Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Trail Ride in Runnymede Sculpture Garden

Though it is still a bit hazy, the air quality has gotten better.  On Sunday I did a light ride, about 30 minutes in the covered arena walk/trot and hopped over a few tiny crossrails.  Cupid was not very inspired by the tiny jumps (a foot tall, max), and didn't even muster a few strides canter on landing.  But I did try to get him going forward and straight as best I can, and also did some leg yields to get him listening to my leg.

I had Monday off for Veteran's Day, so Cupid and I headed out to meet our friend for a trail ride in the Runnymede Sculpture Garden.  We haven't been there in about a year.  A lot of the art is large, industrial-type installations.  (Stuff I don't really get, but I can barely draw a stick figure so who am I to judge.) 
There are also some life-size and larger than life people and animals - a camel, horse, monkey, and more. 
Then there are random ceramics. 

And some stuff I don't even know how to describe. 
It was a nice, easy ride and for the most part fairly flat. We kept it at a walk.  Cupid paid no attention to the art, but did occasionally try to stop to forage.  He's weird and likes to eat moss.  He also pulled out a giant clump of weeds, then tried to figure out how he can knock the dirt clod off the roots and eat it with his bit on. 
Yummy moss
Smoky haze covering the view.
We eventually made our way out of the sculpture garden and into Huddart Park.  A part of the trail was fairly steep downhill with several narrow switchbacks.  I was a little worried about taking a bad step, but Cupid was able to navigate through it.  We also did a little gate practice, and as I suspected a real gate was quite a bit more difficult than the rope gate we did for working equitation so it was not pretty but we eventually got it.  Aside from the gate needing more work he was a perfect trail pony!  It was about a 2 hour ride total.  Cupid was a little sweaty, probably from being so fuzzy more so than the actual work. 

After the ride I remembered to start my TIP recreational riding log (thanks to http://poorwomanshowing.blogspot.com for the motivation!)  I was able to look up most of our trail rides from the past year from my blog entries, and we are almost at our first milestone to get a badge! 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Ranch Ride

Wouldn't you know, the day the arena is full of the perfect tiny jumps we could pop over for fun the air is too smoky for a real ride.  Luckily the fire is 200 miles away, but we are still covered in a smoky haze.  So instead I just hopped on Cupid bareback and we strolled around the property for about 20 minutes.  Not much to write about so here are some photos from our ride.
Velveteen horse, so soft and fuzzy but dusty and static-y too!
Signature trees that give the property it's name, Cypress Ridge
Though we have plenty of pines too

Let him stop for a snack...
... which led to a game of what else can I find to eat

Friday, November 2, 2018

Making up for Lost Time

Cupid got Monday off, and on Tuesday we had a pretty good ride in the covered arena.  He didn't feel quite so lazy, but instead of settling for that I tried to push him for a little more still.  We kept it fairly light, continuing the things we worked on in our last lesson just less small circles.  I decided to just focus on the trot work again and not canter.

Then on Wednesday I rode Cupid in the outdoor arena, and as soon as I got on I could tell he had a little more energy.  It was slightly cooler... or maybe because I've been giving him apples all week :p  We walked a few minutes.  I've been doing some stretches while we walk, rotating/windmilling my arms one at a time, taking my feet out of the stirrups and stretching my legs out long, then lifting my leg out to the side.  The last one is quite painful for me, tight hip flexors, but isn't so bad if I keep my other leg in the stirrup.

After my stretches we did some shallow loop serpentines each direction, then went up to the trot a bit sooner then usual.  And Cupid wanted to go!  So we only trotted a few minutes before I asked him to canter, thinking he would quickly get tired and want to stop.  But he was full of energy!  We cantered on a 20 meter circle and did some transitions down to the trot and back to the canter.  Then we changed directions and we got the left lead, even though Cupid ran into it a little.  We transitioned down to the trot, then when I asked for the canter we got a fairly decent up transitions, yay!  I may have pushed my luck a bit because the third time he picked up the right lead, but we went back down to the trot and then he got it.  I thought three times was good, but then Cupid broke to a trot so I made him canter again.  Overall I was happy with how he felt, though I felt a bit loose and sloppy myself, tipping forward a bit and my heels were coming up and feet out of the stirrups.

