Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Seven Oaks Dressage Year End Schooling Show

Going to a show (even a schooling show) is always a little nerve-wracking, but even more so when our dressage court has been closed so I couldn't practice the test in a correct sized and marked arena, and when I'm not even sure I will be able to get there if my horse won't load!  Plus I was pretty sure it would get rained out anyways, but the rain held off.  I got an email 2 days before that the show was still on, but the warm up arena might not be available so everyone got a scheduled time to warm up in the show ring in groups of two or three.  That actually sounded like a good thing, so we can do a quick test run.  I was doing the same two tests I rode last time, Training 1 and 2.

The day before the show I did some loading practice with my trainer.  I was leading Cupid and she held a whip behind him.  After a few minutes we switched, and just a few moments later (with me swishing a lunge whip and tapping the ground behind him) Cupid loaded.  We left the doors open, just closed the divider and let Cupid eat hay.  After about 15 minutes I let him off.  We did an easy hack around the property, and just a few minutes in the arena for some quick circles and transitions.  Then I gave Cupid a bath.  Then we went back to the trailer, where I had Cupid's bucket in the back and he walked right up!  Again I left him on to eat for about 15 minutes.  I hoped we would be good for the next day.  I cleaned all our tack and put in the trailer so we'd be ready to go.

Sunday morning I left early for the barn.  I witnessed an unfortunately accident on the way, and stopped to make sure help was on the way.  I still had plenty of time so went ahead and braided Cupid.  My trainer said it looked good, though a few braids were a little loose by the end they stayed in and I think it was a good first attempt.

I put on Cupid's shipping boots and tried to think positive as we headed towards the trailer.  Again I had his bucket in the back.  I felt him hesitate, and asked my boyfriend to get in the trailer and shake the bucket.  Cupid stepped right up, and I breathed a sigh of relief!

It was about half an hour drive, and I got there about 20 minutes before my warm up time.  Just enough time to check in, unload, and tack up.  I left Cupid on the trailer with the window open while I checked in, with my boyfriend staying with him.  He said Cupid seemed a little anxious, but Cupid was good when I unloaded and stood tied to the trailer while I tacked up.

We headed into the ring to warm up.  Halfway through our first lap, Cupid spooked because there was a hedge along the side separating us from another ring and he caught a glimpse of a horse passing by on the other side.  Oh great, I though.  I kept him moving, and after walking another minute or two we started trotting some circles, trying to get him to bend and focus.  Cupid was starting to settle when my trainer showed up. 

She had us trot more circles, including some 10 meter circles within our bigger circles, and a little shoulder fore.  Then she had me canter, yelling "more! more!" which kind of just made me laugh because a bigger canter was pretty much the last thing I wanted, I was quite happy that Cupid seemed relaxed.

Warm up time was over, and we were up first so the other rider left.  Cupid whinnied after the other horse, a bit distracted.  Training 1 is a very straightforward test, where you trot a 20 meter circle, canter a 2 meter circle, change direction at the free walk, and do the same the other direction.  Our only major mistake was dropping to the trot early from the canter.  I thought our transitions into the canter were decent, and I was happy we got the left lead (which hasn't been a problem the last few weeks but has been in the past). 

We waited outside the ring for one rider to go through, then it was our turn again for Training 2.  Even though I memorized the test I decided to use the reader, just so I don't have to worry about forgetting again since this one is more complicated.  Right when we we about to go into the stretch trot circle and horse trailer drove by with a whinnying horse, and Cupid's head shot up and I couldn't really refocus him quickly enough.  I was pretty disappointed since usually the stretchy trot is one of his best moves.

