Friday, October 30, 2015

Helicopter Mom

Today was a good day!

A LONG day and I'm exhausted but a good day. I adjusted one horse across the street and then came home and grabbed the boys. We headed up to Wishing Tree to adjust Mighty and Atlas and get some lessons. 

I rode Fleck first. I tacked up and we went down the driveway for a quick hack with Beth and Mighty. Then we headed to the jump ring. While we were hacking Beth and I chatted and I basically told her what my current thoughts were regarding Fleck. She pretty much said that she agreed but wanted to add two things. She felt like I needed a coach at shows. And I agree. At least at prelim. She also said that it was more of a mental thing on my part. Whether it was performance anxiety or the fact that I'm so afraid that Fleck is doing to die (my words, not hers) that I am only riding at 70% instead of 100%, or something else, I'm just not riding well at prelim events. We laughed and said that I've become a helicopter Mom... I won't let Fleck go trick or treating without a supervisor or GPSing his backpack. ;) "But MOOOOOOMMMMM, I'm a18 dangit... when are you going to let me live my life and jump big jumps and gallop mOooooommmmm"! hee hee. But she's got a point. Even Kathryn said something to that effect last year. Fleck can take care of himself. He's not dumb. He's not going to get himself hurt. So now.. it's my job to RIDE WELL and take care of myself so that Fleck can get the job done and go play at Prelim. Sigh.... Fair enough. Easier said than done though. 

And I really don't know why I shut down at events. I didn't always. Even at prelim. But... now it's my default. Sigh... She also said that she would suggest me going to an event before Winter so that I don't dwell on the bad ending all winter long. But... I don't know if I can make that happen. 

Anyways... we had a great lesson! It was basically the same lesson I had with Kelly. :) It's the canter coming into the fence that I need to focus on. But I need to maintain that canter to and over the fence and on landing. That canter needs to be balanced and uphill and powerful. I practiced Kelly's stuff and played scientist. :) I played with what I had, added leg when needed, half halted when needed, and applied a smack behind the leg when needed. And Fleck was great. 

Beth had us start by doing a figure 8 at the trot but he wasn't allowed to not be round and soft. No inverting, no hollowing, no bracing. Then we took it to the canter and did simple changes. Beth said that I should do that in my warm up and keep that in the stadium ring. If I had that softness and that powerful bouncy canter, there's no reason he couldn't jump prelim fences. But the canter I had in the video.. he couldn't jump prelim. No horse could. So then we went to the wheel of death jump thing. It was a barrel in the middle with four "spokes" that were verticals. We started with it small with the barrel on it's side. She had me do a cloverleaf type pattern. I jumped the first vertical, did a roll back and jumped the next one, another roll back to the next one, etc. We did that a few times focusing on keeping Fleck balanced and revved but soft and round and not braced or inverted. It worked too!! I had to take a much bigger connection with tighter reins, but it was good for him. He liked it too. Like Kelly said, about 10 pounds of pressure in the reins. Fleck was much more balanced and despite slipping behind a few times, he managed most of his changes and we had some awesome jumps. He got deep to the base and still never jumped over his shoulder. Then Beth upped it to the upright barrel with corresponding height of the verticals and we did the same thing. Again, it worked! We had a few moments, but in general, Fleck was balanced, rocked back, energized and bouncy. Pony's got hops!! 

After we did that and got some good rides on both leads in the cloverleaf she had us got to a vertical and then come back around and jump the barrel in the middle of the verticals. I couldn't quite manage the right striding to the vertical. I always seemed to be just a hair too long so I kept adding. And it was awfully tight to add, but despite that, Fleck managed to get over it and a once or twice he really sproinged up in the air!! At one point it felt like he double bounced on a trampoline. ;) Then we did the other way again and jumped a slight bent line to the hanging brick wall, which intimidates me for some reason, and then back around to the barrel again. The trick was to get the same ride over the single fences as I did through the cloverleaf. We were both getting tired, so it wasn't as pretty as it could have been, but we got the job done and accomplished the point of the day. And we finished with a beautiful jump over the stone wall!

