Monday, May 21, 2018

Waiting for Summer

Despite being well into May, after the one warm day a week ago the weather has been pretty cold.  Cupid's barn is near the coast, and it can get very foggy and windy.  Luckily though Cupid has been behaving perfectly, and is even getting a lot more steady in the outdoor arena.

We had a fun, varied week.  Continuing to work on connection in our lessons and practicing our loops for Training test 3, and we also did some ground driving and in hand work, popped over some jumps (including a 2' oxer with flowers underneath - not big but the biggest I've done lately), and went on another trail ride at Huddart park.  Nothing really specific to report, Cupid's been pretty perfect.
Daisies
Grabbing a snack on the trail

Residential area before going into the park

Sharing

Jumps

Fog

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Uneventful

Cupid and I have had steady but unremarkable rides since I got back.  Not surprisingly, he was fine after 5 days off - his usual slightly lazy self.  Our lessons have mainly been continuing to focus on steadying my contact through the reins (especially the outside rein).

One exercise we've started is doing a lot of transitions between a stretchy trot and more working frame, especially near the beginning of our ride.  Cupid likes stretching down, and it is good practice for me to ask him to come back up a little, while trying to make sure we don't tip onto the forehand.

We've also been doing a lot of serpentines, and our last lesson my trainer had us add a 10 meter circle in each loop so we get more bend.

The left lead canter is improving.  We still don't get it 100% of the time but it's gotten a lot more consistent.  I'm looking ahead at Training test 3, which has a longer canter to the left.  Cupid still has a tendency to drop to a trot, especially if he hits a slightly deeper spot in the arena so we're working on that.

On Saturday there were some small jumps set up in the arena so I trotted a few.  It was much warmer than it has been and Cupid was pretty low energy.  The first time over he didn't even canter out.  Then he would, but was pretty much ready to walk again a few strides out, lol.

Today we did some ground driving and in hand work.  I can back him up straight if I stand at his right shoulder, but if I'm on his left then he always swings to the right so we need to work on that.  (If I ask him to back up when I'm on him it's usually not straight either.)  The side passing went well.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Break

Cupid is currently getting a few days off, as I'm writing this from DC where I am for a conference.  We did have a few good rides though before I left.

Monday, the day after the show, I gave Cupid off.

Tuesday I did some ground driving.  I'm still working on not letting him drift off the rail, but overall he was pretty good.  When I asked him to step over a jump filler with pink flowers he did avoid it the first few times, so I moved to his head and led him over.  He was better after that, but I did have to make sure to keep him straight.  Going over the cavaletti was much smoother.

On Wednesday we had a very productive lesson in the outdoor ring, the kind of ride I wish I had at the show!  Once again we got the left lead, like it was no big deal.

Thursday we did a little jumping.  We started with trot poles, and ended up with a little course that involved trotting over the poles, picking up the canter to the left and circling around to a caveletti, switching to the right lead and going over another cavaletti, and then a little cross rail.  Cupid got the left lead correct each time, and after the first time through he even changed leads over the first cavaletti by himself!  Although we haven't been doing much jumping lately I think it's good for Cupid to mix it up, and when he is being this good and relaxed I enjoy it too.

I'll be gone Friday through Tuesday, and am looking forward to riding again on Wednesday.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Yarra Yarra Dressage Show

I'm going to sum up the show with something positive: at least we got our left lead canter both tests!  And the judge liked our free walk.  Everything else was a bit of a mess, unfortunately.

Things started out okay.  We arrived at the show early, and Cupid seemed settled waiting at the trailer eating his hay.  I tacked him up about half an hour before our scheduled ride time.  He started out okay, a little quick but I figured he would settle down quickly as he has been.  However he never really settled down.  Perhaps because there was some crazy gray horse repeatedly rearing up in the warm up?  Or the cooler weather?  Or maybe because this is the first show we've done with 2 rings going so there were twice as many horses warming up, half of which were upper level horses doing all sorts of pirouettes and half passes and whatnot, making it more difficult to find room.  Whatever it was, Cupid was hyper.

