Friday, December 23, 2016

Increasing Expectations

My trainer and I often talk about how I sometimes still ride Cupid like a green horse, since it doesn't seem like that long ago that he was a three year old only trained for racing.  Sometimes I don't even realize what he is capable of now!  Plus to be honest, a lot of it (like turning with my inside rein or using a leading rein) is just bad habits.  But it seems like Cupid is starting to expect more from me!  We have been working on getting him to jump from the base of a jump (by using ground poles in front of the jump, as well as me sitting in the saddle to the base), and I've also been working hard on improving my position (not collapsing on his neck or jumping ahead), as well as supporting him with my leg coming to a jump.  So when I messed up the approach coming to an oxer with the barrels underneath, he was not very happy with me!  He landed and started tossing his head and getting quick.  I almost thought he was going to buck for a second!  But I sat up and he came to a stop.  My trainer told me I totally just let me reins go slack and collapsed on his neck, and that confused Cupid since it's not what we've been doing. 

I was a little nervous after that, so we went back to the cross rail that was our warm up fence.  We trotted it a few times, then cantered it a few times.  My trainer told me to lean back, repeating it several times as I approached the jump.  Even though it felt like I was leaning way back, I think I was actually just in the correct spot.  I felt very balanced, and could actually let Cupid lift me out of the saddle as he jumped. 

Then we went back and did the entire course we had been working on, which was the cross rail and six strides down to a vertical, then go around the end of the arena and jump the brush box on the diagonal, then go around the opposite end in a figure  down the other diagonal to the barrel oxer.  We did the course twice through, and it felt really good!  Cupid is very responsive, he just needs me to ride correctly! 

Earlier in the lesson we did some canter work, and tried to see if I could get him to do a flying lead change.  We did not get it.  My trainer may ride him and work with him on it, I think he will figure it out pretty quick with someone more experienced guiding him. 

After a nice dry period the paddocks have almost gotten dry, but it is raining again today. :/ 
In his cozy fleece blanket, enjoying his grain
Feeding him apples is a messy experience!

Monday, December 19, 2016


Winter is upon us, full force.  It has been really cold in the mornings, I can't even feel my toes when I ride!  It's not just my imagination, it was literally freezing cold (32 degrees). 

On Saturday morning Cupid and I shared the arena with two dressage horses.  They were practicing some pretty advanced movements and I had a hard time avoiding them because I was never sure which direction they would be going.  We had one close call but luckily avoided a collision.

Cupid started out a little slow, I think due to the cold.  I let him walk for a while to warm up, then we moved to a trot and worked on some circles and serpentines.  I asked for a canter on the left and he just trotted faster.  I tried again with the same result, so I realized I needed to get him in front of my leg and we did some shortening and lengthening at the trot.  Then we picked up the canter on his easier side (right lead).  He was still a little slow, I think he flattened to a four beat gait at one point so on the long sides I got up in two point and asked him to move out a little.  Then we cut across the short side of the ring, and when I asked him to come to a trot in the middle he correctly anticipated a simple lead change and that we were turning left.  This has tended to work - he got the left lead.  We went around a few times to the left.

We took a little walk break, and Cupid hung his head like he was exhausted.  Such a drama queen sometimes!  We did a little more trotting, then we picked up the left lead canter on a circle.  We cantered over a ground pole a few times, and I focused on sitting back and trying to get him to the base of the pole.

On Sunday I put out several poles on the ground.  We did a little trot course over them.  Then I cantered them but just one lead at a time.  With the cold his transitions were a little sticky.  But he was very relaxed cantering over the poles and not trying to jump them or taking off the long spots.  After about half an hour in the ring we went on a little ride around the property.  There was frost on the grass, and I could hear ice cracking as we walked across a little puddle.  Cupid startled a bit at a tarp that blew in the wind but kept walking.  Despite the cold we had a good weekend and I'm happy I was able to get two rides in.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Little Bro Wins!

Cupid has a half brother one year younger than him, named Global Magician.  He is a chestnut gelding by Globalize, and was born on the same farm as Cupid.  I never met him, but I follow his racing career.  Global Magician has had a lot more success racing than Cupid, and has placed in a few stakes races!  His record is 20-3-6-5, and he has earned just under $170,000!  Currently he is in Florida, and the race he won was a claiming race, 5 furlongs on the turf course.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Cupid was due for his annual dental appointment.  I couldn't coordinate with the one we used last year, or the year before, so I ended up going back to a vet practice I used for my old horse years ago.  The vet and her assistant were both super nice, and very sweet with Cupid patting him and trying to keep him as comfortable as possible during the procedure.  The vet noted his arrhythmia after sedation, though I think he has it always (or at least it's been noted before).
Rinsing his mouth
Checking the alignment

