Sunday, July 28, 2013

Video Break - William Showing Over Fences!

  Here is the short video from our hunter show last weekend.  William having a ball over the hunter cross rails course.

Note the hilarious commentary by my one and only good friend Dana.

Dressage show report coming up!

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

William Shows the Hunters

 Last Saturday I took William to his second hunter show.  We entered in the cross rail and walk trot division.  He is jumping pretty well but I have learnt with him, it is best to take baby steps and have a confidence boosting round rather than challenge him away from home.

  Since it was such a scorcher the last few weeks, I barely had any chance to ride him.  In case you haven't noticed, I have been really swamped here on the farm, with little time to ride and virtually no time to blog.  Jesse is away again so I am running this ship solo.  It takes an extra amount of work to do that, plus the hay has been coming in.  I basically am a crazy robot person right now just getting shit done left right and center. Pretending to anyways.

  Back to William....I was a little worried since I had barely ridden him and he is usually a bit of a dinkus when he has time off.  I was so concerned that I was about to bail the night before but luckily my rock of a friend Dana convinced me I would be fine and to just get my shit together and take him to the show.  It was just a little schooling show so how bad could it be?  I guess she was right but I am of the competitive nature - I want to win!

my handsome hunter pony

I must be sizing up the competition lol
I loaded Willy up amidst a massive torrential downpour and lightening storm.  He is such a superstar to load now, he walked right on and I just went up behind him and did up the butt bar.  By the time the doors were shut and I was in the truck the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking in.  I picked up Dana on the way and we made it to the host facility with lots of time to spare.  Miraculously the sun came out and we had beautiful weather.  I should add that the reason this is important is because the day before we had such a severe storm that the entire town of Napanee (which I am on the outskirts of) was destroyed by fallen trees and power lines, and they were without power for a few days.  The fact that this show was even still on was a shock to us but we were grateful.   We are die hard, no tornado rain storm is going to stop us from showing!

 William and I did two cross rail classes and then a flat class.  He was an absolute gem in all three classes and I couldn't have been happier with him.  He even got an adorable little lead change in his first class!  He won the first over fences, was third in the second (he hit a rail due to a hind lead switch cross canter) and was second in the under saddle.  He ended the day as the cross rail division champion and got to take home some beautiful ribbons!

I was  really happy with William that day.  He stood quietly on the trailer after his classes and was a perfect gentleman.  I am feeling more and more confident he may be ready to hit an event before the end of the year.  Hard to believe just a few months ago I was seriously wondering if I would ever be able to ride this horse normally.  Once again hard work, persistence, and patience pays off.

 Way to go Willy!  I have video, will upload this week.  Our next show is this weekend, a dressage show.

Don't you love the ribbon colours??

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday - New Foster Puppy!

 Meet Darwin, he is staying with us until his rescue group Poets Vision Aussie Rescue finds him a forever home.  He is a 7 month old Bernese Mountain Dog/Rottweiler mix.  He's huge, and he's a total sweet heart!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Blyth Tait Clinic Recap Day 2 - Maybe the other longest post ever - Pics and Video!

Blyth and I!

  Cross country day - my favourite day, always.  I was less anxious on day 2 because I mildly knew what to expect from Blyth and I definitely feel my strongest on cross.  At the same time, Penny and I are still figuring each other out so I was a little bit wondering how she would be and what the day would bring.  We started with a quick walk trot warm up.  After that we went straight into cantering in our cross country positions around a big field.  Blyth immediately looked over at me and said "Tori, you look like you are just out for a relaxing stroll on this horse...GET moving!"  He wanted a nice steady canter but much more impulsion and power coming from behind.  Impulsion = contained energy.  You must be able to create impulsion and control it.

 We were told to canter over a nice little hogs back and a small tire jump both directions.  Jumping the jumps out of stride, allowing the fence to come to us.  Blyth explained that on cross country you should never try and find a distance, you must arrange the appropriate canter and the correct distance will appear to the horse so long as you don't screw it up.  Penny jumped nicely out of stride over the warm up fences.

