Sunday, July 15, 2018

Wading With Questions

The dogs enjoyed walking 8-10km every day, haha.
Following the Anthony clinic, as I eluded to in the last post, I went for a trail ride with N and AJ before disappearing to visit the Boyfriend.

The trail ride was very welcomed, as it is always nice to just head out of the ring, clear the head and just wander amongst the trees and trails. Annie was happy to lead almost the entire time, and was quite unhappy when I asked Nicole to take over the lead (to practice Annie being in the backseat for a bit). I don't mind her having opinions about being behind, because she mostly just marches forwards like her life depends on it (y not in the ring tho, horse?) and will ride up poor AJ's butt.

Being the leader is fun.
The one thing I do not like is that this horse is soooo not sure-footed, haha. This trail had a lot of divets from the quads that frequent it and a variety of different textures (sand, mud, logs, etc) and I have mostly only trail ridden Annie on wider, flatter, and less 'technical' trails before. Which, is fine, but when she is just marchin on (bc we are last oh my god), she tends to forget that mud is slippery and uh... we will both go down Captain.

Thankfully, we both stayed upright and I was happy the trail was finally open for use and made a mental note to frequent it more often. Typically, the trails across the river will only open once the river goes down. It usually happens end of June/early July once the snow from the mountains tapers off and the extra accumulated water disappears. Otherwise, it's a good swim across and I have no interest in trying to swim a baby horse in a very sandy area that has a reputation for sloughing off at the edges (remember how Suzie and I got stuck in the sand? yup, same place).

Following AJ - it took some convincing we could
walk this far behind and still be ok, haha.
The mini vacay was well timed, because I was struggling to remain positive and struggling to keep plugging away at Annie's newfound (altho, is it really that new if it has always been there but not necessarily hugely problematic until recently???) evasion and it really kinda bummed me out.

The writing has been on the walls since I've owned her tho, and I just never headed the warning. Which, I guess is a "normal" thing to do with a young horse and a "green" to green horses rider... But still, I can't help but feeling like I messed up pretty bad and it kinda crimps my riding mojo.

I've avoided the horse and avoided the "fights" simply because they aren't fun.

But, how do you fix something if you don't practice or work on it?

Which is why as soon as I got home, I was back on the horse the next day.

We might not have forward, but at least we look good?
In a jump pad and all!
Being a whiney baby doesn't get anyone anywhere, and while I am sure my friend's want to remind me how melodramatic and silly I am being (which, rational part of me knows this), it's time to pick up the pieces and start working on the tangible and educated advice I have been given over the last few weeks.

I went into those clinics knowing we had a lack of forward and got some good advice. So now, it's up to me to push myself to use that advice, be practical and methodical and just fucking DO IT.

So on Sunday I went out and did a schooling ride on Annie with N and AJ. Someone in our area had put out little "slow down" sandwich board signs and it spooked the crap out of Annie, but we did make it past without any theatrics.

I initially had intended to do a short, stretchy ride, but when we got to the ring and I went to canter on the left lead, Annie decided that half way through the circle she'd keep doing flying changes and suck back to the lower half of the ring (where AJ was). Granted, she had had 6 days off so I get that she reverted back to #freshlybrokebabyhorse status but like... can we NOT be herd-bound and try to evade work?

Several attempts to circle brought on the lead change and there was nothing I could do (or think of doing) to stop her. Mare was opinionated and was trying her hardest to let me know we should be heading aaaaa thataaaa way.

We worked on our trot and canter primarily, and I did have to boot her a few times around the ring to keep her motoring. A few times I was suckered into riding how I did before, but quickly reminded myself and got back to work. It felt like endless boots to the ribs at some points and I got pretty fricken frustrated. But like... hooray for her being a good bean after 6 days off, haha?

Annie says, might as well give me another six, lady.
Nicole ended up bringing AJ into the middle of the ring and we cantered endless circles around him before cantering away from him and doing circles without swapping the leads. I ended after a particularly good circle, praised her and we headed back home.

Monday I headed out again, this time ponying Spud. We had a pretty decent ride in the arena and I had ended up wearing spurs. I don't necessarily want to wear them all the time or rely on them, but I feel like maybe this will be a good tool to help us? It's tough to tell, and I try to ride as much as I can without them.

It was a shorter ride than Sunday's and I felt like she gave me some good work in between moments of being sticky. I still felt frustrated and sighed internally when a friend of mine who was planning a horse show messaged me and told me she was low on entries and could I please enter.

