Monday, June 29, 2020

New Grass Jumping Field!

Since we were unable to leave the property for so long, my coach and barn manager got together and created a new little grass jumping field to play on!  This was a largely unused flat area in the back of the property.  It used to be a jumping field years and years ago, then was maintained as a lunging area for a while, but mostly just sitting there the past few years.  I'm not sure what exactly they did, but it was somehow packed down and rolled out.  It is still not totally even, and we have to remain vigilant for gopher holes, but the horses seem to be handling it well.
The lunged Cupid before I rode on it, both to make sure he was not too excited and also to see how he handled the terrain.  (Which I was nicely asked not to do again, but no regrets.  And I did constantly move my circle to not cause a wear path.)  He was fine at first, but did show off some of his athleticism when I sent him over the wall and coop!  So that did make me a little nervous, but I trotted and cantered him around, then trotted over some poles, and ended going over the cross rail and caveletti a few times which Cupid was really good about.

The second time we went there we jumped the cross rail and the line of stumps.  I thought for a moment that Cupid was running off with me after the cross rail, heading back to the barn, but then I realized that I had kind of just stopped riding him.  When I sat up and asked him to turn he did willingly. 

I think this will help me build my confidence.  The more good experiences we have the easier it will get.  It's there so I can use it whenever I feel up to it.  And if I get there and "chicken out" I don't have to feel bad like if I went through all the trouble of trailering him somewhere to school and also had to pay a day fee to do so! 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

All Ears On Me

A big emphasis in our last few lessons has making sure I have Cupid's attention.  When we are in our outdoor, a lot of the time he is just distracted, and it's obvious.  But when we're in the covered arena he is always so well behaved, I didn't even realize that he is still quite easily distracted.  Even though he is not spooking or being wiggly, he isn't fully focused on me.  My trainer said I need to always be able to get his ear on me - so if his ears are forward I ask with a little squeeze on the inside rein and if he doesn't flick an ear back at me we do a small circle to get his attention.  At first we did a lot of circles - but after a few rides he usually flicks his ear on me just with the squeeze.  This is helping me ride more proactively, and hopefully will help us in more difficult environments like when we are at a show.

We did a good exercise at the end of the arena where I rode one half of a circle regularly, but rode the corners as corners, going deep.  My coach is always saying to use my corners to set us up so we really worked on that.  She said think of almost a shoulder fore a few steps before the corner.  We did it first at the trot, then the canter.  We also practiced coming through the corner and then going across the diagonal.
I watched back my video of today's lesson, and loved Cupid's energy and how he was stepping under himself.  The quality of his trot has definitely improved, as has his balance at the canter.  Our canter transitions felt good too.  (However, I didn't love his face still above the vertical most of the time...)

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Woodside Trails and Lunch at Roberts

Last week I took a young rider from our barn, and met up with my usual trail riding buddy to kick off summer with a trail ride with lunch stop!  I rode with a halter under the bridle and his lead rope tied around his neck.  We rode through Huddart Park and got on the Woodside trail system.  We went during the week so it was pretty quiet, but one of the (many) great things about riding in Woodside is that people are used to seeing, and very accommodating of, horses.  Even though we rode along the road, there are horse paths that run along side it so you're not actually on the road - though we did have to cross a few times.  Cupid has shoes in the front only, the other gelding with us has them all around and had a few very minor skids but nothing critical.  Cupid I think was very happy to have horses in front and behind him. 
Trail (and trailer) buddies :) 

The ride itself was lovely, and uneventful.  We did encounter a doe with a very young, and very cute, fawn, right on the trail in front of us in the park.  We stopped to let them pass, and first they continued along the trail, then disappeared for a moment before crashing through the brush and heading back up the hill towards us.  Luckily the horses weren't spooked by them.  Once we got outside the park we admired the beautiful properties we passed.  I noticed a lot of people seemed to have one horse and one pony - I'm assuming the horse to ride and then a pony companion because smaller mouth to feed.  We saw several very cute ponies.

We rode for about an hour before reaching Robert's, where we took bridles off and loosened our girths and tied up at the convenient hitching rail (as I said, Woodside is awesome, and super horse friendly!) and got deli sandwiches.  I also got an apple for Cupid.  After lunch we took a more direct route back to the trailer, so it was only about half an hour.

It was a very fun day, and reminded me of how I spent much of my childhood - except with a saddle and a lot less galloping!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

All Tied Up

Bending my elbows has been a years-long battle.  I didn't realize how bad it was until I rode in the David Ventura clinic over 2 years ago, and we spent almost my entire session with him imploring me to bend my elbows.  (Here he is trying to adjust my arms:  Recently my coach suggested literally tying my arms to my sides.  Desperate times call for desperate measures!

First I just used a long, thin band that I wrapped around my chest and arms just above the elbows, tying a bow in front.  Then I realized at home I have a nylon strap thing that is actually a yoga mat holder, but works perfectly for this - it is basically a mickey mouse shape with one bigger loop and two smaller loops.  I tie the bigger loop around my chest, and then slip my arms through the smaller loops, which have velcro so might have some quick release if needed.  (Luckily I haven't had to test it out!)

