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.






Thursday, August 10, 2017

Lead Changes

Cupid has been pretty consistent about getting the correct canter leads both directions, so we've been working a little more towards training automatic lead changes.  We started just organically, as part of our flatwork or while jumping courses we would change direction and while in the turn ask for a lead change - use new inside leg to create bend, and cue with new outside leg behind the girth.  No big deal if nothing happens, just do a trot change.  (We pretty much always ended up doing the trot change.)

Then last Friday my trainer got on Cupid, and got a lead change out of him!  It was right to left, which I thought would be his harder direction.  But maybe it helps coming from the more balanced right lead?

video
On Sunday we had a fantastic jumping lesson.  We started warming up cantering over a pole, then made it a small vertical doing it a few times each direction focusing on getting right to the base.  Cupid was very relaxed, giving me confidence to move onto a little course of 1-2' crossrails and verticals, cantering the entire thing!  Cupid kept a nice steady rhythm before and after each jump.  He was cruising along like a nice little hunter!

One of the jumps was on a diagonal, and I was supposed to ask for the lead change going into the corner.  The first several times we ended up doing a trot change, so my trainer decided to put a pole on the ground and we got the change.  Overall that whole round felt very good so we decided to end on a good note!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Motivation

My last few rides I've had to work a little extra to get or keep Cupid going.  He was "behind my leg" according to my trainer.  I just assumed that since it's been hot he hasn't felt like working to hard.  But whatever the case might be, my trainer said that my leg has been improving and more still/secure, so suggested I try riding with spurs.

I have a an old pair of tom thumb spurs, about 1/2", but I've never really ridden with them.  I tried them once or twice on my old horse but she did not seem very happy.  I was terrified I would be poking Cupid inadvertently, so I tried extra hard to make sure my toes were pointing forward!  This is hard for me, I've always had a problem with it, but I think today I managed pretty well!

Usually our first trot transition can be a little sticky.  Today I tried to touch Cupid gently with the spurs to let him know it's time to get to work.  I felt him almost shudder a moment, then he picked up the trot.  He was very good in our lesson.  I don't know if he would have been better today regardless, but it did feel like I didn't have to work as hard.  Aside from the first trot I didn't even really use them.

After our warm up we did a line of three trot poles, a few times each direction.  Then we did the poles, picked up the canter and cantered over a pole pile.  We cantered the pole pile a few times each direction, focusing on straightness and getting to the base.  I appreciate how much my trainer has been helping me develop my eyes, taking extra time to show me where I should begin my turns, etc.

We then did two canter poles, one stride apart.  A few times when we didn't get close enough to the first pole Cupid had to adjust and quicken a little to get the second pole.  This was a good exercise for both of us to kind of figure it out!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Seeing Ghosts

I've been slowly bringing Cupid back to work.  We had a few days of just walking around the property.  Then we did a few days with walk and trot work in the ring - lots of stretching trot and light lateral work.  Cupid felt great!  Then we added a little canter, which went well and we didn't have any problem getting the left lead.  But then something unexplainable happened.  Best I can come up with is Cupid is seeing ghosts!

It started during our lesson on Sunday.  Starting out Cupid was good, just a touch lazy.  So we were trying to get him moving more forward.  We decided adding some trot poles would help, and it did perk him right up.  So I had a happy horse, the lesson was going well, when out of nowhere he spooked in the far end of the arena.  It was a small spook, I didn't think too much of it.  But he did it again in the same area.  Then he got very distracted coming out of that corner.  The arena has a wall on that side, I assumed someone must be working or doing something on the other side.  After a few minutes I asked my trainer to look out and see what was going on, she said there's nothing there. We kept working, it was okay except Cupid was clearly a little distracted.  We thought maybe it was the sound of the sprinklers from the other arena.

The next day I thought I would walk around outside for a warm up before going into the arena.  We were walking along calmly, when all of the sudden Cupid stopped dead.  We were in front of his turn out paddock, where there is a little incline up to a path that runs between the outdoor arena and a house.  Cupid did not want to go up the incline.  I thought maybe there was someone riding in the arena and he was watching them, but no.  I asked Cupid to go forward and he backed up.  I tried again, same result.  I tapped him with the crop and he kicked out, still refusing to move forward.  After a few minutes I decided to get off; I wasn't scared but I felt like we weren't getting anywhere and I didn't want to have to hit him harder.  He still didn't want to go at first, but eventually walked up with his head in the air, ears pricked, looking around.  He jigged a little.

