Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Which Sparky Jumps 3'0"!

Okay, so I already gave away the good part.

Sparky turned 8 on Saturday.  Eeek!  Where does the time go?!?  Last I knew, I'm pretty sure he was 4.  Anyhow, so Sparky's chronological age is now 8, and his "training age" (yes, I made that up) due to his injury and related set-backs is 6 1/2, and he should be "all grown up" either way.

And he *just* might be (knock on wood).

On Tuesday, Honorary Big Sister Jen hauled Tiki and Sparky to her place of employ so we could ride together and kick each other's butts.  This was going to be Jen's last jump school in preparation for her (and Tiki's) first outing at Novice at the May Daze horse trial in Kentucky.  My goal with Sparky was to go somewhere different, jump around fences he hasn't necessarily seen in those particular spots, and do a little bit at 3'0".  My rationale was that if one of the PWF IEA kids can jump him 3'0", there's no reason I can't!

Everybody pretty much knows that the journey with Sparky has been, uh, interesting (Greg Best saying Sparky was an asshole, anyone?).  So it has taken a while for Sparky to get to where he "should" be training-wise.  And the goals for this trip were not a "given."

We started out in the covered, due to an annoying thunderstorm rolling through.  Honorary Big Sister Jen had some stuff set at 2'-ish, a vertical on the diagonal at 2'9", and a 3'0" oxer on a short, awkward diagonal.  Sparky and I were not going to attempt that one.  We warmed up on the flat, for which Sparky was pretty good.  Honorary Big Sister Jen then did some 2'-ish stuff with Tiki, and then I followed suit with Sparky.  It wasn't all perfect (and I certainly wasn't!), but Sparky never hesitated.  In fact, he was forward enough that I was *quite* glad that I had chosen to use the Sprenger WH bit for the day.  We progressed through the line (it was set as a two to a one, or a one to a two, depending on which way you were going) each way... and eventually I got brave, and we cantered up to the 2'9" vertical.  And the Sparkplug looked a little bit, but he went right over!  I did my job to make Honorary Big Sister Jen jump the 3'0" several times, even though Tiki was being a shit.  *shrugs*  I do what I can to make others' lives more enjoyable. ;) 

After the rain let up, we moved to the (much) bigger outdoor arena.  Because of the rain, the footing was pretty darn near perfect.  Honorary Big Sister Jen had set herself an entire course at 2'9"-3'0", which she planned to jump "cold" (no schooling over anything before going in and jumping the course).  So she and Tiki started out over the course, and then decided on a do-over.  Second attempt was perfect-ish - Honorary Big Sister Jen sat up, rode, made decisions, and didn't take anything for granted.  I was very proud of her!

Then it was my turn.  Honorary Big Sister Jen watched Sparky while I went around and dropped random jumps to various lower heights.  I dropped the square oxer to 2'3", because I really haven't done too many of them with Sparky (and this is clearly Jen's fault, because she doesn't like oxers and never sets them at home... so since I'm too lazy to set anything other than what she's set, I don't do many oxers!), and then walked around and lowered a few others that seemed somewhat imposing.

I vaulted up onto my trusty steed (ok, really I used the mounting block to get on the pudgy pony), and off we went.  I didn't have an actual plan in mind (good thinking, I know) other than to just jump everything in the arena.  We started with the oxer because it was low and oxers generally don't scare me (except for 3'0" ones set on an awkward short diagonal).  And it went well.  So we continued along to the single verticle on the outside line.  Which also went well (not perfect, but well enough).  And we continued around to a single hanging gate (Sparky and I had never jumped a single hanging gate before).  And it went well.  And next thing I knew, Sparky and I were doing exactly what Honorary Big Sister Jen and Tiki had done - going in and jumping an entire course "cold."  And every single fence was just. fine.  After the gate, we strung together the outside line, the other gate (this one had flowers underneath), and a ramped oxer.  And Sparky perfectly willingly jumped everything.  He looked a bit at the oxer, but said, "OK - if that's what you want!" and jumped it with a foot to spare.

And I was pleased as punch.

The sequence of jump heights was 2'3"-2'9"-2'9"-2'6"-7 strides (we did 8)-3'0"-3'0"-3'0".  Holy crap!  Sparky did it!  He actually did it!

We still have some things to work on, but I could not be more happy with Sparky on that day.  Everything I asked, he did.  He trusted me to not put something in front of him that he "couldn't" do.  And he looked super-cute doing it!