Overall it went good, a few green moments and I still need to work on sitting more upright.  Our tests were a bit conservative, Cupid was a little quick and above the bit in some parts and I should have pushed him for more impulsion.  But I was very happy with him, and proud of us.  We have some work to do this winter but hopefully will be ready for our rated dressage debut next year.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Good Graces

After Sunday's trailer debacle, I had a renewed determination to have Cupid see me as the leader between us.  If I ask something I want the response to be, yes ma'am!  So on Monday I tacked up Cupid and walked up to the arena.  I asked him to whoa while I adjust his saddle.  As per usual he started creeping towards the jump and pile of stuff around the mounting block.  This is standard operating procedure for him, and usually I just let him because I know at least he will stand still while he's investigating the stuff.  Lazy rider!  Today I told him no, I asked you to stand here, away from the stuff.  Then at the mounting block when he started to amble off before I put my feet in the stirrups I told him no, I haven't asked you to move yet so let's back up back to the block.  Then when I asked him to walk, I expected an actual forward walk not a slow mosey.

Cupid got the message that I meant business.  I didn't have to do much, no crop or anything, just have to set my intention.  Cupid tested me a few times, tried to see if he could be a little balky when I asked for a trot but I said no we're going, slight tap, and away we went.  Cupid got the message, and I could feel a lightness underneath me.  It's hard to explain, but it just felt like I had more horse under me.  It did make some things easier, though it was also a little scary because it felt like more power!  But he was being very good.  We did a little leg yielding, then a circle in the corner and holding a haunches in a few steps coming out of the corner.  We practiced some transitions, and the ups were good but he did creep forward a little at the halts.  The we practiced walking a square, halt before the corner, and yield the haunches over.  Overall I thought a very productive ride!

On Tuesday it was more of the same in our lesson, and this time with less testing by Cupid.  We warmed up and did some trot work, then got a pretty big canter going.  Again it felt different and a little scary.  I would not be comfortable jumping out of that canter!  I probably wouldn't be comfortable cantering like that with other horses in the arena either, but luckily we had it to ourselves.  But I guess I just need to get used to it, and hopefully it will feel normal eventually.  We ended the lesson with some sitting trot, which needs some work.  At least my saddle is comfortable!  We did a 20 meter circle, big trot forward, then shorten the trot with some shoulder fore into the sitting trot.  Then we added walk transitions from the sitting trot.  The transitions were going going to the right, but not so good on the left.  I still have trouble keeping the contact to the left.

On Wednesday I didn't have time to ride, but did want to take Cupid up to the trailer.  He walked right up to it like no big deal, and I fed him his grain off the back.  We didn't try to load (it wasn't hitched), but I just want him to see the trailer as a happy place.
Trailer = not so bad!
Cupid has mostly earned his way back into my good graces!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

When he's good he's very good, when he's bad he's horrid

We were planning on going for a trail ride on Friday, but it was raining so we decided to do a little jumping instead.  A little variety so Cupid doesn't get bored!

We warmed up trotting in two-point, then did some shallow loop serpentines.  We warmed up the canter then trotted over a pole, then made it 2 poles, then 3.  Then we jumped a little crossrail a few times each direction, trotting in and cantering out.  We started going to the right, and the first two times Cupid landed on his left lead (surprising since usually he prefers the right), but got it correct the third time.  We haven't jumped in a while, but he was relaxed.

There was an accident on the road, we could see and hear the sirens and bullhorn directing traffic.  I was a little distracted, but Cupid didn't care.  So we went on and did a little course: one jump on each long diagonal, then the third jump was on the centerline so we completed the diagonal and around the short side, halfway down the long side then turn down the middle and a left hand turn to the jump.  They were all small crossrails, probably about 1'.  I felt a little rusty, and we got a few long spots when I didn't sit up before the jump, but we got it the third time through.  I was happy with our ride, and had fun doing the little jumps.
New rain sheet with hood, from Jeffers

