Friday, May 31, 2019

Ladies Camp: Day 2

Spoiler alert.
Friday night, although cool and breezy, wasn't actually too terrible sleeping in the utility trailer. The lack of heater was noticed, but I ended up just pulling my sleeping bag up around my ears and managed to fall asleep. We were woken up several times through the night as the rain was insanely loud against the metal roof. 
By morning, the rain had vanished and it was borderline too hot to wear pants. I wasn't scheduled to ride until noon, so I had a leisurely morning of getting myself dressed, feeding the pony, feeding myself, and watching my two bunk-mates ride. 

When S and K took their horses from the paddocks beside Annie, I was mostly surprised that Annie, although distressed and upset, silently went back to her hay when Tyson and Fru refused to answer her desperate calls. In fact, Tyson and Fru ignored Annie most of the weekend, #thirdwheel.

Soon enough, it was getting close to my ride time and I pulled Annie out of the paddock where she had been munching on hay and tied her to the trailer. The trailer was kind of tucked behind the indoor arena, and the view of the horses and remainder of paddocks was obscured. Annie was very finicky at the trailer - moving around, pawing, and breathing deeply. I hung her hay bag and ignored it, slowly getting myself (and her), ready. 

She continued to misbehave at the trailer and once she had most of her tack on, I walked away to put my boots and helmet on. I'm all for discipline, but in this instance, mare needed to work out her problems on her own. 

Unfortunately, Annie got pretty pissed with my #ZenNinja-ness and started to kick out with her one hind. I stepped in when she managed to kick the rubber part of one of the trailer tires. For one, it isn't my horse trailer, and secondly, I was running out of time and while I was trying to make a point, having a riled up horse to ride wasn't going to be beneficial.

Yaaaas, weeerk Mare.
I removed her from the trailer, but stood in hand, reprimanding her attempts to walk off to rejoin her friends. She sighed and we moseyed to the mounting block, I hopped on, and off we went up the hack trail to the outdoor arena.

She spooked when we crested the hill and spotted several horses warming up in the ring, I gave her a pat and in we went. The lesson went really, really well. In fact, you wouldn't have even guessed she was a giant butt-face at the trailer. She tried hard, dug in deep, and gave me some really quality work.

Some of the tidbits I gleaned from this lesson (some are repeats from the day before):

  • Elongating the neck does not = long and low. You want rein contact, and you want her poll slightly elevated. You simply want her neck longer - letting the muzzle tip out to uncurl her throatlach and have her crest even.
  • Put more weight on your inside toes. I don't even know how Trainer K figured out I was riding balancing on my big toe, but apparently she did.
  • Need a bit more forward for a Dressage trot - forward does not equal fast.
  • Hands up a bit higher and even.
  • During the leg yields, keep her as straight as possible. Don't be afraid to ask MORE. You ask for sideways, get more cross-over with the legs vs shuffling.
  • After warming up on a longer rein and allowing her neck to be more elongated, pick her up into a higher frame. Think of the neck as a waterfall - you want it to be flowing. If there is a bend at the lower vertebrae, you will see it as a bulge. 
I'm sure there were way more tips and tidbits, but I am having serious memory loss from having so many lessons in one weekend and not writing anything down while I was away, haha. It was good tho, I was pretty proud of her and was pleased she was able to be so relaxed and rideable in such a new, exciting place. The stupidity at the trailer (which was addressed all weekend) was frustrating, but I was both ecstatic and proud she showed up and went to work. 

The weekend really made me miss my Trainer K lessons though, because we worked on so much! By the end of each lesson, I was reminded of how many things we *can* work on and how many things we *should* be working on. 

It can be tough, sometimes, to go to clinics and be stuck on a 20m circle trying to achieve bend and relaxation. I mean, those lessons are well warranted and have their place, but it leaves me a bit unmotivated and feeling kind of... undeserving to work on things outside of some basics. But, the ladies camp kinda breathed new life back into me - reminding me that there are tons of things to work on and that demanding perfection 100% of the time is just not a realistic goal. In schooling, things have to get messy first ;) 

With all of that being said tho, I realized just how much more I can start to push for quality (vs passable) work. There has to be a balancing act tho, and like all things, I took advantage of the weekend to try new things and push myself (and Annie) to be better. Which is half of the reason she got to visit a certain alder tree after being a naughty Bannie (although not as terrible as she was pre-ride) post-ride. 

Call it Personal Development Time if you want. It didn't take her long to settle and give up - but she made for darn sure we all know how unhappy she was by kicking a tree behind her and pawing angrily. 

Annie's alter-ego was strong on Saturday, lol.
She was returned to her paddock once her opinions fizzled out and I climbed back up the long hill to watch S and K's jumping lesson. After that, I an afternoon snack and was hauling Annie back out for our 4pm jump lesson.

