Friday, December 30, 2011

Inner Game

I had a fabulous ride yesterday. We flatted (har har) in the big arena. I kept Izzy forward and flexible, and then we headed out and hacked part way up the little hill by ourselves. Away from the barn and friends and food. Izzy was really, really good. I turned her around earlier than I wanted to, but at the same time, I wanted to keep it pleasant and happy for everyone. This can be fun. I felt great and couldn't wait to jump again.

And then I stressed out all morning because I was so nervous for my jumping lesson (which went great, btw).

It's so frustrating to deal with mental/confidence issues. I'm fine one moment, gone the next. I'm a very self-contained and self-controlled person normally, so it's driving me absolutely batty to not be able to deal with this effectively.

Blogosphere to the rescue!! I read a post by Cherie at Golightly Sport Horses dealing with sports psychology and the mental game that all athletes face, particularly in relation to their confidence. Then Ellie at Cedes of Change (yes, the amazing photographer) wrote another post about dealing with mental issues in her chosen sport, dog agility (which is wicked cool). Her post talked about making a list of five things you love about your chosen sport. Not goals, not plans, but the things that you actually enjoy, the reasons you got started in the first place. The idea is to help you refocus and figure out why you do what you do.

I gave it a shot. Here's my list of the five reasons I train for eventing:

1) I love the puzzle. Feed, farrier, vet, chiro, barn management. I like the challenge of finding the problem and fixing it.

2) I love the partnership. Finding what makes me horse tick and how to get the most out of her and myself.

3) I love the people. I'm constantly surrounded by people who share my same driving passion and interests.

4) I love the purpose. Each phase helps us develop as a well-rounded team, the strongest and most effective we can be.

5) I love the pride of working toward perfection and being judged by an objective standard. Because we can fail, we can also succeed.

The nerdier among you are appreciating my alliteration right now.

I feel like I'm starting to get my bearings. Writing out why we're working with an eventing trainer when jumping still scares the sh*t out of me helps clarify my position with myself. I always see eventing as the end goal of any training schema--you need the power and poise of dressage, the forward adrenaline of cross country, and the exacting discipline of show jumping. Maybe you don't--I do. It makes for well-rounded riders and horses and keeps riding interesting.

I am moving forward. I had an excellent (and non-terrifying) jumping lesson this morning. I do not understand where this fear came from, but I am attacking it from every angle possible. The more I ride well and get comfortable, the less fear I will have from the actual experience. I am trying to spend some time each day visualizing jumping well and safely so that I can start seeing myself being successful. I am also interested in reading up a bit on the mental game. Any sports psychology book recommendations, helpful blogs, or websites out there for me to look at?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 in Review (oodles of pictures)

A look back at the progress we made this year.

In January, we were happily boarding on the south end of the valley, playing around with western pleasure and sporting new dressage boots from Denali's Mom.

Feburary 1, we celebrated two years together.

Izzy also got her teeth done, which made for some interesting tack configurations.

Tack whore note: I still own this saddle pad. Everything else has moved on.

March brought mildly warmer weather and more fun toys to play with. Izzy sports a Micklem bridle that she looks perfectly adorable in.

Also in March we had a fun photoshoot and got some super cute pictures.

And our riding progress in March. Note my odd position and Izzy's even odder response to it. Her tail looks nice though.

April brought pretty weather and a sleek, shiny pony who'd wintered well. She moved into pasture board with the horrid geldings, but our dressage work was coming along nicely.

We also sold our old dressage saddle to a friend and came up with one that works well for both of us. The saddle fitting journey begins!

In May, Ms Sexyface made too much trouble in the pasture (hellooooo raging hormones) and ended up with a solo turnout gig that worked out swimmingly.

We sold another saddle and got a jumping saddle that actually works for us. It also matched all my tacked, which means it will probably live with me forever. (Thank you Gingham!!)

We also had our first jumping lesson, which was ridiculously bad. Apparently I tend to get nervous: who knew?

