Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jumping in a Dress

Minimal blogging due to maximum work load (office + moving + business trip + construction at new house).

But I stumbled upon this photo today and I just had to share!
Courtesy of

I would LOVE to get a picture of myself jumping my horse in a cute dress, maybe with some paint (or glitter!!!) all over my horse.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rider Fitness: Week 5 - Accountability Challenge

Its the final week of the 5 week Accountability Challenge! Since I technically failed the challenge in week 1, I've been humming and hawing about whether I'm going to get myself the incentive/reward (a Jimmy Wofford  book). My birthday is coming up next month, so maybe I'll just strongly hint to my husband to get it for me.

Anyway, for this week the bonus challenge is to spend some time meditating/visualizing. I personally think that stress is a large factor for weight gain and prevention of weight loss, and that reducing stress makes one feel more empowered, which in turn assists in achieving goals. So this week I'm gonna prioritize stress reduction and do some meditation.

Last week was okay. Not great on the exercise. So-so on the nutrition. This week I really need to get my workouts back in gear. I've been feeling super tired and groggy in the morning, wanting to sleep in rather than workout. But I know that working out will give me more energy. Circular, I know.

On a good note, I've been doing pretty well with my food log, even on the weekends. And I've been drinking lots of water.

Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Rider Fitness: Week 4 - Accountability Challenge

Okay, so I'm a few days late in posting this (should have been Monday...). It's just been that kind of week. New house. Horse show. And boss is out of town so I'm covering at work. Life is busy. But not too busy to be healthy, gosh darn it!

Week 3 was a bit of a challenge. I completely lost it one day at work (bagels. with full fat cream cheese. so delicious), and I wasn't as strict as I should have been following it up, but overall I did an okay job containing the damage. Exercise was good, but not as good as week 2. Healthy habit bonus challenge went nowhere.

On to this week - week 4. Started off a bit rocky. Horse show and work at the new house precluded proper grocery shopping, but I've been tracking everything and I've got some great meals planned for the rest of the week. Exercise needs a kick in the booty.

Bonus Challenge: Clean out some clutter. At the barn, at home, or at work. Do a couple 10 minute sessions and help create an open, clutter-free area. I'm guaranteed to do this one as part of moving ;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Derby Videos

Here's the video of Intro Beginner Novice (1'8" max height):

Here's the video of Easy Beginner Novice (2'3" max height):

So there you have it! The green-bean truth, since video can't lie. Clearly we have LOTS to work on:
  • drifting right
  • moving forward rather than up and down (we need a horse stride, not a pony stride!)
  • my lower leg needs major help
  • rhythm
But I'm glad that we:
  • didn't get eliminated
  • got over all the jumps
  • improved our 2nd round
  • felt relaxed and calm throughout the day and after the rides
For our first XC competition, I really am pleased. We avoided the big E.  Elimination. So we achieved my goal for the outing. The next derby is in exactly 1 month. I need to talk to the hubby about whether we can afford another show so soon (you know, with the new house and all), but if we can then my plan is to do these same levels and add in a dressage test. Sure, Hemie can certainly jump higher than these levels, but it's not about height, is it? We need to work on rhythm and straightness and a proper stride before we can think about BN. There's no rush. We're enjoying the journey.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Derby Report

My experience can be summed up in this photo:
It was awesome. I still have that goofy grin on my face. 

We came in last place on both rounds, with plenty of time faults on the first go (Intro BN), and both jump and time faults on the second go (Easy BN), but I am incredibly proud of both Hemie and myself for getting through it as a team.

Even though we didn't do dressage (I've only had 1 dressage lesson on him to date), we did tack up and ride around in the warm-up arena when lots of others were warming-up for their dressage tests. It was Hemie's first time in a busy warm-up arena (at our last 2 shows, there was only one other person warming up at the same time we were). This time there were over 10 horses warming up at the same time, including children and green horses and yelling trainers and start whistles and bells and all sorts of commotion and hubub. It was exactly what I wanted. Bohemian was a bit nervous but we worked through it. He got a bit stuck but we worked through it, and before too long he relaxed his body and moved forward freely. He even was able to walk around on the buckle. 

