Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dressage Lesson

Ok, I'll admit: after spending several days working on -not- carrying any contact with Izzy, I was pretty nervous about how she would accept the contact for our lesson. After all, acceptance of contact in the first place was a huge struggle for us.

I shouldn't have worried. Izzy remains a rock star. She does loff her little jog, however.

I could not believe how good she was for our lesson! She's really developing some self carriage and improving her balance, so she was an absolute joy to ride. We managed to skip most of her walk/trot transition head tossing because she was better balanced. She was lovely and light on the contact, and bent quite easily either way.

What a girl. I could go on and on about how fabulous she is and how I love her, but I guess I'll spare you guys. I really need to take some more pictures of how cute she is. This afternoon, maybe.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Still Cold

It got above freezing here for the first time in about a week yesterday. It was also the first day I've been able to get to the barn since Wednesday. Thankfully, when I showed up, I was the only person there. I grabbed Izzy and we headed to the indoor for some much-needed play time.

She galloped around and bucked and leaped and had a grand time. I went back and mucked out her stall before deliberating about what to do. Part of me didn't even want to ride because the wind was so strong that I almost blew over walking to the arena. The other part of me dragged out the western saddle. Izzy actually seemed pretty happy to go for a ride. I think she missed me. :-)

It was really fun; it was only our 4th time to ever use a western saddle, but I can feel Izzy improving each time we do it. Last time, we focused a lot on trying to develop a jog without her either throwing her head up and running or diving onto the bit and dragging. This time was much better--she would collect herself (as long as I kept her soft), and move quietly forward into a nice, smooth jog. Then she would drop out of it. Oh well. It's progress. We worked a lot on bending in and out to keep her soft and focused. I'm also trying to teach her to neck rein a little bit, but I'm not really sure how that's going.

We also started to work on changing her canter over to a bit of a lope. I didn't push it much because that's a lot of work and I didn't want her to work up too much of a sweat. It was way too cold for that.

All in all, I'm really pleased. This is another way for us to pinpoint issues in training and communication and work on them. I'm supposed to have a dressage lesson this afternoon. All I have to say about that is it better warm up. It's currently 6f outside.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Izzy and I continued the great western experiment yesterday afternoon. She is not so sure about this whole deal. (As you can see, we've also borrowed a headstall and reins.) Unfortunately, we're also in the middle of some super nasty weather for us, so it never got about like 23 degrees f yesterday and it's supposed to be a high of 17 today. I realize that for some of you, that's nothing, but here it's pretty big.

Anyways. I'm mostly just complaining because of Izzy's new footwear, which apparently is somewhat like having shoes, and therefore is bad on ice... yes, the road we cross to go to the arenas is a sheet of ice. Yikes. We tip toed across it yesterday, but I'm not sure I want to tempt fate and do it again today. Maybe I'll wait til Sunday...

In honor of the fact that we are pretending to be western and the fact that I'm down to one pair of jeans that fit and that I sort of like, I went to one of our numerous western tack stores yesterday and actually made out with two pairs of jeans that I love and a pair of boots. The boots are WAAAAY nicer than my paddock boots which were sorely in need of replacement and they actually keep my feet warm. Plus, I can wear them on my husband's family's ranch and to work in.

I am also probably going to buy Izzy a saddle pad--what we've cobbled together for now isn't really ideal and there are some interesting low-cost options that I think would work nicely. I'm thinking that I'll exchange ride time today to go look for a saddle pad, then bring it out to the barn to mix her grain for the weekend and try it on. (And probably ride, too, since I already have her tacked up.)

After yesterday's ride, I am more optimistic about the whole thing. We were trying to do the whole 'jog' thing instead of trotting and it in general did not go well. Why? Well, because of all the same reasons that we've struggled with our trot work. First, she wanted to throw her head up and LEAP into trot/jog. When I wouldn't allow that, she'd then throw her head down and dive onto her forehand while running in the trot. We had probably 3 separate moments of 6 or 7 strides of a nice jog.