The vet said his mouth looked good overall; he was developing some points in his teeth but nothing sharp yet and no abrasions on his cheeks.  She showed me how the wear was a little uneven, and how he is starting to wear the enamel on his front tooth probably from scraping it on the bars.  She said the hay net was a good idea (I just ordered more, that are a heavier nylon web, hopefully those will last longer!) but next time we can discuss other options if it looks worse.  She also showed me how I can scrape plaque off his teeth!  She said I didn't need to do it, but can if I want to and Cupid is good about it.
The vet pointed out that Cupid has a little overbite, which I recall the vet saying during our pre purchase exam too.  But it's pretty mild and not really cause for concern.  She said he will probably need to get done again in about a year, and after that can perhaps go a year and a half between visits.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Confidence Boost

I had one of those great lessons where I really enjoyed jumping and thought that maybe I could show over fences someday after all. 
We started with some flat work to warm up.  We worked on bending, circles, and shortening and lengthening the trot.  Then we did a little canter, starting on the left lead on a circle and Cupid got the correct lead.  After a few laps, sitting on the short sides and in two point with a little inside bend and lengthening on the long sides, we cut across the middle of the arena and did a simple change.  Cupid seems to have figured this exercise out, as soon as I asked him to trot in the middle he anticipated the direction and lead change so I barely had to ask!

Then we started with a little cross rail, with a pole on the ground one trot stride out.  We trotted in and the pole helped us get a good distance, and allowed me to focus more on my position - supporting Cupid with my leg and not getting ahead.  Then we added another pole another step in front, and then a third plus a rail on the landing side.  The landing rail threw Cupid off the first time, but he quickly figured out how to navigate it.  We went around in circles, first on the left rein then the right.  He was being perfect, relaxed in the approach and landing softly and coming back down to a trot.
After doing the cross rail several times each direction we went to two jumps (a crossrail and vertical) that my trainer said were 3 long strides apart, that we should trot into and do in 4.  Cupid was perfect!  After going through it twice my trainer put the crossrail up a little, making it a deeper X which she said would help Cupid with his form.  Since Cupid was behaving so well I was able to relax myself and actually have fun.  I was very happy with Cupid, and also proud of myself because I was able to land and get myself organized a lot better then I usually do.  I still got a little too forward and up Cupid's neck in some of my approaches but overall I think I did pretty good!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

New Shoes

Cupid has a special talent for losing shoes in the winter.  After the most recent incident I decided to try clips on him.  I was a little hesitant because I thought he would still lose a shoe, and take a chunk of his foot with it, but we lost so much riding and training time last winter I decided to give it a try.  It's been raining and so far so good!

Another recent experiment we tried that was not a big success is feeding him with a hay net.  I thought it would be good if he ate more slowly so he doesn't get bored in his stall, but he has destroyed two nylon hay nets within two weeks!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

On Thanksgiving day Cupid and I took a walk down the road to the county park where we can trail ride.  I decided to put a chain on his nose just in case.  On the way there he started out pretty good, but once again he started getting nervous as we got further away from home.  I was hoping that if I led him instead of rode he would be calmer, since I wouldn't be nervous and passing that on to him, but I don't think it made much difference.  Even though there was lot of grass at the park he was too distracted to enjoy it.  He was on high alert and wanted to keep moving, but luckily wasn't dragging me or doing anything really naughty.  I waited until he felt a little relaxed then headed back.  He definitely wanted to get back home, but luckily for the most part still behaved.  It was tough in a few parts where the trail was very narrow I had to walk in front of him, he's not used to being led like that and since he was nervous I was worried he would run me over.  Luckily we made it back in one piece.

After we were back on the property he felt much more relaxed right away.  In case he still had some nervous energy I let him into the new round pen.  He did trot and throw a few bucks!  But mostly he enjoyed rolling in the sand.  He rolled about 6 times! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Follow the Leader

It's hard to believe that Cupid is nearing the end of his five year old year, seems like just yesterday he was that super green three year old.  But last weekend he served as the old pro for my friend's first ride outside the arena on her three year old!  We spent about half an hour walking around the property, with the three year old following quietly behind Cupid.  We passed by some commotion with fence work being done, horses being ridden, bunnies running in front of us.  Cupid actually had one small spook getting startled coming around a corner, but it didn't bother the other horse.  We stepped over a little log too.  I think Cupid enjoyed having some company.

On Sunday it was raining, and we rode in a very crowded arena.  Cupid was very good, and we even cantered around quietly.  We have been pretty good about picking up the left lead, but he does seem to struggle a little towards the end of a ride if he's getting tired.  We may need to work a little on fitness.

My trainer rode Cupid last week.  I wasn't there to watch but she said he was very good and has made a lot of progress since she last rode him several weeks ago.  I have pretty much gotten to the point where I have taught Cupid everything I know, so I asked my trainer to start riding him periodically to help him progress more.  Especially with our dressage / flatwork in general, this is as high as I ever got with my last horse so we will have to learn together from here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


I am really happy, and relieved, that Cupid was totally back to his normal self our last two rides! Prior to that he was still being reluctant the first time I would ask for a trot, and I would have to get after him a little, and then he'd be mostly okay afterwards.  But our last two rides he was perfectly responsive.
Goofy horse, playing with his brush

I was gone a few days last week for a work trip, and my trainer was set to ride Cupid in my absence.  I was looking forward to hopefully seeing some progress.  Unfortunately the day I was leaving I went out to find Cupid missing a shoe.  I called the shoer, but he was not able to fix it until the day I came back so she didn't ride.

