Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wild man!

On Sunday I just took Fleck for a short walk hack because I was tired and didn't feel great and Kelli was getting sick. But we had a good ride. Then I had to work Sun, Mon and Tues so I didn't get to ride until today. I had a migraine last night that lasted into today. I tried everything... napping, pills, cold compresses, peppermint oil, etc. So I finally just gave in and went for a ride. I was up for a change of scenery and since I felt cruddy, I figured I'd just walk. So we headed to the horse park. 
I was planning on riding him bareback but the park was crowded with runners and they are apparently scary!! Fleck was dancing on the end of the lead rope tied to the trailer. He was dancing so much I almost couldn't get the bareback pad on him. So I decided maybe I'd be better off with a saddle. :) I got on and we were off!!! It was full bore power trot! It almost felt like I was riding a gaited horse he was trotting so fast. And it was inverted and icky too. :( But I couldn't get him to settle until at least 10 minutes went by. And we had to do some cantering first too. ;)

We then managed to have a decent ride and hit some tough trails. And by the time we got back, he was a bit more settled. But I am glad I had the saddle. ;)

Goofball again!! Though I do worry about him. Today he felt very weak behind... in the sense that he wasn't pushing. Of course when I got off, his saddle had slid back a good bit. So... who knows? I'll see how he feels tomorrow. Fingers crossed it was just his anxiety and the saddle slipped. 

Did my ponies swap "clothes"?

Saturday morning was a little rough so I opted for a little nap first. I finally got myself up and headed over to Ashland to ride. I wanted to do some dressage on both guys and practice working on myself to make the ponies go properly. 

I got on Fleck first and for whatever reason decided to go up to the jump ring. So we got to work. Fleck was good but every once in a while, he'd throw in a little scoot and bolt. We were making progress and getting nice and straight and all four legs underneath him. We even did a little bit of going over the poles on the ground and then progressed to going over one of the jumps that was set cavaletti height. 

Fleck was a goober! He was cracking me up. He kept jumping the little jump and then aiming for another jump. And then when we weren't even jumping, he'd leg yield into the rein and then try to keep leg yielding onto a jump line. hee hee.

At one point, we were leg yielding into the left rein near the rail and two squirrels ran up from behind him along the railing. He bolted right and I almost fell off!! Literally! My butt came out of the saddle and behind it to the left. The only reason I stayed on was because I had the rein and hung onto his face. Doh! Silly horse!! How old are you?!

But it was a fun ride. We went for a quick hack afterwards. So, despite the antics, we accomplished some good work too. :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oh it's ON!!

Fleck had Monday off because of the near 20 miles we did in the last two days. ;) Plus I was at Dr. Browns all day. And then Tuesday we went riding with Kelli. I did a little dressage with Fleck, of which he was super! We are really getting that proper neck bulge in the right lead canter! Yay! Then we went for a nice trail ride.