Fleck felt great and was tired but not unwilling to jump or unsound. He felt great and was still bouncy enough heading back to the trailer. And Dan. ;) 

 Yay! it was a very encouraging day. We both can learn. We both can jump big and not fall apart. And...I think we can do it. The question will just be "do I want too still" and which show. But I think I'll play and lesson and get better over the Winter and then decide what to do. I just want it to be fun again. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Put the Pedal to the Medal

Today was a good day. I had lessons with Kelly at Silverthorn. It's always fun to ride over there. We didn't jump with Caroline today but it was still fun and a good lesson. 

I told Kelly that I was pretty much giving up showing prelim for the moment. It's just too hard right now and I'm tired of not ending the day proud of us and instead frustrated and disappointed in us. So... I will still lesson and play and school and have fun. But I'm taking shows out of the mix because my heart just isn't into it right now. Kelly said that she was glad that I left it open ended because she thinks things are fixable. She was quite polite about it but basically I think she thinks that it's me causing the problems. And I agree. I'm so worried about him and whether he's sound and happy, that I sort of forget that maybe it's just crappy riding on my part! And I certainly think so after watching my video. But it's hard for me to ride 100% all the time, especially at shows. So.... we're taking a breather. Maybe for good, maybe for a bit, maybe from prelim. We'll see. I just want to have fun and enjoy my best friend. 

Anyways, we worked on getting a better canter with more engine. Kelly said that Fleck was just not in front of my leg and not responding to my leg. She wants him to GO when I say go. Not 10 strides later, not for 10 strides and then quit, and not building up in 10 strides. So we started our lesson on a circle. Kelly said that we had to get Fleck more reactive off my leg. So at the walk, we asked for the trot with a very light leg. Just a little squeeze of the heel. The reaction should be instant and forward and then he should maintain the trot until I ask him to do something else, without me constantly nagging. And of course, Fleck did trot but it wasn't "hot" off my leg. So... I took my crop and smacked him once, fairly hard, behind my leg. Of course he bolted off. I praised him and settled him and then we brought him back down to the walk again and asked again. This time he was hot off my leg and our trot was powerful. :) Yay! So then we took it to the other direction and did the same thing. Then we took it to the canter. We got a fairly energetic canter because Flecky is smart. But we did have to reiterate it once or twice. 

Point is... we got a nice energetic canter and Fleck was hot off my leg. I had to remember that Hot off my leg and energetic canter meant that he was forward and in front of my leg and had those pistons firing but NOT FASTER! So then we worked on finessing it and added in jumping. We kept the jumps at training height, because, as Kelly pointed out, those were easy for him. And she told me it was going to get ugly and weird but it was okay. We balanced the canter and got it forward and hot but not fast. Then we jumped the four stride line. Kelly said that Fleck started great on the circle and heading to the fence but once we hit the line, he flattened out, lowered his head, and got strung out. So she wanted me to work on keeping him more upright in his canter. She wanted me to keep THAT canter all the way to the fence. And that's hard! We managed it a few times and then it fell apart some. 

To help get and keep that canter...I had to half halt as his one leg was on the ground and the other 3 are up in the air (which is also when his head came down) but I had to make sure to do half halts and releases! Not just hold. And alternating half halts. And keep the connection.... he needs support so there should be about 10 pounds of pressure in my reins. But it's a following/elastic connection, not just hanging.

Interestingly enough... ;) It all makes sense. If he gets flat and on the forehand... then it's harder for me to get my upper body back up on landing. Thus it's harder for him to get off his forehand. But... when we get to the fence in an upright balanced canter, it's easier for me to stay up on landing, thus easier for him to stay upright. Duh! ;)  And when his canter is upright and balanced and energized, it's easier for him to pick his front end up and get it out of the way and jump prettier. 
 Sigh... it's simple, it's just not easy. But we made good progress today I think. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rainy dressage day

What an odd day. Fleck was rowdier than Dan! 

It was another rainy gross day but COLD!! Bitter damp cold. I got on Fleck and took a lap around the pastures. He was WILD! I'm sure the weather had something to do with it. But he was freaking out about the cows again. I couldn't stop giggling because he was so animated. I swear it felt like riding an Icelandic pony doing the Tolt! His head was straight up and his back dropped and his hind feet were reaching in front of his front feet. Goofy! And fast! I was trying super hard to supple him because I know it's not good for his back but he was just not having it. Such a weirdo. We ended up taking two laps before heading into the arena. 

