Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Smoky

The air quality has been very poor due to fires nearby, so we have been advised to take it easy with our horses.  Luckily we are not in danger of the fires themselves, they are about 2 hours north of us, but that area has been devastated and horses and people up there had to evacuate.  I never thought about that happening to me, but at least now I have the trailer if I do need to move Cupid in an emergency.

We have been doing some flatwork, keeping it fairly light.  My trainer created a canter exercise meant to address our imbalance: when we go to the right we do a 20 meter circle at E or B, then shoulder in down the rest of the long side and circle again at A or C.  To the left we leg yield instead of shoulder in.  This exercise also helps me work on preparing better for the changes, since the elements in the exercise come up pretty quickly.  When we went to the left I let Cupid drop to a trot a few times; to the right I didn't really have to do anything to keep him going.  So note to self to make sure I keep my leg on, especially as we're going on his weaker side!

Cupid got his vaccines and his teeth done.  The vet said he did have some hooks in his teeth, hopefully he is feeling more comfortable now.  The following day I decided we should do a groundwork lesson instead of ride.  Cupid seems to have fun with it.  We worked on backing up straight; he tends to drift towards his right side so it was easier keeping him straight when I was on his right side.  But he is pretty good at moving off just following my feet.  A new exercise we did was moving his shoulders.  Right now I'm not able to quite isolate the front end, but my trainer said to accept it as long as the shoulder was moving even if his hind end followed.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Trail Ride at Runnymede Sculpture Garden

There was a local schooling show last weekend, and I thought it would be good for Cupid and me to go and redeem ourselves after the combined test disaster, but then I decided a trail ride would be more fun. :p

Cupid loaded up nicely, and we set off.  I parked down the road from my friend's barn (since it's too narrow to turn around closer), and tied Cupid to the trailer to tack up.  I had him stand along a fence to mount (I need to get a little mounting block/step stool for my trailer!) and headed up.  Cupid was looking around a little but walking calmly.  My friend met us midway coming the opposite direction, riding one horse and ponying the other.  Our original plan was to ride in Huddart Park, where we rode last time, but we got to the trail head and there was a sign saying it was closed.  So we decided to try the sculpture garden instead; I've heard of it but never been there and wasn't sure if Cupid would be bothered by the art.

The sculpture garden is flatter than Huddart, and the trails wider.  I kept Cupid behind my friend's horse and he was very good, walking along on a loose rein pretty much the entire ride.  We tried closing a gate, but the gate swung both directions and didn't stay in the middle so you had to hold it the whole time.  Cupid moved his butt over along the fence when I asked, but then he started backing up when I had the gate in one hand and the chain in the other, so my friend ended up getting it.  Oh well, something we still need to work on!

The art is mainly large metal abstract pieces, but there were some that were animals or people.  Cupid didn't bat an eye at any of them.  My friend's been through there many times on her horses so they didn't care, so I think Cupid followed their lead! 



We walked around for about 2 hours, and even though we only walked Cupid was sweaty.  We got back to the trailer and I realized I should have filled my water reservoir.  All I had was a 20 oz water bottle!  I poured it into a bucket and Cupid drank it all, I felt bad I didn't have more for him.

I was about to load him back up, when I realized there was a horse behind the fence next to us.  The horse came up to the fence, and then Cupid really wanted to go make friends.  Then he didn't want to load.  I hope he was just distracted by the horse, and not hesitant because he doesn't like my driving or the trailer!  But he got on and seemed quiet on the way home.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Back on Track

I had a great vacation, but I missed Cupid a lot and was happy to come back!  Cupid had gotten quite a bit more fuzzy over the past week.  I'll probably have him clipped in a few weeks.  My trainer rode Cupid a few times while I was gone, primarily flatwork and working on acceptance of the bit, and said he was good.  Except the last ride, when apparently he was a little distracted/spooky. :p

Saturday I just did a little hack around the property, easing back into it!

Sunday - I rode Cupid in the outdoor arena.  I put my German martingale on, in case he got used to how my trainer rides him with a steadier contact!  He was very good.  I tried to focus on keeping my leg long, and also making sure he was nice and forward, and working on bending, some serpentines, and leg yields.  We cantered a bit each direction, doing the easier side (right) first.  I ended with taking the martingale off and doing some stretchy trot.  We did have 2 spooks, once at a horse walking on the path below the arena and the second time I couldn't tell why but luckily they weren't too bad. 

We took Monday off, and had a lesson on Tuesday.  Cupid felt fantastic!  At first I thought he might be a little footsore, but realized he was just using himself a little better which to me translated to feeling like he is lighter on his feet!  The jumps were all removed form the arena (just a few standards and poles piles), so we had plenty of room.  My trainer took some video clips, and I realized I need to work on keeping my hands lower and elbows more bent. 
video
Wednesday - I hopped on Cupid bareback and we walked around the property for about 20 minutes.  No spooks!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Time Off

I was gone a few days for work travel.  I had two days in between before more travel, so of course I was eager to get out to see Cupid.  To my surprise I find him with a chunk missing out of his left hind hoof!  I have no idea what he did.  Like I said, I thought we had made good improvements in his hoof quality, then we had that loose shoe and now this.

