likely max out at Pre-Training (3'). She is scopy enough to jump higher, but galloping wise likely could not get fit enough. Expects we will be competing at Pre-Training end of next season, so I should start to consider future plans now. 

 -Still sees no reason we can't aim for PSG in the dressage ring (!),  and go to the odd event for fun, if want to jump a little bigger maybe try some two phases.

-Bridget is nicer over her back and has nicer paces than Ginger - of the two B is not so eye catching but is actually the more correct and naturally supple of the two and the one she would have told me to keep. (In short...stop already with the regrets over Ginger!)

I really like jumping and may eventually want to pursue it beyond Bridget's capabilities, but I can also tell you right now I am still totally on board for (attempting to) ride and train a legit dressage pony. It's a discussion we've had in the past, but was more of a theoretical "why not try?" It's exciting to me now that we are farther along that EC is still 100% believing in the pony power!

Love this one, not sure if I shared it before
I won't bore you with how over experienced and over qualified  EC is to coach us - in short if I had actually read her full bio prior to asking for board/lessons I would have been too intimidated to make the call! Simply having someone of that level of expertise believe that B is a good pony for my long term riding future and that I could potentially ride her at such a high level is hugely flattering and very motivating.


Tuesday 17 May 2016

A Weird Kind of Day

I spent the weekend up the coast at home with with G and our cute little kitty cat. So nice, but it feels weird to not ride for two days in a row!

I ended up getting into work a little late this morning, and was immediately asked how the farrier was. I was like "?!?!"
My coworkers: "Isn't that the guy who puts horseshoes on? Is he good looking?" 
Me: "Yes, a farrier puts on horseshoes but I have no idea why we're talking about this?"
Long story short, my phone autocorrected "ferry" to "farrier" in my email explaining that I would be late this morning. What I meant to say: "I'm going to be 30 min late because I'm going to stay overnight and hop on the ferry in the morning"
View at lunch. One of these days I will take the plane rather than the farrier ferry.

 So...yeah. My office mates spent the first half hour of the day googling farriers and imagining I lead a much more exciting life than I do.

Then I had a presentation to do for work, supposedly for just a few people, mostly coworkers and industry people. Get there and it's in this huge hall and there are a lot of people, it's been advertised to the public. And there is a microphone and a stage. I'm shy. I.just.cant.even. Coworker had to step in and do it for me because it was like a bad dream...my words just left me and I was frozen. Ugghh, I know supposedly practice makes it easier and all that, but that doesn't seem to apply for me. Thank goodness public speaking is sort of optional at my job.  

Awkward presentation made me late for my lesson, so the whole warmup felt rushed and kind of off. Bridget was super keen for about two minutes, then decided she was frozen too, hooves glued deep into the arena sand. Or at least that's what it felt like. We were either underpowered, or strung out and flat. We smashed some jumps. Repeatedly. Our jumping lesson evolved into a much needed flat lesson. 

Canter/trot/canter, pony must be on my aids and must stay round. I had to be very firm with her, but improvements were made. 

Moving forward, Bridget is getting further restrictions on her diet because somehow she's got fatter in her jail cell dry lot. She's magical like that. I'm also under instructions to ride her up the big hill two or three times a week to get her fitness a little better/help her lose weight. It's about a 45 min round trip. It's too steep to do much but walk, so it's kind of boring and I'm guilty of only getting out there on the weekends if I have time. Third on the list: I need to put my spurs back on. I took them off because B was getting spur rubs, but it's hopeless without them. We're going to try roller ball ones and see if they are the magical combination of annoying/motivating but not bruising/rubbing. I'm feeling discouraged about her return to a marginal work ethic.
All I can see here is spur rubs - thank goodness as her summer coat continues to come in the darker hair is shedding out,

