Friday, February 22, 2013

Rainy day and an indoor

So today was icky like predicted. But lucky for me... I have a fancy indoor to ride in! It actually wasn't really raining and I could have ridden at home, but it worked beautifully to swap, so I'm glad I did. I had a fabulous ride today with Cindy.

She reminded me to react with my seat and core, not my hands. And that while I wanted him round, I wanted to make his withers come up! And that was accomplished with my legs. We got what felt like some really nice work today. Now I just need to work on my timing and swiftness. I take too long to prepare for any change. We did walk to canter to walk to counter canter to walk and it just takes me to long to prep. But we had some really lovely canter and I felt like I was actually sitting. I just need to remind to ask for the gaits and rhythm with my hips. 

The most exciting thing is that his trot is back!!! I don't know what Cindy did to fix it, but it's back! We did some canter work first and then I had my awesome trot back. I need to remember to not get faster with my body so that Fleck gets faster with his too. And... we got a few steps of BIG GIRL half pass!!!! I was half passing and Cindy told me to get him fluffier (or something along those lines). She said to move my inside hip more. And I did.. and it worked. We got about four strides of REAL half pass. It was awesome!

It was a fun ride. :) And now I'm glad I'm snuggled back on my couch in warm fleecy clothing! The ponies are all snuggled in clothes too. Soon enough I'll have to go back out and feed, but for now... snuggly warm and dry. Good day!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I love my dressage coach!

I had a dressage lesson scheduled today and it was a gorgeous day!! Warm and sunny! And tomorrow... the weather is rain, 100% chance, 100% of the day! (well at least it was this morning... I think now it may be in the morning and evening only). So... as a thought... I texted Cindy and asked her if there was any chance I could change my lesson tomorrow so I could enjoy the sunshine today and enjoy the covered arena tomorrow. I wasn't thinking anything would come of it because.. you know, I've got a scheduled ride. But sure enough she said no problem! Wheeee!!!

So I hauled Fleck over to Ashland and we joined Kelli for a romp in the sun. I decided it was Day 2 of no stirrups for lent, so... off they came. Kelli reminded me that she wanted to do trot sets! Doh! But I did good. We started with walking and kept it up for a bit as six deer bounded across and got the ponies hearts racing. Then we did some trotting in the woods and wow.. it burned!!! I managed to keep up with Kelli and at one point she looked back to check on me and asked if I needed a break. I told her that I couldn't feel my legs anymore so might as well keep going. ;) I'm sure it wasn't that much trotting but it seemed like a fair amount! And I posted most of it too. Fleck was being his usual "trantering" self instead of lengthing his stride at first but I finally got him to settle into it and lengthen. Yay! Then we did a little canter too up the hill which was fun. Then we ended up in the big field and Kelli wanted to do a little jumping since she was going to Jumping Branch this weekend. 

I jumped Fleck over a little hanging log and then the ditch to the hanging log. Just because! Then we watched Kelli play a bit and I decided to do the drop into the water and jump the log out. We did it twice. Fleck still put in his patented extra stride before going into the water but it was appropriate. It wasn't as bad as his usual pitter patter. And considering I had no stirrups I decided that was quite okay! I wasn't about to ask him to be bold. Hee hee... So then I did some flat work and worked on what Hokan was having us work on. 

All in the sunshine!!!! It was a great day. And now I still get to ride tomorrow in the covered ring!!! Yay!!!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I told you so!

If it doesn't go like planned... do what your trainer told you to do!!! ha ha.... Yep.. that would be todays theme!

Christina had to go do some chiropractic work at Wishing Tree so Fleck and I hitched a ride. :) Christina jumped first and did awesome!!! Beth decided that the exercise she had Christina do would be an excellent one for helping me with our left drift, so... we did the same thing. She set up two jumps... an oxer and a vertical in the middle of the ring but parallel to the long side rather than perpendicular. In other words... it was a short approach off the rail. They were set about 30 meters apart from each other. We started off by jumping and working on STRAIGHT!! No left drift. I was trying to remember to ride the landing, but it's hard for me. I get so focused on the take off and just.. don't ride the landing! But I worked on it and made progress. I had to get the right canter first... My "startbox" canter! And that totally works for me. Powerful, bouncy, tigger, and go! Then I had to ride my turn. I was doing a good square turn and getting his shoulders around to the vertical, but almost overshooting it. This tends to be a trend for me. Sigh... But to the oxer I was coming off the rail too soon and making it an arc. Beth said that was cheating! ;) So she told me to counter bend him a bit on the rail and then make my turn. I was over counter bending him and not giving him a chance to see the fence well enough. So when I did that, it helped. But then I was still getting a left drift, so I had to fix that. Once we got that nailed down, she upped the fences and we managed to screw it all up. I kept getting there at the half stride. I was not getting the right canter and then letting him lengthen a bit and go past his distance. So I fixed that and then he was rocking and rolling. Oh, and.. the left drift turned into a right drift. Argh... He's like a ping pong. I closed the left door, so he bounced right. Beth said to focus on keeping him straight/upright! All four legs under the table. If he pings to the right because I'm closing the left door.. it's my responsibility to also close the right door. So we did manage to get upright. Hmm... sounds a lot like my dressage lessons too! Ha! But you know what?! I'm actually figuring out how to get a straight upright horse!