Someone told me this is the winter hoof growing out, from the muddy season so that is why it seems like we have regressed.  I guess that makes sense. I sent the shoer a picture and he said it looked ok, I could break off the piece hanging and he will be out in two days.  I don't have hoof trimmers and breaking it off seemed like it might cause more damage so I just left it as is.  I just did an easy eide, walk only.  After the shoer came out he thought it was a fluke occurrence and that we should keep doing as we were.

I will be gone for a week and my trainer will get Cupid out a few times while I'm gone.  I know Cupid is in good hands, but I miss him and can't wait to get back and ride!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Woodside Event Derby

The Woodside Event Derby is a combined test which includes dressage, and jumping on the XC course with a combination of cross country and stadium jumps.  Our lead up to the event was not ideal, as Thursday morning I found Cupid with a slightly loose and twisted shoe.  Since he doesn't have the greatest feet I didn't want to take any chances, so I cancelled my lesson, put a no turnout sign on his stall, and called the farrier.  Unfortunately the farrier was not able to come out until late Friday night, so Cupid was in his stall all day for two days.  By this point I was starting to consider just scratching the event.  I just had time for a short ride under the lights Friday night, it wasn't great just felt a little sloppy but I cleaned and packed my things and figured we'll see how it goes.

I was scheduled to ride first in the entire event.  The upside was I got the warmup arena to myself!  We had a good, uneventful warmup.  Cupid was very relaxed, but not lazy.  We trotted circles, did a little shoulder fore, then rode down the rail and did a few diagonals.  We cantered both directions.  I was still a little worried about the left lead as our last couple rides we haven't been consistent about picking it up, and it comes first in our Beginner Novice test. 

We trotted around the dressage court, and I reminded myself not to halt at the first X!  I tried to get a good trot going down the centerline.  We trotted our 20 meter circles, then picking up the left lead canter Cupid stumbled a little and shook his head but got the correct lead.  Our right lead was smoother.  We had a nice down transition to walk, and I thought a good free walk.  I still had a little trouble on the short court with the walk to trot transition immediately followed by the turn onto the centerline, but I thought we had a good halt.  Overall I was very happy with our test!  I felt it was a definite improvement from our last one.

We had 1.5 hours until our jumping portion, so I went to walk the course with my trainer.  It started off with easy little logs that we've jumped before, and a few little verticals set up.  However the last few jumps were significantly bigger.  One was hay bales, and there was a Beginner Novice sized log.  I was feeling pretty good about it, and excited.

I was hanging out at the trailer, about to tack up and all of the sudden realized I had my start time totally wrong in my mind somehow!  Instead of going to the warm up I had to go straight to the start box, I was actually already late.  As I got there the person who was supposed to go after me was already there and about to go, so I had a few minutes.  I walked Cupid around and I could feel his energy building.  I started walking around the start box and it was getting worse, I could feel him start to get light on his front feet.  I did not feel comfortable going out on the cross country course like this and said I wanted to scratch!  The starter said I had a few minutes and my trainer encouraged me to try to get Cupid to settle, but I was getting unnerved too.  I decided to scratch, but my trainer said lets go to the warm up and maybe we could try to see if they would let us go later in the order.

In the warmup Cupid was like his old self, how he was a year ago; tense and quick.  I trotted him around trying to get him to settle.  I was okay doing that, but did not really want to jump even just in the warmup jumps.  So we trotted around, I was trying to get Cupid to bend and pay attention and out of nowhere he let out a giant buck and sent me flying!  I was caught by surprised, and since I was tense probably leaning up his neck.  Luckily I felt fine, so I got on and made Cupid keep going until he was some semblance of behaving.

We walked back across the cross country course, and Cupid got pretty excited seeing other horses galloping and cantering.  He was doing his racehorse prance.  I got off and walked him, and also made him stand for a bit.  When he was a little more settled we walked up and down a little bank.

This event did not go at all like I had expected, or hoped.  It was a learning experience, but it is hard not to get discouraged.  I'm not sure what happened.  I think in part maybe Cupid just felt like he was done, and I should practice at home riding him, taking a break, and getting back on.  I also got some good advice to just loosen his girth but leave his saddle on so Cupid has a better idea he is not done.

Going forward I know I want to continue working on dressage, and addressing the comments from the judge (mostly about being above the bit, and also straightness and impulsion).  As far as jumping, I'm on the fence.  I will still do it at home for variety and since Cupid seems to enjoy it, but right now I feel like showing is just too much anxiety for me.  But maybe this feeling is just temporary. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Huddart Park Trail Ride

On Labor Day Cupid and I met an old friend for a trail ride!  I was very relieved that the heat wave had finally broken.  We parked a little outside the park, and walked up a quiet residential street.  We were walking along the side of the road, then had to get onto the road when there was no more path.  Afterwards Cupid didn't want to go back up the curb to the path, and was pretty much doing a shoulder in to avoid it.  I finally got him back up on the path.  Then we met our friend, who was riding one horse and ponying another!  Her horses are used to it.  We had one incident, where a car was coming down a driveway and Cupid caught a glimpse of it through the bushes and spun around.  Then he froze in place, and I turned him around and we continued up the path without incident.