It was also the month of pony rides. Izzy was so calm and relaxed (and behind my leg) that she gave lessons to several of my friends. Here she canters with everyone's favorite Megan.

Tack whore note: I still own all the tack in this photo except the boots.

June put us firmly in the jumping tack. Izzy and I were learning together and making some decent progress.

We even conquered the scary blue barrels. We weren't pushing hard, but we were gearing up for what was supposed to be a kick-ass show season after the EHV-1 died down.

We conquered XC!!

All except one little hiccup. The day before what was supposed to be our first show, I managed to break three bones and ground myself for 6 very long weeks.

Still loving my pony mare.

In July, Izzy and I spent time trail walking in absence of my ability to ride. We enjoyed the view and had some good times.

A fellow boarder did some dressage on her, for which I am very grateful.

And our favorite western trainer both rode Izzy and put her into ground work bootcamp 101.

I had to watch it all from the sidelines. It was hot and wearing a splint was unfun. Eating smoothies became a way of life.

In August, Izzy got a stunningly pink halter, but spent most of her time hanging out in the pasture.

I was at least functional enough to pull her mane, bang her tail, and wrap her for lunging.

Finally!!! Back in the saddle in mid August after what seemed like the longest six weeks of my life. Izzy had picked up some interesting habits after all this training by other people. Some things were good, others were odd, but by golly, I was finally getting to deal with them!

After spending a grueling month with no stirrups, September brought Izzy and I to our best ever dressage form. We worked hard and the best Ellie I know was there to document it.

I still love this picture.

Jumping needed work, but we had a lesson here and there and were making progress.

Izzy remained generally fabulous and completely gorgeous. Slobber was a new thing for us.

In October, we began prepping for winter. We had to get it done early, because there was something exciting on the horizon for us.

(Only horse in this sequence who is not Izzy).

I started as a working student for our jumping instructor because I knew we needed lessons and could never afford them in the necessary volume. I get to take care of a whole barnfull of beautiful horses and it's wonderful.

Izzy got the short end of the stick for a while, but out in her big, green, grassy pasture, I don't think she minded.

In November, Izzy joined me at the new barn. She was a bit perplexed as to where her solo pasture had gone, but as a newly-grown-up pony, she integrated shockingly well.

She also tested some boundaries and got to play with Stephanie occasionally.

December was an exciting month of learning and growing for us. Izzy saw the chiropractor, went to her first show in years, and started to really develop.

We tackled new and more difficult challenges. I had a crisis of confidence, but we worked through it.

And then Izzy was shaved for the new year. We can't wait to attack next year's challenges together!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Progress of an Unchartable Nature

Earlier this week, I went into full-on meltdown mode. I decided I couldn't ride my horse, couldn't do anything right, would never make any progress, and might as well sell her and get it over with. (Irrational and unprompted. Hormones?)

I then proceeded to get on her and actually have a fabulous ride.

The other working student rode her yesterday since I had to go to work. She texted and told me that Izzy was "a dragon lady, but still fun".

Hm. At least I'm not the only one who occasionally has issues with her, right?

Pony mare today.

After riding two others, getting on Izzy was just so easy. I felt comfortable and in control. I didn't have to nag her too much. I got her nicely forward and maintained it. Despite there being three other horses in the arena with us, we had a really, really good ride.

The difference? I'm riding better certainly, which makes me more comfortable. Specifically, I think I'm starting to ride well enough and Izzy is throwing enough at me that I can say, "Alright. Let's fix that." She spooks, I stay on. She runs forward, I make her halt and back. She gets behind my leg, I go for a gallop.

Our ride today was in a bit she's never gone in on a saddle not specifically fitted for her with something other than her special pad. And guess what? It was marvelous. I've honestly never felt this optimistic about our future together (hormones again? Maybe).

Here's how confident I felt: when Steph and another client were talking about hauling out for an XC school in the next couple months, I wanted to go along*. I think we can do it.

*Then I spent two seconds thinking about the sad state of my bank account and the ridiculous expense of hauling out of state and giggled at the idea that I could afford it.

