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Diamond and Tracy with ribbons

Rockin’ & Rollin’

This past weekend was another show at our barn. I really enjoyed the last one, but I’ve been showing so much I really needed a weekend to catch up on everything else… like having food in the fridge. So I came to the barn for my Thursday night lesson, turned out there were six of us in total, and we got to school the show course since it was already set up.

The lesson started out rocky. We warmed up outside and Vinnie was great — loped around without a care. Then we went to the indoor, which requires us to walk next to the bear-infested woods. Vinnie was tentative, but we made it to the door… where he promptly spooked and whirled away. Perfect start! I got off and just walked him into the area and around some of the jumps. He calmed down quickly and we were able to trot around and eventually pop over a warm-up jump.
Here, I am going to pause and detail our first jump, because I am so proud of myself. We did a diagonal going up (towards the mirrors) and I could feel Vinnie sucking back during our approach. So I closed my leg, clucked and he went over! Now, I know most riders do this all the time, but I do not. I usually have no idea that Vinnie is about to stop and thus am never prepared to prevent it from happening the first time. But this time I did! Huzzah! 
Anyways, on to the rest of the lesson. I was still a little bit nervous about the fences — we haven’t been jumping oxers lately and there was a scary dark brown natural with garland. Needless to say, I was worried Vinnie would really pop up over one of them and jump me out of the tack. But I put on my big girl panties and went around and jumped two courses. I had only one not-so-great following over the fence jump, but it wasn’t BAD, just not good. The rest went well — we were definitely in our groove, rockin’ and rollin’! I was so happy that I just called it quits after that. It was hot and muggy and I was tired.
After the lesson, my trainer asked if I would consider showing Diamond in some of the flat classes in the show on Saturday. Of course, I said yes! So Saturday I trekked out with boyfriend in tow and showed in Hunter Under Saddle and Equitation on the Flat. Diamond was a bit anxious… not really wanting to stand still, but she was great under saddle. We got 2nd out of three in the equitation (which, for me is pretty good!) and then 1st out of five or so in the under saddle. It was fun, and we were done and out of there in two hours — plenty of time for laundry and the grocery.

 

 

This week is a short work-week, with the holiday (yippee!) and I have a horse show this weekend. I hope everyone has a safe and fun Fourth of July!

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.

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!
Diamond and Vinnie May 13 2013

Just Be Grateful

Sometimes in life I find myself really struggling with the feeling of gratitude. I know I’m very lucky and have a lot to be thankful for, but I often [all too often] find myself fixating on what I don’t have. This weekend, I really wanted to focus on being happy for the opportunities that are before me and remembering how lucky I am to have so many blessings in my life.

Extra Lesson

Saturday I had an extra private lesson on Vinnie, and with Sam finally done with finals, he was able to come with me! As I’ve mentioned before, some issues with my leg have prevented me from moving up to the Intermediate Adult 2’6″ division this year, and I’m planning on showing in the same division I did last year (Limit 2′). While I know this is good decision, I still can’t help but feel frustrated and jealous sometimes. So I’ve been trying to think of all the positives, instead of dwelling on the negative and this lesson really showed me that I’m moving in the right direction.

We had three fences set around the outside, on the quarter line, one single and a five-stride line. Down the center was a three jump gymnastic, all one-strides. Our focus in the lesson was to follow over the jump, especially as they got bigger. Sometimes, especially if we have a bad spot or the horse over-jumps, I just pose in an awkward and stiff two-point, instead of flowing. We started out by going over the gymnastic several times and talking through each jump, until I started to get the hang of flowing better. My trainer explained the concept in several ways, but the one that stuck was “pushing my butt out” over the fence. Kind of crude, I know, but whatever works! We ended up having a bit of breakthrough, and I finally got what I needed to do! Woohoo!

Saturday I was grateful for the opportunity to ride and take lessons with a highly qualified professional. Without your own horse it’s not always easy to find opportunities to ride regularly, and my trainer has graciously provided that for me for a year now. I am also extremely lucky to have such a supportive boyfriend who wants to go out to the barn with me whenever he can. He enjoys watching me ride and helping out with grooming, tacking and cleaning up.

Diamond and I on May 13 2013

Mother’s Day

Sunday Sam and I got up early and went to the barn. My trainer let me hack Diamond, to give Vinnie a day off. It was great to get back on her, after not riding her for a few weeks. It’s amazing how much more sensitive she is compared to Vinnie, and how much she really makes you work for every step.

It was the perfect ride to continue to work on my leg, which I now realize on Diamond is literally useless on the right canter lead. That’s definitely not helping me! So we practiced circles, with special attention to the right side of my body, transitioning body positions at the trot and canter (variations of sitting, posting/half seat, and two-point).

Then I went to do some no-stirrup work and though it’s been a few years, I thought I’ll just post for a lap or two and it will be fine. Oh my god, was I wrong. I remember doing no stirrup work in high school and it was a breeze. I got two steps, literally, and almost fell off. How embarrassing. So I practiced at the walk and realized just how far I have to go. But at least I know, and will remember to work on it a little bit every ride.

After the barn, Sam and I headed to his mom’s house, about 30 minutes south of us. Mother’s Day is the only holiday she cares about, and she always wants the same thing: to set-up her garden and eat pizza. So that’s what we did — Sam and I helped her husband plant the garden and her flowers. Then I helped out in the kitchen and we ordered pizza. It was a great evening and of course our dog loved playing with his brothers and sisters (Sam’s mom has five dogs) and romping around the yard.