Cupid got a trace clip, done by one of the other trainers at my barn.  He has been sweating from even pretty easy rides, so hopefully this will help him be more comfortable.  
Cupid and I did a little trail ride.  This was our first good ride, Cupid was not hesitant to trot at all.  I thought it was just because he was happier being out of the arena.  He even cantered a few strides up a little incline.  I asked him to rough it a little, scrambling up a few steps between two trails that run parallel.  He hadn't been on the upper trail before, it dead ends in a little clearing where there is a shed/garage.  We walked past it, and Cupid was pretty surprised by a tarp covered pile on the other side.  I was surprised by his reaction, I wouldn't have expected him to be wary of it.  But he was staring at it, a bit curious but also nervous so he would slowly inch towards it, then freeze and back up.  I ignored it and made him do a few little circles and figure eights.  I didn't make him go all the way up to it, I just wanted him to focus on me.

Then we found an empty pasture to walk around in.  When it rains the water forms a stream across.  Right now it was mostly just a muddy, marshy line across the pasture.  We walked up towards it, and Cupid stopped in front of it.  He jumped over the first time, but walked through the next few times as we went back and forth across it.  I had fun doing something a little different, and will try to keep riding him out a little more though it will be hard in the winter.

The next day I had my lesson, and again Cupid was great.  We did some flat work including circles, bending and shoulder fore both sides, and making sure I balance with a half halt before the corners.  We did a little canter work, and Cupid got both leads correct. 

Then we trotted through a few poles, and Cupid was more relaxed then the last time we did this.  We ended up doing a little cross rail a few times each direction.  Cupid was good, and relaxed throughout.  My trainer said we would do some longe line work, so I can focus on my position a little more.  I also talked to her about maybe riding Cupid semi-regularly, since he now pretty much knows everything I do I think I will need a little more help to continue with his progress!

Vital Signs

Although I felt like I was making progress with Cupid I still had some concerns that he was uncomfortable.  Plus he was due for vaccines anyhow, so we scheduled a vet appointment. 

The vet measured Cupid at 15.3 hands, and just over 900 lbs. (the first time he's broken 900!)  His temperature was 99.9 degrees.  The vet watched him trot and checked him over from head to tail, and said that overall Cupid looks like a very healthy horse.  The only thing he could find was that he was a little reactive to the hoof testers in both his front feet, and recommended packing his feet a few days to see if that helps.  Also he is due for dental, but just for regular maintenance.  We discussed the behavioral issues, and the vet's conclusion was that Cupid was a little bored and just taking advantage of me!  He suggested I try helping the feet, and also seeing if Cupid is more willing to go outside the arena.  He didn't think a blood test would turn up anything, and said if things don't improve we can do a more thorough lameness workup and maybe xray the feet.
Getting kisses - apology for misbehaving and causing me to worry?

The following day I resolved to be more firm if necessary in our ride.  It started off well at the walk, but as soon as I started organizing myself to ask for a trot transition Cupid started balking and sure enough when I put my leg on he stopped dead.  I gave him a few taps with the whip behind my leg, and he swished his tail and pinned his ears and kicked out.  I squeezed again, he didn't move, so I gave a few taps with the whip and he kicked again.  I asked again, and he reluctantly trotted off.  Once he got going he was fine.  We did trot work for a little bit, then I let him walk.  The next time I asked for a trot it was much better!

The next day was Saturday, and I rode him outside the arena.  The ground was a little muddy but not too bad.  We went all around the property and found a few places where we could trot a little.  This time he was good about picking it up.  We also did (I think) our first gate.  Cupid was a little confused, but good.  We were facing the gate, so first I asked him to move his hindquarters around so I can reach down and unlatch it.  My old horse used to always push the gate open with his nose but Cupid doesn't know that trick so I pushed it open.  Then I asked Cupid to swing his hindquarters the other way so we can walk through.  It was the gate to an empty large paddock, we rode a loop inside along the fence, then walked out and closed the gate behind us.  It's not trail-class worthy yet, I definitely can't keep my hand on it the whole time, but it was a fun exercise.

Since then I've had one more ride and a lesson.  Each time I had to be a little firm the first time I ask for a trot, but afterwards Cupid is very good.  We also were able to get the left lead canter each ride.  In our lesson today we did some trot poles (three poles each one trot stride apart) and Cupid was a little excited about it.  We circled before the poles until he relaxed a little, and halted after them.  I went through the line of poles three times halting afterwards.  The next time I went through he was good - until all of the sudden I felt him losing steam under me.  He thought I forgot to halt and would help me out!  He does seem to pick up on patterns.  Originally we were going to end with a crossrail but decided that was enough for today.

