Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Week at a Glance

I was excited for my first lesson in over two months.  Unfortunately the weather was not very cooperative, with strong wind and rain, but historically it hasn't been a problem.  And aside from having trouble hearing my trainer, it was great!  One of our best rides yet!  We didn't canter, but had probably my most successful sitting trot ever.

Cupid's trot isn't the easiest to sit so I get in the trap of making his trot very small, almost a jog, to make it easier to sit.  On this day I don't know what the difference was but we had the perfect engaged trot and it just came together.

The exercise was a medium trot on a 20 meter circle, then shoulder in to shorten and sitting trot in a 10 meter circle, and continue back onto the bigger circle until I start to lose it at which point I post and increase back to a medium trot.

My next lesson a week later it took a lot longer to get that same level of engagement and connection.  (If only progress was always linear!)  But we had some nice moments, and I'm actually starting to get the hang of proper contact - I can lightly feel his mouth but don't feel like I'm hanging on his face.  I know it's really basic and I'm kind of embarassed it took this long but I just rode with loopy reins so long anything more felt like pulling.  I am happy with the new Myler level 2 bit.

The canter work felt good, more balanced on the left so more even both sides.  Except I was having some problem with my right leg getting short (usually it's the left!)  In our leg yields Cupid was a bit sticky moving off my left leg, but after a little reinforcement with the whip it got better.  The sitting trot didn't quite come together, but at least I could recognize and try to correct when it started to get a bit jog-ish.  We did transitions between walk and sitting trot.
In a sea of mud
I try to give Cupid variety in his work.  It's a bit harder in the winter when we prinarily stick to the covered arena, though we can do some poles or jumps, in hand work, lungimg or driving to mix it up.  But when the weather allows I try to get him out of the ring.

We did a little bareback ride around the ranch even though it was a bit windy, and Cupid was very good passing by tarps that were rattling, and new piles of wood from a tree that got knocked down in the storm.  But he did have to stop and stare at a blanket on the ground, lol.   Nothing bad, he just thought that doesn't belong there.
That doesn't belong there!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Watch & Learn

I know Cupid would be a lot further along if he had more pro rides, but I take some sort of perverse pleasure in seeing how far I can bring him along (with the support and guidance of my wonderful coach).  However I do occasionally ask her to ride him, both so I can see what he is capable of and so she has a better understanding where he's at and what works for him.  It has been a while, so I thought it would be a good time for her to get on.   We haven't had a lesson for over two months, but I told her Cupid has felt really good since his break and she should feel a big difference since she last rode him. 

Watching my trainer ride did not disappoint, she had Cupid looking great!  She kept it simple, doing the same kinds of exercises I have been working on - except she actually has Cupid connected and coming through.  She wasn't pulling on him, just keeping the contact steady and supporting with leg.  It was quite inspiring, and makes me determined to keep putting the work in so I can get him looking like this too (or at least come closer to it!)  It also made me proud of the progress Cupid has made, and of myself for the part I played in getting him there.
Looking like a real dressage horse!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Jumping into 2019

I can't believe it's 2019 already, 2018 went by way too fast!  On January 1 I got to the barn early, and had the arena to myself.  Our last few rides had felt really good, so I decided to ride in my jumping saddle - just start with some flatwork and see where it goes from there.  After a light warm up we started trotting over some poles, throwing in a few halts after.  Then we cantered a circle over a single pole on the right lead.  That felt good, so we trotted into and went through a little grid, coming to a halt after.  Cupid was soft and quiet through the grid, and came to a halt but was a little squirmy holding it for a few seconds. 

My confidence was pretty high, so I picked up the canter and pointed Cupid at the coop jump.  It's only 2', but we haven't jumped it before, nor anything solid in quite a while.  Although I had a moment of doubt a few strides out, I closed my legs and Cupid hit it perfect and smoothly sailed over, and came to a halt when I asked a few strides later!  I was happy with that, so we left the arena and had a nice cool down walk around the property. 

First time over this coop
This was a great way to start the new year, and I'm really excited about continuing our progress! 

Reservoir I pass on my drive to the barn

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Merry Christmas!

 I tried to keep my spending to a minimum this black Friday, so aside from the Myler bit and a few small items my only other purchase was a new half pad.  I had been using a sheepskin Christ Lammfelle, which was pretty nice but a bit long and didn't really lie smooth on the pommel.  I got a Rambo sheepskin half pad, in pony/cob size.  I got it in black, mainly because it was on sale and the white wasn't.  :p  It is very plush and seems to fit my saddle better, I hope Cupid likes it!

