Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Le Progress

Progress update to catch us up from last week's rides...

I decided to treat Tuesday's ride as a practice dressage session, to gauge what I need to focus on these next 2 weeks. We warmed up in one arena, and then headed over to the dressage arena to run through BN Test A.

Our warm up was good. I included several free walks, and really focused on straightness and stretching but with good energy.

Our first run through of the test was mixed. I was sure to not use vocal cues, and to keep on going with the test even when we had issues (we broke to canter twice). The first half of the test was decent (with a good free walk - yay!) but as soon as we changed rein to track right (Hemie's harder side) I got some resistance and the trot work was tense. I realize that asking him to connect to the left rein through such a brief medium walk right before trotting is problematic. I need to try using right/inside rein only, try bending more or bending less, try focusing on shoulder straightness, or perhaps try a mini shoulder in for that corner.

Random photo of my horse being a creeper.

I did the second half of the test 2 more times and got some improved work. I didn't want to drill him and make us both tense and even worse, so we worked on other things then did a nice long cool out.

Inspired by Andrea's (The Reeling) recent post, I decided to give Hemie a longe/bit-up on Wednesday instead of a ride to work on bending issues. Alas, it was dark before I got to the barn, and Hemie was ultra spooktastic. But he settled down to work after a few minutes of bug-eye-ness and was surprisingly willing, straight, with good impulsion and stretching his back up and neck down.  We ended up not using either of Andrea's 2 tips, but I'm keeping them in the back pocket for future reference. Of course, I wasn't able to capture any of the greatness on my phone, but here's some dark and blurry photos anyway.

Thursday's lesson was very productive. Hemie was not in the mood for dressage, which made for a good challenge. We had lots of opportunity to work on our recurring issue of popping right shoulder/counter-bending to the left/not connecting to left rein/faux spooking. The solution was circles. Millions of circles. And going slow, and leg yields, and tons and tons of transitions. It worked beautifully. 

Saturday's jump lesson was fun. Laurie thinks we should move up to Novice next year, so she's been making jump questions more exciting. Hemie loves it. I'm going with the flow, but to be honest I don't think I'll move up to Novice until I have better scores at BN (or unless Laurie comes up with a really compelling reason). Anyways, on to the jumps!

The two 1-stride line again, but at novice height. 

Then I had just a few strides to turn through a steep angled line, with sharp right turn. This remained a ground pole, but was challenging enough as is!

Then to the red box, this time with pole on top.

Then left to the logs into the water, up the middle bank, then down the steepest bank! Hemie was a rockstar, meanwhile I was thinking "Jesus, take the reins!" Down banks are intimidating to me.

After the lesson I rode Henry for Laurie. He's an OTTB but very night-and-day different from Hemie.

Then I practiced again with the truck and trailer. I drove it to a local public equestrian center, with beautiful trails and public arenas. No horse inside, though, as I was driving solo and didn't think that would be wise. Soon, though...

Sunday I hopped on bareback to cruise around while others got a lesson. He loves being a couch sometimes. I love it too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Q3 Review & Q4 Goals

2014 Goals
Q1 Goals
Q1 Review & Q2 Goals
Q2 Review & Q3 Goals

Q3 Horsey Goals:
  1. Focus on Hemie's enjoyment of flatwork. Some success. We certainly focused on it quite a bit, but overall it's still not something he is enjoying. Need to continue with this.
  2. Relaxation, relaxation, relaxation. Fairly good success - both with my relaxation and Hemie's throughout rides. I'd say we have a lot less tension at this point, but still need to continue on this.
  3. Schedule a clinic OR do an XC school at a new location. Success - I'm going to be taking a dressage lesson with Chemaine next week sometime (technically not in Q3 but that's ok).
Q3 Non-Horsey Goals:
  1. Continue with garage organizing. Great success. It's all done and organized!
  2. Continue with working out and eating healthfully. Good success - been good about both items, and have even started a new program to help me achieve my goals. 
  3. Review short, medium, and long-term financial goals with hubby. Nope - we've talked about finances quite a bit, but never got around to really focusing on goals. More like getting a grip on our present situation and dealing with large emergency expenses (sewer line replacement -_-).

