Friday, October 18, 2019

Nick Karazissis Clinic

Cupid and I spent two days in a hunt seat equitation clinic with Nick Karazissis!  This was actually the second and third day of a three day clinic, but I could not make the first day.

I signed up for the beginner jumping group (up to 2'), and on my first day we were a group of 6 horses and riders.  We walked around for a few minutes, then Nick had us line up and asked the other riders what they learned yesterday, and asked me what my goals are.  I said my main goal was relaxation as we both get tense being away from home.

We spent the first hour on flatwork.  And I was a bit surprised that it wasn't really different from my dressage lessons - just because this was an equitation clinic didn't mean that Cupid could walk around with his nose sticking in the air.  We started with just walk-halt-walk transitions.  Then halt and back up, with the goal being to shift the weight to the hind end.  Nick wanted me to slow it way down, almost doing half steps.  "slow down the front end and get him pushing off his hind."  Slowing down was pretty much our theme of the day. 

 In the trot work we went between a slow sitting trot and faster posting trot.  Here it differed from my dressage lessons because Nick wanted the trot super slow when we were sitting - which does make sitting a lot easier but felt like cheating!

I was a bit nervous cantering in a group - even though I've shared an arena with people many times Cupid and I have never done a group lesson or rail class where everyone is cantering!  Cupid was going a bit faster then the other horses, but was otherwise behaving.  Nick said I need to work on keeping my legs from sliding back.  And when we were in half seat he actually told me to get my elbows more forward, which is a rarity for me!

Nick was not a fan of my Myler combo bit.  I had the reins on the bottom ring, he asked me to try moving them to the top, and suggested I should use double reins. 

We all trotted over some poles.  Then one at a time cantered though a grid of poles halting straight after.  The focus was on a square turn, straightness, and the striding.  We finished with raising the poles to small jumps in the grid, still with the square turn and halt after. 

I left the first day feeling pretty good.  Nick said Cupid and I have talent just need to put the pieces together!

No pictures during the clinic, so I took a selfie after

I was excited to continue progress on the second day, and Cupid did start out more relaxed.  (Which was part of the learning experience, since we have a two day show coming up I figured this would be good practice!)  The flatwork portion was fairly similar to the first day, just a bit shorter.

Nick again suggested double reins (and also took away my whip and spurs), and I borrowed a curb rein to try.  Cupid hated it!  He's never really reacted to an equipment change, and maybe it was me because I haven't used double reins in years.  Even after we took them off he was a little agitated, so I took a little time away from the group to regroup while they started jumping.  We trotted some circles and figure eights, then rejoined the group.

We did more work in the grid.  For Cupid and me the focus was on not overbending in the opening circle (think about pointing his nose to the outside), not bulging out in the turn, and then maintaining a steady pace through, and stay straight halting at the rail. 

Overall I thought the clinic was a good experience.  The double rein was a miss, and I didn't necessarily agree with Nick's impression that I am a bit overhorsed at times (Cupid is quite good as long as I'm riding well, just not when I'm curling up on his neck!), but I don't blame him.  He doesn't know Cupid or me, and was just going off of what he saw on that particular (two) day(s).  He was actually quite patient and did also have many positive things to say.  He also said that Cupid seems to really like jumping. 

Making faces :p

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Sitting Trot Woes

Since everything else has been going pretty good, my trainer decided we need to work more on the sitting trot.  Which I'm just the worst at!  We haven't done too much of it, initially because Cupid was young/green, then we just had so many other things to work on, then right after we started a little bit he had his back problem.  So I've gotten out of it for a long time.  I know the key is to stay relaxed; the harder you try to sit still the worse it gets.  I tried to cheat and get Cupid to do a little shuffle-y trot but of course my trainer stopped that pretty quick.

Like most thoroughbreds, Cupid doesn't have the smoothest gaits.  But no excuses.  I still remember the one and only time Cupid was working round and sitting was just easy, so I know we can do it.  There may be another lunge line lesson in my near future!

