Monday, March 31, 2014

Ending March

Last Thursday, H and I had a good ride.  Jump saddle, all work on the flat, no poles or jumps, just getting some forward without
Friday, was more of the same.  Nothing amazing, nothing disastrous either.
Saturday, I hauled to Houston, and rode with my friends Laura & Traci for a while.  I rode Harley, she rode Harley, I got back on.  Rode baby cavaletti trot to and canter to.  Even canter to with a ground pole.  As we started the canter, things didn't feel perfect, and I turned him in some circles to get a nice steady feel canter before I even looked at the jump.  When he did approach it, it was amazing.  Totally quiet, just like a stride.  Laura called out, "Ride like it's not even there.  These are super short, so no reason to over-prepare.  Quit thinking so much and just ride it."  Laura has seen Harley compete before, over a year ago, though, and she was impressed with the improvements we've made.  Quite the compliment there... :) 

After the two less than stellar jump rides I'd had, I expected some of his little fit to arise with Laura. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Total angel. Granted, everything was short, and small, with no opportunity to go any higher (at least not with what was pulled out to use), but he didn't do a single silly thing. 
Take home thought? He was super quiet over the cavaletti - especially after a long dressage ride. :) 

Then yesterday, I was worrying about what I needed to do in the ride.  Which saddle?  Which bit?  Would I longe him first?  Side reins?  What about jumps from the line?  Which height? 

And I decided to take it completely opposite.  I saddled him up dressage, in the myler combo bit, put on my helmet, and hopped on.  We walked all over the pasture, then wandered down the road a teensy bit.  He was quiet, and while observant, he wasn't overly alert.  Back to the house, followed by a U turn, and back down that road again.  Total ride, 25 minutes. 

Tonight, we'll just see. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

3/22/14 Lesson and Homework

Got Harley up and moving with the shorter reins, and had some decent work.  Must continue the emphasis on bend, and forward.  I gave him a healthy smack with the whip only one time, with a nice shot forward, and after, he wasn't as heavy to move out. 

Jump work was rough.  Really Really rough.  He overjumped a little X first, and I managed to get his attention back.  Second trip, he overjumped yet again, and burst out in a gallop I wasn't prepared to stay with.  After a short discussion, I hopped back on, and we backed clear up to trot poles.  Things were okay.  Ended each line of trot poles with a sharp halt. 

The X was set back up, smaller, then eventually raised back to where it was originally.  At best, we had one trip of a true jump.  The rest were trot-over steps, or a half-effort jump.  The complete opposite of what he originally offered.  I approached the line, saw a small X, followed by a stride and a vertical, and paniced.  I didn't see that happening pleasant, and didn't need any more bruises, so we called it a day.


Continue the bend exaggeration in the warmups.  Ask for forward, nicely once, then with the whip.  Insist on forward. Canter early in the warmup, which improves the contact, the bend, and the quality of trot.

Start with trot poles.  Gradually increase the height of the X until a true jump effort is reached.  Lots of energy heading in the trot to the line.  If he starts to get that "rush away" attitude, halt gently after the jump as soon as reasonable.  Repeat a few times. 

One day a week of longeline work on side reins. 

Find a safe place, and introduce him to the gallop with a rider.  We've not yet done this, at all, since I started riding him.  I've got a few ideas on where this might happen, but I'm not certain when.

The weather has been rainy since.  This is a good thing.  We need the rain, and it's nice to see a green pasture starting in the back yard. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Quick Update

I owe more, but..
 Rode Mo a time or three, Still fun. Still reliable. Just out of shape. Longed him up & over the box. Trot JUMP trot. I often wonder, maybe Romeo is a jumper after all. I probably didn't start him correctly, but I bet it could be fixed.

 Harley got his jump saddle adjusted.  A bit of stuffing was all we needed.  Also had a neat dressage lesson with Ms. A. one of the fitters. Take home? Squeeze him forward, then kick, then SMACK with the whip. whip. Shorter reins, and insist on forward. 

 We had a few rides before and after the fitting. Trott and over an X. A bit of canter over ground poles (5 a few times, 3 others ) , and a few pole, X, pole. All canter on the circle.
  After the fit lesson, Harley and I had some good dressage moments. He still fights in the warm up, but things are improving.

