Thursday, April 29, 2010

Thou Shalt Not Jump the Oxer Backwards

At least, that's what I've always been told. Izzy, on the other hand, is learning to jump and loving every minute, so when I turned her loose in the arena and there were jumps set up, she promptly jumped the oxer backwards. Silly mare.

She warmed up nicely on the flat, and then we got to do a jump school. We had an oxer, about 2' wide, 18" in the front and about 2'3" in the back (with a plank and a striped rail) and a vertical, about 2' with a plastic jump standard underneath it. Our only problem was me--I ride really defensively because I anticipate a stop. That means that I'm leery of riding really forward because, of course, the more momentum we have, the harder it is to stop.

This is ridiculous. I learned to ride that way when I was riding the ancient schoolmaster, years ago, because he'd throw in the occasional stop if he didn't like how I was riding. Cassie, Izzy's mother, is one of the most willing jumpers I've ever been around, and I NEVER had to ride her like that. So. To fix me screwing up my horse, I'm going to spend some time visualizing riding forward in to jumps and I'm going to try to get on Cassie more often to up my confidence. The old girl never lets me down. ;-)

Back to today. I rode Izzy in to the vertical. She was crooked and she took a look at it, but she went for it. Then we headed for the oxer, the right way. I knew she wasn't scared of it because I'd already seen her jump it. Still, I just puttered in to it and didn't really keep her forward at all. She came to almost a complete halt, then LAUNCHED herself over it. I grabbed mane and managed a decent landing without hitting her in the mouth. We landed at the halt. Just then, Cathy walked up. "Nice save," she told me, "but the approach left something to be desired." Haha, yes, yes it did.

After that, we worked on developing more impulsion on the approach as well as me sitting still and not getting left behind. We had one really nice jump, in which I actually stayed with her impressive leap and folded nicely at the hips so we probably looked ok. Then we were done. I'm not sure when we'll get to jump next, since we're supposed to move the horses to the new property this weekend... Here's hoping it will be soon.

Also, my cross country vest shipped today. We're that much closer to being actual eventers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Indoors. Again.

Due to the weather being awful, we were back in the Bubble today. Yay. I'm very grateful to have a place to ride in crappy weather, but I just wish we weren't having crappy weather. Seriously. It's almost May. It should be like 80 f and sunny all day long, not 50 and overcast and raining and gusting winds. Grrr. What ever happened to global warming? That was my favorite concept ever.

So anyways. We had a dressage lesson. Izzy was in a mood and was very inconsistent. We still got some nice work and she was pretty relaxed despite being in the Bubble, but... you know.

This is a training journal, so instead of just whining, I'll record some of what we worked on. Ahem.

I need to keep Izzy really marching forward in all three gaits, but especially the walk. What I consider a good walk right now is fairly mediocre to bad.

In our lengthen/shortens in the trot, I need to focus on asking for more. When we shorten, I need to think short, quicker(ish) strides and then longer, slower strides in the lengthen. Right now, we only lengthen for 5-6 strides and then bring Izzy back before she loses her balance, to develop strength to do more later.

Ack. My brain is fried and I can hardly type. That is all for now.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Day Without Jumping

It's windy and gloomy outside, but it hasn't rained yet. :-) Izzy and I did a dressage ride this morning. She was wonderful. The past two days she's just been so quiet and calm and willing that I think she might be drugged. Who knows? We had some really lovely moments. We're working on Izzy resting into a steady contact. She's still wiggly. She had her moments.

When she's good, though, she's really good. Wow.

In other news, there was a dressage schooling show this past weekend. I didn't sign up, which was good because I ended up spending the whole weekend in the hospital with my grandma. On hearing comments from people who did go, though, I'm really glad I didn't. The universal comment is that the judge was really cranky and irritable. She was rude in person and she scored according to her mood.

I suppose this is a faucet of showing and not every judge can be a good judge, but I find it troubling. Showing is expensive. I am on a very strict budget, so when I show, I want the absolute best experience possible. I cannot control variables like weather and Izzy deciding to be a nut, but I can control things like venue and cost. There is a cheap jumper show coming up that I'm not going to because I went last year and it was a miserable experience. There's another jumper show coming up that I'm dying to go to, but I don't have a trailer and no one else from the barn is going.

Anyways. I like dressage. I really do. I cannot afford to compete much, and this example makes me question the point of it. My goal for next year is to qualify for regionals in dressage. This was already going to be hard, because USEF considers me a professional for being too poor to afford board without mucking stalls to help out. (Professionals need a higher score to qualify.) Already, I was looking at having to put most of my eggs in one basket, since I can't afford many qualifying shows. And to go to a show and not qualify all because some judge has her panties in a twist? That irks me.