Then I let Cupid walk a little to catch his breath, though he was still feeling pretty good.  He was a bit distracted at one part of the arena so we did some small circles as we walked by.  We ended with a fairly long trot set incorporating exercises similar to our last lesson.  Cupid was a bit quick initially but we managed to channel that energy into pretty nice work!
Powered by apples

Monday, October 29, 2018


Cupid appears to be feeling good, and back to normal.  I've still been keeping the cantering to a minimum, but he has felt comfortable and not acted cranky about it.  I lunged him a few days ago and he picked up the left lead correct all three times I asked. 

What he have been struggling a bit with is him being behind my leg - which is part of the reason why we haven't been cantering as much, because I don't want to practice sloppy transitions where I have to chase him into it.  Usually he's good about midway through a ride, but it starts out pretty poky.  The weather has been quite warm, and Cupid hasn't been clipped so I think that contributes to it but of course is not an excuse.  So I'm trying to be more clear about expectations and not settle for less, and make sure that starts during warm up.  Part of that is just intent on my part (I get lazy too!), making sure I'm not blocking him with my seat, and being firm when needed instead of just nagging throughout.  Transitions within gaits and leg yielding are good exercise to get him listening.
Enjoying some sunshine and what's left of the grass
Lessons have been going well, and have been primarily focused on increasing our connection.  My trainer has been focusing on making sure I don't let my reins get too long - check each time we change direction or increase bend.  Cupid isn't resistant, the last week or so he's felt amazing and light and responsive.  But it still feels a bit foreign to me after 20+ years riding on a longer rein, like I'm water skiing on his face, but I'm trying! 

We've been doing a lot of 20 meter circle with 10 meter half circles inside to change direction.  We've also been doing a 20 meter circle, with a 10 meter circle to the inside, then shoulder fore coming out of the smaller circle a few steps, then straighten a bit and increase the trot.  We've also been doing a 3 loop serpentine with a 10 meter circle figure-8 as we cross the centerline.  All this at the trot - like I said we've been doing a lot of trotwork!  Cupid's work ethic has been super lately, once we get warmed up anyways.  He likes to figure out what we're doing and seems quite keen to get it right, so I just need to be clear and consistent!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Semi-Update, and more WE Show Photos

Cupid has seemed slightly better our last few works, but we also took it a bit easy so it's kind of hard to say.  We had lessons on Friday and Sunday, where I started warmed him up at the walk and trot, then got off and he cantered on the lunge line, then I got back on and finished with trot work.  Both days he was a bit lazy to start, so I focused on being more forward in the warm up portion.  Friday he was inconsistent with the left lead on the lunge, but was much better on Sunday.   I didn't have side reins on him, and he looked much happier without them.  However on Sunday cantering to the right he did twist his head a bit - I was using a caveson and had the line clipped over his nose so it wasn't related to the bit or uneven pressure.  

After the lunge portion he usually has more energy, and we've had some really great trot work.  I don't know if the lunging is helpful for him to loosen up a bit?  I'm not a huge fan of lunging because doing that many small-ish circles seems hard on them so I don't do it very often, but right now it is seeming to help.  ??? 

In between lesson days we went for a nice hack around the property, bareback.

Some photos from the working equitation schooling show.

Not very dressage-y, sigh.
No I shouldn't have to lean this far to get it - that is just bad form!
Medieval times

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

It's a Puzzle

Cupid got a shoe back on, and I decided to longe him to see how he looks.  Honestly I'm at a bit of a loss because he has been going super well most of the time, but there is something bothering him.  I've discussed it with the chiropractor and my trainer, who agree that something is not quite right, but it doesn't seem serious and to just use my best judgment.  So I've continued riding, though taking it easy especially with the cantering as he seems totally fine otherwise.  Part of me is hesitant to share this because everyone has different ways of doing things, and I don't want someone to come across this and criticize me for not doing more / something different / for the love of god why are you working that poor obviously lame horse, but this is my journal and this is what we're coping with at the moment.
His favorite frame - aka the anteater

I think I threw too many variables into the equation when I was lunging him, which made the results less clear.  For starters, I used his old loose ring Herm Sprenger, and he chomped on it throughout (which is why I originally switched to just the Myler, but thought I'd give it a try again.)  Then when I put on his balancing reins he was just cranky - not sure if that was body discomfort or just because we haven't used it in a while.  I had it on the longest setting, but he was still unhappy.