October-November-December/Q4 Goals

  1. XC school at a new venue.
  2. Participate in a clinic or get a lesson from another trainer.
  3. Continue to focus on relaxation and Hemie's enjoyment of flatwork.
  1. Continue with healthy choices for weight loss.
  2. Get my act together with remembering people's birthdays. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Other than riding...

A blog hop from Now That's The Spot:  
What other activities, hobbies, or sports do you do outside of riding?

My other hobby is volunteering, primarily through the Young Leaders Society. It's an affinity group of the United Way of Ventura County and is made up of young professionals. We create and implement programs and events to enrich local youth, especially at-risk youth, in the areas of education, income, and health. I currently serve on the Board, and I have also been a member of the executive team (Vice Chair and Membership Chair) as well as serve on planning committees for multiple programs.

So what does my involvement look like, you ask?  I'm the blonde in the below photos.

We volunteer at various youth enrichment events throughout the year:

We've created an annual family health and fitness event (Fun In The Sun, or FITS)
to expose children and families to various forms of exercise:

We give out scholarships to hard working students:

We table at community events to promote our programs and share resources:

We have fun together as a group:

Surprisingly, a 5k can be fun!

We have planning meetings. Lots of them:

Last week, I was awarded the Youth Empowerment Award by YLS at a large fancy awards luncheon in front of 400 people!  A videographer pre-recorded my acceptance speech and I was commended by numerous local dignitaries and politicians for my years of service with YLS. Several people and organizations were awarded, but I was the only young professional. It was a fun and inspiring event.

I was surprisingly moved by receiving this award. I've never been much for ribbons or trophies. I volunteer in order to help the community, but I admit it was very nice to have my efforts be recognized and publicly appreciated. It truly touched me to be commended by so many people.

I'm in the crazy patterned shirt in the middle, surrounded by some other YLS members.

Great blog hop - it's been interesting to peek into fellow bloggers' non-horsey aspects of their lives.

Join the hop here!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ouch! - A funny story

This post is inspired by Britt's One-Sided Story (House on a Hill). She shared some of her injury stories and we can all relate. I guess that's the deal when your hobby involves a 1,000+ pound animal with a mind of it's own, eh?

If you are so inclined, I invite you to also share an injury story that is somehow horse related. Hopefully you can laugh at it now.

My story is from when I was a young teenager. In addition to horse riding, I tried lots of other sports - soccer, basketball, volleyball, etc. My parents thought it was good for me (and secretly my dad was hoping I'd fall in love with one of those sports and give up the horse-craze. Ha!)

As happens, I twisted an ankle playing soccer. It was a hairline fracture and I ended up getting a cast. It was a regular hard plaster cast, but I had a booty for walking that strapped over it - luckily I didn't need crutches. It was a nuisance, especially with the 6+ weeks off from riding. The cast couldn't fit into a stirrup and risk of further injury was the concern.

I remember giving my parents a hard time, joking that soccer was more dangerous than horse riding since I'd hurt myself more in conventional sports than I had at the barn.

I endured the 6 weeks off with minimal grace.  I still needed to get my horse out, so he was ridden by others at the barn and I turned him out and longed him regularly. I was fairly mobile with the walking cast.

The day before I was set to get my cast removed, I decided to hop on my horse bareback. After all, the injury was all healed, right? No risk of compounding the fracture. Plus no saddle = no issue with cast fitting into stirrup.

The ride completely went fine. It was very nice to be on back of a horse again.

It was time to dismount, and of course I needed to be VERY careful and not land on my casted foot. Unfortunately I was too careful and over-exaggerated the landing on my good foot - I landed on it HARD.

The next day I got my cast removed...and a new cast put on the other ankle! It had gotten a hairline fracture from the dismount!!

Also, my entry to SFTS's first blog hop is this post from earlier this year: Why Do I Event?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Training Update

To catch up from last week, we are making steady progress. Next month there's 2 schooling shows I want to do, so I'm feeling more motivated to have each ride count.