Ready for our lesson on Saturday. Anxious to get back in the swing, and get back on the gymnastics. We are ready to let Ms. N. set the pace, and get our confidence back.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No, Tell me What you Really Think...

I follow and read a LOT of blogs.  More than I've linked.  Here's what I've come to learn:

Some people blog as a "Here's what I do, what I think is the best way to do things, and you should learn from me".   Others blog as a, "Here's how it went for this ride, what I did well, what I was terrible at, and what I'll do differently."

Then, there's a mix of the two.  Usually someone who touts themselves as an "expert" in whatever field they ride in.  They're either pleasure princesses, dressage divas, reining-roping-racing runners, trail or endurance trotting, something.  These folks will blog about their adventures, or the lack thereof, and then delve into all the details so the 'rest of us underlings' might learn something from them.

My favorite has to be the blame-blogs.  You know .. "I had ___ happen in my ride/play session/groundwork stick training, and it's all ___ fault."  There's no possible way they could admit they can't ride, can't read a horse's mind, the horse is too much for them, or my favorite, *gasp* they need riding lessons from one consistent ride until your damn legs fall off and come back in two weeks for another round instructor. 

Here's my two cents, because those 28 few of you that follow me here, read what I post, sometimes comment, sometimes send me messages through email or facebook, or in person.  Feel free to share this post, comment here, email me, facebook message me, toilet paper the old oak tree in my front yard (if you can find it)..

If you have a terrible day riding, it's your own dang fault.  Fix it at home before you go anywhere and search for blame somewhere else.  (For the record, I had to censor that first sentence... that's how aggrevated I am.)  Quit looking for some karma-riding batshitcrazygoofball to blame your bad day on.  The horse knows what you want, 98% of the time.  They either choose not to listen because your cues suck, or you're distracted.  If you can't ride it out in your back yard, there's not much a chance the show ring, or competition field, or the trainer barn can repair it.  30, 60, 90 days with a professional will only fine tune the horse's skills, and if you can't handle the ride now, your horse will definitely over-react when the cues are less sensitive. 

Each of our disciplines have the good, the bad, the ugly, and the "holysh!t I can't believe they haven't banned that person for life".  Quit pretending you have the perfect sport and only *that other riding event over there* has the crappy trainers.  Quit stereotyping breeds of horses, or styles of riders.  Not all dressage riders practice rollkur, not all event cross-country horses are goofy and injured, not all barrel racers spur their horses bloody, and not all trail riding is benign.  That being said, not all western pleasure horses are forced to go slow, some horses LOVE to jump (pulling their riders to a jump if the rider isn't paying attention), some barrel horses live to run, and some trail riding is outright dangerous. 

If you're a quiet reader that isn't a follower, doesn't comment, and thinks I'm evil for picking on your or your best friend, that's your problem.  I've been blogging for quite a while, I comment here & there , and I'm reading enough every single day to see the trends.  I should say here, "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings or offended you", but I can't muster it today.  Maybe a few months from now, but not today. 

Here at work, we have a phrase with one of our instruments (a gas chromatograph), to "check the nut behind the septum".  It means, "Check the user before you blame the instrument."  So, I say here, "check the nut".

When I fall, I blame me.  I gave Harley more of a jump challenge than I could sit.  I hadn't sensitized him to gunfire.  I'm not as secure in my seat as I wish I was.  I tried riding him or Mo bareback and mentally wasn't in the game for it.  Other events lead up to my accidents, but it's not the events fault.  It's mine for not having enough years in the tack to stick it.  I'm getting there.  Thank you for reading while I win ribbons, tolerating the days I ramble on more than I post details, and for not asking too many "training technique" questions.  I'm no trainer, just a student that keeps on learning, and doesn't intend to stop.

I'm riding this evening... who's with me?

A Couple of Good Rides

Last Friday & Saturday, Harley and I had some good times.  I got lots of really pretty bending work from him, which kind of shocked me.

Then, we had some nice canter over three consecutive ground poles on the circle Saturday.  It was amazing how smooth he did it.  Over the pole, X, pole, again, step overs.  One decently nice jump.

Not this coming weekend, but next, I think it's time for another lesson to see what's ahead for us.  I need to figure out how to get over this "barely stepping up over" lazyness without pushing him so hard that he panics again.

Which leads me to the next entry posting ... Well, sort of.