Wednesday we had a lesson with Julie Zapapas. I always forget how much I like riding with her. I don't know why I forget. I always get so inspired when I ride with her. And it's so simple, it's just not easy. ;) But it always helps me so much. I was debating whether to do a flat lesson or a jump lesson with her. I know I need help with both and it's been awhile since I was able to do any lessons with anyone because of timing. I pulled into Karens and was thinking I would flat. And then it dawned on me that it wasn't at Karens place! Doh. Luckily, it was at a farm just down the road. I still made it in time. And that farm is gorgeous!! She had a beautiful dressage ring but also a big jump field with lots of fun looking jumps. Oh... we have to jump Flecky! He agreed!
We warmed up in the ring a bit and Fleck was being a goof. Julie laughed and worked around it. He was very freaked out about a gray horse in the pasture. So every time we came around that side of the circle he would invert and hollow. Goof! Julie was like "I didn't know you were riding a 4 year old". hee hee. But he was good.
Basically Julie had me work on myself. I get so crooked and twisted! It's amazing how once I straighten myself out, Fleck can straighten out. And really, I'm over doing things and asking him to be crooked and throw out his shoulder. So I was focusing on sitting tall and even, with both seat bones in the saddle. My hands needed to be even and like bicycle handlebars. For some reason I want to drop my left hand and lift my right. Nope.. even!! Even hands! Also, when tracking to the left, I need to bring my left seatbone forward and my right shoulder forward some. And this confused me just a bit... I was thinking that I needed to get my butt how I wanted his butt and my shoulders how I wanted his shoulders... Which wouldn't that mean that my left/inside shoulder and hip should be slightly back? But... I'm wondering if by thinking that I was lifting my left heel and pinching in the knee and collapsing on the left and twisting all up. Which is apparently what I was doing, and thus causing Fleck to collapse, fall in, and be all sorts of wrong. So by bringing my left/inside shoulder forward and up... that straightened me up. So... I need to verify with Julie if that's just a correction for me thing, or if I really do need to be slightly ahead once I get back to more normal. Regardless, it made such a difference!!! However, I also need to remember that going left, Fleck likes to throw his shoulders to the outside (probably because I've been asking him to do that this whole time), so to correct that I ride his withers to the inside with my knee and thigh. Not pinching... but guiding. Ohhhhhh!!!! Man that made a difference. I was trying to hold him with the outside rein which resulting in me just hanging. But by using my outside leg to stop him from flying out, my inside leg pushing him into that outside leg, then I could soften and half halt on the outside rein. And when I sat up and straight and closed both legs and rode with my calves not my hands.... fleck was straight!!! Four legs under the table. And wow!! He could carry himself and relax over his topline. It was marvelous!! When tracking right it was similar but different. I needed an opening inside rein, a half-halting outside rein, and my right shoulder and seat bone slightly forward. I need to allow him some slack in the outside rein so that he can bend and reach and keep pushing him into my outside rein with my inside LEG, not my inside heel. I need to really sink into that right heel and seatbone and almost push my inside leg a little foreward to guide him around it. (It almost feels like how I feel like I ride when I ask for the flying change in the jump ring... almost kick that inside leg forward, but not really).

Sooooo much better! And Fleck was a snorting breathing happy man. :)
Phew.... so then we went into the jump ring.

We started off getting that same trot. She reminded me of the mane visual. Imagine his neck as a dressage arena. His mane should be laying on the right quarterline when tracking right and the left quarterline when tracking left. And I needed to think about leg yielding him into the outside rein, but blocking bulging and leaving to the outside with my outside leg. Ride the rhythm and ride the stride with my calves, not my heels. ooooh!!!! I get it, I get it!
So then we trotted a small vertical on a circle, keeping the bend over the fence while keeping that trot. I needed to stay in sitting two point and not jump way up his neck or throw myself out of the saddle. It was nice. Then we added it at the canter and same thing. Leg yielding him into the lines was really helpful. And it's baby leg yields.. not true leg yields... just pushing him into the connection. We then added in some lines and the jumps went from small verticals to suddenly big prelim sized fences on tight lines! And when I focused on keeping myself in line and even and symmetrical and counting the rhythm and keeping it forward... wow!!! He was able to ping over those fences, even when the take off spot was tight or long. We came into a triple one stride on a slightly crooked approach but because I was yielding him into the line, I knew it would be fine. And it was! He was able to ping out quite nicely. And by focusing on me and keeping my butt closer to him, I was able to stay with him and not throw him off balance.
It was a wonderful lesson!!!! I really am feeling quite ready to tackle prelim again and feeling confident that we can do it!! And I'm excited to take my newfound/refound sense of me into riding Dan. I really need to make sure I'm straight so he can learn straight.

And to add to my confidence... I asked Julie about showing and what I should do next before our lesson. She said that she had two thoughts but couldn't decide which one she thought until after she really saw us go. She said that she thought I looked loose and perched and that Fleck wasn't really rocking back and jumping well. Either it was me not asking or it was him saying he was done and ready to be a novice/training horse. After my ride, she told me that she really thought that I was the impediment to him going prelim. And she "meant that in a good way". She said that the way I rode him today was so much better and that we looked like we could do it. And that she didn't think his hocks were bothering him one bit. :) And I know Beth has been telling me that it's my riding and Fleck is fine, but it felt good to have a new perspective tell me that. :)

So yep.. for whatever reason, Julie always gets me so inspired and feeling good. It's not that she coddles me either, but she just brings out some really good rides for us. So I'm going to make an effort to get to her once a month I think and see what happens. I realize that Fleck may have just been having a really good day that day. But we've probably got limited times of mostly really good days, so I need to work effectively and if we want to get back out and prove we really are a prelim team (Because obviously he can be a prelim horse, I just need to be a prelim rider), I'd like to do it and then back off and let him just have fun. :)

A weekend to celebrate!

