Friday, April 8, 2011

A Few Random Notes

First off, some people suck.  That is all on that one.

Secondly, because I'm not sure that I've posted it, I've decided on our horse show schedule (hopefully) for the year:

May 5-7: Dixie Cup Spring Classic, Conyers, GA - Sparky*
June 22-25: Mid A Morgan Horse Show, Lexington, VA - Star
July 30: Poplar Place Schooling Show - Sparky
August 13: Poplar Place Schooling Show - Sparky
October 8-16: Grand National and World Championship Morgan Horse Show, OKC - Star
November 12-13: Poplar Place BN Horse Trial - Sparky

Thirdly, I'm pretty sure that Star NEEDS the new Beval Conquer bridle (pictured).  It's beautiful... square raised, fancy stitched, padded... just like the SmartPak Wellfleet that I like, but because it's Beval, I know that it will fit her.  The matching standing martingale wouldn't hurt, either.

Fourthly, I found out the other day that Honorary Big Sister Jen and I won our division at the hunter pace on Saturday!  Woot!  (Well, if we want to be technical, I won and Honorary Big Sister Jen came in second, but since we were competing as a team, Team Hawaiian Nights won!)

Lastly (but not leastly), my new breastplate arrived from Bartville Harness.  It is nearly perfect!  I described it to Honorary Big Sister Jen as being "beautiful-ish," because it is as beautiful as a very workmanlike piece of tack can be.  The quality of the leather and the worksmanship is wonderful.  I absolutely love it!

And now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

*Hopefully we'll come back with an official pony card!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mitzi is a Genius!

I was feeling rather fidgety on Wednesday: it was a beautiful day, and horse show season is starting...  So I did what any other person would do.  I posted on Facebook that I was feeling fidgety.  Mitzi, genius that she is, commented back that it was time to go jump the big jumps.  Sounded like a good idea to me!

I got to the barn earlier than usual, took care of a couple things that needed doing, and then got Star out.  Of course, after Honorary Big Sister Jen had hosed her off after the hunter pace on Saturday, Star had proceeded to roll, so she was pretty dirty.  Oh, it's also shedding season.  What seemed like a small eternity later, I finally took Star up to the arena and reset jumps.  Everything was still at 2'6" from Sunday, so I shrugged my shoulders and moved everything up to 3'.  I figured if Star could jump a 3' coop from a trot while being spooky at the hunter pace, then she could certainly start out at 3' on her home turf.

I hopped on, and we did W-T-C around the arena and over the cavaletti that were set.  Star was doing well, staying nice and responsive on just the snaffle rein.  I then picked up my curb rein also, and we started with the fun stuff!

We did each of the fences (coop, vertical, square oxer) off an angle a few times each, and then started piecing the line together (it was set as coop-two strides-oxer-one stride-vertical).  I have to admit: even though it didn't look too bad when I set it, EVERY time we came up to that oxer it looked big.  So I decided that to do the whole line, we would do it the "easy way," starting with the coop.  We went through the entire line once, and it was pretty good... but I knew it could be better.  We came through once more, and Star was absolutely perfect - and I felt pretty damn good, too!  I had been trying to work up to being brave enough to come through the other way, but Star was so good that I decided to call it quits for the night, especially since it was starting to get dark.

Mitzi was absolutely right - to clear the fidgets, I just needed to go jump the big jumps!  Okay, so 3' isn't "big," but I'm pretty pleased with it considering I was riding a horse who others seemed to think needed to make a career as a crossrail horse this IEA season, and I haven't really jumped anything "big" since OKC.  Furthermore, it was late summer last year by the time our warm-up jumps were 2'9"... so by warming up over 3'0", we're definitely ahead of where we were last year at this time.

Thanks, Mitzi! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


In keeping with the current cereal theme...
After assuring me that I should be able to make it work on time should I choose to go with her, Honorary Big Sister Jen convinced me on Friday evening to go to the hunter pace at Kingston Downs with her on Saturday morning.  I've done spur-of-the-moment things plenty of times before, but never a horse-related thing (horse-related things always require so much planning!), so I was pretty excited about the venture.

Since Honorary Big Sister Jen had mentioned that some of the jumps were coops up to 3', I decided to take Star, and Team Hawaiian Nights was born (because tikis are Hawaiian and stars come out at night).  With the exception of suddenly thinking that she forgot how to jump for the first two jumps and, therefore, the appropriate thing to do was to spook, Star was really good.  After a the first couple jumps she settled in, and the rest was cake.  ("Oh, that back there?  I was just kidding").  It was kinda cute - Star's pokey walk (even with a 6" overstep) couldn't keep up with Tiki's power-walk, so every once in a while, she would have to jog-trot to catch up.  When we were trotting, though, Tiki had to canter to keep up with Star.  Of course, knowing that Tiki was cantering made Star want to canter... the two stayed relatively even at that point - until Honorary Big Sister Jen decided she wanted to show off Tiki's "XC gallop!"  Star's fast... but out of shape as she is, Tiki's faster.  The whole thing was a lot of fun - I would definitely like to do it again.

