Saturday, December 28, 2013

12.27.13 Lesson

I drove to the lesson in the rain.  Windshield-wiper "what am I doing" rain.  Radar was clear at the destination, so I kept driving.  In. The. Rain.  can you tell I love driving the trailer in the rain?  Yeah.. 

Arrived at N's, totally clear skies.  She was ready to go, and after dressing H, we were off to the arena.  Harley's mind was somewhere else for a while in the warm-up -  horses playing in distant pastures, Oreo the cow wandering around.  Dogs barking far off.  Anything but working.  Warm-up consistent nearly entirely of working on the bend.  Heading left, I need to exaggerate the left bend.  More inside rein, and inside calf pressure.   The left rein ends up floppy loose too often, and my hands are entirely too busy in the ride.  Wiggle Wiggle.  One way to quiet the hands is to shorten the reins.  Heading right, I need to work on the energy.  His bend is nice, quite nice in fact.  Since he's bending well, the energy falls apart pretty easily.

After the warm-up ride to work on loosening us both up and the instructions on bending and keeping his attention on me and not on the distractions, we headed to some ground poles.  Some stretched out far apart, some closer together with every other side propped up.  Walked over them, then trotted over them.  Other than some lazy feet not lifting over the elevated poles, he did very well.  No pause, and happily he rode them like he does at home.  We rode in and out of the dressage arena to get to the trot poles, which was neat.  Slight hills in and out of it, and definite changes in footing.  Harley didn't even hesitate.  Pretty cool, considering we don't have those things at home. 

Then it was down to business.  Trot poles set up on the gymnastic line... Hop Hop Hop Hop .. No problem, Harley says.  Last pole in the line elevated to a crossrail---low low.  After two trips, this was elevated to a good size X.  Hop.  No problem  - in fact, I was cantering away a good 4-5 strides without him slowing down.  Whee...

Somewhere around when the second X was added, Harley did exactly the same as at home - paused at the first X, jumped hard over it (floppy and loose), cantered a big stride, jumped hard over the second one, threw his head up in the air, and went off pretty fast on the landing.  I did the same as home -  I freaked.  I grabbed his face, I pulled back, I tried to slow him down with only my hands.  N explained "Let him do it the first time.  It's anxious "ooh it's new.  hurry up get in and out and get it over with.  Allow him the first time he does it - give him the benefit of the doubt.  He does it the second time?  Halt hard, as soon as possible.  But not over the jumps.  Keep the reins loose through the gymnastic, and as soon as his back feet land, halt firmly."

After this, I did a good job of setting my fingers on his mane, wrapping up a finger or two in it, and keeping the reins loose.  Somewhere around when the 3rd X was added, I fell forward over jump 2, but somehow in the two strides to the 3rd, I "got my ducks in a row", and was upright again over the 3rd.  Don't ask how.. I have no clue how I did it.

Positives in the lesson:
  • Hands are getting better at not whacking his face, and staying out of his way.
  • Upper body mostly stays where it's at.  I can add a neck strap if I want, but other than the one forward-position, I'm doing well naturally at staying over the motion without being behind or forward.
  • I make good progress at home -  -- Yeah, I hope so.  I try not to schedule the lesson until I have "new material to bring to the game". The compliments were nice & appreciated.  N notices I am improving, and that's awesome.  

  • Legs.  In.  Front.  I need to practice keeping my legs forward from where they naturally rest.  When I put them where they belong, they feel "in front of me", but this is apparently something I'll get used to.  When they were "good", they definitely felt way out in front.    It'll just take some practice and LOTS of repetition to get comfortable there.  N explained that "with my feet in line with my upper body, it's much harder to fall off, and if he does something silly, I'll be a lot more secure than if my legs are behind me where I've been keeping them."
  • Jump line distances -- Things at home have never felt like they do there.  At N's, he feels smooth, fluid, and calm.  Other than that one line that he rushed, he was steady, slow, quiet, and honestly a LOT easier to ride than he's been here.  I figured out why.
    • Ground pole, 7.5' to the first X; 14' to the next X; 23' to the final X.  I got out my tape measure and measured it off after the lesson to be sure.  That's about a 7' stride instead of the 9' I have set here at home.  That right there explains why it feels like he has to reach and probably why he's rushed it more at home.  My next trip to the arena I will be adjusting what's out there. 
  •  Bending Bending.  Do not accept the left "bend" I've been getting.  I got some circles with a nice left-bend, so I know what it's supposed to feel like. 
  • Endurance - I need a LOT more canter time away from the gymnastic.  I need to ride those jumps, be confident through and over, and continue the canter through the turn.  Keep Up The Energy. 