What I'm seeing is that this is an excellent way to help her develop some self carriage and take more responsibility for how she carries herself instead of me just carrying her all the time. Win! Trying to ride on a loose rein is just like riding bareback, except it's isolating my hands instead of my seat--we have a lot of work to do.

And really, is there a more fun and cute way to do it?

I still want a fancy headstall, but there's no way that's happening now. ;-) Someday...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lesson and Thoughts

The theme of our dressage lesson yesterday was 'expect more'. Izzy knows a lot more than I give her credit for, so I tend to let things slide that I shouldn't. She's still in her 'throwing head in w/t transitions phase'. Cathy had us address that by me holding my outside rein low and steady (think almost side rein) while taking bend with my inside rein. I then focused on riding her hind end, and she did quite nicely after a couple attempts.

We had more rhythm, a slightly higher tempo, more acceptance of the bit, and were overall more connected than we've been in a while. Izzy really is pretty fabulous when I get her working.

I feel like we have plenty to work on until our next lesson. I have some leftover credit from when I was working for Cathy, so I get like 4 lessons free. Hurray!

Also, we have officially borrowed the western saddle and a headstall with reins to play at doing western with. I've been talking to a friend of mine who used to show, so if I can get in enough lessons with Terry this winter, maybe we will go play western pony at a show sometime. My friend has offered to loan me stuff and take pictures. Cross your fingers--it sounds like fun.

As for 'crossing over to the dark side'... I hear you. I've always been the dressage/jumping purist, as evidenced by the fact that I'm still not entirely sure how to put the western saddle on by myself and I think it's way too bloody heavy. However, I'm reconciling myself to the fact that I simply do not and will not have the funds to get the kind of training I want to go the distance I think we can if we stick to eventing only. This is a way for us to have fun together without worrying too much. We're certainly not giving up eventing and I'm super excited for hopefully getting to do some real XC next spring/summer.

Besides, I totally want this. Despite my friend's assurances that it is not in style for showing right now, it's just so totally opposite of anything I would ever normally buy that I'm fascinated by it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A New Adventure!

One of the ladies at the new barn used to be a western trainer, specializing in pleasure and reining. I've been teasing about Izzy under western tack, and she took me up on it. So adorable!

We started out with another bareback/bitless ride in the indoor, in which we primarily worked on mounting. Izzy does NOT like that part, I think because it's so different from what she's used to. She was getting a little better (and I was getting better at not surprising her), so we rode around the indoor.

That's when Terry came in and I mentioned how adorable Izzy looked with her western sidepull on. She said she had a saddle that would probably fit her, and off we tramped to the other barn to find it. It fit quite well, I think. I don't know a lot about fitting western saddles, but Terry said it looked good and Izzy did not object. We are going to try a different pad next time, though.

Izzy celebrates the lack of a 'real' bridle.

I just rode around the round pen both directions and did w/t/c. Haha, maybe I mean walk/jog/lope. ;-) I laughed pretty much the entire time because it all felt so weird and Izzy knew I didn't have much control so she pretty much just went where she wanted to.

I have not even sat in a western saddle since I was about 8 years old, so the whole thing felt really weird. I spend most of my time lately either bareback or in a treeless dressage saddle, both of which allow a really good 'feel' of Izzy's back. The western saddle puts me up off her a bit and the stirrup leather (fender?) even keeps my leg from laying on her side. It's very different.

Here's Izzy when we first put it on her. I was letting her wander the round pen with it on and she just looked goofy.

We should have more western adventures coming up--the footing in the indoor is not conducive to serious dressage work and I want to keep Izzy moving. Plus, Terry offered to give us lessons. How fun would that be!!

I've always been a teensy bit embarrassed that I live in Idaho (you know, serious cow country) and I don't even know how to put a western saddle on. I guess that's another thing Terry needs to teach me. ;-) I now how this silly urge to go check out western tack and other exciting goodies online, though Terry assures me she has all I've ever need (and her tackroom definitely backs up that statement).

Still, I am in dire need of new paddock boots. Perhaps I'll get a western version this time around. Next thing you know, we'll be doing... um... something western.