We got in the arena, and had an okay ride except he was still distracted and didn't want to stay along the rail towards the house.  We did some leg yielding, circles, serpentines, and cantered each direction.  Cupid did pretty much everything I asked but he was not relaxed and clearly something was bothering him.  After about half an hour in the arena we walked back out, and he didn't really want to walk back down that path.  He did back up a bit, and kicked out again, but finally walked.  I could feel his heart pounding, he really did seem scared not just like he was trying to get out of work!

I didn't hear anything, or see anything new that would surprise him.  I have no idea what he is reacting too.

This morning we had a lesson in the covered ring, and he was more relaxed except a few times when deer came bounding up along the ring he shied a little.  But at least that is explainable!  Otherwise, we just still need to work on getting him in front of the leg, he was quite lazy again.

We had some good trot work, on a large circle doing a little shoulder fore to the inside then straightening and coming more forward out of it.  Then my trainer had me practice cantering on a large circle, holding my whip under my thumbs to keep my hands together.  It felt easier then the last time I did this exercise (when I had trouble keeping any sort of contact, and didn't canter). 

I walked Cupid down the scary path after our ride to turn him out.  He was a little alert, head up and snorting a little, but less of a reaction today.  Hopefully whatever it is will pass soon and I have my old Cupid back!  But regardless of how we progress, the dressage show I was planning on going to in a few weeks was unfortunately cancelled.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Wheels!

While Cupid's been resting up his back, I kept myself busy trailer shopping!  I agonized over the decision - it is expensive, and I don't really need one.  But it would be fun to be able to take Cupid more places!  So I thought, it couldn't hurt to look.  I would need an aluminum trailer, since our area is very damp and foggy steel would get destroyed.  Plus it can't be too heavy, so I can pull it with my large SUV.  I was open to either straight or slant load, though I've never tried Cupid in a straight.  I would prefer to have a dressing room.

I finally came across a nice, gently used but impeccably maintained Classic Monarch 2 horse slant load bumper pull.  What sold me was the rumber floors - no heavy mats to lift and clean under!  It looks like it's equipped for camping, it has a water tank and a high line tie up.  It also has a swing out saddle rack. 

My first time hitching it up, at the dealer lot, went well.  The salesguy was helped direct me, and showed me how to attach everything.  It was about a two hour drive home, and I was surprised how easy it felt the trailer just followed along behind the car, and stopped and turned smoothly.  (I have never pulled a trailer so I was a little nervous!)  I stopped at a large parking lot for a little practice.  I thought I was doing good, but then I couldn't back up into my parking spot back at the barn.  The barn manager was trying to help direct me, it was pretty embarrassing!  But with a little more practice I think I'll get it.  I can't wait for all the new adventures awaiting Cupid and me!


Friday, July 21, 2017

Back Out

On Tuesday Cupid started feeling stiff, but seemed to work out of it.  He looked good lunging on Wednesday.  But on Thursday he let me know he was not feeling good.  We started off okay walking around to warm up, but when I asked him to trot he balked.  I asked again and he started backing up.  I tapped him with the crop and he kicked out, and backed up some more.  I try to not make a big deal out it; I will tap-tap with the whip behind my leg and be gentle but firm.  My trainer said even if he is not feeling good he needs to be obedient.

So we did a few easy trot laps to see if he would work out of it - he wasn't lame but he just felt short in the hind and I gave him the benefit of doubt that he really is uncomfortable not just being lazy.  So we just did a little walk work, which we actually needed to do anyways.  I tend to let Cupid get lazy at the walk, or try to get him more forward by what my trainer calls shoving him with my hips.  So I tried to keep my seat lighter and use my leg (and small tap-tap with the whip if necessary).  We did some medium walk and free walk, and then a little leg yielding at the walk, quarter line to wall.  This ride and last for some reason it's been easier leg yielding on one long side of the arena compared to the other.  The easier side does not have a wall, but I don't know if that's the reason.  I would think the other side would be easier because we're going towards the gate! We ended with practicing a little turn on the forehand. 