Monday, December 26, 2011


I've been riding alone due to the holidays, which means one thing in particular: I've been playing with toys. I rode Izzy in a flash on Christmas day because I had one and why not? She looked adorable, fussed about it a little bit, and went just fine.

Today I pulled out the dressage saddle for the first time in a while. I also put spurs on. I've never ridden her in them, but Stephanie has and had good results.

It felt weird to have them on and I was -very- careful with how I used my leg because I didn't want to apply them unnecessarily. That said, I had some of the best lateral work I've ever gotten out of Izzy. She was nicely forward (more on that another day) and just a light touch with the spur reminded her to move over instead of just fighting me about it constantly.

I'm a big fan of the horse learning to do something because I SAID SO not because of my equipment, but I'm also a big fan of Ms Mare actually using her backend. I'm thinking it may be time to invest in my own pair.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Goal Acheived!

One of my goals going into my current position working for Stephanie was to be able to wear a barn logo shirt at a show and not embarrass anyone, myself included. Basically, I wanted to be able to ride well enough that I looked like I knew what I was doing. I knew it would take a while and I never mentioned it to anyone because I didn't want them sitting around thinking I needed ego stroking.

Guess what?

Yep. Hat and vest.

I am ridiculously excited.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thought Process

Grid line--2' vertical, one stride, 2' vertical, one stride, ground pole. Hard left corner--remember to get the lead change before the turn or it'll be too late. Vertical, three strides, swedish oxer. We can do this. It's just a mini course.

We start with a right lead canter circle. I open Izzy up along the rail, then half halt back to a nice, forward canter. I can go faster, I can go slower, she is ahead of my leg.

Look for my fence. Approach. Straight between my legs. She is forward--don't add leg--that would increase too much. Don't freak out about the second fence. With this canter, they could be twice as high. Stay on your line. Shoulders back, body still.


One stride.


One stride.

Half halt. Lead change, got it in one stride. Balance around the turn. Boom! Weight in my hands. Half halt NOW. Now positively to the base of the jump. She's forward, don't change, stay the same. Distance will be close but ok. Heels down, hands still.






Landed in the correct lead. Good girl!

It was five fences and none of them were big, but we made it look easy. Scratch that. It was easy. It was smooth. It was balanced.

Amazing what a dash of forward will do for you.

We've got this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Stephanie's working students from the summer are back in town for Christmas break, and we've been having a lot of fun. Here we are going for a lovely hack in the mountains. I'm riding Topaz the appy gelding, and directly in front of his ears is Izzy with a senior student up.

She looks good, doesn't she? She was calm and relaxed throughout, as long as she didn't have to lead. It's good to get her out there and good for me to see her behaving herself so I'm better able to try next time.

After such a leisurely Tuesday, I was supposed to have a jumping lesson today. I also have work commitments and a ton of crap to get done before the weekend, so I had to abridge it rather sharply. I got on a walked a bit, then Stephanie told us to gallop. I asked Izzy for her right lead, which she gave me from a walk, and we were OFF!!

Not like falling off; no, mareface went gallopity-gallop down the long side and around the turn and was going faster than I have ever felt her go before.

And I was having a blast. I mean, OMG MY HORSE WAS FORWARD!!! I jumped the pony yesterday, who is a totally different ride, and rode Steph's big grey mare the day before, so I've really been mixing it up lately. Anyways. We galloped one way, then changed directions through the middle (yes Izzy does perfect flying changes. What?) and GALLOPED the other way. Not a canter. Not a hand gallop. Not me sitting there nagging her with my leg. Nope, mare was going.

We trotted and cantered over one of Steph's massive crossrails (if it's not at least 2' in the middle, it doesn't count apparently), focusing on staying straight and balanced and maintaining lines of direction. It was incredibly weird to have to rate Izzy a bit on the circles--usually all I do it kick, kick, kick to keep her going.