Actually, I have a dressage lesson this afternoon.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dave Round 2

Izzy gets her toes done by our wonderful farrier Dave and sometimes his excellent partner, Melissa the barefoot trimmer. Last time they were scheduled to come out, I made it to the barn 20 minutes before they did. I got Izzy out and hand grazed her, thinking that would help her relax and stand still for them.

Not so. Instead, she spent the ENTIRE time trying to stretch, fussing, walking around, even trying to lay on top of Dave periodically. It was rather embarrassing how bad she was, especially because it took 2 hours to trim all around and put front shoes on her. Grrr.

I tried a new method this time. I scheduled Dave and Melissa for late morning, then arrived a couple hours early. I did a hard dressage school on Izzy, then turned her out until they showed up about 45 minutes later.

Much improved!! Izzy stood quite nicely and no one was (nearly) injured.

Also, she got her super special resin-wraps on today. They are supposed to help her right heel grow, which she sorely needs. I would have taken pictures, but it was 35 and breezy and I was COLD. I'll try to get some on Monday...

Thursday, November 18, 2010


After two horrid and barn-less days, I skipped out of work this morning because I HAD to ride. (Ugh. Life sucks a lot sometimes.) Anyways. Izzy was a superstar. As always.

I lunged her first to see what she would be like. As usual, she wasn't super forward and didn't think she needed to respond to my voice commands for upward transitions. Grr. I told her to trot, and when she didn't, I jumped at her and yelled. She took off bucking, but also got the message. Much better pony after that.

I was actually nervous about getting on, partly because I haven't ridden for (gasp!) 2 days and partly because of other sucky stuff (that I will talk about in a future post when it is figured out) that is going on in my life. Fortunately, Izzy is now a pro and totally took care of me. She was quiet, relatively attentive, and so, I don't know, comfortable.

I could really feel a difference in my riding even with just two days of walking bareback. My thighs were loose and relaxed instead of clamped down. My aids were more clear and soft and I actually felt quiet secure. I was acle to distribute my weight through my body instead of just bracing against my irons.

We didn't do anything hard. We just w/t/c both ways and did some figure eights and then reinforced the halt/back without any hand that we'd worked on bareback. The most exciting part for me was that because I was actually able to relax my body, I had a great time and wasn't totally out of breath at the end like I've been lately. YAY!!

I needed that ride.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bareback Round 2

Izzy and I went for another bareback ride yesterday. We used our spiffy new sidepull with cool white roping reins. Funny thing: I don't think they planned for a 16.0 HH warmblood when making the reins. They are just barely long enough for her. It's probably a good thing.

Honestly, I don't think she's wild about this whole experiment. She's been ok, but she just seems to prefer the solidity of a bit and saddle. She likes structure, what can I say?

Her objections have been somewhat minor so far (some head tossing and anxious moving around) and I think she's adjusting. Next time I ride, which won't be until tomorrow or Thursday unfortunately, we'll use the bridle and dressage saddle so we can do some actual work. I admit, I'm too chicken to trot bareback yet.

I felt a lot better riding yesterday. I was much more stable and able to stay balanced. I'm still working on really relaxing through my whole body and actually trusting Izzy more. It's a work in progress. I've noticed that when I apply my outside turning aids, I tend to also clamp down with my inside leg, so instead of saying "please step sideways", my aids are saying "BHWAAAAA!!! DO SOMETHING NOWW!!!"

No wonder she was having trouble with me.

So. I'm trying to simplify my aids, relax, and clarify what I mean. To do this, we worked on figure eights with intermittent halts. I tried to keep my body (especially hips and legs) loose and relaxed. I did my best to apply my leg without tension--which is hard to explain. I tried to be conscious of what my whole body was doing so that when I did something, it actually meant something.

Overall, I'm quite happy with our progress and I look forward to continuing it throughout the winter.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bareback Round 1

I got up Sunday morning and went out to the barn thinking, "It's 40f and raining. There will be no one else around and we can just ride in the indoor."

