Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Fancy Pants!!!

Okay... so fleck was AMAZING!!!!! today! It was seriously one of our best dressage rides ever! Sandy even said it was the best she's seen me ride. No more lala land today! :)

It was great! I don't even entirely know how I did it! In a way, it was kind of nice that it just sort of happened... because I think I was reacting without having to think. But on the other hand... how do I make sure I recreate it!? :) 

It was that same feeling I had in my jump lesson where the energy was just there! I was able to finesse it. I didn't have to create it, force it, make it happen. It was just there and I was able to enjoy it. Fleck seemed to be having a lot of fun too! 

It was hard, but I was able to just let my legs hang. I had my legs on him, but just barely. So then I could just barely move them and get a reaction. But I was actually able to do that today without clenching my butt or perching! And I got him in both reins and he even yielded his left barrel to my left leg and wasn't leaning. Whoo hooo!!! I was able to sit easily and go with him. And then, when we got a bit too big for our britches... if I just stopped and thought about slowing my breathing and then slowing my post, he slowed. It was soooo cool! 

We had our best canters yet. Both sides! He was almost sitting and lifting his withers, his neck was loose and supple and his head hanging (instead of braced). And he was reaching with his hind legs. I had to really sit back and deep and focus on creating the lift out of the deep sit. And then, he would go there, and then lose it, and then go there, and then lose it. I had to help him maintain it. And lo and behold, I got to where I could catch him before hand and help him!!!!! I'm so proud of both of us. It was a very subtle line, but I was able to get it. A deep sit and lift with my core, an occasional half-halt, every few strides, with that outside rein, but I HAD to give it up too so that he couldn't hang on me and so that he could bend around (especially tracking right). I tend to hold him on that left rein so that he can't bend. And I have to give him a bit more rein so he can go down before he lifts. In other words, his head and neck have to go down and then he can lift his wither. And there was a bit more inside rein that I thought... but almost an opening rein. But again, I had to allow that left side to stretch. Going to the right, I had to be a bit stronger with my left leg and almost think of leg yielding him out, but catching him with my right leg so he didn't bulge. I think I'm so afraid to use my outside leg on him that I let him drift. And I had to almost overbend him to the left. I don't think he's really overbending in the neck, but it feels that way. I just have to make sure it's in his whole body, not just his neck. But that makes his hind end travel better. And I need to open the left rein. It worked much better when I left my elbow at my side but pivoted my hand out. I can't just take my whole arm to the inside, I really need to leave my elbow put. 

And that's the other thing... I really  need to control my darn elbows. When they stay at my side, I can open my shoulders and use my core. And sit better. And Fleck goes better. As Sandy says, Fleck can't know where my hands start and the rein ends... he needs to feel like the rein ends at my elbows. And keep my fingers closed around the reins. 

So yeah... it was fantastic!! We got some nice trot work too. But that canter.... oh it was so much better!!

Oh, and we may have figured out the darn leg yields too. I know, it's such a simple exercise, but somehow I managed to break it. 

Leg yielding right, I need to really keep him supple in that right rein and use my right leg to catch him from going too lateral. He almost needs to be overbent in his flexion. I don't think that's the right way of saying it, but that's how my brain was perceiving it and that's what I was thinking was happening when we got good leg yields. 

Leg yielding left, I need to make sure to get the flexion that way too. And shoot... I don't remember the nuances to get that one... argh! 

But oh well. I can't wait to ride again and see if I can get it on my own! I wish I had pictures and videos to see how good he looked. Of course, I'm sure he just looks like a normal horse and not like a grand prix dressage horse! Which is what it felt like to me!! :) But still.. normal horse is a good start for us! I'm so sick of inverted, braced, mincy dressage photos! I want soft, supple pony! It's time to get greedy!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jump Lesson

Well poo.... Our streak of awesomeness ended. It was a good lesson, but frustrating. I just... couldn't get my head out of the clouds. I was literally floating around in lala land. I couldn't ever get in sync with Fleck. But we did fix it mostly and I got my act together. 
I was focusing on having my legs more forward and it helped! And it worked... I was able to do it. Yay! And I managed to do "the clam" mostly too. Yay. I just need to remember to keep him in front of my leg and to react on landing, not two strides later. And to keep him bouncy! In front of my leg does NOT mean faster. And I was having a hard time with my turns. For some reason I want to stick my left leg forward... like really forward! But I need to close it against his side and use my outside rein to get him more upright through the turns. No more motorcyling.

