Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trail Ride in Runnymede Sculpture Garden

Though it is still a bit hazy, the air quality has gotten better.  On Sunday I did a light ride, about 30 minutes in the covered arena walk/trot and hopped over a few tiny crossrails.  Cupid was not very inspired by the tiny jumps (a foot tall, max), and didn't even muster a few strides canter on landing.  But I did try to get him going forward and straight as best I can, and also did some leg yields to get him listening to my leg.

I had Monday off for Veteran's Day, so Cupid and I headed out to meet our friend for a trail ride in the Runnymede Sculpture Garden.  We haven't been there in about a year.  A lot of the art is large, industrial-type installations.  (Stuff I don't really get, but I can barely draw a stick figure so who am I to judge.) 
There are also some life-size and larger than life people and animals - a camel, horse, monkey, and more. 
Then there are random ceramics. 

And some stuff I don't even know how to describe. 
It was a nice, easy ride and for the most part fairly flat. We kept it at a walk.  Cupid paid no attention to the art, but did occasionally try to stop to forage.  He's weird and likes to eat moss.  He also pulled out a giant clump of weeds, then tried to figure out how he can knock the dirt clod off the roots and eat it with his bit on. 
Yummy moss
Smoky haze covering the view.
We eventually made our way out of the sculpture garden and into Huddart Park.  A part of the trail was fairly steep downhill with several narrow switchbacks.  I was a little worried about taking a bad step, but Cupid was able to navigate through it.  We also did a little gate practice, and as I suspected a real gate was quite a bit more difficult than the rope gate we did for working equitation so it was not pretty but we eventually got it.  Aside from the gate needing more work he was a perfect trail pony!  It was about a 2 hour ride total.  Cupid was a little sweaty, probably from being so fuzzy more so than the actual work. 

After the ride I remembered to start my TIP recreational riding log (thanks to http://poorwomanshowing.blogspot.com for the motivation!)  I was able to look up most of our trail rides from the past year from my blog entries, and we are almost at our first milestone to get a badge! 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ranch Ride

Wouldn't you know, the day the arena is full of the perfect tiny jumps we could pop over for fun the air is too smoky for a real ride.  Luckily the fire is 200 miles away, but we are still covered in a smoky haze.  So instead I just hopped on Cupid bareback and we strolled around the property for about 20 minutes.  Not much to write about so here are some photos from our ride.
Velveteen horse, so soft and fuzzy but dusty and static-y too!
Signature trees that give the property it's name, Cypress Ridge
Though we have plenty of pines too

Let him stop for a snack...
... which led to a game of what else can I find to eat

Friday, November 2, 2018

Making up for Lost Time

Cupid got Monday off, and on Tuesday we had a pretty good ride in the covered arena.  He didn't feel quite so lazy, but instead of settling for that I tried to push him for a little more still.  We kept it fairly light, continuing the things we worked on in our last lesson just less small circles.  I decided to just focus on the trot work again and not canter.

Then on Wednesday I rode Cupid in the outdoor arena, and as soon as I got on I could tell he had a little more energy.  It was slightly cooler... or maybe because I've been giving him apples all week :p  We walked a few minutes.  I've been doing some stretches while we walk, rotating/windmilling my arms one at a time, taking my feet out of the stirrups and stretching my legs out long, then lifting my leg out to the side.  The last one is quite painful for me, tight hip flexors, but isn't so bad if I keep my other leg in the stirrup.

After my stretches we did some shallow loop serpentines each direction, then went up to the trot a bit sooner then usual.  And Cupid wanted to go!  So we only trotted a few minutes before I asked him to canter, thinking he would quickly get tired and want to stop.  But he was full of energy!  We cantered on a 20 meter circle and did some transitions down to the trot and back to the canter.  Then we changed directions and we got the left lead, even though Cupid ran into it a little.  We transitioned down to the trot, then when I asked for the canter we got a fairly decent up transitions, yay!  I may have pushed my luck a bit because the third time he picked up the right lead, but we went back down to the trot and then he got it.  I thought three times was good, but then Cupid broke to a trot so I made him canter again.  Overall I was happy with how he felt, though I felt a bit loose and sloppy myself, tipping forward a bit and my heels were coming up and feet out of the stirrups.