Surprise!! There was another boarder out there. This was a nice lady I'd never even seen before. Why do people start riding once the weather turns nasty? No clue. Anyways. Izzy and I hung out in the indoor and got used to the sound of rain on the roof while the lady finished riding. When she came out, I took Izzy in with her halter and chain on. We walked around and look at any potentially scary stuff. She was super good.

Next, I put the bridle on. It's a mechanical hackmore, so I lead her around in it for a while to make sure she was used to the leverage action. I decided to use it because we're both very comfortable with a bit and I tend to grab it instead of really use my body to ride. Izzy isn't wild about the leverage function and I'm not wild about losing the ability to turn her in a circle if things got crazy, but it was the best option I had. I also put a leather neckstrap on her to grab when I got insecure, which was most of the time.

I rode for about half an hour, and we never left the walk. I didn't realize just how much I was doing wrong. I tend to slide off one side or another. With my saddle, I can just brace against the irons to compensate, but bareback is a whole new world. I spent most of my time just trying to stay centered and balanced and moving with the motion. Yikes. I feel like an awful rider.

Last night, I ran down to the store and got myself a sidepull with roping reins to use for our continued bareback experiments. That will removing the leverage that Izzy dislikes and give me the lateral steering (hopefully) that I like to have for those tense moments. I'll take a picture of her today. I'm sure it will look adorable.

ETA: Lunge lessons would be fabulous. Unfortunately, they're out of range for now. Hopefully, if I do this for a while, I can afford to take some later on.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Where I Wish I Could Ride

I've realized that a big part of my problem riding Izzy is that I seem to have lost the ability to really follow her motion and find myself constantly fighting against it. This is wrong on a lot of levels, not the least of which is that it makes me feel insecure and therefore lose confidence.

There. I identified a problem.

I decided that to fix the problem, I need to do something that allows her motion but limits my control. Thus, I decided to ride Izzy bareback in our hackmore in the round pen. She's fine bareback and the round pen will limit her enough that I won't freak out about being run off with. I figured I could just hop on, hang on, and ride till I seemed to get it, then lather and repeat until it works.

So far, so good.

Of course, I couldn't make it out to the barn until almost four this afternoon. Izzy had a glorious galloping bucking time out in turnout and for the first time since I've been at this barn, there was 5 (count 'em) other boarders out there. Also, one horse was loose in the round pen. I turned Izzy out in the small outdoor arena and she ran like a crazy thing. By the time the round pen was available, it was so dark and cold that I decided our new plan could wait until tomorrow.

Besides, then there will be less people around to watch me screw up. ;-)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where I Actually Ride

When I showed up at the barn yesterday, late afternoon, Izzy was already turned out and had been for a while. Nonetheless, when a tumbleweed blew down the road, she took off bucking and galloping and playing. She's really not scared or tense or anything--she's just so freaking happy it's ridiculous. You'd have to see her face. The weather is just cool enough that her fuzzy coat feels good and she LOVES her turnout time (good, since that's why I pay $$ to be here).

It's fun to watch, but my, um, injury was hurting more yesterday and all I could think was, "Shoot. I'm going to get on and she's going to freak and buck and bolt and dump me and I'll hurt myself worse."

Not the best way to start a training session.

I pulled her out of the turnout and she leaped around on the lead line. I could tell she was just playing since again she didn't hit the end of the lead rope or anything and there's just this look in her eye that says, "how fun is this!" Still, I don't want her thinking that behavior is ok when I hanging on to her, so I backed her up and made her stand. She was quite good after that. I had her all tacked up except her bridle when the BO started feeding in our barn. Izzy was ok with that, not so ok with all her buddies charging around going, "Wheee! Feeding time and we feel gooooood!"

She tried to leap forward in the cross ties, so I unclipped one of them and then held the lead rope while the BO quickly fed everyone to settle them down. Then I just lead Izzy over to the indoor and put her bridle on in there. She had a totally relaxed look in her eye, despite all the antics. I did try lunging her, but as usual, could hardly get her to go. She knows when she needs it and when she doesn't. I climbed on, still wary of falling off in some horrible accident.

