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.


  1. It sounds like such a great start to the clinic!!!


  2. That sounds so fun! Hope your grandma is feeling better!

    1. Thank you - yes she is feeling much better and is home now :)

  3. Sounds like a really great weekend! I can't wait to read about the rest of it!
    Annie really seems to be growing up, settling right in and going to work!

  4. Ooohhh squealing mares. For shame. lol

    The storm sounds a bit nerve-wracking!

    1. Right... SHAME.

      Yes, haha. I was a bit nervous!

  5. What a cool opportunity! Love that you just went and did the thing in the crazy weather! Sounds like it was a super productive lesson too, and I found myself nodding along to each of your points :)