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Miles face

Air Amateur

In which Miles earns December Board in 30 seconds…
Have I ever mentioned how much I love Thursdays? LOVE. Thursday is lesson day and I pretty much look forward to 7 pm from the time I wake up. So in usual fashion I bounded out to the barn, my upbeat attitude undeterred by traffic, rain and no sunlight.

The theme of the lesson was riding not only to the fence and over the fence, but also immediately after the fence. And that this should be done more from the rider’s leg, than hand. Our first exercise was to canter a single 2′ vertical and really focus on riding the canter after the fence; the group was split in half so the two rider who watched critiqued our rounds, which was really helpful.

After that, we immediately moved into course work. The ring was set-up for more jumper-style courses (I was the only hunter in attendance), but Miles can do bending lines too, so it worked out just fine. Our first time through the bending line was a bit sketchy, but we worked it out.

Then the fences were raised to probably 2’3″ and my first time around I simply didn’t have enough impulsion. Miles is great at standing around, but not keen on going back to work henceforth. So I’m still learning what works best for us. Note to self: when it’s my turn to jump around, I need extra time to walk, trot a circle slowly asking for give and bend, and then ask for the canter with enough track left to get the impulsion I need. Otherwise my round goes all to hell.

After watching the jumpers go around a bit, trainer starts raising the fences and asks if anyone wants to go again. I speak up and say I’d like to do one more… but she continues to raise the fences to probably 2’6″. We make a little hunter course, and off I go! Our very first 2’6″ course. I have to admit, going up to the first fence I was a little scared and nervous: it looked so big! But I pushed on and our first three fences were pretty good: I could feel that I wasn’t as balanced through my legs and core, but I didn’t get jumped out of the tack, I released well and followed the bigger motion through my body adequately.

And then we came up to the last fence. It was set on a slight diagonal, and if you jumped it exactly how it was set, you would actually run right into another jump, so you had to plan what angle to jump the fence at depending on where you wanted to go after the jump:

Most of the jumpers took the inside turn, but me being a hunter, I decided to take the outside track. So Miles and I cantered up to it, and I see a short spot. Except I don’t really commit to it and I don’t think I really told Miles the plan, so he went long. I was so totally unprepared that I didn’t two-point AT ALL, nor did I release AT ALL. So we come up on the other side (or rather, Miles does) and I’m so unbalanced that I am literally LAYING on his neck. And then out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of blue.

And I’m all “Oh fuck, we are going to run into that jump and I’m going to fall off and Miles is going to get hurt.” Because I’m stall LAYING ON HIS NECK.

But Miles just canters around the fence, and starts to turn the corner while I pick myself back up, and then he trotted all soft and slow when I finally had enough wherewithal to you know, steer again. What a saint.

After I caught my breath we came around to the final jump again and I had my shit more together, thank God, and it was very nice. Yay for our first 2’6″ course and yay for ponies who put up with amateur hour! Miles promptly got half a bag of peppermints and extra hay. Love him.

Reindeer Horse

Blogger Gift Exchange

This past year I started Fly On Over, a personal blog dedicated to my equestrian pursuits. My goal was to chronicle my thoughts and feelings as I worked my way through the first horseless period in my life since I was 16.

What Fly On Over has become is a journey in and of itself, in which I not only document some of the most important events in my life, but also learn and grow through an entire community spread out across the country and Canada. This blog has allowed me to tap into a network of knowledgeable, generous and supportive group of horsewomen who have celebrated my success and commiserated in my shortcomings. I’ve truly made friends, something that I never expected to find from simply writing a blog.

So thank you. To each and every one of you who have read my entries, commented on my pictures and included me in your blogging circle — it really means a lot.

During this time of the year, when I am reminded to be more thankful and more generous, I celebrate all of us, together. So I’ve decided to host a little Equestrian Blogger Gift Exchange. Here’s how it will work:

I will compile a list of all interested bloggers and randomly assign you another blogger to shop for! The gift limit will be $20, so nothing too expensive. Once you receive your gift, please put up a post about what you got, and thank your fellow blogger.

gift exchange logo

Interested?

STEP 1: Send an email to tbidwell614(at)gmail(dot)com with your:
• Name
• Shipping address
• Two gift ideas under $20
• Blog URL and
• Whether you’d be willing to ship TO Canada or not
all by Friday, December 6.

STEP 2: Check your email on Monday, December 9 to find out who you’ll be shopping for!

STEP 3: Send your gift out on the week of Dec. 16 (or before if you’re on the ball)

STEP 4: Receive your gift and thank your fellow blogger!

