Thursday, June 30, 2011

Needing Ideas

Since I have joined the ranks of the injured reserve, I'm looking for things to do. The catch? I have to be able to do them one-handed. Last night, I trieed to hold a bridle in my left hand. My elbow immediately started hurting and rapidly progressed to agonizing pain in less than 10 seconds.

So... Tack cleaning is out. Not that I could undo buckles right now anyways.

I did managed to put Izzy's halter on by myself, but it was more a comedy production than a useful, functional skill. I can't open the gate alone, can't pick out her hooves... hm.

I did manage to turn her out in the round pen, which was kind of fun. Izzy the Blimp didn't really want to do any work. She barely moved along, casting wistful glances back at the lush grass in her pasture. Poor thing.

So... what can you do with one hand? Anyone interested in having a video contest to see who can do the coolest thing one handed? This could be fun.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Prognosis: Boring

I've apparently cracked the small radial head of my left arm. That's the top of the little bone that controls side to side motion for those of you like myself who don't know all the bones in your body by name.

It's painful and must be carefully managed, but doesn't require surgery or a cast.

Sooo... for the next two weeks, I cannot ride, run, drive my car*, do pilates, walk my dogs, clean stalls, or do any form of heavy lifting.

I know. I just summarized my life and all of it is off the table. In two weeks, they'll take more xrays and hopefully I can slowly start doing more interesting stuff.

*I can drive cars. I just can't drive my car because it's a standard and that requires both arms.

I mean, I can't even open the gate to Izzy's field by myself. LAME.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We Conquer XC!!!!!

Getting the wondermare ready.

Warming up.

Check out that sexy tail.
Jumping logs!
Up bank!!
Down bank!
World's most awkward ditch picture!!
Water all by our onesies!!

And yes, this ended just as poorly as it looks like it's going to. She jumped, but I was way,way ahead of her and got catapulted. I landed on my face and left arm, which feels like it rearranged all my teeth (but is really just sore), and broke a bone in my arm. Yay...
In case you doubt my grit, here is me re-jumping that fence with a broken arm. ER referred me to a specialist who I hope to see today to find out exactly how bad it is. I'm hoping for a quick recovery.

Couldn't be prouder of my pony mare, though. She was fab.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wherein Izzy Makes Charlie Sheen Look Chicken

Who is the bravest and bestest and cleanest jumping pony in the world?


We had one last jump school this morning to prepare for the exciting and upcoming lesson. (Yes Frizz, I am currently hunting down a photographer.)

As I set up the jumps, I just felt nervous and upset. "Why am I doing this? It terrifies me. I could just do dressage and trail ride."

Somehow, that didn't sound nearly as satisfying as I thought it would. Intellectually at least, I like jumping.

I started Izzy out lunging over the modified barrels again. We quickly ran through the progression--crossrail, vertical, oxer, oxer with barrel, just barrels. She did ok--one almost stop at the barrels, but then she went for it.

Ok. No excuses. Time to ride.

We did a quick warmup of my favorite jumped variety. Forward, back, forward, halt, move off both legs and we're set. First things first: I wanted to establish forward, pace, and balance.

We started with this simple vertical (the gymnastic component: I set it on the diagonal). We cantered in and focused on establishing a rhythm, then halting after the fence. As Jimmy would say, "You want them to land thinking, 'now what?' instead of 'watch this!'"

We're still getting in sync with each other, really. We had a couple of really nice jumps, but we're trying to strike a compromise between too backed off (my comfort zone) and too forward (her comfort zone). It will come.

Finally, we made a jump we were both comfortable with, did a circle, and aimed at...


Ok, it's like 2' tall and the barrels are plastic, so they move if you hit them. Still, intimidating.

Rest assured friends: I was wearing my fullseat breeches.

There are two schools of thought on jumping scary jumps. One says to trot in and let the horse have a look. The other says canter in, strongly forward, horse will learn to be brave.

Since Izzy is smart and learning and I'm not particularly brave, we chose school #1. We trotted in. Izzy hopped over and I grabbed mane, than patted and praised and told her what a wonderful pony she was.

We turned around to go over it the other way. We trotted in, and about 3 strides out, Izzy started veering right. I kept my hands steady, put my right leg on, and halted her straight in front of the jump. We stood for a second, I patted her, then we turned left to circle back and try again. Same.

Hm... obviously, I'm the problem here. What's missing?



This time, we circled back and on the approach I focused on staying centered over Izzy while keeping her forward (riding back to front... like dressage...). We trotted in and bam, jumped it.

YEAH!!! We did it a couple more times and even made a loop from the barrels to the vertical, which went ok. Izzy actually offered to canter in the last few times.

After assuring her of her general awesomeness, I decided we were done.

All that's left to do is wash her white leg and tail... and clean all my jump tack... and do some dressage tomorrow.