Tonight, as I filled out my dressage show entries, I noticed the judge is someone we know. And not on a good way! Long time readers might remember an "interesting" clinic we had last year. If you don't, short version: she was really, really critical and hard. Think George Morris style and up the intensity even further - probably fair critique, quite focused on etiquette, and super harsh in the delivery. Ignorance was no excuse! We served as the bad example all weekend.  It wasn't just me imagining it,  my fellow riders were so scared to be the next "me" a lot of them that rode later cancelled their lessons! Perhaps in the last year she's forgotten the horror that was us? We've moved to a new town so perhaps our anonymity has been restored :) Maybe she still has nightmares about us. Just in case, I will NOT be carrying a whip, and I will sit the trot because I'm still not confident I'm carrying my whip or changing diagonals in correct locations. I will remember forever more to keep the bight of my reins to the right in dressage though ;)

Honestly, while there were some funny moments, it was a bit of a demoralizing day. Thank goodness there is always tomorrow :)

Friday 13 May 2016

Small Changes of Plans

Since we're going through a little bit of a weird spot jumping wise, I'm going to opt out of the 'big' show in three weeks, and instead aim for it's twin that thankfully occurs a month later. The cost comes in at $500-$600 by the time I pay entries, stabling, and trailering and I'm not willing to spend that kind of money if I'm going to have to also spend a fortune at the on site pub drowning my tears not totally confident we'll make it around the show jumping and xc.
Midge says the stall doors at that venue were too tall anyways!

Schooling and show miles are great...schooling at $600 a pop, not so much. I'd love to go to the Topline Back to Back Horse Trials the first weekend of July. Appealing because I love the area (it's Bridget's hometown!) and honestly, it works out to the same cost as the ones in Vancouver. Most importantly, if I screw up (and the chances of that are high with it being both pony and my first ever ever) I get a second chance the same weekend, no sitting around thinking about it for a month or two :) Anyone been to Topline, (or any 4 day event with two separate horse trials) and have any input as to that plan? Here's the event overview, if you care to read. We could also hold out for MREC event in mid July (as mentioned, main selling feature to this one is the relatively close to home location and the on site pub), which still leaves us space in the calendar and $ in the bank for another event in August and a final one in October.
Please, we want some more!

I'm not too worried about erasing some of the more expensive outings off my calendar - we still have a dressage show in two weeks, and another hunter/jumper show in a month. We also have a xc schooling day planned at an area farm. All are local, low key, fun events...and cost on average about $60. I like that price! Maybe I'll have some spare cash to get a sweet blue coat like Emma's, or a bridle that actually fits the pony. Random side note (does Stubben even make cob sized brown hunter style bridles? I can only find black dressage ones...and am attached to the idea of bridle matching saddle)

I remember EC saying earlier in the year, that for the lower levels for the first year or so it's smarter to just attend the local stuff and get cheap miles. I was like "How boring! I want to do all the things!" I guess I'm finally seeing her logic. I'm  super grateful that our local club puts on really well run and well attended shows all spring and summer. This month alone, there is a hunter/jumper show, an english hack show, a western show, a western games day, and a dressage % day. The huge bonus is that they bring in great judges, the same ones I'll find at the bigger, rated shows. 

So, for the time being the plan is to stay over here in my little corner of the world for a couple more months :)

Thursday 12 May 2016

At Last, A Lesson!

Its only been a couple of weeks, but it feels like forever!

As predicted, EC was still feeling the Badminton energy and had a tricky, windy course set up for us. Also, there were skinnies and corners, neither of which we've really done much (actually any) of.

I told her my feelings about the show and in typical EC fashion, she laughed :) "What do you expect? She's a pony! We knew eventually she'd look for a way to get the job done with minimum amount of energy possible. If you let her, she's going to constantly reinvent her job description as she goes along."

First order of business: get the pony in front of my leg. "Be relentless! If you have to put your reins in one hand and smack her on the bottom, do that. She HAS to respond to your leg IMMEDIATELY. She's far enough along in her training that we want more, you need to be able to adjust the canter the second you ask. It has to feel like she is taking you to the jump!" Words I needed to hear, since left to my own devices I tend to start feeling "mean" and let things slide rather than picking that fight as consistently as I should.

I have zero willpower, she's too cute

To practice this, we trotted into a small jump, landed in canter, and if she felt at all stuck, we followed by galloping away and down the long sides of the arena, bringing her back a little on the short side, then jumping again. It helped immensely!