I gave Cupid Saturday off, I thought he could use it.  Then Sunday we were going to go on a trail ride, but he refused to load!  He has been really good, I'm not sure what the issue was today.  He would come within a few feet, then back up.  If we applied more pressure he would kick out, or leap up in the air.  I tried doing some groundwork, he was good until he got close to the trailer.  We tried bribing him with grain, that didn't work either.  I once got him up to the edge of the trailer, then lifted his hoof and put it in the trailer.  I patted him and gave him a treat, but he just stood on his toe and the treat fell from his mouth, almost like he was in shock.  I lifted his second hoof and placed in the trailer.  He stood for a moment and I gave him a treat, then he leapt backwards and wouldn't get close again.  My trainer tried doing a little groundwork and getting him in; make him work if he didn't go forward.  That didn't work either.  We tried putting another horse on the trailer.  Cupid walked up to the edge and started lifting his leg, then quickly backed up.
Being stubborn
Angry horse, biting he air
I was frustrated, and confused.  Cupid knows how to load, and he didn't seem anxious.  At this point I wasn't sure if I should give up.  Continuing seemed kind of pointless, though I don't want Cupid to think he can get out of doing something by being naughty.  We took a break for a little while, walked around and I gave him a bath because he was already filthy before and now he worked up quite a sweat.  Then when my trainer was done teaching I got him back out.  My trainer led him, while I stood behind him with a lunge whip.  Luckily I didn't have to hit him, as tapping behind him got him forward.  We tried to be patient, and praise him when he went forward but every few steps forward he went back again.  Finally I saw him start licking and chewing, and I thought maybe there is hope.  Then all of a sudden Cupid just walked up, like no big deal and we hadn't wasted half the day!  I gave him treats, let him eat hay on the trailer for 10 minutes, then let him off and we were done for the day.

I am going to try having him hang around the trailer more, let him eat off the back and tie him to it for grooming so he sees it as a good place.  My trainer said we also need to work on the send forward command.  But hopefully this was just a fluke?



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tantrum

Since Cupid's shoe got pulled, he got a few extra days off until the shoer was able to come back out.  At least it was pretty cold; not being able to ride in nice weather is worst!  I did put an easy boot on for a little walk around the property, but that was it for a whole week.  And I did get lessons on two of my trainer's horses.  I was a little nervous riding new horses, but they were good.  Both of them were a little lazy, on one I had to work pretty hard to keep him cantering.
Wrapping the hoof with Vetwrap or gauze wrap seems to help the Easyboot stay on.

Cupid got his shoe back on Monday, and on Tuesday we had a lesson.  I was worried he would be a little full of it after a week off, but he was great!  Actually he started out a little lazy but worked out of it.  We just did walk/trot, but the trot work felt very good and Cupid start getting a little round.
New saddle pad to go with the new saddle

On Wednesday we just did a little hack.  I rode in the new saddle without a pad to help with the breaking in.  I am still very happy with the saddle!

On Thursday I had a group lesson with 2 of my trainer's other students.  Again Cupid started out lazy so I spent the beginning trying to wake him up, but I was glad he was relaxed working with the other horses.  We did a lot of trot work, and he felt like he was finally working through.  Then we took a long walk break while my trainer worked with each of the other riders individually for a bit.  When it was our turn, Cupid was done.  He would not go forward at all, he would just balk, or kick out, or back up.  I tried asking him to go but he resisted.

The extent of his protest concerned me, I thought maybe he really was hurting from the abscess still or the saddle wasn't fitting or something.  But he had felt sound, and I got off and checked and reset the saddle and it seemed fine.  So I made him go, as gently as possible but insistent.  Once he got going he was good.  We did a few trot-canter transitions, and he got the left lead each time.

I thought that maybe I shouldn't have walked for so long; if I kept him more engaged we probably wouldn't have had a problem.  But on the other hand this is a problem we need to work through; I didn't ask for anything unfair and Cupid doesn't get to decide he is done.  I suspected this was an issue at some of our shows but wasn't sure and haven't had the opportunity to address it.  At least this form of tantrum is far preferable to a bucking fit!  Hopefully today was a step in the right direction, and Cupid realized that 1) he can't get out of work so easily; and 2) even if I do make him work it's not that bad!
Tired pony after our lesson


Monday, October 30, 2017

Fast Acting Abscess

I rode Cupid on Friday, everything was normal.  We had plans to go to the Horse Park the next day, so I didn't go to the barn my usual early hour.  Then Saturday morning I get a call from our shoer, asking if he should do Cupid's feet.  Normally he just comes on a regular schedule, I wasn't sure why he was asking me.  The only thing I could think of was maybe he wasn't quite due but if it doesn't get done today then maybe he wouldn't be able to until he's overdue.  So I asked how long it's been, the shoer said 6 weeks.  I said go ahead and do him.  Then the shoer asked what happened, I'm still confused.  Finally I realize he's saying Cupid is lame!  Not just lame but totally dead lame!  I told him I'd be there in half an hour.  I get there and sure enough Cupid can barely hobble out of his stall.  The shoer tested his hoof but couldn't see where it was hurting.