So exciting!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Schedule

In light of the fact that it is now 95f outside, I'm switching to riding in the am. Thus, I have two training days to recap.

Yesterday: I lunged Izzy over the barrels again. Just to be clear, we started with ground poles and worked up quickly. She was great. Then, (gasp!) I got on to ride over them. It was super hot, so I wasn't wearing my lovely full seat breeches and I felt nervous and a little loose. Hm... not a great start. We trotted in right and she popped over. Good. We trotted in left and she tried to spin out. And again. And again. "Huh," I said to myself, "This is not working at all."

Instead of dismounting (easy) or quitting (bad), I did what I've seen Stephanie do so very many times when a horse is sticky--go for a gallop. Then stop. The point is to get the horse out in front of your leg, then test out the brakes, then just go for it.

And we did. Winning!

Today was a dressage ride. In view of our upcoming lesson (to which we even have a trailer ride now), I worked mostly on going forward, lengthening and shortening, and moving off my legs.

It's so hot... hope it cools off for Saturday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Voice Inside My Head

In light of the fact that Izzy hasn't seen an XC jump since May last year, I thought I should try to approximate one for us to practice over on our jump day. Thankfully, I live in the land of cow horses and barrel racers, so 35 gallon drums are easy to find. I set two of them lengthwise on the ground, and then put a ground rail on either side to keep them in place. Basically, it's about the size of a 2'3"ish oxer.

(Not my horse or arena, but the best approximation google images could come up with for the obstacle I created.)

Since Izzy and I had issues with barrels last year and I am not the world's best and most confident rider, I decided to lunge her over the jump a couple of times before I tried to ride it. I let her warm up, then guided her in at a relaxed trot. She slammed on the brakes right in front of the barrels. I clucked, and she leaped over them. She galloped away, almost looking proud of herself. "Ok," I thought, "a couple more times to smooth it out and we're good to go."


Izzy came around again. This time she slammed on the brakes a stride out and when I clucked to her, spun and galloped the other way. Grrr. Bad pony. I got her sorted out, and tried again. This was worse--about 20 feet out she halted, then without waiting, spun and galloped the other direction.

I wanted to kill her. Idiot pony.

Before I made another move, I heard Jimmy Wofford's voice ringing in my head, "She's not educated to the jump."

I grumbled back, "how can I make it any easier? It's barely two feet tall. Besides, she just needs to run around and settle and then we'll be fine."

Jimmy-in-my-head didn't argue as I watched her gallop madly in circles around me. "Obviously, I have her too fit," I told my internal Jimmy. "You always did say that this was a risk with lower level horses."

Internal Jimmy said nothing, but as I watched Izzy continue her mad gallop with sweat flying off her and lather building up, I realized my strategy of wearing her down while glaring at her was probably not going to work. Dammit, Jimmy was right.

I started asking Izzy for transitions. At first, it took a whole circle to get a downward transition, but gradually, she improved and seemed to calm down a little. "Ok Jimmy, how do I make this any easier?"

Nothing... but I did remember him talking about teaching a green horse to jump a liverpool at one of his clinics. Hm. Ground poles. I stood the outside barrel on it's rim, laid the inside one on it's side, and set two ground poles between them. I left my lunge whip on the ground, kept Izzy on a small circle, and had her trot over it both ways, several times. Ok. Cross rail. I used the barrels as standards and set a little x. Again, she trotted it both ways. Vertical comes next. This time, she cantered, but it stayed nice and relaxed.

Next logical step--oxer. Make the rails as wide as a barrel would be. She cantered in and jumped just fine. At this point, she's so wet with sweat that I don't even really want to touch her, so I'm trying to limit jumping efforts. Now, get the third barrel and put it under the oxer. This is our proving ground.

She didn't even bat an eye. Canter, canter, jump, and away we go. Calmly. Happily. Sweatily.

Here goes nothing... I laid all three barrels side by side, put the ground rails in place to keep them there, and sent her in.

Canter, canter, jump, canter. Good girl!!!

Internal Jimmy didn't even have to say anything. He knew he was right all along.

Another google images gem. Now that we've conquered the barrels, I want to try this.

Monday, June 20, 2011


We had a good gallop on Friday, a decent trail-ish ride on Saturday, and a nice dressage ride yesterday. It's jump day and I'm depressed.

Not in the clinical can't-get-myself-out-of-bed type of way, but in the existential-angst-personal-drama type of way.

Izzy is fit. She's awesome. She's brave, fast, balanced, talented, and fun. I'm learning to hang with her. We improve every time we work together. I'm happy and enjoying her.

That said, I keep getting hung up on a couple of details...

Like the fact that we have had two riding lessons this year. Both of them have resulted in incredible progress, but it eats me up knowing how much more progress we could make if we lessoned as much as twice a month.