I'll probably be revamping my major goals for next year. I need them to be reasonable and measurable. I'll put more thought into it. In the mean time, I have zero desire to go to a dressage show in any capacity other than as a groom.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quick Update

I made it out this morning for a ride. Izzy was LOVELY. She came out quiet and happy. I didn't ride yesterday, so I turned her loose in the arena. The silly mare trotted around looking at stuff that had changed. (The barn is in the middle of moving, so stuff changes every day.) Something caught her interest at the other end of the arena, so she trotted over there. A nice little oxer I'd set was in her way, and she just hopped over it. On her own. With no encouragement from me.

Nice! I was impressed.

She was very, very good on the flat. She jumped the oxer like she'd been doing it all her life. I set the plank jump a little higher than we've jumped before, so she took it down the first time because she didn't expect it. She cleared it after that, though.

Izzy is just so much fun to jump. She's not rushy or worried or nervous. She is so ridiculously athletic that nothing we've done so far even begins to challenge her. When I watched her jump the oxer, she wasn't impressed by it. Instead of picking her legs up, she just let them dangle and jumped higher to make up for it. As long as I keep bringing her along steadily and don't scare her, this girl is going to be amazing.

Thanks for your kind words about my grandma. She is now back at home for hospice care.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Good News in Small Pieces

I'm trying to focus on the small positives right now. My grandma is in the hospital not doing well, so I apologize for the more somber attitude of late.

I did ride yesterday morning. It's finally dry enough to jump, so I set the scary plank jump and a little vertical with a striped pole and (get this) a teeny crossrail in front. That's right folks. Our first ever oxer. Izzy warmed up really nicely. I did a bunch of work with her in figure eights, focusing and on staying balanced through turns and changing bend. We even did canter circles with just a couple trot strides to change leads. (Jumper flying changes, here we come).

After popping over the vertical both directions a few times, I sent Izzy to the oxer. Every other time I've sent her to a new and scary looking jump, she's needed to stop and have a look. I know this, so I confess I gave her a crappy ride to it. I didn't even really have my leg on. I was thinking "be supportive" but I wasn't riding it.

Izzy came up, hesitated, then sort of stepped through it. I felt so bad! She totally would have jumped it on the first try if I'd given her a chance. Bad Sprinkler! I hopped off to reset it and then we trotted over it a couple times. She was pretty proud of herself, and I was too.

I didn't have time to ride today. It's just as well. I'm exhausted. Tomorrow should be better, I hope. At least I'll be able to sneak a ride in during the morning before heading back to the hospital.

I hope all is well with you guys. I'm a bit behind on everyone's blogs.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Some Good News

Because some is better than none.

I hit a fabulous tack sale with Irie's mom today. I'm on a pretty careful budget, so I only brought cash with me. That way, I was forced to stay within the confines of the money available. As we browsed, the lady running the sale mentioned that she'd bought out the entire boot selection of several tack shops that went out of business. She's sold all her normal sizes, so she's down to the slims and extra wides. SCORE! I need an extra wide apparently. She had one pair in my size with an extra wide calf. It was marked $80. I swallowed hard and contemplated trying it on. I only had $100 total, so this would eat most of my budget and I was really there for breeches.

She pulled them out and said, "I can give you a better price on that." I looked at her. "Oh, let's say $50." Yes! Now they had to fit. I grabbed the boot pulls and sat down. I haven't worn tall boots since last summer when I wore a borrowed pair a couple times. Before that, it's been years, but I used to live in them when I was in highschool. These must fit. There's no way I can afford new boots right now. I put on one boot, then the other.


That's right folks. I got a pair of lightly-used leather tall field boots for $50. I am quite happy with that. With my remaining budget, I found a pair of breeches that fit that I can wear at a show and a loose ring, double-jointed, copper mouthed bit for Izzy's other bridle. Then, when we got back I tried it on. This was another hold-my-breath moment because Izzy notoriously likes only the most expensive options and the bit was a steal for $20. I didn't tell her the price, and she didn't complain. She didn't really even seem to notice a difference. Yes! I was afraid we were stuck with Herm Sprenger bits for the rest of my life. I mean, they're nice, but so so pricey.