I soaked his foot with epsom salt, then poulticed and wrapped.  Even though Cupid has had several abscesses I decided to call the vet.  The vet confirmed the diagnosis, and tested his feet but wasn't able to locate it either but suspected it may be in the bar.  I poulticed and wrapped, and Cupid stayed in his stall.

By Sunday morning Cupid was walking comfortably.  In fact when I brought him out for a walk he was full of energy, prancing instead of walking.  I couldn't see that anything had burst, but it was hard to tell since I had put icthammol on it.  So I soaked his foot again, and this time wrapped with a dry poultice.  By his second walk Cupid was still full of energy, so I decided to try turning him out for a little bit while I watch to make sure he stays out of trouble.  Cupid looked like he wanted to play, but the other horses ignored him so Cupid decided it wasn't worth it running around by himself.  After about an hour I put him back in his stall.

While I was hanging out with Cupid this weekend I got a lot done, cleaning most of my tack and also practiced my dressage braids!  I haven't braided a horse in over 15 years, but my trainer recently showed me her method.  The best part is I don't even really have to pull Cupid's mane for it, yay!
First attempt
Day 2 attempt

I also got the opportunity to ride one of my trainer's horses, a thoroughbred gelding much further along than Cupid.  It felt strange and was a little scary riding a different horse, but he was was good.  He did test me a little, luckily just by taking small steps and not by running or bucking! 


Friday, October 27, 2017

Fixing my Arms and Hands

We had a flatwork lesson on Thursday.  My instructor has been on my case for a long time about how my inside hand still likes to do a leading rein.  She thinks I forget that Cupid is not a green 3 year old who needs it anymore; in truth I don't even realize I'm doing it.  So in sheer frustration I help my whip in both hands, horizontal over Cupid's withers under both thumbs.  Now my hands are locked together so the inside one can't go floating towards the center!  As an added bonus it prevents me from twisting at my right wrist, another bad habit of mine.  I need a catchy name for this, on par with T-rex arms!  Whip hands?  Sorry it's the best I can think of.

We had been riding on a 20 meter circle, alternating an outward bend, then switching back to an inside bend and doing a 10 meter circle.  It was in the 10 meter circle that I was really having the inside rein problems which led to the whip hands.  So I did the whip hands and my trainer said great idea!  I told her I didn't think I could do a 10 meter circle with whip hands, so we just aimed for going from a 20 meter circle to a "smaller circle".  It did feel pretty weird, and was hard to maintain the circle.  But I guess this is what it should feel like if I'm actually using the outside rein?
Trying to emulate the proper position (but my elbows are still too forward)

We then practiced trot-canter transitions with the whip hands.  Cupid was still a touch behind the leg, though after a few he started anticipating them. 

On Friday I tacked up in my jumping saddle for a group lesson with one other rider, to add a little variety for Cupid.  We ended up doing flatwork the majority of the lesson except a few minutes of trot poles on the end, but I'm still trying to nail down those transitions.  I did a bit more of the whip hands.  Cupid seemed a little tired (or maybe was just ignoring me, but I'll give him the benefit of doubt), so we had a few where he just starting trotting super fast so we regrouped and tried again.  But we had a few good ones. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

T-rex Arms - Riding with Whip Behind my Back

I had my first lesson in my new saddle today, and was excited to get my trainer's feedback on whether the improvements I felt where real or just in my head.

Cupid was very lazy to start.  I tried getting a good walk going while we were warming up, and he would respond but then quickly taper off a bit.  I was even worried that maybe Cupid didn't like the saddle!  But as we kept going I could feel him start stepping under himself.