She was marginally better at the trailer, but kept fidgeting and just acting like a miserable cow. Tacking her up was easier this time, as she was not moving so much. Not wanting to leave her tied to the trailer lest she have more opinions, we wandered to the mounting block and toodled up the hack trail behind some of our lesson-mates.

I was feeling pretty darn confident heading to jump, as one of our last schools and lessons went really well and I felt like I could easily do 18" - 2' courses, especially with Annie being so complacent and agreeable in the ring. 

The lesson was off to a good start - we did a bunch of stirrupless, posting-canter, etc. But... the wheels kinda fell off when I needed to do a full course. I'm not sure if it was lack of sleep, aching muscles, the oppressing heat, or all of the above combined but Annie felt kinda hot and finicky (a happy "let me jump!!1!!1" kind of finicky). I struggled to keep my two point and kept chipping her deep into the lines. It made my confidence waver, and Trainer K kept reciting the same thing at me and I just couldn't get my body to do the thing.

Eventually, I pulled up and Trainer K and I had a quick discussion, wherein I acknowledged what she was asking and that I was trying, but I just couldn't get my body to comply in the way she wanted. 

All in all, it felt like a monumental disaster and kinda shot my confidence but Annie was really good and packed me through most of it. We were both a little wirey and rough around the edges which didn't make for a good lesson. The good part is that it wasn't all awful, and I should be partly flattered that Trainer K was asking me to step my game up. 

Plus - we were still sailing above and beyond my weekend expectations. Annie was not only rideable but she was comfortable and felt CONFIDENT in what we were doing. I couldn't have asked for more.

Maybe she was a little too confident tho, because after the lesson I halted her in the warm up ring to speak to S and K while the other horses were leaving. I'm not really sure what happened, but I assume Annie wanted to follow the other horses and when I said "hold on", she kicked out with her hind leg and then proceeded to cow-kick the air 5-8 more times. I kinda looked at K, bewildered before leaping off in an emergency dismount. Bannie got a bad girl spank, but I'm not really sure what the hell she thought she was going to accomplish. She felt fired up as I led her down the footpath, and although she tied to the trailer better than in the morning, she earned herself another time out with Mr. Alder for being a little too rambunctious. 

Hey, I'm Bannie and I make bad choices, lol
And oh man was she pissed - she threw herself into one tree, attempted to lay down, pawed, kicked out, screamed, and then wrapped herself around the tree as she did circle after circle. After 40 minutes of watching her, drinking some alcoholic beverages in white plastic chairs, we all kinda shrugged and agreed it would be best to retie her (higher and shorter) and just leave her to her devices. So, we did (make no mistake, I left the dinner frequently to check her). 

She got her shit together, and after a 3 hour stint she remembered her brains and politely walked back to her paddock without trying to run me over or frantically see her friends. I closed the paddock gate and she didn't even so much as look at her neighbor and instead, dove into her hay.

I felt accomplished this day - aside from the trailer issues, I felt confident in my ability to rectify the issues and was glad that the campers who walked by and saw Annie doing the hokey pokey attached to the tree shrugged and said with the utmost solidarity, "Been there."

While I would have preferred to not, I was glad I had the ability to. It isn't a measure I would utilize repetitively, but it worked for us and I am quite certain I will use it in the future if necessary.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Ladies Camp: Day 1

Twice a year, Trainer K hosts a Ladies Camp at her home barn which is 4.5 hours away. Riders in the area are very fortunate that she has such strong ties to Barn C (she is heavily involved in Pony Club) and is consistently in our neck of the woods, but after Canadian Spring Break, she often moseys her way home for the remainder of the year.

It's been no secret that I've often wanted to join in on the fun that is Ladies Camp. It's a three day camp, and features two lessons a day (aside from Friday, as that is a late travel day for most participants). Not only did it seem like a great way to gauge mine and Annie's progress, it would be a great way to continue prepping her for overnight shows and/or overnight clinics in a low-pressure setting. Essentially, it would be the BVX show re-created - the hustle and bustle, the stall components, the multiple lessons a day, different rings, multiple horses in the ring, etc etc.

When a few friends from TBC asked if I wanted to go with them, I replied with a resounding yes!

The world had other plans for me tho, and it took a bit of re-arranging to get things in order enough for me to participate. For example, my truck.... my trusty truck... decided to have the check engine light blink on after Maylong weekend. I took it into the shop and lo and behold, the cam phasers went and needed replacing. So, my truck had to stay parked and with five days to get the parts in and get it fixed... it wasn't looking likely.

Thankfully the Boy is very supportive and offered to let me take his truck, which was both wonderful and allowed me to still haul Annie from our barn to TBC (a short 45 minute drive).

