Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dressage Clinic #2 with Valley

acting all grown up

  Last Sunday I took Valley to another dressage clinic at my friend Katies house with dressage rider and trainer Bri Johnson.  This was our second clinic with Bri and Valleys third time off property.  Like the good girl she is, she loaded right onto the trailer that morning.  She does love to call, so she neighed a bit at first but quieted down on the road.  We traveled alone this time and she traveled well.

  Upon arrival, I unloaded her and tied to her to trailer with a hay net and some water.  We hung out for a bit and just relaxed.  I gave her a nice grooming and she enjoyed looking around at all the horses in various fields at Katies place.  She was very content and well behaved at the trailer.  Her temperament is pretty hard to beat.  She is very green but so enjoyable to be around, she makes things pretty stress free.

I just love her face :)

  I walked her around on a long rein for about 15-20 minutes before my lesson for warm up.  She went into the ring and relaxed right away stretching down and marching around while the horse before us was finishing up.  She was well behaved around the horse and only called a few times when she finished up and left the ring.

  We started working and focused on changing her frame and having her yield away from my leg.  The idea is for her to be able to carry herself in three frames, a long and low, medium, and then a working frame.  Of course at this moment in our training they are not going to be perfect, but as we continue to work they will become stronger and more correct.  Moving the frame throughout the ride, and throughout each exercise  prevents her from getting a stiff and set neck, like you see so many Thoroughbreds have in dressage.  It keeps the neck supple and loose, and prevents tension and also improves rideability.

 This goes right along with how my regular dressage coach has me ride, she always says the horse should be able to go into any frame you ask it to, and have the same connection throughout all these frames.  You do not let the horse stretch unless the horse takes the rein and maintains the connection, otherwise all connection is just lost.  Of course you can also work to teach the horse to loose the connection and maintain suppleness when you recollect, but that is another thing altogether.

 From the start Bri commented that her rhythm had improved from our last lesson.  She has a very good steady tempo, and maintains this even when she calls.  It allows me to work on more advanced things like her change of frame on a relatively green horse. We incorporated this into many things, circles, serpentine, transitions, and down the long and short sides.  I could feel Valley becoming more supple already and her trot really felt quite nice.

  We also worked on pushing her around my inside leg, moving her body around and having her move off the leg.  There was definite improvement here too but it still needs more work and is something I will start to do more of at home.  We didn't do any canter work as I haven't been cantering her much at home. The ground is hard and slippery and she is barefoot so I just don't see the point at the moment when she can't balance herself without me worrying about her slipping.  If we ever get some rain I can start upping her work into more demanding canter work.

 Overall the lesson wasn't too complex, but it was focused on a few very useful exercises that showed a change in Valley from the start to finish.  This is something I am going to incorporate into my rides with all my horses, I think Penny could especially benefit from it.  I really enjoy working with Bri, she always has a new tool for me to try that brings results.  I recommend trying a clinic or lesson with her if you get the chance.

  It was really quite hot that day so Valley got a nice bath after our lesson.  She even stood tied to the trailer while I hosed her head to toe.  She really is quite the little - er- not so little horse.  I'm really looking forward to whats ahead for us.

filling out like crazy!
  Have you learned any new tools that have helped you lately?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Like an Old Mitt - Miss Pen Goes XC Schooling

 The end of the season nears, and I've been working diligently on dressage with Penny. Things have been going amazingly.  Her new bit does seem to be the final piece we were missing.  I decided a few weeks back to start jumping her again.  Now that she is more rideable and happy on the flat, would it transfer over to over fences?  Things about Penny that factor in here; she will jump anything.  She likes to take longgggggggg ones.  She has a 15 ft stride NATURALLY and her gallop is about 19ft.  She definitely has Secretariats gallop.  She has a long back, and it's hard for her to get under herself.  Her jump is big, but it's just from her flinging herself over.  If she actually waits, listens and learns to use herself, she will add another foot to her scope.  

  The struggle we have over fences is her listening. She likes to see the jump and just gun for it.  I personally think this is a blast but you know, those TDs don't like it when you leave strides out in combinations. LOL.  Anything from short-normal stride length is tough for her.  My hope is all the flat work we have been doing will transfer to over fences.  My jumping coach also gave me a bit to try - a three ring french link.  I thought it would be way too hard at first since Penny is pretty sensitive in her mouth, but he assured me this is what I needed.  He explained that if I am doing everything right and Penny is still running through my hands - I need something stronger to back her off.