Our first test (Training 1) Cupid had his head in the air almost the entire time except at free walk, and of course I responded by getting into a half seat instead of sitting more deeply.  It's a vicious cycle! Also I somehow thought we walked between C&H instead of at C, and couldn't remember which diagonal we do the free walk on but luckily guessed correctly at E.  The full test is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx7COXNA6kw.  After our test I went back in the warm up and trotted about 10 more minutes until Cupid seemed a little more relaxed.
Free walk - our signature move.  Photo credit K. Farris
We had over 2 hours until our second test (Training 2).  I loosed the girth but left the saddle on, so Cupid doesn't think he's done.  He was very good about waiting patiently, happy to eat his hay.  It was very cold though, I was shivering a bit even with a sweatshirt over my lightweight show coat.  We took one little walk midway.  I got back on about 25 minutes before our ride time.  Originally I was planning a little shorter but I thought maybe we could use a few extra minutes.  Cupid was better in the warm up this time.  He actually seemed like he was starting to get a little tired so we walked the last few minutes.

We started our test, and when we halted I was waiting for the judge to salute back.  I didn't see it and was unsure whether I should continue or not.  I waited a few moments before proceeding.  Things started out okay, if a bit quick and high headed still.  I was trying to do better about sitting upright this time.  We did our trot circle to the right, changed direction, and I was relieved when we got our left lead canter.  Even though Cupid had his nose up in the air, he still relaxed a bit into the stretchy trot.  We did our walk, the picked up the trot but then by H Cupid started cantering.  I'm not sure if it's because that's where we canter earlier in the test and he was just trying to help, or he was just full of it.  I got him back to the trot a few steps but he went back up to the canter in the circle at E!  Oops.  So we got a 3 and 4 for those sections.  Then we were actually supposed to canter he spooked coming out of the corner and went several steps sideways.  Then broke back to a trot right as we were finishing our circle, but I think the judge let that slide.  Here it is in all it's glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s5iy7u1Rjk

When we finished the judge called me over, and told me I forgot to salute in the beginning.  I obviously intended to, but can't remember if I actually did or not and even from the video it's a bit dark and blurry so hard to tell.  But I think I won't make that mistake again!

I was a little disappointed it was a bit of a regression from our last show, but I know progress won't always be linear. We just need to keep getting out there and gaining experience.  Also it's good to know even if things don't go perfectly, it's not so bad.  I would have been a nervous wreck trying to go over jumps with Cupid in this state of mind (even if I know he won't do anything terrible, just being quick to jumps scares me).  Even though I'm still a terrible dressage rider at least it feels safe!
Still love this horse!


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Lead Up to Another Show

I was very happy with how my prep went before the last show and am following a similar schedule this week:

Saturday - day off
Sunday - lesson (outdoor), focusing mainly on my hands and getting our training level frame
Monday - light ride including a walk around the property and about 15 minutes mostly trot work in the dressage court (no cantering)
Tuesday - lesson (outdoor), continuing with hands and training level frame
Wednesday - day off, with massage for Cupid
Thursday - lesson (covered because it was very foggy and I wanted to focus on practicing and not deal with any spooking), more of same
Friday - w/t/c and incorporate some poles
Saturday - light ride, including walk around the property and bit of trot work in the court
Sunday - show!

I asked my trainer to video me on Sunday and two things stuck out to me: 1) my heels (especially the left) are way up most of the time; and 2) even though I thought my elbows were bent they are still pretty straight and it looks like I'm giving away the reins much of the time.

My left heel is horrid

My trainer says I'm showing some improvement, but admittedly progress feels slow.  Even though I need to ride more off my outside rein, I also let my inside rein get too long and then try to use it anyways which results in me moving my hand way out in a leading rein or twisting my wrist by my leg.  It's not pretty.

Cupid seemed to enjoy his massage, though it was a long time for him to stand still.  The areas that needed the most attention were the neck, especially the right side; the left side of his chest and shoulder; and the left side of his back.  The body worker said he seemed a bit better overall then when she last saw him in January.  My trainer said he seemed looser and was moving a bit better the next day, so I'll keep doing it for periodic maintenance.
Happy horse, and I swear his body is not this puny compared to his head


Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Importance of Turnout

Cupid is usually turned out from about 9-3:30, in a large field with a few other geldings.  I don't know if he'd be the same easy horse without it!!  Yesterday I rode him in the morning, and then he saw the dentist and spent the rest of the day inside because he'd been sedated.  Saturday morning I was going to go see him around 8, though I was planning to give him the day off.  But then I thought since I'm always rushing off in the morning it would be nice to actually have breakfast with my boyfriend for once, so I didn't get to the barn until about 10:30.  I was very surprised to see Cupid in his stall, I forgot I put a no turnout sign on his door!!  Oops!!  Cupid was super excited when I led him towards the pasture.  He wasn't pulling, but was prancing a bit and wasn't even interested in stopping for grass.  Then when I let him out this happened.