She was looky in one end of the arena and it was getting dark and cold quickly, so I only rode walk and trot for about 10 minutes, then jumped off. When I turned her loose to roll, she meandered down to the "scary" end of the arena, and leaned over the fence to see if she could reach the haystack. When she realized she could, she just laid down and rolled.

That mare. I was so worried she'd do something, and she just wanted food. Story of our lives, I guess. ;-)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day Off

I had to work pretty much all day yesterday, so I sprinted out to the barn between that and my evening commitments. Miss Izzy was very happy to see me--she whinnied at me! Aww. I took her out to one of the turnouts. Before I could even close the gate behind us, she half-reared and ran backwards. She stopped before she hit the end of the rope, though. Silly girl was just letting me know she could hardly contain herself.

As soon as I had the gate firmly closed and her halter off, she took off bucking and galloping up and down the length of the turnout. When she finally settled in, she dove onto the ground to roll, then did her usual frantic grazing before even getting up. Quite funny.

I didn't even groom her. I let her be out for about an hour, and before I could do anything else, I got a call I was waiting for and had to go. She didn't mind; her dinner was waiting in her stall. I AM riding today. Sometime. It's a long day, just with hardly any daylight.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Reflections on Injuries

At our last jumping lesson, 8 days ago, I fell off Izzy. I wasn't really hurt. I got back on and everything was fine. My hip was sore the following couple of days, which made sense, since I landed on it. Still, a day off, followed by easing myself back into some low, slow runs and my hip now feels great.

The only problem is that now my tailbone (I think) hurts. I don't notice it walking, running, or sitting, but any time I bend over, I have to move really slow to avoid pain. Lifting stuff is also difficult. According to my cursory internet search (which is just like going to a doctor, I'm sure), there is really nothing a doctor can do for tailbone injuries other than dispense pain meds.

So... I'm thinking I'll just continue to kind of take it easy and hope things improve. Any second opinions out there? ;-)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Spending Habits

I had a good, solid dressage ride yesterday, then Izzy and I walked down the road by ourselves. She didn't even flinch when big trucks went by pretty fast. Love her!

I thought I would focus on the ongoing dilemma that almost all of us have to worry about (unless you're that fabulous lady who sponsors Steffan Peters. She probably doesn't run up against this too often.)


Unfortunately, I am not independently wealthy, so I have to make some decisions. Here are my set horsie expenses:

Board: $280/month
Senior feed: $15ish/month
Ulcer meds and supps: $30ish/month

We'll pretend that gas is free and time isn't important. That leaves my constant monthly total at $325/month and I haven't accounted for other essentials like farrier care, dental, chiro, shots, and any injuries that crop up.

It is currently November. I have already spent my set $325 and I have a little money left over to spend (sort of). Here are my exciting options:

Two jumping lessons at $35/each: $70

Two dressage lessons at $35/each: $70

Schooling jumper show (3 classes): $45

Tack of the day dressage boots (mine need upgrade): ~$50 including shipping

Winter jacket that actually zips: $? (got my last one at the Youth Ranch for $4)

All are good options, and I could certainly do some combination thereof, HOWEVER, Izzy's left front heel is low, so my farrier recommended (and we are doing) resins on her front feet this month. Cost: $90. Also, I've been noticing that her hind feet seem to be wearing down more. Cross your fingers that we don't have to do back shoes, too.

So expensive. (And I know, to those of you with real jobs or in expensive areas, these figures are ridiculously low. Just remember, I'm poor and in Idaho.) ;-)

Periodically, my husband talks about getting rid of his rabbits because it costs almost $40/month to feed them. I wish I was into rabbits. (I mean, I have two fuzzy ones that I love, but they're not my big thing.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Here's a picture of some of the fall colors at the barn:
It's been absolutely gorgeous here--cool overnight, but in the 60s or 70s doing the day. Unfortunately, the leaves are finally starting to fall.

Here's the aisleway that Izzy and I walk down to get to the turnouts.

My fancy new leathers and irons. (And yes, the leathers are now nylon-lined. Yikes.)

Gorgeous bridle and breastcollar:

And of course, my beloved fuzzies at home:

Aren't they so cute all snuggled together?