Support horse shows.
Support friends.
I love supporting horse shows, especially the local ones, because they are a tough thing to do and it takes a lot of planning. This particular show would be a schooling show with the opportunity to ride a test and "fix a test" with the judge the day before. I decided to go for it, because if anything, the mini-lesson with the judge would be super beneficial. I may not have a forward horse, but maybe she had more information to glean that I could use?

So, I accepted and sent in my entries for HCBC Training Level 1-3 and booked myself a Ride A Test/ Fix A Test Training Level 2 with the judge the day before.

With all of this being said, does anyone have any good exercises, tips, or tricks they've used with their forward-resistant horse? Did it get worse before it got better? How did you keep your horse "mostly" happy in their work while battling with the forward demons? I want to keep Annie as happy as possible, but some of our schools are going to be Tough Titties, mare. 

I have gone back in a few blogs to read comments and things, but would love to hear if anyone reading in particular has used spurs or if this is something I should avoid? Why/why not?

As always, thanks for reading and I appreciate/value everyone's insights! It takes a village!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Sven Smienk Clinic: Day 2

This is how Annie felt about the new rules, haha.
I rode mid-morning on Day 2, which meant I was able to leave my horse trailer hooked up for the evening. It was convenient and I was able to hit the road with Annie at a decent hour, well ahead of schedule.

During the drive out there, I felt more reserved and less than excited to ride my mare. I enjoyed the instructor, but the particular lesson we were having felt very... basic and borderline embarrassing. There is something to be said for dumbing things down to the most simplistic of things and as a rider, it makes me feel very... unaccomplished and silly.

We did get some good moments!
She sure moves so much nicer when she's not being nagged
every single stride - much freer and less restricted.
It's the way she goes tho, and clearly Annie and I needed a second set of eyes to push us through it because we weren't overcoming it on our own anytime soon. The mare was beginning to become comfortable in just... not and I was becoming comfortable in just letting her not.

And the cycle needed to be broken.

With it tho, a sliver of self-esteem chipped off. It sounds so melodramatic to say, but I kicked myself (and continue to kick myself) for the lesson and for letting it get so bad that we needed to literally have a pony club kick-a-thon.

It's weird how altho she looks less schooled in terms of connection
to the bridle, she looks much more stronger and... elastic?
But, enough of the doldrums that young horses bring and it's important to remember that after this downswing, we will hit the upswing again. It's just that... horses suck sometimes and it can really affect your riding mojo when you get inside your own head. After this clinic, I trail rode once before disappearing to visit the boy for the better part of a week. During my visit, I avoided even thinking about the horse, and more specifically our forward problem... because running from your horsey problems and avoiding them is the best remedy. Sigh.

Anyone have a tiny violin?

Annie would like a tiny violin as well.
Note that hind leg reach!
The lesson itself was more productive than our first - we were able to make additional headway and start to piece together more parts of the puzzle, like asking Annie to start engaging herself and lowering her poll. I wasn't 100% keen on the way it was explained, but it's possible I misunderstood what the clinician was meaning or that because my lesson was so basic, I was given a very basic direction. I take it at face value tho, and part of me would love to take a few more lessons with Sven once we have our forward button reinstalled so I can get some "real" lessons and work on more than just the meat and potatoes that is riding.

Annie came out of the trailer nicely again, tied well, and quietly munched from her hay bag. She seemed more "up" than the previous day, but other than looking around more, she didn't do much.

Not the best balance (and whyyy am I grabbing
with my inside rein), but she's forward!
This lesson day also symbolized a super exciting day - my new Dressage saddle finally arrived!! Since October last year, I hemmed and hawed about the demos I got to try from Kelsey (yes, the same Kelsey who makes the clay ornaments is a saddle fitter now!). I finally settled on a Hastilow Concept Elevation Dressage saddle, but Kelsey took some additional measurements to make it more customized to both me and Annie.

It was a bit of a wait for the production to begin, as I scrounged up a down deposit and started to sell my other saddles I didn't need (ie. the Bates and Western that didn't fit Annie). Kelsey was amazing with me the entire time - she was super understanding that I couldn't dump $$$ on the saddle ASAP and took payments very leisurely over the course of 6 months. I appreciated the fact she worked with me like that, because I don't particularly like laying down a big sum of cash because it is often when other things go wrong.