  To my surprise she has actually been enjoying this bit.  No fuss at all and goes around happily.  She fought it quite a bit at first but has since realized there is no point to fighting.  I can actually ride her more effectively now with this bit than with her previous bit that was a lot more gentle and basically she had 0 respect for. At home we have just been doing little gymnastics.  When Penny has time off from jumping, or showing, the first few outings are always a bit buzzy.  She gets very excited and strong and that's about all there is to it.  She figured out pretty quickly she wasn't going to be able to run through my hands and has been actually waiting to the fences and having to use her body. Woot woot.  She does not like this, and was finding it hard at first trying to swing her hind out.  She might not have been strong enough a few weeks ago since she just started jumping again.

  Things that I have to remember with her...when she actually sits back and waits - this means she is listening and I need to use my leg more to support her.  Previously I was dumb, and thought this meant she was backing off the fences and I would get paranoid she was hurt or something because it was so unlike her.  No longer dumb, I realize this means she is waiting and I can close my leg and allow her jump without holding onto her face.  She also does this when the fences get bigger.  She is way more rideable over the bigger fences because she actually has to look at them.

  I decided to take her out eventing before the season ends, and thus I need to get her out schooling.  I took her to Abydos Farms Saturday morning for a little school. Since she hasn't been out since Little Bromont in June I knew she would be a bit excited.  I also forgot my breastplate and running martingale, so that was special. I took my time warming up in their show jump ring until she relaxed completely.  Then we started jumping.  She trotted the x rail and cantered quietly away. Ok great.  We did it again, same thing.  We cantered the x rail, and she waited and patted the base and jumped nicely.  I cantered around and did a two stride.  A little strong but not bad.  I gave her a walk break then picked her up again, cantered some of the bigger showjumps and she was actually waiting and hitting the distance without charging. Success.  We still need to work more on keeping  the same pace but it has definitely improved.

 Happy with our warm up in the grass showjump ring, we headed to the XC.  I was totally nervous, I haven't been jumping Penny all summer.  I was worried about my riding. I was worried she would not listen at all.  Which, is silly when you look back at all we have done, but you know what those riding nerves are like.  I shouldn't have worried though, Penny walked into that field and knew it was business time.  I took her for a good canter and cantered a small cabin.  She kept her pace and jumped it beautifully.  We came back around and she took a bit of a flyer to it.  I halted and backed her up.  That was all it took to get her on the aids.  We cantered around the field, cabin, to coop, to ditch combo, to big Prelim coop, around to big Prelim hayfeeder and to my delight Penny kept her pace, stayed straight, and waited to all the fences and gave a nice big correct effort over.

just call me Micheal Jung with no martingale lmao

no scope no hope

  Cantering into those big fences I was just thinking in my head, "what the hell am I doing, these are HUGE"....and of course Penny is like, "finally something to JUMP" and carries my ass over.  God love her.  She felt amazing, on the aids and ready for more.  I ended there and dismounted to walk her back the trailer.  I know Penny will jump anything so schooling her is more about the ride than the fences themselves.  I gave her a really good bucket cool down and hand grazed her until she dried.  It was really hot that day so we both definitely needed it before loading up and heading home.

  If anything I was reminded how amazing Penny is.  Once the initial excitement and nerves wore off, we both were on top of our game.  She fits me like an old baseball mitt, one you never want to trade in or retire.  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Happy Gotcha Day Mojo!

  I can hardly believe it, but today is the anniversary of the day I picked up my Mojo.  I blogged about  it three years ago.  I can't believe I have had this little sausage dog for THREE years.  Feels like just yesterday I picked him up for the first time.  Mojo is honestly the best dog ever.  He never does anything wrong. He pretty much trained himself, and like a true Heeler, he is ALWAYS by my side.  He brings me so much happiness it is hard to describe just what he brings to my life.

The cutest puppy!