Once in the arena he settled down. Because you know... no cows! :) Except he was still on edge. We got some nice work at the trot and warming up. Cindy said he was nice and bouncy. I also found that if I led with my seat, not my shoulders, he did better too. duh! 
 And then we did canter work for the rest of the lesson it seemed. And at one point, Fleck was cantering across the center of the arena and Neon, who was being lunged (for the last 10 minutes mind you) came up behind him so Fleck tucked and spooked and bolted for a few steps. Wild man. But I was glad he was feeling good. 

But yep... Cindy was working us hard at the canter. She was working on progression from last week where we focused on riding the shoulder and not the head and keeping the shoulder in line with the jaw. She had us canter down center line and then had us do a 10 meter counter canter circle. HARD!!! So hard! Physically and for my brain! We managed it only once without breaking but it wasn't super pretty. Basically I have to ride his shoulders straight. But it's hard to not try to change the bend on that tight of a circle, but changing the bend makes Fleck have to swap. So yep. Hard. And when I don't change the bend, he leans. So keeping him straight is tough. We did manage a fairly decent near flying change. For us anyways. It wasn't a true flying change but it was more of a hesitation/skip than a simple change. 

So yep... lots of hard work.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fitness Day

I decided to take Fleck to Harbins even though I had just hacked it with Dan yesterday. But I figured Fleck could use a long distance day and apparently Ashland was full of pony clubbers and event team people. So we went. It's really not a bad trail at all. Not a ton of scenery but the leaves were pretty. And the 4 mile loop is pretty. And there is a lot of hills too. 

We had a good ride. Fleck was a little worried at the beginning and was a bit spooky but settled. However, he felt a little sluggish today still. The first 4 miles we mostly meandered and definitely did a good 25 minutes warming up at the walk. But Fleck really didn't seem to keen to canter. He trotted fine but wasn't "dragging me" like he often does. And I really kind of had to push the canter. And every tight turn, he broke to the trot instead of continuing to canter. I realized though that since I had started the 6 mile loop, and had only done 4 miles in 1 hour, we had better pick up the pace or we would be out there much longer than I wanted. So I pushed for more trotting and we did a good bit. We did a fair amount of cantering too. Then when we hit the 3 mile mark on the 6 mile loop and turned back to home, Fleck hit a new gear. I couldn't keep him from trotting. Which is weird for him. Well, not that he kept wanting to trot, but that he kept wanting to trot when earlier I had to push. And he's not usually one to want to speed up heading home. Heck, I don't think he even knows which way his home half the time. Although he is getting a bit more herd bound lately. Or perhaps he just took 7 miles to really loosen up?? It was odd. I mean, he really wouldn't walk. I could drop my stirrups and he'd walk but as soon as I'd pick them up, he was trotting again. I finally made him walk the last 1/2 mile home so he wasn't too hot. Goof!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Relaxing Hack with Peri

Yay!!! Friday fun day! I had planned on riding both boys today but was going to have to be fairly quick. But then my appointment in Fayetteville cancelled so I had until 2:30 pm wide open! Whoo hoo. And it was a beautiful day! Peri brought both horses and I brought both horses and we had fun. 

After riding Dan and Sunny, we switched to Fleck and Tess and went for a nice long hack. After we got them loose and chilled, we headed to the stadium ring. Peri jumped around a good bit while Fleck and I watched and did jump crew and then it was our turn. I didn't need to do much. I didn't even want to do much. But for my hearts sake, I set up the prelim combo fence just to see. I really am such a mean mommy and really can't let things go. After watching my video and processing and letting it simmer for a few days, I have some new thoughts. I think I just rode like crap. Kelly politely said as much and Beth did too. But I thought so before I even talked to them. I watched the video and thought... well of course he stopped. He was behind my leg the whole time. The fourth fence was awful and he leaned into the turn and I didn't set him up so he came into it icky. The second time we tried it was better but not much. So... maybe it's me. I am so worried about him that I'm forgetting that *I* have to ride. 

So I set up what I am guessing was about prelim height. I didn't measure but it was boob height, so it should have been about right. I set up the one stride square oxer to vertical and set it with no ground lines and square so I could jump it both ways. I even put the poles underneath the square oxer so it was boxier looking rather than airy. 