Friday, October 21, 2016

First Rains

The days are getting a lot shorter, and we've had our first rains.  Luckily the ground was dry and soaked it up pretty quick so there isn't much mud.  Our outdoor arena had new footing installed.  When I tried it it was still pretty deep but hopefully it will settle and be an improvement.  The indoor was also deep dragged, so was uneven and lumpy for a few days but now it is quite good.
Time to get the blanket out, but at least we're getting some grass

I'm not totally sure what to make of Cupid's health/attitude right now.  He is still sometimes grumpy/sensitive when I ask him to trot.  It is much better, less frequent and if it does happen I just need to ask again and he'll go.  I've also figured out the best position to ask; sitting back slightly but keeping my seat light, and then just a squeeze with my legs at the girth (instead of behind where they tend to slip to).  I was thinking of maybe doing a blood panel to make sure Cupid doesn't have any deficiencies.  I asked my trainer about it and she thought it was worth discussing with the vet; Cupid is due for vaccines anyhow so I can ask then.  Or could it just be the change in season or a growth spurt?  I really don't know, but it is making me a little stressed because he is just not acting like himself. 

We had some pretty good flatwork lessons this week, aside from the few times he didn't want to go.  But we got the left lead both lessons!  At first I was still having some trouble, so what we did was go to the right, pick up the right lead, then go across the diagonal changing directions but staying on the right lead to the left.  We went around the short end and down the long end in the counter canter, then I asked for a simple change in the next corner and we got the left lead!  I think Cupid realized it would be easier than continuing to counter canter!  In my last lesson we also started from the right lead, but asked for the simple change on the diagonal and got it the first try, so maybe Cupid remembered.  My trainer said I am usually better about keeping him straight on a diagonal too.

I've been working hard on my position (especially soft elbows, hands closed, and heels down), and on riding more off my outside rein.  An exercise I did was to ride a twenty meter circle at the trot, then do a ten(ish) meter circle between the outside line and centerpoint of the big circle, resisting the urge to pull my inside rein.  My trainer said take and give on the inside rein if I need to, but not hold it.  It also helped having my crop in my outside hand to keep his shoulder from going out, especially going to the left.  It was much easier going to the right.

I finally ordered a tack trunk to go in front of Cupid's stall.  I have so much stuff for him I think I need about 3 more...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rest and Recovery

Cupid had a little over a week off, with just the ground driving session and a little light lunging.  He kept himself busy chasing around a new horse in his pasture I think.  Today I found him with a new scratch on his neck, looks like it could be teeth marks. 

We also decided to do a course of UlcerGard, just in case.  I was told there wouldn't be any bad side effects even if it's not really necessary.  My trainer asked me if he was being "more mouthy than usual" as he was chewing on first some spurs, then his lunge line.  But he's always done that. 

Our first ride back was just a light hack around the property.  He seemed to be feeling okay, and was very good about walking through some rough trails that were pretty overgrown.  Though he is getting worst about trying to stop and eat!  We had a little excitement when we walked by a paddock where a horse didn't want to be caught and was running around.  Cupid's head and tail went up and he pranced a little.  He settled down after a few moments though.

I have been longing him before I ride, in case it helps for his back warm up a little before mounting.  I've also been spraying his back with Sore no More spray before currying. 

He is still showing a little reluctance to pick up the trot, but is getting better.  Today I couldn't get him to pick up the left lead canter though.  We are not sure why, he seems to be moving very well otherwise.  I will try it on the longe line next this weekend and see if he gets it without my interference.  My trainer said with young horses sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back. 
I wasn't sure Cupid would like these healthier treats, but he gives them two hooves up!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Learning to Ground Drive

Since we can't ride, I decided Cupid and I should try a little ground driving!  It's possible Cupid did a little of this in his early training but I don't know for sure.  My trainer is experienced in it so I knew we would be in good hands regardless.

I started out with a little light longing.  Cupid was less reluctant to go, though the first time I asked him to pick up a trot going to the left he did pin his ears at me and give me a dirty look!  But he trotted around and looked good.  We did a little walk and trot both directions, then I put on his balancing side reins and did a little trot and canter each direction.  He picked up the left lead the first time I asked, but then the second time he was incorrect a few times before he got it.

Then we snapped on a longe line on each side, and let him get used to it running down his side and over his back and behind him, which did not present a problem.  My trainer got into position, behind and slightly to the inside of him, and I was by his head just in case.  She asked Cupid to walk forward with a cluck and he responded right away.  We started out walking around the arena along the rail with a few walk-halt-walks.  Cupid was perfect!  I thought Cupid would be a little confused about a person being behind instead of next to him and try to turn around, but he acted like he knew what he was supposed to do!  We did a few changes of direction down the diagonal as well as turning in a half circle.  Then my trainer had him go in a circle and let the lines get a little longer and got him up to a trot.  Cupid continued to be perfect! 