Or the fact that I live in freaking Idaho. Even if I wanted to go to a recognized event, I'd have to go to another state, minimum 6+ hours away. You think showing locally is expensive? Try tacking gas and hotel on everything just to get there. Heck, even most of the unrated stuff is multiple hours away.

Or the fact that despite my fancy diploma and debt-free existence, I'm working -very- part time at an easy but low-paying job that simply isn't going to accommodate a fancy equine lifestyle.

I guess that's the root of it. I have a job that allows me time with my horse every single day and we have a blst, but our forward progress is limited. If I (magically, in this economy) found a better-paid full time job utilizing said degree, I could afford some more horse stuff, but then I wouldn't have much time to ride and make progress.

As my husband would say, it's a first world problem. I know I need to be grateful that I have such a fabulous horse to begin with and any extras are just that, but sometimes I wonder why I spend all this time training to just sit home...

We're going cross country schooling (hopefully) next weekend. Part of me is excited, and part of me wonders what's the point. We'll have continued issues with water and be great over everything else... and then be back to day to day life where xc is out of the question.

So... now what? I could try to find a job that pays better, but I don't know that it would actually fix anything. Then I'd have less time and more stress. Is that worth it? I don't know.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hooray Pony!!

A picture of the lovely pony mare. I haven't had this bridle long enough to review it, but honestly, it's shaping up to be my favorite ever. It just suits Izzy's face. Plus, the reins aren't too long. Win win.

Yesterday was jump day, so in keeping with my monthly goals of jumping more and doing gymnastic-type exercises, I set a ground pole, then 9' to a vertical (no crossrails here!!), and then 9' to another vertical.

We did a quick warmup, then cantered in. It was not pretty. Izzy knew she had to do something, so she sort of scrambled and chipped and leaped, more or less in the same motion. It's a good thing she's so honest, because if she'd put on the brakes, I don't think I would have stayed with her. Ha.

We tried again with much the same result, except she also took the vertical down. Hm... I dismounted and reset the jump, then stared at the ground rail. I didn't want to move it any further out, but it didn't seem to need to come in, either. It looked right, but it wasn't helping. Hm... New plan. I remounted and trotted in to the jump. About a stride out from the ground rail, Izzy went, "Oh, I got this." Canter, stride, jump, stride. No rushing, no head flinging, no tripping.

Perfect! We jumped it a couple more times the other way, and when we could canter in and just flow over the whole combo, I called it good.

Ok, now I will give you the promised tour of Izzy's new digs (same barn, new pasture).

To get there, we start by going over the scary bridge. It's going to be so good for her to do this twice a day, every day.

You can see between the boards to the canal below. Also, there are no walls. I think only one horse has fallen off of it in the entire history of the barn, but Izzy is determined to not be the second.

Next, we go past the hay barn. It's pretty empty right now, but the first cutting of the field is scheduled for next week, so it should start filling up quickly.

Then down the shady lane.

Past the friendly Morgans. (So cute...)

By the owner's back yard with the delicious looking swimming pool.

Around the corner arrayed in lilac bushes and to the right is Izzy's new home. It's not as big as her last pasture, but it's lush and stud-free. There are certain drawbacks.

As you can see in the picture, when they irrigate, it gets very, very wet. Fortunately, it's hot enough now that even extreme wetness dries out quickly.

Also, since it's a smaller field, she has to stay in the dry lot during irrigation so she won't mess up the corrugation. I understand and am not thrilled, but all in all, it's going to work for us, at least for now.
She even has a nice mare friend over the fence.

Good times are had by all. (Except the stupid studdy gelding #1, who apparently spent the entire night bellowing for her. The BO, who lives on site, was not terribly amused.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pretend Shopping

Izzy is moved into her new home, but I left my camera at the barn, so I guess I'll introduce it to you tomorrow. In the mean time, I'm clearance shopping at smartpak. I just put everything I wanted from the clearance section into my cart...


Sigh. Not happening. Oh well. I have a beautiful pony waiting for me out at the barn. :-)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I was willing to give the studdy geldings one more go, I told myself. I'll go out and get Izzy, but if I have anything close to the drama I had last time, I'm just done. I'm not even putting her back out there.

It was Monday afternoon. I'm always alone at the barn, especially on Mondays.

As soon as I had sturdy boots and a helmet on, I picked up Izzy's rope halter, my lunge whip, and a couple of treats. Not taking chances here. As I walked over to the pasture, studdy gelding #1 who thinks Izzy is his soul mate, was taken out by his owner.

Nuts. I am totally done with this guessing game and I am not going to wait out another day, wondering if I'm dodging serious injury just to get my horse out for a ride. I put everything down and go clean stalls while I wait for studdy gelding #1 to return.

