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!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Post-Clinic Rides

Even though I was very excited to get to work on my improvements, I though it's only fair I give Cupid Sunday off.  :p  I had Monday off (yay!) so I could wait to ride until the outdoor arena was groomed.  Cupid was very good in the outdoor, not distracted by the piles of stuff stored outside the ring like he sometimes can be.  I was working hard on keeping my shoulders and elbows back, and even weight in my seatbones.  Cupid's ears kept flicking back; he sensed something was different but wasn't quite sure if I was asking him to do something.  We did serpentines, circles, changes on the diagonal, and of course some leg yielding, staying at walk and trot.  We kept it pretty simple, so I can focus on my elbows and proper alignment. 

On Tuesday we had a lesson.  Despite the cold, Cupid was relatively forward in our walk warm up.  He was wearing his wool exercise sheet, which seems to help.  I was continuing to focus on my elbows.  It still feels unnatural, and I can feel the pulling across the fronts of my shoulders where I am tight.  I'll have to figure out stretches or exercises I can do in the gym to help with that.

Cupid did a mini spook the first two times we went on one of the short sides, and my trainer said it was probably the coops (jumping, not chicken) that were on the other side of the wall.  So I let Cupid look over the wall, and he snorted and balked a few seconds but then ignored them the rest of the ride.

We did a fairly long trot set, mostly 20 meter circles and serpentines, before going into canter.  We started to the right, and the new arm position felt especially odd in the transition since I'm so used to shortening the reins and holding my hands up the neck.  My trainer noticed that I had made a conscious effort to hold my elbows, and said that must have felt strange but keep doing it.  We completed our 20 meter circle and headed up the long side.  Cupid's canter got a little bigger than usual, but this time I was a little more comfortable than the last time he did it and just continued on as I was.  We circled on the short side and down the next long side, then another complete lap.  We changed direction and I got the left lead on the second try, but we broke on the long side.  That same spot, a few strides out from the corner we always seem to have a problem.  (Meaning I should know it's coming and make sure I keep my leg on!!)  I think it took 3 tries to get the left lead canter back, with me resisting the urge to use my inside rein.  Though I did make our circle a little smaller when we finally got it.  We went back down the other long side (where we usually don't have a problem breaking), and down transitioned on a circle on the short side.  A little stretchy trot before a walk break.
It's an improvement from before.

We ended with another trot set doing leg yield exercises both down the rail and on the circle.  On the circle we leg yielded out to get on the outside rein, then I would push my inside hand forward to test the connection and ask for a bigger trot, before shortening again then back to the leg yield out.  My trainer said Cupid was responding positively to the changes I'm making, and was carrying himself better and more through.  Apparently the past 3+ years now he's just been waiting for me to get my act together!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Delta-Sierra Chapter Competition Clinic with David Ventura

On Saturday I took Cupid to the Delta-Sierra Chapter Competition Clinic, where we rode Training test 2 for judge David Ventura, then spent half an hour working with him.

The clinic was just over 2 hours away, the furthest I've trailered Cupid, but luckily was uneventful and we had no issues loading.  We arrived, checked in, and I tacked up.  Cupid seemed fairly relaxed.  We found an empty arena, and walked around a few times each direction before picking up a trot.  I started on some 20 meter circles, then went around the arena with a few circles added in.  I did a few changes of my posting diagonal to keep him balanced, but Cupid wasn't trying to get quick.  We did a quick left lead canter, getting the correct lead our second try.

I thought it was time to go to the covered arena, where the clinic was held, but they weren't quite ready.  There was another arena by it so we went in there - the more new arenas we go in the better!

Then it was our turn to go in the covered arena.  Just as we walked in some birds flew out from the rafters, spooning Cupid!  Luckily that was the only time we heard the birds.

I was happy with how our test went, though Cupid was a little tense and above the bit.  We actually did get the left lead first ask, but unfortunately broke a few strides in.  Maybe I looked down to see if we were correct, or Cupid just got distracted by the stack of hay bales next to us and I didn't have my leg on, I'm not sure.  I asked right away for the canter again, we got the right lead so I did another trot change.  So we got dinged here, but the judge commented good job staying on track and good geometry through it.  Our other mistake was not really stretching in our stretchy trot circle - thus is Cupid's best move at home but he doesn't do it when he's nervous.  I thought the rest of the test went well, though later the judge told me we were more on the forehand the second half, which I hadn't noticed. (But that is why I was there, to learn!)

David started our session at the halt,  adjusting me into a correct position.  He held his hand behind me, and told me to lean back until I felt his hand, and that is where I should be.  He said I have a nice, balanced seat but I ride very much like a hunter rider.   I should ride from seat, to leg, to hand not the other way around.  Not surprisingly, he zeroed in on my elbows as the biggest problem area.