Then we had our chiropractor appointment, which couldn't come at a better time!  I told the Dr. that something seemed to be off.  She said his lower back was out, and also made some adjustments to his neck.  She showed me a new stretch, basically standing behind Cupid and cupping his ilium (what I think of as the point of the hip) and lean back.  Cupid seemed to like it when she did it.  She recommended giving him a few days off, and then taking it pretty easy the next week with no jumping or collection.  I feel bad that I made him do anything at all the last few days, even though we took it easy I should have listened to him. :(

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Recap - Slow & Steady

Things have continued going well for Cupid and me.

Thursday - I had a good flatwork lesson, though Cupid was struggling a little with the footing and we didn't get the left lead canter our first attempt.  My trainer said I need to package Cupid a little more to make sure his hind end is engaged and he is stepping underneath himself.

Friday - My trainer rode Cupid.  She said he was very good, and got the left lead canter each time he asked but it took a few extra trot steps so I need to make sure I prepare and set him up.  But not to override it, use the smallest aids possible and believe it will happen.  The worst thing that will happen is we keep trotting, so just re-organize and try again!  My trainer said they popped over a few small jumps, and Cupid was very good and relaxed.

Saturday - I had a very fun lesson with a poles course!  We warmed up doing trot poles (3 poles, one stride apart).  I needed to encourage Cupid just a little bit to make the strides, but he figured it out quick.  So we did a little course going over the trot poles, picking up a canter and going over a pole and then a cavaletti.  We finished by adding a very small vertical, which my trainer told me to think of as just another cavaletti.  But somehow we kept having trouble meeting it right, so did it cantering on a circle a few times and finally it felt right.  I really enjoyed working on a course without the stress of actual jumps!

Sunday - Cupid and I did some flatwork in the outdoor arena.  The big tarp pile that was sitting outside the arena the past few months was gone, which helped keep Cupid focused because even though he's seen it dozens of times he still likes to eye it and sometimes drift away from it.  We did a short canter each direction, doing the easier side first.  Then I did a trot change across the middle and we got the left lead first try.  We did a little bending and leg yielding.  Cupid was very good, so we only did about 20 minutes and then walked around the property for a little hack / cool down.
Giving me the guilt trip don't go face at the gate!

Monday - Day off!

Tuesday - Lesson.  Cupid did not feel very good, not lame but he seemed uncomfortable when I asked him to trot.  I kept him at an easy trot and he started to feel better after a few laps.  My trainer thought maybe it was just the change in the weather - it was a cool foggy day after a bit of a hot spell.  So we kept going, but kept it a little easy; no small circles or anything new.  We trotted big loop serpentines, and did a few canter transitions and were able to get the lead correct each time, though once going to the left it felt like Cupid's hind end slipped out from under him a little.  My trainer said to make sure to keep his outside shoulder from popping out, and keep the bend consistent in the circle.  We ended with a little leg yielding. 

Wednesday - Lunging and ground work.  We did plain side reins today.  Then we worked on walk to halt from the ground, and then a little shoulder fore.  My trainer did a little haunches in, and Cupid finds the whip on his hindquarters a little annoying and kicked out a few times!  I know he should always yield to pressure, so we need to work on this more.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Jump for Joy

Cupid and I didn't jump the past 2 weeks, but he has been really good and our flatwork has been going so well I was actually looking forward to jumping again!  Cupid was a touch lazy in our warm up, which made me feel comfortable heading toward our first jump.  We trotted over a crossrail a few times going to the right, then to the left.  Then we cantered it each direction.  It came easy on the right.  To the left the first time we got there a little long, though it was my idea as I saw that spot.  The second time around I half halted a few strides out and sat up, and we chipped a little.  The third time we got it perfect!

We have some new white planks in the arena, they were set as a crossrail on a diagonal with another jump two strides out.  My trainer and I went through where to turn in the corner, and the line I should be on.  We still went a little wide, so the bad approach with the new looking jump made Cupid hesitate and we almost stopped in front of it, but I encouraged him on and we hopped over and continued down the line.  The next time was much smoother.

We put together a little course, starting with our warm up fence coming to the left, continuing on the left and jumping a little vertical on the diagonal, then coming back to a trot to the 2 stride combo on the other diagonal.  Cupid remained nice and relaxed, I was really happy with him!  I am also feeling the improvements I've been making and am happy with that progress.

The following day I got on Cupid bareback, just planning on walking around the property a bit.  The horses in the paddocks had their heads up, and some were running around.  Then I saw the reason for the commotion, a loose horse!  Cupid's head and tail shot up and he started prancing a little.  I considered jumping off, but we halted and Cupid stool still watching.  The loose horse was captured.  Cupid was still a little excited, and looky as we walked on but he behaved aside form one spot where he balked a little. 