For those curious, that's an AP pad, haha.
Since Kelsey was in town, we met up at Barn C and I arrived well before my ride time so she could adjust the flocking to Annie and we could make any other necessary adjustments. It fit pretty well, but required some additional flocking on the left panel (which we did after my lesson). I was super excited for the saddle and tried to play it down like everything was cool, but inside my stomach was flipping and I was SO excited to ride in it, haha. I'll need to get some new leathers and girth now to match as my Dressage gear when I had Suzie was already verrrry second hand (like... my leathers are flaking black bits and showing the brown underneath...).

Kelsey also gave me some samplers of Higher Standards leather soap and conditioner, as well as some oil. I have a container of some soap already, but never got to try the conditioner.

Once we got the saddle on, leathers and stirrups changed, we wandered over to the indoor and waited to be called in like the days previous. When we did, Sven did a double take in our direction and commented on our Dressage get up. I filled him in on the whole "dis is my new saddle!!" and he seemed pretty stoked to see I was in actual proper attire, haha. Unfortunately, I didn't plan my riding outfit well and it kind of clashed with my pad choice... sigh. C'est la vie, I guess.

We started out as we had the day previous. Some of the points to remember, and some of the things I found interesting:

  • She needs to learn to carry you and herself - you aren't asking for anything huge or unreasonable.
  • Horses who lack forward need things drawn in black and white, but at the same time, it's important to be careful when re-affirming the forward button. You don't want to create a resentful horse when re-teaching them what your leg means. (In a word, take no shit but be fair).
  • Things will be messy and ugly before they get better. It's part of the training process. Believe in it and persist.
This? This isn't feel ugly.

  • You ride your horse like an owner and you need to start riding her like a trainer. Owners get down and defeated about problems, trainers brainstorm and take the problem at face value and aren't afraid to go back to the basics to build things back up again. Don't be afraid to do just that.
  • When you ride a young horse, you have no choice but to be a trainer. You can't get frustrated and you can't avoid the problems. Face them, learn from them, and do better.
  • Sometimes when she does a down transition, you are expecting her to dump you and end up sitting too heavy/braced and she botches her transition. Try to be more in tune with her movements and let her carry you into the transition. Trust her a bit.
  • Ride TO YOUR LETTERS. (This was during a diagonal line that I kept turning too early for, haha). Be disciplined in your figures.

I found Sven to be incredibly practical and kind when it came to the fact Annie is still very green and young. He didn't pull any punches, but didn't make us feel like we were worthless or didn't belong in the ring. He made us work, but made me understand that young horses are fickle things and that sometimes we can't be a pet owner, we have to be someone who takes no bullshit. Zero tolerance, as it were.

So yah. It was a tough lesson to learn, not physically, but mentally. It really made me sit back on my ass and feel a pinch of self-pity, haha. I try not to bring my whining to the blog, but this particular set of lessons and problem we are currently facing have not been very fun. And sometimes, you have to do a bit of whining to get past it.

Wat are you doing inside rein, haha.
All things considered, despite the mare being downright PISSED about the new arrangement, she did try, and was (in a way) less pissed on this day about all of it. 

We did make progress... and that's all I can really ask for.

Plus, I have a pretty new saddle so... yay?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sven Smienk Clinic: Day 1

Following the Anthony clinic, the Boy came home and things got a bit busy, so I didn't really get to ride Annie except for once before our second set of lessons the following weekend. Aside from ponying my nephew for the first time, Annie and I did end up going for a short hack to stretch our legs and worked a bit on forwardness before calling it quits.

Doesn't she look so enthused?
I had signed up for two days of a three day clinic with a dressage instructor from the lower mainland - he continually comes up to the area, but typically at a farm that is even farther away than Barn C. I never really was able to take lessons with this particular trainer due to the clinic always being full and the location - hauling back and forth would be a huge pain in the ass, especially tacking on another 30 minutes.

When the opportunity arose to ride with him at Barn C, I hesitantly opted to try it out. I'm always nervous to try new trainers, especially being that clinics can be quite costly and sometimes, they just aren't your cup of tea.

A few friends who audited one of his last clinics at Barn C earlier in the year urged me to try him out, so I decided to take them up on their assessments and decided not to audit him myself before going.

I signed up for both Friday and Saturday, just like I had for the Anthony clinic. Annie was great to haul, as per usual, and settled in quietly at Barn C and munched her hay while I got her tacked up and ready. It was raining on Friday, so I tacked up and then led her into the barn aisles to wait for our turn in the ring. She stood with moderate interest, and looked pretty damn cute doing it.

