Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Los Altos Hills Town Ring

After practicing pulling my trailer empty a few times, I felt ready to try it with Cupid inside.  Mostly ready, I was nervous about it because I don't want to hurt Cupid!!  I selected a public arena about half and hour away as my destination, and asked my sister to come with me.  I put a hay bag in the trailer and put treats in the manger.  Cupid loaded right up, though it seemed like the floor was a little slippery under him.  I hadn't noticed, but now I was worried.  I put him in the front stall, with the divider closed.

We set off, and it really didn't feel different than pulling the trailer empty.  There was one time where I think I should have started breaking earlier, but overall the trip seemed smooth.  When we arrived Cupid was eager to get out, but calm.  Initially I was planning on tying him to the trailer, but I was parked on asphalt.   Luckily there was a holding pen, and he seemed happy eating the weeds inside.

There weren't any other horses in sight, which was new for us.  I was expecting Cupid to be anxious and whinnying, but he seemed totally relaxed!  I tacked him up while he was loose in the pen, mounted on a picnic table, and went into the arena.  Cupid remained totally calm, I would even describe him as lazy!  We walked around the ring a few minutes, then picked up a trot.  We trotted over some poles on the ground.  Then cantered both directions.  I kept it simple, the main point was just to ride someplace new.  Cupid was very good, though I did have to work a bit to keep him going!

Then my sister got on, and he was the same with her - good just a little lazy.  But he got both his leads correct.  I set up a little cavalleti, and then a crossrail.  Cupid jumped it a little big.

There was a very nice wash station I took advantage of, then let Cupid graze a little while he dried off.  He was good getting back up on the trailer, and we headed home.  Overall I am very happy with how our first excursion went!!  Hopefully Cupid will be this relaxed other new places too!  I am excited about exploring new places and hopefully getting to do more trail riding soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lead Changes

Cupid has been pretty consistent about getting the correct canter leads both directions, so we've been working a little more towards training automatic lead changes.  We started just organically, as part of our flatwork or while jumping courses we would change direction and while in the turn ask for a lead change - use new inside leg to create bend, and cue with new outside leg behind the girth.  No big deal if nothing happens, just do a trot change.  (We pretty much always ended up doing the trot change.)

Then last Friday my trainer got on Cupid, and got a lead change out of him!  It was right to left, which I thought would be his harder direction.  But maybe it helps coming from the more balanced right lead?

On Sunday we had a fantastic jumping lesson.  We started warming up cantering over a pole, then made it a small vertical doing it a few times each direction focusing on getting right to the base.  Cupid was very relaxed, giving me confidence to move onto a little course of 1-2' crossrails and verticals, cantering the entire thing!  Cupid kept a nice steady rhythm before and after each jump.  He was cruising along like a nice little hunter!

One of the jumps was on a diagonal, and I was supposed to ask for the lead change going into the corner.  The first several times we ended up doing a trot change, so my trainer decided to put a pole on the ground and we got the change.  Overall that whole round felt very good so we decided to end on a good note!

Thursday, August 3, 2017


My last few rides I've had to work a little extra to get or keep Cupid going.  He was "behind my leg" according to my trainer.  I just assumed that since it's been hot he hasn't felt like working to hard.  But whatever the case might be, my trainer said that my leg has been improving and more still/secure, so suggested I try riding with spurs.

I have a an old pair of tom thumb spurs, about 1/2", but I've never really ridden with them.  I tried them once or twice on my old horse but she did not seem very happy.  I was terrified I would be poking Cupid inadvertently, so I tried extra hard to make sure my toes were pointing forward!  This is hard for me, I've always had a problem with it, but I think today I managed pretty well!

Usually our first trot transition can be a little sticky.  Today I tried to touch Cupid gently with the spurs to let him know it's time to get to work.  I felt him almost shudder a moment, then he picked up the trot.  He was very good in our lesson.  I don't know if he would have been better today regardless, but it did feel like I didn't have to work as hard.  Aside from the first trot I didn't even really use them.

After our warm up we did a line of three trot poles, a few times each direction.  Then we did the poles, picked up the canter and cantered over a pole pile.  We cantered the pole pile a few times each direction, focusing on straightness and getting to the base.  I appreciate how much my trainer has been helping me develop my eyes, taking extra time to show me where I should begin my turns, etc.