Then it was my turn to take the reins.  I had to resist the urge to get him going by raising and lowering the lines, like how you see them doing on a stagecoach in an old movie!  I tried to keep a light feel on the lines, and make sure we stayed straight.  It was fun, and I was really proud of how good Cupid was. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Sore back :(

Cupid had been a little cranky the last few days, and I thought it was the heat and flies.  And possibly his abscessed foot bothering him a little, though he has been moving sound.  We had our routine chiropractic appointment coming up this week, so I thought that could help too.  But yesterday it all came to a head when he just refused to go at all.  We started out walking okay, but as soon as I asked him to trot he became very balky, kicking out with a hind leg, swishing his tail furiously, and even baring his teeth when I asked him to go forward.  Sometimes he is a little fussy, but usually it only takes a moment to get him going again and then he's fine.  This time he just would not go at all.  I got off, my trainer got on, and trotted around.  He seemed fine.  She cantered him both directions.  I got back on, and he would not go.  So it was confusing; he seemed like he was moving okay, my trainer thought he felt okay, so I wasn't sure if something was bothering him or it was a respect issue.  I told my trainer I wasn't sure, she said at this point I need to make him go regardless.  I asked him to go with my leg, and reaffirmed it with my crop with a few quick taps behind my leg.  To no avail.  My trainer got back on and Cupid was good. 

Then my trainer thought maybe because I'm much shorter than her, maybe where my leg sits on him was causing discomfort; either a sore rib or possibly ulcers.  When she got on without lowering the stirrups from where I ride Cupid still went for her but was noticeably unhappier, with his head up in the air and tail swishing.

We also tried taking his saddle off to see if that was bothering him.  Though the saddle fitter looked at it a few months ago, Cupid has put on some muscle so it was possible that it was not fitting him as well.  My trainer got on bareback and trotted him a little.  I got on and.... Cupid doesn't want to go.  It was quite frustrating - my trainer telling me to make him go forward and Cupid not listening, all the while not sure if he was trying to tell me he is hurting or if he was just being a total brat.  I got a few steps trot out of him, and gave him a lot of praise.  My trainer told me to trot him once more, it took a few tries and I was getting very frustrated again, but finally a few steps and we ended on that.

The chiropractor appointment was a little later that same morning, so when she came I told her what was happening.  She started the examination, everything looked good (better than usual even) until she got to his back.  She determined he was very sore in his 14th and 15th vertebrae, and showed me where you could feel a little swelling.  She made some adjustments and recommended giving Cupid a week off from riding (turnout and lunging are okay, just no weight on his back).  She thought he should feel better in a week, but if not then try him on bute and see if that helps; if not then further diagnosis in order. 
Waiting for our appointment
Pink for areas that needed adjustment, yellow for problem areas
The chiropractor looked at the fit of both my saddles and said they looked good.  We don't know how Cupid hurt himself.  I feel horrible for trying to make him go when he was hurting.  My trainer said he still needs to be obedient, but I don't really blame him!  I hope he feels better soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Indian Summer

The last week has been hot!  Yesterday it was already 80 degrees by the time I left the barn at 9am.  We are lucky where we are near the coast we only get flies a few weeks each year, but unfortunately now is that time and they are out in full force.  It makes Cupid a little cranky.  He has a lot of little scratches on his legs, I think it's from his own hooves when he stomps at flies. 
Fly proof

Last week I had a work event, so my trainer rode Cupid that day and did flatwork, focusing on getting him on the bit.  She said he seemed less comfortable cantering to the left, but did pick up the lead.  She ended her ride doing a little stretchy trot, which we had just started.

The next few times I rode Cupid I did feel him seeking contact a little, and not pushing his nose so far out.  I did a few rides just walk/trot, still taking it easy.  I try to shorten and lengthen the trot a bit, and make sure to balance before turns.  We also worked on 20 meter circles and a little leg yielding. 

On Sunday there were several small crossrails set up in the arena, so after doing flatwork for about half an hour I trotted over a few of the jumps.  We haven't jumped in about two weeks, but Cupid was relaxed.

We had a flatwork lesson yesterday.  I am still working on keeping my legs long, as I tend to push against the stirrup and bring my heels up.  I am also working hard on riding more off the outside rein, or at least not letting it get too long!  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Another Abscess

Cupid unexpectedly popped an abscess through his coronary band.  I thought at first it was left over from the one he had in July, then I remembered that was his left foot and now it is the right.  At the show I thought Cupid was struggling with the footing a little, but it felt more like something in his hind end - left hind maybe every so often just a little hitch in his step.  I brought it up to my trainer and she said he looked okay but if anything she thought it was the right front.  I think what I was feeling was him trying to transfer the weight off that foot just a little.  He was never lame, just one day he had the hole in his heel!  So I cleaned it and wrapped it a few days, and we have been taking it easy.
Abscess on Cupid's coronary band

We went on a trip over to the horse park.  Cupid has been loading great - today our barn manager was there when we were loading and he even commented how good Cupid was.  We did a little flatwork in the arena, mostly just walk/trot with a short canter.  Then we walked a big loop around the cross country field and Cupid was super well-behaved!  We didn't go in the water or do any jumps because I didn't want to infect or put extra pressure on his foot.  I filled up Cupid's treat dispenser to keep him busy.

