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Diamond and I on June 3 2013 Portrait

A Weekend Full of Riding

I had a weekend full of riding, which is (in my opinion) the best type of weekend to have! I’m going to start out a little bit before the weekend, since I’ve missed chronicling a few rides.

Thursday Lesson

My lessons have been moved to Thursday evening for the summer, so that my trainer can occasionally ride her own horse (what a ludicrous notion!). So I trekked out to the barn and tacked up Vinnie after work. I lessoned with two other regulars, and we had a really nice time! Vinnie is still strong, but now that I know what to expect, I’m getting better about correcting him before things get out of hand.

We were able to put some courses together, and overall I was happy with our lesson. We had some really good moments, and some “Good job!” comments from the trainer. What I’m currently trying to focus on:

  1. Following Over Fences – Fences are just an obstacle in the way of a canter stride and I should treat them as such. In other words, don’t forget to continue to think on the landing!
  2. Give and Take – Use both reins (don’t forget that the outside rein is the brake!), but don’t just hold them; It has to be a give and take, even if it is a huge take. Every action has to have a reaction in my body and I need to remember to not get stiff when Vinnie is being a goober.
  3. Sit Lightly – I am continuing to work on my leg strength and even weight distribution in both legs, but I am now adding another element. I need to not only keep my weight in my legs, but also off my seat. I can sit, but I need to sit lightly and not rest my weight on Vinnie’s back.

Diamond and I on June 3 2013

Saturday Flat Ride

With everything going on at home and work (and our crazy show schedule), I decided to change from two lessons a week to one for the summer, but I really didn’t want to go back to riding only twice a week; I already think three times really isn’t enough! Fortunately, my trainer is amazing and is letting me flat twice and lesson once – perfect!

So I set out on Saturday, which was a gorgeous day, and rode Diamond Girl. We had to ride inside due to the overnight typhoon rain and she was pretty lazy. It worked out well though, because I was really able to concentrate on myself and get a great workout in. I practiced distances and adjusting over ground poles and the red mare was perfect. Finished up with one lap (pathetic, I know!) of posting with no stirrups and seriously thought I was going to die. Good to know that I can (sort of) still do it, but it’s obviously something I need to keep working on.

I also tried some new stirrups. I started noticing some numbness in my feet after lessons this winter and chalked it up to wearing more layers and thus making my boots tighter. But now it’s summer and I’m not wearing any layers, and it’s still happening in my left foot. Not as bad as it was over the winter, but still. I know I keep my foot at the outside edge of my stirrups and that my stirrups aren’t very wide (not the footbed, but the entire stirrup itself). So I tried some wider Herm Springers. Overall, they seemed to help, but I think it really might have been the rubber sides, and not so much the width. But I’m honestly undecided about their famous “dual lateral flexibility.” I liked the feeling in my right leg, but it felt like my left leg was bouncing all over the place. Does anyone else have any experience with Herm Sprenger Stirrups? Did you like them or not like them? 

Sunday Flat Ride

I went out early on Sunday to ride Vinnie, which also went well. He stayed mostly calm and relaxed until the end. We did some pole work and I added in some (admittedly hunter-y) rollbacks to test my even weight distribution and to keep him thinking and listening. Those went very well!

I also tried to keep my seat light at both the trot and canter the entire ride… and was mildly successful. I just need to be stronger. After I finished, I did my last trot (trainer always wants us to finish with a trot), and Vinnie wasn’t super cooperative. Mostly just strong and only half-listening, going around with his head up. So that part is still a work in progress, I guess.

Horse Show Ribbon

First Show of the Season

I had a long, involved post written, but I really need to think more positively in general. So here’s all I’m going to say about the beginning: I took the day off on Friday to go up to the show early and watch an old friend show [she and her young horse looked great in the Baby Greens!] and chatted with her, which was really nice. After that I schooled and it sucked. Vinnie was “up” and we didn’t get to do much; I ended up going over a few fences, but couldn’t put anything together [no lines, just a few singles]. Vinnie’s antics were totally different from the minimal prep horse I rode last year. I went home very upset, worrying that I might not get to show.