  After our warm up we started with a simple exercise.  Pick up a nice canter, sweep along the bottom of a hill and allow the horses stride to slightly lengthen at the final strides before the fence (a small oxer) but the rhythm was to remain the same.  After the small oxer we were to make a left sweeping turn up a hill to a nice big skinny Prelim oxer.  Penny comfortably soared over the smaller oxer but ran out at the Prelim one.  He told me to halt in front of the fence and then come around again.  We could not get the proper canter going and she ran out another time.  Blyth said we would try one more time but if she didn't jump it we would move on so as not to stress her and start the lesson on a bad note.  My nerves were a bit shot and I wasn't totally committed to the fence, and I couldn't get enough canter and she stopped a third time.

  Blyth told me this was not a big deal.  What he is seeing is not a horse being naughty, but a horse that has the tools and is comfortable jumping the 3'3 range but once the fences are a little bigger her canter is not strong enough to give her the confidence to jump a fence that size.  He told me not to worry and that I was doing a great job.  He said with more flat work and time this fence will not be an issue.  I wasn't really worried after our little talk and considering we are only going to be showing Pre Training this year I was not going to start stressing over the only issue we had.  A few of the other horses also has a run out at that fence but eventually everyone was over it and we moved on to the next exercise.

over the skinny

  There was a vertical set up on top of a hill and at the bottom was a skinny show jump 4 strides down.  Our job was to get 4 even strides in between and give the horses a confident ride.  We agreed we would need a more sneaking around with impulsion type canter.  Penny jumped in and we drifted right passed the skinny.  I halted her and he told me to bring her around again.  He explained to the group that this was not the end of the world.  What he was seeing was simply a horse being a bit suspicious and once she has a few more miles this will sort itself out.  I came around and jumped the skinny on its own.  We went a second time and Penny jumped through the exercise nicely.  This one was harder than it looked because the hill was quite steep and you could not see the line until you were over the first fence.

  Next we moved onto corners.  We had a show jump corner set up in the field.  Blyth explained that he always teaches corners with show jumps to start because if an issue creeps up you can modify them to allow the horse to gain confidence.  If you start with solid fences you have no way in helping the horse get over the fence should there be a problem.  He showed another group a method he uses for young horses, where he lowers the ends of the poles where they normally sit on jump cups, so that the tip of the V is elevated and the ends are on the ground.  This way, a green horse is more likely to go towards the centre of the corner rather than run out. 

the schooling corner.

 For the corner fence we need to bisect it in the middle.  We need a forward canter with not too much collection but a lot of impulsion.  Straightness is obviously key.  Penny cantered up to it and jumped it out of stride beautifully.  We moved on to a mini trakehner and practiced using our whip right before a fence.  Blyth took a minute to explain that your bum should be out of the tack when you are jumping cross country.  He does not like riders sitting on their horses backs AT ALL.  He had one girl try and ask her horse to move forward with her legs away from the horse just by using her bum.  When her horse wouldn't move, he explained our legs work the best for cross country when our bum is out of the tack.  We need to ride from our legs, not our seat.

over the mini trekehner.

 From there we schooled a coffin at the bottom of a big hill.  We had to have quite a coffin canter to get down the hill and then allow the horse to lengthen its stride over the ditch and follow the flow out over the third element.  I took back a bit too much canter coming down the hill but Penny jumped the coffin amazingly and took the 1 stride instead of the 2 on the way out.  She is so fun!  After the coffin we jumped two palisades.  Blyth said he would watch us jump the first then decide if we were allowed to jump the bigger one after LOL  Luckily we all had our game faces on and were allowed to jump the big one too.  For the palisade fence he said to imagine he tacked on some boards and built a ramp down the front - "See, now it's just a boring ramp fence".  This fence requires bold riding and a nice forward canter, again allowing yourself to lengthen the horses stride before the fence but not change the rhythm.

love this shot! Coming down to the coffin.

streeeetching over the ditch

nicely out.