We then did two canter poles, one stride apart.  A few times when we didn't get close enough to the first pole Cupid had to adjust and quicken a little to get the second pole.  This was a good exercise for both of us to kind of figure it out!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Seeing Ghosts

I've been slowly bringing Cupid back to work.  We had a few days of just walking around the property.  Then we did a few days with walk and trot work in the ring - lots of stretching trot and light lateral work.  Cupid felt great!  Then we added a little canter, which went well and we didn't have any problem getting the left lead.  But then something unexplainable happened.  Best I can come up with is Cupid is seeing ghosts!

It started during our lesson on Sunday.  Starting out Cupid was good, just a touch lazy.  So we were trying to get him moving more forward.  We decided adding some trot poles would help, and it did perk him right up.  So I had a happy horse, the lesson was going well, when out of nowhere he spooked in the far end of the arena.  It was a small spook, I didn't think too much of it.  But he did it again in the same area.  Then he got very distracted coming out of that corner.  The arena has a wall on that side, I assumed someone must be working or doing something on the other side.  After a few minutes I asked my trainer to look out and see what was going on, she said there's nothing there. We kept working, it was okay except Cupid was clearly a little distracted.  We thought maybe it was the sound of the sprinklers from the other arena.

The next day I thought I would walk around outside for a warm up before going into the arena.  We were walking along calmly, when all of the sudden Cupid stopped dead.  We were in front of his turn out paddock, where there is a little incline up to a path that runs between the outdoor arena and a house.  Cupid did not want to go up the incline.  I thought maybe there was someone riding in the arena and he was watching them, but no.  I asked Cupid to go forward and he backed up.  I tried again, same result.  I tapped him with the crop and he kicked out, still refusing to move forward.  After a few minutes I decided to get off; I wasn't scared but I felt like we weren't getting anywhere and I didn't want to have to hit him harder.  He still didn't want to go at first, but eventually walked up with his head in the air, ears pricked, looking around.  He jigged a little.

We got in the arena, and had an okay ride except he was still distracted and didn't want to stay along the rail towards the house.  We did some leg yielding, circles, serpentines, and cantered each direction.  Cupid did pretty much everything I asked but he was not relaxed and clearly something was bothering him.  After about half an hour in the arena we walked back out, and he didn't really want to walk back down that path.  He did back up a bit, and kicked out again, but finally walked.  I could feel his heart pounding, he really did seem scared not just like he was trying to get out of work!

I didn't hear anything, or see anything new that would surprise him.  I have no idea what he is reacting too.

This morning we had a lesson in the covered ring, and he was more relaxed except a few times when deer came bounding up along the ring he shied a little.  But at least that is explainable!  Otherwise, we just still need to work on getting him in front of the leg, he was quite lazy again.

We had some good trot work, on a large circle doing a little shoulder fore to the inside then straightening and coming more forward out of it.  Then my trainer had me practice cantering on a large circle, holding my whip under my thumbs to keep my hands together.  It felt easier then the last time I did this exercise (when I had trouble keeping any sort of contact, and didn't canter). 

I walked Cupid down the scary path after our ride to turn him out.  He was a little alert, head up and snorting a little, but less of a reaction today.  Hopefully whatever it is will pass soon and I have my old Cupid back!  But regardless of how we progress, the dressage show I was planning on going to in a few weeks was unfortunately cancelled.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Wheels!

While Cupid's been resting up his back, I kept myself busy trailer shopping!  I agonized over the decision - it is expensive, and I don't really need one.  But it would be fun to be able to take Cupid more places!  So I thought, it couldn't hurt to look.  I would need an aluminum trailer, since our area is very damp and foggy steel would get destroyed.  Plus it can't be too heavy, so I can pull it with my large SUV.  I was open to either straight or slant load, though I've never tried Cupid in a straight.  I would prefer to have a dressing room.

I finally came across a nice, gently used but impeccably maintained Classic Monarch 2 horse slant load bumper pull.  What sold me was the rumber floors - no heavy mats to lift and clean under!  It looks like it's equipped for camping, it has a water tank and a high line tie up.  It also has a swing out saddle rack. 

My first time hitching it up, at the dealer lot, went well.  The salesguy was helped direct me, and showed me how to attach everything.  It was about a two hour drive home, and I was surprised how easy it felt the trailer just followed along behind the car, and stopped and turned smoothly.  (I have never pulled a trailer so I was a little nervous!)  I stopped at a large parking lot for a little practice.  I thought I was doing good, but then I couldn't back up into my parking spot back at the barn.  The barn manager was trying to help direct me, it was pretty embarrassing!  But with a little more practice I think I'll get it.  I can't wait for all the new adventures awaiting Cupid and me!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Back Out

On Tuesday Cupid started feeling stiff, but seemed to work out of it.  He looked good lunging on Wednesday.  But on Thursday he let me know he was not feeling good.  We started off okay walking around to warm up, but when I asked him to trot he balked.  I asked again and he started backing up.  I tapped him with the crop and he kicked out, and backed up some more.  I try to not make a big deal out it; I will tap-tap with the whip behind my leg and be gentle but firm.  My trainer said even if he is not feeling good he needs to be obedient.

