Friday, February 26, 2010

And The Awards Go To

Here's the original post. Read it & play along, now will ya?

And I am not picking 15. Quoting from a VeggieTales SillySongs with Larry (The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything), "That's just nonsense!"

The Award Goes To...

1. Texas of Alllllll Places - Go Skeletor! You will not only heal, but become a good civilized little pony.

2. Always There Are Horses - Trail Riding, my dear. I'm jealous! Take me with you!

3. A Good Horse - I know I blew steam over the riding video critique. Peace?

4. Mugwump Chronicles - I doubt she'll do anything with it, but if you're like me, you LOVE reading her stories that train at the same time.

5. A Horse and a Half - First off, Phoenix is an Appy, which ROCKS! Secondly, I want to see the new saddle, and you on your pony with your bum in the saddle. Get to it! Chop Chop! Ride THROUGH the snow.... =)

6. The Aspiring Equestrian - You moved? To another barn? How nice! Take pictures, will ya? And some more riding video sure would be nice. Nudge Nudge

7. If Wishes Were Horses - Welcome Back, Jessie! Welcome back!

Friday Fill Ins

1. A cup of tea would be better for me than the latte I'm downing, but I'm drinking it anyway.

2. Warm candles & upbeat music playing makes a place feel like home.

3. Everything has its beauty even if I can't find it.

4. Have you ever tried powdered sugar on them, with lime sherbet to enhance the taste of strawberries? (Oh My Gosh it's good in the summertime!)

5. Art makes me have nightmares back to the three semesters of Humanities as an undergrad.

6. LOL I just noticed I forgot to choose bloggers for the award Mom gave me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's Award Giggle Day!

Mrs. Mom is at it again. ShaZam? KaPow? How about WhooPee?! Yeah, that'll do it. WhooPee...

It's taking the award & handing it back out time! Thanks Momma & the Mens! You already know I love you to bits & pieces, but I might as well tell the resta the world. okay okay I know, mush aside, I'll go behave myself now ...

Let me go back & read.. ah yes.. I'm supposed to do something with this. Tell you Seven Things about me, and find FIFTEEN others?! Yeah, ya'lls N-V-T-S Nuts! Ain't happening.. I'll settle for a small handful, how 'bout that?

Seven Things.

1. I ride horses

2. I'm a chemist

3. I live in Texas

4. I'm a Christian, and I try awful hard and don't always get it right

5. I like to blog to keep up with my rides, so later I can laugh at the old information, and cheer myself up when I think I'm not making any progress

6. I bite my nails when I'm stressed

7. I eat on a pretty strict diet because I'm hypoglycemic (translated - can't have lots of sugar, must have balanced proteins & carbs at each meal)

Yeah, I know. Not all of those are things ya didn't know. I'm not super keen on doing a "tell-all". However, let's give me a little "pat on the head" - I didn't tell a mystery testicle story like Mom did. LOL

I'm going to release this as it goes, to make a laugh here or there... And I'll edit it to add my tags.

2/24/10 Mood Change

It's been a week. I'm back to riding tonight, to stay tuned tomorrow for the resumption of pony-related updates. For now, however, I've got some pictures sent my way, and an award to accept & pass along.

From Jen - Early in the week, she sent me this.

See, I've had an "issue" with an individual from church for, oh, a little over a year now. This particular person has taken a habit to giving me an abrupt cold-shoulder, intentional or not. It became obvious it was intentional just this last weekend. Realizing that I'm growing up, I'm maturing, and I don't need to even one stinking time put up with that kinda garbaaage, I let the person know about it. What followed was one particularly apologetic "oops I got caught being a big mouth with no action" email. And what followed that? Me laughing my tailfeathers off... So anyways, there's my "Go Me" picture. And, no, nobody wee-wee'd in my cheerios, I've just decided to stop addin' sugar to them. tphtpht!

This morning she tagged me with this.

And it's good that she did. I'm needing it this morning, pretty bad. Ain't nothign seriously wrong, so ya'll reading can breathe. It's just been, um, three weeks of emotion crammed into about three days. I'm pooped out exhausted. Can't hold much more of my own stress without an overburst.

I'll keep everybody's confidentiality here, but I'm gonna list a few initials. If you are of the praying sort, they've each got their own "junk in the trunk" right now, and would sure appreciate any thoughts & prayers you can send.

B, H, K, and T. Some are for them specifically, some for situations they're in, some for situations around them. Yup, that's vague. But that's how I'd want someone mentioning it about me, so I do the same.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2/22/2010 We Fly!

When I got 3/4 of the way to the house, R called. He offered to come over and Babysit some jumping efforts. In fact, I changed my ride plan as soon as he suggested it. I'm not comfortable jumping alone, and I don't really like doing it. It's too far down.

Ran outside, grabbed Ransom. Got all four legs polo'd, saddled, and headed to the arena. Free lunge warmup took about 5 minutes. Required much motivation, so I kept it at trot, knowing I needed "gas in the tank" for the jumps.

I hopped on, rode very little trot before moving on to canter in two point. I focused on getting that deep down breathing in the canter. Got good long strides in down the long sides. Both directions, nice & soft, mobiled into some circles. Actulaly had trot to canter trans in two point, which was new and easy. One time I squeezed him up to canter, I barely noticed a body change, and muttered to him, "I didn't think you'd ever let me do that! Awesome!"

Trotted through four trot ground poles both ways, three to four times each way. He was super light & steady. A little jittery after the poles, but easy enough to get back.

I hopped down to turn the trot poles into a second Xrail when R arrived. I got the X set up like I wanted, and hopped back on.