  I have always been a crazy dog lover, but having Mojo in my life has brought owning a dog to a whole new level.  He means so much to me.  When things happened last year, (I haven't blogged about yet), I was in a really bad place mentally.  There were a lot of really dark days, where I didn't think I wanted to be alive anymore.  Not to be a total downer, but I was really on the verge of ending it all.  I thought about it many times.  I had pretty much given up on life for a while, it was one thing after another.  I couldn't stop crying for more than ten minutes at a time for months.  I lived in constant fear.  I didn't see a way out of the hole I was in.  I didn't really want to live on this planet with such horrible things happening to people every day.

the happiest dog 

and so silly

  But Mojo was there with me.  And every single morning, I woke up with him in my arms.  He followed me around as I limped around with my cast on.  He laid beside me with his head in my lap as I was stuck on a couch for months.  He begged me to play fetch and go swimming when I was finally able to walk around with an air boot, got me off my ass.  He was always there to be my rock and the shoulder to cry on when I needed it.  He could get a laugh out of me with his crazy tricks and antics when I didn't even want to smile.

Legit wore his cheeseburger costume ALL day at my horse show...who does that??

by my side at my show...with my walking cast on

he lives for mud

and smiles

and swimming

  I thought about life and what it meant to be here and be alive.  I thought about Mojo.  His face and his smile was what kept me going.  The thought of leaving Mojo behind was too much.  He did not deserve it.  I knew he loved me so much and that his entire world revolved around me. I could not bear the thought of leaving him, knowing how hard it would be for him.  I would close my eyes and see his face and it would make me smile.  Every day became a little bit easier because of Mojo. Each week I was a little bit stronger because of Mojo.

  Now, a year later, I am in a totally difference place.  I am happy, and so thankful to be here.  I owe Mojo my life, I truly believe he saved me from that deep, dark, fearful place, and brought me back where I belong.  My life revolves around keeping my dogs and horses happy and having fun.  Without Mojo, I don't know where I would be now.  To me, he is the greatest dog to ever live.  He gave me what I needed to live again.  He gave me my Mojo back, and for that, I am forever grateful.

 Happy Gotcha Day Mojo.  You are a very, very good dog.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

OHTA Championships at Caledon Recap

  I don`t know why it feels like all I am doing is recapping shows, I haven`t really been doing that much but it just seems like it`s all I have time to write about lol.  I also just realized something today.  For the longest time everyone here compared Beginner Novice int the US to Entry level in Canada but actually Beginner Novice is comparable to Pre-Entry in Canada, as Entry level here is bigger at 2`9 and can be up to 3`in stadium. Learn something new every day I guess.

 Anyways, onto the Champs!  My friend Katie and I dropped back down to Pre-Entry to attend the Ontario Horse Trials Championships to be held at the Caledon Hunt Club.  I have never been to this event so that is always exciting to see a new venue and ride a new course.  I had a pretty relaxed feeling coming up to the event.  Coming off a great finish at Entry level at Glen Oro, and dropping down a level for the Champs, Katie and I were both thinking this would be a fun, confidence building event for both our horses.

  We didn`t escape the early wake up this time, and I was up and out of bed by 3:30am.  I braided Indy that morning and headed to Katies, where I park my trailer and she drives us up in her trailer with her dad as our driver.  They have a brand new cozy three horse and new truck complete with horse cam to watch them on the drive, you really can`t beat it.  It`s pretty sweet to watch them on the drive - Indy literally spends the entire time eating and it cracks me up.

  We walked the course upon arrival and got our packages. The course was very cute, only a few maxed fences, but lots to look at, hills and some galloping.  It looked easy and fun.  When we returned from our course walk and someone had parked right beside us, put up a tent complete with BBQ and had their horses right where we were going to tie ours.  I politely asked them if they could move their tent behind their trailer as we had no where to tie our horses.  The other side was already full of horses and since we were there first....blank stares.  Their tent was literally three feet from our tack room door....I`m all for a party people but come on, park where there is space.  We had to move our trailer a few feet to the other side and try not to squish those neighbors.  Eventing is usually full of cool people but these ones were not cool whatsoever.

so fancy

trying to push lazy horse forward

 Anywho, it was time for dressage.  We were all spiffied up and Indy felt great.  Until I got the warm up and he started blowing his nose and head shaking constantly.  I wiped his nose, dismounted, checked his bit, checked his nose. Checked his braids, checked everything. I have no idea what it was but something was irritating the hell out of him.  He was shaking his head up and down the entire warm up.  He was clearly very bothered.  I went for a bit of a canter to see if he could blow it out of his nose and he seemed to get a bit better but it was still mildly there.  Just what you want when you are preparing to go in for your Championship dressage test. Horses. LOL