Then on the way home the freeway we got caught in some traffic.  Well that's what we thought - but it turned out they closed the road for over an hour for an investigation!!  So the poor horses had to sit on the trailer.  I hope Cupid is not going to want to not load again after this!

I got Cupid new boots.  We got some Woofs cross country boots at our trainer's recommendation.  I also ordered a pair of the Back on Track quick wraps because there was a pretty good sale.  I don't know how much they help but I figure they can't hurt!
Back on Track quick wraps
Woof cross country boots

Monday, September 12, 2016

Woodside Pony Club Combined Test

I got to the horse park around 6:30am to muck out, feed and groom Cupid, and prepare for our dressage test.  I decided to just use my jumping saddle for both phases because I'm more comfortable in it.  Since we were among the first groups the warm up arena was not too crazy.  It was the same arena we rode in yesterday.  My trainer was riding right after me on her young horse (who was at his first show!) so we warmed up together.  We walked around a few minutes to let the horses settle in.  Then we trotted some 20 meter circles, did a few shorten and lengthenings at the trot, a little shoulder-fore, and cantered both directions though we wouldn't be cantering in the test.
Heading to dressage with Cupid's new friend, also an ex-racehorse

My number was called as the next up.  I started trotting around the outside of the dressage court, and Cupid was a little startled when he saw the judge and scribe in the booth!  We rode by it yesterday and he had no problem, I think he wasn't expecting to see people in there.  So he took a few sideways steps and dropped to a walk.  I reassured him and let him walk past the booth, then we picked up the trot again and I did a little shoulder fore to get his attention.  Then we entered the ring.  I thought our first halt was pretty good.  We could have been a little quicker going back into the trot after, we took several walk steps first.  I thought the rest of the test went pretty good.  Could have been a little more forward, but I was happy with it until the final halt, which was not great Cupid wasn't quite still.  But overall I was really happy!

We had about 90 minutes until our jumping round, so we went back to the stall and untacked and Cupid got several carrots.  I wish I had given myself a little more time to warm up again before jumping.  The jumping warm up arena was a little busier, and Cupid had a little spook which unnerved me.  Then the jumps were occupied, then they were resetting them, and I heard my name called before we even did any warm up fences!  I jumped one really quick and headed over to the show ring - I was a little late and kind of got scolded.  I heard the judge announce that you need to stop and salute before starting your round - I did not know that so I was lucky I heard the announcement because several riders got chewed out for it.
Our course - more complex than I expected!

We entered the arena and Cupid whinnied.  Then he was a little distracted by the horses in the turnout paddocks behind the ring, one was banging her bucket around.  So between the spook in the arena, only having one warm up jump, being rushed and running late, and then Cupid seeming distracted, and a somewhat tricky course, I was not feeling confident at all and went very conservative trotting between all the jumps.  I had a little too tight hold on Cupid's head, and we had one rail down.  Cupid was really good, I just should have loosed up a bit.  I was happy with Cupid but a little disappointed in myself, but it was a learning experience and hopefully next time I can relax a little more.

After jumping Cupid met my 6 month old niece, since my sister and brother in law had come to watch.  He seemed curious about her, and was very gentle.  He kept reaching his nose towards her, and she touched him and even stuck her fingers up his nostrils and he was very good!  It was really cute.  In three years maybe they will be doing lead line classes together!

We went back to the barn to untack, and I was horrified to find blood on both of Cupid's bell boots.  Normally I use fleece lined ones because they seem comfortable, but I never thought they were strictly necessary.  I used plain rubber ones for the show and they rubbed the backs of his pasterns raw.  I felt really bad that happened, poor Cupid!!  They were only on him for about 20-30 minutes.  :(  Cupid seemed very tired afterwards, just not quite his normal happy self.  Even though it wasn't too much work physically I guess it was a lot of excitement for him.

My score for dressage was 63.438%.  Pretty much all my scores were between 6 and 7, and I think one 7.5.  In all honesty I was expecting it to be higher, but I guess it was fair.  I was hoping to do better than what I got at the Halloween show last year (39.1, translating to 68.1%), and I still think we did better but that test was scored more generously.  Since our division was small we still got a ribbon.

You can see Cupid looks a little tired, but I am very proud of him
Originally we were planning to do a little cross country schooling in the afternoon before leaving, but decided maybe the horses (and riders!) had enough for one day so packed and headed home.  I washed Cupid's wounds and sprayed alushield on them since ointment would just draw too much dust and dirt that close to the ground. 
Poor Cupid :(

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Show Prep

In preparation for our combined test, Cupid got a bath today.  Though he behaves well, he does not really like them.  His winter coat is starting to grow, so he was pretty fluffy after he dried!