Wow. I love forward Izzy. Also, I noticed that our girth was just a tich loose when we went over the first jump. Great incentive to stay balanced over the middle! I have never been so bummed to cut a lesson short. There is a super fun looking course set up that we totally could have rocked if I didn't have to leave.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Show Recap!

First off: I apologize for the complete and utter lack of pictures. It was indoors and at night, so you can imagine why there was absolutely zero point in even trying.

The Good:

1) Izzy unloaded like a pro and came out pretty calm. She looked around and walked around with me, but had no major issues with anything, including heavy equipment buzzing around, two herds of donkeys braying, and ponies galloping by willy nilly.

2) I achieved all my goals for the show. I was calm and relaxed (mostly), I remembered my course, and I had a great time.

3) I stayed balanced on kept Izzy between myself and the ground. Win!

The Bad:

1) When we went into the show arena, Izzy reverted into total brain melt mode. The sensory input was so much that we stopped at every single jump.

2) Most of them more than once.

3) Some we never even got over.

The Ugly:

1) Stephanie got on at that point. Izzy decided she'd had enough for one day, and tried to park at the first jump.

2) Stephanie backed her up about three steps and made her jump from there.

3) The rest of the course was in kind--Izzy said no, and Steph made her go. I have never been happier to watch someone ride my horse than I was then.

They ended up going in for a second round, which was much smoother and better to watch.

Overall, I'd say it was a good experience. I felt incredibly comfortable on Izzy--I expected to get on and feel precariously perched again, but no. I was riding. I was in balance. I felt fine. Even with all the stopping and awkward leapings that was our attempt at a course, I felt ok. I stayed in the middle and didn't get off balance or flustered. I expected to be tossed out of the tack at every fence, and I wasn't.

Also, for those of you who wonder why I boot Izzy perennially, here it is.

Green and freaking out mare at show ripped a massive chuck of her boots. It tore through the strikepad, neoprene, fabric, everything, but there isn't a mark on her leg. If she'd left a hunk of leg on the fence, I'd have a vet bill (most likely) and and a horse who didn't want to jump because the jumps will eat her.


Vote for Us!!

A couple weekends ago, I dragged Ellie out of bed in the pre-dawn hours in order to put fishnets on a horse.

This horse.

This is Zymon, one of my favorite horses in the barn. He fractured his patella in a pasture accident, and is now laid up for months. He is also adorable and compliant, so Ellie and I came up with a costume and got Stephanie on board.

We're one of the top 20 on Eventing Nation.

Go vote for us!! (It's under the name Stephanie--it was a group effort, so she submitted it.) Help Zy find a way to contribute even if he's on stall rest for a few more months.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Since we are going to a show tomorrow, I had to get Izzy out today to make sure all the nuts and bolts were where they should be. Besides, Izzy seemed pretty happy post-chiro-work, so I thought we'd be ok. I saddled up and realized I'd forgotten my whip. Oh well... I wasn't anticipating having troubles with forward.

I tightened the girth (very important, boys and girls), and swung my leg over as Izzy stood politely. After I got my reins situated, I squeezed my legs.


Izzy walked calmly off. For the first time in my entire history with her, I felt movement behind the saddle. Crazy! Her walk was much more forward, and I didn't have to keep nagging her with my leg to go, although it was a little more work to keep her straight.

We walked a bit, then trotted serpentines. Her trot felt big and floaty and super cool. I have never, ever felt her like this before. She felt good too--she was experimenting a bit with carrying her head differently. She started to curl over the bit a little (bendy ponies like that), but with a little encouragement, I got her marching forward from behind into the soft, light contact.

She moved right over off my leg both directions. We rolled into a big canter. It has never felt so completely effortless for her. Usually I have to gallop her a bit to get any semblance of a forward canter, but not today. We could go forward and back and do flying lead changes in one stride, and drop to trot and come back up and it felt incredible. I just wanted to do a light work because of tomorrow, but I also didn't want to stop riding.

We ended by walking out to one of the trails we (are supposed to) ride on. I didn't want to actually go up it, since I was weaponless and she reminded me that feeling good or no, she wasn't yet convinced she actually had to do it.