Huh. I was going to put some other pictures up, but blogger changed something about the uploading and I'm having trouble figuring it out. The pictures used to be in reverse order, one on top of the other, but now they're all crammed in side by side and if I try to cut and paste, more than one disappears. So weird.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Where the WB Wants to be a TB

AKA "conditioning day". According to the schedule that I more or less try to stick to, we were supposed to do trot and canter sets today. I'm always torn about this. I feel like if we do concentrated dressage for a few days, then we make some real progress. The only problem is that the progress comes at the expense of our jumping. Oh well. That's why we rotate, right?

So. Conditioning. I rode Izzy all over the facility today. We did a little warm up work in the big outdoor, meandered around the indoor, walked by the dressage arena, then crossed the bridge and went to the track. Fortunately, Izzy seems to be over her 'I absolutely cannot pass the barn to cross the bridge' phase. She thought about balking today, but a little extra leg convinced her to keep going.

We did a couple trot sets to the left. I let her walk a lap, then we picked up the canter. This is an excellent way to work on forwardness, right? She got rolling along, I got settled, and then I went up to two point to lighten my seat and work on my balance.


I almost fell off the mare. Apparently, even though my hip is now fine, my rump is still pretty sore from our tumble on Saturday. I thought about sitting down again, but my hip improved most when I went running and pushed through it, so I stayed in two point for three painful laps.

I know how long the track is and my goal is to build our fitness while figuring out how to accurately estimate my meters/minute speed. Unfortunately, I have so much to work on right now that I can hardly keep myself out of Izzy way, much less know what's going on.

Here's a typical set: Ok, we are on a corner going away from the barn. Walk to canter transition with much fuss. Check. Correct lead. Check. Elbows bending to follow motion of her head. Check. (Turn) Allow motion to roll from my hip to my knee, not hip to foot. Check. (turn) My left foot hurts. That means I'm putting too much weight there instead of balancing centrally (turn) Rebalance. Butt hurts. Shoulders too far forward. If she spooks, I'm going over her shoulder. One!!

And repeat.

After a few sets left, we switched to the right. On the second set, I finally seemed to get it more or less together. I felt like a race jockey coming around the corner; eyes up, body balanced, hands still, and oh boy, Izzy felt it to. We GALLOPED down the stretch and around the corner, at which point I freaked. Oh shit!! Is this track even designed for galloping? What if she loses her footing? Ack! No! Whoa! Izzy did a flying lead change, then one back.

Ok, I think that's enough for today...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Back to Dressage

The feedback we got at the jumping clinic was that Izzy needs to accept the bit and be more forward. Since that seems to be a theme for us, today we pulled out the dressage saddle and got to work.

Izzy started out pushy and even a little tense. She's going through a phase where she'll have a decent walk, but when I pick her up and ask for trot, she tries to fling her head up in the air and run on her forehand. I'm not really sure where this is from; it gets better if we work on it, but I haven't gotten it to go away yet.

Another issue I'm working on is getting my hands out of my lap, holding a steady contact, and riding Izzy into it. Conveniently, all these things seem to be tied together. When I hold a steady contact, the pony mare is able to trust it and balance on it, which smooths the transition. Even if she does attempt the head-fling-and-run, by holding the contact and stopping her with my body, I am refusing to play her game and focusing on the issue: the balance.

Finally, when cantering, I have apparently over-packaged and over-rebalanced her stride to the point that she doesn't really come under herself and balance. Instead, she has some sort of weird up-down motion. Whoops. That's what I get for only sort of knowing what I'm doing and sporadically working with trainers. Today, we focused on letting Izzy develop a lovely big canter and really carry herself around. While she did that, I tried to keep a steady contact, maintain my posture, and let her find her own balance.

All in all, I'd call it a good day. We started rough, but she (we) improved as we went along. At the end of the ride, she was pretty comfortable with the contact and was able to maintain a nice balance at all three gaits. Not fancy, but good. Hopefully someday I'll have another dressage lesson. This would all be easier if it was free, right?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Best and Worst

First off, a picture of the barn dog "helping" feed on a windy day. He didn't want to get off the 4 wheeler.