Literally as I take the last wheelbarrow out of the barn, studdy gelding #2's owner shows up. All I can think is wtf? These people never come, and now they're both here when I least want them? Oh, and they wanted to be chatty. I was -not- in the mood. Hey, if their stupid geldings can be hormonal, so can I. Leave me alone, people who have horrible horses.

Oh well... both geldings are out, so I just go and retrieve my pony, sans whip and helmet. She's just quietly waiting--no crazy meltdown because the studdy stud studs are gone.

This is funny, because they are both having huge fits, screaming, acting up, being dumb. Like 5 minutes after I took Izzy out, studdy gelding #2 was returned to the pasture because his owner didn't want to deal with his fit. Yep, great training guys. Any thoughts on why studdy gelding #2 is so awful?

I hand walked Izzy for a while so we could just hang out, then tacked up and went to the outdoor, which is directly across the road from the drama pasture. Studdy gelding #1 was back by now, so he proceeded to scream and run the fence. Fortunately, Izzy mostly ignored him, and I actually had a decent ride, though I did work her into a lather... We stopped to visit with Teri, our western trainer, and discussed the studdy stud studs. She agreed with me that it was a really bad situation and recommended some alternatives to talk over with the BO.

Long story short: Izzy is moving to a smaller private pasture today. It has certain drawbacks, but at least we'll both be away from the awfulness that is geldings.

Success story: I hosed Izzy off after our ride. She stood still and didn't have a meltdown. YAY!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hormonal Pony Drama

I'll just start by saying that I really enjoy being hands-on with Izzy's care. How she feels in the morning reflects how she behaves in the pasture which echoes how she acts under saddle. It's all related.

So yesterday, despite me REALLY REALLY REALLY wanting to play more with the new bridle, I decided to stay on task and accomplish my goal of riding out into the hayfield, which we do in western tack.

Because the hateful gelding that lives with Izzy believes he's a stallion and that Izzy is his soul mate (she shares neither opinion unless she's actively cycling), I always have to carry a rock out with me to catch her. He usually stays away, but sometimes he acts threatening and I like to have something to chase him away before he gets in range to do any damage. Still, Izzy's brain was happy out in the pasture and the hateful gelding wasn't dangerous, just irritating.

Enter studdy gelding #2. This horse is overweight, neurotic, and nutty. When he was stalled next to Izzy, he nearly drove her insane and always tried to mount her over the fence, complete with grunting and ejaculating. Yeah... great situation. Studdy gelding, meet studdy gelding with a mare.

Of course, of the three owners, I am the only one who comes out with any regularity and thus I get to deal with now BOTH studdy geldings. (And before you give me the lecture about turning mares and geldings out together, I KNOW. It's just that this is my only pasture option.)

So I go to get Ms. Mare. She's happy to see me and willingly follows me out of the pasture. As studdy geldings #1 and #2 circle, charge, and otherwise make themselves dangerous. I had to throw three rocks at studdy gelding #1 just to keep him away. Izzy, bless her heart, stayed mostly calm, but it was way too exciting for my tastes.

Studdy gelding #1 always has a total emotional meltdown when I take Izzy out, but this time it's worse because there's another studdy gelding. Izzy was calm enough to tack up, but wasn't terribly responsive to me in our first jaunt down the length of the hay field. Hm... I figure she's distracted by herd drama, but she needs to tune in. We go back into the hayfield, and I started seeing behaviors that I haven't seen from her in months.

As we trooped along, she would slam on the brakes and absolutely refuse to go forward. I'd kick, and she'd start running backwards. I don't even remember the last time she did this. I kept her more or less pointed the right direction and got back on track, but she kept trying it. When that didn't work, she half reared and spun, trying to get back to the barn. (Rearing now? Don't remember the last time she pulled that stunt.) I kept her spinning in circles, then kicked her forward. When she finally reached the end of the field, we turned around and came back. She took a massive spook at a bird flying up and nearly unseated me in a freaking western saddle.

Sigh. It's all interconnected. She's way more upset because studdy gelding #1 is upset and her mind is gone.

We turned into the hayfield again, and this time she was reasonable. I turned her around and came back out, then rode her around the barn area for a while just to make her keep working while both studdy geldings went all crazy go nuts.

Sooooo... I'm very not happy. The pasture situation from my perspective is just plain dangerous. Izzy is and will be fine, but I am not ok with getting charged by massive hormonal geldings just to go for a ride every day. Plus, the reason I wanted Izzy out there was to make her brain happy, which it clearly IS NOT right now.

I'm going out again today. Unless both the boys are total angels and Izzy is absolutely perfect, I'm talking with the BO and some serious changes are in order. This isn't just unpleasant--it's unsafe.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Weekend Notes

Izzy and I crossed water, unassisted, for the first time ever this week. Yes, it was just a measly irrigation ditch that was about 2' wide and 2" deep, but by golly, we got over it and neither of us had a total meltdown. This is a big deal because previously, she always had to be lead into water and then would pretty much jump on top of the person doing the leading. Also I would have a mini freak out in my head because I would be afraid she would do something crazy... like jump in...