On Tuesday I did a flat ride. We worked on shoulder in for a bit, and then on being straight and very accurate in our circles. No shoulders falling in or out. Plus we did lots of work on the free walk. It counts for double so it's a real opportunity to get some extra points.

Wednesday I suited up for a jump ride, but alas it got dark so early! We hopped over only 2 jumps, and the 2nd one was a little exciting - he completely over jumped it. I realized that he probably couldn't see the jump very well because of the fading light and it would be unfair to try and do any more, so we did some flatwork and called it a night. I focused on getting him really in front of the leg and connecting to the bridle, which was a a good challenge since he was hot.

Mr. Mouthy is learning how to clean up the cross ties!

On Thursday we had a dressage lesson and it went very well. Hemie wanted to spook, but his heart wasn't in it - throughout the ride he'd give random things or sounds the bug-eye, then just move on and continue working. Laurie is having us work on more collection and asking Hemie to step up under himself more. One exercise was doing very small circles at sitting trot, then larger circles at posting trot, with lots of bend. This helped with getting him to focus, too.

On Saturday we had a jump lesson and we jumped like a boss!  First we did a gymnastic that ultimately became a trot-in to 2 one-strides, from either direction:

Then we did some bending lines such as the roll-top the tube:

Then we did the red solid jump, and finished by cantering the skinny jump a few times. Hemie really loves the more technical questions, and I could feel him lock on to the skinny and lengthen his stride to it.  Laurie kept on raising the skinny and by the end had it at  "Prelim level skinny" which we took from a very forward gallop.  

In these moments, when I'm a little intimidated of a jump, its wonderful that I can trust Hemie to take care of us. A little voice in my head wanted to slow him down and micromanage the jump, but luckily the louder voice in my head told me to not do anything and just let him do it. That is trust.

Hemie got lots of pats and snuggles of course.

On Sunday I watched TK on Levi at a local dressage show (they rocked it), did touch-up to Hemie's hooves, and did some practice driving with the trailer including 3-point-turns (which are a lot more challenging than one would think). Next weekend will be my debut trailering with horses inside!

Hemie and I then went out on a trail ride all alone. We hack around the property often, but it had been a while since we left the stable and hit the trails. We have to ride on busy public roads to get to any trails, which always makes me a little nervous. Plus the trails are not well maintained and there were target shooters out practicing in an adjacent area, so our ride wasn't as scenic or relaxing as I'd hoped, but that's okay.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Let's Talk Tack: Online vs Brick-and-Mortar

This month I want to know how you do your horsey shopping. Do you go to brick-and-mortar tack stores, or do you shop online? I'm sure many people do some combination of both. Please vote below, and feel free to comment with details. Are there certain things you only buy in store or online?

Do you go to tack stores, or do you shop online?
pollcode.com free polls

I'm putting down 100% tack store, though every so often I do buy items online. My good friend and barn-mate works at a tack store, so by shopping there I help support her job and a local small business.

However, ironically, I rarely make it into the actual brick-and-mortar store. They take phone orders and have my credit card on file, which is dangerous but handy. My friend graciously brings my purchases out to the barn for me, which saves me a 45 minute drive (each way! "local" is relative). Best part: she also picks out everything for me - it's like having a personal shopper!

From Calabasas Saddlery's FB page

The items I do buy online are specialty products, such as the Viva Carlos Sweet Lemon Higher Standards leather soap, or Keratex products which the local store doesn't carry.

In terms of cost savings, generally speaking its a few bucks more to buy something at this tack store rather than online, even with shipping costs factored in. But the tack store has regular sales, an excellent consignment area, and of course I want this store to stay in business and so I support it with my purchases. We don't have any big-box tack stores in my area (such as a Dover, etc), so pretty much all tack stores are local, small businesses.

But let's not forget about bridles! Last month I was curious about everyone's bridle collections, and whether people have bridles reserved for shows only.  Here are the results:

It is likely that the poll results were somewhat skewed by people with multiple horses - I probably should have asked for for bridles-per-horse or something. Plus I did specify "own" instead of "use" which skewed the numbers as well as it turns out lots of people use one bridle but own several.