We started off without the reins, walking and trotting a bit both directions.  Then put the reins on for some trot and canter, starting at the right.  As I said he was fussy with the reins on, even at the trot and it just got worst at the canter.  Going to the left he was again fussy, but did pick up the left lead correctly each time.  I thought he was short in the left shoulder, but I don't know if I was just seeing that since that's what the chiropractor said. So if anyone wants to play detective, here are some clips (bear in mind it's hard to hold the longe line and whip, while trying to film!)

Walk warm up to the left - he's unmotivated but tracking up.

Trot warm up to the right, without the balancing reins.  His mouth is busy but he's fairly relaxed. 

Trotting to the right after I put the balancing reins on, more fussy. 

Canter to the right, not happy.  (Last time I cantered on him going right he felt quite good, so I don't know if he was just protesting the balancing reins??)

Canter to the left.  No trouble picking up the lead, but not very relaxed.

The next day (today) we had a lesson, and I told my trainer I just wanted to stick to trot work and Cupid felt amazing.  Starting out we made sure we were going forward (when we walk I should be able to ask for a trot any moment!)  When we started trotting on a 20 meter circle to the left Cupid was twisting his head a bit, so my trainer told me to counter-bend a little to get his shoulder back - which I didn't realize he was popping I was just focusing on the head. 

I had a lot of opportunity to work on myself, especially focusing on maintaining proper contact (one of my biggest weaknesses!)  We did a lot of going around a 20 meter circle, with a figure eight (two half 10 meter circle) change of direction through the middle.  We also did a little leg yielding, and transitions.  Honestly Cupid felt great, I just don't know what to think!

Monday, October 15, 2018

That's a Wrap

I said my last show at Greenville was my last show, but I was secretly hoping to go again end of October.  Even though I'm still feeling up for it, Cupid has unfortunately had a few (luckily minor) setbacks so our season really is over.

We had one good day with the left lead last week, but he's still been struggling a bit and on some days been downright cranky about me asking - very unlike him so I figured something must actually be bothering him.  Last week the chiropractor confirmed his left shoulder was very tight.  She worked on it, and recommended 24 hours off and showed me some stretches.  
Poor Cupid :(

Then yesterday I found him missing his right front shoe - again!  Ugh.  I put bell boots on after he lost his shoe for the second time a few weeks ago hoping that would put an end to this, but no such luck.  The pasture has been dry so I'm not sure how he's losing them, I was unable to find the shoe all three times.  I thought with the durasole and biotin we had been doing much better this year, but this is the third time in the last month.  It was the same shoe all three times so I guess the little bit of chipping each time is making it harder to hold the shoe, but his feet didn't look bad.  Having a short back and long legs doesn't help either.  It's just frustrating and I'm sure my shoer hates us! 
Not again!!

Once we get the shoe back on I'm going to continue training a few weeks, and plan to work on the left lead a bit on the longe or long lines.  Then Cupid will get a few weeks off and I'll start thinking ahead about my goals for next year.

Here's a video the day after the WE schooling show.  Even though Cupid has gotten really good about traveling this year and seems quite content being new places, he is always very happy to come home!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Working Equitation Schooling Show

Since the clinic I did some very rudimentary practice with cones and a rope gate (I was too lazy to set up much more), and mostly focused on transitions and memorizing the dressage test.  I went through it a few times in my lesson last week, and my trainer set up a short court which was very helpful since everything comes up so much quicker!  So I wouldn't say I was super prepared, but I felt good enough to go out there and have some fun with it!