For the record, she did take a couple of massive flying leaps over the water and I was in dressage tack, but hey, we survived and we're both better for it.

It was supposed to be track day yesterday, but the weather was atrocious. Since we were stuck in the indoor and I was tired, I just set a single caveletti and rode Izzy back and forth over it. We focused on staying straight, going forward to it, and halting after it, instead of a mad dash away.

Then, something exciting happened. Our Five Star Tack bridle came. I was so tempted to take a second trip out to the barn to try it on Izzy in the dark...

I resisted, but barely.

Here we are, trying it on today. I hadn't made all the final adjustments yet, but I think it looks amazing on Izzy's pretty face. Yes, it's hook stud ends, but they're so finished and neat looking.

Here she is, posing for us. Pretty, pretty mare.

And the requisite lunging picture. She is looking great. I barely got to ride today, though. Izzy and the horrid gelding were getting introduced to a new pasture mate.

It's another studdy gelding... yay... I was so hoping for the spayed mare instead. Anyways. The owner said she'd come out at noon, but then came at like 10, which abridged any and all work I wanted to do.

Whatever. The introduction ensued with much drama, but when it more or less settled down (I still think the studdy geldings are going to fight it out, but w/e Izzy is smart enough to stay out of it), I hauled this load home.

It is now disassembled, wiped down, soaped, rinsed, conditioned, rubbed off, and re assembled. Plus I did a ton of loads of laundry. You can say it. We're both amazing.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tack Review #1: Nunn Finer Event Bridle

Here's Izzy, modeling the Nunn Finer Event Bridle.

Basic Info:

MSRP: $265.95
What I paid: see above

General description: Available in havana or black leather, this bridle features thick, quality leather that requires no break in, buckles at the bit for ease of use, 5/8" cheek pieces for strength and to prevent stretching, and comes with brass or zinc hardware.

My relationship with the product: I've owned this bridle for about a year and a half, and I use it multiple times a week. I initially bought it after an intense search, in which I wanted something pretty, high quality, and long lasting to replace the ick bridle that I had. This bridle did all that.

Leather quality--this bridle is actually made by the Amish folks, then bought and re-branded by Nunn Finer. You can certainly order direct from Amish country, but it must be done by mail or phone and paid with check or cash. They don't do electronic anything. The point, is, this leather really set the standard for me in what I wanted. It's just the right weight and thickness; it's soft and supple; and it's remarkably hard wearing. I wasn't totally thrilled at first because the padding on the cavesson and browband is actually a synthetic material instead of leather, but it's worked out well for cleaning purposes.

Price--$265 is quite good for a bridle of this quality that comes with reins. When I bought it, standard rubber reins were included, but now they come with the drool-worthy soft grip reins that I covet.

Buckles--I specifically wanted buckles at the bit because I'd just had it with hook studs on cheapie bridles. This bridle has amazing buckles though. Every buckle has a roller, which reduces wear and tear on the leather and just looks snappy.

"The Look"--If you watch almost any event at any level, you'll notice that many eventers have this bridle. Bit of Britain is a huge eventing sponsor and they make great equipment. Thus, this bridle does tend to mark you out as an eventer to anyone adroitly observing tack.

Customizable--This bridle also comes as the Nunn Finer Custom Event Bridle, so if your horse needs special adjustments, you can just order different sized parts, but pay the exact same as if you bought it off the shelf. This is a huge perk, imho. If I had it to do over again, I think I'd order the horse size bridle with cob cheeks to fit Izzy a little better.

Not fancy--If you're looking for something "pretty", this may not be the bridle for you. All the stitching is strong and workmanlike, but it isn't designed as a piece of displayable art. If you go for refined straps and fancy stitching, you need to look elsewhere.

Brass--I realize that you can choose to not have brass, but I picked it because it looked pretty and I'd never had a brass bridle. I've come to realize that brass needs polishing, which is a pain in the arse. So, while brass is pretty, definitely get the zinc instead.

Official company images:
As you can see, it's a handsome bridle. It holds up well and feels great in my hands. It doesn't have the fancy comfort/contoured crowns that some bridles sport, but it gets the job done in style.

As an aside, it is my goal for Izzy to become a bridle model. Don't you think she wears it better than these fellows do?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Best Pony Ever!!! (aka Continued Confessions of a Chicken Rider)

Good news and bad news.

Good news: I took pictures.

Bad news: I forgot to take them off my camera. You'll have to wait to see them.