We did spin by the tack store on our way home and I have a confession to make. I felt up the breeches there. Yes. I did. I'm having a thing with Kerrits breeches right now and I'm in love with their cut and sizing and fabric and everything. Well, everything except the price. They're not bad, but until I'm working steadily, I definitely can't buy any. For now, all I do is touch and drool.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A More Serious Topic

A friend of mine sold a horse last year. She'd owned the horse for a while, but they never really connected and she had others, so this one just went on occasional trail rides. He was alright. They had a chiropractor work on him once, which did him good, but he was a horse that seemed to lack much personality. He was quiet. Nothing much bothered him and nothing much interested him. He was a quarter horse, so maybe it was breed related. I don't know.

Anyways, last year she sells him to a couple that's retiring to another state and in need of a good, solid trail horse. My friend didn't conduct the actual sale; she sent him to someone who sold horses more often and who had more time to advertise and show him. So far, so good.

Yesterday, my friend gets a call. The horse started bucking about a month ago. No one really checked into why, as far as she knows. Yesterday on a trail ride, the horse bucked his new owner off while going through a gate. The man was wearing a helmet, but it didn't help. The man died on the spot.

We don't know any more details. My friend doesn't know the owner(s). She feels awful and would have disclosed any such issues if she knew they existed, but the horse never exhibited any problem behaviors while she had him.

So I guess here's where I'm going with this. As a horse owner, how much responsibility do you take on for horses you've sold? Does it matter how long they've been gone?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pity Party

Guess what happened last night at about 6.30 pm? Yep, it started pouring rain. I wasn't worried at first. I mean, this is Idaho. It NEVER rains here, and if it does, it's dry within a couple hours.

Think again. Sheets of rain poured down. Lightning flashed. Thunder roared. More rain. It was a lovely storm, really, but it's results on the outdoor arena were devastating. Yep, it's a puddle. That's what happens when it pours rain for 6+ hours, I guess. Grrr.

Which means that we were condemned to the Bubble of Doom (and a dressage lesson). Don't get me wrong, I like dressage. I like what it does for Izzy. I just really, really, really wanted to jump today, especially since I was so good yesterday. But no. That means, we had a good dressage lesson and there are no jumping pictures for you. My apologies, but it can't be helped. Maybe next time... if the arena ever dries out. It's supposed to rain all week I guess.

Anyways. Izzy came into the Bubble nicely, but then had a near-meltdown on the lunge line. I didn't have high hopes for our ride, but I got on, and Cathy got us going well. We did a lot of spiral in/spiral out both directions and some figure eights to get Izzy balanced and responsive. We moved from there to doing little leg yields, which was fun. I hadn't really done those in a while. Then, we did shoulder-fore both directions. It's definitely not Izzy's best move, but we had some nice moments. Izzy really settled in nicely and was ever resting ever-so-slightly into the contact.

I'm quite proud of her.

(Oh, and Nicku: the clinician's name is Kristin Aggers. At least, that's how it's pronounced. I guess I've never tried to spell it before.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dressage Day

Izzy and I are continuing on our schedule, despite me really, really wanting to jump today. I mean, the jumps were set up and everything.

To encourage myself to do dressage, we pulled out the lovely dressage bridle. It looked adorable on her with the fly bonnet. I'm sorry I didn't take pictures. If it makes you feel better, I have enlisted someone to take pictures of us jumping tomorrow. We'll see how that goes. My camera isn't the fastest or the highest quality. If you want to see gorgeous pictures every day, check out Kate and Lucy's blog. Her pictures make me swoon a little sometimes.

Izzy was lovely in her dressage tack (and I'm talking about performance now). She was nice, forward, and balanced. We had some wonderful moments in trot and pretty decent canter work. Izzy did ask to gallop again in the canter, but I didn't let her. I figure that it's a bad thing if she gets really excited about galloping every time we canter, so on principle I can't let her do it.

PS On Sunday, a fancy dressage clinician came out and was doing lessons. I didn't ride with her because my wallet would have imploded, but I was watching a couple other people while I got some work done. The clinician is based out of California and has lots of clients who seem to be looking for horses, so she asks about any horses that catch her eye. Guess what? She asked about Izzy! I was proud of my silly mare. Needless to say, she's not available (and the clinician isn't pushy about it; she's just curious). Still, pretty cool.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Brave, Brave Pony

Sunday Izzy and I put on the fancy dressage tack and had a decent ride. I've been focusing on thinking about what I'm doing with her and why in order to make my training as effective as possible. (Effective: clear and understandable to allow her progress at the best possible speed for her body and personality).

I lunged her Sunday. I did so because she looks adorable in dressage tack and I wanted pictures and she will never stand still for me to take them. See? I had a reason. Plus, the practice never hurts.