Tack and boots are clean. Pony is clipped and blanketed.

Ridiculously tiny schooling jumper show, here we come.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Riding and Repairing

Izzy and I had an interesting jump lesson yesterday--Stephanie set three jumps on a curve in the end of the arena. They were just group poles to start with. She gave me this speech about finding the middle of the horse and getting her in front of my leg, all while fiddling ominously with a lunge line.

Then she clipped the lunge line on the bridle, had me drop the reins, and we started jumping.

With no reins.

It was pretty fun. I didn't have to worry about steering although I did have to give the occasional kick since Izzy is aware of the limits of a dressage whip held by someone with a lunge line. Stephanie had me focus on solidifying my leg position and finding my balance on Izzy. I had to have excellent eye and body control.

Izzy being who she is, things did not exactly go according to plan.

Ms. Mare got bored of the endless circling and going forward, so she refused the ground pole.

Then she jumped the standard (which was tipped over to facilitate lunging, but still about 2'6"ish from a halt).

Unfortunately, I had tipped forward when she stopped at the pole, and nearly catapulted off at the subsequent leap. My heels went flying over my head, but I caught her neck and the girth was tight, so I managed to sit back up when she halted. Whew. Close one.

We stayed with tiny little jumps--part of the reason Izzy is not super forward has to do with a hind-end funk that was going to be worked on later in the day.

At the end of the lesson, I felt more balanced and confident than I have in a while. I'm finally starting to learn the mechanics of what is supposed to happen when I point Izzy at a fence, and that makes things so much easier.

As for the repairing section of this post, well, Izzy had an encounter with a chiropractor yesterday afternoon. She's had minimal bodywork done before, and always been extremely reactive, to the point of being dangerous (see here and here, for the last few times we tried). We took it to the next level--instead of using the local lady, who can't even touch her anymore, we used to expensive, out-of-state guy.

He is kind of crazy.

As I lead Izzy out of her stall and up to him and his assistant, I hear them muttering "Oh, she doesn't look good" "mumble mumble" "Yeah, really sore on her right front". All I can thing is, "huh?" Her left front is her crappy foot (that is improving), so I might expect a little there, but right? Weird.

He proceeded to work away on her. As before, she was really, really reactive when he tried to touch her chest and her withers at the same time (this connects some fort of accupressure point that Izzy cannot stand). Her withers were a complete mess-he probably spent almost half of his time just fiddling with that. Then he moved down her spine--mid back (like where the saddle goes) was completely fine, but lower back was a hot mess.

Apparently, it is now a sufficiently fixed hot mess. He explained (after much prying from me) that there were some things that were very wrong with her back and they'd probably been that way a long time, based on how she reacted. That caused her to overcompensate with her front end, which caused the mess in her withers and neck.

Also, she just hates accupressure. His words.

She got today off with some turnout, but I'm hoping to be back in the (very cold) saddle tomorrow. I'm excited to see what kind of changes we're looking at.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shifting Gears

I spent all morning puttering around the barn thinking, "Why in the world did I enter a show? I'm not good enough, Izzy will freak out, I'll probably just fall off and die."

Yes, completely the most rational thing ever.

Then everyone's favorite Rinsie texted to let me know that I wasn't on the show schedule. My immediate thought: Excellent!! Unfortunately, her note didn't pander to my nerves and pointed out that we were in this together. Rats.

I don't want to beleaguer the point, but I didn't even want to ride Izzy today because I felt like she'd somehow act the total idiot and I'd go flying, which is completely unfair to her. She's really a pretty fabulous horse 98% of the time (thank you Ellie for constantly reminding me of that).

I saddled up and rode.

You know, actually rode. Kept my eyes up, my weight in my feet, and my hands steady. We did changes of bend and flying lead changes (oh yes we can do those).

Specifically, I focused on shifting Izzy's gears within gaits. When we are approaching a jump, Stephanie always wants us to be in a rhythm that allows us to either speed up or slow down without breaking gait.