So yep.. then we went out to the XC field and hung out while Beth jumped Tucker. It got colder and colder as they day went on. So by the end, Fleck was able to sport his new cooler!


Getting our fitness on

Good day!! I took both boys to Ashland again. It was supposed to be a rainy gross day, but holy toledo!!! It was gorgeous!

Fleck and I did some fitness work. We hacked out and did our 20 minutes of walking, then 20 minutes of straight trotting (minus the walk breaks for crossing creeks) and then we did our gallop/canter sets. We did 3 minutes 3 times with 3 minute breaks. And by the time we hit the last minute of break, he was ready to trot again! He felt good! So then we popped over the corner and the two prelim roll tops since they were out. 

I decided to take Fleck back to get Dan and then we'd go to the lake to soak. So we did. Danny had fun playing and Fleck got to soak. Then we headed back in and Fleck got iced. We ended up totaling 9 miles! GO Fleck!!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Jumping Fun... and pains!

Today was a busy day! And a very sore day. Ugh.. between running the other day, then having Roany drag me out of the stall, into the post, and then into the fence... then having Dan's blanket break a blood vessel in my finger, and then adjusting four... I was exhausted. But it was time for a jump lesson!

Beth decided that we would work on me today! Not Fleck... but holly torture! She said it, not me. ;) I was glad though. I really want to fix my duck feet when I jump. So we started off and after one set of jumps I told her that my stirrups were really rubbing on my stirrup rub and I apologized for not doing what she was asking as well. She said "I can fix that" and took my stirrups away! Doh. Well, I did give them up for Lent and I haven't been very good about it. But I'm SOOOO glad she did. That was totally what I needed.

She told me to ride with my legs forward! Almost forward to the point of kicking his shoulder if he tries to bulge with a shoulder. It was tough. The first 6 fences or so I was trying to hard or doing it not quite right because it hurt and was exhausting. Not hurt as in painful, just.. hurt as in I was using different muscles and having to work hard. But then I started gripping differently and not focusing on my heels and toes so much. I worked more on closing my cranial calf at the girth level. And that made it easier for me. :) Then Beth had me do "The clam!" hee hee... It was great. Basically "the clam" is to think about opening my knee angle by pushing my feet forward and then sliding my hip back (rather than lifting my butt so high out of the saddle). And I was able to do it!!! :) YAY! It really helped. And despite not having my stirrups and Fleck ROCKING it around those jumps, I was able to stay with him and balanced and didn't have to use my hands. In fact, my release was better. :) Whoo hooo.

Fleck was having a ball too. He seriously felt awesome and was having a blast! He was taking me to the fences and a few times even lengthened his stride out like a beast! Easy boy, easy! I just need to remember to balance him with the outside rein in the turns AND INSIDE LEG!! And when tracking right, I tend to keep him too much counter balanced and thus he can't get his lead changes. But if I bend him right, he changes his lead easily. :) I also need to remember to close my left leg and prevent that horrible left drift. It was pretty bad today!

Whooo hoooo!!! Fleck is really feeling awesome lately. And I"m getting it :) :) I'm so excited!

Lazy Day

So Fleck had his appointment with Kathryn today. She did an awesome job on him and said "He's gonna do it for yah!"... in regards to the P3D!! :) I think so too! But again, taking it day by day, so... we'll see. He was a bit restricted in his glutes, but overall much improved. Kathryn was pleased. She was hoping to get his hind end more aligned/straight. So he got to sunbathe for a bit afterwards while I went and got wood for the dog fence. By the time I finished it was 6pm, but I hauled him over to Ashland anyways. I was anxious to see how he felt. We went for an hour long hack and the finished in the dressage ring. He was really lazy! Like he was in a trance. Like how I feel after a really good massage. Then Master and Ann walked by on their way back to the trailers and that woke Fleck up! And then we had a really nice ride. I didn't do much, because I just wanted him to have a light ride. But he definitely felt straighter behind. Yay!!!