  We watched Katies test which was beautiful.  We went into the ring and Indy was very well behaved but obviously bothered, as he was a bit lazy again.  That is apparently his go to thing when something is bugging him.  He wasn`t head shaking as bad as in the warm up, he was clearly trying to be good but we did have some here and there and didn`t score as well as we can. No worries though, we were 3 points behind Katie who was in first after dressage. We were 56 and 59 respectively. 37 and 39 for the Americans, and yes, the judge was tough! 

  This event was being run with Showjumping last, like my last event.  They had a catered lunch over looking the showjump ring for competitors too which was a nice treat. So cross country was next after lunch and Indy and I were ready for it.  He felt good in the warm up, maybe a little lazy.  His head shaking had diminished but was not gone entirely.  He was blowing his nose a lot which makes me think he had a piece of hay fly up there in the trailer or something.  Once we started jumping in warm up he forgot about it entirely so it put my mind at ease.

  We watched Katie leave the start box and Indy watched her horse Lilly canter into the next field.  It was soon our turn and we were off.  Indy just galloped the course like it was a freakin hunter derby.  He found all his distances, we galloped, we jumped, we did lead changes, we only had one moment of looking at a fence but it was the Training bank out of the water that he was spooling at beside his number 12.  I gave him a good smack and he turned his focus back to his fence and popped over.  It was after this fence I realized we were going wayyy too fast for Pre-Entry.  I was hoping to be about 45 seconds left at this time and I had 1:25.  I brought him back to a nice quiet canter for the remaining 2 fences on course but it wasn`t enough.  We finished clear but with 7 time faults for going too fast. Whoops.  That is something I definitely could have prevented but it really doesn`t bother me, I would rather him jump nicely out of stride and keep a good pace for when he moves up to higher levels. It was a really fun confidence building course.

over the first

cute #2

  Katie was also clean on her mare and that gave her a bigger lead over me of 10 points.  We headed into stadium warm up and it was a bit of a zoo.  Indy was still headshaking every now and then, but when I started jumping once again he quit.  I only jumped a few times and then just sat and waited by the ring.  He was jumping nicely up and over, and hitting his distances so there wasn`t any point in drilling in the dusty warm up ring with like 100 other riders.  We were supposed to run in reverse order but the ring steward was not aware so Katie went in first.  The tack check had told me my open front boots had slipped but she fixed them for me, and showed me how to put them on differently so they don`t slip. Apparently sheepskin boots have tricks, I thanked her for her help and knowledge.  Such nice people running this event!

  We watched as Katie and Lilly rocked around the stadium course.  She had a few good rubs but luck was on her side and she jumped clear to finish on her dressage score.  A first for her and with that a huge accomplishment and clinched the win!  There wasn`t much pressure on me now, but I hate adding anything to my score so I really wanted to jump clean in there, and that we did.  Indy might be the most enjoyable showjumping horse I have ever ridden. He is steady, adjustable, and he always lifts his legs extra high when I ask him to.  He was a star.  We finished with those 7 time faults added to our dressage score in 2nd place.  I still count that as Indy finishing on his dressage because those time faults were all my fault LOL.

I love his expression :)

this jump is gorgeous!

locked on

  I gave Katie a high five when I left the ring.  So proud of us both for taking these green horses and doing all the work ourselves, to finish 1 and 2 in Ontario in the Open Pre Entry division. Our total cost of horses combined is $500 which just adds to how great these Thoroughbreds are.  We had to wait around a bit before getting ready for home because we had award presentations and....VICTORY GALLOP!!

  I haven`t been to an event with a Victory Gallop in about 15 years.  I was soooo pumped for this.  We got our ribbons and prizes, then back into the ring for the Victory Tour!  Guys, I don`t know why but this was just too fun.  The entire event was an absolute blast, and our horses were total stars.  Can`t wait to try again next year at Entry level.

Katie and Lilly

way too much fun

  Indy has earned himself a little holiday, his next event won`t be until mid October.  I will be focusing on Valley getting ready for the RRP and Penny who is going to do an event at the end of the month.  

 Have you ever done a victory gallop??

My heart

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