About to do real gud dressage in jump tack.
As the lesson before us dwindled down, Sven asked us to come in the ring and I led Annie over to the mounting block where she stood like a seasoned pro. Sven was very welcoming and kind, he put my mind at ease as we spoke about mine and Annie's training, difficulties, and triumphs. I went over in great detail our history and touched on the glaring hole in our training we seemed to be currently battling. I explained we had a lack of forwardness and that it had been an issue since I practically got the horse, but as time went on it seemed to get better, then worse, then better again. I made mention that the last two months our forward button really fizzled out and it was time now to address the issue and put it behind us for good (or mostly for good, haha).

Sven asked me a few other questions, like her breed and where I got her from. He then asked us to please go around the ring at all three gaits and show him how we currently ride - he explained it would give him a better understanding as to what kind of lesson plan he would use for me and see where we needed help the most. I tentatively marched Annie off and a smidge of dread filled me - I get hyper aware when people (especially trainers) watch me ride and almost forget how to ride and fumble around.

This is our "before" trot. Going nowhere fast...
and a very dumpy transition. Don't be fooled,
I am literally pushing her every single fucking stride.
I got my head back in the game a bit tho, and made no qualms about showing him just how poor our forward button was. I finished off cantering on the right lead and slowed, asking if he needed to see any more. He said no and called me to the middle where we talked about how the lack of forward was indeed an issue for us and that he'd like to address it and that it was going to mean going back to the very basics.

I did have to laugh a bit, because when I had first approached him at the middle of the ring, he folded his arms across his chest and kind of smirked and said, "Well, if you want to keep riding like that, you may as well get a stick horse because you are literally doing both jobs." He was a pretty cheeky clinician, and I enjoyed the little quips because they did remind me of Anthony.

We started out at the walk and Sven encouraged me to leave my legs off of her at all times and ONLY use them when I needed her to do something. At first, it was very difficult to literally leave my legs dangling and it caused Annie to falter her steps a few times (because somebody wasn't nagging her along). It reminded me of my rides with Anthony the weekend before, wherein he urged me to ride her bolder - it all was kind of falling into place here. Sven directed me, in this instance, to use a squeeze of the leg to push her forwards. If she didn't respond, my leg cue would be a touch of the heel and finally, a kick to the ribs. We would give her the opportunity to respond, but needed a response otherwise the stimulus would increase.

As a whole, this lesson was pretty much reminiscent of my 4-H days trying to trot an ornery 20 year old Quarter Horse mare around the ring. Legs flapping and flying everywhere and man oh man, was I EMBARRASSED.

And Annie? Annie was PISSED. I mentioned to Sven, "She feels very, very pissed." and he kind of laughed and said, "Well ya, she just came out of semi-retirement."

So, the tail was just a'going on the Bannie machine. She was NOT happy, not one bit. But, I do promise things settled by Day 2 and she was much more at peace with our new arrangement. I suppose I had to be prepared she'd have all the feelings.

The helicopter tail returns bc Bannie is PISSED.
However, you can also see the moment where around the
corner she sort of fizzled out and we went for a little lengthened
canter bc slowing down is a no no, Bannie.
Sven found that Annie had my number and would trot strongly after being booted but as soon as the leg came off, would falter and slow almost immediately. It was an interesting ride, because I so badly just wanted to go back to how we rode before because although it was a struggle bus of forwardness, we at least looked nice? But, I knew it wouldn't do us much good. This was the lesson we needed to have, even if I didn't want to have it.

Part of me was annoyed I didn't fix it sooner, because our lessons consisted of the very basics all weekend and I was paying for such a simple and easy fix. But... obviously I needed the lesson because I've gone three months without going ahead and doing it when Anthony first mentioned it in his April clinic. So... shame on me?

The lesson felt immensely messy, but it was a necessary messy. And I know for a fact I wouldn't have had the patience to kick along for 45 fucking minutes and get to a good place before ending.

The whole lesson was focused on forwards - not
bend, not contact, just forward.
There were a few times wherein I booted Annie forward for not listening to my leg and she gave no response. Whenever this happened, Sven instructed us to gallop. So, yanno, we galloped like out of control motorcycles for a good portion of the lesson too. #sogoodatdressage

By the end of the lesson, things were starting to piece together nicely and I could feel that Annie's wheels were starting to turn a bit. I still had to kick every several strides but I was starting to make things black and white instead of riding off into grey territory.