Today was interesting. I decided that since Izzy had been ridden and then out in the pasture all day, she probably wouldn't need lunging. Plus, it wasn't picture day. ;-) I have decided to attempt a more regular rotation of training for her, so we'll jump Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday and do dressage Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday. Theoretically, we'll continue to go trail riding on Friday with Irie and his mom. That is of course contingent on her schedule, so we'll see how it goes.

Which leads us to today. According to my schedule, it's supposed to be a jumping day. I dragged out the breast collar, open fronts, and jumping saddle and tacked Izzy up. I hopped on thinking she didn't need lunging and off we went.

Wow. She was a trainwreck. She'd shove her shoulder to the outside of the circle. I'd counterbend to get it back, and she shove her other shoulder out. Then, before I could react, she'd hollow and drop behind my leg. I'd ask her to move forward to get her reaching forward and ahead of my leg, and she grab the bit and charge. Grrr. Cathy commented on how cute Izzy looked in her fly bonnet (yes, we had to break the princess hat out again), and I was so glad I put it on. At least it distracted other people from what we were (or weren't) doing.

I tried all the usual stuff. I did trot/walk/trot transitions to ask her to listen to my seat and work off her hind end. Nothing. I did walk/halt transitions for the same reason. Nothing. If anything, it got worse. We did halt/back/halt/walk to try to get her to think about carrying herself and stretching down. Still nothing.

I was about to throw the schedule out the window. Or at least over the arena fence, since we were outdoors. I don't think a horse needs a dressage frame to jump necessarily, but it certainly shouldn't be acting like that. She was just plain inconsistent and there was no sense trying to jump with that.

Then I had a novel idea; if what we were doing wasn't working, why didn't we try something else? I asked her to canter and off we went. She asked politely if she could gallop. Fortunately, Cathy was the only other person riding and she's pretty good at steering. We kicked it up a notch and galloped around the arena. I had to keep reminding myself that Izzy is pretty balanced and wasn't going to fall on me. I wish we had a galloping track to work on, but oh well. After a good long gallop, Izzy came back to me slowly. It was amazing. All of a sudden, she could go forward into the contact consistently. She was balanced. She wasn't throwing a fit. We could jump!

And jump we did after a little work on the flat. We jumped our first ever striped pole, set as about a 18" vertical. She didn't even blink. We jumped the scary plank, set as a 2' vertical. And then, we aimed for the mind-boggling broom jump. I should have taken a picture... it's hard to describe. Anyways. We trotted in. I reminded myself to stay soft and just support her. About a stride away, I felt her start veering right to escape the scary jump, so I just halted her in front of the jump and patted her. Then we turned left, circled around, and came in again. Izzy jumped it (about a 2'3" vertical) and was so proud of herself that she galloped through the short side and shook her head. We did it a couple more times after that and she was fabulous.

I <3 my pony.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Trail Ride!!

Yep. Irie's mom brought out balloons. This one is shiny and plays a song when it makes contact with anything. Izzy quickly overcame her fear of it when it was tied above her breakfast. She even played with it a little bit. I'd say it needs more work, but it's definitely a good start.

Also, Irie's mom just got her fancy Ansur KonKlusion. It's way newer and nicer than mine and she loves it very much. Yeah... I'm super jealous. I'm thrilled that we were able to get a jumping saddle at all, but someday, I want a pretty, new-ish one. Still, hers has way bigger knee blocks and some thigh blocks. I keep telling myself that I wouldn't like that. I haven't sat in it because I'm not allowing myself to like it. I can't afford to.
Note: This is not our trailer in the picture. This is the trailhead we went to today. It's in the foothills just outside of Boise and it's pretty cool. The hills are great for the horses. They develop muscles going up and down them and they learn where to put their feet and how to balance themselves. Also, it's pretty awesome.

Izzy did ok for her first time out this year. She definitely remembered some of the stuff she learned last year (like about not running down hills, thank god). She also forgot some things, like how this is fun. We were up on top of a ridge and came across a mud puddle. Irie's mom was making him go through it, so we waited for her. I didn't bother trying to get Izzy through it; there was lots of space to go around and I wasn't ready for a fight the first time out. Izzy had a mini meltdown because she didn't want to stand still. I made her walk away from Irie, and that was pretty terrifying too. Fortunately, we resolved the problem by Irie going through the puddle and rejoining us.

The trail seemed to be going on forever, so we found a short cut back (on an actual trail; it's ok). It went down a pretty steep hill and Izzy didn't think she could do it. I'd try to ask her to go down and she'd just freeze up. Finally, she realized that Irie and his mom were doing cutbacks across the hill, which is what I was asking her to do. Oh. She can do that. So we did.