Saturday

The next morning my BFF N [also Trainer’s working student] schooled Vinnie and he was marginally better. At first I thought I would show pretty early in the day, but I ended up not showing until about noon. I went off-course in the warm-up class and promptly wanted to crawl under a rock and die. My two division over fence classes were ok, but not great. Vinnie was still strong and I felt like I was doing everything my trainer asked, but without seeing much improvement.

After my classes Vinnie was still wired, so we went to one of the practice rings and rode some more and did a few more jumps. Again, I went home upset and not looking forward to showing the next day. Honestly, I briefly considered cancelling, but I was already out the money, so I figured I might as well suck it up and go out and ride.

Sunday

N schooled Vinnie again in the morning and I rode right after her. He was great for her, just okay for me. I decided that all I cared about was two things: thinking on course, especially in between the lines, and following well over the fence. Below were my two courses:

Both courses went much better than Saturday. I still struggled with pace; I was in such a take-back frame of mind from the day before that I really didn’t allow for the correct striding, so we added in the lines. And by the end of the last course I wasn’t following as well because my legs were so tired. BUT it was much improved, and I accomplished the two goals I set out to do. For your viewing pleasure, the best of my rounds from Sunday:

I ended up with as 6th and 8th over fences for my efforts on Sunday out of 12-14 in the classes — which I was much happier with! I also rode the under saddle well, but didn’t place. Overall, I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of the whole experience. I was frustrated, and still am, about how things went on Friday and Saturday, but I’m not sure how much to blame myself (which I usually jump to!). I’m annoyed that I’m showing the same horse in the same division last year, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of improvement, but that it’s not translating into being more competitive.

I guess I’ve sort of decided to not worry about it and focus on the next show, which is mid-June (two weeks away!). I’ll see how that goes and go from there!
Bay stock horse

9 Equestrian Questions

Wow have I been busy! After collapsing on Monday after my horse show, I have been crazy busy at home and at work. I promise to post all about the show later this week — I’m uploading videos to share, which is taking longer than expected (stupid, uncooperative phone!). But until then, here’s a little Q&A:

1. How long have you been riding?

I started in 4th grade, so about 15 years.

2. What discipline do you do, and what’s your favorite thing about that discipline? 

I ride Hunters, mainly because for me it’s more exciting than only riding on the flat, but less scary than other options. I really enjoy low-level Dressage, but I don’t think I could do only that day in and day out. I would consider Eventing, but there is no way I could ever make it through an entire cross country course without having a heart attack!

3. If you couldn’t do your current discipline, what discipline would you choose? 

Reining for sure — it’s a heck of a lot of fun! I used to not know how to answer this question, because even though I tried a lot of different classes in 4-H, none of them are appealing anymore. Then last year I got the opportunity to participate in the NRHA’s Ride-A-Reiner program at Quarter Horse Congress and it was amazing!

Keep Calm and Let it Slide

4. Do you show? How often?

I show about 4-7 times a year. Showing is one of the things I love about riding — it gives my competitive nature a positive outlet. I would show every weekend if it was free!

5. Long-term equestrian goal?

Before I die, I’d like the opportunity to show in Adult Amateur or Amateur Owner at WEF or similar big-name shows, but I’m definitely a long ways away from that! Like 30 years far away. At least. So a more realistic long-term goal of mine is to compete on a local circuit at 2’6″ for a year-end award. That could more reasonably occur in the next five years.

6. What has your main riding struggle been?

Lately, it’s been filling in the gaps in my education. I was a 4-H boss in high school and I’ve had to learn the hard way that especially when it comes to jumping, I have a lot to learn.

7. Favorite horse book?

The Thoroughbred Series for sure! There are about a million books in the series and I never got through them all. Sometimes I want to go back and read them, but they are really written for a younger audience.

7b. Are you subscribed to any horse-related magazines? 

Just the free stuff: In Stride, America’s Horse and I look at the Equine Chronicle and Go Horse Show online sometimes.

The Thoroughbred Book Series

8. How often do you clean your tack?

I clean my bridle, girth and martingale after every ride… and I really need to get better about cleaning my saddle and tall boots. Those I only manage once every couple of months… which is awful.