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Quick recap

Not much has happened since the dressage show.  We had a few rides where Cupid seemed a little distracted or got quick, but our last few rides have been great.  We have been focusing on our flatwork, first because I didn't really want to jump when he was less relaxed, and then the arena footing changed and needs a few days to settle because Cupid doesn't seem as comfortable when it's deep.

When he does get quick, I usually get him trotting in a ~20 meter circle, changing posting diagonals a few times and getting him to accept my inside leg and bend.  Once he starts to settle I may do a few do a few transitions asking him to walk a few steps then back to trot.  Then I will do some transitions within the trot, asking him to shorten a few steps then forward.  I add a few ~10 meter circles at the more collected trot.  Usually after about 15 minutes he behaves.

We had a great lesson in the German martingale.  It helps steady the contact and Cupid goes very with it.  I'm working towards getting that same feeling without it.  

My trainer has suggested I lunge him more, as well as do a little groundwork.  He's gotten better about lunging, not so lazy.  He is very good at the groundwork, and I think enjoys the interaction. 

The weather has been unpredictable.  We had a few cold misty days, followed by several hot days.  I was supposed to have a lesson yesterday but my trainer and I decided to postpone because of the weather.  Instead I put on my bareback pad and Cupid and I went for a nice hack around the property.
Cold and misty one week...

to needing a fly mask and fly sheet the next!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Seven Oaks Dressage Extravaganza

On Sunday morning I groomed Cupid, put him on the trailer, and we set off to a nearby farm for a dressage schooling show.  This time we arrived with plenty of time before our first test!  Cupid seemed pretty relaxed when we arrived.  I tacked up and we headed to the warm up ring.

Cupid was pretty good warming up, though he didn't like one corner of the arena where there were some jumps and stuff stored.  He also got startled when horses walked down the path behind the hedges along the ring.  We walked around a few times, then trotted on a circle to get Cupid accepting my leg.  We cantered each direction, then trotted a square each direction.  Then it was show time!

Our first test was Training 1, which we did at our last show.  It went pretty good, though Cupid got a little crooked down the long side passing by some water tanks, and the other side where there was a viewing platform.  He stumbled a bit in the canter transition, there was a big wet spot in the arena.  But overall I was quite happy.  This time Cupid did not whinny at all.

We had about half an hour until our second test.  At my trainer's suggestion I went back to the trailer and got off and let Cupid relax for about 10 minutes.  He ate a little hay and drank some water, and seemed relaxed.  I got back on and we went back to the warm up arena.  Cupid was super!  When it was time to head to the arena I was feeling really good, expecting we were going to have a great test.  But, that was not the case.

From the moment we entered the arena Cupid was like a different horse, totally unsettled.  He trotted around quickly, with his head high.  He bucked into the canter!  We careened around the 20 meter circle, I was probably pretty much up in 2 point.  Then I forgot the test!  The bell rang, luckily at this schooling show they let you continue.  Cupid has been doing a great stretching trot, but he just giraffe-necked through it.  However our free walk was quite good.  Then we went back into trot, and Cupid picked up a canter a few strides before I could get him back down to a trot.  We did our canter circle, went back down to a trot and I thought we were going to run over a squirrel that was in our path, which seemed like the cherry on top of this disaster.  It was going so poorly I couldn't help but laugh.  But our grand finale ended up being Cupid stumbling into the final halt, almost falling on his face. 

I don't know what happened since Cupid had been so good all day, maybe he just had enough and was ready to go home.  We got a score of 67% for our first test, and the comment said that Cupid was a "lovely horse who seemed to enjoy his work."  On our second test we got comments of : naughty, rambunctious, and exuberant.  It also said: "Tactful rider handles exuberant horse well. However, there needs to be an improvement of overall bend, balance, and roundness to better meet the requirements of this level."

I know Cupid and I are capable of much better, and hopefully next time it will come together.  It was a good learning experience though.  And since I was the only person in my division we came home with a blue and red ribbon.








Saturday, June 24, 2017

Heatwave

The last week has been very hot.  Cupid has been sweating just standing.  So we took it a little easy this week.