I thought we were done and asked how to work on this at home. Because I really think that's my problem with combinations... I don't hold a line. I'm "willy nilly" and don't HOLD THAT LINE! We drift, we weave, and we end up NOT on my original plan of attack. So..Beth said to set up stuff like this at home. And then I asked about skinny's like barrels. And she said "You read my mind" and pulled out the barrels. Drats. ;) She at least put up wings for me. And sure enough... we jumped it all crooked and to the left. I counter bent him but he popped that shoulder out anyways. And he lengthened as we got closer to it and I let him. So... I rode him like Nike. Start box canter... bouncy, powerful, and NOT lengthening. And he jumped it awesome!!

So then we did the barrel to the oxer to the barrel. And she set the oxer up to about 3'11" with a 6 foot spread. She told me to ride it exactly like the barrel and she promised he would jump it awesome. AND.... I pictured a barrel under it and.. sure enough, he pretty much did. I screwed it up the second time, but I managed to fix it and he rocked it a few more times. We even got some serious hang time. He's awesome....

Then we were done and I picked up the reins to walk out of the ring and he broke into a trot! Let's go! That boy feels GOOD!!!!! And oh that makes my heart and soul so happy! 

He and Sham got to hang out while Christina finished up and then we headed home. Man I love my pony!!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Buck Davidson Clinic

Today, despite the fact that it was 22 degrees when I pulled into the parking lot at Chattahoochee Hills, we went and rode in the Buck Davidson clinic! It was bitter bitter cold, but a blast. We got warmed up (and by warmed up I mean we walked and trotted and cantered... not warmed up physically!) and then met with Buck. He said that he wanted us to go out and canter and gallop. He wanted us to do 6 strides of gallop, 6 strides of collecting, back to 6 strides of gallop. And he wanted our horses to be anticipating almost. HA!! It was basically chaos. At least for me... Fleck pretty much bolted and ran off with me. He felt GOOD!! And I'm pretty sure a few others were having the same issue. I was sorta able to get Fleck back but once I tried to let him out again, he'd bolt again. Goober. Oh well. It was fun. So then it was time to jump. 

We started over the log and started with a low fence. We did all three canters to it. Gallop, show jump canter, and coffin canter. Then we did all three logs with each one at a different canter. Then we moved on and did some technical stuff. Buck had us jump a skinny and a roll top after a little tiny mini course. He noted (as did I) that Fleck's left drift was pretty drastic. More so when I collected him, which makes sense... you let him go forward and he goes straighter. So I had to really focus on correcting that. Buck said to think more of landing right and jumping a little left to right to help correct it. So then he had us do a combo. Buck was great because he does not like the single jump schoolings, so it was a lot of mini courses! Which helped with the flow. It also meant Fleck got to gallop a lot! And he LOVED it. But anyways, back to the combo. It was a few other jumps and then a roll top, four strides to a skinny. Only he wanted us to jump the roll top and then halt just before the skinny. HA! Surprisingly, most of it were able to do it, though it took two tries to really get it like he wanted. The trick was to ride the first jump like you knew you had to halt (ie more show jump/coffin cantering than gallop). He said "I promise I'm not teaching them to stop!"... He said that it helped with the balance and the commitment. It was essentially an aggressive half halt. So then we went through and jumped the line without the halt. And it was smooth and easy to ride the line. :) 

Then we moved on to the water jump. HA! It was frozen! The horses walked in and were having to crunch the ice. It was funny. They were all snorty and bug eyed at the skittering ice pieces and it took a lot of goading to get Fleck in. But we broke it all up and then only did the novice line because of it. So he had us do another little course and this time we went back to the roll top to skinny and then around to another roll top, around the mound, and over the corner. (Along with some other fences). The first time I didn't ride my line great and so I had to speed him up to the corner and I threw myself at him a little. Buck said it was because I didn't swing out enough so to try again. This time I picked. Argh. So we tried it again and I rode my landing and then it was much smoother. I was able to balance with my shoulders and we got our distance. That was Bucks point throughout the day. FOCUS on the LANDING!!! As his pilot trainer said "Take off is optional, landing is not". Meaning.. anyone can take off, but the landing is the important part. And if we focus on making the landing good, the take off will be. He also said that the canter and balance are the most important thing. If you have the right canter, you can pick your spot. 