Things got a little crazy the week leading up to the camp, and I was busy packing for me, the horse, and the dogs (they had a sleepover with Grandma, haha). A few last minute things like mowing the lawn, watering the gardens and cleaning the house had me up and running around until 10-11pm every night. My grandma was also hospitalized with pneumonia during that time, so I of course was also busy visiting her, as well as delivering large helpings of cheesecake (her request).

By the end of the week, things were much more stable and on Friday I ducked out of work at noon and got the last of my things ready. Because there are no showers available to the public at Trainer K's, I hopped in the shower before walking the dogs and settling Cedar back into his crate and driving out to the barn.

Everything was already loaded (aside from Annie) so all I had to do was hitch up and head out. Which is precisely what I did.

We made good time and I threw Annie in one of the stalls at the private barn my friends are riding out of while we arranged and organized my things into the truck and trailer. Annie was really confused and kinda nervous, but clearly wasn't nervous enough to avoid the hay I chucked in with her.

Before long, we loaded the horses and hit the road.

The drive was long and seemed like it took forever, but I was in good company (with good conversation!) and the hours ticked on by until we were rounding the road up to Trainer K's farm.

I won't lie - my heart-rate fluttered and I started to feel nervous. I wasn't sure how Annie would do with all the changes and I crossed my fingers that she'd be at least a little rideable throughout the weekend. While I was nervous about her reaction, I knew that this is exactly why we came - there would be a lot of valuable learning lessons this weekend and it would give me a low pressure setting to manage any issues that arose.

The horses unloaded great and we tossed them into their stall/paddocks while we unpacked and got the trailers organized. One of my friends, S, has family who lives in the area and her Dad brought us a utility trailer to sleep in for the weekend, which turned out to be awesome.
Paddocks are to the left, the horse trailer is tucked behind the
white truck, and our "home away from home" was tucked behind the indoor.
I was kind of surprised to see Annie dive for her hay and casually observe her surroundings - there were random loose horses just puttering around the facility (some of Trainer K's oldies), people coming and going with horses, a young horse a few stalls down running laps in her paddock, trucks and trailers coming and going, etc. It was hectic - but a good hectic.

We finished setting up and grabbed the horses to get ready for our lesson that evening. It was nearing 8:30 at this point and while it was late, Trainer K didn't mind and was actually still in the indoor ring teaching anyways. Friday I guess is quite a late day, as most people don't head out until after work which leads to some late lessons.

The lesson before us still had a ways to go, so we decided "Hey, why not hack up the hill to the outdoor arena?". I nodded in agreement, swung a leg over, and remembered to breathe while we moseyed our way up.

The outdoor is up a deceivingly steep hill which wraps up behind the little cabin.
Annie was certainly looky and felt a bit tense, but being in the company of the other well-seasoned horses certainly helped. She didn't falter and we cruised around the outdoor a few times, working on stretching and I embodied as much relaxation as I could muster. Mare was good tho, and aside from trying to cut corners to follow her new #besties, she was rideable and felt good.

By the time we walked back down to the indoor arena, Trainer K was finishing up her lesson and we stood quietly by the gates waiting to be let in. Annie stood like a rock, and I was happy she seemed pretty settled in the new environment.

Before I knew it, the gates swung open and we wandered into the ring.

Oh, did I forget to mention there was a killer thunder and lightening storm going on while all of this was happening?


Well, there totally was. Lightening had flashed across the sky before I even got on Annie and thunder rumbled loudly in the distance. I thought to myself, "Well... when in Rome."

The front half of the indoor.
As our lesson started, the skies opened up and it sounded like it was absolutely pouring outside. Annie observed the open end of the ring (it was gated, but open), without so much as a glance and we carried on.

The lesson itself went really, really well. I think Annie was tired from the travelling tho, bc she really struggled to keep her canter. She felt a bit lack-luster, which was totally fine considering the alternative would have been much more difficult and frustrating to deal with!

Some key points from this lesson and some things we worked on:

  • Start out stretching and asking for a longer frame. Be aware of her neck - is it straight? Is she reaching for the bit or is she long in the neck but curled in her chin? Let her chin out and have her head straight. The entire premise of this lesson was getting her neck out and long without having her tuck her chin in.
  • We did leg yields down the long side - leg yield out to X, then back to the track. Tap her with the whip if she is not responding - ask MORE.
  • The theme of the weekend was "Ask for good, quality work for a short while and give more breaks vs asking for "decent" work for a long time"
  • In leg yielding, don't let her haunches trail.
  • We did trot poles to raised poles and vise versa. The theme was to stay straight, have Annie in more of a working trot and rock her back before the raised poles to get her a bit more on her haunches.
  • Let her neck go flatter in the canter. She'll feel more downhill, but she needs to stretch into the contact since her M.O is to retract thru the throatlatch. Trainer K told me that we'd pick her up into a more First Level frame by the end of the weekend, but that since Annie likes to retract and sneak behind the bit that having her long and engaged in the bridle while being a bit flat would help us in the days to come.
  • Lengthen trot needs more leg support.
  • Trot - halt; don't let her dump her front end. 