In order to celebrate our 10 years together, I wanted to do something exciting. (And yes... admittedly, I wanted to distract myself from the P3D that was happening also that we were missing out on. Though now, it's A-ok we didn't go. We weren't ready. It wasn't fair to Fleck. And looking at pictures... Dang!! Those were some HUGE fences!). So we decided to head up North and go trail riding in the mountains. And by mountains, I mean NC, because.. it's a long enough haul. ;)

Luckily, we were able to go to FENCE and stay there for the weekend. FENCE apparently has trails! So we spent Saturday trail riding there, and then Sunday morning we hauled down the road for a hunter pace. SO MUCH FUN! I was lucky and was able to convince Peri and Tess and Liz and Party to join us in the fun. We had a great time.

Saturday we left and had a nice easy haul to Fence. The ponies got to stay at the Kidd barn so we let them graze and let Fleck pee before we tacked up. We decided to head up to do one little loop and then we crossed the street and went on the trails near the XC course. They have nice trails! All three ponies were good and we had a nice hack. We crossed the street and meandered around the paths behind the XC course. It was fun hearing Liz and Peri talk about the courses from "back in the day". And, because we're wild eventers!, we snuck in a few fences for fun. :) Just a few I promise! I know, we're bad. But it was our 10 year anniversary celebration! :) I was so proud of Peri because she even did some canters and even let Tess open up a bit. We all had a great time. The ponies were quite happy in their stalls and we were able to enjoy a nice dinner at a decent hour. We stayed at the apartment on the XC course which was fun. Until the 3 am drunken brother incident! Good grief.. but all was well. The neighbors drunken brother just banged on our door first and then went next door and argued for awhile. All ended well and we were able to actually go back to sleep after that. Hee hee... Liz is going to have to bring Ranger next time!

 Fleck got to meet Morris! Hee hee
His face cracks me up!!!
 I told him that ONE day we would get to gallop down the steeplechase track at FENCE, but the little rope forbid us today.

Sunday we headed out to the hunter pace. It was at Amy Barringtons barn, Long Shadow Farm. What a gorgeous place!!! It was so much fun too! The horses were cracking us up. They sent us out in groups, so from the "Start box" we were counted down and sent off. We were planning to mostly walk. Fleck and Tess, who both have much experience in the start box were a bit excited wondering what was going on. Fleck didn't do his usual XC countdown dancing, but he was very much on high alert. Party, who hasn't had as much start box experience wasn't quite as concerned. Hee hee. But we got the count down and we  headed out and kept mostly to a walk. Fleck and Tess finally realized it was a glorified trail ride and not a true event. :) The footing was quite deep and mucky in places from all the rain, but our plan was to keep it simple anyways. It was really pretty and we got to see a lot of sights. We even crossed a fairly high bridge over the creek and passed lots of rivers. We did some trotting also and the ponies all behaved. They had some jumps that Fleck and I attempted. But most were small coops in fence lines with minimal approaches or landings and then roads/concrete. And Fleck was upset about leaving the ladies, so it wasn't really worth the effort. We did a few but mostly skipped them. Towards the end of the ride Fleck started to get frustrated with the pace. His walk was too fast and then too slow, so he was tense and jiggy. And I started picking, so we both got frustrated. We crossed back over the bridge and Peri was a little bit ahead. She was crossing the road to go into the other field and on our side of the field was a big huge lot of crop, with a nice wide galloping lane on the edges. I looked at Liz and said "oh man... can we?!". She replied with "Go! She won't even notice!". So we snuck off and I let Fleck gallop. Oh how we both needed that! He shot off like a rocket and was flying down the lane. We galloped all the way to the end and then when I turned him around, he wanted to go again. So we did!! We clocked ourselves at 25 mph. Which isn't that fast, but it is for us. Wheeeee!!! After that we were able to politely trot back to Liz and Peri. Yay!! We both needed that and then we were able to walk politely from then on out. Peri wanted to try a canter, so she went up ahead. Once she got up a ways, Liz and I did a little bit of trotting and cantering side by side. And Fleck was good. He didn't try to win. He was a gentleman and we enjoyed a lovely side by side hack. Then we caught up with Peri and they all walked flat footed back to the barn. Oh, we did trot in together to the finish line. :)  Then after the horses were settled and cooled out we got lunch. Yep, they feed you at hunter paces.