The dressage test for intro is just medium walk and working trot, but also has a rein back and five meter half-circles at the walk.  The halts are also supposed to come from the trot with no walk steps, but my plan was to allow minimal walk steps to make it more smooth, though we have started practicing from the trot (thinking ahead to First Level!!) I didn't feel quite ready.  But not having to worry about whether we would get the left lead canter made it a lot less stressful! 

We had a good warm up in the covered arena.  Cupid relaxed pretty quickly, despite the birds in the rafters and the connected stalls.  After walking we trotted around, then got on a 20 meter circle with 10 meter circles both to the inside and outside both directions and finished with a little shoulder-in both on the circle and straight both directions.  We walked outside several minutes before our ride time, and Cupid tensed up, though I'm not sure why.  I got him back in the warm up and did a quick trot, thinking that might be better than trying to get him to stand. 

We entered the arena and I let him walk close by the letters with the pumpkins on them but luckily he didn't seem bothered by them.  He did however spook a little the first time we passed the judge's table at C!  They hadn't run the bell yet though so we had another pass around.

I felt quite good about our test, though of course we need to be rounder.  And my elbows are abhorrent, I cringed when I saw how straight they still are :(  I think I'm just going to have to tie them together behind my back...

Video of our test:
We had a few hours before the obstacle portion (or Ease of Handling as it's actually called in Working Equitation).  I walked Cupid around a bit, but he was pretty content standing by the trailer eating hay.  I was happy to see the same obstacles we practiced with in the clinic, though with a few additional pumpkin decorations by this point I figured wouldn't be a problem. 

A funny note from warm up: Cupid was quite unnerved by a loud leopard appaloosa!  He would tense up every time it was close to him.  It was pretty surprising, I've never seen him react like that to another horse.  He's seen pintos and more roan-type appaloosas, but he didn't seem to know what to make of dalmatian spots.  There was a mule at the show too, which he was totally fine with.  And he's seen cows and minis and donkeys in the past.  Luckily the appaloosa left and we had time to settle back down before we started.  (Though now I don't know what we'll do if we do a rail class in the future and there is a leopard appy in with us!) 

I kept it pretty conservative - down transitions a little early and loops pretty big, but was super happy with how Cupid did!!  The cup on the pole was our worst one again, as we overshot it a bit and had to step back.  We had comments to work on our geometry (not sure if that means circles/loops were uneven or just too big), and more energy at the walk for the ring spear and going through the donut-shape.  But no major mistakes. 

Video of our round:

It was a fun day, and Cupid and I ended up in third place!  I'm definitely interested in doing it again.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Working Equitation / Obstacle Clinic

Working Equitation seems to be growing in popularity in this area, though so far most clinics and shows I've heard about were a few hours away.  When I heard about an Ease of Handling (the obstacle phase) clinic an hour away I jumped on on the opportunity to try something new with Cupid.  It was a lot of fun, and a new way for Cupid and I to play and work together. 

The trainer had a very patient approach, and taught us a lot about the rules of the sport as well as practice tips.  There are a lot of technical rules to keep track of!  Some of them don't make sense to me - not only do you lose points for talking to your horse (same as in dressage), but you also lose points for touching/patting the horse's neck!  That's going to be hard for me, to go through the entire course without being able to praise Cupid.  For the intro level you need to trot between obstacles, but most of the obstacles can be done at a walk.  You are not timed, but get points for how well you execute each obstacle. 

There were four other pairs in my group, all of us new to the sport.  We started out by showing the horses the obstacles in hand.  There is a lot going on in the arena - cones, poles, barrels, etc, but Cupid didn't seem worried about any of them.  Some horses snorted at the bull cut out, but Cupid didn't bat an eye.  The trainer suggested we walk with the garocha (long bamboo-type pole we use to spear rings) along the horse's right side, which Cupid was also fine with.
Busy arena
Then we mounted up and started going through the obstacles one by one.  The first one was easy; a figure-8 around two barrels.  Always starting to the right.  You want to show a nice bend, and make each half the same size.  We did it at the trot, but you can walk.

