Monday, January 31, 2011

London 2012, Here We Come

This is literally what Izzy and I looked like yesterday:

Except for the shad, of course. That's just a little too formal for us to school in.

How, might you ask, did we make the leap from local training level rider to international dressage stars?

Good question. The answer is twofold.
1) We were able to use the outdoor arena for the first time since November.
2) The footing was freshly worked and pretty deep.

Yep. I had already turned Izzy out in the indoor where she went gallopy-gallop-buck-buck for about 5 or 10 minutes, so I thought she'd be super quiet. WRONG! I put her on the lunge line and the mare PASSAGED around me, first one way, then the other. She did seem responsive, despite being totally wired, so I got on.

The first five minutes of our ride were AMAZING. She had this incredible forward energy and suspension. Then she started settling down and realized that yes, this is the same outdoor we rode in last fall, and dang, it is hard work to keep up that crazy gait.

Back to training level. It took a while to get her balanced to the point I've had her in the indoor. She wasn't very focused and after she gave up on that crazy energy surge, I had to work a lot harder. Still, she was decent. We got some lovely canter work with some actual shorten/lengthen in the canter. Yay!

Oh, and the turnouts were finally open, too. Happy mare got to go out and eat the hay I threw her.

ETA: Thanks to Denali's mom for making us a new header. It's more winter appropriate, I think.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Note

I had another great dressage ride on Izzy yesterday. We are starting to get the hang of shoulder fore. I did have to stop and do some turn on the forehand with her to remind her that she can, in fact, move her haunches right.

Mostly, I just wanted to make a note of this in case I ever need to come back to it. About half to 2/3 of the way through our ride, Izzy started switching her tail when I asked for more impulsion in the trot, particularly to the right. (Although her lengthen-shortens were lovely). I suspect it's because she was getting tired and wasn't sure she really wanted to work that hard, but I want to keep track and make sure there isn't a troublesome pattern emerging.

We have pretty recently stepped up our training program a LOT, and she is advancing every time we ride, as am I, so it makes sense that she's tired or maybe slightly body sore. Any ideas for increasing fitness other than just doing the work? We'll be doing trot and canter sets as soon as the track and/or outdoor arena is rideable, but I'm not holding my breath. It is still January after all.

In related news, we had a barn girls night and watched Secretariat last night. It was really fun, and since I rode over to it with one of my fellow boarders, I got to come back to the barn around 10pm (so late for me!). Izzy was adorable! She came over to the fence and sniffed me and let me pet her. As much fun as yesterday was, that moment really made my day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Building Confidence

It was super cold yesterday, so I layered up and trekked out to the barn. I was the only person there, which has one really obvious ramification: jumping day! I really wanted to do dressage, but at the same time, I don't want to drill Izzy and make her cranky. This was a nice compromise.

I set a series of four elevated trot poles and then three trot poles leading up to a 18" crossrail. I know, tiny and unimpressive, but bear in mind that our big problems are: 1) my confidence and 2) my position.

We started out by working on maintaining forward energy in all three gaits. We did some trot/halts, with me trying to keep my upper body up and leg on, so that Izzy would halt without collapsing on her forehand. Then, we did some (jumper) walk/canters. They certainly weren't dressage quality, but I need Izzy to understand that she is to go when I say go. We focused on stayed balanced and forward through the downward transitions just like we'll need to on course.

Then we moved on to the hard stuff: trot poles! Ha, I know. It's getting better, though. Izzy does best when I don't interfere with her, so I focused on quietly moving up to two point about a stride before the poles, maintaining my position over them, and then quietly coming back. It's a work in progress for sure. I have non-ideal riding conformation (long torso, shortish legs), so two point is challenging to do and remain balanced in.

Then we headed in to the crossrail. I'm not sure I've ever set something like that before, but Izzy the Wonderhorse wasn't the tiniest bit phased. She trotted right in and then hopped out. Really, I think next time we jump I'm going to set a 2'ish vertical--Izzy likes to jump and the constant crossrails are boring her.

We had our share of issues, which is to say, I did my best to screw things up and Izzy just kept going around. Love that mare! I tried to keep my leg on, ride my turn, come in straight, stay straight, push my hands forward over the jump (SO FREAKING HARD) and then stay on a straight line afterwards. We did a couple of halts after the jump to keep Izzy from just motorcycling around the corner.

The most exciting thing we accomplished was this: a rollback turn. Not in the western sense--that would have been too exciting--but turning left off the rail to the jump was less than a 10m circle. I kept the contact steady and my body up and wouldn't you know, Izzy did the same and there was no loss of balance. WIN!!