9. What lessons in life have horses taught you?

Horses have taught me so many lessons, I couldn’t possibly list them all. I think the most important include that hard work pays off, I’m never going to be the best or the richest and that you get what you put in. But I’m learning more each and every day!

Wild

My lesson last night started out well. I got to the barn early and had time to chat with the girls before we tacked up. And that’s about where the good ended. As soon as I got on Vinnie looked like this:

Wahoo!

We warmed up, did some transitions, trotting and various circles, serpentines, etc. to no avail. He has definitely been strong lately, but last night he was on a whole new level. Don’t get me wrong, Vinnie isn’t bad — he wasn’t spooking or bucking or carrying on. He was just feeling really good — too good for 2′ horse for beginner riders. We trotted a ground pole and he launched into the air and cantered away. This from the horse that three weeks ago was moving at a snails pace to the left. So we ended up switching bits to a pelham before even attempting to canter. The bit changed definitely helped, but my experience with double reins is about almost nothing (except for the stint in middle school where I pretended to ride Saddle Seat). I pretty much wore this expression for the first 10 minutes:

Dizzy with Double Reins

After I settled in to my (considerable amount of) hardware, we got to work. I’ve been working on following more over the fences, and last night I had some success. Probably about 60 percent of the time, I do well. But when I don’t really see a distance, or if I see a long one very late, I just pose.

This is what you’re supposed to look like over the fence, right?

I felt like I didn’t get to work too much on this, mostly because I was schooling Vinnie the entire lesson. We circled before and after fences, we stopped before and after fences and we did transitions. And I thought he was going to pull my arm out of its socket. About 30 minutes in to our 45 minute lesson, I was about done. Vinnie’s antics were really starting to get to me and I was pretty frustrated.

Really, Vinnie?!

But I held it together and we finished on as good of a note as we could. Hosed the wild pony and turned him out… which I think was where he wanted to be the whole time anyways. But, on to the next ride! Trainer is taking him on a long trail ride today or Thursday, so maybe that will help mellow him out some — I sure hope so anyway! Otherwise this might be me at the show this weekend:

 

Baseball diamond

It’s Definitely Summer!

I had an absolutely wonderful long weekend! I took half of Thursday and Friday off work to go to my little sister’s college graduation with the whole family. It was a little long, but a lot of fun and it was a great feeling to hear my sister’s name called as she walked across the stage to get her diploma! She worked really hard to accomplish this goal of hers and I’m so proud of her for making it all the way to the end.

Friday night the sibs, Sam and I went to the Indians game together. Sam is a huge baseball fan (his favorite team is the Braves) and he had never been to Progressive Field before. It was dollar dog night so the four of us loaded up on hot dogs and sat in the nosebleeds laughing and joking the whole time. The game went into extra innings but the Indians managed a win in the 10th with a walk-off home run. It was a blast, and it was a gorgeous night for baseball.

We left Saturday afternoon after our fill of awesome home-cooked meals and quality family time. And of course Rocky always enjoys the non-stop attention he gets at the house from everyone, and generally leaves thinking that the world revolves around him.

Rocky sitting on Pillows
Sunday I had a nice [albeit short] flat ride on Diamond. I didn’t get out to the barn until late morning and it was hot. I rode outside in the sand ring, which I like to call “the beach” in the summer, because you bake on it. All the sun reflects on that sand I swear it feels like it’s at least 15 degrees hotter than it really is. Regardless, I worked on focusing on my right aids, especially to the left, when I use them less… but the fact that they aren’t there really hurts my riding. Also did some pole work and concentrated on following Diamond even across simple ground poles.

 

I am happy to report that my right aids felt stronger than my last ride on Diamond, but still not where they need to be. I also noticed a big difference in my overall balance when I was able to correctly follow her stride over the poles. Maybe this whole “transferring what I learned on one horse to the other” is going to work after all, just a bit differently than I had originally imagined.

Weekly Schedule

  • Tonight – Lesson
  • Wednesday – Flat Vinnie
  • Friday-Sunday – HORSE SHOW!