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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Flexibility

Friday - Cupid got a well deserved day off!

Saturday - I tacked Cupid up in my jump saddle for our lesson, but the arena was pretty busy and the footing was a little uneven (several big wet spots) so we ended up doing flatwork.  Cupid was very good about staying focused with all the activity around him.  We even had a horse come over a jump coming towards us pretty close, and Cupid was not bothered.  We spent a lot of time on a 20 meter circle or down at one end of the arena because of all the traffic (including a lunging horse down at the other end, 2 flat lessons, and someone jumping).  I'm not feeling Cupid reaching for the bit like a did a few weeks ago and would like to get that connection back, but I am happy with how mature he has been behaving!

I gave Cupid a full bath after our lesson, for the first time in a while.  

Sunday - My trainer rode Cupid.  She said they worked mainly on getting his hind end under him.  She did the same exercises I have been doing in lessons, like trotting a 20 meter circle, doing a 10 meter circle in sitting trot, and going back on the bigger circle.  She said he was very good.

Monday - Cupid and I went on a hack around the property.  He was good, no spooks.  We trotted up one little hill, and did some bending exercises and little leg yields on the wider paths.

Tuesday - We had a jumping lesson.  It started off very good as we warmed up over a cross rail, first trotting then cantering from both directions.  There were 2 other horses being ridden and one lunged in the arena, but Cupid was focused on the job.  We had one long spot, but then I tried to half halt a few strides before the jump and make sure I was sitting up all the way to the base.  Once Cupid added a stride without me asking, he is learning that is what we want him to do!

Then I was coming around, and hadn't realized my trainer raised the jump to a vertical, and the two other horses were right around the fence too so I got a little distracted, thought about circling but went ahead to the jump, and we knocked the rail.  But we went back and did it a few times clean.

Then we did a little course: starting with the vertical on the left lead, circle back to another vertical on the diagonal, then a figure-eight to a cross rail on the other diagonal and back over the first fence again - my trainer initially said 5 strides but it was an even 6 for us each time.  We went through it a few times, but my anxiety was building even though it was going well.  So my trainer lowered the first jump back to a cross rail and the second jump to the ground, and told me to just focus on the flatwork in between the jumps!  Then made me go through the last line twice more after, saying I can do this and need to push myself a little to grow.

Wednesday - Lunge line lesson.  Cupid trucked around like an old school horse!  Even when I was doing loosening exercises like windmilling my arms, lifting my legs straight off his sides, looking up at the roof, and leaning all the way back he just flicked an ear back at my like what on earth is going on up there, before shrugging it off and continuing on.  I was thinking he could be a good therapy horse one day in the distant future.  We put side reins on and looped the reins through the throatlatch so I can really focus on my seat.

I always knew I had tight hip flexors (joys of being a runner), but I never really thought about how it affected my riding.  A few years ago my old trainer had me doing the lifting the legs exercise and I remember it hurting, and I really felt it today.  I held it for about 5 seconds, short rest, and we did it many times.  It hurt at first, but after a few times wasn't as bad.  My trainer didn't know I had trouble with this, but said it makes sense that it is more natural and comfortable for me to lean forward because it keeps my hips closed.  I'm going to try to do more hip opener exercises off the horse and hopefully that will help.

We did posting 2 beats sitting one beat up.  Then we took the stirrups off and I practiced sitting trot.  I tend to try to clamp down with my legs to hold myself down, my trainer told me to sit deep on my pockets, and relax my legs even if I bounce more.  Cupid didn't seem bothered by my bouncing, he was being great!

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Then we put the stirrups back and took the lunge line off, and I went around the arena a few times trying to stay in the correct position.  I think my seat and upper body were better, but it makes it harder for me to keep the contact in the reins!  It's hard putting it all together!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Jump School


I tacked Cupid up with our jumping saddle and running martingale, not sure if we would jump or not.  I was a little concerned about his slight stumbles, my wandering mind, and a slight disconnect recently.  But I figured if nothing else, we may do some poles.