Then I let Cupid walk a little to catch his breath, though he was still feeling pretty good.  He was a bit distracted at one part of the arena so we did some small circles as we walked by.  We ended with a fairly long trot set incorporating exercises similar to our last lesson.  Cupid was a bit quick initially but we managed to channel that energy into pretty nice work!
Powered by apples

Monday, October 29, 2018


Cupid appears to be feeling good, and back to normal.  I've still been keeping the cantering to a minimum, but he has felt comfortable and not acted cranky about it.  I lunged him a few days ago and he picked up the left lead correct all three times I asked. 

What he have been struggling a bit with is him being behind my leg - which is part of the reason why we haven't been cantering as much, because I don't want to practice sloppy transitions where I have to chase him into it.  Usually he's good about midway through a ride, but it starts out pretty poky.  The weather has been quite warm, and Cupid hasn't been clipped so I think that contributes to it but of course is not an excuse.  So I'm trying to be more clear about expectations and not settle for less, and make sure that starts during warm up.  Part of that is just intent on my part (I get lazy too!), making sure I'm not blocking him with my seat, and being firm when needed instead of just nagging throughout.  Transitions within gaits and leg yielding are good exercise to get him listening.
Enjoying some sunshine and what's left of the grass
Lessons have been going well, and have been primarily focused on increasing our connection.  My trainer has been focusing on making sure I don't let my reins get too long - check each time we change direction or increase bend.  Cupid isn't resistant, the last week or so he's felt amazing and light and responsive.  But it still feels a bit foreign to me after 20+ years riding on a longer rein, like I'm water skiing on his face, but I'm trying! 

We've been doing a lot of 20 meter circle with 10 meter half circles inside to change direction.  We've also been doing a 20 meter circle, with a 10 meter circle to the inside, then shoulder fore coming out of the smaller circle a few steps, then straighten a bit and increase the trot.  We've also been doing a 3 loop serpentine with a 10 meter circle figure-8 as we cross the centerline.  All this at the trot - like I said we've been doing a lot of trotwork!  Cupid's work ethic has been super lately, once we get warmed up anyways.  He likes to figure out what we're doing and seems quite keen to get it right, so I just need to be clear and consistent!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Semi-Update, and more WE Show Photos

Cupid has seemed slightly better our last few works, but we also took it a bit easy so it's kind of hard to say.  We had lessons on Friday and Sunday, where I started warmed him up at the walk and trot, then got off and he cantered on the lunge line, then I got back on and finished with trot work.  Both days he was a bit lazy to start, so I focused on being more forward in the warm up portion.  Friday he was inconsistent with the left lead on the lunge, but was much better on Sunday.   I didn't have side reins on him, and he looked much happier without them.  However on Sunday cantering to the right he did twist his head a bit - I was using a caveson and had the line clipped over his nose so it wasn't related to the bit or uneven pressure.  

After the lunge portion he usually has more energy, and we've had some really great trot work.  I don't know if the lunging is helpful for him to loosen up a bit?  I'm not a huge fan of lunging because doing that many small-ish circles seems hard on them so I don't do it very often, but right now it is seeming to help.  ??? 

In between lesson days we went for a nice hack around the property, bareback.

Some photos from the working equitation schooling show.