After two days in a row of dressage, we definitely needed to get back to jumping. I set a small gymnastic in the indoor (have I mentioned it started raining again here and the outdoor is slop? lame!). It was jump, then 9' to a ground rail, then 9' to the second jump. A simple one stride, basically. I set it as two verticals, but realized that my magical confidence from last week seemed to have meandered off, so I dropped the first one down to a cross rail.

After all, Izzy hasn't seen a real gymnastic since last summer, right? I was already visualizing how our love new saddle (thank you again Gingham!!) would keep me in the middle of her when she slammed on the breaks at the second jump.

I do not know why I think this way. I admit, it's stupid.


I brought the lovely mare in and after a very nice warm up, we trotted in to the gymnastic. I kept my eyes up and focused on keeping my legs soft and loose--the last thing I need to do is chase her through a gymnastic. She popped over the cross rail, took one canter stride, and neatly folded her legs over the vertical. I stayed right with her.

AMAZING!!! I <3 this pony!!!

We came again. I always need to go through the first time a little bit stupid. Then the next time I go through, I can pay a little more attention to what's going on. I pointed Izzy at the jump. About two strides out, she pretty much just said, "This is stupid" and picked up the canter. We like the canter jumps.

We went through a few more times and each time she felt awesome and I got a little less scared. Plus, she didn't rush at all. Hurray Jimmy Wofford for reminding us to just take your leg off when your horse rushes! I got off, set the first jump as a vertical too, then remounted.

All of a sudden, the jumps looked huge. (Yes, a whole 2'.) There were so many poles (5). Poor Izzy would be too confused and have to stop (not sure when she started stopping). I don't want to over face her (um... at 2'?)

We walked towards the gymnastic to let us both have a look. "Breathe," I told myself. "You don't have to do this. We're still just building confidence." A little voice at the back of my head whined, "But you were so confident last week. What's your problem now?"

Izzy's ears locked on the the first jump as we walked toward it. She was game. I took a deep breath, turned around, picked up a canter, made a circle, and...

WE FLEW THROUGH IT!!! Absolutely perfect! It felt like nothing.

I probably do need to start setting jumps up higher. Izzy barely even has to jump at this height...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ok, Finally: Lesson Recap

We had our first dressage lesson of the year on Monday. Hurray lesson!!

Since I don't ever get to see Izzy work and I wanted to see how many of our issues were caused by me and how many were honest issues, I asked Cathy to ride her for the first few minutes, then switch with me.

Off they went. (Sorry, no pictures. I was focusing.) Since I had already warmed Izzy up, Cathy picked up the contact and focused on asking Izzy to go forward into it from her hind legs. While doing that, she kept asking Izzy to bend her poll (not wag her head) right and left to soften and supple her body and still go straight with her legs. It probably took a good 5 or 10 minutes, but finally, Izzy was marching forward, soft and responsive.

Interesting note: I don't think Cathy even really picked up the whip I told her to carry. Hm.

Once they had accomplished softness at the walk, Cathy asked for trot. Izzy engaged her hind end and lifted into it beautifully.

Point for Izzy: w/t transition is definitely my fault.

Cathy just did the same thing at trot that she'd been doing at walk--bend in, bend out, engage the hind legs. She would turn before the short ends of the arena and then leg yield Izzy out to them to help keep her forward. They did shallow serpentines down the long sides to test Izzy's softness. Again, the biggest challenge was to keep her inside hind coming forward.

Then they rolled into canter.

Point for Izzy: the lifting head/running forehand is definitely my fault.

More of the same in the canter left. Canter right, it probably took 5 tries for Cathy to get the lead.

Point for Aimee: Izzy is sticky about it.

Cathy said that is didn't feel like a physical problem or lack of engagement--Izzy just bent the other way. Once she (Cathy) figured out that I used more inside leg than outside to ask, it got a little easier.


Then it was my turn. The current score was Izzy 2, Aimee 1.

Cathy had me keep Izzy marching forward in the walk. When she pulled down on the reins, I was to remember that is what I wanted, but to ask for more forward. I felt Izzy become soft (not quite putty like) in my hands as we changed bend back and forth. Once I had her engaged and forward, I asked for trot, and get this: it was perfect.

Point for Aimee: I can learn to ride correctly.

Izzy did really well on the serpentines and leg yields, but was struggling with holding a forward, soft trot down the longside. I prescribe more work on this to build strength and balance so we can get there eventually.

A note of pride: I got Izzy to take the right lead on my first try. It helps that I know her better, I think. Interestingly, once I had that lovely forward trot and Izzy so soft and responsive, the canter transitions came easily. No more freaking out about my miserable excuse for a sitting trot.

Hurray and hurray!! We worked on staying forward through the downward transitions and keeping her walk marching, even when we were cooling out.

Then, I dispensed with our regularly scheduled jump day yesterday in order to do some lesson practice. Guess what? We were able to achieve the same feeling yesterday!! Hurray small, learn-able chunks of information!

