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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Woodside Horse Park

The Horse Park is a large show ground close to where Cupid is went, and though we'd thought about going there a few times somehow we've never quite made it.  It was a little last minute, but when my trainer was competing there and suggested we take Cupid along I agreed. 

We took the horses there on Wednesday night.  The portable stalls are a little small, but okay.  Cupid was happy when he realized he could reach up over the wall and touch noses with his neighbors!  Luckily the horse behind him seemed happy to play along.
Making friends
Thursday morning I went out to take care of Cupid before work, and lunged him a little.  He had a lot of energy and I let him canter for several minutes.  My trainer walked him during the day, then I went back to ride after work.  We rode in what was the dressage warm up area, with about six other horses.  We mostly worked on 20 meter circles and bending to get Cupid's attention.  He was a little quick, but behaved.  We had some pretty nice canters, which I was happy about.  Then we rode around the dressage arenas and in front of the judge's booth, which didn't bother Cupid.  Overall I was happy with the ride, it was pretty good for our first time at the horse park.
Need to get his head down a little
And I need to sit back more!
Friday I did the same routine in the morning, and he still had a lot of energy on the lunge.  For our evening ride we went in the covered arena, with only two other horses.  Cupid was actually less relaxed, he was jigging a lot and not very settled.  We ended up only doing walk/trot, and I was a little disappointed that we both were a little tense and couldn't seem to get over it.  But after our lesson we walked around the property a little with my trainer's other student, and Cupid was very good.

On Saturday I was able to spend most of the day with Cupid.  Instead of lunging him in the morning we did several walks throughout the day.  By then he was mostly interested in trying to find things to eat - a good thing compared to when he prances and drags me around in a new place!  For our lesson we went to yet another arena, and rode together with my trainer's other student.  Her mare is an old pro so I didn't have to worry about Cupid picking up any naughty behavior!  I even volunteered to canter first.  We did a little jumping - just a single crossrail first from a trot then canter, both directions.  If Cupid was too quick I circles him, but he was pretty good.  We cooled down with another walk around the property. I was quite happy with how the day went.

Not much grass at the horse park
Sunday was our last day at the horse park.  We went on several walks in the morning, and had our lesson early afternoon, again together with the other student.  Cupid was perfect!  We worked on circles and leg yielding, and did a little canter work.  Right when I thought we would get into some jumping, one of the facility people told us they were closing the arena for maintenance.  My trainer decided that was enough for the day, since it was our fourth day in a row!  We did our final walk around the property before getting ready to head home.

Overall I think we had a very good experience at the horse park.  I am getting a little more confident handling Cupid when he is quick, and he is getting used to traveling and new places.  Hopefully if we come back for a show he will remember and the adjustment period will be shorter!  We still need to figure out how to handle water, since he likes to play with his bucket and spill it all out.  On Friday his stall was totally flooded!  During the weekend when I was around I only left a small 2 gallon bucket in his stall and hand watered him.  My trainer said next time we should try securing it with a bungee cord.
Happy to be home - rolled in his stall right away!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Back in the Saddle

I had a great vacation, but missed Cupid and was happy to see him when I got back.  My trainer was able to ride him a few times while I was gone, and said it went well.  Cupid also had to stay inside a few days due to work on the pasture fence.  Normally I would have tried to get him out of his stall for some walks, but since I was gone I was not able to.  I guess he was a little bored...
Teaching me a lesson about leaving him alone for a whole week!
He completely destroyed his blanket bag!  I think I need to get a trunk.

My first ride back I kept it very easy, just walk/trot.  I was having a little trouble getting him to bend or move off my leg, but maybe I was just rusty and not asking right?  Or he was expecting me to ride as well as the trainer...

We were supposed to have a lesson yesterday but ended up rescheduling so I did a little hack around the property.  Cupid was very good.  Then we went into the sand arena.  I was still having a little trouble getting him to move off my leg, but when he did it I praised him and moved on to other things for a bit before going back and trying again.  We did a lot of circles and serpentines, and a bit of canter work.  The deeper sand made him a little tired I think, he was a little sweaty even though it wasn't very warm. 

We might take Cupid to the horse park for a few days for a little training.