Saturday morning.

Overall, it was a really positive lesson. It was mostly about Annie relaxing down and out in the contact, as well as pushing her to do things correctly vs saying "well, let's keep trying for 15 minutes and be OK with a "meh" effort".

After the lesson, we cooled out and S ran out to the trailers to grab our rain sheets since it was still raining pretty good outside. As we untacked, we ground-tied the horses and set our saddles up on some benches in the indoor to collect the next morning. Unfortunately, one horse followed their person which led to the others wandering along as well. K's mare and Annie kinda looked at each-other and then proceeded to back into one another and kick and squeal.

Thankfully, no damage was done and both mares got a stern talking to before we blanketed them and shuttled them back out to their paddocks. K's mare and Annie hadn't really "met" officially, as S' gelding was between them in the paddocks because... mares. 

When we first arrived.
Annie didn't seem to upset about it all tho, because she wandered back into her paddock and went straight to the water and her hay. It made me feel pretty confident in the weekend, as we don't often participate in overnight shows/outings, and I haven't had the opportunity to ride in a group lesson with Annie (she would get lots of practice with this, as one lesson had nearly 10 other horses in the arena with us). 

Falling into bed that evening was a welcome feeling, as we ate our dinner and organized ourselves well past midnight. The heater kept kicking out, and after attempting to fix it, we gave up and burrowed down extra hard in our sleeping bags and floated off to sleep.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Another Day, Another Trail Ride

My favorite photo of the weekend.
What a good Bannie pony!
Once again I have a back-log of posts to get through, but with the days getting longer, I find myself outside or doing *something* until the waning hours of daylight. It's been good though, I've managed to get a decent amount of saddle time in, despite a semi-planned/unplanned week-long vacation for Bannie.

The day after our Clear Round/ Percentage Day adventure, I had another fun little outing for Annie planned. In the spirit of getting out and doing things (with other horsies), I had teamed up with V and Geronimo and trailered out to a local cross-country skiing venue that doubles as hiking, biking, and equestrian trails in the Summer.

I have ridden sections of the trail in the past, but haven't been there in... 10 years?

Circa 2009
I am riding the Palomino, who coincidentally was
V's gelding I leased for a few years.
Quite a bit has changed there, with all the logging and additional service roads. While it is only a short 30min drive on the highway, I never really followed through with any hard plans to ride there for no real reason other than laziness. When I first got Annie, I was nervous about hauling out to new trailheads and partly concerned about how she would do with a mass hoard of other horses. We had only ridden in groups of 2-3 horses, so this would be a pretty big change. The semi-ironic part is that our local trails are much more difficult than the questions asked at the Onion Lake ski trails.

Regardless, I was super excited when V asked if I would like to join a small outing of 5 and I jumped at the chance, knowing full well the extra riders and V had plans to only walk and keep it low-pressure and calm. Which works well for me, especially since I knew a few of the horses attending were trail pros.

We hauled out Sunday, mid-morning and in good spirits. Annie was a bit of a PITA to load, mostly because I forgot to open the front window (when she loads, she'll stick her head out the window and look around). We got it done though, once I realized my error and we hit the road in good time.

I pulled in and parked, close enough to V's rig, but far enough away I could tie Annie on the same side V had her horses on. I was concerned Annie would be a bit dancy if I tied her on the opposite side and she could hear (but not see) the other horses. With being barely 20ft from the highway, I didn't want to take the risk and wanted to make sure she was comfortable, quiet, and unperturbed.

I honestly didn't need to worry - she unloaded, looked around with mild interest at the other horses and immediately dove into her hay.

Okay, then.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of a snafu in regards to the meeting spot for the remainder of our trail buddies which included a 40 minute wait for them to untack, reload and head back up to where we were at the trail head. It was good though, because it gave the horses time to just chill, snack on some hay, and soak up the morning sunshine.

I tacked up and went to pick out Annie's feet and felt immediately that something didn't feel right. Her front right had a small amount of swelling near her fetlock, and although it did not appear to be extensive or serious in nature, my gut reaction was to either pack up and head home, or to slather it in some DIO liniment, wrap it, and head out for the walk ride.

I opted for the latter after discussing with V, and we both felt that Annie would be just fine for the walk ride, especially since it would be a flat and easy ride.

Following a kinda ornery older trail horse, haha.
We ran into a bear further up this trail, but thankfully it
tucked tail and ran like hell!
There are quite a few large pieces of equipment on the back roads.
We headed out and had a pretty good ride - Annie had no issues with the herd of horses we went out with and went along quietly and calmly. There were two instances wherein she lost her noodle a bit, but it had more to do with impatience than anything else. 