My favorite moment had to be when a whole group (covey?) of sage grouse EXPLODED under neath Irie and directly in front of Izzy. He bolted forward, but Izzy just froze up. She's really not a spooker. I like that about her.

We met a fellow eventer out exercising her horse, which was fun . I'll have to watch for her at shows (and maybe look her up on facebook--does that seem creepy?). We stuck to walking this time out because Izzy was on edge and I didn't want to tempt fate. Next time we'll go out the sandy way and do some trot and canter. It should be awesome.
Faithful trail buddies. Only they can't stand next to each other because Izzy tries to kick him.

Last year, Izzy was fine on trails as long as I just stuck her nose in Irie's tail. Today, I guess she thought he was walking too slowly, because she kept trying to nip his bum as he went along. Poor pony boy. I managed to stop her most of the time...
A close up of Izzy pretending to be a trail horse. The eventer lady thought Izzy was a thoroughbred. Yay! (I think.) She looked super cute with her bridle (minus a cavesson) on over the top of her rope halter. I'll have to get a picture of the whole getup next time.

All in all, a very good day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sing: Goin' on a trail ride!

That's right, folks. Izzy and I are going on a trail ride tomorrow with Irie the fearless halfie and his mom. I'm psyched. We haven't been since last summer and it will be good for both of us. The barn we board at is totally land locked on five very flat acres, so any opportunity to get out is fabulous. Then factor in that we live in Idaho with lots of mountains and it's a fabulous hill workout.

Ahem. So today we did several awesome things. First off, our new dressage bridle came. It's a lovely black bridle with white padding and no flash (and it was an amazing steal off ebay!). Best of all, I have pictures again today!!

Despite our fabulous new bridle, the jumps were set up and I really wanted to go over them, especially since Cathy gave us the all-clear to be jumping little stuff on our own. I love my rubber reins on my other fabulous bridle, so we switched the bit back and went for a ride. Izzy was wonderful!! (I'm running out of superlatives today.) We put the scary fake bush from our scary stuff session yesterday under one of the crossrails and I put a rail over the terrifying planks.

The scary plank jump in all it's glory. We are no longer intimidated.

Izzy jumped them all like a super star. I need to work on keeping her straight before and after the jumps and staying back with her... We had one hairy moment where I jumped ahead of her. She still went (over the plank, no less), but I nearly came off the front. Poor mare. I stayed back much better after that.
Izzy's cute face.

Then I talked Irie's mom into riding Cassie. I promised her that I would only take pictures of Cassie (Izzy's actual horse mother) and not of her, so please ignore the person. ;-)
The ol' lady's still got it. What a lovely girl she is!!
Yeah. Not the best form picture ever, but not bad for the rider's first time on Cassie ever and the rider's first time intentionally cantering a jump ever. We'll work on it.

PS Does anyone know if there's a way to rotate pictures?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jumping Pony Strikes Again! (and random pictures)

We had another lesson this morning. When I set jumps, I put a (scary) white plank in one of the fences and Irie's mom, who was helping, left the ground poles out a little far, so it was like a midget oxer.

Needless to say, Izzy refused. In yet another example of why I love Cathy, she had us walk up to it and stand there, to get Izzy relaxed. Then we trotted in again. As instructed, I was supportive, but not pushy. I wasn't going to force Izzy to jump; I just wanted her to go to it. And she did; removing the pressure made her much happier. The third time we trotted in and Izzy LEAPED over the scary white plank. It was only about 18" off the ground, but we made at least 2'6" over it just to be sure.

After that, the plank was fine.

On a slightly different note, here are some pictures from the show last Friday. This is Cathy and her mare Shasha warming up for their class.
I don't know who this is, but I'd never seen a Multibridle in person before. Very interesting.
Cathy and Shasha, 2nd Level Test 4. As you can tell, it was a schooling show and it was cold, so we weren't super formal.
Irie the Halfie and his mom. You can say it. A Halfie in dressage tack is the cutest thing ever.

After my lesson this morning, Irie's mom and I played with our horses and scary things.
Izzy isn't scared of ponchos.
Irie isn't too sure about balloons.
Neither is Izzy.
Umbrellas are nice.
Aww. Sweet pony.
Irie wears the poncho.
Irie does the tissue paper.
Izzy has more pizazz with tissue paper.
And Izzy takes a poncho high fashion. You wish you could wear it this well. (Also doubles as a super hero cape).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Izzy got two days off on account of the weather, my schedule, and me being generally exhausted. I don't think she minded. Today I turned her loose in the arena and she galloped around a little, but didn't buck. I didn't bother with lunging her before we rode because I basically just do it to allow her a chance to burn off energy, which she already did.