Monday - I planned on riding in the outdoor ring in the morning, but it was closed for maintenance so instead Cupid and I just went for for a hack around the property.  One of the paths we hadn't been on in a while due to it being overgrown with branches and brush has been cleaned up, so we went down that.  It runs parallel to the busy road, but with thick shrubbery in between.  I still don't like it when loud big rigs or motorcycles zoom by, but Cupid is not bothered by the noise.  He was very good!  We walked for about half an hour and didn't have any spooks.

Tuesday - Flatwork lesson.  Started out lazy but eventually Cupid woke up a little.  His leg yields have been really good lately, showing more lateral movement.

Wednesday - Rest day.

Thursday - Dressage lesson in the outdoor.  Cupid was a little distracted, and had a few little spooks.  He still doesn't like the end of the arena with the chairs alongside, and tarp pile outside, and tried to cut this corner.  He also seemed to be struggling with the footing in the arena a little.  We tried avoiding the far end where it is more deep and uneven, but he had a few stumbles elsewhere too.
We went through my dressage test twice.  The first time I got lost, oops!  We had a little trouble with the left lead today, I hope that won't happen at the show.  Since Cupid had a few spooks and stumbles, plus trying to remember my test I was riding a little defensively (leaning forward), which I still need to work on.

Friday - Flatwork lesson.  My trainer had me ride with the crop under my thumbs.  This was a really good exercise for me because it helped me feel when I was twisting my wrist, and also realize when I was leaning.  I am having a hard time getting a good walk out of Cupid, not letting him be too lazy.

Saturday - Group jumping lesson!  This was a fun change of pace, I had 3 other ladies in my group.  We practiced a lot of 2 point, and took turns cantering.  There were a few other people in the arena as well, and Cupid was being very good with all the activity.  During the warm up he was actually quite lazy and got passed a few times.
Then we did a little grid.  First it was two crossrails one stride apart, trot in canter out and halt.  Then we added a third jump, and then the last two became verticals.  Cupid was a little excited, I circled him before we started the grid until he settled down and also gave a half halt before the first jump.  He was a little more eager than I like, but we went through it several times.  Though we did almost touch the arena rail before halting a few times!  My trainer said I still need to work on sitting up in between the jumps, but my last time was the best one.  Our straightness is getting better too.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Trail Ride, Purisima Creek Redwoods

Purisima Creek Redwoods is only about a half mile from our barn, but in the past when I've taken Cupid there he got very anxious walking away from home.  When my trainer offered to trailer over, I was curious to see how he would be.  We loaded the horses for the short ride with their saddles on, so when we got there all we needed to do was tighten the girths and put bridles on.  I used a small post to mount, and we were off.  Cupid headed down the trail on a loose rein, behaving perfectly!  I knew he was relaxed when we tried to eat some weeds along the path.  It was a warm day, but luckily most of time we were shaded by trees.

I was super happy with how good, and brave, Cupid was.  He had no problem with the changes in light, or walking by large boulder type rocks or anything else we encountered. 

The one down side on this park is that you start at the highest point, so you start by walking down hill before it flattens out a little, then heads down some more.  We rode side by side, or sometimes Cupid led.  The trail does not loop around, and when we turned around Cupid did get a little quick.  But since it was all uphill, he was puffing and sweating before long. 

We got back to the parking lot, got off and walked the horse to cool them off.  Cupid was pretty soaked in sweat by this point.  I hosed him off when we got back to the barn. 

The next day we had a flat lesson, with our German martinale on.  I think Cupid was a little sore from the hills, because he felt a little uncoordinated.  So we took it easy, a little shorter and not doing anything new but I still made sure Cupid gave me what I asked such as making him go in a good working trot instead of just an easy jog.  His attitude was quite good, so I promised him the following day off!


Friday, June 16, 2017

Continuing Progress Over Jumps

Tuesday - We did a little grid work in our lesson.  We started out just jumping the first element, a crossrail, and halting at the end.  Then my trainer added a second crossrail one stride out.  Then the second one became a vertical, and we added a bounce with just a pole on the ground.  All the while keeping the halt at the end.  I was a little nervous because there was a horse lunging in the arena, down at the end we halted.  This always makes me a little leery, and Cupid was picking up some vibes but overall he was quite good.  My main focuses were on staying straight, and working on my release.  My trainer said I don't catch Cupid in the mouth, which is good, but I need to push my hands forward more over the jumps.  It was easier over the second jump, with the first one I was trying to make sure he wasn't rushing into it!

Wednesday - We took the day off, but the weather was so beautiful I was tempted to play hooky from work and go on a trail ride!