The second obstacle was two cones side by side about 3 feet apart with poles stuck in them, and a cup on the pole on the right.  You had to trot in, halt between the cones (can do a few walk steps), and with your right hand lift the cup off the pole and put it on the other pole.  This looked like it would be one of the easiest obstacles but surprisingly Cupid would not stop and stand still between the cones!  The trainer had me just walk through a few times until Cupid relaxed.  Then pause for a moment before the cones and walk through.  Then stop for a moment between the cones, but walk on right away without touching the cup.  Eventually we were able to halt and move the cup.  (I may have given Cupid a treat or two to help...)  We went back a few times while waiting for other obstacles just to make sure it was no big deal.
Cupid's least favorite obstacle
The next obstacle was a little wooden bridge.  We trotted up to it, and walked over no problem.  Next up was a line of poles that we weave through.  Again it's not about speed, just showing a steady pace, even size loops, and nice change of bend between each.  This is the only obstacle you have to do at the trot.

The next obstacle was a gate, which I thought would be one of the harder ones.  Luckily for me it was a rope between two standards, which I find easier than a solid gate.  You want to approach it straight before angling to the opening side, use your right hand to open, go through, swing the horse's haunches and back up, then close it behind you.  And Cupid executed it really well! 
Gate - went really well!
The next obstacle was very simple - a plastic pitcher (empty) on a barrel.  You had to trot up, halt next to it, and lift the pitcher over your head.  Our down transitions were a little sloppy, and Cupid sniffed the barrel and pitcher which I learned you also lose points for.  So again it was a seemingly easy obstacle we struggled with.

Up next was a donut shape created with poles and caveletti blocks, and ours had plastic flamingos in the middle.  You had to go through between the poles first going to the right side so with a left bend, come out and do a turn on the haunches and go back the other direction.  None of the horses had trouble with this, though most of us (myself included) could use some work on the turn on the haunches. 

Following was the quintessential working equitation obstacle, where you had to take a garocha out of a barrel, ride to the bull cut out and spear the ring on top, then ride to the second barrel and deposit the pole with the ring.  You hold the pole in your right hand, are are supposed to kind of toss it up a little so you're holding it higher, then tuck it under your arm to get the ring.  If you miss the ring you lose points but keep going.  If you drop the pole, at the intro level my understanding is you stay on the horse and someone will hand it back to you.  But if you put it in the barrel upside down then maybe that's an elimination?  Cupid was very good at this obstacle, we did it at the walk without halting.  Some of the horses didn't like the pole being dropped back in the barrel, but Cupid ignored it. 

#9 had you walk between two parallel poles on the ground, halt (again a nice square halt for maximum points) and ring a bell, then back straight out.  Cupid often tends to swing a little to the right backing up, but we managed to stay between the poles. 

The final obstacle was three barrels we trotted a cloverleaf-type pattern around: first a right turn around the barrel on the right; then change of bend around the furthest out barrel; then a right turn around the third barrel.  Then through the finish cones, halt and salute. 

Overall I was super happy with how Cupid did, though I was surprised at which obstacles we had the most trouble with.  Even the trainer said she'd never seen a horse not like just the cups, usually if they have trouble with that they have problems throughout.  But I guess I already knew Cupid was a little bit special :p 

We are signed up for the working equitation schooling show in a week and half.  It will be in the same arena, hopefully with mostly the same props so that will help.  I still need to learn the dressage test.  For the intro level it is walk/trot only, but unlike the straight dressage tests you need to halt from the trot, back up, and do a 5 meter half circle at the walk. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

3 out of 4

So in the past two weeks Cupid pulled his shoe on the right front, scratched his left hind to where it was swollen, and then today he clipped the back of his left front heel.  Oh Cupid!!  So very accident prone.  Luckily it's usually minor things, at least.  I cleaned his heel, applied ointment, and covered with gauze and vetwrap. 

