Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quiet Week

I haven't quite managed to get back in the swing of things since returning from vacation.  Cupid got his shoe replaced on Friday after I already went out in the morning, so I didn't ride him until Saturday.  Just a basic ride in the covered arena to knock the dust off.  He started off with a bit of energy, but was a little sticky moving off my leg in leg yields.  We also needed a few tries to get the left lead canter. 

On Sunday I had family visiting so I didn't ride, but did take them out to see Cupid.  He was happy to meet people and get carrots. 
Winter coat coming in, he's dark!
On Monday morning Cupid's left hind leg was a little puffy above the fetlock.  No heat and he didn't seem sensitive, body temperature normal.  I found the likely culprit, a very small and benign scrape on his fetlock.  (Oh, Cupid!)  I cleaned it and applied ointment and we did a light ride, just walk and trot for about half an hour in the covered arena.  The puffiness was gone afterwards.  However Tuesday morning it was puffy again.  No heat.  Since the light work seemed to help the day before, I saddled him up and we just walked around the property for about 20 minutes.  Sometimes Cupid is a bit looky when it's foggy, but today he was very good. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Extended Vacation

I was really excited to ride again when I got back from my trip.  Unfortunately I found Cupid with a loose, slightly twisted shoe!  :(  Big bummer.  Because of how the shoe was, I didn't really want to wrap it, and I don't have the tools to pull it off.  My old shoer showed me years ago, and I've done it a few times.  I considered keeping him in the stall, but he's much happier outside so I just hoped he wouldn't do too much damage.  I spent extra time grooming him.  He was very dusty, and is also shedding his summer coat.

The next day, as I expected, he had no shoe.  There was a bit of chipping but luckily not too bad.  I put a hoof boot on (currently experimenting with the Hoof Wraps Brand Bandage Kit, since the easy boot has been a bit hit or miss staying on) and we walked around the property for about 15 minutes.  It felt good to be back in the saddle, even briefly.  Afterwards I put Magic Cushion in his foot and wrapped it.  I left my shoer another message, hopefully he can come out ASAP!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Practice Makes Perfect

The lunge line lessons were quite helpful in letting me work on my position, but they unfortunately don't address one of my biggest flaws: ineffective use of my legs.  The breakthrough I made with the leg yield helped, and my next objective was to work on canter transitions.  I realized when I was focusing so hard on trying to maintain my seat in the saddle, keep my shoulders above my hips, and not raise my hands I was pretty much forgetting to use my legs.  Now some horses may be able to pick up a canter through your seat alone, but Cupid and I are not there yet!  So we've been spending a good amount of time working on our transitions.  Part of it is just me making sure I am organized before asking for it.  Also having a good quality trot - also practicing a bit of sitting trot which I haven't really been doing a lot of. 

In my last lesson I was worried I was getting a little too perfectionist about it, waiting too long before asking because I wanted it to be correct.  But my trainer said right now that is fine.  If we had a show coming up we would focus more on promptness, but we have the luxury of taking our time and learning it correctly.  So sit up, outside leg back a touch and a light squeeze, and if no response add the whip.  And wouldn't you know we got some pretty nice canter transitions!  The right is unsurprisingly better than the left, especially the second day in a row.  I had lessons on both Saturday and Sunday, since I'm out of town this week.  I think Cupid was a little tired on Sunday.  He was also anticipating the canter a bit, so while I was focusing on getting that good quality trot he was trying to rush into it.  So we went back to transitions between the walk and trot a bit until he settled and paid attention. 

We also did a bit more work with the German martingale.  Again the purpose of this is to help me achieve a more steady and consistent contact, since after 25 years of riding primarily hunters and trails I'm still somewhat apprehensive about.  But I can see and feel the difference with the martingale, it does give us the rounder "training level frame" judges keep commenting we lack.  I don't want to have to rely on it, but using it sparingly will let me get a feel for what I'm looking for, and allow Cupid to develop the correct muscles.  Though on Sunday, when Cupid was a bit tired, he was lugging down into it a bit and I was having to work the keep his poll up. 
Cupid is getting the next week off while I'm gone.  He'll get turned out every day so I'm not worried about him acting up when I get back (though I will miss riding him!)  He's been working hard, and has had a few days where he seemed to struggle a bit so I'm hoping the time off will be good for him. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dressage with Speedbumps

I've been trying to do a few little jumps every week or two, so it's not a big deal to either Cupid or myself.  Most of the time these jumps are small enough to step over, with the focus being riding between the jumps - pace, straightness, etc.  Even though I don't actually feel nervous, I realized today that subconsciously it does affect me.  Often it just feels sloppy: I let Cupid cut the corners, or canter instead of trot or vice versa approaching a jump. 

After one such round today I stopped to think about it, and I don't let Cupid get away with that when we're having a dressage or flat work day.  Adding a few little jumps shouldn't change that!  So I made a determined effort over a few more jumps and ended with some flat work, asking for some leg yields and shoulder ins.  Cupid (usually!) does listen if I ask, I just need to remember that I'm the one in the driver's seat.  And in fact Cupid would probably prefer not having to make decisions but I need to give him confidence that one of us (me) is in charge. 

Just a quick thought I wanted to get down from today's ride!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Week in Review

Last Sunday, after a really good lesson in the outdoor arena, we were cooling off with a walk around the property when suddenly Cupid went to his knees.  I think we were both pretty stunned as he stayed there a moment, but then he straightened up and I jumped off.  At first I was confused as I didn't see anything he could have tripped over, but the hole was behind us.  Apparently he got a hind foot in it, and momentum brought his front end down.  Though he had a little scuff on one knee, he is fine.  No swelling or lameness.  (Of course I still cold hosed it because I like to worry and fuss!)
Poor Cupid :(
On Monday we kept it fairly light, about half an hour of walk and trot.  Working on the idea of "carry yourself," making Cupid responsible for not petering out of whatever pace we set.