So... my last couple of posts have been straight training journal, which maybe isn't the most interesting thing in the world to read. I'll try to have something cooler next time I update. Not sure what.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting Closer

Izzy models her brand new black dressage boots. All I need is a fancy black saddle pad and she'll be totally decked out in black. I'm not sure why I'm into that look right now, but it's so classy on her.

Let's face it, though: this horse could make lime green and fuschia classy. She is that awesome.

We had a reasonably good ride. Izzy's walk is definitely improving and I'm doing better at riding it without interfering. She gave me some really lovely work, especially at the trot. I'm focusing on really keeping my hands level, even, and still, which allows her to use the contact for balance and really learn to trust it. As a result of that and riding her a lot more forward, she's giving me some of the best trot work we've ever had. She's really using her hind end to carry her forward and I love it.

However. As great as she was, I'm really not happy with how I rode. I have a lot of bad habits to work on fixing, I felt like I was just sort of along for the ride without being proactive about what I was doing. I need to focus on keeping my shoulders back and upper body stretching up while reaching long through my legs (limp bacon. say with me: limp bacon). This will allow me to stretch down into my heels which adds tone to my calf muscles which allows me to use my leg aids more effectively.

All of the above is important BECAUSE when I feel like I have Izzy really forward and going well, I lose all fine tuned control. Sigh. I know it's possible to have her forward and straight and actually be able to turn. WE CAN DO THIS. One minor tweak I made yesterday was to think about riding to the right in a very slight counterbend. It's more to fix myself than her, but my right side is stronger and less flexible, so I tend to lose her left shoulder and then we have no motor control. The very slight counterbend keeps us both aligned, and then we are actually straight.

Our other exciting advance was shoulder fore. I don't think I'd even attempted it since our last lesson, which was sometime in December. We've done little leg yields here and there, but I haven't been able to coordinate my aids enough to get her set up for the shoulder fore in the tiny little indoor. One other lady who does dressage was riding with us, and with a little help from her, we actually managed a nice shoulder in to the left and a decent shoulder fore to the right. Hurray!

Maybe it's just my imagination, but I think Izzy's musculature is actually catching up to her training. Proper dressage body, here we come.

PS Our second anniversary of togetherness is coming up. I'm trying to think of something cool to do (photoshoot!!) but let me know if you have any awesome ideas.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Award

We've won an award!! (I think the rest of you have already, so I'm a little late to the party.)

We got it from the following bloggers (all of whom I recommend checking out):

There may have been others--sorry if I missed you.

So, here are the stipulations:
1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Award 15 recently discovered great bloggers
4. Contact these bloggers and tell them about the award!

Now, seven uber-exciting things about me:
1) I am a really boring person. Bed at 10pm, up at 6am. I don't stay out late and I don't really watch movies.

2) I make lists. Constantly. Sometimes, if I'm not accomplishing anything on my to-do list, I add things to them that I have already done and cross them off to make myself feel better.

3) I like challenges. If I have six months to get something done, I will wait until the last possible moment to start and then kick ass to complete the project. I have an extremely accurate inner timer that lets me know when the last possible moment is--thankfully, it's always been accurate.

4) I like to psychoanalyze people. I will watch their favorite movies and tv shows not because I care about the show, but because I want to understand what they like about it and what it says about them. That said, sometimes I end up liking the shows, too.

5) I love rules. Rules are like lists to memorize and exceed at. Given a clearly defined system, I will learn to understand the system, then learn to make the system work for me. That is probably why I love dressage--structure!! It's also what drives me nuts about western--there is no classical school or centuries of literature to build upon.

6) I HATE micromanagement. Give me a list and I will do it. Give me a list and tell me exactly how you want everything done and I will make sure it never happens.

7) I tend to be passive aggressive. I'm working on changing that to just plain aggressive. And yes, I make mental lists to help me recognize what needs to change.

Recently discovered bloggers: (See, this is where this starts to feel micro managed. In order to counteract a system I find annoying, I will list some bloggers that I have recently started reading. There may or may not be 15.)

Braymere Custom Saddlery - she makes model horse tack that is insane.
A Process of Learning - she is breeding her mare to one of my crush's for Izzy
Chasing the Dream - her horse does insane stuff. Oh, and she's aiming for Rolex.
Pia's Parade - possibly one of the most determined people I've ever encountered in blogger world.
Bay State Brumby - Ok, so I've been reading her blog for ages, but it's super fun and she just plain loves her horse.
We are Flying Solo - fabulous eventer and she does it on a budget. My role model.
I Will Jump Sweet Horse Jumps - based in NZ, so her summer/competition season is exactly opposite to mine.
Slow and Steady wins the race - Adult ammy finding her way through eventing and family
Miles on Miles - retraining an OTTB on her own. Color me impressed.