Today was a productive day! Fleck got a well deserved two days off and I worked. I came home this morning after the overnight and had to run to the grocery store before I could ride. I was a good girl and went for a run first. Man... jogging intervals are nowhere near as fun as gallop intervals! I did manage to do two minutes of jogging, two minutes of walking, two minutes of jogging, two minutes of walking, and a final two minutes of jogging! Go me! ha! Then I got home and grabbed the boys! We met Kelli at Ashland and went for a trail ride. I decided to pony Dan and he was great! Of course he started a bit foolish but really nothing bad. By the end of the ride though, he was mentally and physically settled. I really ought to remember this before backing him again. Take him for a pony ride first!! Fleck was a goober and spent most of the 4 mile walk ride making dragon faces at him. We did manage a teensy bit of trot and even trotted over a log. Yay!
So then I put Dan up and took Fleck out for a quicky dressage spin. I swear... that horse is a fruit loop! He spent the whole time neighing under his breath for Danny. I did manage a somewhat decent ride despite the tension. Oh Flecky... how old are you?! 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Pine Top Farm Weekend.... the ups and downs

Talk about a roller coaster ride. Good grief!! I'm not sure how my trainer and friends put up with me. 

Basically, I never had time to grieve for Willow because it was Wednesday morning when I put her down. Then I rode and went to work. And work was busy both Wednesday and Thursday. So then Friday morning when I got off, I was exhausted. Emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted! And in a foul mood too. I was so tired and just wanted a nap but still had a lot of packing to do before leaving for Pine Top. I ended up trying to clip Fleck while I was waiting on Roany to finish eating. He was good and was stnading there quietly, not even haltered. Danny was being a pest - putting his head on my head, chewing on my hat, and basically just being a "nosy neighbor". And it was fine, except my clipper blades were so dull they weren't clipping. And then the cord wouldn't reach Fleck's hind legs. And I just had enough. I was so frustrated I was about to strangle something or just sit down and cry my eyes out. Luckily, Fleck knew. And that horse just stood patiently like a rock. He basically told me "it's okay Momma.... it's gonna be okay. I'm just going to stand her patiently while you get this figured out and get me clipped... and it's gonna be fine!". So I did. I finished clipping him without losing my cool and went in and cried myself to sleep. After a short nap, I felt better. I finished packing and even helped Mike set up the cable box downstairs. Then it was finally time to leave and I walked out to get Fleck. Josh had set up a leaf pile to burn and I happened to park the trailer right next to it. So... there was a ton of smoke drifting right at the trailer! Poor Fleck... he snorted and was like.. yeah, no thanks! But with just a little bit of encouragement, he followed me in the trailer and stayed put while I got the butt bar up. Oh how I love that he trusts me to do that! We don't let each other down. We just trust each other to make sure everything is going to be okay. 

So we got on our way and made it to Pine Top. We had stalls watching the dressage arenas which was nice. Fleck managed to open his door in the 10 seconds it took me to walk back to the trailer to get his water buckets. Ha! But I managed to tie him in and he stayed put all weekend. We got on and had a great dressage school with Beth. She said she could see a difference in him and our work since we've been riding with Sandy. Yay! She also said he looked fitter. Yay!! (I was afraid he was bordering on a bit too thin but figured it was not quite too thin yet). We basically worked on getting him round and supple. Beth said not to worry about blocking him with my inside hand. She said it was more important to focus on my legs and driving him into the rein. She said that he likes a lot of connection so I was to have an equal connection with both reins. I need to not drop him, even on the inside rein. Keep that connection and ride him like in my stadium ride last week. Supple him with little finger tweaks, not big moves. I need to keep my elbows bent and at my sides. And I really need to close my leg more, especially as I'm half halting. So we had a great ride. He felt really really good. At this point I started to get a headache. So we got them situated and walked stadium. The stadium course looked SUPER fun!! Like a really fun course. So then we went to Mexican for dinner and at this point I was feeling really awful. I broke down and got a Dr. Pepper to drink thinking that the caffeine might help. I had given it up for Lent and really hated to do it, but I was miserable. I prayed that God would forgive me and drank up. It really did help.. for a little bit. Then I just felt miserable again. So we went back to the barn and took care of the ponies (braided and tucked in) and then went to the hotel. I managed a quick shower and went to bed. Unfortunately as Hannah was finishing up in the bathroom...I started to get queasy. I ended up kicking her out and puking my cheese dip and bean burrito up. Ugh.. it was nasty!! And I still felt miserable. I sucked down some ZZZquil and passed out. I think I actually got more sleep that night than I had in 3 weeks! I woke up feeling much better but just .... done. Really, just with no energy, no positivity, no nothing... I was awake, I wasn't ill, but that was about it. 