Then we walked. I started by not asking for much. I just wanted a steady, forward, 4 beat rhythm. She could stretch or she could not. Then, I started asking her to really push from behind. When she did, I'd give the inside rein and scratch her withers. Gradually, she moved in to accepting the contact and started offering to stretch. Then we changed direction and did the whole thing the other way.

I was so happy. She was balanced and rhythmical and taking a light contact and it just feels so good to ride that. I even contemplated not moving beyond that today, but I decided I wanted that same feeling at the trot and canter. We stayed very relaxed. She was comfortably forward, and she was very responsive. It felt amazing. When we could do walk, trot, and canter circles both directions while maintaining balance and a steady rhythm, I gave her a cookie and put her away. Every day should be like this.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Horse Show Report

We survived. I'm happy about that.

I've been away from the computer all weekend, which is probably just as well.

Our rides were at 7.01 and 7.30 (pm). Cathy rode earliest, at like 5, which meant we had well over an hour to just hang out and look at stuff on our first trailer ride of the year. That was good. Izzy was sparkling clean (even her white sock). We wandered around purposefully, looking fabulous and seeing the sights. Izzy was tense and spooky at first, but it's amazing what a little hand grazing will do to calm things down.

When we were about an hour out from our first ride, I went to tack up. I was thinking that I'd get on, we'd meander around some more, then warm up, do the test, you know... basic stuff. Izzy was thinking PANIC!!!! Don't ask me why. She had a 20 minute long melt down while tied to the trailer. She leaped around, reared, and acted nutty. When I went to try to work with her, she kicked me. (Yeah. Never done that before.)

So I left her. When she would stand still, I'd come talk to her and give her a treat, then walk away again. Finally, she stood still long enough to actually tack up. I didn't just want to hop on after the performance she'd given, so I tried turning her loose in the round pen. That was probably a bad idea because it gave her more time to look around at stuff and since there wasn't even a lunge line, she wasn't focusing at all. I'll have to remember that for next time.

As soon as I got on, I knew I was riding a completely different horse than I was used to. She was on the edge of an explosion. Another shameless Ansur plug: because there is literally almost nothing between myself and Izzy, I can feel her back like well, there isn't a saddle. It keeps me very much in tune with her. I focused on sitting deep in the saddle while walking calmly around the arena. We did a lot of walk/halt transitions to try and get her to listen to my seat. The arena is not really level, so she wouldn't go into the contact on the uphill and then dove into my hands on the downhill. There wasn't a lot I could do, because even when she settled a little, she was still very much on edge.

Apparently, they were running the tests about 15 minutes ahead, so we didn't have much warmup time. When they told me I was next, I took Izzy quietly around the dressage arena while we waited to be called. (Visual note: the dressage arena was marked off in a corner of the much larger arena). She spooked in one corner, but I just sat and let her look at it, and then we went on. The test (Training 1) wasn't great. It also wasn't bad. She was looky. She tried to jump out at one point (I stopped her). We didn't go into our corners and our circles were only semi-round. I wasn't too worried about it. We got all our transitions in the right place. She was no worse than could be expected of a green horse.

After the test, we had a few more minutes until the next one. We worked on the same things we had before, but Izzy was getting upset. Whenever I halted her, she ran backwards. I think she was just making blind associations without really paying any attention to me. Since we've done a lot of halt/back lately, she just did it. I just tried to keep from upsetting her more. I learned from my old girl that in situations like this, I just have to wait for her brain to come back to me and upsetting her will only make it take longer.

I didn't really have her together for the next test, but we went in. Again, we weren't straight on center line and our circles were more oblongs. Still, I couldn't help my ear-to-ear smile as we did our canter circle. She felt amazing. She wasn't really happy, but she was trying her best in this terrifying new environment. Ok, so we didn't have a free walk. Yeah, our contact never improved. Sure, the halt was crooked. I was happy with her, though.

I hopped off as soon as we were out of the arena and we took Izzy and the other horses home. On the drive, I got to look over my tests. The judging seemed fair. We got a few sevens. We got a few fours. We got a lot of fives and sixes. We had some strong comments on the inconsistent contact, which was ok with me. It's something we're working on at home, and I'm aware of the problem. Izzy got sevens on gaits in both tests. I bet she'll get eights next time if I can work on the whole submission issue (we got a 5 for that).