We started off at the walk, on a 20 meter circle tracking right.  David frequently reminded me about my elbows, and also to give through my elbows instead of opening my hand.  He said that if I want to increase the walk I need to cue when Cupid's leg just leaves the ground; so for his inside hind leg that's when the walk pushes my hips forward.  He said I was overbending Cupid through his neck to the right, resulting in Cupid not bending through his back properly.
It felt like my elbows were way back, but it looks like they're still too forward! :(

We started our trotwork on the circle, trying to maintain the correct posture.  Then we went around the arena and did some long diagonals.  We ended with a little leg yielding, which is the exercise David recommended for helping put Cupid into my outside rein (going from quarter line to rail).  Everything David said I've heard from my trainer before, and know I need to work on.  But the clinic was a great experience, and has given me new motivation to continue forward and keep working at it.
Probably saying: bend your %$*#ing elbows!!!  More!!


Tired pony!

He worked up quite a sweat!

During lunch David gave an interesting lecture on confirmation, and someone from Delta-Sierra made the most delicious fudgey brownies.  This was a super nice group of people, very welcoming, and put on a well organized event.  Cupid was very good hanging out at the trailer, eating hay.  After lunch we walked over to the cows to let Cupid take a look, but he was very unconcerned about them.  Good to know in case we encounter them on a ride, or maybe even try our hand at cow sorting some day!  Cupid loaded without problem, and we headed on the long drive back tired but happy.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy 7th Birthday Cupid!

Happy birthday Cupid!!  He was 3 when I got him, and it is hard for me to believe he is 7 now.  I feel like we're pretty much out of excuses now for his green moments; he is old enough and has been off the track long enough now to know better!
7 carrot candles for Cupid
I gave him the day off, and instead took him out to graze.  He acted like an adult horse, and grazed normal instead of with his right leg way out in front and left leg under him, like he still often does.

Stallion lurking in the background... he doesn't care Cupid is a gelding
Sees his grain bucket coming.  I considered, but then was too embarrassed to sing Happy Birthday.

Cupid got some extra treats with his grain.  I couldn't quite tell which he preferred from the carrots, apples, and Mrs. Pastures, but he was pushing the grain around looking for something.  My money is on Mrs. Pastures.   I also filled his treat dispenser toy with Carrot & Spice Nuggets. 

Monday, February 12, 2018


I decided to try only cantering every other ride, so when we do it we are setting up for success and building the correct muscle memory.  On the off days we'll try to do some light conditioning to help with fitness.  Even though Cupid looks pretty fit (we're still building the top line), he does seem to get out of breath pretty easily!

I'm also trying to be better about doing stretches with him; we will do them for a few weeks then kind of stop.  We're having a little trouble with the carrot stretches though, he keeps twisting his head instead of bending his neck.  Maybe I need to start with the carrot closer?  My chiro said hold it at the hip but I usually go several inches forward and out from there.

Not very bendy
How do I keep his head straight?
A little better to the right
Since we did a jumping lesson on Friday, I did "conditioning" work on Saturday, involving walking and trotting up our little hill.  It's not very big, but better than nothing.  And Cupid was puffing a little by the time he trotted up.  Then we would walk the long loop back around.  We finished by walking a big loop around the property.  I think even just walking on different terrains is useful.

Not much of a hill, but we make do
On Sunday I was able to ride in the dressage court again.  Cupid is still more alert there than in the covered arena, but he's definitely gotten less spooky.  When I'm not in lessons I usually spend about 10 minute walking to start; first on a longer rein then gradually shorten.  Then I do some shallow serpentines (rail to centerline) and maybe a 20 meter circle each direction before picking up the trot.  I do the similar in the trot.  For lessons my trainer usually has me canter at this point, but left to my own devices I usually do a walk break first, then do another short trot before picking up the canter.  We picked up the right lead canter on a 20 meter circle at A, went down the rail to E and did another 20 meter circle, then cantered down the rail to B and did another circle.  We kept cantering to K, when down the diagonal, dropped to a trot around X and picked up the left lead right before getting back on the rail at M.  Success! :)  Big praise for Cupid, then we did similar circles and going on the rail to the left.

We took another walk break, did some more trot work, and another canter set.  This time we weren't able to get the left lead first try, so I put Cupid on a circle and we got it the second attempt, but he dropped to a trot where there was a dry spot in the footing.  It took a few tries to get the left lead again.  Generally it seems easier to get earlier in the ride, when Cupid is more fresh.  But we were able to get it, and he feels good when he's cantering.  We did a little more trot work, then walked a loop around the property to cool off.