A fantastic hour & half lesson, like always.  As I remember more, I'll probably blog those details, but I can say that like always, every lesson is an amazing abundance of information.  I gain so much in every single ride up there.  :)

2014 has ONE goal and I can't wait to share it with everyone.  I told N yesterday, and she thinks it's totally achievable.  I can't wait!!

Late yesterday evening, with heat packs wrapped around my knees, I know I have some fitness to work on.  I sure am glad I'm on some medicine now, will share with my doctor that while I can ride more than previous, my knees still aren't what they used to be.  Maybe that's just age.  I know I still owe everyone in my readership an explanation on what's going on.  It's hard to explain, there's still some uncertainty from the doctor.  Regardless, the medication is working - I can walk on a regular day, I can bend and move around, and I'm nearly back to riding like I was.  I am not up to 2-a-day on weekends, but at least I can ride 1 up to 5 days a week.  Before the medicine, I had maybe 2 or 3 rides a week, and I was nearly crying a few hours after the ride.  

I still can't wait to share the 2014 goal! :)  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


yesterday's ride was 100% uneventful.  A little longe, where Harley let me know just how ticked off he is being in the paddock while the fence behind us is built.  I hopped on, and we walked.  I rode a little bit of trot, and a hint of canter, just to ensure he wouldn't think he was getting out of it all together.  There was a lot of tractor-noise behind the arena, and it kept both of us alert.  Simple, short, relaxing ride. 

Here's part of today's ride.
*fast forward to about a minute to see more than the trees - I had to start the video myself, and then walk over to Harley to hop on*

He was in rare form today. Moments before this video were a little yucky, as I had one extra ground pole on the second jump standards you see.  He was apparently startled by this change, and let me know about it.  I guess I'm just not sure how to add anything more than what we're doing here.  :( 

This video shows plenty to work on, but I'm happy to see I'm not slamming down on his fact that much, and he looks fairly content in the job.

The "whoa" conversation we have off-camera?  Something rustled in those trees you see.. most likely a bird.. there's also a large fence re-build finishing up behind that brush line, so we were both wondering if there was somebody over there. Turns out, it was either a bird or a squirrel.  I'm voting for secret ninja squirrels.  Because they eat horses.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Harley, more dressage.  I loaded up a play list for the audio lessons, and hopped aboard.  What I didn't realize at the time was I loaded the entire album, and not just the playlist.  The lessons began, and continued on, and after about the fourth subject change, I realized I played something incorrectly. 

An hour had passed.  Oops.  No wonder Harley was fighting me towards the end there. 

We worked on...
Basic bit connection - the part I got the most out of was reminders to bend at the elbows, and stay connected - no floppy reins
Head tilt to the outside - one of Harley's habits.  Fixed by bending in, bending out, asking for straight.  Seemed to work pretty good
Serpentines and bending at the trot - reminders to get off the circle and be somewhere else in the arena

He had one hard spook at the harsh wind, or the boogeyman, who knows what, at the canter, and tried to dump me.  Remembering I still don't have a fence around the property (thanks neighbor for taking your time there), I hung on, and actually remembered to grab the "ohsh!t handle" on my saddle.  Hung on, stuck with it, and sent him right back to work. 

Colder weather came in yesterday mid-day, and hopefully things will be calmer today.  I'm also hopeful the neighbor will tone it down today in his fence build, and I can get a jump-saddle 2-point day and squeeze a couple of X's in there as well.  Much to work on.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Back at it, 12.13.13

12.12, rode Mo walk and trot, in the arena and pasture, focusing on introducing him to the new fence being built around the pasture.  He handled all well, including the tractor weights banging the posts into the ground. 