Warm up started out a little sticky.  Cupid just seemed tired and cranky.  I rode a little in two-point, but it was a bit hard to keep him going.  In the canter we were supposed to go medium canter in two-point on the long sides, and shorten and sit on the short sides, but I let him drop to a trot a few times on the long sides.  My trainer said to go on the diagonal, then bend and apply leg at the corner to try to get a lead change.  But we did not get it, either direction. 

Cupid didn't feel off or anything, he just seemed tired though I'm not sure why because we haven't worked that hard.  But I didn't feel any of the tripping or slipping behind today, so we decided to try a little crossrail.

We trotted it a few times each direction, and Cupid perked up a little.  We cantered it a few times, and Cupid was super good, he kept a nice even pace before and after the jump.  Coming on the left lead I asked Cupid to jump a little too long.  It was the wrong decision, but at least I thought about it and made a decision.  But my trainer said for where we are now in our training, and given the size jumps getting too close is always a better decision.  We talked about it a little, and I think I need to do some work over poles to improve my eye.  But afterwards I worked on sitting up before the jump and getting him to the base, and the rest of our jumps were pretty good!

Then we added a 2 stride line after the crossrail.  Cupid stayed nice and relaxed, and didn't rush even when he saw the 2nd jump ahead.  Then we added one more cross rail after.  We ended with a 6 crossrail course, and it went very well!  I was very happy with Cupid and how even he stayed.
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I gave him electrolytes, in case that helps his energy and since it is finally starting to not feel like winter.  He is getting a well deserved day off tomorrow!

Highs and Lows

We had a little rough patch where I felt like we've been regressing since the show.  My trainer said I reverted back to my old bad habits, and I agree.  I've been dealing with a little stress, and my mind has been a little preoccupied so I haven't been as focused while riding.  But, I know this is part of the sport, especially with a younger horse.

After the show I was gone a few days for a work trip.  My trainer rode Cupid, and said the first ride (after 2 days off) he was a little distracted but they worked through it.  She rode him again the next day and said they jumped and he was great.  They did a 5 stride line and a 2 stride line, and she said after they'd gone through it Cupid was landing on the correct leads.

Thursday - I had a lesson including a bit of time on the lunge line.  I still held the reins but a little looser, so I can really focus on sitting back properly.  Cupid was super good, my trainer joked that Cupid could do beginner lessons.  Although his trot is still not very comfortable! 

Friday - We had a joint lesson with my trainer's student we sometimes ride with.  Always a fun change of pace!  Cupid was good, though I think sometimes trotted a little faster to try to catch up.  We did our warm up and flat work together, and took turns cantering.  Then we did a grid exercise, starting with a single pole, trotting in and cantering out and halting after.  Then it became a cross rail, one stride to a pole, and halt.  We ended with two cross rails and a halt.  Cupid did try cantering in front of the first jump a few times, so I tried coming in at more of a sitting trot which helped keep him from cantering.  He was good at halting.  Then after the halt, we did a canter circling around to another cross rail.  Cupid got a little quick, but overall was good.

Saturday - Cupid was a little on edge, I'm not sure why.  We rode in the arena with just one other horse, and Cupid was a little distracted and quick.  I didn't have a whole lot of time, so we walked around, then did a little leg yielding at the walk.  Then we trotted on a circle, and once I felt safe that Cupid wouldn't try anything naughty we trotted around the arena doing a lot of circles and figure eights using the jumps to help guide our route.  I mostly just wanted him to bend and pay attention.

Monday - I started riding Cupid outside the arena to warm up, and he got a little bug eyed over a pile of white boards on the ground.  We made our way to the outdoor arena where he had a hard stare at a chair outside the ring.  He was just in one of those moods where he was looking for excuses to spook!  But he was being pretty good, and was not quick.  Actually he was almost a little lazy.  We practiced riding some circles and squares, and did a short canter each direction.  Then we had to leave the arena to let the tractor come in and drag.  So we walked around outside, and then Cupid spooked at someone raking.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tuesday - I told my trainer my last two rides weren't great.  Nothing bad, just feeling like we're a little disconnected and regressed back to where we were a few months ago.  She agreed that I was reverting back to some of my old bad habits.  Hopefully eventually sitting up straighter with my elbows bent, hands closed, and legs long will feel natural and I can do it even if my mind is elsewhere.  We ended up having a pretty good lesson, although my new problem was collapsing through my side, on the inner rib cage.  We did a good amount of sitting trot, although most of the time I think I was just hovering over the saddle not really sitting.  Our transitions between walk and trot were very good both ways, but picking up the canter from the trot was not smooth.  Cupid had one stumble (my fault I think trying to correct too hard keeping him on a 10 meter circle), but a few other times too when it felt like his hind end slipped out a little bit.  He didn't feel off, but something to keep an eye on.