I toweled him off and wrapped his legs.  He was great loading into the trailer!  We made the short drive to the event without incident.  We unloaded and got the horses settled in their temporary stalls.  I hung two water buckets and dumped two bags of shavings.  The show office was open but they didn't have the entry packets available so I'll have to remember in the morning.
Cupid is on the far right

After letting the horses relax and eat some hay, we tacked up for a practice ride.  Cupid seemed pretty relaxed.  We mounted up by the barn and walked down the road to the arena.  There wasn't too much activity going on, and our horses were good.  Once in the arena we walked around a little, then all three of us trotted both directions together.  This is the best Cupid has ever been on the first day at a new place!  (Well he has been to the horse park before, so maybe that's why!)  We cantered one at a time.  Cupid and I missed our left lead the first time, but he was good.  Then we each went through our dressage tests.  Our turns down the centerline and halts were pretty good.  My trainer told me to watch my circles, and make sure Cupid doesn't shift his hind end left at the halt but that overall it was good.

We ended the ride by walking along the top of the cross country course, and Cupid was perfect!  I gave him his dinner, then cleaned my tack for tomorrow.  Our dressage test as at 8:10am, and jumping at 10:14.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pretty in Purple

Doesn't Cupid look cute in his new purple saddle pad?? 
Our favorite retailer (Riding Warehouse) was running a labor day sale so I got a few necessities (Magic Cushion for his feet, stud chain for travel so he doesn't drag me around new places, white pad for dressage) and a few things for fun - the purple pad, sun shirt for riding in the heat, and a navy hunt coat!  I also ordered some white breeches which I promptly returned when I realized they are very see-through!

We are entered to a combined test this weekend - dressage Intro test B (walk/trot) and jumping 2".  I'm already getting nervous, but we had some great practice sessions the past week.  I've been working on my turn down the centerline and my halts.  I'm not quite there yet (turning too wide, and Cupid isn't stopping square or staying still) but making a little progress. 

My first lesson this week was flatwork.  More of turning off the outside rein, and squares.  My trainer wants me to go more forward on the sides of the squares, but I have a hard time asking for it since I know another corner is coming right up!  We also worked on transitions, and making sure I don't throw away my contact during them.

Today I had a jumping lesson.  We actually did quite a bit of flatwork first - for preparation and also because there was another crazy horse lunging and the arena was being watered and the hose was stretched out across.  Cupid was feeling a little cranky by the time we were going to start jumping, he seemed like he thought he was done and didn't want to go back into a trot.  But once we started jumping he was happy!  We warmed up over a crossrail.  It was in the middle of the arena at a bit of an angle, and I thought it was angled differently so our first approach was less than stellar but since it was small Cupid wasn't too disturbed.  We trotted a figure 8 around it a few times jumping from each lead, then cantered.  I had to do a simple transition going from right to left because Cupid landed on his right lead. 

Then we did a pretty challenging course.  We started with the warm up crossrail from the right lead, land and go left and circle back around to the brush box, land go straight and roll back left turn to the barrels, land and go right and circle back around to the first crossrail, land and go left and around to a one stride combo vertical to oxer but with a jump interfering with the approach so you had to come at an angle then straighten out.  A bit confusing!  I botched the turn to the barrels so circled around there, then chickened out going into the combo so circled around again.  We did just the last combo again, I was still a little intimidated but not as bad, and it felt pretty good. 
From the far end of the ring, 1) right lead to the green and blue X, 2) loop around left to the brush box, 3) straight past the barrels and roll back over them, then 4) right circle back around the green and blue X
5) Continuing left circle back around to this one stride combo
 Despite my piloting errors Cupid was super, and very game!  He was listening to me, my trainer said his ears were flicking back and forth going okay where's the next jump!!  I did a much better job sitting up before my jumps, and Cupid listened and waited not taking the long spot.  I need to work on being able to get myself organized quicker after landing to prepare for the next job and be able to have better approaches.  Overall I was super happy with Cupid, he was a rockstar today!!  I have things to work on, but slow and steady I feel like I'm making progress and my nerves are slowly getting better too.  I hope I will feel this good after the show!
Earned his carrots today!
Ready for the show.... I think!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hip to Be Square

One thing I need to work on is my geometry - straight lines, good corners, and round even circles.  This came up when I was practicing some dressage fundamentals this weekend; our turns does the centerline were too wide, our circles bulged, and we consistently missed our marks especially when trying to halt at X.  The halt itself still needs a lot of work too!  I think we've stopped but then Cupid keeps trying to creep up.
Practicing our dressage with the aid of the German martingale
Matching gear from one of our favorite companies, Riding Warehouse!
Our other weekend ride incorporated poles.  We trotted through several pole courses.  Cupid trotted calmly over them, not trying to jump.  Then we worked on our canter striding: approaching a pole I would count down from 3 strides.  I think once I started the count one stride early, but we did a good job overall.  For this exercise it kind of helped that Cupid was lazy, because his strides were very steady and predictable and he didn't try to rush.  But our canter transitions were not very good, especially to the left.  I kind of chased Cupid into it.