On Monday we had a no canter day, so I walked up the gentle slope of our long driveway twice.  Mondays are a good day for this as usually I'm the only one there aside from staff.  Cupid was a little distracted wanting to look at all the construction beyond the fence, so I tried to get his attention by asking him to bend the other direction, away from it, then straight a few steps before asking him to bend the other way.  We walked a big loop around to finish.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


It's been months since I've gotten my saddle, but the replacement part just now arrived to exchange the rhinestone trim.  Nothing against Stubben or people who are into the bling thing, it's just not for me.  (I have a plain bridle too.)  I was unhappy when I received the saddle, but once they told me it would get fixed I was fine living with it until then.  I didn't think it would take this long, but at least it's done.  My wonderful rep picked up the saddle on Thursday, and brought it back on Friday.  I was already really happy with the fit and feel, and now it's perfect!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Successes and Struggles

Overall we are continuing forward progress, though did have some struggles this week.

Sunday - The scrape on Cupid's left hind leg was a little puffy.  The scrape itself looked fine, no sign of infection.  I cold hosed before our lesson, and we took it easy (mainly walk/trot) but Cupid felt fine.  We practiced coursing over poles and cavaletti.

Monday - Day off.

Tuesday - We had one of our best lessons ever, everything just came together.  For some reason I was much better about maintaining steady and even contact, which of course resulted in Cupid being soft and following my hands.  Imagine that. :p  The sitting trot is improving too; before I would have Cupid practically walking with his hind end so it would be easier for me to sit.  I've been working on keeping my body relaxed, and not clamping down with my legs to lock myself in place but rather finding the place in my waist (is that correct?) to absorb the motion.  Today I could really feel the difference.  Even though the trot was slow I could feel there was impulsion.  We also got the left lead canter most attempts; I think once or twice we got it wrong but were able to get it second ask.  I wish I made notes because now I'm not remember the details of what all we did, but I do remember how amazing it felt!

Wednesday - After such a great ride Tuesday I was excited to continue where we left off the next day.  I rode a bit earlier, so I could go in the dressage court.  Cupid was a little looky on one end, though not bad.  (Better than he usually is.)  But we couldn't capture the same magic from the day before, and the left lead canter was a total disaster.  I tried all the usual tricks to pick it up: from a circle go on a smaller circle and ask as I'm leg yielding back to the larger circle; ask in the corner; ask as I'm completing a 10 meter circle.  We only got it once, and then Cupid tripped about a stride into it and broke into a trot, and then we couldn't get it again.  He felt fine, I can't think of any physical reason but maybe he was just sore from the day before?  And my trainer tells me I need to stay off my inside rein - that I am throwing his weight onto his inside shoulder thus making it easier for him to go on the right lead.  I thought the problem was him not pushing off his right hind properly, but my trainer didn't think that was the case.  She got on Cupid, and she was somewhat more successful than me but was still only about 50/50.  After she did a short canter on him, I got back on and we decided to finish up with some trot work, which went well.

Thursday - I decided to give Cupid the day off, and see if it would help if he's a little fresh on Friday.  Also met with my saddle rep to finally get the gaudy rhinestones off my dressage saddle!  I'm so happy; I love how the saddle fits and now it will be perfect.

Friday - I'm getting the dressage saddle back today, so I rode in my close contact.  My trainer asked if I wanted to jump, and I wasn't sure until I see how Cupid feels.  I'm not sure it's really fair to ask him to jump, if there is a physical component to why he doesn't want to canter left.  So we started our warm up, and Cupid was super pokey.  He did trot when I asked, but it was pretty much the slowest trot ever.  Like we could win a western pleasure class.  I let him mosey around a few laps, and was almost thinking of throwing in the towel and just going for a walk around the property.  My trainer told me to get in 2 point and I said that usually makes it worst, so we did it a lap and gave up.  My trainer then suggested we canter, but I wasn't sure how that would happen.  So I asked if we could trot over some cavaletti (on the lowest side) first and see if that wakes him up.  She said to trot the caveletti in a large circle but with straight lines before and after, and if he lands in a canter keep cantering (haha, as if).  We trotted it a few times, and it didn't really spark him too much but at least I felt like I could keep him going in a canter.  So we cantered a few laps.  I lost my inside stirrup, couldn't pick it up, so just gave up and did a lap with one stirrup before finally getting my foot back in.  Then changed direction and got the left lead the second try and canter a little left.

We went back and cantered the caveletti, now flipped to the higher end, again in a large circle but with straight lines over.  The first few jumps I felt a little floppy, especially with my lower body, but then I got into the swing of it.  We started to the right, and for some reason Cupid kept landing on the left lead.  So my trainer said next time encourage left lead and land and go left, but of course that time he landed right.  Then we did a few little courses, with a mix of caveletti and cross rails.  The coursing felt really good!  Our rhythm was really good, Cupid was relaxed, and we were hitting the jumps right in stride.  We still didn't get all the left leads the first try, but it was definitely better than Wednesday.  I thought maybe because of the day off, and my trainer said also because I was riding on a bit longer rein, therefore not pulling on the inside as much.