Sunday I was grateful for the opportunity to ride more than one horse that can teach me a lot about riding and help me improve on my weaknesses. I was also grateful for my awesome mom, both of grandmothers, and especially Sam’s mom. Her health isn’t the best, and I need to remember to be grateful for every memory we can make with her, because as we go along in life, there will be things she is no longer able to do. But I was very grateful to spend this Mother’s Day with her, and to have her in my life as my second mom. To raise me, it takes a village, that’s for sure.

Tracy and Vinnie - TR Show 2013

Home Show Success!

So, it’s been a while since I last posted. Sorry guys. I had a blog written about my Thursday lesson, but it was just so negative I decided not to post it. I want to keep things real and write about the good times as well as the bad, but sometimes I get so down on myself and no one wants to read that; heck, I didn’t even want to read it again! So that’s my excuse for the radio silence. Anyways, on to more exciting things… like the schooling show at the farm!

I went out to the barn on Saturday to practice and of course it was absolutely gorgeous out, but it was supposed to rain on Sunday so all the jumping was scheduled to be indoors. Blech. Oh well, April showers and all I guess. After talking with Trainer, we decided on a game plan: I’d show Diamond in Equitation Flat and Vinnie in 2′ Equitation Over Fences and Jumpers. I cried a little on the inside since there wasn’t a single hunter class. I mean, I haven’t shown in Equitation in probably five years and I’ve never ridden a jumper course! All I have to say is thank goodness for being able to practice the day before!

By the time I got there the jump course was all set up in the indoor and it looked really nice, I mean I stepped into the arena and was seriously impressed. Most of the jumps had fancy wing standards with colorful poles and boxes all over the place. I even had a moment where I was just so incredibly grateful to be at a barn like this, with great professionals and a dedicated, caring staff. Anyways, practice on Vinnie went pretty well; I didn’t have much horse and struggled to keep up the correct pace, but at least our “jumper” turns went well. I also flatted Diamond in the smaller indoor to practice for our flat class. She wasn’t bad, but she did feel a little up and I was just a titch nervous, which probably didn’t help her relax. I only rode her for about 20 minutes and called it quits.

Diamond and I - Timber Run Farm Show 2013

Show Day

I woke up early on Sunday and headed straight out to the barn. It was raining by 7 am, so I was worried that the horses wouldn’t get turned out. Luckily Trainer is amazing and managed to get Diamond some indoor turnout time before they started working the ring for the show — thank goodness! She said Diamond ran around like a bat out of hell. We all figured since it was raining there wouldn’t be many haul-ins, but boy were we wrong! All in all we had about 15 trailers plus boarders; It was much bigger than anyone thought it would be!

Equitation on the Flat was first and I had three simple goals in mind: (1) stretch up, (2) keep weight in my right leg and (3) not break at the canter. I’m not an Equitation rider — I don’t have the body-type and I have way too many things to worry about when I’m riding to try to look pretty while doing it. Overall the class went pretty well I thought. I need to keep working on stretching up in my transitions and I caught myself slipping out of my right leg a bit, but I didn’t break at the canter and I did a sitting trot fairly well considering I never, ever practicing it. We ended up 4th out of 8, which I was very happy with.

 

Next up was Equitation Over Fences with Vinnie, so I swapped horses and warmed up in the small indoor over a crossrail. Vinnie had a bit more energy, and I was so proud of him for not succumbing to his fear of the bear that lives in there, haha. We tried to go over the big indoor to stand at the end, which was sectioned off as a “waiting area” but it was so crammed full we couldn’t even get in. So I hopped off and stood in the aisle for a while, waiting for our class. We did manage to get back on and over the arena to school a few jumps before our class started. Vinnie was excellent, even with lots of chaos, including one rider who was having a pretty difficult time her mount. Plus since were up there and ready, I was able to get my trip in early on in the class [there were 11 riders total!]. Overall, I was happy with my ride. We were a little wobbly in the line, and I got left behind a little bit at the first fence. Vinnie doesn’t have flying lead changes, so that always hurts us, but again, I wasn’t really going in for a good Equitation round, I just wanted to do my best to generate and moderate our pace, keep my lower leg more still and follow well. I think I really accomplished all those goals and while my trip could have been better, it was still much improved from our school on Saturday. I ended up 4th out of 11 in this class, and I was over the moon ecstatic!

Timber Run Farm Show 2013 - Vinnie in Jumpers

I took a quick break to learn my Jumper course and went back in. This trip definitely wasn’t as smooth or pretty, but Vinnie was a champ and helped me through it. I honestly don’t remember much about this course — I think I was so focused on where I had to go next I wasn’t paying much attention to how I was riding [which is funny, because even though this was the Jumper course, the only part that was more difficult was 4 to 5… everything else was really set like a hunter course]. We didn’t knock down any rails, during our trip, so we got to do the jump-off, which was super nerve-wracking because I can only memorize one course at a time, so I had no idea where I was going! I had to learn the jump-off standing in the ring, but luckily I had some great friends and the ladies at the gate helped me learn it. This trip was pretty ugly, but my only goal was to get over the correct fences, which I did. Our turn to 4 was really rough and I almost fell off afterwards, but we gathered back up and made it over the last fence. Woohoo! We even got a 6th (!!) for efforts! My first [and probably last] ribbon in the Jumper ring, haha.

All in all, this show was a huge success for me. I’m really proud that I accomplished all my goals, even if they were small and I probably could have challenged myself to do a bit better. These courses were definitely out of my comfort zone and I handled it all in stride.

Tracy and Vinnie - TR Show 2013