Fly On Over 5 Day Challenge

5 Day Challenge – Day 1

I’m working on something uber exciting for everyone and when it’s finished, you all will be positively thrilled! I just know the blogosphere is going to explode in fireball of a champagne and glitter… okay, that’s a it over the top. But I am really excited for my little surprise!

But in the meantime, while life continues to get in the way of my riding (or I just ride like a monkey, which is not fun to read about day in and day out) I decided to initiate a Five Day Challenge. I’m way too spastic to attempt the 30 Day Challenge, so I came up with 25 (fairly) original questions to answer, and I’m going to do them five at a time, because I can.

Sleepy Miles in the Crossties

1. Most influential person on your riding

When I first started riding I took lessons at this barn way out in Amish country. The barn owner had a string of school horses and taught the lessons herself — her name was Holly and she has been, by far, the most influential person in my riding career.
I did my very first horse show at her barn, in which I won Champion and began my slippery descent into craving horse shows, which I haven’t sufficiently sated to this day. She introduced me to 4-H, where most of my larger successes have taken place. She taught me to brush a horse, lead a trail ride and how to muck out stalls. I definitely wouldn’t be the horsewoman I am today had I never met her. She was a hardworking woman, and I really learned that from her. If I had taken lessons somewhere else, I’m not sure I would have learned all the basics and enjoyed taking care of my own horses.

2. Piece of tack you’d love to splurge on

This one is easy for me: custom CWD saddle. My currently saddle doesn’t fit Miles because it was purchased for a stupid wide horse and Miles is narrow, OF COURSE. I’m really not looking forward to the saddle hunt, but that pain would certainly be eased if I could afford a brand-spanking new custom saddle. You know, one of those CWD’s with buffalo or calf leather, a half deep seat and short flaps. And I’m drooling on keyboard. So if anyone has a spare $6k laying around that they want to send my way, I sure wouldn’t complain!
Hermès Sellier 1923

3. Top 5 riding playlist

“Started from the Bottom” – Drake
“Anywhere with You” – Jake Owen
“Summer Love” – Justin Timberlake
“The Only Way I Know” – Jason Aldean
“Applause” – Lady Gaga

4. Most important aspect of your barn?

There are a lot of things I can’t live without in a boarding barn: quality AND reliable care, ample turnout, safe facilities, indoor arena with lights, jumps and a tack room all come to mind. But there are a ton of extras that I love about my current barn: heated tack rooms, bathrooms, excellent barn manager, tons of staff, owners on premises, two indoor arenas with lights, two outdoor arenas (one with lights) and yeah, I could go on and on. I fucking love my barn.
But the best part? The atmosphere. The staff is so nice and helpful — I’ve yet to hear them say “no” to a request. And all the boarders are genuinely nice to each other. There are two hunter/jumper trainers at the barn, and we all get along. Even boarders who don’t take lessons are sweet and always ask how you’re doing. It’s nice to feel like you’re part of a bigger barn family, and I’ve definitely found that at this facility.
Gorgeous, isn’t it?

5. Three winter riding goals

  1. Improve my leg strength
  2. Jump higher fences
  3. Increase Miles’ flexibility
My plan is to institute one ride a week where I solely focus on myself. I’m so lucky to have a tolerant and easy going horse who will put up with a flailing monkey on his back, so I need to take advantage of that. This means one ride where I don’t give a shit about how Miles goes around, I’m just going to worry about me: sitting up straight, shoulders back, core tight and strong legs. I need to add in some two-point work, as well as no stirrup time.
The higher fences will come into play mostly during lessons, I think. I’m going to try to make sure to ask for a higher fence or two towards the end of my lessons, so that I can begin to get the feel of how to ride a bigger jump. I also think that some more jumping outside of lessons would be good for my confidence. I want to try to do this once or twice a month this winter, since I won’t jump without someone else in the ring. I’ll start with just singles, and maybe work up to a full course — we’ll just see how it goes.
Finally, for Miles, we just need more work on figures: 20m circles, 10m circles and leg yields are all things we need to work on. I think a private lesson once a month where we can focus more on some of the flatwork would benefit us tremendously, so hopefully I can swing that financially.
2013 ribbon pie chart

2013 Show Season Wrap-Up

Well, the show this past weekend didn’t quite go as I had hoped. So instead of dwelling on how terribly I rode my wonderful horse, I’m moving straight into a season recap. With my third and final home schooling show under my belt, my 2013 show season is officially over. It’s been one helluva ride, and I thought it would be interesting to do an overview:

Statistics

  • 8 Shows
  • 17 Ribbons 
  • 3 Horses Shown
My season started out an epic failure: I had planned to show my trainer’s horse, Diamond, in the 2’6” divisions but I just wasn’t ready. So I went back to riding Vinnie, and back to the 2’ division, which felt like a colossal failure in and of itself. This feeling continued through my first few shows with Vinnie, which were pretty terrible: we just weren’t getting along and we weren’t placing nearly as well as we had just the year before… at the same fence height.