There you go! I'll get around to letting them know tomorrow, I think.

The Silliest Mare

Izzy was pretty happy to see me yesterday. Aww. She then galloped and bucked like crazy in the indoor. It was pretty muddy and I forgot my mud boots, so instead of a nice dressage ride like I was planning, I just put on the western saddle and went for a ride. We kept it simple: turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, halt, back, and a forward walk. We did a little trotting and jogging, but the lady who turned Izzy out while I was gone was hogging the arena, so there wasn't really enough space to canter. It was ok. We need slower work, too.

As far as turning Izzy out... yeah. Apparently on Saturday, there was ice sliding off the roof and Izzy was high as a kite. Then on Sunday it was too wet to use the turnouts, so she put Izzy in the round pen while she mucked her horse's stall/run. Izzy stuck her head through the panels to get a treat. The lady gave her one, then continued doing her work. 10 minutes later, Izzy was still standing quietly with her head through the fence. The lady had to walk back over, twist Izzy's head slightly, and then tell her to back up. Silly mare thought she was stuck.

I love that she doesn't just panic.

Also, I quite unexpectedly have come across some time to ride this afternoon. Mud boots are in the car and I am so stoked!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm Back!!!

I had a wonderful time out of town and I can't wait to see Ms. Izzy this afternoon. I did have another boarder lined up to turn her out, but I suspect the weather didn't allow turnout, so someone's mare may be bouncing off the walls when I show up. Cross your fingers for me.

While out and about though, I got to meet the lovely Denali. Also her mom. They are pretty awesome.

Denali is super sweet and LOVES cookies. Brooke is lots of fun and drove us all over Seattle. We did very mature things.

Like this:

Admit it: you wish you looked that good in a head bumper. (And it's thinline, too. Wooooo.)

We took a grand tour of tack stores, which was fabulous. Three horse people and a whole day of nothing but the most horsey things to do. No schedules to keep.

It was amazing. Also, somehow no embarrassing pictures of myself have surfaced yet. Not sure what's going on there.

At the first store, we found Kerrits breeches on a super sale. They may not be Little Black Breeches, but they fit great and I can't wait to try them out today (provided it gets warm enough).

I also got gloves that fit. It's kind of amazing what even a little more selection can do towards actually finding things that fit. I may not have found any dressage reins, but it was sure fun to look.

Here is an adorable little horse property in a ridiculously expensive area. Not that we were snooping, but who doesn't love looking at horse property?

We also got to meet the super adorable Pete who Denali's mom is working with. He is very lovable.

It was a pretty fabulous day. We had yummy (and oh so spicy) pizza, then a drink stop at McDonalds, then a snack stop at Tops, then a dinner stop at McDonalds. No worries: we lifted up enough saddles to more than work it off.

Speaking of saddles...

Hm, yes. We sat in lots and lots and lots of saddles. It was great. I HATE going to stores where sales people pop out of the curtains, rafters, and floor, then attach themselves to you and proceed to talk about everything. NO. GO AWAY. I like to think and talk things over with someone who is not trying to sell me anything.

Enter Megan and Brooke. Perfect!! We pulled all kinds of saddles off the racks, sat in them, evaluated them, and decided what we thought. If/when we had any questions, we could approach the sales people who were available but not intrusive. Gift Horse=win.

At any rate. This is the saddle that my butt loved. It's a lovely dressage saddle. I have no budget and it has never been near my horse. I did not buy it, but am cautiously exploring my options.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quick Pictures

Izzy and I had a lovely dressage ride yesterday. <3>
I will post some, but you must promise not to tell Izzy that she looks a smidgen unattractive in them.

See? Striking white stitching, distinctive browband, cool wide/flat noseband... and her eyes closed and ears going every which way.

This is a little better. Not the cheap tacky reins that I'm probably just going to have to live with for a while. Oh well.

Funny sidenote: The only used or new version of this bridle that was available for sale was in oversize. At 16.0hh, Izzy is not what I'd consider oversize. However, I did lots of measuring and comparing published measurements, and I realized something.

This bridle is almost the perfect size for her. The browband is slightly roomier, but she kind of needed the room. The noseband is just right, the cheek pieces are not bad. The only thing that's long is the noseband hanger. I had to punch some extra holes in it, but the picture looks fine. I was thinking that I'd have to take it in and get straps shortened, but now I think it's fine.

Ok, I'm out. Need to pack and run errands. (PS I went running and to pilates this morning. Win!!)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Since I have a whopping $30 in my checking account, I am doing the most logical thing I can think of: online tack shopping. Izzy just got the most beautiful dressage bridle ever, but it didn't come with reins. (Hint: that is not Izzy wearing it. That is a much more expensive horse. I will take pictures of Ms. Mare later today.)