Cathy conclusion for me: Expect more.

She also said that Izzy looks great and is coming along really well. I'm so proud.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Whoring for a Good Cause

Ahem. I'm sure all my regular readers are familiar with a certain affliction I have.

Tack whoring.

Yes. I love tack. Not just any old thing, but nice, high quality, pretty stuff that is clean and soft and functional. As of my last count, Izzy, my easy going, non-picky mare, had five bridles. She has a jump bridle, dressage bridle, micklem bridle, western bridle, and side pull.

Now, she also has a beautiful figure-8 bridle coming in the mail.

(Note: this is a customer image from the facebook page, not official company photography.)

It's made by Five Star Tack, who also made Izzy's dressage bridle. They're a really cool company. It's small, the owner/designed also answers calls and emails and is a pretty awesome person. (Hi Jamie!! You rock!)

Aside from having lots of really cool stuff, they're actively engaged in giving back, both to communities and people. You can read more about it on their eventing site, which you can also order direct from.

This month, they are donating 10% of all sales to Boyd Martin and the True Prospect Farm survivors. Oh, plus they are having a sale--anything ordered through the website is 25% off. If you have any questions, or want to order through the dealer site, contact them through facebook or by email and they'll take care of it for you.

I'll definitely review this bridle when I get it. I'm also planning on doing a series of posts, reviewing the abundant amounts of tack that I have for further dissemination on the internet. I mean, I go through so much stuff, someone other than me wight as well benefit from all this.

(Guess who has a dressage lesson today???)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Leaps and Bounds!

I know, my titles are overly enthusiastic lately. Sorry to all you normal people who are annoyed by over-the-top happiness (I would usually be in your group), but it's been a really great week in so many equine ways.

Friday, I went to pilates in the morning. Ouch. Love what a good workout it is and how it helps me be a more informed rider, but it's hard. Then, Izzy and I went out on the track to accomplish two objectives:
1) Ride outside the arena
2) Work on cardiac fitness
Ever since my last jump school this week, I just seem to be riding a wave of confidence. It's fun how overcoming one fear (jumping) helps me work towards overcoming others, like riding outside the arena.

We had a great ride on the track. I had all kinds of excuses why I didn't need to go there--after all, there were irritating roofers working and it might spook Izzy.

Then I pulled up my big girl panties, rode over the scary bridge, and off we went. All told, we trotted 4 miles and cantered 2. My body is absolutely killing me today, but I was still riding on the high of conquering the scary roofers.

Soooo.... I went out, pulled out the western tack, and then wondered if my sore lil' body could heave that massive saddle up on my horse.
Fortunately, the answer was yes.

I specifically wanted the western tack because we were going on a mission. That's right folks--we were riding out into the hayfield ALONE.

It took a while to get Izzy to cross the bridge, but I was way too sore to get off and lead her over it. Then we made one walking lap around the track, and headed into the hay field. I really should have taken a picture--it's ready to cut, I think. Most of it is belly deep on her, but there's a narrow rut at the side that is a little shallower.

We rode down that until she got edgy, then back to the track and take a lap, then back out into the field. It took a second lap around the track (walking) but all of a sudden, we both started to enjoy it. She watched the birds and distant cars and listened to noises. I loosened my death grip on the saddle horn as we walked briskly to the end of the field. Once we got to my target spot, we stopped, had a look around, Izzy grabbed a few bites to eat, and we marched back.

Funny thing: her biggest spook the whole time was back in the barn area at a horse in the indoor. What a goof!
Brave cowboy horse.

Again, at the root of this problem is me. I started riding at age 9 and didn't go on a proper trail ride until I was 19. Not making that up. So, when problems come up in the arena, I do have some experience to drawn on and a reserve of confidence. It's just that once I'm outside those walls, I have nothing.

Good thing she's so freaking awesome.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Dressage day yesterday. We worked hard on going (and staying) forward. I found it went so much better when I kept my reins short, my hands forward, and just offered a contact and let her take it. Plus, that made me use more seat and leg, which for some magic reason, actually works.

Go figure. All those crazy dressage people are right. I do think I've made progress on Izzy's head-tossing upward transition evasion. For some reason, I was asking for transitions with just one leg, which allowed her to get crooked. She would also throw her head to distract me, and then our transitions always zig zagged left. Awkward and not forward.

Hence, if I keep that light, steady contact, have the mare MARCHING forward, and squeeze with both legs, the ick almost completely goes away.

Despite it being a crappy cold windy afternoon, I was just enjoying spending some time with my ever so lovely horse, so I pulled her mane and re-trimmed her tail.

Of course, since I was alone, it was really hard to get a decent picture of it all.

Uncooperative mare.

Funny thing: I get irriatated sometimes when I'm riding Izzy because her ears and attention are on absolutely everything but me. It used to scare me, because I was afraid she would spook.