There was a small section where an entire tree had fallen across the access road and we had to engage a bit of 4x4 into the mulchy side section of trail, but needed to do so one at a time. Annie was not on board with waiting and declared so, but other than bulging and rooting, she didn't pull anything crazy. She fast-walked and didn't pay any attention to her feet, so tripped a bit trying to catch up to the other horses (even tho there were horses behind us...).

Overall though, it was a huge win. She was quite well behaved and I was pretty proud of her - most of the ride was done on a long rein and she happily plodded alongside several of the horses, but did show her preference in walking alongside Geronimo, so we mostly walked together.

The giant log pile!

Following G.
Back at the trailer, I stripped tack and her wrap to check her leg. The swelling was completely gone, which was pleasing to see. I had intended to give Annie 5-6 days off after the weekend, as we had been going pretty steady thus far and I felt like a bit of an extended vacation would be good for her (and I!). I suppose Annie wanted to make sure she actually got her vacation, haha!

The next week consisted of cold hosing, SNM poultice wraps, and lots of hand-grazing. The swelling stayed quite small and disappeared on Day 2, before coming back on Day 3 and disappearing completely on Day 4. I can't really determine what she did, but she must've strained something or bumped something because I couldn't find any wound and she was only slightly lame for a day.

Taking advantage of her time off, lol.
Note: She was wrapped in standing wraps previously, but because
she is turned out 24/7, I started wrapping with vetwrap
because it is more likely to stay put while she moves around a lot.
Since then, I've managed to put three rides (1 hack, 1 trail ride, and 1 low key school) on her and she feels great and the leg looks great, which is excellent news since we are scheduled to head to Trainer K's this up and coming weekend for a very full and busy Ladies Riding Camp! It will be my first year attending and I am so excited!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 2019: Percentage Days/ Clear Rounds

The first year I owned Annie, we attended a Percentage Day/ Clear Round in June (2017)  and another in July (2017) as a means to get her out into a low pressure situation without the tension of a show. The first PD/CR day I took her to, I lost my nerve (and noodle), and we had a very difficult time working through the walk/trot tests. It's embarrassing, but it is what it is. Our second time out in July, Annie had been having canter lead issues, but we made our way out to the other side, even if it wasn't the most... cleanest riding.

As part of my 2019 goals I had wanted to attend more of the Percentage/ Clear Round Days hosted by the local-ish saddle club. A short 45 minute drive to school some Dressage tests and pop over some jumps seemed like a fun way to spend my Saturday, especially because I wanted to prep more for shows.

Things started out quite well - I schooled Annie the evening before and she felt actually pretty darn good. We rode for about 30 minutes and called it quits after some really nice canter leg yielding.

I headed out to TBC Fairgrounds in the morning, and had to make a small detour to pick up another roundbale for the horses. It made me slightly late to the Percentage Day events, but there were enough riders that it didn't impede my ability to ride tests. I got tacked up, let the organizers know I was there, said hello to a few friends, and then hopped on.

Annie felt... tense.

While we have ridden in the large outdoor arena for Anthony clinics, we have not played in the Dressage arena much. I'm not sure if it was the hustle and bustle of the grounds (during clinics, at most we see maybe 2-3 other horses) or something else, but I knew the day was going to be a bit frustrating.

I rode the horse I had tho, and made sure I didn't back down when she decided to start cross-firing in the large arena. She seemed more interested in what the other horses were doing, and was refusing to bend. I kept on her, insisting she do The Thing. I was fair tho, bc #ZenNinja.

We headed over to the ring to do our first test - TL 2 - and I just knew it was going to be a shit show. Annie felt tense and argumentative, which was a very bad combination in the arena.

I debated posting the videos, but maybe someone will get a good laugh at how terrible it is?

There isn't much to say, really. She was tense, cranky, and NOT having it. I had issues with bend. I had issues with steering. I had issues with her lead. And I had issues with her sucking behind my leg (hence the canter down centerline). 

I'm not happy with this test, and I'm having a hard time just shrugging it off. I think we scored a 56% from the volunteer judge.

In the moment, I was pretty proud of myself for not becoming unhinged. I simply just kept riding, kept asking, kept insisting, and kept being the #ZenNinja I knew I could be. After the test, we wandered back over to the jump arena and worked on her leads, cross-firing and bend. She settled into a nice rhythm in that arena after expressing some #feelings at the canter.

I felt pretty positive and headed back to the arena for TL 3.

This test was marginally better, and we scored at 61.4%.

Some moments felt good - especially that last canter. But the rest of it felt like I was trying to get a dog to drop a bone - futile and ending in someone getting bit.

I still insisted, still rode my mare, and I'm a bit disappointed she didn't really meet me halfway.