Play with me!

Whee!!
Practicing the stretchy trot














Lol.  He tries to get the other horses to play with him, but they mostly just ignore his antics and he quickly gives up.  I'm kind of worried what will happen when we do an away show and he can't get turned out!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Trail Horse Extrodinaire

It's been several weeks since Cupid and I have been on a trail ride, but with sunny weather forecasted for this weekend I made arrangements to go with my friend.  We couldn't have picked a nicer day, as it was sunny and 70s! 

As has been the case recently, Cupid came off the trailer very relaxed.  I tacked him up at the trailer and headed up the road to meet my friend.  This involves riding along the road, but it's a quiet road where lots of horses walk so the drivers tend to be very courteous.  Cupid responded to a horse the whinnied at him from a pasture, but kept walking along calmly.  No problem either walking by people doing yardwork, trash cans, grates, and stepping from dirt paths to crossing driveways, and going up and down the curb.

We met up with our friend and headed into Huddart Park.  Unfortunately the trail we got on was a bit rough, but we accepted it as a training challenge.  There was piles of trimmed off tree branches across the trail.  My friend asked if Cupid would cross it, I said I wasn't sure but he handled it like a pro!  He also stood quietly while my friend broke off part of a dead branch and dragged it out of the way.  Finally we made it to a wider, better groomed but still interesting trail.  Cupid stepped down some banks, crossed a few flowing creeks, and didn't bat an eye at a group of wild turkeys crossing in front of us.  Even when my friend's horse was a little fussy (after having not been out in over a week) Cupid stayed relaxed.  We even led for the last part.  Cupid is still a little bit more tentative being in front, but was a total champ.  I could not have been prouder, or had a better day! 


Enjoying a little grass after the ride, before we head back home

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Idle Hands

The last few rides have been a little frustrating for me as I work to become a proper dressage rider.  My upper body has gotten a lot better, which has even helped me while jumping, and even my elbows are somewhat bent now, but my hands are still a mess.  It's very hard to change something I've been doing for over 25 years now!!  I do have a weakness in my right hand so keeping it closed is physically more difficult for me, but that doesn't explain the swiveling wrists or the floating inside or up the neck.  My trainer finally suggested I plant my hand on Cupid's neck and get a feel for a really steady connection.  This did help, and succeeded in getting Cupid rounder.  Interestingly I didn't need as much pressure as I thought, it just needs to be more steady.  So Cupid was using himself really nicely when it felt like I had about 1 lb pressure in the reins, and I thought I needed ~3 to achieve that (total guesses on what 1 vs 3 lbs feels like though).

Today I tried putting a strap through the D-rings on my saddle, so I could hold that as a guide for my hands.  However it was very hard to shorten the reins while holding the strap, and like I said I have a week hand and my reins do tend to gradually get long so I eventually gave up.  But I'll keep it on my saddle for now because it might help as an occasional reminder.

The only bright side through all this has been what a trooper Cupid was.  We did two trot sets today, one about 15 minutes and the other nearly 20 and Cupid was steady, focused, and eager throughout.  I feel bad that he has to suffer through this with me, but his attitude has been great.  He used to get a little balky or cranky sometimes when he thought he's done enough.  I have a trail ride planned for Saturday which will hopefully refresh us both!

Friday, April 6, 2018

After the Show

Well the bad news - Cupid seems to have an abscess brewing.  But he's walking ok, and at least we made it through the show first!