Rode a tiny bit more canter in two point so R could check my position, look for a rounded back or smooshed shoulders, and came back to trot. I rode the Xs individually. Each way, I just jumped the X heading towards the barn. They're closer to that end of the arena, so there's a little more speed limitation for Ransom if I lose a stirrup or get distracted.

I jumped the Low Xs probably five times each way, then jumped down again, and raised the right-heading X a hole. That made the middle about 20" up. R insisted Ransom's over jumping the lower X, and I'll hardly notice the difference. As we approached, I tensed up pretty bad, and tucked my toes down, and lost both stirrups on the landing. Both Ransom and I jumped, only he looked better than I did. My release is still good, I'm staying up in two point, but I need to focus on heels deep down.

Lowered the X to the lowest hole on the standards, and made it into a vertical. Same height, basically, about 21-22" to the top of the rail. Still heading right. Rode trot past it a good four or five times, afraid to jump it. Finally admitted in my head I sure won't have the courage to do it home alone, and it'll be days or more before I'll have a dry enough arena, and eyes to watch.

Up & over. Again, release was good, canter from was steady and soft, but I had toes down. Lost outside stirrup, inside went back to my heel. Dangit. Needs working on. I also have apparently stretched my stirrups in all this two point work, because the landing for me was less than pleasant. Um, yeah. OUCH. Won't be doing that again any time soon. Next time I jump I need to raise my stirrups again.

With that little crash landing that was in no way Ransom's fault, I walked him out. Total ride time, about an hour total. The canter in two point is gentle & easy, and the jumping is getting so much better.

Next courage point? Canter to the fence. I need to Just Do It! Who's gonna cheer me on? Can't ride a hunt eq class at trot, now can I? =)

2/23/10 Thought for The Day

If you're going to complain about
teenagers texting
youth of our country "doing everything the easy way" or "being lazy" or "relying on the web to think for them"

Don't use the internet to complain! Write a news article! It looks awful silly to see you using the internet, discussion boards, chat rooms, etc, complaining about "stupid technology".


Monday, February 22, 2010

2/21 Set Them Up in Series

I warmed Ransom up with a nice steady two point trot. We settled into that "deep tummy breathing", and I laughed that, as I released the reins, he reached down deep looking for the contact. *giggle* If only he'd do that in the dressage seat.. ah.. we'll get there.

Then I got him up at a canter, and settled back into two point. It feels , um , faster. I don't feel like I'm losing control, I feel like he's really flying. I can feel that "hang time" when all four hooves are off the ground. I rested my knuckles on his neck, and felt sort of like a race jockey, with my arms flexing with his stride. It got easier the longer we went, but it's something that will need more work.

I had already set up trot poles down one long side, X on the other. I set ground rail on both sides of the X, so we could approach from either direction without me having to dismount & set it back up.

Ransom got the pattern pretty quick. I got good at landing the last trot pole, looking at the X, and he was trying to get me there pretty quick. As a result, I had to focus down the long side, stare at a fence post, go through the trot poles, and when we were a few strides away, THEN glance over at the X. All it took was a glance, too, and we were aiming at it.

His hops Sunday were prettier than Saturday. It felt like he was pausing rather than launching. Maybe it's just getting more familiar, but I felt a little more in control in the take-off and landing. Even after the X, I could look down at the trot poles, and he'd get us there. That's a neat feature in a trained horse - just LOOK where you want to be next, and he gets you there.

I rode for about an hour total. Worked A LOT on two point at canter after about ten minutes on the poles & X. It's going to take a while, but I figure I found the "breathing balance sweet spot" in the trot, so I will find it at canter.

In leiu of video , if anyone has suggestions or ideas on things to set up that are "low & slow", to give me practice on balance & equitation, I'm all ears. Better yet, get some video & show me!

Tonight is either Romeo western work (Sunday I rode him bareback in the yard, walk/trot, focused on neck reining & whoa. Backed him in circles, and once he got it, he was fabulous at it), or Ransom dressage. I need a little "mental break" from the hunter focus. It sure is fun, but there's plenty of muscle development and balance to be learned in dressage as well.

2/20 Deep Breathing

Ransom had a gallop-day in his lesson warmup. Hmm. How do I explain a gallop-day. Well, imagine a 20 year old gelding running in the arena like a 4 yr old colt avoiding work.. Yup. that describes him pretty well. When I turned him loose to warm up, he started out easy, then decided it was a good time to gallop. Now you'd think, at his age, this would last five minutes, yeah? Nope! A good solid fifteen minutes of running like a loose cannon. What a goober.

I got up in the tack, got settled in, and worked on my two point at trot for a little while. That all seemed to be going really well. Jen set us up seven trot poles in a row, and we bounced over those a while, both directions. Ransom stayed really soft and light.

Then we tried a series of four trot poles leading to a crossrail. Nope, not happening. Ransom over-jumped, in a launch-style leap over the X. It didn't seem any changes we made (like taking the last trot pole before the fence away) was going to help the situation. In fact, one of his Leaps, I came flat airborne out of the tack. WHEE! Landed, lost both stirrups, and still managed to stay aboard. Whew me! Good job! Jen took all of the trot poles away, and we approached the fence again.

The last two or three were pretty good. I'm still not always perfect in my release, but it's getting better. He isn't running away from the jumps eager to find the next one. Even that is improving. I have found a "sweet spot" in my jump position - where I can feel the air in my inhale all the way down to my waistline. Never felt that before, and when I did, Jen said my position looked pretty good. So now I have another "trigger" of how it feels when it's right.

It took us an hour and a half to accomplish all these things. Jen encouraged me to set the trot poles down one long side, X on the other, and circle before, after, or ride them one after the other, leaving time to get deep in the corners heading in. She also suggested time in two point at the canter, getting comfortable.