Not very dressage-y, sigh.
No I shouldn't have to lean this far to get it - that is just bad form!
Medieval times

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

It's a Puzzle

Cupid got a shoe back on, and I decided to longe him to see how he looks.  Honestly I'm at a bit of a loss because he has been going super well most of the time, but there is something bothering him.  I've discussed it with the chiropractor and my trainer, who agree that something is not quite right, but it doesn't seem serious and to just use my best judgment.  So I've continued riding, though taking it easy especially with the cantering as he seems totally fine otherwise.  Part of me is hesitant to share this because everyone has different ways of doing things, and I don't want someone to come across this and criticize me for not doing more / something different / for the love of god why are you working that poor obviously lame horse, but this is my journal and this is what we're coping with at the moment.
His favorite frame - aka the anteater

I think I threw too many variables into the equation when I was lunging him, which made the results less clear.  For starters, I used his old loose ring Herm Sprenger, and he chomped on it throughout (which is why I originally switched to just the Myler, but thought I'd give it a try again.)  Then when I put on his balancing reins he was just cranky - not sure if that was body discomfort or just because we haven't used it in a while.  I had it on the longest setting, but he was still unhappy.

We started off without the reins, walking and trotting a bit both directions.  Then put the reins on for some trot and canter, starting at the right.  As I said he was fussy with the reins on, even at the trot and it just got worst at the canter.  Going to the left he was again fussy, but did pick up the left lead correctly each time.  I thought he was short in the left shoulder, but I don't know if I was just seeing that since that's what the chiropractor said. So if anyone wants to play detective, here are some clips (bear in mind it's hard to hold the longe line and whip, while trying to film!)

Walk warm up to the left - he's unmotivated but tracking up.

Trot warm up to the right, without the balancing reins.  His mouth is busy but he's fairly relaxed. 

Trotting to the right after I put the balancing reins on, more fussy. 

Canter to the right, not happy.  (Last time I cantered on him going right he felt quite good, so I don't know if he was just protesting the balancing reins??)

Canter to the left.  No trouble picking up the lead, but not very relaxed.

The next day (today) we had a lesson, and I told my trainer I just wanted to stick to trot work and Cupid felt amazing.  Starting out we made sure we were going forward (when we walk I should be able to ask for a trot any moment!)  When we started trotting on a 20 meter circle to the left Cupid was twisting his head a bit, so my trainer told me to counter-bend a little to get his shoulder back - which I didn't realize he was popping I was just focusing on the head. 

I had a lot of opportunity to work on myself, especially focusing on maintaining proper contact (one of my biggest weaknesses!)  We did a lot of going around a 20 meter circle, with a figure eight (two half 10 meter circle) change of direction through the middle.  We also did a little leg yielding, and transitions.  Honestly Cupid felt great, I just don't know what to think!

Monday, October 15, 2018

That's a Wrap

I said my last show at Greenville was my last show, but I was secretly hoping to go again end of October.  Even though I'm still feeling up for it, Cupid has unfortunately had a few (luckily minor) setbacks so our season really is over.

We had one good day with the left lead last week, but he's still been struggling a bit and on some days been downright cranky about me asking - very unlike him so I figured something must actually be bothering him.  Last week the chiropractor confirmed his left shoulder was very tight.  She worked on it, and recommended 24 hours off and showed me some stretches.  
Poor Cupid :(

Then yesterday I found him missing his right front shoe - again!  Ugh.  I put bell boots on after he lost his shoe for the second time a few weeks ago hoping that would put an end to this, but no such luck.  The pasture has been dry so I'm not sure how he's losing them, I was unable to find the shoe all three times.  I thought with the durasole and biotin we had been doing much better this year, but this is the third time in the last month.  It was the same shoe all three times so I guess the little bit of chipping each time is making it harder to hold the shoe, but his feet didn't look bad.  Having a short back and long legs doesn't help either.  It's just frustrating and I'm sure my shoer hates us! 
Not again!!

Once we get the shoe back on I'm going to continue training a few weeks, and plan to work on the left lead a bit on the longe or long lines.  Then Cupid will get a few weeks off and I'll start thinking ahead about my goals for next year.

Here's a video the day after the WE schooling show.  Even though Cupid has gotten really good about traveling this year and seems quite content being new places, he is always very happy to come home!