EC feels like our problems are a fairly normal training stage considering how we started B jumping (on a pretty loose rein, just asking her to go forward and straight) Now that we're keeping a bit more of a contact and asking her to adjust a little, Bridget is not yet understanding that those cues don't mean slow down and do a pretty dressage canter. I need to be quicker to react, particularly upon landing, pushing her forward and encouraging her to take me along a little more into the contact, otherwise we lose more and more pace as the round goes on. She is very light in the bridle, and as mentioned, not always the quickest to respond so it's a little tricky for me. Lots of homework there.

Onwards to jumping the course. We did a million times better than on the weekend, and EC had the jumps set higher than anything she's set for us before. It wasn't bad, but I still felt that little hesitation and like nothing was there in front of me pony wise, so although she did jump it all honestly first try, I was a little all over the place and half expecting a stop. EC got after me for allowing her to get behind my leg again, and off we went a few more times. Things got better and better. Not to the point where B was really taking me and I could sit back and ride, but well enough that I could adjust her a little and felt like I had a go button when I needed it. We finished by reversing the course and had our best round of the day. Good pony.

Homework: lengthen and shorten on a straight line. "Relentless" about forward.

Sun shining out her bum, as usual

And, since it was a bit of a rough lesson, in keeping with yesterday's post here are 4 things I thought we did well:

- Really good geometry. I chose good lines and pony did her part and stayed straight and honest. We nailed the corner every time, as well as the skinny, and just generally looked early and didn't deviate from our path.

- Confidently jumped bigger than anything we'd done before.

- Adjusted between 4 and 5 strides on the related distances and I was able to make smart decisions as to which I wanted.

- Kept a good sense of humor, did not get frustrated.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

5 Antidotes To Rider Self Shaming

This article came across my facebook feed this morning and I'd highly recommend a read if you're like me and struggle with unhealthy self criticism. Or even if you think you don't.  There is a ton of great advice packed into a relatively short read.

From the article:

"Not unlike the culprits who planted the seed, we mistake self-shaming for motivation when it’s actually the opposite. Self-shaming is demotivating and demoralizing and no positive change will result."


Tuesday 10 May 2016

That Competitive Spirit

My disappointment over last weekend's show caught me a little by surprise.

For as long as I can remember, I've been THAT person. The one who truly is just there to have fun. The one who is happier with small amounts of progress than fancy ribbons. The one who, quite honestly, has more fun cheering everyone else on than competing themselves.

That person is still alive and well, but more and more, I'm seeing a new part of me; a person who wants to get out there, who wants to be competitive, wants to be better NOW, and who is impatient when things don't go to plan.
We wants it. I'm still not super hung up on winning things, but I'm much more open to the possibility these days...I am afraid I am on a very slippery slope into ribbon whoredom ;)

I'm not sure I like New Me very much sometimes! I think it's always been there, because I am super awesome at being very very hard on  myself. Otherwise, that side of me normally stays under wraps. I don't think it has made an appearance until recently simply because there was nothing I felt overly passionate about AND had the means and opportunity to pursue. Horses have always been my hobby, and I've always been interested in training my horses better and being a better rider, but perhaps in a slightly vague way - the idea was good but I couldn't see how I was going to get from where I was to where I wanted to be, and besides, no rush, I was doing alright as I was. These past few months that perspective has really changed. I have been surrounded by seriously competent riders and trainers and have been seeing things very clearly. I'm absolutely certain I want to be that good, and am 100% committed to putting in the work to get there. So maybe there are some positives to New Me after all...

Monday 9 May 2016

Show Recap

Our show went alright. And by alright, I mean I'm disappointed, but also can still see the things I can be happy with. Our placings sound decent, but remember there were only 5-6 of us in each class. The "senior" division was a little underrepresented compared to the juniors.

We started out with cross rails, followed by 2' hunters. Bridget felt pretty "meh" but we must have been the least "meh" of everyone because we were placed first. Yay for blue ribbons! 