Otherwise things have been going well.  I was looking forward to going to an "Intro to Cattle Work" clinic this weekend, but unfortunately the clinic was cancelled.  :(  Maybe it's for the best, I have no idea how Cupid would have reacted.  He's been totally fine riding along cow pastures, but I'm not sure what he would think of sharing the arena with cows!  But we do have a hunter/eq clinic next week, so something to look forward to.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Working Eq Test Ride Clinic with Ali Kermeen

This weekend Cupid and I did a working equitation test ride clinic.  I signed up for the Novice A test, which is very straightforward with shallow loops at the trot, picking up the canter on a 20m circle, and changing rein on a free walk.  The main differences between it and a regular dressage Training level test are that the halts are straight from/to a trot, and there is a reinback.

I thought we had a pretty good warm up.  Cupid was a little disturbed by a chair balancing on top of a mounting block outside the arena - which I mean who does that?  I mostly just avoided that end of the arena so we can focus on bending and trying to get round.  I was riding in my dressage-legal bit, not the Myler combo which I think does encourage Cupid to drop his nose a bit.  But he was listening, and bending and both up and down transitions were prompt.

We headed into the arena, and in typical fashion threw down a mostly accurate but tense test.  Afterwards Ali asked me what I thought about it.  I rattled off a few things I thought could use improvement - the first loop was a bit big, I had immobility both before and after the reinback because I couldn't remember where it goes (before is correct, then step straight into a walk), and my second canter to trot transition was late.  Ali said she wasn't concerned with that, and we need to just focus on relaxation.

The first thing she did is shorten my stirrups, so my hips can move more easily and I have a better base of support.  She had me rock forward and back and asked where I can feel my seatbones.  We started walking, and she told me to follow Cupid's movement but basically leave him alone.  Don't try to make his walk bigger, just focus on following with my hips, sitting upright without arching my lower back, and bending my elbows ("capital L, not little l!")  The other emphasis was on turning my upper body ("headlights") the direction I want Cupid to go - obviously something basic I know but forget sometimes when I'm thinking of a hundred other things!

Then more of the same at the trot.  Of course at the trot I do additional weird things with my body, like raising one shoulder or collapsing through my side.  Aside from a few reminders to have him more on my outside rein, the focus was more on me and my position; as long as Cupid was relaxed and maintaining a steady rhythm I left him alone.  Was he on the bit - no - but Ali said this is still more correct, and he is lifting and swinging through his back much better even with his nose poking out then when he's tense and his whole neck is braced up.  She also basically said once I was more secure in my seat and steady in my contact the rest will come.

We took a bit of a break, working on the reinback a few minutes.  Ali shared a different technique, using a gentle backwards motion with my heels.  It took Cupid a minute to figure it out, but then it seemed to work pretty good! 

The canter work was also mostly focusing on my position.  The transitions into and out of it were good, aside from one time when Cupid kind of squealed and leapt into it.  Even though I still worry about picking up the left lead, he's been very consistent with it (I think the pads on his feet are really helping!) 

I really enjoyed the clinic, and Ali's practical yet relaxed teaching style.  I was quite happy with how Cupid went, and that we could have a good experience being at a somewhat new place.  

Monday, September 30, 2019

Warmup Day, Woodside Schooling Show

There was a hunter/jumper schooling show near me last weekend, and though I wasn't feeling ready to show I hauled Cupid over on Friday when they had the rings open (setup with a complete set of jumps same as for the show) for warm up rounds! 

In years past you would buy a ticket for each round - it was not judged you just went once around the posted course.  I was expecting the same, but they changed the format to where multiple people could be in the arena and you had 5 minutes to school the jumps.  There was a course posted, but you don't have to follow it.  There are some advantages and disadvantages to each.  I was worried it would be chaotic, but I ended up having the entire arena to myself.
Show arena open for practice.