But, I guess it is what it is. I have a few ideas to work on this - one of them being to erect a Dressage sized arena in our community ring to practice the actual figures and to practice working in a "smaller" space. We do not have access to a Dressage ring, so I am always amazed at how small the sandbox feels when we go show. The next thing is to incorporate more stretching into our warm up - long, low, and reaching over the back. Next on the list is hauling out to this very arena and riding in it when no events are occurring. And lastly - keep attending these "fun" days for exposure as this was our first "show" outing of 2019 (our last one was in August of last year).

Aside from that, I'm not really sure what else I can do to encourage her to relax and work over her back. I have to hope and believe it gets better, because otherwise I'll just spiral.

I opted to finish on that note, as the final bits of our ride were pretty decent, and headed back to the trailer to strip tack and throw on our jumping gear.

Annie seemed happy enough to wander back and hang out while they went through the trot pole rounds and I opted to pop her through the 18" (low X) round that was offered. She was a bit of a butt-head when I asked her to head to the arena, passed other horses and enter the ring on her own. A little tap of the whip and we went through the gate and were off.

Overall, a pretty consistent and quiet round. The objective was just getting her in and out of the ring multiple times to prep for flat and jumping classes. Having to stand quiet in between rounds can be a task in itself for young horses, but Annie handled it well and seemed quite happy to be in the jump ring. We had a minor bobble coming down the line, but otherwise it was a decent round. As the rounds progressed, I became more and more insistent on her respecting my turning aids, especially when coming out of that plastic jump line.

Onto the first 1' x-rail round and again we had some minor discussion at the gate. Otherwise she felt pretty good here - I was more insistent about her respecting my half halts (note heading towards the brown jump). Our turn into the plastic jump line was better, but I def hugged the right side all damn day for whatever reason, haha. The bending line rode quite nicely as well in this one.

Our second time at 1' x-rails. She felt good, but def wanted to rocket off after a few jumps. She was a bit pissy because I had made her stand at the in gate to wait for our second round and she was quite sure she was going to die being all by herself. Regardless, I made her do the thing and she begrudgingly complied.

I initially was going to just stick to the cross rails, but something inside of me sparked and I decided to go for the 2' division as well. Truthfully, I had A LOT of fun cruising around at this height and it actually felt comfortable. Aside from the bobble at the plastic jump line (and subsequent rail), we coasted through quite easily. Unfortunately tho, a few horses Annie had decided to be besties with were taken back to their trailer to head home and mare objected strongly to that. A few times in some of the videos you can hear her neighing at them and I had to make a few extra circles when we first rode into the arena to get her attention back on me.

Our second round, I really pushed for the long, sweeping circles, and she did a pretty good job of respecting that. She was quite responsive to the half-halts as well, which made my job easier. We had a weird bobble at the plastic jumps again - she was pulling hard to the right, and I responded by pulling left... and right? Wtf. And then when we landed, she just lost gas and decided to see if we were done. We recovered quite well tho and the last line rode nicely. 

We played one last time at the 2' division, as we were permitted to due to the dropped rail in our first round. Annie felt much more amicable in this one, and despite still calling for her BFFS (approx 44 seconds in), it felt like our best round. She was happy to adjust herself when I asked, and although we still didn't get a great turn into the plastic jumps, we had a much nicer exit then all the other rounds combined.

I chose to finish there, despite having one more ticket for another round. We had some really good success in the jump ring, despite having some issues in the Dressage court.

Overall, a day well spent and I made some mental notes as to better emulate some relaxation and better cooperation. I don't imagine it'll be an overnight fix, but we'll start small and build from there. I counted the jumping as a spectacular win, because I actually gave my mare a really nice ride over the fences and didn't loose my noodle when the jumps went up in height.

As always, I appreciate any helpful or insightful commentary from those who have experienced similar issues with their horses!

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Trail Ride in Pictures

You guys have seen our previous trail ride in short, repetitive GIFs. Now it's time for a pictorial exploration of a trail ride from last Wednesday, and a bit of pictures from my drive on Spud on the Thursday!

Heading out, peep that double mane!

I had been wanting to go out for a longer, more technical trail ride for the last few weeks, but I am a bit too nervous to go on my own. Wild animals like bear and moose have started to come out of the wood work (both literally and figuratively), and trail riding off into the forest with limited cell service seemed like a poor decision to make alone.

Thankfully, any time I message V, she is pretty much down with the idea to wander through the wilderness. We set a day and met up after work on last Wednesday with the idea to check the Ecological reserve trail, which branches off to the river and eventually back down to my barn.