2'3": Started to feel even more stuck and we got a couple of not so great distances since I could not get her to move up with enough pace. Still good for second. 

2'6": Started awful. 2 refusals (second was super dirty and I ended up on her neck) in the first 4 jumps. Midge wasn't spooky or worried, just didn't want to play any more. I was allowed to finish the round and you'd better believe I stepped up my game and used a ton of leg and my riding crop made an appearance too. I should have ridden like that from the start, because the last few fences were really nice, albeit grudgingly done on the part of the pony. Obviously we did not place :) 

I called it a day there. 

Undramatic reenactment

I found out later we won some kind of High Point award in the senior division, so that's kind of awesome. Sad I didn't stay to pick up the ribbon, since I do like adding to Bridget's mini ribbon collection. (As far as I can understand, the "high point" is exactly that, whoever got the highest scored round of the day. Since our 2' round went really well, we're the high point? I think? Seems weird, but hey, we'll take it.)

I know I'm acting like a spoiled brat by being disappointed, but I can't help it...I really felt like the Midge wasn't overly generous this weekend. I know she's currently quite capable of dragging me around a 2'6"-2'9" course, and I was half expecting her to be on that sort of form, not so much the "angry because cantering is moving too quickly" pony of the past!  This show was supposed to be a practice round for our event in the beginning of June, and we didn't even make it around a simple 2'6" hunter course. So, I'm feeling a little worried! At least there is time between now and then.
This is her less than impressed face

I love, love, love this pony, but I was admittedly envious of the riders out there with horses who were obviously ready to go and loving their jobs. Midge was much more interested in standing in the shade and nibbling the shrubberies, (which, if I'm being objective, probably was a smarter thing to do, although much less fun for me. At least she makes me laugh with her ever predictable priorities)

Because I can't leave well enough alone, I showed up at the barn this morning on a mission. We schooled canter transitions, and I was very firm about pony moving forward immediately off my leg without any head tossing or angry faces. That hasn't been an issue for quite some time, so I was a little surprised it made a comeback in the last couple of days. We finished by jumping a very large course (for us) because somehow in the last few months I've become super ambitious and slightly competitive and needed to prove to myself at least that I'm not crazy for believing in this pony :)

We're putting jumping on the back burner and starting dressage bootcamp for the dressage show at the end of the month, YAWN. ( just kidding, I promise I love dressage too...besides, with EC returning from Badminton tomorrow I suspect it won't all be dressage and that there will be a few "interesting" jump courses in our near future!) 

Sleeping is what she does best when the weather gets warm
And, perspective is a good thing, so repeat after me..."I DID NOT BUY THIS PONY TO BE ANY SORT OF SPORT PONY!" I knew she wasn't overly athletic. I didn't expect her to jump. At all. She was just supposed to be my interim confidence builder until I got back in a good place with Ginger, then I'd sell B on. Everything we are doing right now is above and beyond what anyone expected of her and I am very appreciative of that!

Friday 6 May 2016

TRM Honest Ad

Honest Ad idea courtesy of Cathryn at That Red Mare, reminder to post it courtesy of Carly's  Filler Friday!

6 year old 14.1hh thinks she's 18hh Welsh Sec D mare. Bay with a blaze with 1 white stocking that is permanently stained brown, so never mind. Nice mover, beautiful canter if you can get it. Hacks out alone or in a group but gets bored so I hope your legs are strong enough to kick onwards the entire time. Loves jumping currently with a sketchy lead change and a ton of pony tude. Doing courses at 2'6" thinks they are Grand Prix. First level dressage, scores well at shows but expect mediocre work compared to home. Schooled cross country and only dumped rider twice. Easy keeper loves food I hope you don't mind weighing feed and keeping her by herself in a dry paddock. Great feet, sound, healthy, no vices unless you consider a pony willing to use her powers for evil a vice. Loves people, super cute and tolerant of children so you better not mind attracting herds of them. On a related note, cool with dragging kids by her tail, participating in water gun wars, and adept at stealing lunches (did I mentions she's an easy keeper?)