And, no, There's no video. I'm sorry... To those that were hoping for a chance to see our progress, I apologize. My fear of the harsh critique outweighs my desire to show off how far we've come. At some point, again, I'll decide I'm ready to be told about all the things I'm doing wrong, and risk my personal video becoming the butt of someone else's blog humor. But for now, I'm just not there. Any video that is taken will be viewed in my home, and nowhere else. That sucks, because I've got friends out of state that won't get to see it any other way. I just don't need the "verbal whacking" for all of my equitation sins just yet...

Friday, February 19, 2010

2/16 & 17 Down the Road

Tuesday, we rode dressage, away from the house, at the walk. I got him three drive ways up, and walked him home.

Ransom didn't think he was done, so I hand walked him to the mailbox. I anticipated him spooking at the neighbor's goats and traffic and tractors. He glanced at the goats, didn't even hesitate at traffic, and gave the tractor a hard glare.

Wednesday, I saddled him up western, and after some solid canter (that felt like a gallop) goofing off in the arena, we walked down the road away a little bit farther, almost four driveways.

Ransom LOVES those trail walks. If I could get a walk that big & forward in the show ring, oh my gosh the points he'd rack up.. My goodness it's a flowy big stride walk. Head's down & relaxed, and ears are wigglin' every which way. Pretty neat, in fact.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2/18/10 Bad Ride Films

I've seen plenty of bloggers critque radomnly pulled video off the internet. I won't link them, because I'm not that interested in everyone commenting on "how terrible that video was" or "how painful it was to watch such horrid riding." But here's my thoughts...

How good does a beginner rider have to be to not get called "painful to watch"? I've seen some pro jumpers that give me nightmares, yanking on pony faces, toes down, laying on critter's neck. But, they're "professionals" and they win money, so nobody calls it bad. Sure, there's plenty to say about some horrid dressage training, but I'm focused on hunters & jumpers here.

Is it an "upload it at your own risk" world we live in? If I have video taken of me jumping x's this weekend, load them on the blog, and at times I sit back too quick and hit his mouth on pure accident, or if my toes point down or my leg swings back, or I over-ride the fence, will I get comments like that, too? Will somebody take my video, post it on their blog, and encourage a host of comments on "what a horrible ride this was."

Things that cross my mind.... Feel free to comment. I'll watch your responses before I catch or post any jumping video.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2/15/10 Ransom Soft & Steady

I saddled up the monster after work, hunter. I was out in the arena, and after an easy gentle warmup, I hopped aboard. It was a little chilly out, and unlike our warm ride Sunday, the temps had dropped about fifteen degrees or so, with a stiff north wind. I was curious how he would react to the jumps and the weather. Shoot, and the hunt saddle's shorter leg with more contact.

But I did what I planned. I stuck to it, skipped getting nervous. He's Ransom! He is NOT going to hurt me, he is NOT going to buck, he is NOT going to do somethign stoopid. I warmed him up on a loose rein, walk, trot, canter. I asked for contact only in transitions, and as soon as he got the gait, I stayed loose. I realized I was in fact neck-reining some for the circles. *tee hee* He can ride a neck rein! How funny!

I hopped down, set up trot poles, got back up, and trotted through them. He was light as a feather. I got up in half seat, took up light contact, and half-halted just before & just after the poles. I was soo happy!

Jen was planning to come over to "babysit" our crossrail jumping, and so after a few trot sets each way through the poles, I dismounted one more time to set up the X. Ransom's ears perked while I did it, too. He walked over to the standards with me, licking & chewing while I set it up. *giggle*

Jen arrived just as I was ready to start hopping. We jumped over the X a handful of times. Jen noticed something I hadn't even been considering - staying centered. I was not paying attention, and Ransom was often choosing a high-side of the X. No wonder they felt so darn big! He LOVES to Jump! She reminded me of shoulders back & up, look UP, and center him in front of the jump. We got him settled at it, then went back to trot poles a few more times.

Back at the trot poles, I worked again on half seat, release, and center. Jen suggested a few different "patterns" of trot poles before the X, and some extra things I can set up to work on with him to establish rhythm & pace.

I rode him for about an hour, cooling down with his neat exercise fleecie sheet over his back half. Us girls fed the boys, cats, dogs, I fixed supper, and we had a little girls' supper night... Nothing exciting, but fun anyways.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2/14/10 Ransom Over Rails Dressage

Whatta title, huh?

I got pressed to hurry by the threat of rain in the forecast, so I scrambled out to the barn. I grabbed Ransom, and saddled him up dressage. With the notion it was going to rain, and I had to hurry, without a pair of eyes to watch my fences, I chose dressage.

R showed up as we were warming up. I was working out a few "kinks" from the HM taping. The assistant trainer suggested I ride him out on a loose rein "on the buckle." I've done this before, a while, and wanted to repeat the work. In my dressage seat, it's gotten easy to ignore "me", because I feel pretty balanced. Instead, I focused very hard on leaving the reins out, and ride whatever he gave me.

Ransom started out a little speedie & choppy. He settled really nice. I had my arms stretched out "airplane style", and then I put my hands up on my helmet. I rode trot with my hands off the reins totally, rising & sitting. I used light contact on for the transitions in and out of canter, but rode the canter on the buckle. I had most of the direction changes going on with just my legs, but honestly, it felt like the trot direction was happening with my seat & eyes. Now that is a neat feeling!

Since all the gaits were riding smooth and light, I picked up really light contact. He immediately stretched down, and rested gently on the bit, without pulling on my hands. I played with some changes in the gaits, half-halts, and everything I cued, he was picking up & responding to. Neat!