Crossing a steep section with a small stream running
(This is the exact stream we had a little spook at on the way back haha)

I decided to throw on Annie's bitless bridle, hoping I wasn't making a fateful choice. But in all reality, the ride was pretty much uneventful, aside from one instance I was pretty certain I was going to go ass over tea kettle (I had kicked out of my stirrups, and we had gone down a bit of a dip which had a small water crossing running through it. As we came up the other side, I was swinging my legs to and fro, enjoying myself. Annie must have forgotten that V's dog had joined us on the ride, and when he came bustling out of the bush and sprinted through the water, she spooked hard and whirled around to see what the heck was chasing her). V had laughed that Annie must have been sleeping (she was that calm and quiet the whole ride haha) and had forgotten about the dog.

It was a bit of a longer ride than we had initially planned, as the one trail head was completely flooded a few minutes in due to beavers damming up the area. We had to completely abandon that trail section, retrace our steps back down to my barn area and cross a low spot in the river - the entire process of having to turn back and find a new trail head added about 40 minutes to our overall ride time.

Wandering in "moose meadows".

It was nice tho. Aside from the spook due to the dog, she was wonderful. Even when V's mount was being a bit of a naughty boy.

Overall a nice long, quiet ride in the woods with a good friend. What more could you ask for?!

One of the many water crossings.
Some nice shaded parts.
On the river bank!

Looping back through moose meadows.

Following the power lines.

Heading back home!

Spud also got out for a nice 4.6k drive, and we had some spectacular views as well:

Letting the dogs get some water.

The "Fishermans trail". It opens up right alongside the
river. So pretty!

#sorrynotsorry for the picture spam!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Playing in the Sandbox and a Spud Update

It's been so sunny... and HOT.
This past weekend Annie and I were back to the proverbial grind and played in the sandbox on both Saturday and Sunday. We hacked over both times, and I ponied Spud along with us. Which, was fine, but it also made for a very long morning. I don't mind hacking over to the ring, bc that's pretty much the only way to get ourselves in the sandbox for a decent school. 

Schooling at the communal grounds just takes a good amount of pre-planning. Being a self-care boarder, I have several daily chores and almost always, a long list of upgrades or "to dos". The last remainder of winter manure was finally scooped up and moved this past week (thanks to a neighbor with a tractor!), and I finished up gathering fallen branches along the fence-line from the Japanese Knotweed trees. The hollow branches snap easily with our snow-load and make a pretty good mess come Spring. If I were a permanent boarder, I would have removed the invasive trees, but otherwise I just clip back branches and clean up when the dead branches fall.

Back to the ring -overall, both were decent schools. We mostly worked on getting her to bend and lower her neck and relax into the contact as per our Dressage lessons the week previous. It was kind of hard to get all the parts working as well as they were in the clinic (emulating those clinic feels is hard!), but I managed to get a good amount of quality work, even if the moments seemed fleeting.

On Saturday, we focused primarily on the walk and trot - garnering that connection in the transition, and inviting forward energy in the trot-walk transition. It was a good ride, and we had some really good moments of work. 

The following day, I figured we would have a low key school and unfortunately, Annie had other ideas. I mean, Bannie... Which made our ride a bit longer and more strenuous than it needed to be. Ah well, Mare made a choice!

Heading home from the ring.
Mare decided she was done-skies with being asked to lower and bend, so she decided to bounce along, cross-firing at the canter like a loon. Thankfully, it didn't last very long and we went on to have a rather amicable school after sussing out the details. 

The canter work was some of the best we have ever had, and although it initially had a rough start, it was a really productive ride.

Mare got some quality time grazing in the front yard, and a nice cool bubble bath afterwards for getting her head screwed on and giving me some good work. 

A well deserved snack for a hard-working pone!

In Spud news - the little potato has been busy! 

Here is a collection of photos from the past few weeks with the little tater tot:

Heading out for a 4.5k endurance ride.
He was pretty good this day, aside from giving me the
middle finger in one section of trail, lol.

Fluffy boy - I bathed him twice and show sheened the
crud out of him in prep for clipping.
Top: March 2019
Bottom: May 2019
Looking much healthier, and shinier!

Some days we ground-drive!
And some days we jog... and have spectators. LOL.
A friend sent this to me. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A Trail Ride in GIFs

And one photo of the most excited mare in all
the land.
Last week, Annie and I headed down to the little river boat launch trail - we haven't been on this trail in ages, and although I typically use it for Spud's stamina training, I almost never ride it with Annie. Which, why not, right?

We were both feeling particularly burnt out from the ring after a weekend of grueling (but good!) lessons, so last Wednesday I saddled up and slapped Annie's fancy purple biothane hackamore on and we headed out, intent to garner some trail miles. I trotted her for a few minutes along the shoulder of the road and she felt good - I worked a bit on lowering her neck and getting her to stretch and to my surprise, she picked it up quite fast in the hackamore. She seems to really like it, which is a plus!

The trail head is a short 10 minute walk from the barn, and one left hand turn down a dirt road. There is an ATV trail which runs parallel to the dirt road (shown in the video as the road above the trail). It's kind of overgrown, but not too badly. 