I warmed up over some of the smaller fences and Peri mentioned that I was ... taking it for granted. I was riding very slack and just knowing that he would do it because it's his job and the jumps were small. I didn't have THE canter. (yep... this fits with what happened at Full Gallop. I also think I was trying so hard to not worry and stress that I almost was too slack. And I was trying to not over ride like at Windridge....) So... I fixed it. I jumped him over the two smaller fences again but RODE and it was much nicer. So we came to the vertical to oxer first, because... why not be nice. It wasn't bad but the striding was just a teeny bit off and I didn't quite give him enough leg. We tried again and it was better. Then I turned him the other way and we did the oxer to the vertical. It was fine the first time. He came into it just great but I sort of panicked and gave him an extra little squeeze and he lengthened his stride just a hair too much. But it was still fine. It jumped well, it just wasn't quite out of stride like I wanted. So we tried one more time and nailed it. It was lovely and smooth and he jumped it well. 
So.... ??? Maybe it's just the footing and he knows and trusts it. More likely I'm riding better and getting a better canter before hand and that's the bigger difference. But.. we did it. :) 


I scheduled myself ride time today but it wasn't a long time, so I decided to ride both but make it fairly quick. I took Fleck for a nice hack and he felt a little lazy, so we just made it a chill day. We did some hills, some trotting, some cantering, but nothing regimined. It was a nice fun day. 
See.... we still put in a good work out. :) 

Cindy advice

Dressage Day Again.

Cindy watched my test and said that it was good, but it could be better. She said we're still missing that lift through the wither. She feels that I can raise that score 10 points if I can get that. Wow! That would be in the 20's!! I'll take it. But she's right... He can do all the movements and he is steady and obedient. He's just not really through. It's a near connection but not a solid connection. But we're working on it. It's hard for both of us. We've gone so long like this it's hard for me to get it.

I really need to ride a school master so I can feel the difference. Or at least have some video with friends telling me what's happening as I'm riding and help me try to fix it. And then I can go back on video and watch it so I can know what it looks like vs what it feels like. So.. hopefully I can get Peri or Kelli to help me with that one day. 

So yep.. we worked on getting that wither up in our lesson. Cindy keeps reminding me, it's not about pulling his poll down, it's about lifting the withers and back. Sigh.... I know. I know.... It's just such a hard habit to break. But I'm getting better!

Full Gallop

Well that didn't go how I planned. :( I just don't get it. I think I'm giving up. I.. .just... don't have it in my heart anymore to be disappointed in myself and in my horse. I want to be a proud momma! I want to come off my rides telling him what a freakin' rockstar he is! I want him to feel like a beast! I want him to dance back to the trailer. We don't want to do the walk of shame anymore.

But it's okay. We've been eventing 11 years. We've accomplished a whole lot of stuff. He owes me nothing. I've been able to accomplish pretty much all of my dreams and we've had a blast for the most part. So... whether it's a soundness issue, a "I'm just tired of eventing" issue, or a Me issue..or even just a prelim issue.. I just need a break. There's still plenty of stuff we can do to have fun! (And I'm not naive enough to admit that I can (and probably will) change my mind next week... that's the beauty of it. I can! And if I don't, who cares? Fleck and I will still have fun).

So yeah.. It had the makings of a good weekend. It wasn't flooding. Heck, it wasn't even raining. I was with good friends and at a place we've been before. He felt great and was schooling great. I really thought that we could do it. There was really no reason we couldn't. (Unless he was sore from the stud/boot incident yesterday). I was nervous and excited but not terrified. And yet...