I'd open Izzy up and GALLOP down the long side (mare loves it!!), then shorten to the tiniest canter we could find at the end, then circle in a medium gait, then do it again. And then a flying change*.

I won't lie--I'm still a little freaked out about the whole going-to-a-ridiculously-tiny-show thing, but I feel better now. Izzy is a damn good horse and I can ride her. We may not blow everyone away with our awesomeness (although that would be nice), but we can certainly go canter around a nice little course.

PS For the fashionistas out there, I totally broke out the CO helmet today. It fits me so much better than the horrid thing I was wearing. Love!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Baldest Horse

Thanks to the end of regular season football for the NCAA, I finally had time to body clip Izzy this weekend.

She hadn't seen a pair of clippers in two years, as far as I can remember. I pulled the little clippers out Friday and trimmed up her face.

That got us from yak-face to this. I was so proud of Izzy--it was one of those little things that remind me of why I actually like this horse. She stood like a statue and made no objections whatsoever, even when I did her jawline and whiskers.

Aw. Cute pony.

Sunday morning I came out as soon as the sun was high in the sky, which translates to about 12.30 right now. After getting everything situated, I got the medical professional who is also Stephanie's client to come and apply the happy sap to make things calm and easy.

Before doing the injection, she wanted to test the clippers, so she fired up the big ones that sound about like a small chainsaw, and mowed a strip on Izzy's side.

Mare didn't blink.


We ended up doing an intramuscular injection anyways because while Izzy was fine having her sides and chest done, she was less enthused about the whole butt, back, and underbelly part of things.

Sleepy bald pony. This is only a small, small fraction of the hair we generated. It's by no means the best or smoothest clip job in the world, especially since Izzy was dirty (can't bathe humanely when it's 30f outside) and it was my first time to ever wield the mighty body clippers.

I love this shot of her. She looks almost majestic, despite being bald and high. There aren't a lot of horses that can pull this look off.

When I turned Izzy out this morning, she took off running around and trying to get Tatiyana to play with her.

Note that she is now decked out in cold gear, which includes a liner blanket and neck cover. So expensive, but she's snuggling warm.

Yana thought running around was a stupid idea. She's like that, though. Kind of aloof.

With her legs and dark smoldering eyes, she can play aloof all day long and still the boys come running.

And lunging today. Look how ridiculously shiny Izzy's coat is, even just 24 hours after I clipped it. Crazy.

Izzy ran around and bucked like a maniac and rolled over about 6 times, but then she settled right down. Now we're really ready for winter.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Great Helmet Debate

As I hope you all are aware, it is critical to replace your helmet any time you fall off and land on it. If you don't, it simply isn't protecting you.

As such, when I fell off and landed on my helmet, I went to replace it. First I went to my local tack store, but that was a massive fail (don't even get me started). I tried to order online with overnight shipping at two different retailers, but both were backordered for a couple weeks. Useless! My next move was to call Smartpak (yes, the number is programmed into my phone) and check their availability. They had the beautiful helmet I was eyeing and immediately sent it via three day shipping for a minimal charge.

Unfortunately, this process had been dragging out and I wanted to be back in the saddle. A fellow boarder had purchased a helmet in the wrong size and offered to sell it to me. Problem: it was the ugliest helmet I had ever seen:

Ugly or not, it was better than a broken helmet and cheaper than a permanent brain injury, so I gritted my teeth and bought it off her.

I continued riding in it until my lovely new helmet arrived.

Here it is! Charles Owen JR8. I actually ordered it in black, but they sent the black/charcoal, and it's pretty too.

Anyways, here is my problem. Now that I have the pretty helmet, I don't want to ride in it. I recognize that if I fall off, I'll have to replace it. I'd far rather break the hideously ugly helmet and have this...

Consciously, I know I should just get over it and wear the pretty one. That way I can punish myself for falling off by making myself wear the ugly one until a new pretty one can come. It's a good incentive. It even makes sense--wear the one you like, keep one in reserve.