Here's what rankled me. I got a 5 for riding with comments that the test wasn't accurate. That bugged me. Yeah, it wasn't great, but a five? I was in kind of a funk on Saturday. Cathy told me I rode well, but she's not one who dwells on the past and I'm one who tends to read too much into certain things. Yeah. I rode well for someone who's finally back in lessons after years away. Well for someone who can't be expected to do much better. It rankled me. (Not Cathy; just my interpretation of the comments). I wasn't upset with Izzy. She did exactly what could be expected. I just wanted to throw in the towel. It didn't help that my eventer friend and her halfie got a 68% and a 73% to our 55% and 56%. (Of course, they also did intro A and B).

I guess I'm over it. It wasn't as if the judge was a paid professional; she's a local (and very good rider). I'm happy with how Izzy and I did. There were a few things I wish I'd done differently, but I don't know that they would have made a difference. Izzy was nervous at her first show, which is to be expected. I could have pushed harder, sure, but she was already on the edge of an explosion. It was better to just ride her softly through it and make it a pleasant experience for her than to really drill her in hopes of getting a higher score and risking a massive meltdown. Plus, after talking to my eventer friend more, she assured me that Cathy actually said very nice things about my ride while I was out there. She probably just didn't repeat them because I really didn't ask much. I knew what was wrong, and she needed to get back and feed.

;-) Sometimes it sucks when your coach has that much confidence in you.

So, all in all, it was a good experience. Here's the only picture of Izzy from the day:
Yep. Took a picture of her white (shiny white!!) foot with my cell phone. I have pictures of Cathy and my eventer friend riding, but they're still on my camera. I totally forgot to ask someone to take pictures of us when Izzy was having her meltdown.... whoops. Maybe it's just as well. Picture us being awesome, and maybe next time we'll live up to it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Not Spring's Best Day

Yesterday was gorgeous. Sunny, 60f outside, almost no wind... and I was stuck inside feeling miserable. I guess that's not entirely true. I went to my lesson yesterday morning. I was feeling awful, but when one has once weekly lessons, one always shows up. ;-) I got Izzy ready. I contemplated lunging, and realized that the amount of energy it required was about equal to that of staying on for one good spook. Since I had limited energy, I decided to gamble on the spook. (I never considered an option that included more than one spook. Hmmm.)

Izzy was amazing. Cathy's comment was that she was matching my energy output, because she just ambled around. She wasn't incredible; she wasn't round, she could have been more balanced, you know, that sort of thing. But. She didn't spook. She didn't act silly. She just let me ride her around and was really sweet. We did jump a bit and she was fabulous!! She's still figuring out where her feet go in front of the jump, but she only knocked it down twice and she's so athletic that it really isn't even an effort for her. (This is me, swooning).

Today was a different story. The weather changed, the rain came in, it's cold, and now I'm operating at about 60% strength instead of the 35% I had yesterday. I (wisely) turned Izzy out before riding and she galloped and bucked like a maniac. When she was done, I rode. We worked for a really long time on getting her to listen to my seat. She is getting better. We did lots of walk/halt/back/halt/walk type transitions to make sure she understood what I wanted. Then we moved on to trot/halt/trot transitions. When she was responding nicely, I started using that same idea to rebalance her without actually halting. It took a while; at first she would try to just run on her forehand, but we worked through that by actually making her stop and back up when she did that.

When I had her going nicely, we went through both of our tests. I have them memorized, and she was decent-ish. I guess that's good enough for now. Here's to better health for tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sick Day

I woke up this morning and felt like I'd never gone to bed. Plus, now I have a sore throat and runny nose and a headache. :-(

The obvious course of action was to skip my run, get dressed, go riding, then come home for soup. Why, what else could I do?

I'm glad I did. I still feel like crap, but the ride was so worth it. Because Izzy was so quiet yesterday and we galloped around, I decided to forgo lunging and just warm her up with a long walk. It went really well. I focused on keeping her marching forward and let her stretch whenever she offered it. After 10 minutes or so, I picked her up and off we went. We're gearing up for a schooling show, so I wanted to work on transitions. At first, Izzy totally ignored my seat and would toss her head if I tried touching the reins in trot/walk transitions. I broke it down for her. We did walk/halt transitions. If she halted in a balanced and quiet way, we walked on. If not, I asked her to back until she gave (ie released tension and dropped her poll). It took a while and several times we had to back all the way down the short side of the arena, but she finally decided to co-operate.