It is hard this time of year to run prelim though. It's very hard to get up early enough to get everything done and not freeze and give Fleck ample walk hack time. But I did try. And I didn't get quite the warm up time I wanted but Liz kept me focused and made me walk more than I wanted to do. I was getting anxious and nervous and feeling the need to get it done. But Liz was right. He needs the warm up time. And it was actually a pretty nice test for us. I was kind of pleased. We had moments that weren't great and there was many things I wanted to fix. He was rushed through the centerline and the first turn. And I was distracted and didn't plan early enough for my first 10 meter trot circle, so that was a little spazzy. I managed to get it back a bit and our second circle was better. Then our leg yield left was awful. He was lagging horribly. I honestly expected him to be much more animated being that it was cold and early but he was almost lazy. I was wishing I had brought my whip. But our second leg yield was actually quite nice. And then our trot lengthen felt pretty darn good til the very end. Our canter wasn't quite as nice as at home but not too bad and our simple change was quite lovely! Then I made sure to not hold and brace in the canter to trot and it was super smooth and nice. So... not a bad test. I wanted to fix a lot of things but it wasn't bad. I didn't want to know my score, because... I didn't want to be bummed if it was bad and I didn't want to feel pressure if it was good. Liz told me that it was a good test and that my score rewarded me for the good parts. Which, could have meant that the good parts were good and the bad parts were bad. Regardless, I figured I was middle of the pack, which is typical.
When it was time for stadium, he still felt good. I didn't feel any issues from yesterday. So we studded up and got ready for stadium and cross country. I did stud, but only in the back. We went in to warm up and Liz wasn't quite there but Julie Z was and helped me out a little. He felt pretty good and was jumping well. We went to watch the course and.... it wasn't pretty. It looked like a fun course but tough. There was a triple that walked long. There was a double off a bendy line. But it looked fun. Well, the first girl had issues but managed to survive. The second girl was Parham and it was... wild. Libby was bolting and running off with her but she managed to get through it. Another girl went and had a stop at the triple but got through it on second attempt but added a stride to each one. Great... Not what I wanted to see. So I went in. Our first fence was behind the leg and my brain realized it but I didn't fix it. Our second fence was better as was the third. The fourth was awful icky though and he rolled his shoulder over it. Then he drifted and it was a horrible line to the one stride. Which was a big wide square oxer to a vertical. Fleck cantered up to it and just stopped. Like at Windridge. It was like he couldn't pick his front end up. I turned him around and after they set it back up, we came again. And he stopped again. This time I smacked him because I really didn't think he had any reason to stop. Julie told me to ask permission to jump another fence so I jumped him over the first fence again and we did it, though it wasn't pretty either. Sigh...
So I walked out and went for a hack to the day haulers parking area and cried. I just didn't get it. I didn't know what was wrong and why it went wrong. And that's pretty much when I decided it was over. I mean, I had sort of put all my eggs in this basket. I didn't have to win. I didn't have to do well. I just had to finish. And well... yeah.

After I settled down a bit and got Fleck taken care of and cheered on Liz and Devon, I talked a little bit about it. Liz and I decided that it would be worth trying to school stadium at the end of the show to see if we could figure out the problem. Lara agreed. They ended up running intermediate last, so all I had to do was drop fences. I dropped them to training level and we went in and jumped the course. And of course... it was fine. He jumped it all and we went clean. It wasn't beautiful and there were times when I thought it could have been a better jump. But we managed to get through the triple fine. So then we raised up a handful of the fences, including the in and out one stride, and tried again. He jumped the brick wall okay when it was bigger but he did it. And he jumped the next fence that was bigger okay. And then the training level fence, and again, we got to the one stride and he stopped. Only this time I felt it a stride back and I smacked him to make him jump it. And.... he did. But he had to heave himself over it and I didn't go with him, so I lost my stirrups and my reins. Bless his heart, he jumped the out too and took me with him. But.... It broke my heart. I turned to Liz, started crying and asked if it was something I did or was I basically just beating a dead horse. It just felt like he did it because I MADE him. Not because he could. Not because he wanted to. But because I made him. And that was NOT a good feeling. I don't want that feeling ever again. Its one thing to make him do something when he's being naughty. But... Fleck just isn't naughty. Not in that way. So... I then jumped him over another 3 training level fences to finish and got off.

It was awful. I never felt like he was being naughty or even being lazy. I just think he just couldn't do it. And he tried to tell me he couldn't. But it wasn't that he didn't want to. Because he was very game and happy to go jump the other fences. And he tried. When I said you HAVE TO.. he did. But that's not fair.

So.. it was a long ride home. I tried hard not to think too hard about it. But I did decide that we were done competing for a bit. Or forever. At least at Prelim. Maybe eventing. I will still do lessons and school and jump big things. Because for whatever reason, when it's not at a show, he's a freakin' rockstar. And most importantly, we have fun! So we'll do that and just go back to having fun.

(at least for now.... Remember, I said that I was not above changing my mind)
Fleck zenned out after his adjustment, laser therapy and acupuncture.