the small palisade
over the larger palisade

  We schooled a double of corners on a bending line next.  I was a little worried about these because they were very upright and extremely narrow with no flags.  My success rate with bending lines seems to be limited these days.  To my surprise I rode the first corner near perfect and we jumped it well.  Sadly, I landed in a bit of a heap again and couldn't get it together by the time we were a few strides out from the second corner.  I felt she would have jumped but we were not in a good spot so I pulled her by.  She jumped it easily upon re-approach and I was really happy with that.  That was a very tough question, definitely beyond Training level!

the first skinny corner

out over the second - love this shot.
  Blyth told a story about how when he switched from show jumping to eventing he had no idea how to jump corners.  He said he always had run outs so he would just always take the options.  Eventually he got pointed out and had to move to levels where there were no options and had to teach himself how to ride them.  The key as to anything was straightness and having the right canter.  Now he described, he would jump the corner over the option any day of the week.

  Next we did a set of stairs up and then back down.  He said to ride the banks up like they are an upright fence and to GET YOUR BUM OUT OF THE SADDLE!  He wanted one nice canter stride after the first step. Not two, not three, not none. One.  Same for the way down, no trot steps allowed.  He showed us how to sit back and slip our reins so that it was barely noticeable.  He said it doesn't have to be this elaborate show that everyone can see when you sit back and slip your rein.  You need to make sure you land with your weight in your heel to remain secure.  Penny jumped these really well and it was a super fun fence.

 We finished with the water.  We walked the horses through, then trotted, then cantered.  We were to maintain the same pace throughout, not letting the water slow us down.  Blyth said we must always instil confidence in our horses, especially with water.  He said your horse should jump off a cliff into a bottomless pit if you asked them, but remember they will only do it once before learning not to trust you, so don't ever ask them to do something that might breach that trust.

 Our last exercise was a small course of a log pile, hogs back, two strides bank down into water, through the water and two steps out.  Penny went flying over the jumps and into the water on our first go and I couldn't get my reins back in time to make up the second step so we went flying by.  If anything this horse will teach me to "gather my knitting" appropriately after a fence or I am in trouble!  Our second time through we sailed over everything easily.  It was a really fun exercise and I can't remember the last time I was able to ride something so technical.  Penny was a superstar, couldn't ask for a better horse to learn on.  There is a lot of potential there, we just have to take the time to develop it.

getting our feet wet

the first in our course

flying over the second

a little to much GOING somewhere lol

into the water!
out the water up the stairs

 Major takeaways from the clinic;

  • The most important thing if you had to point one out would be the adjustability in the canter.  You need three canters; the sneaking around canter, ordinary canter, and GOING places canter.
  • Rhythm
  • Take your horses current level of training into consideration when approaching fences and competing.  If you know your horse only has one canter, don't be upset when it takes a long spot or chips in.  Sometimes that is all they are able to do at that stage of training.
  • Bum out of the tack, shoulders back.
  • Allow the horse to find the distance on cross country, your job is only to control the rhythm and maintain straightness.
  • Always remain positive and give praise when your horse has done something successfully.
  • In related distances, take your time between the fences to regroup so as not to disturb the rhythm, don't grab your horse and get all fussy to get the canter back.  Do a little each stride.
 I can easily say this was the best clinic I have ever attended.  I learned a lot from riding and I think just as much if not more from watching the other groups go.  Blyth exceeded my expectations on instruction, but he was also fun, encouraging, effective, and hilarious.  There is rumour he will be coming back to Canada next year to do it again.  I will be there with bells on, here's hoping!

The video of Penny and I;

Alayne and Caydens group;


***Many thanks for the use of some of the photos from Lauren Cude who was also riding in the clinic.  She has a blog too!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Blyth Tait Clinic Recap Day 1 - Maybe the Longest Post Ever - lots of pics!

  Can I just say !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  I'm still getting over my excitement from the weekend.  Months ago Alayne and I signed up to ride with New Zealand Olympic Gold Medallist Blyth Tait for a two day clinic in Tottenham Ontario.  The clinic was being held at the Eventing Canada training centre which puts on several clinics with big wigs throughout the year.

 To say I was excited may be the understatement of the year.  I have admired Blyth since I started eventing and watched Badminton and Burghley VHS religiously as a kid.  When I saw he was coming to Canada and within driving reach I did everything I could to make sure I could ride with him!

