Friday, February 15, 2019

Happy Birthday Cupid!!

It's hard to believe Cupid turned 8 today!  Time flies when you're having fun, and we sure have had some good times together!
Awaiting his grain with extra birthday treats!
I callously made Cupid work even though it was his birthday :p  We had a lesson.  He was surprisingly on the lazy side even though he stayed in his stall the day before due to the weather, and the wind was howling and rain beating on the roof during our ride.  He made me work for it a bit, but he felt really good!  I asked my trainer about the toe drag, and she said even just standing he is sinking almost hoof deep in the footing.  He still had the drag marks, but she said he was moving well, and again tracking up perfectly.

The main focus in our lessons continues to be improving the roundness.  We do a lot of shoulder-in to help with that.  My trainer still tells me pretty constantly to shorten my reins, but I'm getting better about it and starting to develop a feel.  We also did a bit of leg-yielding.  The first one off the left leg was sticky, as is often the case, but was good after a little tap with the whip.

I also had to utilize the whip a little in the canter work, as Cupid broke once cantering on the left.  We had a decent transition into it on a 20 meter circle, went all the way around the arena with a slight outside bend on the long sides, but then coming out of corner starting the second lap we hit a slightly deeper patch of footing which is where he broke.  So, as my trainer had suggested, I tapped him with the whip to remind him that is not what we want, put him back on a circle and picked up the canter again and completed the second lap.  Overall the left lead canter is feeling better balanced, though the transitions into and out of it are still not quite as smooth as to the right. 

I'm optimistically hoping we get a break from the rain this weekend, in which case we are going to go on a trail ride!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Good Lines and Bad

I generally ride in the morning before work, and usually have the arena to myself.  An additional benefit is they drag early morning, so I can see our tracks which is very helpful in checking straightness or geometry.  Of course by the end of our ride it is kind of hard to tell!

Here are some things I noticed in our ride today.  Our small circles are tighter going left (which is the right circle in the picture). 
Small circles - the tighter one on the right was actually on the left rein
On a 20 meter circle at the trot I was happy to see only two hoof prints, indicating that Cupid was tracking up exactly.  However the lines indicate a bit of toe drag.  The arena was deep dragged last week so may have been a little deeper.
I haven't jumped in a while but took advantage of the low crossrails set up.  I felt a bit rusty and was throwing myself on Cupid's neck a bit, but he was being good.  I was pretty happy with his trot changes between the jumps.  What I really need to do it put up cones before/after the jumps so I come in straight and complete the lines.  Here's one fence I really goofed, you can see the bad turn to the fence and then being very offcenter, which got even worse after landing.
Bad approach...
...leads to landing crooked
We were straighter into this jump, but did waver a bit on the landing side.
Better but still not straight
By the end of our ride the tracks are no longer discernible!

In other news Cupid is starting to shed.  This is the first year he wasn't clipped, so it should be extra fun.  :)


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Quarter Sheet Weather

It's mainly been in the mid to upper 40s at the barn when I go in the morning.  Last night we got a bit of a cold snap, and it was in the mid 30s with a light dusting of snow on the ground!  Cupid didn't seem to notice. 
Brrrr!!!!

I thought he might be a little stiff in the cold, but he actually felt quite good.  We kept it fairly easy but had a nice ride.  A long warm up including plenty of serpentines working on changing the bend, then practiced some transitions.  We ended with a bit of light collection.  Then I left his Back on Track sheet on under his turnout blanket, and ran for the heater in my car!

Monday, February 4, 2019

What We've Been Doing

The weather has been rainy, windy, and just yucky all around.  I know I shouldn't complain because most of the country has it a lot worst, but I still hate winter.  But I am lucky to have a covered arena, and a lovely horse who behaves even when the wind is howling and the rain beating on the metal roof, so we are still making our slow and steady progress.  We haven't had any major developments, so here are the highlights from our recent rides:

-Improving contact: I'm finally getting more comfortable with a more steady feel of the reins.  Unfortunately I have some hand problems so physically it's still hard for me to keep my hands closed on the reins and I have to re-shorten my reins frequently.  In my lessons I do a bit of work with my inside hand very low to establish the contact - which feels a bit awkward and I have to work extra hard to keep the outside rein steady but it seems to help both Cupid and I get the concept.

In our lessons we've been starting out (after warming up) with small circles, at the walk about 5 meters, getting Cupid to cross his hind legs.  This also helps me mentally to make sure he is going forward enough in the walk (which we've been better at recently since I'm making it a priority).