I started out with a quick lunge.  Cupid was well behaved, cantering quietly and coming back down when I asked.  We did have a quick training session on the way to the lunging area though when he balked passing by what I assume is material for a new arena they're building.  Curiosity got the better of him though, and he wanted to investigate.
The only picture I took of Cupid there!
After lunging I got on and we went to the warm up arena, which was immediately adjacent to the show arena.  We started with our usual flatwork, and I tried to remember to sit up straight and have my outside hand by my saddle pad.  It was going well but I was a bit nervous knowing jumping was coming up so we started with just a pole on the ground.  We trotted over it, fairly quietly at first but after several passes Cupid did start to jump over it so I tried to fight the urge to lean forward, which I know is the opposite of what I should be doing!

I forced us to trot over a little log and cross rail in the warm up, though I knew I was not riding my best starting to crawl up Cupid's neck.  At this point I wasn't sure I even wanted to go into the show arena, and thought maybe that was a good note to end it on. 

We took a little walk around outside the arena, around the show grounds which helped me to relax again.  The show arena was still empty so I decided to go in, and told myself since I'm here I might as well at least school around the jumps.  We trotted around, letting Cupid see the judge's booth, flower boxes, and pass by the spectator tent that was flapping in the wind.  (It seems like it is always windy at the horse park!!)  Cupid was being good so I decided to trot the smallest jump, which was the little log at the front of the arena.  That went well, he landed quietly and I got him back into a trot and we trotted the next smallest jump, one of the verticals with a gate and flower box.  We ended up not doing the entire course, but jumped sections of it at a time and went over most of the jumps except one of the outside lines which looked like it was set a bit higher. 

We didn't end there, another ring was set up with a poles course (and also empty).  We trotted it through, then cantered around working on a steady rhythm and our trot changes.  It might have been better to start there, but that ring was initially set with jumps and had other people in it.  Plus then I may have decided to end on a good note and not actually jump at all, so I guess it worked out well in the end!

I was very happy with Cupid; he was very good despite me occasionally riding like a little monkey up his neck (which usually meant a long spot and a rare pulled rail, my fault entirely.)  And though he's never really hesitated with flower boxes, we don't do them very often so it was good for me to see again that it is not a problem for him.  I was very happy I did it, it was the perfect opportunity for me to be able to take my time and work up my bravery.  But I was even more happy I didn't think I was ready to enter the actual show, because I realize I'm not!  But if I keep working on making correct riding my new normal hopefully I will be able to do it even when I'm nervous. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

See vs Feel

Cupid has been feeling really good, as I said I've been really happy with our progress, but I wanted to see it with my own eyes and got my trainer to take some clips during our lesson today.  (Ack, that roof is a little dizzying!)

Trotwork - much improved!  Cupid's nose is still a bit above the vertical, but it's getting there and I like how will he is stepping under himself.  My arms are still a bit straight but it's actually an improvement.

Canter - it feels a lot better but looking at the clips his nose is still up much more then I thought.  You can't tell from this gif, but one improvement I noticed is much better separation in his hind legs.  I'm also going to give myself props for sitting up a bit better (though of course still room for further improvement!)

Yesterday we did some jumping.  Again Cupid was being very good so I decided to up the interest factor a bit, and we jumped the wood coops and I added some blocks under a vertical - both of which Cupid jumped without hesitation.  Our canter has gotten so much better it seems like the right takeoff spots just come up naturally! 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Hitting Our Stride

Cupid has been going so well (physically feeling good, as well as progressing in our training) I decided it was time to try jumping again!  I surveyed the arena and was happy to see the jumps were all small verticals, about 18" with one little oxer.  I briefly considered dropping one to a crossrail, but instead put out a caveletti. 

After a short warm up we did some flatwork, where I focused on putting Cupid on my outside rein.  I was ready to bail on my plan to jump at the first sign of any resistance or hint of misbehavior, but Cupid was being very good.  So we picked up the right lead canter, did a few 20 meter circles, went around the arena, and I focused my gaze on the caveletti.  We met it perfectly!  A few times to the right, then switched to left (Cupid has been consistently picking up the correct lead since he got the pads, hurray!) and found great distances each time! 