Thursday - Joint lesson with my trainer's other student I often ride/show with.  I like the joint lessons.  We are similar levels and often need to fix the same things, and I can always learn from watching someone else.  Cupid likes it because he gets a bit more breaks. ;)  At first I had to work pretty hard to get Cupid going, he was extra lazy.  But he eventually woke up.

We did a warm up crossrail, trot it a few times then canter, then switch directions.  It was great going to the right, harder on the left and we got a few longer spots.  But I worked on my approach and sitting up and we did better.

Then we did a little course: left lead canter over the warm up fence; stay left and jump a vertical on the diagonal; then roll back to the rail, trot and go left over a small crossrail and halt.  The first time through I forgot my course and got lost!  Oops I haven't done that in a while.  My trainer put up a few cones to help me turn at the correct place.  Then we added a vertical after after the second jump and roll back.  We cantered the first three jumps, and trotted the last one.  The halt was the worst part as Cupid kept drifting left, and I was too distracted trying to get him straight so I didn't halt until we were almost at the fence.  But I was very proud of us for cantering the course! Cupid was so nice and relaxed that I didn't worry at all.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Turning a Corner

I feel like Cupid and I have both made a lot of progress - it's been almost 3 years of hard work but it's finally starting to come together!  For me, I'm making incremental improvements in my stiff elbows and hips, and starting to sit up straighter.  Cupid is starting to develop a frame, and seeking contact.

We not only are figuratively turning a corner, but also went over our first corner jump this week!  It was about 2' tall, and set on blue blocks.  My trainer told me to jump it on the narrow end, but made it a little easier for me by putting a wing on that side.  Cupid had been eying the blue blocks in the ring earlier, so I wanted to make sure I had him straight and keep my leg on.  He ended up jumping over a little bigger than I expected!  But I was pleased with both of us for doing it.
Our first corner jump

We did a course of about 6 jumps, including a little vertical, a one stride combo, a semi-skinny, and the corner.  The one stride was a touch long, but after the first time through (when we got the second element a little long) Cupid and I figured out how to navigate it more smoothly.  My trainer said I'm doing a much better job getting to the jumps straight.  Now I just have to get more confident with doing it all at a canter!

On Friday we tried on a few Stubben dressage saddles.  The saddle fitter also looked at my jump saddle, and said it still fits Cupid well but recommended I go back to the wool half pad instead of my thinline.  I'm having a hard time picking a dressage saddle because I pretty much like them all!  I was hoping that one would really stand out above the rest, but so far that hasn't happened.  Cupid was very patient with all the saddle changes, and letting me test all the saddles even after he worked pretty hard in our lesson.

I gave Cupid Saturday off since he pretty much did double duty on Friday, so I thought he would be nice and fresh for our lesson on Sunday.  He started off pretty good.  He seemed a little distracted by things going on outside the arena, but kept working and listening to me just looked around and whinnied a few times.  But midway through he decided to stop and balk!  He tested me for a moment, but eventually I got him going and he was great afterwards.  We ended with some nice stretching trot.

On Monday I planned to go for a little hack around the property, since I thought maybe a day out of the arena would do him good.  But it was so foggy I could barely see anything!  So instead I decided to lunge him a bit with our balancing side reins, which we haven't done in a while.  Cupid was good, if a touch lazy.







Monday, June 5, 2017

Lone Tree Farm Hunter Pace

We had a jump lesson on Friday in preparation for our weekend outing, and it was fantastic!  Cupid and I did an entire course of jumps, around 18" crossrails and verticals including a one stride combo.  We trotted in and cantered out.  I tried for one left-to ride lead change but didn't get it.  But more importantly I kept my composure several times through the course, and Cupid was very responsive throughout!

Saturday I just did an easy ride, warming up outside the ring, then doing a few circles, serpentines, leg yields, and walk-trot transitions.  Then we walked a loop around the property.  He worked hard all week, but I didn't want him too fresh for Sunday!  I didn't give him a full bath but did rinse him off.  He doesn't love baths but is good about standing, and doesn't whinny anymore like he used to in the wash rack.

On Sunday I woke up at 5am and drove to the barn as the sun was coming up.  I gave Cupid a quick grooming, and wrapped his legs.  We loaded all our gear the day before, so we just had to load the horses and away we were!  Cupid loaded perfectly, the last horse in my trainer's 3 horse slant load.

