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!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hunter Pony

On Saturday morning I loaded Cupid on our trailer and took him over to the Horse Park.  We have a schooling show series that does ticketed rounds, and since our rides have been going pretty well at home I thought this would be a good experience to go over some real show courses.  The plan was to take it one step at a time: see how it goes in the warm up ring, and then if that goes well we'll do the 2' hunters, and maybe if everything went well the 0.6-.65 meter jumpers.

My trainer was there to coach me, and we walked the courses.  The hunter ring was set up with a single fence on the diagonal, around to a line down the end, a line on the other diagonal, and then another line down the other long side.  The jumps were all verticals with flower boxes underneath, and looked a bit bigger than I expected!  The jumper course was trickier, with a rollback and bending lines and oxers. 

Cupid was very relaxed as I tacked him up, standing nicely and no whinnying.  Despite the bath I gave him the night before he had gotten a little dirty, and since his winter coat is starting to grow in he is not looking quite as sleek as he had a week or two ago.  But we cleaned him up best we could, and I got on and we walked quietly to the warm up arena.
The warm up was not too hectic, just a few other horses.  Cupid was not quick at all, he was pretty much the same as he is at home.  We walked a few laps, then picked up the trot.  Cupid shied sideways once when people came up from the hill behind the ring, and we had a near miss with another horse!  But he settled back down.  We went over a cross rail a few times to warm up.  The first few times Cupid trotted lazily over it, not even picking up the canter on landing which my trainer was not pleased about but I was pretty happy he was so relaxed!  We had another spook when some of the vendors were setting up and made a loud noise, but again not a big deal Cupid was focused again right after.  We did a vertical a few times and then our trainer declared us ready.

We went into the ring and started trotting a circle.  Midway through I asked Cupid for a canter and...no response.  We finished our circle and headed towards our first jump, and a few strides before we finally got the canter.  We did a trot change and headed to our first line, and I felt Cupid hesitate.  I think it was the fancy winged standards.  I kept my leg on and Cupid went over.  Like most thoroughbreds he likes to jump and is pretty brave, so even if he thinks a jump is funny looking (like the blocks we jumped our last practice at home) he will still usually go over.  But the next fence I thought was scarier looking with a big pink flower box so I decided to trot it.  We picked up a canter and got our last line.

I was super happy with how that went, even though we did trot a little.  Cupid was relaxed and didn't run at the jumps or land quick, and was very good jumping different looking jumps.  I wanted to try again.  Our second round was even better, we cantered the entire course!  Cupid landed on the correct lead after the first jump, and this time didn't hesitate.  We did add a stride in the lines and did a trot change, so it wasn't a perfect hunter trip but I was very proud of us!  Not long ago I could barely work up the nerve to canter jumps at home, and to come to a new place and canter an entire course was a huge deal for me.  Three years in the making!  It was a hot day, we were tired and Cupid had been so good I decided to save the jumper ring for another day.  But I was very proud of both of us!
Clear round ribbons
We were done by 9:30, but it already felt like midday it was  so hot!  I was very thankfully the smaller jump divisions were first.  I hosed Cupid off before we left, and of course gave him plenty of carrots and an apple and told him what a good boy he was.
Nice cool bath!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How Cupid got his Groove Back

Cupid and I had a few rides that felt a little mediocre.  I didn't even notice at first.  He wasn't misbehaving, in fact he was being very good.  He didn't feel like he was hurting.  But he just seemed a little flat, there was a little spark missing.  It wasn't until after I saw my trainer riding him, then I had another ride, that I even put it together.  So I gave him a day off, and then tried to make sure we vary our rides a little so he doesn't get bored.  Even just warm up different, start asking him to do a little leg yielding or serpentines sooner instead of starting out just walking along the rail each direction.  Also canter a little earlier, more stretchy trot circles because he seems to like that.

We had a few really good rides, where Cupid was very responsive and forward and just seemed happy to do his job.  But then on Sunday when I was supposed to have a jump lesson he was a little too forward!  He hadn't felt rushy in a long time so it scared me a little.  He actually didn't do anything bad just was quicker than usual.  So my trainer lowered all the jumps so I can focus on the stuff in between rather than the jumps themselves and we did several full courses.  Once I was able to relax Cupid was very good!

I've since noticed that he is shedding.  Summer isn't really over yet, but the days are getting shorter.  I've joked before that he has seasonal affective disorder, he does tend to get a little funny when the seasons change!

Yesterday I went to the arena for my lesson, and all the jumps were stacked because I think they were doing maintenance on the arena.  I saw the big empty arena and the white plastic barrels that we use as jump fillers, and of course I thought about setting up a barrel pattern!  I told my trainer, and she said we can use the barrels.  But not race them, lol.  We did various patterns around the barrels, practicing 20 meter circles and smaller circles, straight lines and turns, and some shoulder fore and leg yielding.  The same things we do generally, but in a different way so it felt fresh.  I hope Cupid enjoyed it too!

This morning I was thinking about lunging, but I had left my equipment in the trailer and didn't have the key.  So instead I hopped on Cupid bareback and we had a nice stroll around.  He was very good, except did try to stop and eat a few times!  There is a spiky plant he seems to like eating, but I worry he will cut himself or worse get a thorn stuck in his gums or something.  He did have a little startle when an automatic gate along the driveway started opening right when we passed it, but he quickly realized it wasn't anything to be worried about.






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.