I got Fleck fed and cleaned and tacked up. I started feeling more like myself and we had a pretty good warm up ride! I need to have more flexion in my leg yields, and especially yielding left I need to keep my left leg back a bit to keep his haunches from flinging out. And in our lengthens I need to really keep that connection and push. In all the movements, I really need to think about suppling the jaw. But it was a good warm up. So then I headed in to the ring and waited for the bell. Once it rang, I trotted in and posted down centerline and turned left. "Tinkle, tinkle... all trot work must be performed sitting unless otherwise stated"... Doh!!! I don't know what I was thinking... except that I wasn't I guess. I don't know if I was just thinking that it was changed and it could be posting... or if I was just thinking he was going to go better if I trotted.... I don't know. I apologized and she told me to just carry on from there. Ugh... So now I'm in the corner, about to turn down the rail and do a 10 meter circle. Ugh.. No time to prep. So of course, the whole test kind of sucked. I never really got him on the aids. And maybe it wouldn't have mattered. Maybe he wasn't on the aids coming down centerline either, but... I felt like it messed me up. Of course I kept trying to get back and quit worrying about it. So who knows?! But it wasn't our best test at all. 

After I finished I tried not to despair. I only had about an hour before stadium so I untacked and gave him a little breather. Then I had a talk with myself. I was starting to wallow again and I decided that I had two options. I could be a poophead and continue on with my "woe is me, this weekend isn't meant to be" thoughts... or I could change my attitude and go out and kick that show jumping course's butt!! I decided on plan B and told Fleck that we were gonna go have some fun! I even managed to eat a few almonds and have a little bit to drink. I got tacked up and we hit the warm up ring. And holy smokes!!! Fleck heard me!!! He turned into a fire breathing dragon! We were "that girl and that horse" in the warm up ring for a bit. He was bolting and bucking and bouncing! I almost ran some lady over... Wild man! But it made me giggle. It was just what I needed. He felt great. So we got some good warm up jumping in and we were ready! We charged in and owned that course!! It was awesome. I rode well and he jumped better! We only had two little issues. I got in a little odd to the one stride on the slightly downhill approach. I'm not sure exactly what went wrong but Fleck jumped the stink out of it! He popped me out of the tack and I was a little afraid I was not going to still be on him over the second jump. But I was! We landed and carried on and he flew over the triple bar. I didn't settle him quite enough to the uphill vertical, so he knocked that one but not enough and it stayed in the cups. Yay! So clean round!!! I was so proud. As was he! We even had three different people (one being Lynn Coates-Holmes, who doesn't hand out compliments very often apparently) tell us how great of a round it was. :) :) So proud of the super pony. So then I saw that I was in third place. Out of five. ;) But we may have been first had I not posted because we had a 40 and the first place girl only had a 38.2. I enjoyed the rest of the day and took Fleck out for a few grazes. We went for dinner and came back and wrapped and went on another walk. The moon was out and it was gorgeous!