I've been reading up on different types of reins and what people like, and I've come to realize something. There are people out there who have ridden with enough different types of reins that they actually have favorites. Insane! Cathy liked leather braided reins, so I just grew up always using those and never thought twice about it. When I got my jumping bridle, it came with normal rubber reins, which was my first foray into things not braided. I love them. So grippy and easy to hold... "huh", I thought, "maybe there is something to this fancy rein business".

Naturally, I have spent plenty of time looking at all the cool different options. A general consensus among the people of the internet is that thinline reins are the most amazing thing ever. I have two objections:
1) I need something with stops. I have a nasty tendency to hold my right rein shorter than my left and this is an easy artificial way to correct it.
2) I hate hook studs. I have learned the way of buckle ends and I am NEVER GOING BACK unless it is for when I get myself a pretty hunter bridle.

So. After perusing both internet and local tack store(s?), I have come to this realization: I want these reins for my jumping bridle. In havana with brass. It's not really set in stone. I need to hold some in person first and make sure I like how they feel in my hand, but I love the soft grippiness.

Which brings us back to the dressage bridle. I could get those (or similar) reins in black, but they don't have stops. I could get leather reins with stops, but people of the internet assure me those are super slippery. I have a pair of the world's cheapest, nastiest web reins with stops that I don't love. Basically, web is hard to clean and the "leather" is so cheap that I'd worry about using it if Izzy felt strong at all.

I did find one interesting thing: yummy reins. If you scroll down the page, they have the lovely soft grip reins WITH STOPS. Yeah... for the tiny price of $130, I could have dream reins. Of course, the reins would then have cost as much as the bridle (which I got used), but really.

I'm still deciding. I know I don't want web with rubber and stops, because, how would one go about CLEANING that? Yeah. I guess you just buy new $200 reins every time they get dirty. Also. Who on earth pays $200 for nasty web reins? Seriously. That's 10 times what I paid for mine and two feet of leather certainly isn't worth $180.

As an aside, I didn't even know I needed a new dressage girth until Five Star Tack released their new line. It's not on the website yet, but check out their blog. Yeah... pretty pretty pretty dressage girth.

Anywhoodle, I'm off to ride the lovely mare this afternoon with my new bridle and... either mismatched havana rubber reins or nasty web reins. Tomorrow, I leave for Seattle, where I will meet up with Denali's Mom, who has promised a grand tour of tack stores. That's right folks: I will be touching expensive stuff (but unless I get paid today, I won't be buying much of it).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I know I can't have as many lessons as I want, so it's in my best interests to read up on riding a lot and audit anything I can. It's not the easiest or most fun way to learn, but it's certainly the cheapest. My car was in the shop the other day and it cost a third more than it was supposed to, so I am left with a whopping $30 in my checking account until I get paid. Yay!

Obviously, a lesson was not in the cards. Plus the outdoor is unusable right now and the footing in the indoor is crap, so it's hard to get really good work in.

I wanted to get a new book on dressage to work on over the next couple months, but that's not really a good idea. Fortunately, I have the USDF guide to dressage in my little library. I pulled it out and read 2 pages yesterday. It was weird--I just kind of opened the book and started reading. I was on a section about the walk and how to ride it. Izzy has a lovely walk naturally, but under saddle she tends to suck back behind my leg and not want to go forward, which has me doing all kinds of stupid things and our walk looks like crap.

So. After reading the section, I went out for our ride. I meshed what Cathy talked about in our last lesson with what I read in the USDF book and sections I gleaned from 'Kottas on Dressage' that I was oogling at Borders. I focused on keeping my shoulders back and head up, creating the ear-shoulder-hip-heel alignment. I bent my elbows in order to carry my hands up and forward, which creates a straight line from my elbow to the bit. I stretched up through my core and down through my legs, allowing them to "hang like strips of limp bacon". I don't know why that image caught me, but it did.

Then I asked Izzy to walk forward. One gentle squeeze with my calves. She sort of responded--she started to slowly ambled forward. I asked for more--she ignored me. I escalated, first with a firmer sqeeze (and release), then adding the whip. She gave me more and I backed off. Sometimes I forget to reward her with a release, which means we ride around with her ambling, my legs locked on, and my heels up. Not a pretty picture.

As soon as I released, I noticed that Izzy would return to her lazy amble. I repeated the sequence of the aids and released as soon as I got a response. I asked for more; she trotted. As the book directed, I rode the trot for a few strides, then brought her back to walk. Trot was more forward, so it is sort of correct. For about 15 minutes, we just worked on walking and changing directions with the occasional halt thrown in. To halt, I practiced "zipping up my abdomen" which worked really, really well. It's weird how Izzy knows aids that I didn't know enough to teach her. Smart mare.