In other news, I've updated our virtual travels. We're getting closer and closer to California!

If only this was a real picture...

Wednesday 4 May 2016

When The Coach is Away..

It's a double whammy this week and next, coach EC is away AND my boss at work is on holidays. So much potential for mischief!

Who me? I'm a super good pony...sometimes
Sadly,  at least in barn time, I feel slightly lost. I'm independent, likely to a fault. Yet I've grown quite accustomed to taking lessons at least weekly and having advice shouted across the ring at me the rest of the time if things get weird. EC has eyes in the back of her head, and a talent for detail so you'd better expect (tactful, constructive) advice or questions at all times, especially if you think you got away with something and no one could have possibly noticed ;)

On Saturday, for the first time since moving here, I was completely alone at the barn, and solo in the arena for my entire ride. That's something I dream about on a regular basis.  Instead of being conducive to a great ride, it just felt weird. (Why is no one shouting at me to carry hands?! The silence...it's uncomfortable.)

la la la I can't hear you
The weirdness persisted as I filled out my May show entries this morning. What division to enter? Should we try a jumper round? Do I REALLY need to braid? Should I move up to First level at the dressage show or just practice my eventing tests for the horse trails the following weekend? For the horse trails, do we go at Starter, or Pre Entry? Not normally questions I need to ask myself, because I just trust EC's judgement and go with it. I'm gotten SO spoiled and lazy! 

So, this weekend I'm going to braid because I've entered the hunters. Even though we are decidedly NOT what a person thinks of when they think hunter class, we are working on keeping an appropriate and consistent pace on our courses, and the hunter ring is a better place to practice that. Also, more importantly for me, the courses are easier to remember ;)

For the following weekend, I'm practicing First level, test 2, because the beginning of test 1 seems awkward to me with the half circles. I am opting for straight dressage tests because I've got superstitious regarding Canadian Eventing Entry Test 1. I've ridden it 4 times now and got a 64% all 4 times, no matter how bad or good I thought it felt.  It's cursed. It's time to move on to "real" dressage tests, just not the weird one that starts with two half circles. Awesome logic, right? This is why we pay a pro to manage me... 

As for the horse trials, any decisions regarding that one have  been put on hold. We'll see how this weekend goes first. Just don't be surprised if things get a little strange this month, apparently I've got quite used to having a keeper.
Bath time and a snack before dinner


Tuesday 3 May 2016

Feeling Nostalgic, and A Surprisingly Good Workout

Have I ever shared pictures of my little farmhouse reno from a few years ago? I'm really missing it lately! I spent the better part of two years gutting it right down to the studs, inside and out. It's where my horses and I used to live, in my absence we rent it out. One day I will move back home and retire there....

Step 1: Bathe your horse within a 24 hour window of you upcoming ride. Use plenty of coat conditioners and silicone based detanglers and shine enhancers. You've got that show coming up, after all.

Step 2: Realize you forgot your bag with your riding gear. No biggie, your gym clothes are in the truck and will do the trick.

Step 3: That girth that kept going missing? Yep, not a smart idea to "hide" it in the same bag as your riding gear...that you left at home.

Step 4: It's a gorgeous day, you can't NOT ride. Besides, pony has been super lazy so a relaxing bareback ride will be a nice treat for you both.

You can see the barn from the tub lol

Step 5: Whoa, wait...it's really slippery up here! Lycra pants maybe not the best bet...

Step 6: Lesson kid tells coach she wants to ride "like you" one day. Obviously now you can't admit you're feeling more than a little unstable up there, so keep on riding.

Step 7: "Can you post the trot bareback?" Surprisingly, yes. "Can you two point?" Unbelievably, yes. "Canter?" Yes. 

Step 8: Since lesson kid is obviously super distracted by you and you obviously have the maturity of a 5 year old when it comes to kids daring you to do stuff, it's time to disappear.

Step 9: Arena work went surprisingly well, so maybe a nice trail ride isn't a crazy idea.

Step 10: Whoa. Show sheen + Lycra workout pants + steep hills = serious difficulty. Pony sweating somehow only makes it worse. Midge wins the award for supremely tolerant pony.