Overall, I enjoyed my lesson with Sven and he was a sympathetic and understanding teacher - I had mentioned a few times I was embarrassed and he simply shrugged and stated that once we had forward, the rest would fall back into place and be even easier for us. I knew he was right, but it was a hard pill to swallow.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Anthony Lothian Clinic: Day 2

Day two of the clinic dawned bright and early (sort of). Being that I haul back and forth (especially right now when the Boyfriend is not home to watch the doggos), I needed to get my butt in gear much sooner than if I had stayed overnight. I don't mind it so much though, because I was actually looking forward to a morning ride time, which would mean I'd still get home and actually be able to do stuff!

Again, Annie was super to haul, unload, tack, etc and I was on without much delay. I didn't bring Spud with me because I wanted to get home and finished with chores as quickly as possible so I could walk the dogs and enjoy the rest of my day.

We got to business right away, as I had warmed up Annie in the grass area again. She was happy to plod along and altho she got tight a few times in her neck, she eased herself back into my hands nicely. It wasn't perfect, but there were some good moments to be had.

No boots because the front boots had rubbed her little puncture wound
the day before.
Anthony called us in and we chatted a little bit about Annie's body changes and he again apologized for the day before. I told him not to worry - the best laid plans and all that. It's something I understand and was pleased to hear that the horse who had been a bit of a Jerk Face was quite pleasant the two remaining days of the clinic.

Which brings me to another point. Typically clinics around here are three days. While I do have the ability to participate in all three days, I often choose to do two days only. It kind of goes in line with all the budgeting posts I have been seeing lately - to haul out each day (45min each way) and factoring in the costs of the lessons themselves, it's financially easier just to do the two. I could haul out and camp (which I have done before and it cuts down a lot on costs), but with the Boyfriend gone and having dogs at home, I can't really just bring them with me. Plus, Annie and I are typically Deader Than a Dead Thing on Day 2 so I feel like Day 3 would be wasteful when both of us aren't in shape for it.

Anyways, back to our regularly scheduled post.

I really enjoyed this lesson - there were a lot of good moments and I had some "new" feelings undersaddle. Like, feeling Annie lock onto her first jump ever!! And jumping a very teeny 2' jump!

I do really enjoy my private lessons, because during the walk breaks Anthony really gets into biomechanics and breaks down a lot of issues unrelated to my lesson that may come up in the future. He's an exceptionally smart man and I enjoy his thought process, especially during this clinic wherein we talked about "headset" and being "round" and what it means, how to apply it to horses and why tight frames aren't beneficial. I mean, we all know why, but to hear in his own words and with real-life examples, it was really cool. We even played around with having Annie more engaged and what feel I should be feeling vs "fake" lightness and how that can hinder our quest to forward. It was really, really neat.

We worked on solidifying the basics on the flat first and a lot of what Anthony talked about the previous day was echoed. It's interesting to me that I've heard this "stop nagging her forward and make her carry herself" and I still just keep doing what I can do to get by. It bit me in the ass a few times, especially with the jumping.

Some of the course we did - so many little X's for the conquering!
If you can't push a horse forward and have them carry you to the jump, you have a very wiggly, borderline dangerous (when the jumps get higher), and very frustrating ride to the base of the jump. It all goes in line with Anthony wanting me to ride her braver and make HER brave. Sitting there and nudging every stride out of the horse isn't going to help us when the jumps get higher or I'm trying to get her into a scary corner of a Dressage arena.

So instead of fixing it, I've just been making myself ride harder. Keeping that leg on, pushing each and every stride out of her... but it doesn't work. I'm pouring sweat, breathing heavy, and my legs get sore (curse these short legs!). And in return, I've made a horse that is quite dull to the leg and enjoys not having to work as hard as she should be and gets pissed for the continuous legs bouncing at her sides.

We worked a lot on going over trot poles and revving her up to go over them and then "abandoning" ship (ie. sitting quiet) as she went over them. It was interesting to me, because she fumbled her way through the first few sets because I wasn't holding her hand. As we moved along, she became more willing to carry herself and more willing to step out to make the striding.

The large blue/grey one wasn't for us, but the rest of them were!
She botched a few of the first cross-rail jumps and as we went over them, I booted her forwards to get that forwardness we were lacking. Some of the jumps were quite messy - I'd head towards it and all of a sudden we're going left... and right... then left again.

And it all kind of boils down to the same phrase Anthony has been saying to me all year.

Make HER bolder.

Don't ride every stride - she needs to hold her end of the bargain for you. When you get into the more complicated things, then you can start to micromanage more. The very basics should be there without the need for interference from the rider.