12.13 was Harley's turn.  Champion.  He warmed up world-class, like he'd seen this before.  No goofy moments, no spooks, not even a lookie-loo moment.  Free longe, followed by side reins, and I hopped on.  Nice ride.  He started out feeling pretty stiff and unwilling to give (odd because he looked good on the side reins).  I focused on my arms and hands and found the problem - he was stiff because so was I.  I put a lot of attention into my elbows and shoulders, and he relaxed.  Delightful.  Rode a lot of transitions towards the end - included nearly all of them, even a walk/canter that was pretty nice. 

As a treat to myself, I downloaded a handful of audio ride tips/tricks from Jane Savoie.  I'm very curious what they'll be like while I'm riding.  I listened to bits of a few of them already, and found that they might be educational out of the saddle, and I'm not sure what they'll do while I'm riding.  They looked like exercises when I read the descriptions, but then in the actual listening, they sound a lot like "educational books on tape".  We'll see.  If nothing else, I can put one on in a playlist, and add a song here & there to boost the energy. 

Speaking of songs and energy, I've found myself listening to the radio, and when I hear an upbeat song, I keep tapping my feet, thinking "I wonder if that's Harley's tempo.  I wonder what his trot would be like.  Hmm, that's too fast, that's too slow."  Anybody else do that?

Next lesson (I think) is scheduled for next weekend.  I better squeeze a jump ride in this weekend, followed by a 2point marathon some night this coming week.

I'm four working days from 2 weeks of vacation.  Monday is a full day.  Tuesday thru Thursday are all short days - leaving 2-3 hours early each day, before vacation begins next Friday and runs through January 6.  I'm anxious for the ride time, and the outside time with the dogs, and generally just not getting up at 4 or 430am to be ready for work.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I rode a few more times than I posted.  Harley and I had some amazingly good dressage rides, and as the weather grew very cold for here, I was surprised to find him even more nimble than normal.  His stretches were great, his general work was willing and forward.  More, his jumps were steady, and consistent.  Enough so that I'm anxious to add an extra X to our line at home.

Then, like always, about 6 steps backwards. 

First, the neighbor I share a fence with is replacing that fence.  They started last Thursday, bulldozing the fence line.  This means I have to put one of the two horses in the pipe-fenced paddock.  I'd love to put them out together, but there's just not enough grass for that, and I don't have the ability to put a round bale of grass hay out for them.  This means Harley spent a few days locked up, and now Romeo is in "paddock jail". 

Then, the weather grew brutal.  Rainy, drizzly, windy, and highs in the low 40s.  Lows at and just below freezing.  Cold, and incredibly brutal for here. 

Finally, just because that all above wasn't quite enough, I caught a chest cold/head cold.  Current routine medication I'm on made this little cold even worse, and quite fast.  Last Friday, while the bulldozer was working away, I longed Harley to "get the jail boogers out", anticipating a show on Sunday.  He was amazingly quiet, only spooking once when the dozer sounded like gunfire as it crackled trees down.  Then, the sore throat turned into a cough, and with a big deep breath of cold wind, the cough hit me hard. 

I realized then I wasn't showing anywhere, let alone riding anywhere, for the next few days.  I scratched the show, unhappy about it. 

And that's where I've been since.  No rides, just watering, tossing hay and grain, and blankets on/off as the weather allows.  Incredibly sad not to be riding. 

Still, with zero fence rebuilt, and the "arena fence" still down, if there were to be a "bad moment" with Harley, I'd have nothing to contain him.  He'd be off like a flash, and I'd be chasing him over hundreds of acres of pasture next door.  I doubt the landowner would appreciate that. 

So we wait.  We work on patience, and we wait.  I've got a tentative lesson for next weekend, and I'm looking forward to it.  I'm nearly done with the antibiotics and can actually report today is the first day I feel an improvement.  'Bout time.  =)