The trail itself is a single track - meaning you have to simply turn around and come back the way you came. It also features one significantly steep and muddy crossing (that I have no media of) that I had to dismount and lead Annie across. The mud was very slick, and with frequent ATV use, the ruts were pretty prominent and dangerous. With Spud, I always exit the cart and lead him across as well. Annie was fine for crossing it the first time, but the second time figured she would #worksmarternotharder and leapt across the entire thing. Overachieving and all that.

Anyways, going back to the start of the trail... The ATV branches off back onto the road in several places (you can kind of see on the right hand side at the start of the GIF). It's much more scenic than walking on the road, and I like that there are random fallen branches, rocks, logs, etc to challenge the horse and keep them more engaged with where they are placing their feet.

Annie was great tho - she got a bit quick mid-trail, but otherwise was happy to march right into the BC wilderness on her own. She hasn't been terrible to trail ride, but on "new" trails, she can get a bit hot and anxious when she is on her own. Certainly nothing that wet saddle pads won't fix, and now that she has found more of her adult brain this year, we happily plodded along without a care in the world.

Annie really likes looking at things - her head is swiveling and ears are rotating as we trail ride. She is a curious creature.... I don't think she will ever be one of those horses who plod along with their head to their feet, haha. 

Best part of all tho, is that she was happy to comply with my requests. In certain spots I asked her to halt, just to drink in the view of the river and mountains, and she happily stood without protesting I was taking too long. (Someone is growing up!).

Although, this typically deserted and quiet trail was bustling with activity, and we ran into a mountain biker who was logging some kms. He whipped around a corner behind us and I think it startled all three of us, haha. I pulled off to the side tho and let him pass. We met back up again when he was on his way back, and it was around a corner again, so Annie kinda spooked in place before realizing it was "that weird guy wearing spandex". He let us know there were more people ahead on the trail tho, and that they had a dog.

The trail offered a lot of new opportunities tho - as we went further in, there were protruding tree roots, overworked ground from ATVs and of course running into random people. Annie did great tho, and although the dog gave her a bit of a scare (the dog was terrified of Annie and of course, had to pass us on a narrow section of the trail. He barked/ growled/ yelped and just carried on when Annie turned her head to look at him. Annie, bless her friggen heart didn't spook, but certainly tensed up). 

We logged a nice 4.3k and it ran us just over 45 minutes, which was a nice quick but relaxing trail ride. On days where I work, it is sometimes hard to manage having a young puppy at home (and maximizing his out of crate time) as well as riding horses after leaving the office. I have a system tho, and it is working out really well so far. I have been pretty proud of myself for not rushing at the barn - taking my time to tack up, taking my time to groom, putting things away properly...

It sounds silly, but I used to rush around trying to get everything done, or do two things at once and it only ended up frazzling me. As part of being a #ZenNinja this year in the saddle, I have also committed myself to being one in the barn (and at home!). Some days I still tack up in 5 minutes, but I don't pressure myself with being home by X time or making sure I do X, Y, Z before I head home. Some days I do, some days I don't. But I don't pressure myself either - I put my brushes away, I sweep the aisles, I let Annie cock a leg in the cross-ties while I mix up her mash or brush Spud. 

And while I do have a general time frame for things, I don't pressure myself to do it all in one day. If the dogs don't get a lengthy walk because the horse got ridden instead, so be it (and vice versa). 

So, I just work with what I have. It can be hard to compare yourself to other riders, or to other scenarios, but at the end of the day we are all just trying to do the best for our horses with what we have available. And that's all we can really do.

And as I look back at our previous years blog posts, I can't help but crack a smile at the things I was fretting over, or the things I was worried about ruining.. When in reality, things are coming together. It's kind of like an intricate knitting pattern - some spots require a bit more attention, but regardless of where you are going, you are still gaining forward momentum to the final goal. Each row of a blanket takes time, and each small design is a part of the bigger picture. 

We keep moving forward, one little stitch at a time.

All that being said, I always strive for a balance for my horses - pure ring work is not where my heart (or my horses hearts!) are. Yes, I want to improve and yes I want to meet our goals, but not at the expense of sacrificing the fun and other milestones I have in mind for this year. 

Things like time off and "chill" days just spent grooming and hand-grazing are important too. 

We have quite a few clinics on the docket for this year, and as we are learning and growing and evolving, I don't want to forget the important steps in between. Kind of like Emma commented on one of my last blog posts about the hackamore - the bridle has been directly associated with "fun stuff". It means we are going to go out and have fun. It means there is no pressure to perform a certain way - other than to keep all four feet on the ground pls, haha.

And it's been... refreshing to be back on the trails. To just let the natural bends and curves of the trail direct Annie's feet. And if I am being all too honest... I'm mostly just along for the ride.