It was sad to head home as it was so pretty there. I really may have to move to that area one of these days. It was a great way to celebrate our 10 year anniversary!!

10 years: A review of the Fabulousness

Brace yourselves.. it's gonna be a long one :) 
I was smiling because I knew he'd be mine one day!! Karen let me ride him because Roany was lame.

 And then he was!! October 17th, 2004. I convinced Karen to let me buy him and convinced Mike to buy him for me (even though I hadn't graduated yet) and there was a stall opening up right next to Roany, so... YAY!

 Our first day together. We rode and then I hauled him to Morning Run.

 A week after buying him, I hauled him back to Karen's for her Trick or Trot horse show. I remember that her friends were like "how could you have sold him for that little?!" and then saw my test and were like "Oh... how'd you get that much for him?!" ha ha. I needed to learn how to ride him. Poor guy.... Poor Karen. But not poor me. I was having a blast regardless! This was also the test that Dad came to watch.. and pulled up and proceeded to yell "Holly... Hi... HI HOLLY"! during my test. And then the car alarm went off. 
 We had a blast hanging with our Morning Run friends. :)

 Karen put on a "meters per minute pacing clinic" and Fleck and I joined in. Hee hee. We joined in the novice group and Karen sent us on a track around the field and told us to aim for novice speed. Well.... we started off and decided we would go for prelim speed... because we could!! Hee hee. The wind was blowing my helmet off my head just about. We both came in smiling...WAY faster than novice speed. Karen told us to go again and try harder. Ha! It didn't work.
 Our first XC school at Pine Top Farm. I remember it being fun! 
 And schooling at Diamond M. 
Then we moved to our own farm... Sweet Spot Farm! 
Ashland's show and then.... Trick or Trot again.

Another Christmas, this time with props!

We did a good bit of showing this year. He was such a good boy. Then we went to Pine Top for a recognized show. Our first!! It did not go so well. :) But we went back shortly after for their schooling show and did fantastic! We even participated in the cattle drive and Fleck was a good boy. He was a little freaked out at first but in a little bit he was even nosing the little calf along. It was so fun!
See... it was fate!! I knew we were meant to be together! 

 Another Trick or Trot.... this poor boy puts up with so much!

 More showing with a fun crew. Big Bear was soooo cold! But we won it!! Although this might have been the show that he cross cantered or counter cantered the entire stadium round. Doh! Such a saint for putting up with me.
 We moved up to first level at schooling shows. And did Big Bear again... this time recognized. And this time we got 2nd.
 We did FENCE too and got a pretty third place ribbon.
 We qualified for Area 3 Championships so we went. And got 5th place!!! Out of like 40 people I think!! And we won a halter and a bag of treats. It was 106 degrees in the shade when we ran XC, but I warmed him up smart and he was happy and game.

 We somehow qualified for the American Eventing Championships at Novice. Even though it was n Illinois, we went! Because who knows if we'd ever qualify again. :) It was quite the experience though and I'm glad we went. We were 49th out of 50 or something when it was all said and done (horrid dressage, clean stadium, and clean but fast XC), but as I told people... Top 50 in the Nation!! ;)

 These stalls were scary! Caitlin (the girl we went with) found one horse with his foot stuck in the bars! Scaryness... so glad Fleck did well with it.

 Speeding tickets but it was worth it!!! So much fun!!!
 And I'm so glad these ladies came to join me. What a fun surprise!!!
 And then this year was Turkey Trot instead of Trick or Trot. :) Making progress though!

 And then we moved up to Training Level. We did our move up at Jumping Branch, and we won!!!