Even with the strap, my arms are still "above the vertical"
I thought it would feel weird, but actually I don't really notice it most of the time.  I don't do it super tight (as you can see in the photo, my upper arms are still not fully vertical), but it's an improvement and will hopefully help build the muscle memory.  Even though I don't really notice it, I think I subconsciously feel something there which is a reminder to bend my arms. 

Friday, June 12, 2020


Riding has always been an outlet for me, but now more than ever the barn has become a place of refuge.  A bit of peace in a very crazy world. 
Cupid and I have been making some progress in our dressage.  As I've been focusing so much on trying to get him more round, I felt like I was starting to lose a little bit of the forward-ness.  So our last ride, and then lesson today, we revisted lengthenings.  Also in our lesson today we played with a bit of counter canter, doing shallow loops off the rail.  I was very surprised to find it was easier, and felt smoother, going left.  Going right I didn't feel like we were bending as well, and we also broke to the trot once. 

Cupid and I have been jumping about once a week.  This little grid was set in the arena.  Unfortunately our first time through was the best, our few subsequent attempts felt a bit disorganized. 
 Our barn created a little jumping field on grass outside!  So far Cupid and I have only gone over the trot poles and stadium jumps, but the coops and fake wall (that we've already jumped in the ring) are also out there, along with a (very!) skinny panel.  So far Cupid has been very good, and I think having this will be good for my confidence.  I can go out there and just do as much or little as I feel comfortable with on any given day, and won't feel bad about "wasting" a schooling trip.

We've also gone out to Huddart Park twice for trail rides since it's reopened.  There have definitely been more hikers then usual, but everyone has been good about sharing the trails and for the most part people seem happy to see horses. 

The weather continues to be all over the map.  We had some grey/misty days, a few really hot days (which we took as an opportunity for a bath), and today is quite windy.  Cupid came out maybe a little tight in his shoulders today but warmed up out of it.  Overall he has been looking really great!
Fed Cupid under the trees, since it was cooler than in the barn!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Not Dead

I haven't blogged in a while, but not because of anything bad.  Really there hasn't been anything super interesting to write about anyhow, but with the baby at home it's just been hard enough getting on the computer to get my work done, much less extracurriculars.

Lessons have been great!  My coach agreed my upper body has gotten a lot better, but now to work on elbows and hands, as well as keeping my legs long and under me with my feet flat and not pointing out.  This may sound a little crazy, but my coach suggested we try tying my upper arms down around my waist, so I can build correct muscle memory for bending my elbows.  Is surprisingly doesn't feel weird at all.  

We've actually been doing a good bit of walk work, trying to correct our tendency to get lazy at the gait.  Basically, taking my leg all the way off, and if he slows a light squeeze followed by a bump with the spurs if no response.  Tap-tap of the whip if we really need to escalate.  We've been doing small circles at the walk getting Cupid to cross his hind legs and work on bending - my coach told me to think about asking Cupid to touch his nose to my boot.  Of course that's an exaggeration, we're not actually doing that.

A particular highlight was when we were able to have our lesson in the outdoor.  Cupid was actually fairly good, but we spent a lot of time focusing on improving roundness and asking him to lower his neck but raise his poll on the less-spooky side, and just keeping his focus on the more spooky side.  I realized I need to do my first half halt much earlier then I thought, several strides before we get to the slightly spooky area.  That helped a lot.

On Memorial Day weekend Cupid and I went for a trail ride.  The weather was perfect and we had a lovely time walking through the redwoods.  There were a lot of hikers, many of whom were excited to see horses.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Something in the Air

This Sunday, neither Cupid nor the Soloshot were being fully cooperative!  Cupid has been going beautifully in the outdoor arena recently, but yesterday he acted like he's never been there before.  I knew as soon as I led him in that it might be one of those days.  I did some brief in hand work before getting on, though really not enough for it to help relax him.

I got on and started walking, trying to give him things to do while avoiding the spookiest area (the long side around B).  After about 10 minutes I got him trotting on a circle in the far end, which tends to be the least spooky area.  He was pretty tense throughout, especially on the quarter of the circle closest to the scary side so I tried to do smaller circles before we hit that to keep his attention on me.  He was very tense and tight, so mostly I was just trying to get him moving forward.

He did once respond to my leg by kicking out, but I mostly ignored that pissy moment.

I continued avoiding around B, so I would ride down the opposite long side, turn onto the centerline at C and angle back to K, or do shallow loops or other figures trying to avoid the spooky side.

We did a little cantering also on a circle at A.  Cupid rushed a bit, so I just tried to remind myself to keep sitting back like I've been doing.

Finally we walked down the spooky side, at first halting a few times.  Cupid had his head up high and was looking around, but at least walked straight.  Then we walked down it without stopping, with a bit of shoulder fore to the inside.  Then when he trotted straight down, I decided to do a quick stretchy trot and end it on a semi-good note.

It can be a bit frustrating, he's been so good out there I thought we were finally over this.  But later when I told my friend who boards at the same barn, she said her horse was pretty up on Sunday too (though she didn't ride in that arena), so maybe it was just something in the air!