I discussed my struggles with my trainer, and she suggested I really focus on using my outside rein.  She says I still ride Cupid like he's a young, green horse with an exaggerated leading rein, and he doesn't need that anymore. 

Cupid was having a lazy day, so in our warm up we did a lot of shortening and lengthening the trot.  During my lesson our canter transitions were much better because Cupid was not so behind my leg, and I think this is a good exercise for me to remember when I ride outside my lessons.

Then we worked on circles a little, focusing on using the outside rein.  We sometimes get stuck following on the rail (bulging out and reaching it earlier than the It is hard for me not to let my rein go slack, but we made some improvements.  Our trot circles were about 15m but I couldn't really go much smaller than 20 cantering. 

Then we found out the only thing harder than riding a circle was riding a square!  The arena fence was creating a shadow down the side, and we were supposed to stay on the inside of that line.  A few times we drifted towards the rail but it was good.  After trotting it a few times we tried at the canter.  Using the outside rein seemed to really help!  Overall I felt like this was a very productive lesson, and I'm happy to say my seat was much better though I still had a little trouble stretching down into my heel.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cupid's New House

Our barn has build a new shed in Cupid's pasture.  Even though he's in the barn at night, hopefully he will enjoy it if he wants shelter from sun or rain.
Cupid and I have had some great rides since returning from the horse park!

Last week we experimented with a German martingale.  My trainer thought it would be helpful for me getting Cupid on the bit - she said he was really good when she rode him and is seeking out the contact but I'm just too used to riding on a long rein!  We had it on the loosest setting, and I don't know if it was because of the German martingale or not but we had a really great flatwork session.  We rode in the outdoor (dressage) ring and Cupid was nice and forward, and good in his shoulder fores and leg yields.

Our second lesson last week had a little added excitement.  We started off well, with our warm up and flatwork, then jumped a crossrail a few times each direction.  Then we were going to do a little course of jumps, and midway through someone walked in with their crazy horse and let it out on the longe line and it started bucking!  Many facilities don't allow longing while there are riders in the arena; ours does (however is building a round pen to hopefully reduce this) but, in my opinion it is pretty rude to start while someone is mid-course!  Cupid spooked and took a few running steps; we were supposed to go by a jump combination but amid the chaos when I was trying to pull Cupid up I almost ended up crashing us into a jump!  I was a little shaken up.  Even though I didn't really want to jump after that, we jumped our first jump a few times and called it a day.  I'm glad I didn't fall off and no one got hurt; my trainer said it is a good learning experience as we will sometimes have to be around crazy horses (or rude people...)  I am learning, even if Cupid spooks if I just sit up he will listen and settle down. :)

During the weekend we just went on a nice little ride around the property.  On Monday I rode in the covered arena after work, and had to quit when it was starting to get dark and hard to see!  Unfortunate reminder that summer is over, and that I have to turn on the arena light before I ride!

Our first lesson this week focused on our jumping technique.  We just did a single fence and adjusted it: first a crossrail with a bounce pole on each side to help us with our rhythm.  Sometimes I feel like a pole can throw us off but Cupid met it pretty much perfectly each time!  
Then we worked on a bit of big crossrail, to help force me to be straight and also to get Cupid lifting his knees.

Finally we did a square oxer, I think maybe about 2'3", which was to get us both used to staying in the air longer!
I was super happy with Cupid, he was perfect!

In our second lesson, we started with our usual warm-up/flatwork.  Cupid was being a little lazy again, so my trainer had us work on shortening and lengthening the stride first at a trot then canter.
Then we warmed up over a crossrail, and went on to a one stride combination.  It was a bit of a tricky turn towards the first jump, we were trotting in from a left rein but there was a jump in the way so had to do pretty much a right angle to get their straight.  This was a really good exercise for me as I usually overshoot my turns!  With just one jump I can kind of get away with it (though I know it's wrong, and my trainer points it out too!) but with the combo I could really feel the difference and how much it helped going in straight.
One stride combo; started as 2 crossrails and gradually built the second one up into a square oxer
Then we did a little course, starting with the combination, then continuing around the arena at a left lead canter and jumping a vertical on the diagonal.  Then continue on the diagonal and kind of figure-eight back towards the green and blue crossrail.  For some reason this crossrail gave us the most trouble!  The first time around Cupid took off very long, and made a huge leap over it!  I was caught by surprise.  We did the last two jumps over, and I thought I was sitting up to the last jump but again we had a bit of a long spot, not nearly as bad but still not ideal.  We did the course again, and were still a little long on the last jump.  I'm not sure if it was the short turn going into it or because it was heading towards the gate?  But I told my trainer I would canter over a pole this weekend to help with my eye and for us to work on our striding.  But overall I was really happy with Cupid, he remained relaxed and we were able to canter our little course (with some simple changes along the way).
Last two jumps; vertical on the diagonal and back around to the crossrail