Set up the trot poles. Because, why not?! He was being a good boy. I figured trot poles, I can work on release, he can work on steady-goes, and it's something other than boring circles. He trotted over them without any changes. He'd take bigger strides for the poles, then settle right back again. How awesome! I hopped out of the tack, shortened my stirrups two holes, and figured, "oh why not?! It can't be that bad!"

We set up the cross rail, heading right. I worked up to a nice light trot, half-seat, approached the x, half-halt at the ground pole 5ft before it, and released.

Jump! Sweet one, too. I unfortunately sat back down in the tack too soon, and hit his mouth on the landing. So sorry buddy! I shook it off, and committed to myself the following..

My shoulders won't be perfect for a while
Neither will my back
Or my legs
But I will Quit Hitting him on the mouth!
I concentrated really hard on the release & staying in two point the rest of the ride.

I probably rode that X about six times. Our last hopover was really sweet - light go, soft depart, soft landing, a few short strides at canter. I kept my release until he had all four hooves back on the ground, and rode the canter in two point to make sure I stayed up.

Total ride? About an Hour. And, no, it never rained.... A cold front came in, but not until nearly 6:00pm, nearly three hours after my ride.

2/14/10 Romeo's Turn

Romeo and I had a little disagreement about a week ago, and my rear landed on the asphalt at the end of my dirt road. Hurt awful, but reminded me that, if I'm going to hop on him bareback, I better also work some of the edge off on a regular basis. Here's another effort at that.

Romeo and I got about 40 minutes of solid ride time in, at the arena. He's going to stick with his Western saddle for probably long-term, so I also stuffed the western bit in his mouth. He took it well, neck reined pretty solid. That needs more work - I'm in a (good) habit of leg-reining, which is great for a knowledgeable rider, but if I put a newbie up on his back, the neck reining has to be solid enough that he doesn't need leg cues to turn.

We worked out all three gaits, and only had one missed lead. He's getting a little better about keeping a light canter. Those down transitions out of it, UGH. Maybe that just comes with better muscle memory, but they're bone jarring, and awful uncomfortable. Really, his ups aren't much better. I just figure it's an "out of shape" situation.

He was easy enough to ride in all three, and easily settled into a pretty jog that'll be cute on the trails. I didn't spend any time on his brakes, because he was transitioning with just breath and a deep seat. No need to reinforce "whoa" every single ride. In fact, I was exhaling as I realized I was holding my breath, he broke to trot, and I had to reward him. My fault I was holding my breath, but funnier he was that in-tune to my exhale.

I took the lazy way out, and made him carry me back to the trailer, across the puddle-stricken pasture. He wasn't particulary happy about carrying his Momma through the deeper mud, but he didn't refuse. I rewarded by not forcing him through any cold puddles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

2/13/10 The Ride

I saddled up Ransom, intending on a good long stretch, and some ground poles.

Ransom hadn't worked in, um, three days? And it showed. The cold, windy, irregular, wet weather had stiffened up his sweet old legs. He felt choppy and irregular. I didn't really fight him.

But he fought his bit. I put the full cheek slow twist on. Yuck is the best I can say. He fought it, he argued with it, he did all but tossed his head around with it. He refused to accept contact in any shape or fortune.

I got a few lateral flexes in on the ground, and in the saddle (halter & later bit), but he was just stiff & stickie.

It was a tense and somewhat unproductive 45 minutes. I did get to ride, so that was great.

2/13/10 The Bunny Hole

R and I mended arena fence in the morning. I had plans to have lunch & a movie with Jen, and so we got the fence line patched up & knotted together. R sent me on my way, telling me, "I'm gonna work on the arena drainage in the back side for a little while. It shouldn't take too long."

Four hours later, when I pulled back in the driveway, he was finishing up. Whoops! We walked back to the arena to look at the progress.

What was over ankle-deep water was a small lane of water puddle, and an otherwise line of mini trenches dug across the back of the pasture. All of the lanes led to one hole. We can only assume it was a rabbit hutch. R stepped on a spot of ground, obviously water-logged, and it squished when he stepped on it. "That's probably where they were sleeping."

I hope the bunnies found a way out. If they didn't, Rest In Peace, bunnies. Rest in Peace.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Fill Ins

1. Pickles are too sour. You can have mine.

2. The puddles are waiting for me at home.

3. The snow is here in the melted form.

4. I think bluebirds are one of the prettiest critters in nature.

5. It's 5:16 PM; that means I'll be half way down the road on Romeo, tonight.

6. Good help is hard to find.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to Mo in the saddle & my new Troxel helmet, tomorrow my plans include Ransom hunt seat, fence mending, and lunch at Jen's and Sunday, I want to snag sunny rides!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2/9/10 Ransom Dressage

After work, I decided I needed a day off of huntseat work. So I gathered Ransom and his dressage gear, and to the arena we went!

Still reinforcing some of our HM training, I hopped on cold, and started with a long rein walk. I stretched him down with rein contact & release. As long as he gently sank into the bit, I let him stretch. If he yanked or pulled, I'd add leg & rein, and repeat.

Then I moved up to a loose rein trot. It started out nice, even, and steady. The longer we went, the more the trot felt choppy and stretched. I couldn't sit it, I couldn't even really post to it, because it was so fast. Not lengthened, at all.. yuck! So I transitioned from contact, to no contact, and back again. Things improved over time.

Our canter transitions?! "Yuck" describes it pretty well. He was tossing his head out & up into the canter. No more than two strides to get back to trot, and I'd ask again. I got maybe four transitions up that were decent, and even those were yuckie.