Small note: the dressage arena next to the warm up arena used a type of cow bell as its start signal. When Hemie first heard it, he coiled his body like a cat ready to pounce. Or more accurately, like a racehorse ready for start gates to shoot open! Luckily he caught on pretty quick that we were NOT there to race, though. 

Okay, so our first round was Intro BN, up to a max height of 1'8". We had 11 jumps total. Small enough where we could jump them from a stand-still (which we ended up doing like twice). Some of them were *H*O*T* colors. We're talking electric blue and eye-scrunching orange. Maybe they had a sale at the paint store - I dunno, but it defiantly made the jumps interesting to look at. I took a nice long approach to the start poles, trotted him to the first jump, where he tried to exit-stage-right towards home, but a small tap and a squeeze and we got over it. Jump #2 was our first halt, but it was nice and square so I just squeezed him over it. The jump judge was gracious and didn't count it as a refusal even though I'm fairly certain we were completely halted. We made it through the course like cringe-worthy children you see at these small schooling shows. Lots of hesitation, sliding out, change in rhythm, but darn it - we got through!

Our second round, Easy BN (up to 2'3") was much better. I figured out how to use my right leg to stop the right slide, and he was overall much more brave. The course was almost identical - a top pole was added to the stadium standards and a few of the solid jumps swapped to slightly bigger ones. He knocked down the top rail of the first fence, but he didn't make that mistake twice and cleared everything else. We were much more steady in our approaches and our rhythm overall, but it was still not nearly as "hunter"-ish as we are at home. 

Since there were only 2 entrants in each of my rounds, I came away with our very first ribbons! Two delightful reds that will need to find a fitting home in my new house.  Videos and photos soon to come (need to confiscate my husband's phone tonight after work).

I was incredibly blessed to have an entire support team for our first XC-ish competition. THANK YOU to our trainer, Laurie Canty.  Congrats and thanks to my barn mates Ariel, Jeannette, and Ashley. Thanks to my amazing husband, fabulous mom, and wonderful friends who made it out in the heat and dust to support us. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's more expensive that a horse?

A house.

That Rick and I just bought. We closed today.

The house as shown on MLS:

What the house actually looks like presently:

Home sweet fixer-upper!

A million thanks to my parents who made this possible, and to our broker Joe Virnig of who was absolutely stellar.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Derby Prep

This Sunday is our first derby. We're doing jumping only (no dressage) in the Intro Beginner Novice (fences 1'8") and the Easy Beginner Novice (fences 2'3") divisions. In each division there will be approximately 11-15 jumps which will be a combination of stadium and cross country fences. I'm lucky #13, and #24.

My goal is to have at least one clean round. Since there's only 2 entrants in each jumping-only division, so long as I don't get eliminated I'm guaranteed at least a red ribbon. Is it bad mojo to wish for our first ribbon this weekend?

I've got a long To Do list before the show:

  1. Clean tack
  2. Clean horse
  3. Prep gear

Well, okay, the list only has 3 things. But #1 and #2 are gonna take forever, since my horse's life mission seems to be to get as much dirt on his body as he can. And this translates into dirty tack in addition to dirty horse.

Lesson tonight - hopefully we'll feel ready as can be!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rider Fitness: Week 3 - Accountability Challenge

Week 2 went much better than week 1.  I really paid attention to what my trip-ups were so I could prevent them from happening again.  Planning is the key!  Overall I did good on my diet and I've stepped up the intensity of my exercise. However, I didn't do nearly as much 2-point riding as I could have.

Week 3 Bonus Challenge: Think of a healthy habit to adopt or strengthen. Focus on adding or improving it this week.

I'm not sure yet which healthy habit I'm going to work on. I'm thinking stretching, drinking green tea, or focusing more on my posture at work.

As to horsie business, I have a lesson tonight since Laurie is going out of town for the latter half of the week. I didn't get a lesson this past weekend because she was out of town on Saturday and had a horse show with another gal from the barn on Sunday. I'm feeling good with where I am with Hemie, so that's fine. I'm still debating if I should do dressage or jumping tonight. Probably jumping so we can work on my position more before the show.