Turns out the overwhelming majority do NOT have bridles reserved for shows only! Frankly I was surprised by this, but also comforted since I do not own a separate show bridle. 

Thank you very much to everyone who voted on the last one, and to those voting on the current poll! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekend Update

Friday night Hemie and I went on a bareback hack around the property. I was still recovering from feeling ill so we took it easy and I only rode about 20 minutes, then Hemie got to frolic and roll in the lovely sand round pen while I cleaned his bridle and made his bucket of yumyums.

Hemie loves to visit the goats!

Freshly groomed arena...which we did not ride in.

Saturday Hemie got ridden by T.K. in the 100* heat. He got a good report from his auntie. Meanwhile I spent the first half of the day with my mom for her birthday kayaking in the Channel Islands harbor, then got nauseous and spent the second half of the day in the bathroom and in bed (from a bad sandwich, I think). Just can't get a break, can I?

A tried and true recovery methodology:
Dog therapy + Jane Austen movies on Netflix.

Sunday I woke up feeling improved, so I headed to the Meadows to watch Laurie show a client's horse and TK show Levi. Both did very well indeed! I always enjoy hanging out and grooming for friends at shows - I love watching and learning. But of course I'm always a little bit...jealous, I guess. Not quite the right word. I always wish that I was showing too.  I just love showing!

Laurie on Henry

Henry's first show ever. Just 8 months off the track.
Laurie's first show since shoulder replacement.

TK on Levi - got a 25 on this dressage test!

And rocked the jumping of course.

After the show, back at the barn, I asked to park the trailer since I need the practice. It took me 5 times longer than it should, but I got 'er done. 

This week I plan to get back to our normal routine. Working out, riding, lessoning. Revisiting goals and planning out the next few months. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

10 More Questions

From Chasing the Dream

1. If your horse was a person, who would they be? (you can generalize personality if you can't think of someone).  Hemie would be a mellow hippie surfer dude. Fairly athletic, loves the big waves, totally chill and relaxed most of the time, but then every so often will have a bad acid trip and totally lose his $h!t.

2. What is one (or two...or five) piece(s) of equipment you CANNOT live without? Helmet, hoof pick, halter and lead, saddle pad. Everything else I can do without.

3. When did you start riding/ what discipline?  6 years old, saddleseat.

4. Do you have a barn dog? If so, what breed?  Some trainers bring their dogs, but there's a strict leash rule so they aren't really barn dogs. We have barn bunnies though. Wild bunnies. 

5. Do you like doing stalls or nah? No thanks. Paid my dues in college when I boarded at a co-op and mucked out every day, pushing a wheelbarrow up a giant hill.

6. What treat(s) does your horse go nuts over?  Hemie doesn't go nuts over treats. But he makes cute dolphin-noise nickering when I bring him his bucket after rides. 

7. If you've switched disciplines, why? If not, also why. I switched to eventing as an adult. It came down to availability, affordability, and the excitement of learning something new.

8. What is your least favorite discipline and why (yeah, I aint afraid to be scandalous)?  Uh, maybe bronc riding? I think strapping an animal's genitals is torture. 

9. Who is currently your favorite rider?  So many good ones! Hard to pick one, but I'll go with Deborah Rosen. Solid riding and always with a smile.

10. What is your BIGGEST pet peeve regarding horses? People not taking care of basic health needs of their horses. Sheath cleaning is not optional, people!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

EAH Blog Hop: Keep It Clean

In this week's blog hop lets talk about what cleaning products you use on your tack and why?

I use Stubben brand saddle soap and their hamanol conditioner. I bought both when I got my Stubben saddle, as it was the biggest horsey purchase I've ever made and I wanted to use the recommended care products instead of the cheapo stuff I'd been using before. I think both work great, are easy to use, and smell fine. The saddle soap lasts a long time, but I go through the cream conditioner pretty quick. I plan on getting more of both when needed.