On Tuesday we did trot poles and a little course of poles and small jumps.

Wednesday we had a lesson and it was a bit odd.  It was foggy and cold, Cupid started out a bit stiff but ok.  We started trotting to the left, and all of the sudden he just lost energy.  He felt totally even though.  We continued to trot a bit to see what happens.  Then we walked, and then did some canter work which actually felt quite good.  But afterwards when we went back to the trot it was just like someone took the wind out of his sails, but again he didn't seem sore or off.  I packed his feet just in case.

I gave him Thursday off and did some stretches from my Masterson Method book.  I also noticed when I was grooming him he was shedding quite a bit.  In the past he has sometimes been a little funny when seasons change, so maybe that was it.

Cupid seemed back to normal on Friday, and we had a good ride.  I forgot my whip, and even though I don't feel like I use it that much it felt weird not having it!  But we were able to get our left lead canter several times without problem.

We had a lesson on Saturday, and played a little with the German martingale.  Cupid didn't like it at first and tried a few evasions - lifting the head, dropping the head, going quick.  Then he gave in, and it felt quite nice.  I wish I could get that same steady contact without it.  Though for some reason it did seem to make me want to carry my hands high, I'll have to work on that next time.  We ended with some leg yielding, and I realized that not only is it more elegant but also more effective if I just squeeze with my calf instead of bump with my heels.  Which I probably should have known but was a new realization for me!

On Sunday we went on a trail ride, the same park we usually go (Huddart).  We did about 2 hours and Cupid was very good, no spooks. 
Walking under the oak trees on the way to the trailhead
No water in the creek

Friday, August 17, 2018

Videos, and Post Show Week Recap

I was very excited to receive my show videos of tests Training 1 and 3, unfortunately she was unable to get 2.   Purchased from Smith Videography:

 Cupid got a well-earned day off on Monday, and Tuesday I thought he would a break from dressage to practice coursing over poles and cavaletti.  He felt great on the flat warming up, and the poles course felt solid.  We had some of our best lead changes to date, with barely a step of trot in between.

On Wednesday we did ground driving, walk and trot with circles and serpentines and going over some poles.  We ended with a little in-hand work.  Cupid seems to have figured out that if I stop him mid-way over a pole I'm going to ask for a side pass. 

Thursday morning I found Cupid was a scrape on his right hind leg and a few bite marks on his back, but luckily all superficial.  I set up some trail obstacles in the arena for another fun day.  We weaved through cones, backed through parallel poles, walked between two coops, and practiced opening and closing a rope gate between two jump standards.  We managed to do the gate though our form and technique needs work! 

On Friday we had a lesson.  It started out slow, as in Cupid was being quite poky.  He eventually warmed up out of it.  We had a really nice transition into the left lead canter and the canter itself was nice and balanced so we decided to end on that note for canter, and focus on trot work.  We played a little with lengthenings, first on a 20 meter circle lengthening after coming out of a 10 meter circle, then we did a shallow serpentine up one long side of the arena to work on bending and come across the diagonal with the lengthening.  Although we need to keep working to get a true lengthening it did make our working trot pretty nice after! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Greenville Dressage Show, Day 2

Cupid seemed quite content when I left him Saturday night, but I wasn't sure what to expect the next day.  I packed my longing equipment in case we needed to burn off some energy, but when I took him out for a walk he was totally calm and relaxed.  But he seemed to be feeling good, I thought he was striding out a bit smoother than he looked the last few days.  After breakfast I was going to walk him again but he was napping in his stall so I decided to leave him be.
Snuck a few bites from the lawn...
Our ride was at 12:45.  I braided him at 11, then got myself ready.  I was happy to take advantage of coats being waived as it was in the upper 90s (and I don't think I could even button my coat right now!)    We headed to the warm up ring a little after 12.  My impression from the morning confirmed that Cupid seemed to be moving a bit more loosely, though he was a bit lazy.  I can't blame him in the heat though!  I kept the warm up pretty similar, walking on a loose rein to start, then shortening the reins and walking some loops for bending and stretching.  After about 10 minutes we started trotting, again on a loose rein to start then shortening and doing some figures.  Once he was a little warm we did transitions between walk and trot to wake him up, and some shoulder in for suppleness.  We did a little left lead canter, and it was still a struggle.  Then we just walked until it was time to head over. 

Mid braid
I felt great entering the arena for Training 3, and even better exiting!  I thought it was our best test yet.  I'm finally starting to get a hang of those darn loops.  We picked up the left lead canter no problem (!!) and sustained it during the longer period required, with a decent down transition at X.  I was especially happy with our transition into the right lead, which felt quite good.  Our stretching trot wasn't as good as it could have been, and I think I forgot to shorten my reins again before completing the circle.  But overall I was thrilled, and couldn't have been happier with Cupid.

Unfortunately our score didn't quite reflect how good I felt about the test, but this weekend I felt like we are finally meeting the minimum requirements of Training level.  This was likely my last show of the year.  But I am happy with the (admittedly slow) progress we've made and excited to keep improving.  I think if we keep working hard this fall and winter (with a few weeks break planned) we will be ready to move onto First level next year.
By virtue of small classes, but what the heck I'll take it.