I must brag about this: we had about 3-4 strides of a lovely walk with Izzy connected from back to front, hind end engaged, neck stretching down to the bit and the withers as the highest point. It felt AMAZING!!!

I tried to transfer some of the awesomeness we were practicing into our trot work--going forward, staying soft and in position. I kept Izzy and myself honest by doing a trot circle on the bit, then sliding my hands down the reins to do a stretchy trot circle so she was reaching down while staying balanced and forward.

Wow, what a ride.

I noticed that when I had Izzy truly engaged, her walk/trot transitions lacked the head-tossing resistance we've had lately. Win!

Things to work on for next time:
1) MORE! Specifically, continue to ask and then release when getting a response to my forward driving aids in order to allow Izzy to learn what I'm looking for.
2) Less! When Izzy does what I want, I need to be sure I give a quick break instead of constantly niggling with my aids to get something else.
3) Halts--Izzy likes to stop, so I need to remember to keep my leg on as I zip up my abs to halt. This will produced a square and more balanced picture.

Oh, and the funny thing? The dressage bridle I ordered like a month ago showed up yesterday, so I came home from my ride to have a dressage-y reward waiting for me. Sweet! The odds of a ride today are bad. Wednesdays are super busy. I will be out tomorrow, though, and I can't wait.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sickness=General Suck

Yesterday was not the best day ever. I got to go to the girlie doctor (yay!), took my car in to the shop and had it cost significantly more than they said it would (yay!) and was sick all day (yay!). I felt really weak and dizzy, so I almost didn't go out to see Izzy, but it was 50f and sunny. How could I not? I made an executive decision not to ride and intentionally only brought my mud boots so I wouldn't even be tempted. It just would not have been safe.

Instead, we'll update on pictures that I've talked about but not actually shown you.
Here's Izzy's lovely hoof crack.

Of course it's on her special hoof, too. This is actually the much improved version of her special hoof. She used to have no heel at all. Now she just has a heel that needs to come back further and not look super ugly. The good news is that for the first time since I've owner her, Izzy has developed some concavity in the sole of her L front. That means she's starting to use it properly and ever as I write this, her heel is working on coming back.

But wait, there's more!!
Here's Izzy on Sunday. She'd galloped and bucked for so long (crazy thing) that I took her back to the barn and put her cooler on her. At this point, she's enjoying a super yummy treat while I pull her mane.

Note the hair pile on the floor. She was a pretty fuzzy girl. I don't have my own clippers yet, so I trimmed up her bridle path with scissors. It was getting pretty messy.

It is kind of a pain to pull her mane, just because every time she runs out of treats, she twists around on the cross ties to look at me and get in the way until I feed her more of the little yummy things. Once she figures out I'm the treat dispenser, she gives up on actually sucking on her treat for a while (really hilarious, I need to figure out how to do videos), she just keeps wanting one every few minutes.

Smart mare.

Here is her pretty new mare style. It's not done, but it's a heap better than it was when I started. She has a really thick mane that grows pretty well. I couldn't even get the pulling comb through the middle until I separated it into layers and worked one section at a time.

It's not quite short enough and not perfectly even, but I think it's ok for January with no scheduled lessons. Plus, doesn't she have a nice forelock?

(Ha! Check out the dirt on her left ear. Mareface had a lovely roll in the indoor before I took these pictures.)

Izzy and I do a myspace picture. Note how she's giving me the, "Really? Do we really have to do this? Don't you know myspace is so 2005? It's a new decade now," look. Yep, my mare is up on social media. (Don't tell her that I've never gotten beyond facebook.)

It looks pretty outside and I only sort of feel sick, so hopefully we can have a decent ride today. I miss riding.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Wild Pony

I couldn't make it out to the barn on Saturday. It was super foggy and rainy, so I wasn't really upset. Izzy, apparently, was.

When I came out Sunday, no one was using the indoor, so I grabbed Izzy and zipped back over to turn her out. Usually, she has a gallop, a couple bucks, then canters around a little bit. Not so!

She rolled in a deep sandy spot, over and over and over and over. Then, before she was even back on her feet, she launched into a massive series of bucks. She galloped full speed and bucked like crazy for about 5 minutes.

I thought, "Hum, this seems like not a riding day." Did I mention it was still foggy and pouring rain? Yeah. Definition of what a day off should look like. Instead, I took put a lunge line on her halter and we did a little work, just so she would know I still loved her. Then we went back to the barn. She got a thorough grooming and the beginnings of her spring mane pull. Yeah, I know it's not spring yet, but a girl can dream. I did take pictures. Maybe tomorrow I'll even get them off my camera and post them.*


*Camera is at home as is the necessary cable. I am at work. FYI.