Happy Healthy Monday all!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

OTTB Stigmas

There's something I realize I haven't brought up before: the fact that I had never, ever, in a million years, thought that I would own an ex-racehorse. In fact, I would even say I had a stigma against TBs in general and OTTBs in particular. They have a reputation for being hot, spooky, nervous, hard keepers with thin skin and crumbly feet, who likely come with injuries and have no manners.

Ironically, I had my sights set on getting an American Saddlebred as my eventing horse, an uncommon breed for the discipline especially on the west coast. My own bias against OTTBs is especially baffling in light of the common stigmas against ASB: that they are hot, spooky, nervous, hard keepers who have whites around their eyes and are half-crazy from training with chains and firecrackers. Here is my post promoting ASBs as sport horses - they truly are an amazing breed that has gotten a bad rap due to saddleseat training methods.

Thoroughbred -  2012 Kentucky Derby winner
Horse: I'll Have Another, 3 years old
Jockey (Rider): Mario Gutierrez
Trainer: Doug O'Neill
Owner:  Paul Reddam
American Saddlebred - 2012 World Grand Champion 5-Gaited
Horse: Bravo Blue, 10 years old
Trainer and Rider: Rob Byers
Owner: B&T Vonderschmitt

Well, the universe has a way of humbling us. I am still promoting ASBs as excellent potential sport horses, while having to eat my thoughts regarding OTTBs.  Biases tend to start with a small nugget of truth. Let me give you my honest 2-cents about OTTB stigmas versus reality, insofar as my experience with Bohemian.

Temperament -Bohemian is well behaved, quiet, and calm 99% of the time. I've seen other TBs wig out on occasion, but not significantly more than I've seen horses of other breeding wig out. They're animals.

My snuggly Bohemian.
Weight - TBs are naturally tall and slender, and tend to show more ribs even at a healthy weight as compared to other breeds. Bohemian certainly came to me underweight, but that was due to the change in feed from his retirement as a racehorse - a common but very fixable issue with ex-racehorses.

Skin - Most TB owners will tell you that their TBs are more sensitive to bugs and skin irritations than their horses of other breeds. Bohemian certainly is.

Feet - A good number of TBs have hooves that require more care than other breeds. Bohemian gets hoof conditioner regularly to help maintain hoof health. But overall he has great feet.

Injuries - This one is more legit than the others. Racing training starts before the horses are full grown, which common sense and research shows is not healthy for joint and ligament development, therefore creating a propensity for injury later on. Its also no secret that horses get injured during races all the time, and injury is one of the main causes of retirement from the track.

Manners - There is a circulated idea that some racehorse trainers view pushy ground manners as related to a horse's ego, with more pushiness translating to more competitiveness on the track, so they don't correct common ground manner violations. However, Bohemian and all the other OTTBs at my barn have had no ground manner issues whatsoever. Maybe west coast racing trainers don't hold that particular view, or maybe they do but are keeping all the horses with bad manners since they're the more competitive horses (after all, we're adopting the racing rejects).

Overall, I am very pleased and proud of my OTTB. I hope all horse people will strongly consider both TBs and ASBs for their pleasure and performance mounts, or at least try to dismiss any lurking biases that might be tucked away in the back corner of their mind!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The D word

Dressage. Or as Colbert recently learned to pronounce it: drĕssage. ;]

Tonight was our first lesson in a dressage saddle. It went fabulous! Bohemian was very smart and willing, and I have to say I'm pretty proud of myself too - I had a good seat and a good feel.  We are teaching Bohemian to accept constant contact with the outside reign while he is figuring out the best place to have his body parts (head down, neck arched, back up, collected body, legs tracking well).  We made progress via the normal dressage means: generate forward movement using legs, whip, and loose hips; keep rhythm steady via outside rein squeezes, uberstriken (release inside rein and quickly pat neck) to reward relaxation of his neck, all while maintaining straightness (bending will be added later). We did it all three gaits, both directions, with significant improvement at all stages. The take-away lesson for me is to ask for a good forward gait before asking for anything else. That really seemed to make the difference for Bohemian.