Cabinets and counters look much less rustic in this photo - I built them and I am not a cabinet maker , but in honor of all the blood sweat and tears involved they will stay forever;)

And that, in a nutshell, is my super secret workout guaranteed to make your abs tingle and your legs ache. And, if you're anything like me, a smile on your face because what's more fun that just goofing around with your horse on a nice summery day?

Actually, hanging out on this deck and just watching the horses WAS pretty good on a summery day :)

Monday 2 May 2016

C'mon Already! Let's Go!

Fellow Canadians might remember that Grey Power (auto insurance) commercial. There is an elderly person stopped at an intersection, not proceeding, and the lady in the car behind him is honking and shouting "C'mon already! Let's go!" After which the narrator intones..."You don't drive like them, so why should you pay the same insurance?" The first time we saw it I turned to G and said "Finally! They're going to start charging me less because I'm not old and senile and going to cause an accident!!!"

And...that wasn't the point of the commercial...at all. It's actually cheap insurance for elderly "safe" drivers. The "them" you don't drive like was supposed to be the impatient lady. G will never let me live that down, so you can guess how many million times I've heard "C'mon already...." from him when he thinks I am rushing into things ;)
Because we haven't had a pony-posing-with-a-jump pic in a while

After watching Rolex all weekend and realizing we have less than a week to prep for our next show, you can also guess what my level of patience was like for my (once again) behind the leg pony. 
Lucky she's so cute

Saturday, we popped over some jumps, but rather than the engine getting revved up, it almost seemed more stuck. So, off we went to school lots and lots of up transitions.  Unlike the commercial, we DO want to drive off like a sports car rather than a little old man in a sensible sedan. The pony then went into "Aaaarrgghhh I can be forward but I cannot stop, cannot half halt, will just move my legs really fast and drag you around" mode. So, we incorporated lots of downward transitions, and some further drama ensued. Finally, pony remembered she can go softly on the bit, forwards and backwards. She gave some way better tries at sitting a little in the canter, so got rewarded with some jumps . They felt fabulous!!

Sunday was more of the same...Bridget just not into taking me anywhere, let alone to the fences. So, my super long dressage whip made an appearance. She's a crafty little thing, because obviously me holding a dressage whip means "run away at the trot with your head in the air!!1!" It all boils down to her really, really not wanting to be honest in the contact and in front of my leg at the same time. I won't lie, there are plenty of days where I wish I wasn't the only motivated one in our little partnership!
"Go ahead and make me!" says Ms B

It would be easy to be hard on myself and think of all the ways I could have had a better ride, or trained this pony better (seriously, each day I spent probably 30 min of struggle for 15 min of OK) but for today I am going to instead be grateful that EC has given me the tools and confidence to work through stuff on my own. The finesse is definitely lacking on my end, but I'm much more effective than I was a few months ago. I am also grateful that Bridget is far more mature these days and we're starting to make compromises for each other. Or rather, she's starting to be honest on a far more regular basis and I simply give up sometimes and just trail ride. Matching a grumpy lazy pony with an impatient lets-do-this-NOW rider actually has sort of turned out ok :)
Summer coat is coming in...finally!

Next on the agenda:

Coach is in the UK (yes, attending Badminton, lucky lady), so no lessons this week, but we're going sans coach to Hunter/Jumper show on Saturday.

May 28: Dressage % Day show

June 4/5: MREC Spring HT


Sunday 1 May 2016

Cobs At Rolex

There's a breeder near me doing some pretty awesome things with Welsh D/TB crosses. I've got the serious "I wants " for a couple of the crossbred babies I've seen being started at our local events. They're smart and athletic, and of course gorgeous. Maybe if I ever have the $ and the riding ability to do one of her horses justice ...

And, the point of this post - One of the products of the Bryn Carregwen breeding program, sired by Welsh Sec D stallion Brynarian Brenin ap Maldwyn is tackling his first 4* this weekend at Rolex!

(Sorry for the awful formatting, posting from my phone!)