11 Years

HAPPY 11 YEARS FLECKY!!! Man how I love this guy! What a great 11 years it's been too. He really has given me so much. 

We had a great day too. We were heading to Full Gallop for a schooling horse show. I was hoping to redeem ourselves and prove that we were indeed a prelim team. Kelly was teaching at Ashland that morning and I was starting to get a little panicked about not having a lesson recently and attempting to tackle prelim again, so I said yes. 

It was fun. Kelly taught me and Karen and Julie at the same time and it was fun. We were working on lots of things. Kelly wanted me to get Fleck and me a little more connected. She had me shorten my reins but put my arms more forward and be more loose and mobile with my elbows and shoulders. She wanted me to go with him more but still have a connection. So we practiced on the flat and Fleck seemed very happy with our new arrangement. We also practiced over fences and started with some smaller stuff so I could get used to it. We worked on straightness and channeling Fleck's shoulders with my shoulders. With the short reins if he got squirrelly and strated jumping side to side, I was to move his shoulders over by moving my hands to the side. (evenly, like laterally at the same time). It works. :) But of course. 

So then we moved on to the water and Kelly was trying to get me to keep my butt in the saddle. I was trying to accomplish it and was thinking more of sliding my butt in the saddle. Or wiping it. :) Not getting into two point, but keeping my butt literally touching the saddle. So we did it a few times and I was sort of getting it. Then it happened! Fleck jumped over the hanging log into the water and I was trying my best to keep my butt in the saddle. We landed and... then Fleck's front end never came up. He was on his nose for a few strides, scrambling. I just sat up tall and tried to stay still. Within a few seconds (or ten thousand... I couldn't tell), he got up and started to walk off. He was a bit off on the right front. I walked him around and he was ouchy and then starting waving his foot like he does when he hurts. I hopped off and his boot had a little fray spot and when I took it off, he had a very small scrape mark on his outside cannon bone just below the knee. But it was just the hair missing. We walked around for 10 minutes and then suddenly he was sound again. We trotted and he was fine. So then I walked him down the bank and he was ready to go and seemed game, so we picked up the trot and came down the bank and he was fine. So we continued on with our lesson. He didn't take another lame step. We worked on getting a bouncy canter and jumped a small vertical to the down bank and then over the barrel (on it's side). After that Kelly turned the barrel upright and we did it again. Then we did it the other way. And then we were done. Fleck was game and happy and jumped well. 

At the end of the lesson I asked Kelly if she thought there was any reason, not just because of the mishap at the water, if we should not do the full Prelim 3 phase. She said that there was no reason we couldn't or shouldn't and we were both ready. Then Karen and Julie gave me a pep talk and made me feel better. Karen had a good point. If Fleck managed to jump around after his "near drowning" incident... why was I worried? He was happy and game. Good point. :)
So then when I untacked him and went to take his studs out, I realized exactly what happened. He was missing a hind stud on the right hind. And there was a perfect stud sized square hole in his front right boot. Poor guy!!! He had gotten his right hind stud caught in his front right boot. He hogtied himself. No wonder he was on the ground for a few strides. He was trying to untangle himself. Only us... Poor guy. He was a bit tender where he scraped himself but let me ice him. 
Then we loaded up and headed to Full Gallop. We spent the day pampering him. He got laser therapy, a full adjustment, and acupuncture. Then I still had to walk cross country and I figured that he needed to be walked, so I decided to hop on bareback and use him to walk my course. :) Why not!? It's a schooling show and people were out schooling. So I did. :) And he was wild! hee hee. Seriously, he felt darn good. There was no lame steps or anything. He was downright bouncy. Liz and Devon and Corin joined up with us at the end and Liz suggested I walk him down the bank into the water. Since you know, last time he went into the water it tried to eat him. Good point! And normally I wouldn't "cheat" and school the night before, but I figured that it was justified given the circumstances. So we did. And good thing because he sort of danced around the edge at first. But I got him in and then he almost headed over the corner. NOT BAREBACK Fleck!! Not a prelim corner out of the water you fool! At least not when I didn't have a half pad to protect my lady bits from that big ol' wither! 
So yep.. it was a fun Fleck filled Day. Good way to celebrate our 11 years together!