The weather has gotten quite warm again, and with his fuzzy coat Cupid has been sweating a lot.  He normally gets clipped around the end of October.  I am still thinking about waiting until later this year since he'll be getting a few weeks off, but that's assuming the weather cools off. 

Our lessons last week were a bit mixed.  The trot work has felt good, and the right lead canter is also much improved.  However the last two rides Cupid was very balky about picking up the left lead, even kicking out when I ask.  It is unlike him to react like that; he doesn't always pick it up but usually instead he just picks up the counter canter with no resistance.  I don't know if it's related to the feet issues, but something is obviously bothering him since he is very specific about it.  He feels completely normal (even great) doing anything else.  So we're going to take it a bit easy, and I have a call in to the chiropractor to see if she can come take a look at him.

We did go for a little trail ride this weekend, about an hour and a half walking under the trees.  Cupid was perfect throughout.  I am very pleased with how solid he's gotten as a trail horse over the past year. 
Cupid stops to stare...
at this little deer family
Under the trees
Sharing a post-ride Oat & Honey bar

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Quiet Week

I haven't quite managed to get back in the swing of things since returning from vacation.  Cupid got his shoe replaced on Friday after I already went out in the morning, so I didn't ride him until Saturday.  Just a basic ride in the covered arena to knock the dust off.  He started off with a bit of energy, but was a little sticky moving off my leg in leg yields.  We also needed a few tries to get the left lead canter. 

On Sunday I had family visiting so I didn't ride, but did take them out to see Cupid.  He was happy to meet people and get carrots. 
Winter coat coming in, he's dark!
On Monday morning Cupid's left hind leg was a little puffy above the fetlock.  No heat and he didn't seem sensitive, body temperature normal.  I found the likely culprit, a very small and benign scrape on his fetlock.  (Oh, Cupid!)  I cleaned it and applied ointment and we did a light ride, just walk and trot for about half an hour in the covered arena.  The puffiness was gone afterwards.  However Tuesday morning it was puffy again.  No heat.  Since the light work seemed to help the day before, I saddled him up and we just walked around the property for about 20 minutes.  Sometimes Cupid is a bit looky when it's foggy, but today he was very good. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Extended Vacation

I was really excited to ride again when I got back from my trip.  Unfortunately I found Cupid with a loose, slightly twisted shoe!  :(  Big bummer.  Because of how the shoe was, I didn't really want to wrap it, and I don't have the tools to pull it off.  My old shoer showed me years ago, and I've done it a few times.  I considered keeping him in the stall, but he's much happier outside so I just hoped he wouldn't do too much damage.  I spent extra time grooming him.  He was very dusty, and is also shedding his summer coat.

The next day, as I expected, he had no shoe.  There was a bit of chipping but luckily not too bad.  I put a hoof boot on (currently experimenting with the Hoof Wraps Brand Bandage Kit, since the easy boot has been a bit hit or miss staying on) and we walked around the property for about 15 minutes.  It felt good to be back in the saddle, even briefly.  Afterwards I put Magic Cushion in his foot and wrapped it.  I left my shoer another message, hopefully he can come out ASAP!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Practice Makes Perfect

The lunge line lessons were quite helpful in letting me work on my position, but they unfortunately don't address one of my biggest flaws: ineffective use of my legs.  The breakthrough I made with the leg yield helped, and my next objective was to work on canter transitions.  I realized when I was focusing so hard on trying to maintain my seat in the saddle, keep my shoulders above my hips, and not raise my hands I was pretty much forgetting to use my legs.  Now some horses may be able to pick up a canter through your seat alone, but Cupid and I are not there yet!  So we've been spending a good amount of time working on our transitions.  Part of it is just me making sure I am organized before asking for it.  Also having a good quality trot - also practicing a bit of sitting trot which I haven't really been doing a lot of. 