We took the day after the show off, just lots of hand grazing and telling Cupid how proud I was of him.
Eating grass
And moss, weirdo
On Monday we had a very nice ground driving session, complete with a few perfect left lead canter departs!  This continued in our lesson on Tuesday.  Since Cupid was so good about doing what I wanted on Saturday, I thought we should do something he enjoys which is jump.  It's probably been about a month since we jumped, so we kept it easy.  We started going through a set of trot poles a few times each direction.  Then we trotted through the poles, turned right and picked up a canter, and went over a cavaletti.  We continued with a change of direction on the diagonal, with a good trot change and circled around to a second cavaletti.  We kept it to just the trot poles and two cavaletti (ending on the highest setting), and Cupid got each left lead through a trot change.  I guess I don't overthink it as much when I'm jumping a course!  My position felt more secure and Cupid more rateable from all the flatwork we've been doing.

Wednesday I was planning a light walk/trot ride.  Cupid was a little fresh in the outdoor, and I could feel the beginning of an abscess brewing.  Not lame yet so we still did a bit of trotting until Cupid settled down and focused a bit.  Around that time the tractor came to drag the ring so we had to leave anyways, and ended the ride with a walk around the property.  I packed Cupid's feet.

Thursday I could feel a little heat in his right front foot.  He was not lame though, so I packed his feet and he got turned out.
Heading to turnout (Cupid on the left)
Friday his hoof still felt a little warm.  We had a lesson scheduled, so I told my trainer to take it easy.  We did a lot of walk work and ended up with a bit of trotting.  We focused on forward and straightness.  It's raining again and my weak right hand was hurting a bit so it was harder than usual keeping my fingers closed.  Afterwards I gave Cupid an epsom soak, and wrapped his leg with an animalintex poultice.  Due to the weather the horses aren't getting turned out anyways.  Hopefully this foot thing clears quickly!

Oh here's a video from the show of our second test: https://youtu.be/WaLPYlYeXYU



Sunday, April 1, 2018

Greenville Dressage Show

Saturday morning I work up at 4:30 and headed out to the barn.  I gave Cupid some food to keep him busy while I braided his mane, which worked well to keep him still.  I still need more practice, especially with the forelock, but I think it turned out ok.  Sectioning the hair last night did help speed up the process a little.  It was still dark when I loaded Cupid at 6.  I turned the truck lights on and had my phone flashlight, and luckily Cupid loaded easily and we arrived at the show a little over an hour later without incident.

For once we managed to arrive early and didn't have to rush!  Cupid seemed pretty relaxed right off the trailer.  We tacked up with just under half an hour until our first test and headed to the warm up in the covered arena.  Cupid was behaving great!  He whinnied once to answer another horse, but otherwise was very focused and not distracted.  (Maybe being in a covered helps since that's where we ride most often.)  We warmed up primarily trotting on a large circle, with some smaller circles and shoulder-out sprinkled in.  We cantered to the right first.  Then to the left, still some trouble getting that lead but I praised Cupid when we got it.  Then we were called to the ring, where there was an additional warm up area.  I was told I have a few minutes if I want it, but felt ready to head in.

We started trotting around the outside of the court.  I moved his shoulders a little to get him focused and soft.There is a large hedge around it, but luckily nothing behind the hedge that distracted Cupid.  I said my number as I rode by the judge's booth (Cupid didn't even bat an eye, yay!), and the judge or scribe said good luck.  But I wasn't sure if I was still waiting for a bell or whistle, lol.  So I lapped around again and heard the bell.

Our first test was Training 1.  I tried to make sure we had some energy coming down the centerline.  Our halt felt good.  The test is simple: start to the left, trot circle, canter circle, walk, change direction at free walk, then trot circle and canter circle to the right.  Unfortunately we did not get the left lead, at all, but no other major mistakes.  We got straight 6's except a 4 for the left lead, and a funny comment about how it's great we're starting our dressage training and need to improve connection in the bridle for higher scores.  I know we still have things to work on, but I was very happy with Cupid.

We had over an hour until our second test, so I took Cupid back to the trailer and took his bridle off but left his saddle on with the girth loosed.  In the past he's been a bit cranky about having to go twice, so I thought leaving the saddle on might let him know he's not done.  Cupid was content to stand and eat hay.