Back to trot - Only now it was collected work on contact. No matter what I did to the inside rein, he'd bend to keep it loose. He let me support with the outside rein, but the inside was always slack. Pulse pulse on contact, and he'd loosen it. Nice, but a little frustrating, because if we're going to do any dressage test work, it needs to be on-contact.

Total work about an hour. He did decently well overall. We did have one little spooky moment, thanks to the #$*&^ neighbor's dog chasing a deer across the pasture. Me and Dog gonna have us a conversation if that keeps on happening, seriously!

2/4/10 Trail Riding

After lunch, after packing, after settling Ransom back in his stall, R and I asked barn-master D if we could enjoy the same trail ride a few other cast members had played on.

Her BF, M, pulled two horses out of stalls in the main barn. He asked us, "Who is the less experienced rider?" R volunteered. M said, "This is your horse. This is LittleMan. He's super gentle. When I broke him, he never bucked - he just laid down. He's a wuss!" My horse was named Gypsy.

We took them up to the ownerbarn, and got a nice Western ranch saddle on LittleMan. I talked to M a bit about saddling Gypsy, then ran to my trailer to pull out my dressage saddle and helmet. Whee! I watched intently as the two horses were being prepared, waiting on M to pick a horse of his own and join us as a guide. But it didn't happen that way.

M got us saddled & aboard, and after a little maneuvering, R and I were both ready to go. M said, "Head that way (pointing) behind the barn, stay to the right of the pond, and then all trails lead back to the arena & the front pasture. Have fun!"

Then I realized - it's just us! The barn staff isn't guiding, isn't babysitting, they're trusting us. Someone saw enough of my riding to not only trust me in a dressage saddle on their horse, but trusts me enough to go out alone with an inexperienced rider on their trails! Talk about a self-esteem booster. Whew! Whee!

We sloshed through the mud, we found cross-country jumps (Breathe D, we didn't hop over anything... I think Gypsy wondered why I stood on that hill looking at them so intently though), we went off the trail here & there to avoid some mud, but when we approached the creek, I found us another way. It was beyond fun. Super relaxing! At one point, I turned around to check on LittleMan & R, and found his rope reins over the saddle horn, and R looked so incredibly relaxed. Just awesome...

2/6/10 Applying the Ride After

Jen came to the house in the afternoon, and found Ransom and I in the arena warming up. I wanted to show her the new things I learned, and begin applying them to everything I already knew.

She helped me "feel" the two point and half seat a little bit better. I did it long enough that "right" felt good. I wasn't sore or tense anywhere in my body, and it felt pretty stable. I spent most of the lesson ride at the trot, with just a little canter to avoid getting bored.

Then we set up the ground poles for trot. Only 2/3 of the arena is dry, but there's enough room, I now know. I worked him over the poles a few times, and added in half-halts in the middle of the poles. We worked in both directions quite a few times until the releases and the half-halts were all giving a consistent trot over the poles and away. It did take a while, and is going to continue to take repetition, but we've got a plan.

Ransom took a good stumble out of the poles one time, but managed to keep his Momma on board - *whew*

Total ride, around an hour. Pretty darn fun!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

HorseMaster - The Reflections

Did I learn anything? Oh Yes! I have a newfound appreciation for hunt seat. I've found muscles I forgot I had and I know how to use them. I can sit in a half seat and two point and my back doesn't cramp anymore. I know what the crest release is now - I didn't have a clue before.

Best of all? Watching Julie Thursday morning on Ransom. Seriously. It was sooo awesome! He was stubborn & beligerent, and she got him minding her in a pretty magical way.

Worst? The time rush. I felt pushed to "hurry & get out of the way" some of the time. In some cases, it made sense. In others, not so much.

Would I do it again? Probably. But I'd pick an easy topic to "fix". Maybe now I'm thinking jumping was too big a feat to tackle in 24 hours. I am not real sure just yet ...

So it was an awesome experience, I got to meet some great people (who are following us now on Facebook, and I hope you are all finding the blog of details). I got to spend a week with two of my three "R"s, and I even got to spend some time riding with my sweetheart.

oops! That's right! I didn't tell ya'lls yet... R and I were invited to trail ride after we got done shooting & packing on Thursday! I'll blab about it tomorrow

2/4/10 The ConClusion

The plan was... To ride Ransom early, give him a loosened girth hay break, THEN tape. And, well, that didn't happen. R dropped me off at the barn, then went back to the hotel to pack our room and check out. He missed the whole second day of taping.

Heather and I talked for a while about what we were going to do. I changed clothes, dressed Ransom (who thought breakfast was a silly idea, and did not eat), and headed to the arena. We skipped the lunge warmup, and I hopped right on.

Ransom continue some of his choppy trot irregular nonsense from the day before. I was told over and over (& over, I think) to relax, and loosen the reins. Well, the relaxing with controlled breathing would work for a while, about five to six choppy strides, and then all half-halt efforts were completely ignored. Ransom had a "fast side" to the circle I was on, and a "slow concentrated side". I finally pointed out my feelings.
I know the "George Woffords" of the hunter world always want to blame the rider for the horse's behavior. But in this case, I'm going to side with the Clinton Anderson's of the world, and say "sometimes, it's the horse." He's not listening, he's not slowing down, and he is ignoring my half-halts.
Heidi called out from the open arena below, "We're ready for Jennifer now!"
I said to Heather, "No we're not, either. It's only been 30 minutes. We were supposed to have training time yesterday evening, and everyone left. We're getting it this morning, but until he calms down a little bit, I'm just not real comfortable saying the Day 2 tape will look any better than Day 1."
Heather saw Julie walking up the hill, and asked her, "Hey, Julie. Can we change his bit, maybe?" They discussed it a bit, and Julie agreed.
I took Ransom to the barn, where Julie switched out my loose ring twisted wire for a Myler #36. It looked like an eggbutt (with bridle & rein hooks) snaffle with a stainless steel roller in it, low port. Julie said to me, "Let's get him bridled in it, and take him to the arena. I want to ride him in it a little bit, and get him paying attention to it and used to it. Then you can ride."