So we did a few easy trot laps to see if he would work out of it - he wasn't lame but he just felt short in the hind and I gave him the benefit of doubt that he really is uncomfortable not just being lazy.  So we just did a little walk work, which we actually needed to do anyways.  I tend to let Cupid get lazy at the walk, or try to get him more forward by what my trainer calls shoving him with my hips.  So I tried to keep my seat lighter and use my leg (and small tap-tap with the whip if necessary).  We did some medium walk and free walk, and then a little leg yielding at the walk, quarter line to wall.  This ride and last for some reason it's been easier leg yielding on one long side of the arena compared to the other.  The easier side does not have a wall, but I don't know if that's the reason.  I would think the other side would be easier because we're going towards the gate! We ended with practicing a little turn on the forehand. 

Then we had our chiropractor appointment, which couldn't come at a better time!  I told the Dr. that something seemed to be off.  She said his lower back was out, and also made some adjustments to his neck.  She showed me a new stretch, basically standing behind Cupid and cupping his ilium (what I think of as the point of the hip) and lean back.  Cupid seemed to like it when she did it.  She recommended giving him a few days off, and then taking it pretty easy the next week with no jumping or collection.  I feel bad that I made him do anything at all the last few days, even though we took it easy I should have listened to him. :(

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Recap - Slow & Steady

Things have continued going well for Cupid and me.

Thursday - I had a good flatwork lesson, though Cupid was struggling a little with the footing and we didn't get the left lead canter our first attempt.  My trainer said I need to package Cupid a little more to make sure his hind end is engaged and he is stepping underneath himself.

Friday - My trainer rode Cupid.  She said he was very good, and got the left lead canter each time he asked but it took a few extra trot steps so I need to make sure I prepare and set him up.  But not to override it, use the smallest aids possible and believe it will happen.  The worst thing that will happen is we keep trotting, so just re-organize and try again!  My trainer said they popped over a few small jumps, and Cupid was very good and relaxed.

Saturday - I had a very fun lesson with a poles course!  We warmed up doing trot poles (3 poles, one stride apart).  I needed to encourage Cupid just a little bit to make the strides, but he figured it out quick.  So we did a little course going over the trot poles, picking up a canter and going over a pole and then a cavaletti.  We finished by adding a very small vertical, which my trainer told me to think of as just another cavaletti.  But somehow we kept having trouble meeting it right, so did it cantering on a circle a few times and finally it felt right.  I really enjoyed working on a course without the stress of actual jumps!

Sunday - Cupid and I did some flatwork in the outdoor arena.  The big tarp pile that was sitting outside the arena the past few months was gone, which helped keep Cupid focused because even though he's seen it dozens of times he still likes to eye it and sometimes drift away from it.  We did a short canter each direction, doing the easier side first.  Then I did a trot change across the middle and we got the left lead first try.  We did a little bending and leg yielding.  Cupid was very good, so we only did about 20 minutes and then walked around the property for a little hack / cool down.
Giving me the guilt trip don't go face at the gate!

Monday - Day off!

Tuesday - Lesson.  Cupid did not feel very good, not lame but he seemed uncomfortable when I asked him to trot.  I kept him at an easy trot and he started to feel better after a few laps.  My trainer thought maybe it was just the change in the weather - it was a cool foggy day after a bit of a hot spell.  So we kept going, but kept it a little easy; no small circles or anything new.  We trotted big loop serpentines, and did a few canter transitions and were able to get the lead correct each time, though once going to the left it felt like Cupid's hind end slipped out from under him a little.  My trainer said to make sure to keep his outside shoulder from popping out, and keep the bend consistent in the circle.  We ended with a little leg yielding. 

Wednesday - Lunging and ground work.  We did plain side reins today.  Then we worked on walk to halt from the ground, and then a little shoulder fore.  My trainer did a little haunches in, and Cupid finds the whip on his hindquarters a little annoying and kicked out a few times!  I know he should always yield to pressure, so we need to work on this more.