Wednesday - The saddle fitter came out.  We did a fairly simple ride but I think had 5 saddle changes!  I was very happy with how patient and well behaved Cupid was.  Especially since it was in the evening, not his usual schedule and with the arena a little busier then we're used to.  (But luckily there were no naughty horses in the arena Cupid was picking up on!)  I couldn't tell that much difference between the saddles, I didn't dislike any of them.  We ended up going back to one of the first ones I had, the County Competitor.  Cupid felt a better today, but still had a few very minor stumbles.  It feels to me like he may have strained his stifles a little or possibly hocks, very minor, but just a little something.  I packed his feet just in case that was part of it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

KM Dressage Schooling Show - Training Level Test 1

Our first dressage show didn't go quite as planned, but it was a good learning experience.  Unfortunately we didn't arrive to the showgrounds until less than half an hour before our ride time!  So we quickly got Cupid off the trailer, my trainer tacked him up and my barnmate went to check us in and get our number while I got myself ready.  Luckily I was already wearing my show breeches and shirt under sweats!  Cupid was whinnying a little, I think confused why the other horse he traveled with wasn't coming to the arena.  He was looking around, but behaving.  We rushed through a quick warm up, barely having time to canter a few strides each direction before we had to go in the ring!

I tried to calm myself as we trotted around the outside of the 20x60 arena.  Cupid looked up at the judges booth but went by calmly.  We trotted in, I went down to a walk a few steps before X, and we had a decent halt.  We made it through the test, getting all the transitions and leads, but we were both tense.  I wasn't sitting back, but I did try to make sure I wasn't holding the reins too short.  Cupid got a tiny bit strong the second canter (to the right), but came back down to a trot.  Our final halt I thought was better then I expected.  Leaving the arena I was relieved it was over, but I wasn't totally happy.  I just wished we had a little more time to get settled.

We went back to the warm up ring to do a little schooling, and Cupid was settling down.  We did some 20 meter circles with a little shoulder in, then rode through a few squares at the trot and canter.  Cupid was softening and starting to reach for the bit a little.  I was also sitting up better.  I made a joke that I wish I could ride this horse in the test, and my trainer said maybe I can, let's see if there is a spot open for us to go again.  Be careful what you wish for!  I got nervous again, which did affect my riding. 
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We rode our test a second time, much more relaxed.  We had one error where I let Cupid transition from the canter to a trot a marker early, and I decided to just keep going.  He was getting a little tired I think, though we didn't work that hard maybe it was just the nerves.  But overall I thought it was pretty good.
A few softer moments in the warm up ring
I was a little surprised that my scores were pretty similar for the two test, the second time being just over a point more.  I ended up just under 60%, which I was a little disappointed about I did want to get at least 60.  Most of the comments included "Obedient, but..." and then "above the bit" or "needs more stretch".  The rider comment was "hunt seat position", not surprising.  I shouldn't laugh but it was a little funny - my trainer said something about lunge line lessons.

Overall I was very happy with Cupid.  Even though he was nervous, I felt like he was trying hard to be good.  I think the judge saw that too, hence all the obedient comments.  We both need to learn to relax, but this was a good stepping stone.
Ready to go home!



Saturday, May 6, 2017

XC Schooling!

We have mostly been focusing on our flatwork and preparing for our dressage test, but took a little break today to go cross country schooling at the Horse Park!  My trainer was on foot coaching, and we had another horse and rider to keep us company.  Cupid was good standing tied to the trailer while I tacked him up.  He got a little antsy when we mounted up, but nothing bad.  We walked down the road and started walking down a track on the course.  Cupid spooked once when he saw another horse, but was not prancing or getting too quick.  I tried hard to stay relaxed in my body and not let my reins get too short.