I also got something pretty neat and unique from my trainer: stirrup covers with my name and a glittery dressage horse on them!  What an awesome gift!

Cupid and I are continuing slowly coming back into full work.  I still have to keep most of my rides short, but we have been able to do a little cantering and even popped over a few small jumps.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Back in the Saddle

Cupid's break ended last week, and though I'm sure he was a little disappointed he's been a very good boy going back to work.  We did ground driving and lunging the first few days to gently ease back into it, but since he was turned out every day there were no fireworks. 

The first day ground driving we were doing a bit of the drunken sailor walk, wiggly lines and cutting corners.  I'm still not experienced with the lines and find it harder to steer compared to riding, but I'm guessing the answer is still the same: if you're not straight you're not forward enough.

Cupid looked pretty good on the lunge line.  At first I thought he still looked a little tight, but he has gotten all his leads correct each time.  It's hard for me to look objectively when it's in the back of my mind that his left shoulder may be tight then that's all I see.  He seems good, though I am having the body worker come out just in case. 

I got a Myler level 2 bit during the Black Friday sale, something my trainer and I had discussed trying.  It doesn't look very different from the level 1 I was using previously (except I got an eggbutt instead of a D-ring.)  I haven't ridden in it enough yet to see if there's an improvement but at the least Cupid doesn't mind it.
Myler level 2 Comfort Snaffle

I was very happy to get back in the saddle, and our first few rides have gone well.  I've been riding early in the morning, and have had to keep my rides to about 30 minutes to get back home to the baby.  So it's been forcing me to really make the minutes count and not just loaf around.  My main focus has been towards improving responsiveness, and I try to pick one or two things and execute them well.  We've done transitions within and between gaits; halts; square turns, leg yields, bending.  We haven't done much canter work (so far just a short bit on the right lead), he's not clipped and I don't want to get him too sweaty and not have enough time to cool him out. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Goals Report

I hope Cupid is enjoying the last of his break because I'm planning to start back up this week, maybe some ground driving tomorrow.  :)  But first, I am going to look back at the goals I had for this year and start thinking about some for 2019.
Pigpen, enjoying his time off
1) Develop a more effective leg.  I resort to using my upper body too much.  Even when I try / think I'm using my legs, like to keep Cupid straight when I know he's thinking of shying away from something, he ignores me so I know I need to be more effective.  Plus I let him break from the canter way more often than I should!
I'll give myself a B- for this one, there has definitely been progress though still room for improvement - especially in making sure I don't let my leg get short.  Several lessons on the lunge line helped as well as a lot of practice leg yielding.  Both my leg and intention have gotten stronger, especially when riding in the spooky outdoor arena.  Not breaking in the canter has also gotten a lot better, except at the end of the year when I think we were dealing with a bit of soreness it was pretty hard keeping him going on the left lead. 

2) First level dressage by the end of the year.  Of course that means rocking training level first.  Our first rated show is only a few weeks away!
C.  We are schooling First Level, though not there yet.  And while we managed to break 60 in Training, it took all year.  I am thinking of doing one show at Training (try out the new T-3), and hopefully be ready for First at Greenville in March since Cupid seems to like that venue.

3) Flying changes.  Left over from last year.
F - unfortunately we spend the better part of the year trying to just get the left lead :/  There were a few periods where it was good, and we had very smooth trot changes and played a bit with walk-canter transitions but it was not consistent.
In addition to doing rated dressage shows, I hope to do a few hunter schooling shows and be confident to canter.  I'd also like to learn to do trail obstacles, and continue getting experience on trail rides.  Most of all, I just hope Cupid and I stay healthy!
We didn't do any hunter shows, but did a working equitation clinic and then schooling show.  We definitely got lots of trail experience, and I feel Cupid is pretty solid on that front.  Overall Cupid did manage to stay pretty healthy, just a few minor short term things.  I managed to continue riding through my pregnancy, which was very fortunate. 

So looking back I don't feel like I did great on achieving my goals, though did progress towards them.  Still overall I am happy with how the year went, happy with and proud of Cupid, and looking forward to continuing on this journey!

Monday, December 3, 2018


Cupid is enjoying his downtime, not much to report just a few pictures from the past week. 
He had a scrape on his leg that was a bit puffy, but nothing serious.  I've been going out daily just grooming and walking him.  We have a lot more rain coming in the forecast.  They scraped the pasture which helped cut down the mud especially around the gates but I'm sure it's a losing battle.

With his buddies
Stretching his legs
Getting down & dirty
Handwalking on a rainy day
Ladies man