We walked down to the arena. Um, okay, the puddle. Let's just call it a stickie puddle. It had rained four hours Wednesday night, and the arena was puddly. Thankfully, not slippery. But stickie. Julie mounted up on Ransom and I watched everything she did.

I saw lots of "release & contact", and walk & trot. She looked to be giving pretty sharp half-halts, and after some protest, Ransom started to drop his head, flex his neck, and relax. She trotted over the ground poles a few times, with crew adjusting them. I kept my eyes on her, even while they were putting the mic on me, and telling me what we were going to do.

The decision was made to skip the crossrail on Day #2. I say for my nerves, they say for the footing. Julie said the footing wasn't really safe to jump, so we'd stick to "low & slow."

We had 2 min 45 seconds left of tape time. I knew I couldn't play or ask questions. Julie dismounted, and I hopped on. I started at the walk, and then picked up a trot. Ransom was a little speedie-stickie. I half-halted. He rounded, and slowed. He Slowed!
I found the answer! I don't know if it was the training ride, or the bit, or both, but the half-halts were working again! I had my SuperHorse back!

For the filming, we rode on the flat at the trot a little while, and Julie commented my half seat & two point looked much better, and my position looked good. Then I widened my trot circle, and approached the poles.
In my head, I was thinking, "It's now, or never. Release the reins, whether you want to or not. Shorten the reins enough that I can get them back right after the poles, eyes up, heels down. Oh my, don't blow it, make it good."
I released the reins loose over the poles, Ransom trotted over them, and stayed in trot heading away. Julie cheered! I saw Heather with the crew smiling! We did it!

We repeated this a few times, and Ransom picked up canter away from the poles a few times. I sat deep, and held the reins tight, and he slowed to trot. It was still working!

When the crew said the filming was over, I hopped down. No way I was going to continue riding in that footing. Ransom was covered in mud speckles, his black polo wraps looked dotted mud.

As I walked up the hill, crew praising our second day (even Steve! Thanks man!), R came down the barn aisle.
"Are you ready to go on, yet?"
"Sorry, sweetie. You missed it. We just got done."

2/3/10 Processing

R and I cooled Ransom down, undressed him, fed him supper, wrapped his legs, and called it a night. Poultice was a bad idea, because that needs hosed off, and neither of us wanted to spray cold water on his legs Thursday morning. Pillows & leg wraps did the deal.

We spent dinner talking, discussing, processing, and thinking. It was a surprise to him, as well. Julie told me to "tuck my toosh", which isn't what I've been hearing for some time from numerous other people. I practiced the positions standing a little, and they started to make sense. I talked to Jen for a while, who had a few more follow-up questions for me to ask, and agreed that the positions sounded strange over the phone, but gave me some ideas for the assistant trainer Heather the next morning.

To say I slept well Wednesday night, well, is an understatement. I was dreaming of jumps and positions in my head, but I certainly was asleep doing it.

2/3/10 Getting Down to Business

I could drag this out a few days, but I won't. I could tell you all about that morning, but I'll summarize this way lots of waiting. I hung out with the barn crew, while R scurried back to the hotel to grab lunch & snacks.

When my ride time was approaching, Lynn came to me, and said "Can you have him ready in a half an hour?" EEK! Um, sure, I think. So R and I got Ransom dressed, wrapped, and me dressed & ready.

I took Ransom to the covered arena to warm up. A ten minute lunge or so, his wiggley eyes were ooh'ing and ahh'ing the camera crew below in the outdoor. A bit of leg-checks, soundness confirmations, and I was ready to set. I hopped on, and focused on one thing - breathing. I controlled my inhale and exhale by strides, at all three gaits. I concentrated on chest out, heels down. When he settled into his trot, he started out stiff & stickie. Expected - he'd been in a stall all day. After some rounds at canter, his trot extended & softened.

The half-hour turned into well over an hour, but I didn't let him stop much. We were at least poking around at an extended walk. I couldn't let Ransom think "that was it, he's done", or the tape ride would've been horrendous.

The crew came to gather up standards & poles, and R and I took Ransom to the arena. I chose to hand-walk him down, for many reasons. Nerves, mud, puddles, hillside, spooks, all kinds of excuses, but mostly nerves. I got back in the uncovered arena, found a box to mount from, and got on.

Julie stood at the fence, and watched us ride. What a rush! I think it was genuine, but she had this awesome "hey that looks good" smile watching us go 'round. I walked for a bit, and at one point, she asked me to pick up a trot "so I'd be ready when they were ready". I said to her real quick-like, "Hey. I know I'm here to jump, but if you see something, anything, I can change course immediately and learn to fix whatever's really broken." She nodded, so I moved along.

While the camera crew (Steve!) guided me at all three gaits, in both directions, Julie talked to the camera in the background. R said when the wind was right, he heard some of it. What he heard were things like, "Good solid rider, good legs & hands, good foundation". Neat!

It took three (or four, I can't remember) takes, but I rode into Julie at the circle center, and we talked. She asked how long I've been riding, a little about my horse, his experience, and how long I've had him. She applauded my intelligence for getting an experienced horse, and said "most people aren't that smart, so I'm proud of you for making that decision." (or something like that) She said we looked really good on the flat, I've got a good solid seat & foundation. She wanted to teach me a few new positions, and we needed to get some jump work set up. Ransom and I followed her down the arena, camera fade out....