I have only taken the pretty one out of the box to try on, though. I can't imagine getting it all dirty and yucky.

What to do?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting the Hang of It-My STP

Again, only time for a short ride on Izzy today (oh, and I haven't cleaned my tack in TWO DAYS. Such a rebel). Anyways. I'm working on doing lots of serpentines in walk and trot, specifically while opening my inside rein and pushing my hands forward. It seems like such a little thing, but since I had such a hard time with it over fences, I decided to break it down into chunks that I feel comfortable with.

Izzy is responding really, really well. She learns quickly and does seem to like going forward, despite not being an overly forward horse.

Actually... I'd say Izzy is a medium-forward horse. She goes forward willingly, but it's not her default gear. She's not an ambling lazy thing, but she's no upper level event horse, either.

Then we galloped. I guess I should clarify. To me, it feels like a mad, all-out gallop. It's probably just a respectable canter. At any rate, we'd shorten (via body aids) in the short ends and run down the long sides. Izzy really enjoys it and I do too... The more I move my upper body around in balance and really get comfortable in the saddle, the more fun I'm having.

For those of you that remember our whimsical adventure of a few weeks ago, rest assured: I haven't given up. My thinking is this: I need some time to rebuild my confidence with Izzy in our comfort zone, the arena. In that time, I'm emphasizing her forward cue--aka, you go NOW. I'm also riding other horses, which is helping me feel more confident as a rider in my ability to deal with all kinds of shenanigans.

Next week, I plan to corral someone with a solid trail horse and take Izzy out, first to the easy hack by the pastures and if that goes well, back up the mountain. I realized (after a long discussion with everyone's favorite Ellie) that most of the whole "riding outside" problem with Izzy is simply that she isn't educated to do it at all. It should be simple, but since it isn't, I need to give her a chance to learn and set her up for success. The same goes for me--I do not have the amazing riding foundation that Ruffles is getting by galloping around the countryside, so we're both on a sharp learning curve.

To infinity and beyond!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rebuilding Confidence

Pony mare sporting her navy amigo blanket. Stupid old blanket was rubbing even with a shoulder guard on.

Due to some bad planning on my part, I had to abridge the morning's pony activities, which made for a short ride on Izzy. Good news, though--all I needed was a short ride.

I got on and focused on directing Izzy to do something. We started by walking figure eights to let her warm up a bit. Then we trotted serpentines, again, with me focusing on sitting up and riding. When Izzy tried to get looky about the spooky bush, I took her in should-fore with an open inside rein and made her stay off my inside leg around the whole corner. Ha!

And then it was off to the races. Not only do I need to get comfortable galloping, I need to teach myself to let Izzy maintain her own pace. As Steph says, "Let her take you there". So I did. I asked Izzy to gallop by sitting up and kicking (funny how much more precise that is than tipping forward and taking leg off, haha) and then I focused on balancing over my feet while she went forward. If she backed off, I'd send her more forward. I reminded myself that this was fun on the first lap... and then it actually was.

I always think of Izzy as not being a terribly forward horse, but the more we galloped, the more she wanted to. I'd ask for trot, and she wanted to just shorten her canter. Interesting. I'm excited to develop that more.

We finished up by jumping a 2' vertical a few times. I cantered in slowly, staring at the jump. Izzy halted squarely in front of it. "Right," I said, "I didn't actually want to jump it". I circled and came again, this time at a convincing canter. I thought about what I wanted her hind legs to do on the far side of the jump, and I kept my eyes focused two strides ahead.

Boom. Jump.

Once more to make sure it wasn't luck, and we had another good jump.

My takeaway is this: I am working towards being more decisive as a rider and allowing Izzy to do her job. That's why we gallop, that's why I sit up and kick, that's why I push my hands at the jump instead of take back. It's hard for me to process mentally, but I'm getting there. Izzy is being honest with me, but if I'm going to ride her, I need to want to. Period. No pointing at a jump and saying, "well maybe I think but ummmmm" and then expecting her to go.
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