So basically... the thing that really helped me was the "ride your landing" part. I really think that my problem with the technical stuff and the combinations on bendy lines, etc... is because of the left drift and me not riding the lines. I think I ride the first jump... then the second jump... Rather than riding the landing to the first jump and the line to the second landing. In other words.. I'm chopping it up to much. For whatever reason, the ride your landing helps me ride the whole combo at once, rather than in pieces. We didn't try any super technical stuff so I'm excited to try out my new "theory" and see how helpful it is. I also need to REALLY work on that left drift. And my leg. Every time I would close my left leg to prevent the drift, my heel would come up and I'd pinch with my knee. Argh. Although I was quite surprised that the rest of the time my leg did okay.

It was fun!!! Freezing!! Most of the ride my lips were so cold they were numb and I could hardly talk. But I had a great time and it was good catching up with some old friends. And Fleck obviously had a blast! He took every opportunity to gallop and even as we were done (2 hours later) he wanted to canter/gallop back to the barn. Dingbat!! hee hee. So I poulticed him and we went home. The next day he looked great! YAY!!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hokan Clinic

Today was the GDCTA Kudzu Clinic with Hokan Thorne. I signed up because who wouldn't not want a $20 dressage lesson! Plus I had been wanting to ride with him anyways. I've liked the horses I've seen him work with and their way of going. So yay! Of course it was cold and windy today. Really windy!! We got ready and went to warm up. The sprinklers were going and the wind was whipping and Fleck was... up! But of course he settled in pretty nicely and went to work once I went to work. 

Basically Hokan had us working on ROUND and Through! He said that he was braced underneath and he needed to be round always until it was easier for him. He had me ride him deeper and lower and longer until his back engaged and he started to supple at the poll. Flexion is through the pole, bend is through the ribcage and body. He said that I should never pull back on the reins, but instead lead. Like a dance partner. I could use an opening rein to guide him into flexion. And to be careful that he didn't cheat by turning his whole neck.. we just needed him to flex at the poll. And I had to keep my hands on the reins. In a fist... not open like I was playing the piano. Fleck needed to feel a connection to be able to be ridden into the connection. So first... connection with my hands, then flexion at the poll, then round and supple over his back, and last forward with the hind limbs. Not running, but forward and using the hiney. 

It was good stuff... Nothing ground breaking and we pretty much went back to the basics, but Fleck felt pretty good and was snorting at the end. It was basically lots of long and low but when I lifted up with my hands and down with my elbows and opened the rein, he would actually flex at the poll. And at the end, his back came up and he got swingy. I did feel like my reins were a bit long and we were going back to the training level frame. It wasn't a true long and low, but close to it in feel. (At least from my view point). But Hokan pointed out that he couldn't come up until he was round and through. 

I also got a great walk! I'm not sure if it was the solid connection or the fact that I rode with my whip and tickled him on occasion, but it was probably our best walk yet! I however, need to learn to sit up and ride like a dressage rider and not perch. I'm good at the canter but still get perchy and rushy when we trot. 

So... a good day! I enjoyed it and wouldn't mind riding with him again. Fleck was a good boy. Now... on to Buck tomorrow morning!!! Where it will be even colder!! But hopefully less windy. :)  

Giving up for Lent!

So.... someone on facebook had posted that they were giving up stirrups for Lent!!! I had already decided to give up soda, but figured... I could give up stirrups too!! Of course, with some caveats. I would keep them for lessons and clinics and shows. I would also use them if I was jumping big stuff or going gallops (maybe!). So.. the first day of Lent was cold and miserable.. but after deciding to ride without stirrups I had the motivation to get out there. So I did. As Fleck was tied to the trailer getting groomed and tacked up... I started to rethink my plan. It was cold... windy... and brisk out! It was a spooky day. And Fleck was spooky!! He was taller than usual, dancing and snorting. Hmmm.... But let's do this! So off the stirrups came and out we went. The rings were still super wet so I rode in the jump ring. Once we got up there and went to work, he settled down quite nicely. He's such a good boy! I did better than I expected without stirrups, though there was definitely more canter work than trot work. We got some nice canter to walks and did more of the canter, walk, counter canter, on the circle. Then I jumped two little jumps for fun. Hee hee... Then we went for a short trail ride. So success!!!
And shockingly, I wasn't even really that sore the next day. Not like I was expecting. And.. my leg position was so much better... My toes weren't pointed out.. So that must mean something!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

GREAT dressage day!