-Transitions: We still have a lot of room for improvement in making our transitions more prompt.  I let Cupid get behind the leg sometimes so that's a big focus.  We're working on trot-halt-trot which we'll need to do for First level - it's not quite there.  And between trot and canter: the up transitions are not prompt (several steps between when I ask and finally get the canter), and sometimes results in Cupid's nose in the air.  But on the bright side he has been picking up his left leads most of the time.  He does still seem to get tired and struggle a bit more after a few transitions or canter laps, so we'll have to work on the stamina.  But our last lesson we focused on the down transitions canter to trot, which had always been too abrupt, and I'm really happy with the progress we made there.  My trainer told me to half halt and think / get the feeling of leg yielding out (without actually making the movement) into the transitions and that seems to help.

We've also been doing transitions within the gaits, working and medium and playing with a bit more shortening and lengthening (working towards collected and extended though obviously not there yet).  We use the shoulder-in a lot in conjunction with the shortening.

Since I didn't have any other recent pictures, I took a few in his stall after a lesson.  Here is Cupid in all his hairy, sweaty, feral looking winter glory.
Fuzzy, sweaty, feral looking

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys

Neither of my parents were into horses, though my dad had been around some farm horses when he was young.  It was my big sister who got me into riding.  She has always loved all animals, and she wanted to ride and I was just the annoying little sister who wanted to do whatever she was doing!  But I quickly fell in love and horses became a large part of my life.  I miss riding with my sister, since she now lives over an hour away and her horse is retired so she doesn't ride often.

I wonder if my own child will be interested in learning to ride.  I'm okay either way - I would be happy to share my passion, but also fine with him pursuing other (likely less expensive!) things.  I just hope he at least appreciates animals and nature, and has an active lifestyle.  I've taken him to the barn a few times, but he's just slept in the carrier.  Cupid seems slightly interested, and seems to know to be gentle around him, not shoving me with his nose looking for treats like he sometimes does when I'm with the baby. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Week at a Glance

I was excited for my first lesson in over two months.  Unfortunately the weather was not very cooperative, with strong wind and rain, but historically it hasn't been a problem.  And aside from having trouble hearing my trainer, it was great!  One of our best rides yet!  We didn't canter, but had probably my most successful sitting trot ever.

Cupid's trot isn't the easiest to sit so I get in the trap of making his trot very small, almost a jog, to make it easier to sit.  On this day I don't know what the difference was but we had the perfect engaged trot and it just came together.

The exercise was a medium trot on a 20 meter circle, then shoulder in to shorten and sitting trot in a 10 meter circle, and continue back onto the bigger circle until I start to lose it at which point I post and increase back to a medium trot.

My next lesson a week later it took a lot longer to get that same level of engagement and connection.  (If only progress was always linear!)  But we had some nice moments, and I'm actually starting to get the hang of proper contact - I can lightly feel his mouth but don't feel like I'm hanging on his face.  I know it's really basic and I'm kind of embarassed it took this long but I just rode with loopy reins so long anything more felt like pulling.  I am happy with the new Myler level 2 bit.

The canter work felt good, more balanced on the left so more even both sides.  Except I was having some problem with my right leg getting short (usually it's the left!)  In our leg yields Cupid was a bit sticky moving off my left leg, but after a little reinforcement with the whip it got better.  The sitting trot didn't quite come together, but at least I could recognize and try to correct when it started to get a bit jog-ish.  We did transitions between walk and sitting trot.
In a sea of mud
I try to give Cupid variety in his work.  It's a bit harder in the winter when we prinarily stick to the covered arena, though we can do some poles or jumps, in hand work, lungimg or driving to mix it up.  But when the weather allows I try to get him out of the ring.

We did a little bareback ride around the ranch even though it was a bit windy, and Cupid was very good passing by tarps that were rattling, and new piles of wood from a tree that got knocked down in the storm.  But he did have to stop and stare at a blanket on the ground, lol.   Nothing bad, he just thought that doesn't belong there.
That doesn't belong there!




Monday, January 7, 2019

Watch & Learn

I know Cupid would be a lot further along if he had more pro rides, but I take some sort of perverse pleasure in seeing how far I can bring him along (with the support and guidance of my wonderful coach).  However I do occasionally ask her to ride him, both so I can see what he is capable of and so she has a better understanding where he's at and what works for him.  It has been a while, so I thought it would be a good time for her to get on.   We haven't had a lesson for over two months, but I told her Cupid has felt really good since his break and she should feel a big difference since she last rode him. 

Watching my trainer ride did not disappoint, she had Cupid looking great!  She kept it simple, doing the same kinds of exercises I have been working on - except she actually has Cupid connected and coming through.  She wasn't pulling on him, just keeping the contact steady and supporting with leg.  It was quite inspiring, and makes me determined to keep putting the work in so I can get him looking like this too (or at least come closer to it!)  It also made me proud of the progress Cupid has made, and of myself for the part I played in getting him there.
Looking like a real dressage horse!