I've been riding him in a dressage saddle one to two times per week for the last 3 weeks. This photo is from Hemie's second dressage ride ever: the fabulous Shadney came out and graciously rode him (in her dinner clothes, bless her). In less than 5 minutes, she had him calmly stretching his head down and his back up. It was awesome. She had a super light contact, but with lots of pats and praise she was able to communicate very well with him. Watching good riders on your horse can really generate light-bulb moments.

Not the best photo, but I promise they looked great in real life.

So, for my dressage rides, I've incorporated a good 10 minutes of "long and low" work at walk and trot, where Hemie has figured out to send his head to the ground and his back up in the air. He really responds well to pats and praises - it encourages him to keep trying and prevents frustration. He sometimes gets behind the vertical when I maintain outside rein contact, but I just immediately send him forward while maintaining the connection to correct it. He's still figuring that one out.

A good while back I read this post on Karen's Dressage Blog about how her Hunter/Jumper trainer was doing a great job teaching her and her ponies how to do dressage. I've found myself going back to this post several times to look at this I decided to copy and paste. Here it is:

Let me tell you, this does NOT exist for saddleseat. At least not with any of the trainers I've had lessons from. As a small personal commentary to Karen's blog post, I think it is great that she found so much training overlap to dressage from her H/J trainer. Almost all eventing and H/J trainers I've met say that good flatwork is critical to good jumping. However, while I think the principles of good horsemanship (grooming, nutrition, ground manners, etc) spans all disciplines, the transition from saddleseat to eventing has underscored the very real and substantial differences in riding theory and mechanisms, from rider positioning to the horses's way of going, that various disciplines have. Karen's own comparison of the endurance seat to the dressage seat is quite interesting. Some discipline transitions are easier than others.

Anyway, back to the diagram! Bohemian and I are starting at the very bottom of the pyramid here. I'm realizing that the "with Energy" below Rhythm is super important. If the horse is doddling along, even if they are relaxed, it is very challenging to develop a good connection. I must mention that the straightness I referred to in our lesson is not the Straightness near the top of the pyramid. It would be better stated as the absence of counter-bending or bending: maintaining a straight line from his poll to his withers, as a strategy to focus on rein contact and ensure he doesn't move away from impulsion aids. We just barely beginning to think about alignment and balance. To be developed another day.

We are doing jumping only in the upcoming Meadows of Moorpark derby, but I do hope I can do both dressage and jumping by the October derby.  :)  It's nice to have goals.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rider Fitness: Week 2 - Accountability Challenge

Well, it appears I made the challenge too challenging - not only has no one joined me, but I couldn't even follow my own plan for one week. Ouch.

Since half the name is accountability, I feel obligated to truthfully summarize week 1. Then we'll move quickly onto horse stuff.

For Week 1, I did do the bonus challenge: I fought alongside my husband in a Belegarth practice session. It was surprisingly fun and a good workout to boot!
Belegarth: medieval combat with foam weapons. Full contact fun.
I did meet my exercise plan, but did not do fantastic with the diet/nutrition side. I realize I need to (a) have more healthy snacks at work so I'm not tempted to go for the candy jar, (b) be sure to plan ahead what I'm eating when going out with friends, or don't go out with them (at least for meals), and (c) grocery shop more often. When we run out of food is when eating out increases. Bad for the diet.

Week 2 Bonus Challenge: Add in some 2-point and/or no-stirrup work to your rides this week.

Okay, on to horsie stuff.

This past Friday night we had a lovely trail ride with some of barn gals. T.K (ahead on the right in the photo) was on her horse completely bareback in just a halter and a lead. And there were some serious hills on the trail.

On Saturday we had a great jump lesson, focusing mostly on my positioning. We did a grid and Hemie was a very good boy, handling his first bounce jump with no issue. Only 2 weeks left until the Meadows excited!