THIS was fun!!
Don't get me wrong, we have made great strides tho. This particular clinic I jumped more than I ever have with Anthony and he even raised the jumps! It's small steps and I'm sure we'll get this forward thing sorted out in no time (only for another issue plagues us I'm sure, hah!).

I don't remember key points from this lesson beyond echoed statements from previous lessons, but it was enlightening and a fun lesson. I'm sad I don't have media from it, because it would have served as some ripe blog fodder!

Tired bean - ready to head home!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Anthony Lothian Clinic: Day 1

Wow - how is half the year already gone!?

Hot days = cold hose showers and baths!
I apologize in advance for not being very active - life has a funny way of being very busy in the Summer and sitting down to type up blog posts has taken the back-seat. Never fear tho, I have been riding the Mare Beast a lot and have thrown myself and Ms Mare into a few clinics!

Following our impromptu bridleless ride, the weather got very, very hot. Now I know a lot of blog readers are from the lower forty and temperatures of 100F+ (37) are very typical, but up here, we absolutely melt once the weather breaks into the high 80s (30C). Suffice to say, not much riding was done and what little riding we did was bareback hacks and toodles to the river.

I was pretty pleased with Annie, mostly because she showed up to work despite the high temps and even willingly waded into the river water. It actually caught me off guard that she strided out so willingly I had to rein her back in so we didn't go for an unintentional swim. I don't mind swimming horses, but having a young horse that doesn't really know what to do when their feet can't touch anymore makes me nervous. I've seen horses in the past completely freak out and although the worst thing that can happen (in some sense) is the rider gets tossed overboard, I didn't want to tempt fate, especially since we were out alone.

We did manage one schooling ride prior to the Anthony clinic on the June 22 weekend. It was alright, but I started to feel like one of the issues that had been plaguing us for the better part of several months was starting to come to a head. Forwardness is something that a lot of other equestrian bloggers are struggling with, and after these last few weeks, I've realized that it's become a very big issue for us.

She has found a new love of reallllly stretching. It's hilarious, actually.
For example, does anyone remember reading my old Dressage tests from last year? If you don't, most of the comments stated I needed "impulsion", "forwardness", "in front of the leg". Which, is pretty normal on a green horse in some regard.

But it's started to eek into other things - like our show in May when Annie walked over a few jumps as opposed to carrying herself and going... well... forward.

And it isn't really news to me, because it's something Anthony has mentioned in each clinic I've taken with him this year. I told him I heeded his warnings and would work on it, but it didn't become a necessity to fix  until it started to get in the way of regular riding.

A size comparison, haha.
I was excited to ride with Anthony and get his feedback, especially since I had became more inclined to fix the issue vs skirting around it as best as I could (unintentionally and intentionally).

The first day of the clinic, I showed up quite early so I could drive Spud in the indoor prior to my lesson. I wanted to take the time to get him in an arena again and work on some Dressage-y things. Previous drives on him were alright - he gets quite hot and bracey and without a real place to school him in his paces, it's hard to get an accurate assessment of his demeanour in harness.

I was pleasantly surprised to find him malleable, quiet, and very steady. Part of me thinks the endurance rides are something he has come to expect - we bomb down old trails and pick up speed. What's not to love? Haha.

We did some dressage work and ended it with playing around on our turns. I have worked quite hard at making him accountable to voice commands, and I was happy to find I didn't have to guide him much with the reins at all. The urgency in my voice and loudness I used let him know how tight to turn.

Annie quietly ate hay as she watched with much disinterest and when we wandered back over to the trailer, she was good to tack up and mount. I did some warming up in the grass field and was happy to find that she was much more willing to stride out vs previous warm ups.

I'm not sure if it's the openness or the fact it's not a "real ring", but she always would feel like she was sucking back towards the jump arena and wasn't really happy to move out across the grass. Hilarious to think now, because knowing what I know now... that's just a lack of forwards ;) Interesting how horses make us change our riding tactics and how a lot of the issues are stemming from the same thing.

Good mare.
But anyways.

The lesson was unfortunately very, very late. A friend's horse was having a heck of a time behaving and Anthony is very adamant on not only ending on a good note, but a repetitive good note. For example, if the horse was taking off after every jump, he'd expect the horse and rider to fix it and be able to calmly jump a jump several times.

At first, I always was annoyed because "We did it though!" and his reply would be "Now make it a habit/ learned behavior."