I added a vertical after the caveletti.  I didn't realize until I was heading towards it that we were aiming straight for the gate, but Cupid was very good and didn't quicken.  So big pats for him.  Then I put together a little course, I think about 6 jumps including the little oxer.  Cupid was super - we mostly did trot changes but I did get a lead change over the caveletti which I was very happy about.

I couldn't be happier with how the ride went.  Even though we haven't jumped in about 4 months I didn't feel rusty.  I actually felt more secure and confident then I have in a long time.  All that dressage work paying off, haha.  We may have some jumping related events coming up soon ;)

Another thing we have coming up is a Working Equitation test ride clinic, so today I wanted to practice for that.  I signed up for the Novice test, which I haven't ridden before but it's comparable to a Training level dressage test - except there is a reinback and no walk steps into/out of the halt.  Plus it's on a short court so everything comes up quicker!  The dressage ring was unavailable so I did it in the covered arena, in a space even a bit smaller than a short court.  I thought it went okay, except the transitions into the canter were quite late so we worked on sharpening them.  First between trot and walk, then trot and canter - the downs were fine but if Cupid wasn't prompt it was a quick tap-tap.  After a few reminders they felt pretty good, so we ended with a little stretching trot.

I am feeling very optimistic about our progress!  If the next few weeks go well, hopefully we can think about trying First level end of next moth!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Momentary Magic

Our trainer worked us extra hard in our lesson this week, and I think we had a bit of a breakthrough!  But first we had to get Cupid in front of the leg as he started out a bit lazy.  From the walk give a light squeeze, and immediate tap-tap if I didn't get an acceptable response (a forward walk was what we were looking for).  After repeating that twice more I squeezed and Cupid picked up the trot, and I patted him and told him good boy.  We did a few nice transitions between walk and trot, and Cupid was being very responsive. 

Then we worked on getting the trot rounder.  We started to the right, on a 20 meter circle at A.  Touch the saddle pad with my outside pinky (without lengthening the rein!), my trainer said.  It felt weird, and I had to use some leg to keep the trot going, but it did make our 10 meter circle feel a little easier.  Then we picked up the canter and again, pinky to saddle pad.  Cupid thought this was hard work, and can't we just go back to the longer floppier reins we're used to, so I had to use a lot of leg to keep him going and Cupid kicked out when I gave him a touch with the whip.  (This time I was sure his reaction was just annoyance, not pain.)  But then I felt it, all of the sudden it was like I was sitting on a rocking horse!  I wasn't totally confident when my trainer said now do the 10 meter circle at A, that I could both bend enough and keep him cantering (there was a jump standard there to keep us honest!) but we did it!  We did a few more laps of the bigger circle with the 10 meter circle each time we passed A and we kept that rocking horse canter going.

It was a bit harder left, my weaker side.  Whereas we sometimes overbend to the right, we tend to not bend enough going left so my trainer told me to apply inside leg and move my left elbow back past my sides for a stride.  Not there yet, more!  More!  And release.  =)  The canter was not quite as round and we did break to the trot twice.  But on the bright side we got the lead correct each time, and got a few good 10 meter circles where we didn't break gait.

After a quick walk break we finished with trot work doing some serpentines.  I ended feeling very happy and optimistic, feeling like Cupid is quite capable of being a dressage horse!  And we are both ready to take it up a level.  And also acknowledged that Cupid can be a little opinionated, lol.

The next day I wanted to take it a bit easier, so we mainly just walked around the property, dropping in to the outdoor arena for about 10 minutes of trot work getting that roundness we got in our lesson.  Short and focused - so we can sustain the high quality throughout!  We finished with a little stretching trot, before finishing up with our walk outside.

Tiny visitor last weekend =)
For a few recent rides I put a rubber spur strap around my stirrup leather and girth, to help keep my leg from swinging back.  I couldn't really feel a difference, though I'm not sure it's because the strap was too long or I can keep my leg in a semi-normal position without it feeling too weird!