Of course since I had my lesson in the indoor today... it was NOT raining and the sun was trying to come out. Hee hee... But once we got home it started raining again. But that's okay. It was a most excellent day! I finally got back on Tuesdays with Peri and we enjoyed our chick-fil-a and Mexican routine. It was good to chat with her again and to see her ride. Her and Sunny looked GREAT!!! 

And Fleck brought his A game today. We started off with some walk work and Cindy pointed out that he needed to be marching and on the bit and through. I needed to think about his back oscillating! And his neck swinging evenly, not sideways because of me see-sawing. That oscillating back is what is going to keep him sound for longer. I needed to use more seat and leg and less hand. But it's hard... because Fleck is lazy at the walk and gets behind my leg and when I use my leg I feel like I"m nagging and doing too much. But he got better and Peri suggested using a whip to tickle his hind legs to get him marching. 

Then we moved onto the trot. Again, BIG swingy trot from the get go. My start box trot... so to speak. :) Cindy wanted me to think about sitting and feeling the motion just a split second longer on the down part of my sit. Peri recommended thinking of jumping on a trampoline. How you want to bounce up at the right time. Rather than pushing down on Fleck's back at the wrong time. And we had two REALLY good ten meter circles. And you know why?! Because I turned my shoulders. And maintained the outside shoulder. It was great. And he was really really really getting straight in his shoulders!!! FINALLY I'm getting a straight horse! And because he's straight, I'm able to get him in both reins. And keep him in both reins! YAY!!!! It's awesome!! Then Stephanie put a fence in the ring and while she was moving it out there we worked on leg yields... Fleck was excited about the jump so I leg yielded him over the pole and he was so happy. Then once it was up to a real jump.. his back came up and he got excited. It was great!

So then onto the canter. We worked on the canter loop. And wowza!!!! Fleck's canter was awesome!!! He was rocked back "onto his spots" and slow! For us at least. ;) I was able to ride the rhythm with my seat and thighs and keep him balanced, slow, and upright through the counter canter parts and then able to keep him from rushing back on true canter. BUT... I had to keep my seat moving. A few times I relaxed and didn't "ride" as much so he broke to the trot. I really have to keep my seat cantering. He's getting so responsive to it. Then we did a spiral in and that was so hard for Fleck, so I REALLY had to keep my seat cantering. And I went back to feeling like my seat was cantering up and down (like a trampoline!) and Fleck sat and cantered the spiral in. I felt like I was doing too much but Peri said it didn't look like it and it obviously required that much to keep Fleck cantering. Then Cindy had us do a canter on the circle, then walk, then counter canter on the circle, then walk, then canter, then walk. It was hard, but we managed it. 

So yep.. super fun ride. Fleck really really felt good!!! Oh, and after the serpentine work, we had an awesome trot! He's finally getting straight and correct and I'm riding better and thinking and.. it's awesome!!!

Rainy Day..... We're eventer tough!

So... it's been raining... and raining.... and raining.... And every time it looked like it was stopping.... before I could finish what I was doing... it would start again. Sigh... Finally I found a break in the rain on the radar map and figured I"d take my chance. I loaded up and pulled out of the driveway......and it started sprinkling. Oh well.... I'm already loaded up.. might as well carry on. So we trucked over to Ashland and it was raining harder when we got there. Not a downpour but a steady rain. Oh well. I tacked up quick and went into the ring. It was excellent footing so we did a short school. Fleck gave me some lovely leg yields and we worked on the canter and maintaining round. He was good. So then we went for a short hack in the woods. It wasn't any dryer in the woods. Doh! Oh well. We had fun!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Frustrating day, but all ended well

So... today was... interesting. ;) I had told a friend I would take her riding so I went to borrow a friends new horse. I was going to let Crystal ride Fleck and I would ride the other horse. Well... the other horse would NOT load... well, not true. She loaded right up, but when I went to put the butt bar up... she came flying out the back end. I knew she had loading issues, but wasn't expecting it to be quite so difficult. It really probably would have been fine had it been a two person job. Oh well. After trying for 40 minutes, getting significant rope burns on both hands, having the pin on my butt bar get broken off and having my side door lining busted up... I gave up. I got her in the trailer twice and turned her out. So.... Crystal rode Fleck while I walked alongside. Then poor Crystal... I told her she could trot and/or canter if she wanted. She got about 8 strides into the trot and Fleck spooked sideways and she came off. Oops!! Luckily she wasn't hurt and we got her back on and finished the ride. 