While trot poles were adjusted, I did my little camera interview. We tried doing it with Ransom, who absolutely refused to stand still. *Laugh* It was about the funniest part of the entire taping. Ransom had the "head bob lookie sees", so he got taken off the interview. Poor Boy! On the first horse-less take, there was an airplane over head. Steve flapped his arms like an airplane.... Which reminded me of an airplane joke.
So this guy is telling off on how smart his son is at work. He said, "My son is so smart! He ran out in the front yard yesterday morning, and yelled "AirPlane! AirPlane!" I'm so proud of him!" Well, he oughta be that bright! He's FourTeen! *laughter shared all around, and we got back to business*
I completed my interview, and hopped back on. Julie and I did a camera close-up moment, where she explained half seat, two point, and jump position. These were ENTIRELY different from anything anybody else had ever said. In my times with Romeo, and Chewie, two-point was always "stick your hiney out!" Nope, not now. Both half seat and two point were "pelvis tucked under, and hands up forward".

We practiced a little on the flat, then trotted over the poles a couple times. Julie said it looked good, but to work on the release. "Release the reins!" I heard a dozen times. It got a little better. Then, she took the poles away, and set up a cross rail.

Things got interesting real fast. One hop over the rail, and a switch flipped in Ransom's head. He started taking off, getting speedy, and hollow. I tried half-halting, and he ran through. Julie kept repeating "work on the release". I got nervous. Plain & simple. It seemed that nothing I did slowed him down.

Then Julie mounted up and rode him a little while. When she finished, she was approaching the crossrail. I don't know how she did it, but she had him at walk between the trot pole and the crossrail. A complete walk! She had me get back on, and we worked on position only, away from the jumps. She told me to work on "poles only, and concentrate on the new half seat and two point, practicing the release over and over and over."

Our time together was well over an hour, maybe even two. The longer we worked together, the camera crew and grips and all the help slowly wandered out of the arena. When we got done, I realized they were all gone. I said to Julie, "Geez, I'm sorry. Did I do something wrong to make them give up?" She assured me, "No. You're fine. They ran out of filming daylight. Just keep practicing. Maybe a little today, but don't over do it. You'll have plenty of time tomorrow. We'll schedule accordingly so you can practice."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fox News Leans Right

I'm all for neutral media. But I commented on this story, and it isn't making the comments. CONGRESS didn't pass it, the House did. In case anyone failed US Government in school, the House does NOT Equal Congress! This spending is ludicrous, but it has to pass both Branches - House AND Senate.
Comment with me, and tell the author to stop the hysteria until we know more for sure!

2/2/1- HorseMaster - Ransom's Diet

Ransom had eaten most of Monday night’s supper, and barely any of Tuesday’s breakfast. I called Jen, called the vet, and scoured some feed stores for a few tubes of Probiotics. I stuffed ¾ of a tube in Ransom, and gave him plain old grain (& SmartPak) for supper. He did a good job. When we put him back in a different stall (by a few more horses), he was eating like a champ. I was super happy to see him eating.

Wednesday is a busy day. Taping taping taping! I’m on! And judging by the few I’ve talked to, there’s plenty looking forward to watching me jump.

It’s almost surreal. I’m going to be jumping, on camera, with a super awesome clinician and trainer. And I’m going to have an audience watching me, of folks that can’t wait to watch me jump. Nifty neat!

2/2/10 The Ride - & The Audience

I lunged Ransom for about fifteen minutes. Free lunge on the line, let him lookie see all around the facility from the covered arena. He did a great job! He looked, but he also kept doing his job without bugging out at any of the sights & sounds.

Then I hopped on. I had quite the audience. One of the crew members, and a few other cast participants (& their buddies) were watching from the barn. That’s a neat feeling. I asked Ransom to walk out, and he was in his ground-covering, butt-strutting walk. *giggle*

Then we moved onto trot. He was a little stiff, stickie. Only one good way I know to get him loose, and that’s the canter. Tuck my butt, take a deep breath, squeeze. Up he goes! Ransom moved out in a really nice canter, heading right, and my butt was glued to the tack. The brightest feeling I think ever, asking him to canter, knowing I had at least four pairs of eyes watching me (R, crew staff, other participants). I felt on top of the world.

Heading left, trot, stickie, let’s canter. He moved out into it, again, with minimal effort. It was another sit-able canter, with my toosh in the tack. A neat neat feeling! I was giggly and giddy, but trying to do it quietly so I didn’t disrupt the taping set off to the side. *giggle*

We rode for about a half hour, over half of the covered arena, walk, trot, canter, changes in gait & direction. As for “what did I do new this ride”, I had seen on another RFD-TV show, a dressage instructor said something like…

When you can ask the horse to canter, and leave go of the reins, you want a balanced horse. The only way to prove a balanced horse is to let go of the rein pressure, let go of the contact, and the horse should not speed up, nor slow down, or lose carriage. He should do the work himself. Over time, he’ll have more and more strides carrying himself.

In our last canter set, I was letting the reins go loose, both reins, for about six to seven strides a go, and he did it! Ransom carried himself, without speeding up or slowing down, and without changing his forward impulsion or losing his headset. It was phenomenal! I giggled loudly, and R promptly reminded me “SHH! they’re still filming”! Oh well! I really didn’t care. I was so proud of myself, and my Ransom.

I then put his fleece exercise sheet on, and cooled him down at a long & low trot for another five or so minutes. He complied, and stretched long & down, trotting along gently. *giggle* I still had an audience. The crew called for their lunch break, and we were walking it out as they all crawled up the hillside to the barn.