I think I may experiment with only cantering every other day, with either a walk/trot day or day off in between until Cupid builds his strength and see if that helps.  I'm also trying to get the chiro out.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Trail Ride in Huddart Park

It's been a few weeks since we've done a trail ride, and with the weather being as nice as it's been I made plans to meet with my trail buddy.  Cupid was good loading, but a little anxious while I was tacking him up tied to the trailer.  We were parallel to a busy highway, I'm not sure if he was reacting to the noisy traffic. 

We started alone, up the road to my friend's barn.  Cupid was looking around a little, but being good.  We passed by all sorts of mailboxes and gates, pastures with horses in them, stepped up and down curbs, etc. no problem.  Then we met up with my friend, who was riding a horse and ponying another.  They are both mares, and give Cupid dirty looks if he gets too close but he actually was being very good and not doing anything annoying.  Cupid was more relaxed following behind the other horses, and we walked on a loose rein most of the ride.

We did our first creek crossing.  Cupid looked at it, but followed the other horses through.  Luckily there wasn't too much water in it.  I still think we might have a problem with rushing water, but it was good to get a little experience.  He has always been very good with bridges though.  We passed several hikers and joggers, and  few other horses uneventfully.  We rode for about two hours.  We were under the trees in the shades most of the time, and just walked, but the horses were all very sweaty by the end. 

No better place than under the redwoods on a sunny day!

We crossed several little bridges

Something I never would have thought to look for, but am happy to have: a water tank in the trailer
Cupid always seems happy to go back home, and has a little prance in his step when I walk him into the barn, and then out to the pasture.  I imagine he likes to tell his buddies about his adventures.  He also apparently still had a little energy left because he tried to get the other horses to play with him, but they were not interested so he settled down to eat instead.
Happy to be home

Friday, February 2, 2018

Winter Warmup

We've had a very welcome break from winter, with temperatures up to the 70s!  There is still a little mud in the pasture around the gates and run-in, but it is drying up.  There is grass around the property, though not too much in the pasture itself but enough to keep the horses entertained. 

Monday - I found a little drainage spot on Cupid's right front hoof, above his heel.  Hopefully that's the end of what I've been feeling there!  We had a light ride, basic walk trot and canter with lots of bending.  Ended with some leg yielding at the trot; I felt like Cupid was moving sideways but not really stepping under with his hind leg so want to work on that.

Tuesday - Dressage lesson, with my trainer really on me about keeping steady contact and not pulling the inside rein.  Also for not being forward enough.  So Cupid decided he'll show me and canter really big (okay not that big, but bigger than usual thus making me slightly uncomfortable).  I decided to just go with it and figured eventually he would realize it's too much work, which was the case but first he decided the horse and rider approaching the gate was scary and darted away.  So obviously again I didn't have my inside leg on.  We ended with some pretty nice trot work.

Wednesday - Lunging session with balancing reins.  Cupid was 100% getting the left lead, yay!

Thursday - We did some basic walk, trot, and canter with 20 meter circles and serpentines, then did a little jumping.  There were only 2 jumps set in the arena (left from our circle of death), and I just kind of made up the course as we went along.  We had a few long spots early on but then were able to clean it up.  Still had a little trouble with the left lead, so I ended up trotting a lot of the jumps coming from the left. 

 Friday - We had a lesson and were hoping to be able to ride in the outdoor arena, which has been closed the past few weeks.  As I was grooming Cupid in his stall I noticed his right hind leg was a little puffy above the fetlock.  I knelt down to take a look and saw a little scratch below his hock.  I was surprised that would cause the swelling, and then noticed several more scratches on the inside of his leg.  Oh Cupid!  He didn't seem lame though so I figured I would get on and see how he feels, and take it a little easy.

Not only was the outdoor open, but I was happy to see the dressage court rails were in place!  We walked around a few times each direction before starting to trot on a 20 meter circle in the far end.  When we went to go down the rail Cupid scooted away, presumably from the cavaletti sitting outside.  But his reaction was pretty mild.  I turned Cupid in a small circle (keeping at the trot), and made sure to keep my inside leg on as we passed the cavaletti.  Right when Cupid was getting over it the tractor came to drag the ring, so we had to move to the covered.

We did some really nice trot work.  On a 20 meter circle we would do medium trot, then collect a little and sit and do a 10 meter circle with a few steps shoulder fore as we went back onto the larger circle before straightening back into a medium trot.  Then with the shoulder fore we also added a little haunches in.  Eventually after shoulder in and haunches in we straightened but stayed collected and went into a shoulder fore to the outside a few steps then haunches out.  I was super happy with how Cupid felt!  We ended with a little stretching trot.  My trainer said I was much better with my upper body and hands.

I decided to skip the next Yarra Yarra show, but we are registered for a competition clinic in two weeks!  I chose Training test 2 again.  I'm really excited about it.