My trainer confirmed that I was indeed sitting up much straighter in this saddle.  Yay!  But my arms and hands still need work.  So we revisited what I call the t-rex exercise; riding with the whip behind my back, in front of my elbows.  I need to be careful because it does tip me forward a little, but it is pretty much the only way I actually bend my elbows!  While I'm doing it it doesn't feel unnatural, but as soon as I remove the whip my elbows go straight again. :/  It also helps me with some of my other bad habits, like pumping with my arms/upper body, pulling the inside rein, and doing weird things like lifting my hands when I ask for the canter.  But it does make it hard to keep a steady contact, or shorten the reins when I inevitably let my hands open and the reins start to slip.

We did a lot of transitions between trot and canter, on a 20 meter circle.  It is still definitely a work in progress, but we had a few decent ones.

If you want to try T-rex arms, I recommend wearing a long sleeved shirt, as I usually get some abrasions on my elbows from the whip!  (Unless you have a smooth whip, mine is woven nylon.  Or maybe I'm just very unsteady??)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Saddle - Stubben Juventus dressage

The dressage saddle I ordered almost 2 months ago has arrived!  After much deliberation, I selected the Stubben Juventus.  This saddle is designed for youths, or petite adults.  It only comes in one seat size and flap length, so it is quicker to make and also less expensive, so I was quite lucky that the size happens to fit me well!  I am 5'2", with I think average proportions for my height.  When I tried the demo saddle it fit me well, but was big on Cupid.  The saddle fitter said he is a 29 tree - which I didn't expect since his Stubben jumping saddle is a 31.  But they are different models, and that one is foam while this one is wool flocked. I was a little nervous that I wouldn't like it as much as I remembered from when I tried the demo.  I've also heard a lot of horror stories about people buying new custom saddles that end up not fitting at all.  I am happy to say that I am quite pleased with my new saddle, but I did have a shock when I opened the box.  The demo dressage saddle had a patent trim, and also rhinestones on the stirrup leather keepers and on the back of the saddle.  I asked the fitter if I could get it with all black leather, no trim.  I asked for the regular leather, not calf skin, so it would be more durable.  When I opened the box I realized the saddle had the rhinestones!  Ack!

I was panicking a little, thinking I would have to either live with a sparkly saddle or wait 6-8 weeks for another one.  But my rep told me the rhinestone parts were interchangeable, and when he comes out in 2 weeks to adjust the flocking he will remove it and replace with plain pieces.  Phew!

The saddle has a point billets (comes out from the bottom of the knee roll), so I'm still kind of getting used to that.  I think I only put the rear billet through the saddle pad keepers?  The saddle also comes with a velcro knee block.  My trainer helped me adjust it.  At first we had it a bit low and it wasn't comfortable, but I think it's in the proper place now.

I like the leather a lot.  Despite not being calf, it is fairly soft and had a nice light grip.  I opted for the Biomex seat, and a few rides in I think it does help my lower back quite a bit!  Sometimes my lower back is starting to hurt by the end of an hour long ride, maybe it was a coincidence but I didn't feel anything today.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Smoky

The air quality has been very poor due to fires nearby, so we have been advised to take it easy with our horses.  Luckily we are not in danger of the fires themselves, they are about 2 hours north of us, but that area has been devastated and horses and people up there had to evacuate.  I never thought about that happening to me, but at least now I have the trailer if I do need to move Cupid in an emergency.

We have been doing some flatwork, keeping it fairly light.  My trainer created a canter exercise meant to address our imbalance: when we go to the right we do a 20 meter circle at E or B, then shoulder in down the rest of the long side and circle again at A or C.  To the left we leg yield instead of shoulder in.  This exercise also helps me work on preparing better for the changes, since the elements in the exercise come up pretty quickly.  When we went to the left I let Cupid drop to a trot a few times; to the right I didn't really have to do anything to keep him going.  So note to self to make sure I keep my leg on, especially as we're going on his weaker side!