The lesson with my friend's horse ended up going well over my lesson time and part of me was glad I ended up kenneling Ella at home, haha. I was also super happy to see that Annie didn't mind parking herself quietly in the ring and waiting. She alternated between dozing and trying to rest her hind legs (I had fetlock boots on her and she has never worn them before, so she kept trying to rest and then would straighten upright when the boot tightened haha).

No photos from the lesson, so enjoy Bannie snacking on a hot afternoon.
In the end, Anthony ended up putting me in the next lesson with two other riders. I was a little nervous, mostly because these two riders were on more advanced horses than I was, but it played out OK in the end. I was able to ride with them, school with them, and put more miles on Annie doing something we don't typically do.

Standing around waiting for an hour and a half? We don't do that much, haha.

Lessons with other riders? Not really, I usually lesson alone.

So, that in itself was a good little "learning lesson" and I was happy with how it ended up playing out.

The lesson itself was pretty good - Annie was well behaved and we worked hard on engagement as well as pushing her forwards on her own (you know, the thing I had been neglecting!).

With two other riders it was a bit difficult tho, as we all took separate turns doing certain exercises so we could each have Anthony's entire focus. I appreciated that aspect, but I also got super bored (but in retrospect, I had also been on the horse since 5 and it was now 7:30, haha!).

One jaunt to the watering hole - look at the top of the image
to see all the people wading in the water.

Some good points to note from the lesson were as follows:

  • Let go of the inside rein. (He ended up having me drop my inside rein and holding onto my breastplate so I wouldn't be tempted to try and correct Annie bulging out. He said I get so up in arms about her bulging out that I crank her to the inside but it doesn't straighten the bulge - it just makes her neck bulge the other way). It was enlightening, because as soon as I actually yanno HELD my outside rein, the horse was straight and we magically still had steering.
  • Sit lighter - especially during the transitions I am expecting her to throw herself/dump herself into them that I am sitting so heavy she has a hard time gathering herself up. She is a weak horse by nature and needs all the help she can get. I concentrated on rolling my pelvis forward and it helped a lot.
  • Stop nagging with your legs - ask her to go forwards and if she doesn't comply, give her a stronger aid (in this case, it was a kick). *This is an important one, bc it is a theme in our next clinic haha.
  • You need to make her braver and bolder in her steps. She is so tentative because you micromanage every step. Let HER be bold for once.
  • Let her make the mistake and then say "Thanks for trying, but it is the wrong answer." You need to let her make the mistakes.
  • The muscling over her haunches has changed quite a bit (a good thing).
  • She struggles over the slight incline in the arena - take the opportunity to school her over uneven ground (which I have been doing, but not in any great capacity) to make her stronger.

Looking the part - just need forward now!
That's all I really remember from Friday's ride, since it has been so long ago and I neglected to make notes. But it was good - it wasn't the solo ride I intended to have, but I think being able to adapt to changes and taking the hits as they come was just as important. 

I ended up finishing around 8:30pm and was darn tired when I finally got home, but still made true on my promise to walk the puppers when I got back! Anthony did apologize both to me and my mare, haha, but I assured him it was OK because it gave Annie a good opportunity to stand quiet and realize that we don't always go places to tack up and ride right away. Sometimes we have to stand around and hang out first, haha! ;) 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Look Ma, No Reins.

Doesn't she look thrilled.

Like I had alluded in my previous post, I was starting to get a bit burnt out of riding in the ring and Doing The Things. Not that it wasn't fun, because Annie has been working really hard to meet me halfway with my expectations in the ring.

Just, sometimes, the ring is a boring place.

So I took Annie for a little trek around the neighborhood in the snackamore (which is really just Suzie's old leather halter with some reins attached). I am always pretty cautious of over-doing it in the ring, especially because last year thats all we ever did was school. While it didn't seem to burn Annie out, it burnt me out.

Happy ears in the snackamore.
This year, I've decided to take up the opportunity to ride with the variety of trainers that come up to the area and take advantage of the trails we have access to at home.

Still, I do try and get in some solo-schooling, especially because I'd like to retain the things I've learned and to progress on the pieces we put together in the clinics we attend.

Last Thursday, we went out with intentions to school and it was evident both Annie and I were just not into it.

So, mid-schooling session, I tossed my reins aside and decided to just play.

First things first, we tested our brakes.

And then moved on to speed and turning.

And finally, I ponied up and veryyyyy quietly (almost too quietly lol) asked for canter:

I'm sure Annie would've been happy to just trot along lol

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Mostly Just Riding

*Behind on posting again, arg!