I got back on about 15 minutes before my second test in the covered warmup.  Cupid felt super relaxed, like he usually is at home.  We kept the warmup easy, a little trotting then just walking.  The second test felt even better than the first!  Since Cupid was so relaxed I was able to focus a little more on sitting up straighter and trying to push Cupid into the bridle a bit more.  We were able to get the left lead on the second try.  This was the first time Cupid wasn't too distracted at a show to stretch down in his stretchy trot circle.  I was ecstatic with how he felt!
Even though we haven't yet cracked 60% at a rated show, each time feels better and my confidence is increasing.  Last year I wasn't sure if Cupid would ever get over his nervousness being in new places, but all the trips we've gone on have paid off.  I'm still trying to break my habits from hunt seat riding.  I know he would be further along with a more skilled rider, but I am loving this journey that we are on together and I couldn't ask for a better partner than him! 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Lead Up to the Show

In the past week I've been riding with more resolve, and it's worked in making Cupid less lazy without having to do much.  Since we are coming up on our show this weekend, it's been a fine balance of getting prepared and keeping fresh.  I'm still usually only cantering every other day, so when we do it we can be successful and build good muscle memory.

Saturday - About 40 minutes walk/trot.  Cupid was very good with several other horses in the arena.

Sunday - Lesson.  I contemplated putting on my jumping saddle so we can do some poles/cavaletti and maybe even some small jumps if everything goes well, but then I chickened out because I thought the arena might be too busy, so we did flatwork.

Monday - Ground driving, ending with a canter on long lines.  We did not get the left lead the first try, but got it twice after.

Tuesday - Lesson. The outdoor arena was open for the first time since the clinic, and Cupid thought it was very exciting.  He started out very distracted and kept shying on one of the long sides, I couldn't figured out what it was over.  But he wasn't doing anything too bad, so we just worked through it.  We managed to get the left lead canter, though Cupid was kind of racing around with his head up feeling pretty unbalanced.  Eventually he broke to the trot, and I told my trainer we probably should have down transitioned sooner but she said she was waiting to get him to relax.  So we picked it up again just for a circle then back to the trot. 

Wednesday - Day off.

Thursday - Lesson.  Outdoors again, and Cupid was much better.  We did Training Test 1, then worked on increasing the contact just a little.

Friday - Cupid and I walked around the property, and popped into the outdoor arena for about 15 minutes.  We trotted some cloverleaf patterns to practice our centerline turns, and trotted some 20 meter circles.  Then we continued walking around, just about half an hour total.  Then I gave him a bath (the weather was great, about 70!), and cleaned my tack.  It's going to be an early morning so I tried to get as much done today as I can - put all my tack in the trailer, filled the hay net in the trailer, and standing wrapped Cupid's legs.  I also separated his mane into sections for braiding tomorrow.  I don't know how much time that saves.  Any other show prep hacks I could use?
Bath time - not Cupid's favorite

Treats please

Friday, March 23, 2018

Lessons from the Ground

When I ride I feel like there is so much to do.  If I concentrate on my hands, my legs come off.  I try to bend my elbows and my hands open.  So I find ground driving a nice change of pace, with less things for me worry about and in addition I get to see more of what Cupid is doing.  Today's ground driving session could not have gone better.

We started walking around on the rail, doing a much better job staying on the rail and not cutting the corners, and long diagonals.  Then we did some 3 loop serpentines.  Then we did some trotting.  Cupid is responsive to my clucking and picking up my feet more, and trots quite nicely.  Not to fast, thankfully, but with decent impulsion.

Overall he actually does seem a bit more forward compared to when I ride him - which makes me think that something in my body is blocking him.  I've gotten better about lightening my seat, and I don't pull on the reins (if anything they are too loose - but I guess that may be where I lose energy), so I want to talk to my trainer about it and see if she has any suggestions.  Other people who have ridden him have said that he is actually a forward horse even though I feel like he's lazy a lot of the time.  So that was my first revelation.

Then I let the lines get longer, with the outside line going behind his hindquarters, and put him on a large circle (~25 meters).  We started on the easier side, the right, and from the trot with just a little kissing noise (again no whip) he picked up the canter.  Usually when I'm just regular lunging him I have to chase him into it - we both get lazy lunging.  We did a circle, then back to the trot, and did several trot-canter transitions.  The canter looked very well balanced, nicer even then when I lunge him with side reins.