A new place, and here I was, cantering out, on a loose rein, in my dressage seat, stuck in the tack like glue. Nifty neat-o!

2/2/10 HorseMaster - Up & At It

We got to the barn around 7:20. Found Ransom hadn’t been given breakfast or hay. That’s fixable. We met the barn manager, who was a gracious host. She explained there was no reason we should feed him, or muck his stall. I explained the confusing information from the night before. She clarified that she would be feeding, if we’d set it out obvious, and have the stall mucked for us. R and I checked in with the staff, who informed us they were “Flexible” about the schedule due to the weather. All well & fine. If they wanted me, that’s what my phone # was on the schedule for.

Back to the room to grab my show clothes, and then off to breakfast. Yummy. Then we went back to the barn to check back in. The rain had subsided, so they were working with the first horse/rider pair. Instead of working on water crossing, they were working on side passing. Neat to watch. I focused on how the crew worked the cameras & filming, and concentrated on how they interacted. While they were filming, Julie worked with the horse. But more importantly, while they weren’t filming, and they were fussing with the cameras and microphones, and all the pieces and parts, Julie was still working with the horse. Neat! By the time we wandered off, they were still filming in bits, but the horse was sidepassing from the ground with minimal effort.

I got my clothes reviewed and picked through by one of the crew staff. With shirts & breeches picked, I checked my phone. I had asked one of the assistant trainers if it would be okay to ride during the day. Turns out, that was a good time to do it.

R and I hurried about to get Ransom, get him undressed, and saddled. I got changed, got my chaps & helmet on, and offs we went.

2/1/1- HorseMaster - Post Meeting

Arrived at the barn to find Ransom standing outside, still, in the drizzle, no supper. HM staff informed us we were responsible for feeding, and stall maintenance. This was a bit different from what I was told by the barn management staff in an email. I quickly scurried around to find Ransom’s supper, and a stall. R was assigning us a stall, and getting water buckets ready when someone else put their horse in the stall we had picked out. Um, okay, so we found another one. No big deal. We left Ransom with his supper & water bucket.

The meeting was, um, informative? Yeah, sort of. I got all of the liability release paperwork signed off, no big deal. Also got to meet the recording crew and a few other participants. It was interesting. I felt like I had the “senior ride” moment of the night. One girl wanted to work on her horse’s cinchy fussy behavior. Another wanted to learn to cross water going through rather than jumping over. And here I am, I want to learn how to jump. JuMP! I’m nuts!

R and I had a fabulous breakfast for supper late, and settled into bed later than I would’ve hoped. My brain had its fill of busy, and while I slept a few hours, unfortunately, I stared at the ceiling a few hours.

2/1/10 Horse Master Day #1 The Arrival

Safe in our turnouts & hotel room (turnout for the pony, hotel for the humans), we’re resting before the 7pm cast & crew meeting.

We left home successfully just a few minutes before 11:00 with everything packed. Traffic was only chaotic crazy in one spot of Houston. It was a nice “hiney puckering hold your breath ohmygosh I donwannadietoday” kind of moments. Otherwise, it was a smooth 3.65hour trip here, with two stops. One for bathroom, one a decent lunch break.

I was greeted at the combination gate, and led straight in. Of course, I had coggins in hand, all my things together, ready for whatever they’d ask. The girl who helped us in, Jennifer (also), was super friendly. She led Ransom to his turnout (! Exactly what I’d asked for !), and gave him some hay (!). He walked around a bit, met the two mares that border his fence line, and then dove into the hay. He’s got about a third of an acre in his little turnout. It’s at the bottom of a quaint little hillside.

We unloaded all of my things (well, everything I could think of needing at that moment) into the tack room area assigned to us. Very nice. I’ve got the saddles on the racks, bridles hung neatly, pads, and blankets, and grooming stuff, all in one spot, and right outside the door are some sweet crossties. Everything will be super easy here for getting ready and un-ready.

After disconnecting & parking the trailer, R and I walked around a while. I wanted to put my feets in the arenas, indoor and out. I will be much more comforted having polo wraps on all four legs, especially indoors.

From the barn, we came to our hotel room, and unpacked clothes, snacks, and anything else that needed organizing. Now, it’s about two hours to kill before wandering back to the barn. No, now that I think about it, about an hour before we split. I need to put Ransom’s heavier blanket turnout back on, find out what’s up for his supper & breakfast, and make sure we’re there for start. I don’t need to be late to *anything*.

Monday, February 8, 2010

We're Back! The Summaries Begin

Oh Yeah. I've got enough typing to rattle my fingers off. I couldn't get my PC and the wireless at the hotel to agree. Of course not! So Monday night and Tuesday evening I typed up in Word what happened for those days. They'll get blogged just as soon as I remember to copy & paste.

There's plenty to say.
The Barn staff at Banshee was AMAZING! Everyone in the barn took super good care of Ransom, and of me.
The JG Crew was a organized machine, most of the time.
The rest of the cast - pretty cool bunch of ladies.

We learned a TON! I have a bit to try (if 'tis legal in the show ring), I have plenty of exercises to work on, and I won't be bored in my hunt saddle anytime soon.

We did jump, Julie rode him Wednesday AND Thursday, and except for a little speedie n-v-t-s moments, Ransom did great!

I absolutely can't wait to see what it looks like on film. At times, it felt magical, like everything clicked. At other times, I felt like Ransom was leaning on me hanging on his gas pedal, absolutely ignoring anything I tried to do. But we trotted over some poles, we jumped a couple crossrails, and I have three new body positions to practice. I found what "release" means, and I've got a seriously better idea how to reach forward. I almost could touch Ransom's ears in my rides. Neat-O!

more to come... so stay tuned!