We got to the park and headed down a trail, Cupid and I following in the back.  At one part we had to go down a good size step down, which Cupid was totally fine with.  Luckily the creek was dry so I didn't have to find out whether Cupid is okay with running water.  The bed was full of large rocks, which didn't bother him.  But then he balked at a switchback.  I'm not sure why he didn't like it; there was a smaller step down and some roots but overall it didn't look that unusual to me.  But when I asked Cupid to go forward he went backwards.  He did it a few times, and since the trail dropped on one side I was worried he would get hurt.  I decided to get off, and after some coaxing I was able to lead him through it.  I don't think I've ever mounted Cupid from the ground, but he stood still for me while I got back on and luckily I didn't pull my saddle over!
Photo from http://parks.smcgov.org/huddart-park; I didn't want to take me camera (aka phone) and lose it!

The rest of the ride went well.  We just walked, but Cupid behaved very well.  We led a few times, but Cupid seemed happier to be following.  When we were in front he was more alert and a little cautious, but was still good.  We passed a lot of hikers and a few bikers, without incident.  We did have to turn around and backtrack twice, when the trails we were on were blocked by fallen trees!  It was a little narrow turning around, one of the times Cupid's feet slid a little down the side but we got through it. 

The terrain was mostly rolling hills, and Cupid got a very good workout even just walking.  I think he would have gotten too quick trotting, but hopefully with a few more outings he will be good. 
A sweaty Cupid post-ride

Monday, September 4, 2017

Progress

I've said before that I am working on getting Cupid more forward, but the truth is I wasn't fully committed.  For one thing, I'm lazy and getting him going is more work for me!  But also I wasn't very concerned about because I knew if we go to a show it wouldn't be a problem; instead the problem would be him being too quick.  But our last two outings Cupid was pretty lazy, and our first canter transition in the show ring on Sunday was pretty pathetic!  So at the start of our lesson on Tuesday I told my trainer I wanted to work on responsiveness.

I started the ride committed to having Cupid in front of my leg, but I was worried that I would have to really go after Cupid in the beginning.  However he seemed to pick up on my intention, my trainer commented that just our walk warming up was looking better.  Usually our first trot transition is very sticky, but we didn't have any problems.  A few times I squeezed lightly to get Cupid a little more forward, but I could feel a difference. We ended the ride on a 20 meter circle doing transitions between the walk and trot.  Usually either we are having a lazy day, where the down transitions are good but the ups take several extra steps, or if Cupid is wired we can do an up transitions but the downs take a while.  However today he was listening very well, and both the ups and downs were good!


On Wednesday we went for a hack around the property, bareback.  I tried to make sure Cupid was walking out nicely.  We popped into the outdoor arena briefly and tried a short trot, which was not pretty!  I felt like I was bouncing all over the place but mostly up Cupid's neck, so I brought him back to a walk pretty quick.  We did a few more trot steps down one of the paths with pretty much the same result, clearly I still have a lot of work in this area!

Thursday was a very busy day at work for me, so I asked my trainer if instead of our lesson she wanted to ride Cupid and she agreed.  I didn't get a lot of details, but she said the ride went well.

On Friday we went back to the Horse Park for a little cross country schooling!  Cupid was not quite as relaxed as he was at the show.  We walked over to the water with the two other horses in our group and started walking around.  We warmed up by having the person in the front trot around to the back of the group.  We went through the water, the first few times Cupid played a little, but I don't think he was really planning to roll!  He didn't seem relaxed so I was getting a little anxious too, but gradually he settled down.  We cantered, and jumped a few little logs.  It was very hot, so I had to stop in the shade a few times because I wasn't feeling too good, but Cupid seemed to be handling it okay.

I was having a bit of a hard time getting Cupid to bend to the left.  After a little break in the shade I told my trainer I wanted to work on bending, and also cantering on a lane (so far we've only done it on a circle).  Although it wasn't great, we did make a little improvement on bending to the left.  Then my trainer gave me a short course, cantering down the lanes, over a log, then up a hill to a beginner novice log.  Cupid was good cantering.  We hopped over the little log and headed up the hill.  Our approach felt really good, but then when we got close I realized how much bigger that log was and couldn't help it I looked down.  I felt Cupid start to hesitate and slow under me, so quickly refocused myself and told Cupid we were going over and he hopped over!  He scooted sideways a little at the top of the hill, one of the other (more experienced) horses in our group did the same too because there was a house behind the fence with machinery for some reason some horses seem to think it's a little scary.

My trainer said we did good except I was too far up Cupid's neck jumping ahead, so wanted me to do it again.  At first she said do it going back over, but I asked to do it the same direction again so it's not heading down hill.  I was a little scared, but the second time was much smoother.  Since it was so hot we called it a day after that.  I was really happy with us!  I definitely am not ready to do a beginner novice course, but it was a good step forward!