It was tough to feel like not only had I not accomplished my goal of moving up, but that I was actually riding more poorly. But here is where hindsight really helps me out: it’s not that I didn’t improve my riding, I just had farther to go than I realized. And as for placings, I showed against 12+ this year, instead of 2-3 like last year. I was consistently the highest placing rider without a lead change, so that tells me that I was doing well, I just wasn’t competitive.
At our last show together, Vinnie and I finally worked out our differences and we placed in Equitation Over Fences, which I don’t normally even attempt to show in. The judge personally took time to compliment my riding to my trainer, and I went home feeling like at least I back on track.
All of the tough times this year really put my goals into perspective: each time I got a taste of success, I just wanted more. And as the summer rolled on, that goal of being more competitive became more and more of a priority… which led me to purchase Miles.
Hugging Miles
Buying Miles was one of the most difficult, yet rewarding experiences of my life. And I am so damn glad I did it.
In the end, I got to finish out my show season on my very own horse (they even announced my name as owner/rider over the loud speaker!) – I never dreamed my 2013 show season would end so well. And for our first outing, Miles was absolutely fantastic; packing me around, doing a great job of ho-humming at 2’ and we were competitive.
All in all? 2013 was a pretty crazy year, but I am so lucky and proud to say that it ended way better than it started. And the best part is how bright my future with Miles is: I’m looking forward to what the 2014 show season has in store for us!
tangled

Sit Up

I bounded out of work promptly at 4:30 yesterday, ready to get going for my lesson. My barn is hosting a schooling show this weekend and our plan for the lesson was to school the course. We’ve had two of these little shows so far this year and I’ve really enjoyed them. It’s so much fun to do low-pressure courses and see all the friends I don’t usually get to see ride. Basically, I’m pumped for my first one with Miles!
I got out to the barn a bit early, so I had some extra time to chat, groom and warm-up. I’ve noticed that over the last six months, lessons usually go one of three ways for me:
  1. I ride like shit and my horse saves my ass
  2. My horse is an ass so we struggle the whole time
  3. I ride well and my horse is in a good mood so we have a great lesson
Last night was a #1 kind of night. I came out and warmed up, but I just didn’t feel 100 percent. My legs weren’t solid, my heels weren’t flexible and my hands kept creeping higher and higher. We started out with a hunter course and it was okay, just not great. I chipped in, went long and it was just meh.
So my trainer had me go again right away and told me to focus on generating more pace before the first fence and sitting up more quickly. What a difference! Just having more “go” and really attacking the first jump made the rest of the fences so much more fluid. And when I did manage to stretch up through my core and push my shoulders back, Miles balanced right back.
We also got to watch another boarder do the same course; C is not usually in my lesson, but I have ridden with her before and she’s a fabulous rider. She was on her horse, whom I hadn’t ever seen go around and they had similar issues with pace. It was interesting to see the difference in her courses, since we were both working on the same thing. +1 for group lessons!
We finished up with the equitation course. The difficult element of this course was a bending line to a skinny single set on the wall. The first time we did the bending line Miles totally saved my ass. I didn’t stretch up after the first jump and never told him where to go. He literally had no idea we were going over the second fence until a stride and half away from it. Like the saint he is, he went (awkwardly) over it and continued on like NBD. Love him.
The second time we jumped the bending line, I rode a more direct route, stretched up and looked where I wanted to go. And voila, a perfect five stride bending line! We still botched the distance to the skinny, but we all struggled with that fence for some reason.
Moral of tonight’s lesson: STRETCH UP WOMAN!

In other news, Hawk at Forging Fiction is hosting a Giving Thanks contest for a Gift Card! All you have to do post one thing you’re thankful for on your blog, mention the contest and let her know in a comment that you’ve completed the tasks! So what am I thankful for? So many things. But today I am extremely grateful for my amazing barn family — we support each other through good times and bad, celebrate and commiserate together and I would not enjoy riding (and showing!) nearly as much without them. Love those girls!