After that I wanted to ride and Christina and I had made plans so I got on and took him out in the XC field. Crystal wanted to see us jump so we hopped over a few of the big tables and roll tops. It's fun showing off :) Hee hee... Then she had to leave so Christina and I played some more. I jumped a few jumps and Fleck was being....careful. He was jumping well and not patting the ground or hesitating, but... not super exuberant about it. The ground was awfully slick though and I didn't have studs in. Then I decided to try the "alley oop" thing and he did that well. Someone from a prior clinic had put the big prelim coop in front of the log into the water. It was a one stride. Not huge in size, but definitely a prelim question. So we attempted it. Ha!!! It took a few tries. I am honestly not really sure why, other than those are the types of jumps that Fleck does not like. But we got it. The second to last time he jumped it, but not gorgeous so I gave it one last go. And WOWEE!!! Fleck put on his big boy pants (after the 8th attempt, so one could argue that he it counted at this point) and jumped big and bold. He jumped the coop in great and then I could feel him thinking but he said "nope... I got this" and did the one stride and jumped boldly into the water! And JUMPED into the water... not deer hopped and landed on all four feet. He jumped in and cantered off. It was awesome!!! I'm so proud of him. And of me... for not giving up and giving him good rides and getting us through it. 

I don't think it's his knees bothering him. I think it's just... this is REALLY hard for him and those types of questions scare him a bit. It's hard for him to be big and bold when there's more than one thing at a time. And I'm sure it's because I"m not riding him big and bold. So.... you know what... that's perfectly okay. I know that I'll either have to keep picking the easy prelims and/or run P/T's or we'll have to figure out how to get our bravery button back. We're going to Chatt Hills next weekend for a clinic with Buck Davidson who is supposedly really good about instilling confidence. So.. yay! Hope it works. :) And I'm sure some of it will just be more and more time and experience. 

Our current plan is the Buck clinic next weekend, then mid March Pine Top at P/T. Yay!!! That's going to be so fun. They're stadium courses are some of the toughest prelim courses I've ever jumped and I'm not quite ready to tackle Prelim XC there... and their training courses are usually quite fun and challenging, so I"m excited. Then in April we'll do prelim at Fence. Assuming all goes as planned. Yay!

So yep... frustrating morning turned into quite a good day. After we played around jumping we had a nice long trail ride and Sham and Fleck enjoyed each others company. We stopped to chat and Fleck was licking and slurping all over Shams neck and then Sham was nibbling on him. Hee hee.. Such cute boys.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Argh.... After the horse show and my one dressage ride.... I developed the flu and was out for a week.... then had to work too, so it was 10 days before I got to ride again! Egads! Luckily that day dawned sunny and warm and beautiful!! Fleck and I had a most excellent trail ride.

Today.... did NOT dawn sunny and warm and beautiful! It dawned dark, dreary, windy, rainy and cold. Ugh... Luckily it was dressage lesson day in the indoor! Todays theme was "Be tough... this ain't training level anymore"! hee hee...In other words... he's no longer trucking around in a long and low frame. We are COLLECTING!! Mostly on that outside. So I cannot let go or drop him in the outside rein. Don't give up... He CAN do it... and looks quite lovely too when he does. I really need to remember to own my elbows and keep them down (thus my hands up) and my thumbs up. Especially through the transitions. Cindy had me do many walk trot walk trot walk trot, then again in SI. Instantaneous!! And ON the bit! It was harder than I thought it would be. Same with the canter to walk to canter to walk. That was almost easier. Then once we got that... we changed it to a three loop canter serpentine and half halt but don't walk. Ha!!Fleck kept walking... so I had to keep my hips and seat cantering but still get the half halt and wow!! Did it work! Fleck really rocked back and had a lovely counter canter. Sweet!!!

So yep... don't give it up!! Collect that outside of his body so he can't lengthen it and then he can't put himself together.

Fun, fun!!