Then we changed direction, and though I was a bit hesitant to try the more difficult side, he picked up the left lead 100% through several transitions!  Another revelation.  I'm not sure how to translate this to my riding.  Maybe I need to do less, since he does it well when all I do is keep light but consistent contact on the lines.  Instead of contorting myself in all directions trying to muscle him into it, just assume he can and ask lightly!

No new pictures so here is a random video of me feeding Cupid a parsnip.  (Spoiler alert, he does eat them!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Week Recap


The day after the clinic I had one of my best rides ever on Cupid, the canter has never felt better!  Especially to the right, but the left was pretty good too.  I thought about bending him a little to the outside into the transition, which did feel like a true counterbend to me but my trainer said we were just straight.  We still aren't getting it 100%; we got it the first try, but then the next time it took a few attempts.  Still an improvement though.

Cupid got a well-deserved day off on Wednesday.
On Thursday we struggled a bit.  I'm not sure if it was the weather (raining again) or what.  We did a short canter on the right but it didn't feel great, so I told my trainer I'd rather not even try to the left because I want us set up for success, and create good muscle memory.  So we took a little walk break and refocused and had some good trot work.  Cupid was feeling a little more himself by the end.

Cupid saw the chiropractor after our lesson, which I was hoping would help.  She made some adjustments on his neck, and said his pelvis was tight.  He also had a spot of inflammation on his back - not from the saddle but probably just tweaked himself playing out in the pasture.  The chiropractor said he looked good otherwise, and said his hind leg flexibility (pulling his leg under his belly) was better.

At the chiropractor's recommendation I didn't ride on Friday, but did ground driving instead.

On Saturday I was optimistic we would have a good lesson.  It actually was pretty good, despite the busy arena, but we were not able to get the left lead at all.  I'm not sure why, I thought I was keeping Cupid straight but even when the transition felt good he kept picking up the right lead.  It left me feeling a little confused because I didn't think there was much I could do differently.  However I did have a revelation when Cupid got quick or distracted by all the activity in the arena, all I had to do was slide my inside hand forward a bit and he would stretch down and get steady again!

I'm in Tahoe for a ski trip so Cupid is getting a few days off.  I am really looking forward to riding him tomorrow!!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Clinic with Katie Hoefs-Martin

Dressage judge and grand prix rider Katie Hoefs-Martin had a clinic at my barn.  I was a little worried Cupid wouldn't be feeling up to it in time, but after a week off I had good rides on Saturday and Sunday and felt ready to go.  Our outdoor (dressage court) was also ready - it has been closed due to the rain.  Since I hadn't ridden in it lately I was worried Cupid would be spooky, but it ended up not being a problem.

I got on Cupid about 10 minutes before our ride time to start warming up, just walking around the arena to get loose and let him see everything.  Then Katie told me to just warm up as I normally would while she observes.  Is that a trick question??  I trotted some 20 meter circles and did some changes of direction on the diagonal.

During our ride we focused mainly on my outside rein connection (same as in my lessons, imagine that!).  Katie said I need to think about directing Cupid through his shoulders, not his nose and neck.  We did a lot of counterflexion to help with straightness.  Then Katie hopped on Cupid and said she can see why I keep losing his shoulders.  After a few minutes Cupid looked transformed.

Katie, who is this horse and what have you done with Cupid??
He looked like this a few minutes ago
My hands have minds of their own.  My inside hand usually drifts inside, and tries to use a direct rein to keep Cupid on the circle.  My outside hand will just let the rein go slack, and occasionally cross over the neck.  And my right hand will always be either/both half open or twisting into "piano hands."  So Katie told me to think about having my inside hand down by Cupid's shoulder, and my outside hand a few inches out.  (Obviously exaggerations and not what I actually want long run, but just something to think about to get my hands where they should be.)  I fix it, but a few strides later they start wandering again - it's a work in progress!