Friday, March 7, 2014


Well that settles that.

On the way home from work last night, I was eager to ride.  I was going to hop on Harley dressage, and we were going to get. to. work.  It was going to be amazing. And then, half way home, my belly/gut/nether regions I'm hating right now, said, "Uhm.. No.  You're not riding." 

With that, I parked it on the couch, cancelled my plans, and scratched the show.  I'm deflated today.  I had already backed off the test plans, but cancelling?  Bah Humbug.

I'll get some good riding in this weekend, but competing just isn't in the cards for us tomorrow.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Weather and Mud

Monday - cold, and raining.
Tuesday - coldER and raining HardER
Wednesday - MUD

Today?  I hope to actually ride.  Nothing says "bring on the rain" at my house like a paid show registration.  As a result, prix caprilli 2 was changed to 1, and I'm going to hope for the best.  With trot-to jumps (of tiny size), I can nearly count on comments like, "Horse needs to jump". 

Ah well.  We can set our sights on future lessons to work on things in a more orderly fashion, and perhaps prevent a train wreck.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Things are looking up. 

Harley, dressage saddle.  Longed him warmup, and included over-three ground poles at canter distance.  Lazy.  Just lazy.  It wasn't until I popped the whip with force and growled at him that he finally even tried to canter over them. 

Under saddle - rode the three ground poles at canter.   Then three poles on the straight away (trot then canter).   Things were good.  A bit lazy, and sometimes rather than reach hard, he'd break to trot.  I did feel a few "little canter strides" before the poles, which seemed like a good thing. 

Trotted over two different X's,  one a bit shorter than the other.  Barely stepping over them.  And I mean barely.  It was near painful to feel like I was winding him up for a ... step ... boo hiss.

Sent him to it at canter right-lead.  The more difficult to jump from, at least over the ground poles it's more difficult.  He broke once, then cantered the ground pole, X, pole.  Another break in gait, and another pretty canter.  The last one, in fact, was gorgeous - he set his strides up perfectly for it, and while I felt like I was leaning too far forward, I had a handful of mane over the line, and things went well.  He cantered a stride or two away from it, then settled to trot.

Went back to it from the left.  Trotted over once, he knocked one of the X rails over.  Pathetic.  I hopped off and set it back up.  I stood there a minute.  I "played the good canter over in my head", and decided no matter what we got, trot or otherwise, if he at least tried, he'd get praise. Courage is being scared, but saddling up and doing it anyways, I remembered.  Let's get this party started. 

First canter depart, he broke to trot as soon as I turned him down the line to see the jump.  I turned him away on a circle.  Next time, he had a huge trip a ways in front of the jump.  Back on the circle again.  Finally, I was determined.  A tap of the whip and a harsh growl, "Come ON already!", and Harley was ready for action.

He cantered right up to the ground pole, stepped over the jump, the following pole, then went back to canter, licking & chewing.  I took that as an "I'm sorry, let me try again."  So right back to it we went.

Cantered over it most beautifully.  After the pole, Jump, pole, a stride or two, then back to trot.  I gave him a good verbal praise and a huge pat... Asked him on the short side corner before the line to canter again, and sent him to it again.  More of the same.  A really nice canter over the X. 

It was the bigger of the two X's I had set up, so I didn't even bother with the smaller one.  It's time to pick that bigger X back up to where it used to be - fourth hole up on the standard.  Send him to it at the trot, then again at the canter. 

I think we're slowly working past it.  I'm probably mentally hesitating in front of the jump, my little subconscious sees the huge over-jump he had.  Harley feels it, and probably sees the same fear again, then breaks gait.  It's okay  -  baby steps.  I'm getting a little more courageous, and so is he.


Hunter saddle, Harley warmed up nice on the flat.  The wind was howling (20mph with 35+gusts), so it was nice to have him paying attention.

Trotted to the pole, X, pole.  He was barely moving.  Crawling.  One time, he had a beautiful canter over the pole, jumped, pole, and quietly went back to trot.  Lots of verbal praise from me, Jen, and a good hearty pat.  Next time?  Back to that lazy trot.  Both directions, just stepping over.

Cantered over ground poles a while, and he started to find his stride. 

Today?  I'm going back to the dressage saddle, and we're going to at a minimum canter over three poles in a row, on the circle, and on the straight. 