Another good night of sleep and we woke up to rain. Rain, rain, and more rain. Ugh... it was gross. I was tempted to scratch just because it was so nasty and I was a little afraid of the what ifs. What if Fleck stumbled and hurt himself? What if....?? But I was being silly. The footing held up fantastic and I was one of the first few riders on the training track. The last prelim rider said the footing was holding up and to just be careful on the turns. So no excuses. Honestly, the worst part was getting tacked up and on. The anticipation of the cold and wet. It really wasn't so bad once you were on. I did have to laugh at Fleck though. I got on under the barn roof and tried to get him to walk out. He didn't like the rain drops coming off the roof and was trying to avoid it by going sideways down the barn aisle. Hee hee. But once we were out in it, he was all heart. We warmed up and he felt great!! I got that good canter, got his jaw supple, and he was jumping awesomely. Finally it was our turn and we were off! He shot out like a rocket and rocked to the first jump. And then it was just peachy! He was galloping!!!! Like, there was no slowing him down, galloping! We jumped everything out of stride and beautifully. He jumped up the first bank and landed in the trot, but quickly picked up the canter to canter down the hill and over the jump. Then we galloped through the woods and as we came out, I totally got bitchslapped right in the face by  a tree branch! Full face! Hee hee... I was cracking up and we jumped the giant honkin' table like it was nothing. He sailed over the tractors, the trakenher, and the corner like they were nothing. We also sailed over the angled coops easy peasy. Then it was on the the fun roller coaster up bank combo. He jumped right up, sailed over the log in one single stride like it walked, and it was smooth sailing over the C roll top and then over the next fence. We flew over the skinnies and then headed to the final water. They were using a dump truck to dump gravel in front and Fleck saw it and spooked!! No... forward pony... to the jump! He was going and he was game but he was concentrating on the dump truck to the right of the jump. I had to tell him to concentrate on the jump itself, but he was fine. And then we big boy jumped into the water, sailed out and over the crocodile, and through the final picture frame jump and the finish flags!! I had no idea on time because I hit the wrong button and my watch didn't start, but we went double clear! Whooo hooo!!!! SO MUCH FUN!!! He was so game and happy. As we finished the bank complex (the tough one) I was giggling and telling him "F this crap...we're ready for prelim... we don't need no stinkin' training level anymore". hee hee.. Love this guy!

By the time we got back to the barn, he was breathing normally and ready to eat. I got him all squared away and pampered and then watched friends. Then I checked scores and found out... we moved up to first!!! Whooo hooo!!! Go Flecky boy! It was a great weekend after all and I'm glad I didn't let myself talk myself into a sorrow. Fleck always knows how to cheer me up.   

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fleck...always there for me

Today I said good-bye to Willow. The plan was to manage her pain and nausea, but it didn't work. She woke up ready to go this morning. She wasn't ready yesterday but today she was. I am lucky. Yesterday on our trail ride I prayed. I prayed that God would help me give her a peaceful ending and that I would know when she was ready. I prayed that she wouldn't crash and burn and go without me holding her and that when she went, it would be peaceful. And this morning, I knew. She was ready to go. I was able to love on her for awhile and then helped her pass peacefully, in my arms. It is awful and I'm going to miss that sweet smiling face forever. 

I took Fleck out to help soothe my soul. The weather was odd. It had rained pretty hard the night before so the dressage arena's were pretty wet. I didn't have much time, so we ended up doing a quick dressage ride in the upper arena and then a super quick cool down at the edge of the XC field to cool off. The sun was out and it was hot, but the wind was brutal and there were serious storm clouds brewing. We had a good ride. I worked on what Sandy had showed us in our lesson. And I rode most of the ride with a driving rein on the left. I thought it might help retrain my body not to grab and hold that left rein. I think it helped! Fleck was really nice. And our leg yields were pretty decent. IF I made sure to keep him supple and round before we started. When he wasn't really "on the bit", our leg yields were sloppy and rushed. But if I made sure he was truly deep and round, they were lovely! So ... must remember that for this weekend. 

We finished and the clouds were cool so I was trying to get a "Mighty Warrior" type photo. Fleck was clearly not in the mood and was going for "Super goober". But he made me giggle despite the morning, so...  I love him!