Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Ever Evolving

 Property improvements continue slowly. Boarding at Friend S's house (where we are all super happy) the pressure is off as far as any imminent moves. I still very much am excited to get further projects rolling, but as I sit here typing there's yet another big weather system coming in and I think we can reasonably say that we're not actually getting an arena completed in the wettest months of the year.


Friend S has even got her own beautiful trail system. Spoiler alert: my ~ 1 acre place will not.

I'm totally the person who puts together the plan and gets it done  - deviations from the plan annoy me. So, it's kind of interesting right now. I feel like I have so much time. I'm finding myself making changes to the property layout and design that are going to make it work that little bit better. Things as minor as planting trees in a slightly different location than originally planned, to adding a whole new separate building and paddock.


We're building something similar to this on the south property line. One side will be for equipment storage, freeing up space in the barn for hay, one for a horse (Read on for why I'm building a second paddock space)

In the theme of evolving goals and plans - Sophie. Sophie was purchased to be Bridget 2.0. More athletic, sharper, fancier, going to go get those further dressage goals. I saved up money for a long time, I shopped for an equally long time, and finally bought Ms Sophie. It was not a spur of the moment decision by any stretch of the imagination. I was very invested in her financially and emotionally before she even set foot in the barn.


2 year old Sophie here actually just looks like a scaled down 5 year old Sophie. She's grown about 6" but the somehow has stayed proportionately gangly looking :) We're still waiting on her to fill out.

You want to know what the #1 thing that's absolutely changed how I ride her and my confidence doing so?

My husband G.

 "You know you don't have to keep her, right?"

"I'd miss her, but if you'd like something different I'll support that"

"I'd love to see you out having fun at events again, like you did with Bridget"

"Did you want to buy that Welsh Cob foal? We could find the space"*

"E's horse does seem really nice. You know we could buy you something like that if you wanted, right?"

Comments like that didn't immediately make a difference (in fact, maybe the opposite: "Are you trying to say I'm FAILING with Sophie? I'm FINE."), but gradually they started to filter in as he repeatedly assured me it's not that he really wants to sell her or doesn't believe I've got this, it's just good to reevaluate your plan now and then and make sure you're still having fun and on the path you want to be on.

(Sidenote: I pay all my horse expenses and like putting the training work in so the chances of me asking him to use his money to help buy me a dream pony are nil. But it's beyond nice to have that level of support offered on the days when it seems like a struggle :)

*But I do still REALLY like the cob foal so...never say never.

Even with B sidelined, it's slowly got to feel like my riding future isn't totally hung up on Sophie, and that it isn't all on me to do a perfect job of bringing along the 'too nice for a rider like me' and sometimes not so easy pony. If for any reason it's not working out, there is a lifeline there waiting.

Don't get me wrong, we love her, she's great, there are no plans for her to go anywhere and I'm 110% committed to doing a good job with her. But just knowing I can have a Plan B if I want one, and have support for that? Just amazing, and takes away so much of the second guessing and anxiety around the bad days. I've adopted kind of a 'whatever will be, will be' approach to our rides and strangely enough, with the stress levels on my part dialed right down, S is a happier girl as well.

When I saw this on Bridget's blanket the other day, though, I was like "well, let's take some sale pictures of Sophie! No one messes with Bridget." Bad Sophie. Sophie's been very wary of B the last few days though so I suspect B didn't need any intervention on her behalf :) This confirmed for me that I want a second winter paddock at home - even horses that get along super well need to be separated now and then.



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Monday, 11 October 2021

Progress

 We had a super fun weekend clinic, but I didn’t worry about media so you’ll just have to take my word for it ;) The joys of being a mediocre blogger. On the bright side, it’s a good thing I am not a vlogger! 

Since this was a local event, we just took a 20 min trailer ride down to our club grounds. No ferry rides, yay! 

Day 1 we did an intro to Working Equitation. Sophie was super mare-y week, so I wasn’t at all sure what I was going to get on the day.

 

Has had an extra strong attitude, also has numerous bite marks on face to accentuate the tough girl teenager thing she’s embraced.

Overall, I was happy with the day - she was definitely grumpy and sassy about moving off my leg, but hey we didn’t need to pick that fight incessantly. We had obstacles to navigate! The day was more about seeing new things and using the experience to gain confidence. I really know nothing about WE, to me it felt like a combination of a western trail course and dressage test, with a giant spear/pole to carry around. You can’t help but feel slightly cool carrying a jousting like pole around.  What made me super happy is that she was unsure of many of the new to her questions, but navigated them calmly and willingly when I asked. Clinician was happy with how she thought things through rather than the previous go to of just reacting.

Day 2 started out a little more challenging as it was quite a bit colder, wet, and very windy, plus I realized as I loaded her it was her first trip all by herself in a trailer! 

Not helped by the fact this creature snuck in the gate ahead of our truck and climbed the tree directly above the trailer parking. Because of course. He was legit trying to stay out of our way but kept picking the exact place we needed to go. Sorry, little guy.