I also bought the Higher Standards Soap when they came out with the Viva Carlos Sweet Lemon scent. I'd heard about HS through the blog-o-sphere and thought I'd buy some eventually, but when they announced this special release in honor of Carlos I snatched it up immediately. I never met Carlos but I've been following L at Viva Carlos for years, so I admit it was an emotional purchase. The good kind.

I use white vinegar to clean bits. It does a great job of getting crud off, and Hemie seems to like the taste. I use it to clean lots of barn things, actually. Non-toxic and very effective. Smell isn't great though.

At home I have Lexol conditioner for cleaning my riding boots, as I was told that it's the brand recommended by Ariat for boot care. The large jug is annoying and I prefer cream conditioners over liquid, so I'm not sure I'll buy more when the time comes.

I also have Fiebing's 100% pure Neatsfoot Oil, and a tiny bit left of their liquid saddle soap. I've had both of these for years and I wont be buying any more of the same when I run out. I've graduated on to better quality product.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quick Friday Happy Post

I've been sick for a week. Hadn't ridden Hemie in 6 days. But went ahead with a jump lesson last night because I really missed my pony (and figured Laurie could hop on if I just couldn't hack it).

Hemie was PERFECT. Stood around like a gentleman while others were jumping, and completely took care of me when it was our turn to play.

Plus we got to do our first super skinny jump! We had no problem whatsoever. In fact, Hemie LOVED it.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Strategies for Happy Flatwork

Thank you so much for the supportive comments on our last post. It was surprisingly hard to write about but I'm glad I did.

As I mentioned, we haven't had a meltdown since that one (knocking in several wooden things right now). I've been experimenting with a few different approaches to prevent and diffuse tension and get better quality flatwork in general.

#1. Get off his back. Literally.
Especially when tracking right and doing our first canter, Hemie prefers me in a light 3-point seat rather than deep seat. When he gets tense, his back stiffens, and if I'm sitting deep that can result in me bouncing heavily. Not good for either of us. A light 3-point seat which I then slowly relax into a full seat has been helpful in maintaining relaxation in our right lead canter.

#2. Pick my battles with regard to the left rein.
At this point in our training, is it really so bad if I have him more connected to the inside rein rather than the outside rein as we are passing by an object I think he'll faux-spook at?  As long as he's connected - whether to both reins evenly or to the inside rein - I can then ask again for left rein connection with better timing.

#3. Rhythm is more important than speed. 
When Hemie gets tense, he tends to speed up and sometimes get uneven. I used to immediately slow him down, but my new tactic is to focus on rhythm first and then focus on speed. This helps tremendously with keeping forward momentum and not letting Hemie get behind the leg. I'm out there posting like a walrus, but it works. Turns out the fast, sewing-machine trot can be converted into free-shoulder, swinging trot without too much hullabaloo.

#4. Focus on relaxing MY body when HE starts to feel tense.
This has been absolutely critical to de-escalating tension. When I start to feel resistance or stiffness, I have to melt my body and exhale deeply. It works surprisingly fast and well.

Overall I think these are really working. We're getting more consistent connection, steady rhythm, and better moments of stretching and back-lifting. Plus no meltdowns, and minimal tension. We've been getting compliments from several other riders at the barn as well as our trainer, and overall I think Hemie has been happy in our work.

On a completely unrelated note, our barn has become overrun with plastic bags. They're living along the hacking trails, waiting to freak out unsuspecting horses passing by. Luckily Hemie doesn't spook at them (unless he's really in the mood, looking for any excuse).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Open mouth. Insert foot. Then cry.

This post has taken me forever to write. And I've almost deleted it a few times. But this blog is an honest account of my horse life, including the struggles. Fair warning - its long and rambling, but I'm too sick and tired to edit any more.

dirty pony

So the other week I expressed malcontent with dressage lessons - specifically that they were leading to Hemie meltdowns that we didn't experience during practice rides.

Well...you can guess what happened the very next practice ride. Yep, we had a super-duper meltdown, including a massive black-stallion-style rear followed by a sharp u-turn swivel maneuver. Can't blame the trainer for that one, can I!?!  I did manage to stay on, but just barely.

Sage advice.