Then Katie told me to increase the contact and just hold it steady, and keep my leg on.  Silly as it sounds, it's a foreign concept to me.  I've never ridden any of my horses with that much contact.  But Cupid responded without much fuss, quickly dropping his nose.  I could be way off, but I would estimate it to about 3 lbs pressure in the reins.We drifted in and out of it a few times, but again, progress. 
Ok, looking better (I just need to sit up. And bring my lower leg forward)
Then it was time for some canter work.  Again we struggled with the left lead, not getting it our first several tries.  Katie said this goes back to controlling his shoulders - I need to keep his inside shoulder light.  I normally make my circle smaller and ask for the canter as I leg yield back out.  Katie suggested the opposite - stay on the circle, counterflex, and leg yield in as I ask.  This method wasn't foolproof (due to pilot error I'm sure), but we did get it twice.  Hopefully seeing the chiro on Thursday will help too!

Overall I really enjoyed riding with Katie, and felt like Cupid and I took a small step forward in our dressage journey.  Though then I was a little confused, is this how I should ride Cupid from now on??  And should have been riding him all along??  I had a brief chat with my trainer after, she said don't worry we won't get there in one lesson and has a plan on how to slowly incorporate everything.  Now if I could just get my darned body under control!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Centaur Climate Control Polo Wraps Review

Several people at my barn have raved about the Eskadron Climatex polos.  However, I'm lazy and prefer boots to polos so I balked at spending about $65/pair on them for the rare occasion I might use them.  But I did decide to buy some knock-offs for fun (white, perhaps for a dressage clinic some day) - the Centaur Climate Control, at $18 per pair with an additional 20% off during Riding Warehouse's black Friday sale.

The Centaurs are 9 feet long (compared to 9.5 feet for Eskadron, but the Centaurs a little wider from what I recall), split equally between the plush "moisture-wicking, highly ventilated cushioning material" and "stretchy supportive wrap".  This makes it easy to wrap, since you know exactly when you're at the halfway point and should start wrapping back up.  The first half feels like a terry-cloth type material.  I'm not a huge fan of the double lock velcro - they have to line up just right (which I'm getting the hang of), and even so then you end up with the end tab facing inside.  Aside from that, I'm happy with the purchase for the pricepoint.  I don't know if they last as long as Eskadrons (thought I've seen some pretty ratty Eskadrons), for my limited use I think they'll be just fine.  Obviously I haven't tried them in the heat yet though!

Dressage horse chic

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Drivers Ed

At a bit of a loss on Cupid's prognosis, I decided to give him a few days off.  So we've been doing a lot of groundwork this week.  My trainer gave me a refresher course on ground driving, and we did that on Monday and Tuesday.  Cupid seems happy doing it, and from what I could tell walking behind him he looked pretty good.  He oversteps nicely at the walk (clearing his front hoofprints by about an inch).  He was not pokey in the trot, I have to hussle a bit to keep up!  My trainer told me to work on the same things I've been doing in the saddle, keeping my elbows by my side and making sure there is steady contact in the outside rein. 

The first day we mostly just went around the arena and across the long diagonals, practicing walk-halt-walk transitions and walk-trot-walk.  The second day I added some shallow serpentines too.  I still have a little trouble with Cupid cutting corners, but it's been fun.

Today we did groundwork.  Cupid was good with the things we've done before: halting and walking forward on voice/body commands, yielding his haunches, backing up, sending forward.  He was a little confused backing up between two poles.  Then when I asked him to step over a pole with just his front legs and stop, he thought that was super confusing.  Once he was okay with that, I asked him to sidepass over it he was completely baffled.  We did practice a little sidepass the other day in front of the arena fence, but it did not seem to translate.  So when he took the smallest sideways step I gave him big praise.  Eventually we were able to get several steps, though we need to keep working on it.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Horse Show No Show

I was planning to do some hunter rounds at a local schooling show this weekend.  Then he started feeling a little tight so we haven't been jumping, and I thought we would just do flat classes.  But over the past week Cupid hasn't felt any better.  I rode him Friday, and again Saturday and if he felt even a little better I would have gone and just done the walk/trot.  But if anything he feels worst.  I don't know.  He's not lame, and his attitude has been very good - usually if he's not feeling well he let's me know and doesn't want to work at all!  He looks fine, but he just isn't moving as freely as usual.  I hope the chiro helps him, if not I'll have the vet take a look.

