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Miles Hack Sept 2013

Lesson Under Lights

Thursday evening is the best time of the week for me, because it’s lesson time! Sam and I got out to the barn early, and loved on Miles a bit. We started off in the indoor with four of us, but it was so dusty we ended up moving outside and rode under the lights.

Miles was actually (for the first time ever) a bit strong to start, but he softened back to his usual self in no time. We started with a single crossrail, and quickly moved on to some small courses. I did the first course a few times, and the first trip was probably our best. We trotted into a natural crossrail, cantered out in six strides to a natural box, cantered around to the green gate and finished up over the purple vertical. We had one simple change from the gate to the purple, but it was pretty quick, and I was happy with it.

We went again right away, and I totally messed up the entire course and Miles saved my butt over every. single. fence. I got a little left behind to the crossrail, half halted in the first few strides of the line, then tried to tell Miles to speed up for the five strides (WRONG!) and he chipped in hard to the natural box. Then we went around to the gate and I didn’t see a distance, so he chipped in to that one too. Came around to the purple and it was the same story, except I didn’t release and laid on his neck so he knocked the top rail. Ugh!

We finished up with a slightly different course: fence one and two were the same (crossrail to natural box), but then we did the purple vertical and finished up over the green gate. Our first attempt at this course was better, but I was unbalanced after the line and had to circle before going to the purple vertical. Our second attempt was smooth and pretty good.

Overall, the lesson was great. Here’s a quick strengths/weaknesses assessment I thought would be helpful moving forward and give me some good things to focus on.

Strengths

  • No Spook: Even though this was our first time riding under lights, Miles didn’t bat an eyelash at anything. Every time we go out and jump in a new environment or over new jumps without issue it gives me more confidence.
  • Miles’ Listening: Miles was a bit “up” but it definitely wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle and he still listened to my half halts every time. Good pony!
  • Thinking on Course: I’m getting much better about thinking while on course. I know it sounds like something I should just do naturally, but honestly I don’t. So deciding to change my plan and circle in the middle of a course is a big deal for me.
  • Analyzing: I’m getting very good at analyzing my ride, both in terms of thinking the same thing my trainer is, and making those changes the next time. When I had my bad round, I knew WHY the line sucked and what I should do differently. I also knew that I chipped in to the gate, so I had to change my path the next time around.
Miles Trot Sept 2013

Weaknesses

  • Core Strength: I really need to work on my core strength. It’s hard for me to pick myself back up after a fence, and it’s dragging Miles down.
  • Leg Strength: This has two parts, the first being that I haven’t practiced any leg strengthening exercises on Miles yet. We did two-point a bit during warm-up, and Miles got strung out. I need to remember to practice different seats during my flat rides. Also, I need more strength in my legs, and I need to imagine it flowing all the way down and out through my heels. I can’t squeeze for more forward and have my heels come up three inches.
  • Partnership: My partnership with Miles is getting better all the time, but knowing his stride and his movement more intimately will help me pick a distance farther back and know how much “go” and how much “whoa” I’m going to get with various strengths of those cues.
Miles Walk Sept 2013

Coursework

Miles and I had our customary Thursday lesson last night, and it ended up being a crowd! Four of us total in the lesson, with some extra spectators who came to meet Mr. Miles. Our resident jumper riders set a huge, beautiful course for us with jumps everywhere. I laughed at their triple combination, but they were nice enough to give us hunters a diagonal single, outside line and diagonal line.

During this time of our relationship, I really want to focus on the basics for both myself and Miles and concentrate on growing our partnership. As I’ve confessed before, I am easily over-faced and generally not very brave rider; I’m going to need time to trust Miles and gain confidence on him.

So with that in mind, we started off slow with some flatting and ground poles. I struggled with the ground poles a bit, but it’s all part of the process. I want to have a slower canter rhythm and Miles just wants to just canter down the line without much interference. He knows how to be adjustable, is easy to step up and respects my half halts… he just doesn’t like them; compressing his body and stride is difficult. I’m not going to push the issue at this point: as long as he listens, the finer point of him giving and accepting my half halts more gracefully will come in time.

We then moved on to a small outside line: trotting in to a crossrail and cantering out over a small vertical (a riveting 18″ for our audience). We were able to fit in six strides, and I was proud of myself for sticking with my plan, committing to my half halts and making it work. But when we opened up for the five, Miles was much happier. I must remember that Miles is not Vinnie who can take a half-step at the base of the fence, but also not Diamond who will launch for the long spot.

After a break for jumpers, I did a mini course, trotting into the diagonal line, cantering around the the outside line and finishing up over a diagonal gate. Everything was small, crossrails to 18″, but Miles was great. He went over everything without hesitation or even a peek at the jumps (see the small things I need to increase my confidence?). He let me hold back in the diagonal line, gallop up the outside line and chip in to the final diagonal fence (oops). We had one simple change that was snappy, and we didn’t have to do any circles to get organized or re-balance. I did this course twice and it was better the second time, without the chip to the final fence because I remembered it and asked Miles for more canter in the approaching turn (go me!).

We finished up with a final course of 18″-2′ jumps: up the diagonal gate single, down the diagonal line and up the outside line. This time we cantered the entire course, and got two flying changes, with decent distances, correct striding and no extra circles. I was beaming!

Love him!

Lots of peppermints and kisses from myself, as well as his adoring fans (during which Miles napped). Everyone commented on what a great match he is for me, and I have to agree. He’s been such a solid citizen so far, I can tell we are going to have tons of fun and learn a lot together; something I am so looking forward to!