The new, braver me is not worried about the spook but still annoyed that she isn't tuned in. However, it's interesting to see how much more focused she is when I actually sit down and ride like I did yesterday. Because I'm so intently focused on what I'm doing, she has to pay attention to what she's doing.

It actually works brilliantly.

Close up of the new pretty hair. Such a pretty girl, isn't she?

In theory, this pretty mare and I are trooping out of the arena today... on to the track and maybe even into the hay field. Wish us luck!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fun Day

I picked up a good friend to come riding with me yesterday, so you lucky readers get more pictures of the wondermare and her slightly-less-wonder rider. Izzy was feeling much better yesterday (she was a little footsore Monday) and she was happy to go forward in our newly-worked arena.

We broke out the jump tack and worked on responsiveness to minimal aids.

As you can see, I need to be eating better and running more.

Ha! True. (Is it bad when I laugh at my own posts while I'm typing them?)

Izzy was super good and relaxed. I've picked up lunging her before every ride regardless because 1) it helps me see how she's going and 2) it makes her work harder. Since she's out on rich spring grasses, she's developed a bit of flab and I want her working more.

We set our first oxer of the year. Wow, that sounds lame. It's true, though. I'm finally overcoming my crazy jumping phobia, for which I think Izzy is very grateful. After all, she really does enjoy jumping.

First we had it set as a low cross rail. I know my goals post talked about related distances, so I would just like to point out that there is a placing pole out in front of the oxer. ;-) That sort of counts.

I will drag the rest of the standards out to the outdoor arena this month so we can have actual related jumps.

As you can see, Izzy was brilliant. We trotted in a couple of times, and then my friend set it up.

We cantered in and...


Ok, maybe not that magnificent, but look how good we look.

My lower leg is so much better than even just two weeks ago when M took pictures. I felt totally relaxed and confident jumping yesterday. Since you can see how much effort Izzy has to put in to do this (none), I'm thinking we're going to add some complexity, but start moving the heights up, too. We both like it. Why not?

After my ride, we trooped out the our old boarding barn so my friend could ride. She's a minor, so we're not using names, but I'd just like to talk about her a little. She doesn't have a ton of formal training--just enough lessons to keep her heels down and shoulders back--but she has such a natural feel for horses that it's just fun to watch.

Here's the horse she loves:

Ellie is a difficult ride at best. She's an opinionated redhead. If you pull on her, she will run away with you, period. It you're nervous, off she goes.

You get the picture. Imagine the mare charging forward. If you pick up the reins, she's gone. It takes a special person to appreciate her.

My friend is that person.


(In my defense, the mare was going nowhere with all that green grass in front of her.)

This pretty well sums up their relationship. That mare loves this girl. It's completely mutual. It's beautiful to see.

It's also easy to see why Ellie loves this girl so much. They do something, the she drops the reins, pats the mare, and tells her she's a good girl. She's in no hurry and Ellie just responds brilliantly.

I need to ride more like that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June Goals

Our stated goals for May:

1) Just jump it. Monica is making t-shirts and mine won't look out of place. Jump Izzy at least twice a week. Work on setting little gymnastics and combinations so we can work things out. Be comfortable over low verticals.
Ha. Fail. I have been so inconsistent this month thanks to being out of town for half of it. I would say we've made a huge stride forward in the area of my confidence, but we need to keep working on this.

2) Conditioning--Work at least once a week on the track, weather permitting. In order to be competitive, we need to continue developing cardiac fitness.
In my defense, the weather hasn't been permitting. We only made it onto the track one time. However, with a fabulous new jump saddle that I LOOOVE riding in, I have high hopes for this to come along.

3) Sitting trot. I've been doing it a little, but not nearly enough. Even time the dressage saddle is on, I'm going to spend some portion of the time sitting. Focus on engaging core and relaxing hips.
Technically, I did this. However, "some portion of the time" usually worked out to about 5-10 strides when I needed to be deep in the saddle to ride Izzy past a spooky spot.

So... yeah. May was not our best month ever. We made some progress and learned about how good Izzy is about letting beginners ride her and had fun, but we didn't really accomplish much. That said, we did have a lesson, our first of the year. Yay lesson!

June goals:
1) GET OUT. Leave the arena. 1-2 times a week, I need to ride outside. Izzy isn't bothered by trail rides--I am. For now, I'm going to count riding on the track. I'm also going to ride into the hayfield at least once a week. I may be doing it in western tack, but we are for sure doing it.

2) Jump!! We are doing well with single verticals and cross rails. Height isn't really an issue--Izzy is super athletic. Instead, actually set some related distances.

3) Conditioning--this means going FORWARD in our dressage and galloping on the track and working longer. Izzy is out on rich grass in need of some strenuous work and it will be good for both of us.

Fat girl needs a job.
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