I've joked before that Cupid suffers from seasonal affective disorder.  I'm not sure about that, but he can get a little funny when the seasons change. 
Cupid (left) and friend

He doesn't mind missing the show!
Cupid and I went for a walk around the property.  Someone put up some flags and balloons.  Cupid stared a little, but was okay walking by.
Sees balloons

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Back on Track Saddle Pad

I recently added to my Back on Track ("BoT") collection with a new saddle pad.  Though they looked nice, I've always balked at the price.  I usually buy saddle pads on sale for $10-15, and though I've learned the hard way a few I don't like I have several in that price range that have worked out quite well for me.  But then a friend generously gave me a Contender pad, which is a BoT saddle pad with a thinline half pad built in - best thing ever!!  The underside is a soft, almost fleecy material and the contoured shape is perfect for Cupid and my saddle.  It's the only saddle pad where I can put both my billets through the billet keeper (usually I can only do the rear one since I have a point billet in front, but the BoT pads have two keepers that fit my saddle perfectly.)  I haven't used it in the summer, but per the description it is breathable and wicks away sweat.  So when I saw the pads were included in Riding Warehouse's sale, and they now had the dressage pad in navy blue, I had to have it!
Why yes, Dressage Sports Boots come in navy too!
I don't know if the ceramic technology helps Cupid or not, but it couldn't hurt.  The quality seems worth the price regardless, so I'll be looking to add more as some of my other pads get retired.

Our rides have been pretty light the last week due to family events and work being very busy.  My trainer rode Cupid on Tuesday when I had to cancel my lesson due to work.  She said he was super, but she also had trouble picking up the left lead.  She said the transition and canter to the right has improved a lot though.  She still thinks he's tight in his shoulders, and that it isn't anything to be too worried about, see how he feels after he sees the chiropractor.  And then if he still seems amiss talk to the vet.  Unfortunately the chiro isn't available for another 2 weeks though, so in the meantime I'm going to keep trying stretches and reading up on the Masterson Method a bit.



Friday, February 23, 2018

Too Cold!!

All this week it's been in the 30s in the morning - way too cold for this California girl!  On Wednesday Cupid and I took a vote, and it was unanimous in favor of staying in the barn and not riding. :p 
Big nope to leaving the stall!
So on Thursday I forced myself to tough it out and do a lesson.  The covered arena was being worked on, so we went to the outdoor.  Cupid started a little fresh, and I was pretty much just trying to survive the cold and not really using my seat to slow him.  As I suspected, he got tired of speed trotting pretty quick and settled down to work.

I continued focusing on my upper body, primarily arms.  We had a few nice moments going to the right, where my trainer said Cupid was on the bit.  The left was more difficult, I just can't seem to keep my right hand from floating forward, or resort to pulling the inside rein.  My trainer was telling me to make sure I'm not on the inside rein as I ask for canter, so I was pushing my inside hand forward and then realized I have no contact at all since my outside rein isn't engaged but try as I might I just couldn't get coordinated to do it.  I may have to revisit holding the whip in both hands to keep them together.  Not surprisingly we struggled with getting the left lead, but I felt my balance was so bad it almost wasn't even fair to ask.

Sensing my frustration, my trainer had me trot in a 20 meter circle, then counterbend on the circle to feel the outside rein.  Then use my inside leg to straighten him (resulting in a slight inside bend, since we were on a circle), keeping the outside rein steady.  Then I would ride a 10 meter circle to the inside of the big circle, pushing my inside hand forward to test the connection.  Then when I was back on the big circle, big trot a few strides, collect a bit and back to the outside bend when I feel I'm starting to lose the connection.

On Friday we had a fun day with cavaletti and poles.  Cupid was pretty pokey, but I blame it on the cold.  Keeping him going in the canter was somewhat laughable, we did break gait several times.  But we did get the left lead canter on first ask, starting from the right lead and going down the diagonal with a trot change before we get back on the rail.  We did a circle exercise over a pole and 2 cavaletti, first starting to the right at the trot, then canter.  It was a little sloppy with us breaking into the trot a few times, but otherwise ok.  We took a walk break before doing it to the left.  We started at the trot, and were able to pick up the correct lead and go once through before we broke back to the trot.  I let Cupid trot a bit (because it is cold and it is hard work keeping him cantering!) but eventually we got the canter back and made it once around.  I told him he's a good boy and ended on that.

He'd rather wear it over his face then lift his nose from the bucket long enough to get it over his head!