In my last lesson I was worried I was getting a little too perfectionist about it, waiting too long before asking because I wanted it to be correct.  But my trainer said right now that is fine.  If we had a show coming up we would focus more on promptness, but we have the luxury of taking our time and learning it correctly.  So sit up, outside leg back a touch and a light squeeze, and if no response add the whip.  And wouldn't you know we got some pretty nice canter transitions!  The right is unsurprisingly better than the left, especially the second day in a row.  I had lessons on both Saturday and Sunday, since I'm out of town this week.  I think Cupid was a little tired on Sunday.  He was also anticipating the canter a bit, so while I was focusing on getting that good quality trot he was trying to rush into it.  So we went back to transitions between the walk and trot a bit until he settled and paid attention. 

We also did a bit more work with the German martingale.  Again the purpose of this is to help me achieve a more steady and consistent contact, since after 25 years of riding primarily hunters and trails I'm still somewhat apprehensive about.  But I can see and feel the difference with the martingale, it does give us the rounder "training level frame" judges keep commenting we lack.  I don't want to have to rely on it, but using it sparingly will let me get a feel for what I'm looking for, and allow Cupid to develop the correct muscles.  Though on Sunday, when Cupid was a bit tired, he was lugging down into it a bit and I was having to work the keep his poll up. 
Cupid is getting the next week off while I'm gone.  He'll get turned out every day so I'm not worried about him acting up when I get back (though I will miss riding him!)  He's been working hard, and has had a few days where he seemed to struggle a bit so I'm hoping the time off will be good for him. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Dressage with Speedbumps

I've been trying to do a few little jumps every week or two, so it's not a big deal to either Cupid or myself.  Most of the time these jumps are small enough to step over, with the focus being riding between the jumps - pace, straightness, etc.  Even though I don't actually feel nervous, I realized today that subconsciously it does affect me.  Often it just feels sloppy: I let Cupid cut the corners, or canter instead of trot or vice versa approaching a jump. 

After one such round today I stopped to think about it, and I don't let Cupid get away with that when we're having a dressage or flat work day.  Adding a few little jumps shouldn't change that!  So I made a determined effort over a few more jumps and ended with some flat work, asking for some leg yields and shoulder ins.  Cupid (usually!) does listen if I ask, I just need to remember that I'm the one in the driver's seat.  And in fact Cupid would probably prefer not having to make decisions but I need to give him confidence that one of us (me) is in charge. 

Just a quick thought I wanted to get down from today's ride!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Week in Review

Last Sunday, after a really good lesson in the outdoor arena, we were cooling off with a walk around the property when suddenly Cupid went to his knees.  I think we were both pretty stunned as he stayed there a moment, but then he straightened up and I jumped off.  At first I was confused as I didn't see anything he could have tripped over, but the hole was behind us.  Apparently he got a hind foot in it, and momentum brought his front end down.  Though he had a little scuff on one knee, he is fine.  No swelling or lameness.  (Of course I still cold hosed it because I like to worry and fuss!)
Poor Cupid :(
On Monday we kept it fairly light, about half an hour of walk and trot.  Working on the idea of "carry yourself," making Cupid responsible for not petering out of whatever pace we set.

On Tuesday we did trot poles and a little course of poles and small jumps.

Wednesday we had a lesson and it was a bit odd.  It was foggy and cold, Cupid started out a bit stiff but ok.  We started trotting to the left, and all of the sudden he just lost energy.  He felt totally even though.  We continued to trot a bit to see what happens.  Then we walked, and then did some canter work which actually felt quite good.  But afterwards when we went back to the trot it was just like someone took the wind out of his sails, but again he didn't seem sore or off.  I packed his feet just in case.

I gave him Thursday off and did some stretches from my Masterson Method book.  I also noticed when I was grooming him he was shedding quite a bit.  In the past he has sometimes been a little funny when seasons change, so maybe that was it.

Cupid seemed back to normal on Friday, and we had a good ride.  I forgot my whip, and even though I don't feel like I use it that much it felt weird not having it!  But we were able to get our left lead canter several times without problem.

We had a lesson on Saturday, and played a little with the German martingale.  Cupid didn't like it at first and tried a few evasions - lifting the head, dropping the head, going quick.  Then he gave in, and it felt quite nice.  I wish I could get that same steady contact without it.  Though for some reason it did seem to make me want to carry my hands high, I'll have to work on that next time.  We ended with some leg yielding, and I realized that not only is it more elegant but also more effective if I just squeeze with my calf instead of bump with my heels.  Which I probably should have known but was a new realization for me!