I'm entirely 100% not sure if Harley's hesitant, nervous, or just being flat-out lazy over the X at trot.  He isn't really jumping, and that's NOT the horse I had before.  Though, I do remember once we did canter the little X, he started only stepping over the X at trot.  Hmmm..

Things to ponder while I plan for the sunrise.  Weather's supposed to turn yuck late tonight, and be yuck the next three days.  Cooler tomorrow, slight chance of rain.  Then more cold and rain Tuesday.  Certainly not the best timing, given the show Saturday.  At least for the dry days, I need to "suck it up and ride".

Saturday, March 1, 2014

2/27 & 28

Getting back in the tack after the soreness eased up a bit, and the rains came & went...

Thursday, I longed Harley out a little, and found him quiet and confident.  Nice.  Saddled up dressage, I quickly remembered the one drill from the lesson ---

Trot a small circle, then quickly depart into canter.  Amazing.  Got some nice transitions out of that little exercise.  Something to remember for warmup at the show, for sure.  Also need to remember to exaggerate the bend in the warmup, and not worry about it being "pretty". 

To reinforce the "stop when I exhale", we did some serious transitions - and I mean serious.  Walk/halt, trot/halt, canter/halt.  Only one of them was seriously ugly, and after one ugly canter/halt, he was paying attention, and realized that exhale/shh means slow down, and "whoa", means right this minute, or as soon as possible.  No dilly-dally around, and I even intentionally had crappy balance and posture for a few of those.  While I know darn well I need to work on staying relaxed, and asking for a quiet transition when he freaks out, he also needs to hold up his end of the partnership, and that's actually slowing down when he's told to.

He behaved so amazingly well in the flat work, I saw the X set up on the long side, and thought, "that'd make a nice reward for all the job well done here."  I pointed him to it at trot.

Stopped. Flat dead stopped.  I knew it wasn't high, so I made him step over it anyways.  It took three more trips before he stepped over it semi-confident.  :(  Dang.  We changed direction and things were better - still hesitant to start, then he got better.  By the ride's end, I had all trot-over steps over the X.  Once or twice, he actually jumped and landed in a canter over the ground pole following.  I could feel the hesitation, and I felt pretty bad for him.

Yesterday, jump saddle.  He was lazy to start, as usual.  Flat work was alright - I didn't push for lots of bend in the start, but rode some cute trot serpentines, and while it wasn't pretty, he was bending in the turns, and paying attention.

Sent him at trot to the X, no refusal, no hesitation.  Both directions.   Not so much "jumping", which is disappointing, but I didn't have my whip in-hand, so he probably needed more trot energy going in to get a good jump.  I stayed happy with the trot-overs. 

Pointed him at the 19" vertical from trot - stop.  s.t.o.p.  I gave him a good pat, and sent him away at a trot again.  Lots more trot energy going in (thanks to tapping him with the reins a bit), and I purposely squeezed in front of it, staring at the tree tops outside the arena.  Boing!  A nice step-over.  He didn't exactly jump it beautiful, but he went over.  Landed in canter, over the ground pole away, and settled to trot with an exhale.  EXACTLY what I worked on Thursday.  Terrific. 

We repeated the vertical from trot both directions a few times, and realizing he was paying attention, and quiet, I quit.  Shorter ride Friday than Thursday by only a few minutes, but it was nice.  I didn't want to add a second jump after the X, and I sure didn't want to worry about canter ground poles or otherwise.  He was quiet, and seemed to be gaining some confidence, so I left it right there.

Today, we've got help.  The plan is to ride the X, add another X after it, then a small vertical after it.  After that, it's canter a ground pole, then a slightly elevated ground pole, to an X, to a vertical.  All trot first, then canter next.  It's going to be a long ride, and I expect he'll probably have a few "enter canter, then break to trot" right in front of a jump or three.  It's okay.  Baby steps. 

I've come to realize the show will be serious practice rather than "competition" this time around.  We won't score high, the judge will probably say "no jump", or score us low for breaking gait in front of something.  But that's alright.  Last Saturday's accident had a bigger impact on Harley than I thought it would.  No reason to rush, we're not trying to compete the "big leagues", and I don't have any membership fees banking on year-end awards.  His trot-to things is going very well, and since I know he can do it at trot, there's no reason that can't continue.