After that, it was smooth sailing. We did walk/trot/canter transitions and she was lovely. We did trot/halt transitions. She can do them within a stride and she has a naturally square halt. Then we progressed to transitions within the trot; instead of actually halting, we'd do a half halt and practiced our shorten/lengthen trot. She has an amazing lengthen when she's balanced. We didn't actually practice our tests, but I don't think we need to. Plus, it helped me to find a good, quiet way to work through her initial resistance.

Win! Also, the schooling show was moved back from Wednesday to Friday. That gives us a little more time to get ready and means that our lesson is on for tomorrow and we get to JUMP again!

PS I'm 90% done pulling her mane and her fetlocks and bridle path are now trimmed. Behold the power of cookies! Seriously. She will stand still for anything if she has a treat to suck on.

PPS The mare has apparently opened a store under her registered name. I'm awaiting royalties.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Where I Don't Throttle the Pony

The past week, every time I've gotten off of Izzy, I've just been angry. Sometimes it was because she was acting up, but most of the time it's because of other things in my life that are getting to me. Either way, riding was not fun. I know it's not always going to be fun, but I think it should be fun most of the time or it's really not worth having as a very, very expensive hobby.

Today was fun. It was windy and cold and rainy, but the outdoor arena was just barely dry enough to ride in. I turned Izzy loose to run since I didn't get her out yesterday, and she just barely cantered around. Weird. I was expecting major bucking and squealing since she had to stand around for, you know, one whole day. Anyways. We tacked up and went for a ride. As I mentioned before, the weather was awful, but I think we were both just so happy to be outside that it didn't matter.

I thought about my comments from yesterday and I realized that y'all were right. We do need to work on developing more consistent contact, but we can't have that if she isn't forward. Today, I decided to focus on engagement, and oh boy did I have it! I didn't worry about contact very much and just rode forward. I looked at where we were going instead of what we were doing and I realized that Izzy is far more responsive to my aids than I thought she was. (I just needed to get my head out of my butt to notice.)

We did a lot of trotting and cantering. Izzy wanted to go forward and I had no objections. We probably tore around the arena a bit faster than was safe, but I think we both needed it.

Funny thing, though. After we blew off steam, Izzy was far more accepting of the contact and even quieter about listening to me. After we cooled out at the walk for a bit, I asked her for a bit of turn on the forehand each way, and she gave it. No fussing, no hassle. I kept her straight and barely even used my legs. I just turned my body and she turned underneath me.

Of course, that was an excellent stopping point. I got off, and when I went to untack, I found something else that made me happy (and no, it wasn't Izzy's constant cribbing whenever I leave her). The new padding arrangement we tried today worked! No extra rubbing!! Yay SB and Izzy!!

Ok, I really should go. I want to read all of your blogs and comment and I need to learn my tests for Wednesday.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Izzy and I had a crappy ride this morning. I'm not sure why. Part of it was that she was pulling down (hard!) on the bit, then throwing her head in the air and running forward. Whenever I attempted to pick up contact, she would throw her head again. I was doing pretty well at regulating her speed with my posting, but that was probably the only thing I was doing well. We couldn't really get organized. I couldn't get her focused. (Yes, we were riding in the bubble). We couldn't do much of anything because Izzy was super looky and there was a lesson going on.

I'm not sure how to account for this. Part of me wants to say that asking her to pick up a contact and carry herself forward means lifting her back into the rub, which hurts so she throws her head. Another part of me says that Consistent contact is new to Izzy and Izzy hates change, so she's trying to figure it out and having fits on the way.

I think the second explanation makes more sense. She's fussing about her face, not her back. When she doesn't like her saddle, she doesn't go forward. We've been through this over and over. She's kind of in a phase right now where she doesn't want to stand for anything and she just wants to go. That's probably partly because she hasn't been turned out in over a week due to the rain, snow, and slick mud that we're stuck with right now.

I sympathize with her, but it's driving me nuts. Is it too much to ask to have one decent riding day once in a while? Grrrr.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I'm Liking It

Due to snow (yes, I wish this was an April fools joke), we were back in the Bubble of Doom today. There were two other people riding, one of which was in a lesson, so it was pretty crowded. Despite trucks going by, horses banging on stuff, and horses coming and going, Izzy was really good. She was tense. She was worried. Still, she kept her brain. She didn't spook so much as look around.

We weren't able to get much useful work in, between dodging the lessoner (who for some reason never bothers to steer much) and avoiding the greenie with an explosive spook that we didn't want to provoke. Oh well. I keep reminding myself that any work is better than no work, and we're very, very lucky to even have the opportunity to ride indoors at all.
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