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Actual Jump!

I didn't get to ride yesterday, but I'll be back out today (I hope). On Wednesday, I decided that we were going to do it. That's right folks: I set an eensy-weensy crossrail to go along with my trot poles.

My reasoning was this: Izzy is a fabulous jumper who has not seen a jump since November. The only thing that's really holding her/us back is my riding and confidence issues. I've decided that my confidence issues come from the fact that I ride poorly over jumps, so I am justly afraid. In order to combat that fear, I need to set non-threatening-looking jumps that don't scare me and then practice over them ad naseum until I can get my position right and feel more secure.

Hence, the tiny crossrail.

We went back and forth over a set of trot poles until I could hold my balance and my leg. Then we established a nice pace, found a line and trotted towards the jump. I remembered to push my hands forward, forgot to keep my leg on, and Izzy tripped over it. Mostly, I wasn't supporting her and she didn't think it was worth the effort. We went back and forth over it. The biggest problem was just that it was so small that she didn't actually have to jump, so I would try to get ready and then she'd just take a step.

Oh well. Despite the under-whelmingness of it all, I felt a little more comfortable at the end of the ride--it wasn't a real "jump", but we were both ok with it. Alright, I'll be honest: Izzy was probably pretty bored.

I did notice one interesting thing, though. Izzy gets really distracted when we do dressage in the indoor. I am not to the point of demanding enough of her that she has to focus, so about half the time, her ears are anything but attentive. Frustrating, but we're working on it. As soon as there were poles and jumps in the arena, I had her full attention. She was definitely more engaged in her job and quite happy with the obstacles. YAY!!

And... no pictures.

ETA: I was so hoping to do a final jumping lesson this weekend, before our jumping trainer leaves for AZ for the rest of the winter. OF COURSE this is the weekend my poor little car decides to need brakes. Oh well.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


I set a goal for this month of riding four times a week. Remember that.

I made it out to the barn around noon yesterday. I am/was really happy that everyone is back at work now, because I was all alone. Oh, and it was COLD. Like 20f and blowing 20mph. Feels like 0, in case you were wondering. I turned Izzy out in the indoor and she galloped and bucked like a maniac. Ok, I thought, this is a good day not to ride.

Then I realized something: I could not go out Monday. I will not be out Thursday and I rarely have time to ride on Wednesay. That is three days this week, which means that I MUST ride the other four, or risk not completing my goals for the mere reason that I wimped out. I need to be thankful that I'm not dealing with issues like Kristen and Denali are, and get my butt in that freezing cold saddle.

Izzy and I trooped back the the barn to tack up when I realized that something was wrong. Yes, in all her playing and leaping and bucking, someone's mare had apparently knocked a big ol' crack in her hoof. Sigh. (I took pictures, but forgot to get them off the camera). She looked sound, but I called my farrier just to be sure. Farrier said to keep her going as long as she's sound--these things happen.

Nuts. These things happen when it's cold and I don't want to put bell boots on, you mean. I pulled out the western saddle and off we went. It was a short ride, but it was a ride. We worked on halting, backing, trotting off, jogging, and some turn on the haunches. Izzy was actually really good, so when we were done, I turned her out. IN HER BELL BOOTS.

Of course the weather forecast calls for warmer weather and rain. Everything's dry and frozen right now, which means the risk of infection is like zero. Add a bunch of standing water in and that goes WAY up. Dangit.

I am hoping to get a ride in today, though. Cross your fingers for me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Weekend Riding

Can I just say that I am really, really happy that I am lucky enough to be able to ride during the day on weekdays? For some reason, all the nice people who board at my barn have decided to start riding in the middle of the winter, which causes some serious arena congestion, especially since we're all stuck in the indoor which is not very big.

Sigh. I am lucky to have an indoor, but I am looking forward to everyone but me being back at work today. (Well, I'm at work, but I only work part time.)

Anyways. I did a dressage ride on Izzy on Saturday. She was pretty good--much more forward but still reasonable. With my improved position and posture, I've been able to make a lot of progress with her head-throwing transitions. Basically, instead of her getting to the trot and then having to do a full transition down, I'm able to stop the transition with my seat and only allow good transitions.

In fact, by the end of our session, her transitions were pretty darn good. I hopped off, took her back to the barn, and then got back on, since one of our boarder friends asked if we wanted to go on a trail ride. We haven't been in a long time, since the people who usually go are downright scary riders and I refuse to expose Izzy to their nutty antics in wide open spaces. This lady is a pretty good rider on a really solid horse, and I was thrilled to go along. Izzy was pretty looky, but didn't really spook at anything. Win!