It was a 1 minute (tops) episode out of a 45+ minute ride, and the rest of it was actually good and productive. So 98% of the ride was fine. But the meltdown warrants some analysis since (a) it's been occupying my mind and I need to get it out, and (b) it's a dangerous reality that maybe others have/are struggling with too.

It started with a faux spook at an orange cone on the outside of the dressage court as we were tracking right. I've discussed this issue before - basically the spook is an evasion of connecting to the left outside rein, especially when coupled with bending right. Typically the right shoulder pops out, and we squirt forward and/or sideways.

This time when it happened I thought "you're not fooling me this time, buddy" and tapped that right shoulder with my crop, squeezed him back to the rail with my inside leg, and did not release any rein (his desired reaction from me). He refused to move forward and started bouncing up and down. That is even more of a no-no, so I tapped him behind my leg with the crop and slightly released rein to encourage forward moment.

It didn't work. The bouncing up and down became mini-rears and running backwards a few steps. I took hold of the neck strap with one hand (yes, I'd had the wherewithal to put one on for a dressage ride) and made growling noises to indicate that this behavior was not okay, and made one final attempt to encourage him forward with leg pressure. We got a few steps forward before the giant rear.

I experienced the rear in slow-motion. I admit that I thought about tapping him with the whip during the rear to tell him that it wasn't okay. But my gut feeling told me that if I did that, we'd completely flip over.

In these meltdown moments, my normally thoughtful horse is just a giant panicked animal. Instinct takes over. Its like his brain leaves his body and he gets the crazy look in his eye. I can *feel* it happen from the saddle.

When he landed the rear, we both just stood there, shaking. I said "easy boy" and I could sense him coming back to himself. I righted my saddle (we'd slipped a good 4 inches), released my hand from the neck strap, and we both took a few breaths. We were facing away from the cone. After a few moments, we walked off.

We stayed away from the danger zone and took a few minutes to regroup - walking, trot circles, just getting back on the same wavelength. Then we went past the cone with it on our right. Hemie got a little bug-eyed. Then we changed direction but instead of passing it on our left to possibly have a repeat issue, I turned early and bent him away from the cone, and we moved past it with lots of space to spare and he was fine. We did that several more times, then slowly and carefully got closer and closer to it, always while doing something else that required his attention such as leg yield or shoulder-in. Within a few minutes we were marching past it just fine.

So what have I learned from this? It underscored the fact that Hemie cannot learn when he is in a panicked mental state.  What starts out as a willful evasion to avoid work transforms into a panicked, instinctual reaction. And as soon as that switch happens I must change my tactics in order to prevent a dangerous situation from arising.

That incident was ~ 2 weeks ago. We haven't had any meltdowns since then, and I'm feeling good about a few different strategies we've been trying out, which I'll post about soon.

Its not all sunshine and rainbows with us adult ammies and our not-exactly-babysitter horses, is it? But that's okay. As long as we do our best to stay safe and have fun, we can get through the tough times.

In conclusion, here's a random barn bunny.

Monday, September 8, 2014

AdA Blog Hop: Tack Trunk

A blog hop from Brandy at Auf der Autobahn:  what’s in your tack trunk (or locker, or tack room)?

Our tack room is a shipping container. They are sprinkled throughout the property at the various pipe corral barns. Inside, it's neatly divided into a number of cubby areas.

I'm able to comfortably store quite a bit of tack and equipment. But since there's plenty of open cubbies I admit I've spread out into the neighboring one for more elbow room.

So here's what I've got!

  1. Impact vest
  2. Cooler
  3. Jump saddle and pads
  4. Dressage saddle and pads
  5. Grooming tote
  6. Plastic tub full of random barn stuff
  7. Air vest (inside white box)
  8. Tack cleaning bucket
  9. First Aid Kit
  10. Bath bucket & 2 spare buckets
  11. Bridle hook with my strap goods

Overall I consider this pretty minimalist. I keep lots of supplies and spare tack at home in a section of half the garage, bringing it to the barn when needed.

*Special note, Brandy rides with the fabulous Lisa Bauman of Austin Eventing, whom I've followed for years as she competes her American Saddlebred. Small world yay!