Grooming Vinnie

All Bay Night

Last night I had my weekly lesson on Vinnie. It ended up being a group, with all four of us on bay horses — thus “All-Bay Night,” heh. Vinnie managed to stay semi-clean from his marathon grooming on Sunday, so I was able to groom and tack up in fairly short order. I went into the arena a little early to walk around by the end where the bear lives, especially since the big door was wide open [which means the bear has even easier access to tasty ponies, according to Vinnie]. We started out the lesson with just a crossrail to warm-up and that went pretty well for everyone. We moved on to schooling some of the line, and that also went well. Our first line [#3 and #4 in Course 1] was a bit wiggly. It was set right against the wall with the entrance door open, so of course we had to check for any baby bears that might be around, but our second time through was much improved.
Then we moved to schooling the other line, which proved to be everyone’s biggest challenge of the night. The first jump was a plain white rail with orange cones [#6], which was fine. The second jump was two brick boxes [#7], and just about every horse said “WTH?!” We all had at least one refusal the first time, but everyone eventually got over it and we were able to move on to coursework.
The first course went well for us. We struggled all night to find a good spot to the white gate [#2], but it wasn’t horrible. The brown natural vertical [#5] was our best all night. I’m still having trouble adjusting from Diamond’s big 12′ stride [14′ if you’re not careful!] to Vinnie’s 10′ stride, but it’s getting better every ride. I also hope that once Vinnie gets in better shape, and we get outdoors, that he’ll have more of a motor. Right now, it feels like we’re crawling. Even the BF said the difference in pace between me and the other girls was noticeable and it made it hard for him to see how my was position was. Note to self: to work on pace!
 
Once we all did that course, we moved on to a second one. I received mostly the same comments as the first course. I still had trouble with the distance to the white gate, but my first and third jumps were pretty good. Everyone in the lesson had success- the two greenies did great and one girl is headed to IEA Nationals this week and she has been just stellar in our lessons lately. I’m really excited for her and I honestly think if she has any luck at all in the draw, that she’s going to do really well!
spring daisies

It’s Finally Spring!

It’s finally spring here, but of course I didn’t get to enjoy the wonderful weather at all over the weekend. I was stuck working–inside–all day on both Saturday and Sunday. Luckily the warmer weather and sunshine held for my lesson last night and I was able to ride in just a t-shirt [no Under Armour, huzzah!]. I rode Vinnie again, and while he was a very good boy, we’re still struggling with some conditioning issues, which is to be expected after his four-month winter break. Currently, his weak left stifle is extremely weak, which makes everything to the left more difficult. But all he needs is some more fitness, which will come with time.

We started out with a flat exercise, focusing on varying degrees of connection and moving from a collected canter to a more forward canter and back again. By the end of the exercise, Vinnie and I were on the same page and it went pretty well. Then we moved on to some coursework. With Vinnie’s lack of fitness, we only jumped small jumps, maybe 18″ at most, but that’s fine with me; I need to focus on getting re-acquainted with Vinnie’s stride and pace anyways. Overall it went really well–when I focused on my core and keeping my legs still, it was all right there. When I didn’t… well, let’s just say it wasn’t as pretty. But, it’s all a work in progress!

As for Diamond, she is doing well. All the swelling in her tendon is gone, so we just have her wound to deal with. She’s still on stall rest, but at least she’s doing better. I’m hoping to flat this weekend and give her some extra spa treatment… if she cooperates. A cooped up red Thoroughbred mare might not make for a relaxing hour in the crossties!

Showing Vinnie

Back on Vinnie

After talking it over with my trainer, we decided to move ahead with the duo-horse option. I will plan to begin the show season riding Vinnie, while still taking lessons on Diamond. While I don’t love the idea of being back to showing in the same division as last over, over little baby 2′ fences, my number one priority is having a good, safe time showing this summer… and I’m not confident that I can do that at the end of May with Diamond. Fortunately, this decision didn’t come a moment too soon. I skipped one lesson due to a lingering head cold and when I got back, Diamond decided to cut her heel and pull off a shoe in turnout. She’s doing much better, but the wound isn’t healing quickly [three days later and it openly bleeds without a bandage on], as well some continued swelling in the right front tendon. So she’s on stall rest until further notice, poor girl.

When I went out to the barn on Saturday she was sulking in her stall, so I tried to cheer her up with some treats and cuddles. By the time I showed up for my lesson on Monday, she looked downright pitiful. So I loved on her, told her how pretty she was [that’s her favorite] and snuck her some extra treats.

Diamond and N 2012
Happier times for Diamond with my friend, N

Anyways, this post is really all about my return to my main man, Vinnie. He took the winter off and has only had three or four rides since returning to the barn about two weeks ago, so I wasn’t sure how the lesson would go. He’s still a hairy yak and way out of shape, but man, it sure felt like we hadn’t skipped a beat since last summer. I felt comfortable on him right away, and remembered his little quirks like the bear that lives at the end of the arena and how he likes to fool you into a slow-as-snails jog at the beginning of the lesson. It felt good to be back on my little solid-bred paint gelding.

Our lesson started out with flat work and working on adjusting striding between ground poles. I did pretty well, but it’s still a tough exercise for me; I just don’t always have a good feel for our pace. After we completed that exercise with a relative amount of success, we moved on to jumping. We started with some small crossrails since Vinnie hasn’t seen a jump in about four months, but he popped right over them without a thought! Good pony. We struggled a bit with our coursework, Vinnie’s lack of conditioning making it difficult to generate much energy at the canter–plus I forgot just how much leg he really needs! Overall it was a good lesson and a great reintroduction for the two of us.

I’m happy to be able to say that I can feel improvement from last year, but that there are still things I can work on. Now if only the weather would cooperate so that we could ride outside!