Sunday I declared was western day. However, as soon as I got Izzy ready to go, two more people came in to ride in the indoor. One (scary rider) was trotting and galloping his footsore horse around the rail, mostly, while the other walked and halted in odd patterns. Neither one had much control. Then another lady (our trail riding friend) came in and started working her horse. Two more people were tacking up in the aisle. I just got off. Izzy was not thrilled about all the other horses and while it's good for her to get used to that, it's not good for her to be put in a potentially dangerous situation. Seriously, I'm waiting for the footsore horse to just pile his rider off. It's going to happen and probably pretty soon. The last thing we need is that horse galloping loose in an already overcrowded arena.

Anyways, our trail riding friend rode up to me and said that she was going out on the ditchbank in about two minutes. I got back on and rode out with her and another lady who is also a safe rider. At one point, we came down off the ditchbank and had to go down an abrupt slope through belly-high weeds to get into the hayfield. The first lady lead--her horse was great. The second lady went through--her horse spooked at the weeds, leaped, bolted forward, then slammed on the brakes. The lady rode it well and we all had a laugh. I put Izzy through. I kept the reins loose so she could use her head, but I had both hands on them in case she tried anything. Izzy stepped into the weeds, then just opened her mouth and started eating them. After all, they were right there.

Funny mare! She was great. I'm so glad I have her.

Friday, January 7, 2011

We jump! (not really)

I got this picture a moment too late, but this is what greeted me at the barn. Note the pile of hay on the outside of the fence. Izzy is getting more roughage since it's winter, but her run was all muddy, then froze. Thus, she likes to stay in her stall.

She also likes to see what's going on. As a result, she gets a mouthful of hay, then pokes her nose over the fence to watch everything. She also drops a lot, as you can see. Then, she goes and gets another mouthful.

Silly mare. You have to love her.

My smartpak clearance package came on Wednesday, so I got to wear it yesterday. So nice to have winter clothes!! I'm a base layer away from being outfitted for winter (yeah, in January). Anyways. In keeping with our schedule, I pulled out the jumping tack today. The advantage to breaking my stirrup leather a couple months ago was that now I have a spare. I tied it about a third of the way up Izzy's neck to give me a reference point for practicing jumping position.

Yep. Two pointing it. I am determined to do this the hard way and actually force myself to learn. We'll even do some work without stirrups eventually. I need so much work...

Anyways. Izzy was better about going forward, which was lovely. Still not fabulous, but better. I did a lot of two point around the arena in trot. I'd do two laps with my hands on the improvised neckstrap, then attempt one without. I'm doing this partly because my two point sucks and needs practicing and partly because my lower leg needs a lot of stabilizing. Also, it's a good workout.

After that, we moved on to the main event: trot poles.

Yep. We are that exciting.

Basically, Izzy hasn't even seen a jump since November. While she is a fab lil' jumper, I didn't want to surprise her and we need plenty of basic work before we worry too much about height. Trot poles allow her to figure out where her feet are while forcing me to hold my balance in two point for an extended period of time. It took us a few tries to get through without me losing my balance or her knocking almost every pole, but we worked it out.

I had two sets of trot poles: three in a row laying on the ground and four in a row, each about 4" off the ground. Izzy was lovely throughout. I really, really want to start jumping again, but I think we need to do some more of this. When we do jump, I'll set some little grids so we can continue working on Izzy's footwork and my balance.

And look! I coerced (ok, asked) a fellow boarder and she took a picture of us. LOVE that I'm in the shadow, ha. I need to do some pretty winter fuzziness conformation shots soon.

Check out the fuzzy horsewares vest (which is super warm) and the cool ariat shirt (yay half price!).

Izzy is so good looking. She's cute and has a great personality, but she's also drop dead gorgeous. I am ridiculously spoiled by having sucha great horse.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hooray Dressage!

Again, I took no pictures. All I can do on my own is pretty much just nose shots. Although I think she's adorable, her nose looks pretty much the same from one day to the next. What to do?

Oh well. You'll survive.

It's cold her. I think it made it up to 30ish yesterday (topical, almost!) but we were both a little stiff. I started off by lunging her, trying to let her warm up and loosen up while we worked on transitions and going freely forward. The transitions were alright, but freely forward was not really in her vocabulary yesterday.

Since we haven't done much concentrated work lately, she was not super balanced. However, since my goals for this month involve focusing on my dressage position, I was prepared. She would get behind my leg and come above the bit--I would drive her forward and hold a steady contact. She would fall and the forehand and dive onto the bit--I would sit deep in the saddle and drive her forward.