We went to a spot by a water complex.  We walked around a few times, each direction, then crossed the water.  Cupid did not hesitate walking in, but did paw a little in the water!  My trainer was worried he wanted to roll!  But he kept walking.  We walked through it several times.  Then we trotted around the water, and eventually trotted through it too.  I didn't really feel ready to canter at first.  Cupid was being very good but he was looking around a little.  I kept focusing on breathing and trying to stay relaxed, and not choking up my reins.  We had a few nice relaxed moments, when I could sit back and I felt Cupid come round a little.

We took a little break while the other pair did a little canter work.  Cupid stood very nicely next to my trainer, very relaxed.  Then it was our turn again and we did a few transitions between trot and walk.  I was feeling good and brave enough to try a canter, and Cupid was perfect and relaxed!  We cantered a bit circle around the water.  Then we changed direction and did it all to the left.  Again Cupid was perfect.

I was tempted to quit while we were ahead, but my trainer wanted us to jump a little log.  We trotted up, I tried very hard to sit up.  Cupid smoothly and calmly hopped over, cantered a few strides, and came back to the trot when I asked.  Yay!!  We did it a few more times on a big circle around the water, and Cupid remained relaxed.  Then we did it the other direction.  We added another log on the circle.  I was super happy with Cupid, I really couldn't have asked for more!  He seemed pretty happy too.  Afterwards he wanted to go to my trainer, and rested his chin on her shoulder which I just read is a sign of affection.  I think he was proud of himself!  We walked back to the trailer on a loose rein, and I gave him an apple.  What a good boy!!



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Monday, May 1, 2017

Adventures in Dressage

I never really pursued dressage before I had Cupid, but I am enjoying it more and more and am very excited to see where it will take us.  I'm not giving up jumping, Cupid seems to enjoy it and on a good day I do too.  But dressage will help us with our jumping, as well as provide it's own set of challenges and rewards. 

As our first dressage show approaches, I had the perfect opportunity to learn from watching the riders at Rolex, and then my own trainer riding in a clinic with a classical master.  Although most of the tests were quite lovely, I was a little surprised by some of the mistakes I saw at Rolex.  Horses spooking, bucking at lead changes, or balking at the rein back.  I don't know if that makes me feel better or worst!  If the experts still have that happen, what chance do I have??  I am terrified that Cupid is going to plow through the halt, or take off at the canter and run straight out of the arena!

Saturday - I had a lesson after we got back from the clinic, right around noon.  This is not our normal routine, and during Cupid's lunch hour.  Cupid was a little spooky; nothing major but a few little sideways steps.  I thought it might be from a big folded up tarp outside the arena, so I stepped out of the arena a minute to let him take a look at it.  First I just made him walk past it a few feet away.  Then I turned him to it, and as he walked up I could feel his heart beating.  He put his nose on it and seemed okay.  The hay truck came through while we were riding, and I thought Cupid would be grumpy that he had to work but he was good.  I had the german martingale on, which really helps me maintain a steadier contact and Cupid felt really good.

We went through our training level test a few times.  Even though the elements are the same things we have been working on, and did in our warm up, it is more nerve wracking to ride it as a test!  My position got quite a bit worst, as I was leaning forward and riding very defensively.  This is one of my biggest goals for this year to get over this, but clearly I am not there yet.

Well deserved meal after our lesson
Sunday - Another midday lesson.  It was quite warm, Cupid was already a little sweaty when I brought him in from the pasture.  So I was expecting him to be grumpy that he had to work through lunch, in the heat, but he was fabulous!  I had the german martingale on him again, toward the end we tightened it a hole for a little trot work including circles, shoulder fore, and leg yielding.  Cupid did not seem to mind the martingale, he felt very soft and round and wonderful!  I was a lot more relaxed as well.

After our ride I hosed him off.  It hasn't been this warm in quite a while!
Post bath