"Y you do this to me?" -Annie
Following our Not Good/ Good ride on Thursday, we hacked around the subdivision Friday. Annie was super - we had done some despooking stuff in the yard, which included dragging tarps and waving a plastic bag around on the end of a whip. She was not amused, but didn't offer to spook or make a fuss.

The hack out was wonderful - she was calm, quiet, and when she offered to spook at a few things, I pressed her on and towards the object. She got over herself pretty quickly, as if to say, "Oh right, that hockey net isn't scary."

I did find she was running a bit of a fever when we got back to the barn tho (she didn't want to eat grass in the front, which I found weird). Come to find, she was having a mild reaction to her vaccinations we had boostered since she had punctured herself. Poor mare was probably feeling a combination of under the weather and tired from the day before.

I gave her some bute and cold hosed her neck to help with the tiny bit of swelling. The vet who sent up the vaccines called me back later that day to assure me that it was "normal" of sorts, in some horses (to react).

She got Saturday off, although we did do some in-hand work. She has reverted back to staring down the driveway and flipping me the bird about walking down the driveway. She doesn't drag me, but she is obviously excited to go out and will just be impatient (fidgets if I halt her, etc). So we walked up and down the driveway a bunch, did some circling, etc. She was better after the work and I put her back, not wanting to do too much since she was still recovering from her wee reaction, haha.

Sunday we went for a hack with Nicole and AJ, intent on only doing an easy walk ride. We toodled around and ended up stripping the horse's tack and letting them run loose in the arena. Spud and AJ tore it up and we tentatively let Annie loose with them, as she hasn't shown any inclination to dislike AJ (since we ride together almost every weekend). However, Annie took major offence to AJ after rolling around and when she went over to investigate the geldings, she threw some kicks in AJ's direction. And then squatted, nickered, and went into fucking FLAMING heat.

I guess she is a rough lover?

We got the horses separated and luckily, AJ suffered nothing more than some hair missing. Gah, Annie. I apologized profusely to Nicole, offering to bring AJ carrots and apples. Nicole shrugged and said, "Well, now we know not to let her loose with him." I appreciated her kindness, and felt a bit stupid that we let Annie loose, but we assumed it would be OK. Lesson learned, I guess.

The horses were tacked back up, we re-mounted, and went for a little ride around the fairgrounds property. Annie was well behaved, although slightly enamored with AJ. I was happy that altho she was a gross, liquid spewing machine, she was listening to her rider despite having a hunk of horse-flesh with her, haha.

Boyfriend visited Sunday - Monday evening, so no pony time was to be had.

Tuesday, however, it was back to the proverbial grind and I headed out mid-morning to ride. I had been having aversions to riding in the ring lately, not because we've been having bad rides, but because I feel like I lack motivation to school and to do so competently on my own. Before getting burnt out with ring riding and making myself ride because I have to vs I want to, I decided that I'd limit the amount of schooling rides we had that week.

Regardless, we still had a good schooling session. Annie was a bit more "up" hacking out and even called out for friend's twice, which she hasn't done in a very long time. Being that we have hacked with friends 80% of the time lately (due to the bears), I think Annie got used to meeting up with another horse, haha. I figured it would be good for her to go out on her lonesome and she settled into a quiet, sedated walk well before we got to the ring.

In the ring, we ended up working mostly on trot-canter-trot transitions. The ride itself was very tough for Annie - learning to balance herself, hold connection, and also downshift back into trot was difficult for her. Usually, our canter-trot transitions look like we're just falling into a heap. Which, is part of the process I guess, haha. Still, I took the opportunity to work on them and Annie ended up getting frazzled when we started to work on the simple changes. The connection in the bridle was gone and I was now riding a confused llama.

Last year, had I done that many transitions to and from canter, Annie would have lost her proverbial mind. Not only that, but she was actually trying to figure out what I wanted. At one point, instead of coming back to a trot, she collected herself into the slowest, bundled little canter. I reached forward, patted her, and laughed.

We ended the ride after we got a few good canter-trot transitions and I made a mental note to make my simple changes longer in duration (eg. trotting longer before picking up canter). Trying to do them quicker seemed to confuse Annie a bit, especially changing the lead, haha.

Something is missing here...
Heading home from the ride, Annie quietly walked along. So quiet, that I ended up unbuckling her reins and rode her the remaining 10 minutes home with them draped around her neck. She listened well enough, although she did try and snatch a few mouthfuls of grass on the way home!