Izzy and I had another jumping lesson on Saturday. Irie's mom was unable to attend, so the only picture I have is of Izzy waiting patiently at the trailer, even though I forgot to bring a haynet for her. <3 data-blogger-escaped-br="" data-blogger-escaped-her="">

The lesson was great! Izzy warmed up really well. We focused on 'fingertip control' at first, in which I try to get a maximum response to minimal aids. Next, we worked on focusing on where we wanted to go in order to get our horses to move with purpose. An example would be instead of just asking for a trot transition, focus on a place you want to get to and then ask. This gives you a goal and allows your horse to obey promptly.

We also did an exercise in which we lightened one leg at a time in the stirrups, allowing our whole leg to contact the side of the horse instead of just putting our weight in our stirrups. This will be important later.

The first exercise we worked on was just cantering over poles set at a 90 degree angle to one another. It was a long three, a comfortable four, or a short five, and we got to do all three variations. Next, Stephanie set the poles up to 2' verticals and had us canter over those both directions, focusing on getting four comfortable strides, jumping perpendicular to the fence, and staying balanced. It was harder than I thought.

Finally, we incorporated a third element: a 2'3" square oxer (which sounds tiny to those of you who actually jump, but it's good-sized for Izzy and I right now). The pattern was now this: canter in to a 2' vertical, turn left and 90 degrees in 4 strides, jump another 2' vertical, turn right and 90 degrees in five strides, jump a 2'3" oxer.

Whoa. That was hard.

I went first and really struggled with it because I have some major position flaws that this exercise highlights. First off, I tend to move around too much in front of the fence, which makes Izzy shorten because she's confused. Then, my in-air form is bad, so I take back on the reins and totally lose my legs, which makes leg yielding through the turn virtually impossible. We manage to get over the second fence, but not the third.

Finally (probably 3 or 4 tries later), I seem to get it. I shorten up my reins, and grab Izzy's mane about a third of the way up her neck. This forces my hands to stay forward, which keeps me in better balance and allow me to use my leg. We make the second jump on a fairly severe angle (yay Izzy! Already compensating for my dumbness!) We barely made the turn to the third jump (oxer), and I showed it to Izzy too late. BRAKES!

The good news is, I wasn't ahead of her and my position barely even bobbled when she stopped. It was just poor riding by me and greeness by her, so Stephanie had us canter around and do that jump alone. Izzy was brilliant.

Then, we put all three together. We developed a rhythmic canter to the first jump. I put my hands in her mane and kept my leg on. We did a nifty leg yield through the sharp left corner and caught the second jump square in the middle. I didn't worry about her lead and made the right hand turn quickly enough to allow her to see the jump before we were right on top of it. I kept my leg on and my hands still and we positively FLEW over the oxer!!

And then...

Yep, stirrup leather totally busted about a stride after the fence. If only I'd paid more attention to the lesson earlier about distributed my weight through my leg instead of just my stirrup. I went flying (dumping? It wasn't graceful) off Izzy's left side, and my lesson buddy assures me that she let out a mighty buck once I was off.

It was pretty hilarious. I mean, I was done. We nailed the exercise, so there was no reason to do it again. I just sat in the sand for a moment, hurting and processing. Then I got up, pulled the other stirrup off the saddle, and rode Izzy around to cool out while my lesson buddy finished up.

Several thoughts:
1) I have not fallen off Izzy in well over a year, so I was more than due.
2) I cannot imagine a better way to come off--neither of us has any confidence issues due to it.
3) Since I am a consummate tack-whore, it is kind of embarrassing to fall off due to tack failure.
4) That said, due to the aforementioned tack-whoring issue, I actually have a new pair of leathers (nylon-lined) at home. The only reason I wasn't using them was because they didn't fit my current irons and I was suppressing my tack-whoring impulse to go buy new irons. Lesson learned: never repress a tack whore.
5) I consciously decided not to give my tack a once-over the night before the lesson because I thought I was too busy. Ha. Pony club was right. Check your leathers.

This jumping thing is addicting.

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