It was about a 2 hour drive.  Unloading from the 3rd spot is a little awkward, but I can mostly get Cupid turned around to unload head first.  I walked him a few minutes so he can stretch his legs, and he was very good, probably the best he's been first arriving at a new location.  He stood tied to the trailer while I tacked him up and put on his closed front boots.

Once I got on Cupid he got a little antsy.  We walked circles and figure-8s a few minutes while I waited for my barn mates to finish tacking and mounting.  The ground was full of rocks, it looked like we were in an old river bed so I was a little worried Cupid would bruise his feet or trip!  We walked over to a little "warm up" area, which was a long narrow enclosed area with grass footing.  Cupid spooked a little, I think from the flag course markers whipping in the wind but I'm not sure.  We walked for a few minutes, then started trotting some circles.  Cupid was anxious, but being good.  The warm up got very crowded, so it was a little hard finding space.  Before too long it was our turn to go, and I went in a pair with my trainer.


The first course was just to trot around the field inside the jumps.  When Cupid started getting too quick we would transition back to a walk for a few steps.  This was the first time I've ridden him on grass, but he seemed comfortable going on it and didn't try to stop and eat.  We did it in pairs with my trainer on her horse, and Cupid didn't like getting passed!  He seemed happier being in front, so we stayed ahead of the other horse.  Cupid was a little unsure about walking by a giant downed palm tree, but we passed it with only a little side eye.  Before we knew it we made it all the way around.

We went back into the warm up ring, and jumped the practice log a few times.  I trotted in, and made Cupid halt after.  It took a few extra strides to pull him up, but not too bad.  Then my trainer got on Cupid and took him around in pair with her other student for the elementary jumping round.  She said he was good, except stopped to look at the final coop.  Then it was my turn, and my trainer came with me on her horse.  In the pairs class at least one person has to go over each obstacle.  So my trainer said no pressure, do as much as I am comfortable with and she will do the others.  We ended up jumping each jump, mostly logs and one ditch, except the last coop.  At first I said I was not going to jump it.  Then when I saw it ahead I said you know what let's go for it!  But then Cupid started getting a little squirelly so I kind of bowed out.  Even when we passed it Cupid was tense, so I don't think it was the jump it was just kind of a spooky corner in front of the warm up. 


Overall I was very happy with both of us!  My goal for this event was to sit up straighter, and my trainer said I did much better than last time we went out.  And Cupid, even though he got a little quicker than I'd like sometimes he did come back down when I asked.  So overall it was a very positive experience and confidence builder for me!

Cupid got Monday off, but in the morning for some reason he really wanted to come out of his stall.  Usually he just wants to eat his breakfast hay, but today he was pacing around and kept standing at the door.  So I put his halter on and let him amble around the property a little, eating grass and smelling things.  I checked his temperature to make sure he was any worst the wear after our adventure.  I also put a little magic cushion in his feet Sunday night, just in case.  Even though we mostly were on grass, he did have to walk across the rocks to get there.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Holiday

I was out of town on a family vacation and my trainer was at a horse show, so Cupid got a few days off.  He started off a little cranky in our lesson last Thursday, but we worked through it and hopefully a few days off will have him refreshed.  It wasn't anything too bad, but he felt short strided when we first started trotting, and just a little dull.

I didn't want to ride him the next day, but was a bit torn since I was going to be gone the next several days.  So instead we did a groundwork session.  We walked over poles on the ground, poles raised on one side, and the flower box.  We walked in between barrels.  We backed up, and moved haunches.  Then I set up the poles in a U on the ground.  We walked through it a few times, then backed through it.  We still need to work on straightness backing up, but we did get through without touching the poles.  Cupid seemed pretty interested in what we were doing, I think he enjoyed a little change in the routine. 
Coming through the U
I think he knew they were fake, but wanted a taste anyways!
Tuesday morning was our first ride back, and in addition to having several days off it was also very foggy.  Cupid was a little quick, but he was listening.  Well I thought he was quick, but my trainer said he was forward and it was a good thing. :p  I felt a little rusty, and my lower back was hurting, but I tried to sit up straighter and keep my hips open.  I was collapsing through the side a little, and not stretching down through my left leg as well.  We worked on bending, counter bending first on the arena long sides then on a circle.  We did transitions between walk and trot, then trot and canter.  We were a little slow with picking up the left lead canter, sometimes having a few running steps.  We had a few nice moments when Cupid was on the bit.