 Alayne and I headed up Sunday morning, I rode first at 9:30am.  I did my best to make sure my horse was immaculate and I was neat and tidy.  I was definitely nervous, not really about the riding but just wanting to make a good impression and be a good student.  Blyth asked what level everyone was riding at and apparently I was put in the Training group.  It was a good thing I ended up with Penny otherwise I would have been royally screwed as I had planned on taking William who is jumping 2' LOL.  Would have been interesting!

  We did a quick warm up and got right into the jumping.  The first exercise was a simple 9 foot rail to an X.  Trot in and canter out.  Blyth wanted to asses whether the horse was in front of our leg and whether we could do as instructed.  We were to only trot before the X and canter after and if we didn't, we were "gunna get a punch" (insert New Zealand joking accent here).  We all laughed but tried hard to do as instructed.  Penny trotted in well and cantered away easily.  After the X we were to change direction and take the X on the opposite rein.  From there we were to trot into the X and canter to a simple square oxer in 5 strides.  Repeat the exercise but with 4 strides the next time.

  Rhythm, adjustability, counting strides and reliability of the canter was the theme of the weekend.  We were to trot in and get 5 even strides throughout the entire line.  No short then long strides, no fast then slow strides - 5 even strides.  The line was an easy 4 strides for a 12 foot strided horse.  Our first time through the line we did 4.  Penny has a long open stride with mediocre adjustability at this point.  Blyth said to get the canter right away after landing off the X and then simply allow the second jump to come to us maintaining rhythm.  We tried again and got the 5 strides, noting the last stride was a bit short compared to the others.

  We reversed the exercise and focused on the same thing.  Blyth brought us into the middle to discuss the exercise and explain what it was teaching us, the horses, and the purpose.  He explained that the most important thing for an event horse is the canter.  He told the story of how he once was a Grand Prix showjumper.  At the time he took an interest in eventing he took a lesson with a big name rider in the UK.  They asked him what the hell his canter was?  He said in showjumping they only really need one canter, so the concept of other canters was foreign to him.  

  Every horse needs three canters.  The sneaking around canter, the ordinary canter, and the GOING PLACES canter.  All three canters should be available easily at any time for the rider.  All three canters have a purpose and are useful for an event horse.  Most problems that are found in the ring or on cross country can be boiled down to the horse not having a good enough or well developed enough canter.

  We did several more exercises working on changing the canter, steering, and control.  One included jumping the X at the canter, doing a ten or fifteen metre circle afterwards then powering up and lengthening the canter stride to "fly like a bird easily" over the oxer.  The powering up gives you a great jump out over the square oxer and helps build the horses confidence.

  We did a few more similar exercises over a triple bar to a skinny on a bending line.  I could not make the bending line or the distance for the life of me.  I feel like I land in a heap after a fence and it takes me a few strides to regroup.  More complex lines like bending lines etc are showing to be my weakness so that is definitely something I am going to focus on along with improving our canter.  We also did a serpentine over 3 fences.  Bending over each fence to ensure we landed on the correct lead and maintaining rhythm.

  To finish we ended on a line with a three stride to a one stride with a big oxer out.  We were to allow the jumps to come to us and our only job was to maintain rhythm.  We figure out rhythm, the horse will figure out the jumps.  Flatwork with fences in the way.  Penny jumped this line beautifully.  I tried to sit up and just let her do her thing.  She sure knows what she is doing and I am loving that.  We ended day 1 with a talk about what we had schooled today and what to expect the next day.  We needed to bring what we did in the ring that day with us out to the cross country.  He emphasized the canter work again and to keep a rhythm and straightness in our mind.  He also warned that anyone keeping their shoulders forward would be made to fall off so sit up!

  I was really really thrilled with Penny on day 1.  I watched Alaynes group and others go and really enjoyed hearing his coaching of other groups, and learning where their weaknesses were versus my group.  I find I can learn a lot just by watching and I feel like I was able to absorb a tonne this weekend.    We put our horses away for the night, went for dinner, then camped out with a bottle of wine beside the horse trailer.

 Cross country day was coming tomorrow...

Videos to follow cross country recap!

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