On Sunday, I rode both Kellie and Sparky.  Kellie is continuing to improve in her developing "togetherness" through improved bending.  I really think that our lesson with Gigi gave us sort of our break-through "aha!" moment.  When we went to pick up the trot, Kellie actually stretched down further for the transition - wow!  That was a first!  After some flatwork, I decided to let Kellie jump a little.  I removed the rail from the coop, so the jump was now 2'.  We just did it a few times, but Kellie did really well with that, too.  Not a stutter, and while she was carrying her head higher as we were jumping than on the flat, it was still at the acceptable "jumping level," ie, not above the bit and evading, and she continued to bend.  Definitely worthy of another "wow!"

In my ride with Sparky, we worked for a LONG time on the flat, trying to bend and supple.  Since the grass has come up, he has gained weight, and with that weight gain, apparently also gained an inability to bend.  (Seriously - he's getting HUGE).  I finally caved and bought a Sprenger Duo bit for him, so we were working in that.  He spent a good amount more time than usual above the bit, but I'm okay with that, because at least it gives me a better indication of where we are.  I would rather have that than false flexion and behind the bit.  We then moved onto jumping.  I pushed him a bit out of his comfort zone; he didn't get to jump anything less than 2'6".  Coop, vertical, and square oxer - all at 2'6".  Considering that I was pushing him a bit, he also did really well.  Certainly not perfect, but I think he is starting to figure out that he is capable of more than he realizes.  I do really like the Duo for him, too.  He never got behind the bit, but I also never felt like I didn't have enough.  Very cool.

So overall a wonderful weekend - three great rides on three great horses!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Follow Your Nose

I'll be honest.  I haven't posted in about two weeks because I haven't ridden my own horses in about two weeks.  *Sigh*... to be independently wealthy and not need a regular 9-to-5...

I have, however, ridden Kellie a decent (for us) amount.  I arranged with Gigi Nutter for Joyce, Debbie, and I to take Kellie down to her place for a lesson and an assessment of where Kellie might best be suited.  So we weren't completely unprepared, I pretty much neglected my horses and worked with Kellie. 

Up until fairly recently, the premise of my work with her has been pretty much just to keep her going.  If left to her own devices, she starts to forget that people are the boss and that she must listen to the person on her back.  She is a young warmblood, and has gone through more awkward and gangly phases than balanced ones, so there wasn't a lot of point in working towards a lot of the grand goals we have for our horses.  The ideas were to introduce leg, hand, "I'm up here, you listen to me," and, "I'm not holding you up."  This has worked pretty well, but Kellie is now grown up enough and balanced enough that it is time to start asking her to work harder and truly begin her job.  Oh, and to get all her parts working together.  So to this end, Kellie and I have been working with Susan, the dressage trainer across the street, and Kellie has started to figure out bending, using herself, blah, blah, blah.  Somedays she's okay, but other days are pretty damn frustrating.  I can't seem to get it, she can't seem to get it... you get the picture.  But overall, she has progressed.

So we go for our lesson with Gigi, Atlanta-area dressage trainer extraodinaire.  Overall, she was complimentary of Kellie, and she was able to get right down to what the issue with Kellie was, and why it's been so difficult to "get it."  I knew she was locking up her whole neck and using the muscles on the underside against me... but I just hadn't quite been able to work her out of it.  Gigi took the approach of taking a bit of a step back: don't worry about the hindquarters, don't worry about your postition, don't worry about all the other little *details*... get her to follow her nose.  Use as small a circle as it takes, ask her to bend her head and neck to the inside by squeezing the inside rein.  Get her to follow her nose.

And lo and behold, it started to work.  As Kellie became more accepting of contact and bending, we were able to move out to a 20m circle (which can, apparently, be counted as 6 strides on each of four tangent lines... great, something else to count!).  As she became more consistent about accepting contact and bend, we were able to also use the outside rein to half-halt a bit and balance her up.  And her hindquarters followed.  We also played a little bit with riding a "broken line," again to encourage Kellie to unlock the base of her neck and follow her nose.

As we moved up into canter, it was a bit more of the same, but for the first time ever, someone clearly explained the timing of closing the ring finger on the reins.  As the mane comes down, that it the time to close the inside ring finger.  And once bend is established, using the outside ring finger as the mane comes up will help balance the horse.  And with this timing, Kellie balanced up beautifully... and her hindquarters kept following.

So it turns out that part of the trick with Kellie is just to convince her to follow her nose.  I also learned that she really does benefit from being talked to as she is ridden.  I talk to my horses more than most people I know, but definitely not as much as some others I know.  And as luck would have it, Kellie is in the category of "needs more."  Okay, I can handle that.

Talk more and Froot Loops (i.e., follow your nose).  I'm on board with that.