As for me, though Honorary Big Sister Jen complimented on the fact that I've become much more of a stylist and a thinking rider, rather than "seat of the pants" (hmmm... that sounds familiar as well), I am terribly out of shape for jumping and have developed the habit of letting my stirrups be too long.  I *might* make it a point to spend some quality time in two-point for the next several days-weeks-months-as-yet-undetermined-timeframe... and I am definitely going to make it a point to get my stirrups to a *proper* length.  Too-open knee angle?  No thanks.

And without further ado, here is the link to Spanky's course! http://youtu.be/rathK9Jn5iU

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Riding in the Rain

I think Sparky is tired of trying on bridles!
 We're getting closer to Sparky's new bridle... it's been a bit of trial and error.  After Brita at Just Bridles contacted Barbara at Edgewood for the *just right* browband, Sparky now has a nearly-perfectly fitting Edgewood.  Well, as close as he's going to get anyway.  All the buckles are in the "wrong" spots, but at least they're all even.  I just try to not think about it.

I started out with Star on Tuesday.  I've recently toyed with the idea of making her a Western pleasure horse, but I'm having trouble committing to that idea.  If I do something, I like to do it right.  Doing Western pleasure "right" for Morgan world involves silver, dark oil, romal reins, and considerable expense.

The main thing right now is really just that Star needs to be worked, whatever it is.  So I decided to say screw the snaffle and flat her in her Pelham.  She just goes better in her Pelham, so why struggle with trying to make a snaffle "work," when right now the point is just to get her a bit more fit?  (Added bonus: it's easier on me, too.  What can I say?  I'm lazy).

As (nearly) always, Star did everything I asked, but was definitely grumpy.  She did offer up a few (appropriate) lead changes, though, which was pretty neat.  Out of fairness, I didn't push her too hard, because she's obviously unfit, and I was maybe about ten days late administering her Adequan this month.  Part of me would like to get her hocks injected, but it's expensive and I'm hesitant to inject a joint when a horse isn't actually unsound.  I might do a full loading dose of Adequan for her and see if it helps.

After I was done with Star, I tacked up the Sparkplug.  As we got to the arena, it started to rain; just a little bit at first, but enough to be annoying.  Apparently, I am not the only one who doesn't like riding in the rain - Sparky was doing the best he could to tuck his face away from the raindrops by curling up behind the bit and turning his neck and leading with his shoulder!  It was actually pretty comical.

The rain picked up more and before too long, both the Sparkplug and I were soaked.  The nice thing about that is that once you reach that point, it kind of doesn't matter that it's raining anymore.  So we proceeded to jump around a little bit.  (Another nice thing about the rain is that it made the footing nice).  Honorary Big Sister Jen had set a hunter-ish course consisting of a  2'-ish bounce on the outside line with a ground pole some number of strides away (bad me - I didn't count), the coop on a diagonal, a 3' vertical on the other outside line, and a low, wide oxer made up of the three cavaletti on the other diagonal.  I took away half the bounce so it was just a single vertical and I lowered the 3' vertical to 2'6".  And we began.

Sparky was perfect!  We started with the 2' vertical a few times and then moved to the coop.  After doing each of those a few times, I got brave and decided to try the wide cavaletti oxer.  Sparky hadn't seen this before, so I wasn't 100% sure what he would do.  I kept my leg on... and he didn't even blink!  Right over, like it was NBD.  As we starting stringing more jumps together, I eventually just threw in the 2'6" vertical.  He looked and wavered the tiniest bit, but because I kept my leg on, he said, "Okay," and went right over.  We strung together some little course, jumping each fence a few more times, and called it good.

I think we've finally "mastered" the coop.  Given any opportunity to duck out at it, Sparky will do so, but as long as I make sure to ride well and have a nice, straight approach, I think it won't be an issue.

It was really reassuring to have such a good ride, because I've really been struggling lately with "feeling like" making the trek to the barn to ride.  I need to feel like I'm working towards something, and that has really been lacking lately.

I plan on riding again tonight and on Sunday; I'll just do flatwork with Sparky and try to drag Kellie and Star out as well (at least on Sunday).  Next week, Honorary Big Sister Jen and I have plans to take our ponies over to her place of employ, jump around, and kick each other's butts.  It should be fun - and for the immediate future at least, gives me something to be working towards.