I just noticed that both fixes involved forward. Interesting. I suspect that her feet may not be super happy... she's overdue thanks to scheduling issues. I'll have the farrier look at her today and see what we can do. I'd like to keep her barefoot this time and maybe next time too, then go back to shoes for the summer/show/ride the crap out of her season. However, if she needs her wraps again, so be it.

In other news... I'm taking a bunch of stuff to the local tack store today to put on consignment. It's not just that I decided to clean out my stuff--I also bought Izzy a new dressage bridle. I'll take pictures when it gets here. Of course, with the new bridle comes other interesting ideas. I sort of want a new pad, new boots, bell boots, and probably another bit. The bit is because she is so much happier in a thicker bit and I hate changing bits between bridles every day. The rest is purely aesthetic (and on sale!!).

It's not in the cards for now, but the Dover sale goes on through March or April, I think.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Stupid Thing

I hurried out to the barn after a busy afternoon, only to realize that my boots, breeches, and coat were all at home. Oh well... I decided to make the best of it. Izzy was pretty quiet, so I groomed her, put the sidepull on, and we headed off to the indoor.

I wanted to ride, but she's overdue to have her feet done and it was like 15f outside. I know, excuses, excuses. Instead, I put her on the lunge line, mostly just walk trot. I wanted her to warm up and move a little. Once she was comfortable both directions, I set out three trot poles and put her over them. She was actually very good. She used to trip on them, but she seemed fine.

In our last jumping lesson (a couple months ago), Stephanie commented that Izzy still isn't 100% on where to put her feet, so I figure that instead of actually jumping a lot in iffy footing in the indoor, we will focus on trot poles and small caveletti. No, that does not mean I counted it as a jumping day.

Today, I have everything in my car and I will be out there this afternoon for a dressage ride.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Western Day-The Schedule Begins

I was not able to see Izzy at all from the 31st through the 2nd, so when I made it out yesterday, I had a good thought: let's call it western day. I mean, she's been cooped up in her stall and run for three whole days, so she's probably going to be pretty batty.

Or so I thought. She met me at the gate, being all sweet and lovely. I took her to the indoor and let her run. Rather, made her run. She was not all that energetic. Then I turned her out. She wandered around a little bit, but anytime I walked by the turnout, she came up and wanted attention. Aww. She missed me. (Or maybe wanted cookies).

Anways. I finally got on her, and she was lovely. Soft, yielding, obedient. It was a great, though easy, ride. We had some lovely job moments and even a decent canter depart. Here's hoping we can keep that attitude for today, when I will compel myself to put breeches on and do a dressage ride. (It's frigid outside).

Wow. I love my pony mare.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


I haven't seen Izzy in two days. :-( It's been ridiculously cold and windy and I had people over, so it didn't work out, and I wasn't too worried about it.

Anyways. I've noticed that some bloggers (Pia's Parade and Eventing-a-Gogo come to mind) set monthly goals, then evaluate their progress on a month-by-month basis. I like that. Also, I think that by incorporating a little more structure into both blogging and riding, I'll be more able to track our progress and spend less time feeling like we aren't getting anywhere.

So. Goals.

I want to have big goals to achieve over the course of the year. In order to do that, I'm going to make bite-size goals for each month. I haven't totally hashed it out yet, but I think my overall goals are going to be something like this:

1) Ride in a schooling dressage show at training level and do two tests that I'm comfortable with. (I would like to say score 60%, but I can't control the judge's scoring).

2) Ride in at least one event derby at intro beginner novice and finish the course.

3) Ride in the Karen O'Connor clinic in August and not completely embarrass myself or my horse. (This one depends a lot on money, so we'll see how it goes.)

4) Continue our western training and ride Izzy in at least one western show, probably in a novice pleasure class. (More on this later).

I think those are reasonable goals. I've tried not to set them too high because I need wiggle room in case I end up unemployed or something again. Basically, I want to get Izzy and myself out there doing eventer-type stuff. I either need to get it done or quit telling people we're eventers. Plus, I love it.

In pursuit of those goals, my goals for the month of January are as follows:

1) Ride at least four days a week, even if it's cold. Do two days of dressage, one day jumping/cavaletti, and one day western. Any extra days can be used for whatever. (Hacking and trot/canter sets will commence when the weather is better and the track isn't covered in ice. Probably late Feb/Early March).

2) Focus on dressage--specifically lengthen/shortens for Izzy and position for me. I tend to collapse my shoulders forward and lose my seat. Focus on sitting up, driving with my seat, and looking where I'm going.

3) Trot/canter transitions. Work on timing, accuracy, and riding both gaits well.

I think that's enough goals for now. I'll update them as needed and we'll see how January goes.
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