I was also generally feeling stressed and pressed for time as we had spent the earlier part of the morning getting hay into my barn before the storm came. I unloaded the last hay bale, the rain started really pouring, drove across the street, tried to shoo the bear along, gave up and loaded Sophie to hit the road again.

So, she was a bit “up” with the stormy weather and being all by herself. She loudly announced her arrival to everyone. Incessantly. Could not stand still, and had about 10 stress poos. Just like old times. I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for absolutely not buying into it though and worrying about how tight I was for time - we’ve had so many good rides lately I assumed I could get on and she’d just settle in and get to work once we got going. And so she did. Good girl Sophie :)  


Random picture 

Day 2 was a basic dressage lesson - transitions, spirals, leg yields, and finally a run through of a training level test. With her increased energy levels the sluggish transitions of the previous day turned almost too rushed (mares!lol) but what a treat once she settled to have her using her own motor and confidently cruising around on a nice soft contact. So easy to ride! 

As always, there is much homework. Some of it I think is more reflective of her age and the fact she’s needing strength so I think that’s the priority rather than nitpicking. Our dressage “test” was wobbly and even that 10m turn down the centreline is hard when you’re a baby pony. We’re not ready. To be totally honest though, for where she’s at and the time I’ve put in she’s exactly where I’d expect her to be. And I’m happy.


What we will be working on: 

-My riding to the left is less effective than the right. That good old left shoulder sneaking forward strikes again. I’ve been spoiled for years in that Bridget is naturally better to the left so it works out. Sophie is not, so I need to up my game - she’s very sensitive. 

-Keep on keepin on with leg yields, transitions,  to build strength. It was nice to go into a proper lesson and have the exercises be exactly what I’ve been working on. Almost like I knew what I was doing or something. Maybe I owned a baby Bridget once upon a time?


Non baby Bridget ;) What I wouldn’t give for a foal pic of B!

-Adding canter back in as a regular thing. She’s strong and confident enough now, and we have that huge arena. 

Wins from the weekend:

-S showed up and went to work in a busy arena, with spooky obstacles and less than ideal weather.

-When I put the pieces together riding wise, she’s very quick to pick up new things and tries super hard to get it right.

-I stayed calm and thinking and didn’t worry even when things got a bit rough. We had an interesting conversation about “hard eyes” and “soft eyes” (hard eyes being the internalized, focused mindset most of us bring to lessons, that actually limits the instruction you can take on board and retain).

-The working equitation course was unexpected, but really far more valuable for building confidence and partnership than another dressage lesson would have been. A good reminder to get out and try new things. 


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Monday, 4 October 2021

Feeling Accomplished (Again)

 But wait, there's more!

On the theme of big personal accomplishments of late, I'm having great rides on Sophie. The other day, I rode alone, at twilight when everything is shadowy and spooky (according to Sophie) and I still got some solid work done and felt like we made a few breakthroughs. We've had several good arena rides with friends, and she's got so relaxed about the whole thing that yesterday we had to have a chat about moving off my leg. You may recall previously even touching her near where my leg goes or using a stick near her was cause for much irritation and threats of violence (from her, not me!) So, recent developments may be a testament to how relaxed she's gotten, or perhaps to how much I'm willing to nag. I'm trying very hard to be self aware re: the latter and follow up immediately when I don't get a response.
Can we talk about how civilized she's been at the fair grounds - there's a busy farmer's market next door she's eying up here, but not at all worried about.


I need to get her out on the trails again, and she's going to have three days off this week prior to our clinic. I think there's a good chance she's bored of our routine and also just a bit sore and tired. I think I've been riding every day for a month (don't worry, Bridget's still on the team too, so I'm not just riding Sophie day after day.) But, Sophie still is quite underdeveloped/immature looking, plus I've been adding spirals and baby lateral work into the mix so she's likely in need of a little time out in the field.

Zero riding pics though, because I seem to just take pics for everyone else then kind of lose the momentum when it comes to arranging some of myself these days. Pivo was going to help with that, but the arena's been so busy it's not been ideal either.

I owe a bit of the recent ride successes to the RideIQ app - thanks for the reviews! While it's no substitute for a lesson, for those of us without regular coaching or who struggle with ride plans it's perfect. Without a coach, it's easy for me to waffle around and lose confidence in what I'm doing when things aren't going to plan. I think this app probably really shines for riders like me who've done the thing before and probably have the basic tools in the toolbox, but don't have a regular lesson schedule or maybe just need some added validation and encouragement. I don't think it'd be great on it's own for riders themselves who maybe are greener - I can see in some of the more advanced lesson notes I'd definitely want to be going through the exercises with a coach a few times in real life first to make sure I know what it feels like to do it well.

Her neighbor this day was a giant tree. Far less exciting than a cute gelding.

The big value for me is to have someone talking in my ear and reminding me to check in on this or that. Yes, sometimes the lessons end up being a bit not applicable because we're doing OK (or we're not and I need to go back to work on something else!), but it's still good to check in and I feel like my brain retains a lot of it the information even if I don't end up using or needing it for my ride or my particular horse. Plus, I don't think there's ever a time it's not useful to hear someone remind me to sit up and carry my hands ;)


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