On Sunday we went on a trail ride, the same park we usually go (Huddart).  We did about 2 hours and Cupid was very good, no spooks. 
Walking under the oak trees on the way to the trailhead
No water in the creek

Friday, August 17, 2018

Videos, and Post Show Week Recap

I was very excited to receive my show videos of tests Training 1 and 3, unfortunately she was unable to get 2.   Purchased from Smith Videography:

 Cupid got a well-earned day off on Monday, and Tuesday I thought he would a break from dressage to practice coursing over poles and cavaletti.  He felt great on the flat warming up, and the poles course felt solid.  We had some of our best lead changes to date, with barely a step of trot in between.

On Wednesday we did ground driving, walk and trot with circles and serpentines and going over some poles.  We ended with a little in-hand work.  Cupid seems to have figured out that if I stop him mid-way over a pole I'm going to ask for a side pass. 

Thursday morning I found Cupid was a scrape on his right hind leg and a few bite marks on his back, but luckily all superficial.  I set up some trail obstacles in the arena for another fun day.  We weaved through cones, backed through parallel poles, walked between two coops, and practiced opening and closing a rope gate between two jump standards.  We managed to do the gate though our form and technique needs work! 

On Friday we had a lesson.  It started out slow, as in Cupid was being quite poky.  He eventually warmed up out of it.  We had a really nice transition into the left lead canter and the canter itself was nice and balanced so we decided to end on that note for canter, and focus on trot work.  We played a little with lengthenings, first on a 20 meter circle lengthening after coming out of a 10 meter circle, then we did a shallow serpentine up one long side of the arena to work on bending and come across the diagonal with the lengthening.  Although we need to keep working to get a true lengthening it did make our working trot pretty nice after! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Greenville Dressage Show, Day 2

Cupid seemed quite content when I left him Saturday night, but I wasn't sure what to expect the next day.  I packed my longing equipment in case we needed to burn off some energy, but when I took him out for a walk he was totally calm and relaxed.  But he seemed to be feeling good, I thought he was striding out a bit smoother than he looked the last few days.  After breakfast I was going to walk him again but he was napping in his stall so I decided to leave him be.
Snuck a few bites from the lawn...
Our ride was at 12:45.  I braided him at 11, then got myself ready.  I was happy to take advantage of coats being waived as it was in the upper 90s (and I don't think I could even button my coat right now!)    We headed to the warm up ring a little after 12.  My impression from the morning confirmed that Cupid seemed to be moving a bit more loosely, though he was a bit lazy.  I can't blame him in the heat though!  I kept the warm up pretty similar, walking on a loose rein to start, then shortening the reins and walking some loops for bending and stretching.  After about 10 minutes we started trotting, again on a loose rein to start then shortening and doing some figures.  Once he was a little warm we did transitions between walk and trot to wake him up, and some shoulder in for suppleness.  We did a little left lead canter, and it was still a struggle.  Then we just walked until it was time to head over. 

Mid braid
I felt great entering the arena for Training 3, and even better exiting!  I thought it was our best test yet.  I'm finally starting to get a hang of those darn loops.  We picked up the left lead canter no problem (!!) and sustained it during the longer period required, with a decent down transition at X.  I was especially happy with our transition into the right lead, which felt quite good.  Our stretching trot wasn't as good as it could have been, and I think I forgot to shorten my reins again before completing the circle.  But overall I was thrilled, and couldn't have been happier with Cupid.

Unfortunately our score didn't quite reflect how good I felt about the test, but this weekend I felt like we are finally meeting the minimum requirements of Training level.  This was likely my last show of the year.  But I am happy with the (admittedly slow) progress we've made and excited to keep improving.  I think if we keep working hard this fall and winter (with a few weeks break planned) we will be ready to move onto First level next year.
By virtue of small classes, but what the heck I'll take it.