Cupid got his vaccines and his teeth done.  The vet said he did have some hooks in his teeth, hopefully he is feeling more comfortable now.  The following day I decided we should do a groundwork lesson instead of ride.  Cupid seems to have fun with it.  We worked on backing up straight; he tends to drift towards his right side so it was easier keeping him straight when I was on his right side.  But he is pretty good at moving off just following my feet.  A new exercise we did was moving his shoulders.  Right now I'm not able to quite isolate the front end, but my trainer said to accept it as long as the shoulder was moving even if his hind end followed.



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Trail Ride at Runnymede Sculpture Garden

There was a local schooling show last weekend, and I thought it would be good for Cupid and me to go and redeem ourselves after the combined test disaster, but then I decided a trail ride would be more fun. :p

Cupid loaded up nicely, and we set off.  I parked down the road from my friend's barn (since it's too narrow to turn around closer), and tied Cupid to the trailer to tack up.  I had him stand along a fence to mount (I need to get a little mounting block/step stool for my trailer!) and headed up.  Cupid was looking around a little but walking calmly.  My friend met us midway coming the opposite direction, riding one horse and ponying the other.  Our original plan was to ride in Huddart Park, where we rode last time, but we got to the trail head and there was a sign saying it was closed.  So we decided to try the sculpture garden instead; I've heard of it but never been there and wasn't sure if Cupid would be bothered by the art.

The sculpture garden is flatter than Huddart, and the trails wider.  I kept Cupid behind my friend's horse and he was very good, walking along on a loose rein pretty much the entire ride.  We tried closing a gate, but the gate swung both directions and didn't stay in the middle so you had to hold it the whole time.  Cupid moved his butt over along the fence when I asked, but then he started backing up when I had the gate in one hand and the chain in the other, so my friend ended up getting it.  Oh well, something we still need to work on!

The art is mainly large metal abstract pieces, but there were some that were animals or people.  Cupid didn't bat an eye at any of them.  My friend's been through there many times on her horses so they didn't care, so I think Cupid followed their lead! 



We walked around for about 2 hours, and even though we only walked Cupid was sweaty.  We got back to the trailer and I realized I should have filled my water reservoir.  All I had was a 20 oz water bottle!  I poured it into a bucket and Cupid drank it all, I felt bad I didn't have more for him.

I was about to load him back up, when I realized there was a horse behind the fence next to us.  The horse came up to the fence, and then Cupid really wanted to go make friends.  Then he didn't want to load.  I hope he was just distracted by the horse, and not hesitant because he doesn't like my driving or the trailer!  But he got on and seemed quiet on the way home.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Back on Track

I had a great vacation, but I missed Cupid a lot and was happy to come back!  Cupid had gotten quite a bit more fuzzy over the past week.  I'll probably have him clipped in a few weeks.  My trainer rode Cupid a few times while I was gone, primarily flatwork and working on acceptance of the bit, and said he was good.  Except the last ride, when apparently he was a little distracted/spooky. :p

Saturday I just did a little hack around the property, easing back into it!

Sunday - I rode Cupid in the outdoor arena.  I put my German martingale on, in case he got used to how my trainer rides him with a steadier contact!  He was very good.  I tried to focus on keeping my leg long, and also making sure he was nice and forward, and working on bending, some serpentines, and leg yields.  We cantered a bit each direction, doing the easier side (right) first.  I ended with taking the martingale off and doing some stretchy trot.  We did have 2 spooks, once at a horse walking on the path below the arena and the second time I couldn't tell why but luckily they weren't too bad. 

We took Monday off, and had a lesson on Tuesday.  Cupid felt fantastic!  At first I thought he might be a little footsore, but realized he was just using himself a little better which to me translated to feeling like he is lighter on his feet!  The jumps were all removed form the arena (just a few standards and poles piles), so we had plenty of room.  My trainer took some video clips, and I realized I need to work on keeping my hands lower and elbows more bent. 
Wednesday - I hopped on Cupid bareback and we walked around the property for about 20 minutes.  No spooks!

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?

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. :(