Friday, January 18, 2013

Not Much to Write About

I've been slow on the posting here...I guess it can be attributed to the January slump. We're in a bit of a cold snap - so the previously wet muddy ground is frozen, making it a huge hazard to our horses- everyone has been stalled with arena turn out/ free longeing time.

Despite being cooped up, Ben has been in really good spirits - the change doesn't seem to bother him much at all. I've been riding regularly - things have been going well. Ben's trot is getting really really nice. I've even been playing with sitting trot. First 5 strides then 10 then 20. Our right lead canter has been quite nice as well. Our previously awesome left lead canter has been, shall we say, less nice.

In my lesson last night trainer had me work on getting him super straight, and to try to keep his neck still, while bending his back. Ben's latest is that he'd rather be wiggly in the neck than move his back- softening that back is the hardest thing for him - but once he gets it, he's good, just a matter of finding the right key.

The trot work was coming along well, and so we moved to canter. Initially the left lead was not great. He wants to bulge his barrel against my left leg and zoom around. But our trot work helped, and so did me fixing my rein length....der. So we did a bunch of canter, and then focused on canter to walk transitions, then back up to canter. Those went splendidly, so then on to stretchy trot and calling it a good day.

And a good day it was :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Forced Break

Ahh Ben - king of all things dorky. On Thursday night last week I decided to let him out in the indoor to walk around, since he had been kept in his stall all day due to frozen, lumpy paddocks.  He walked around, trotted around, sniffed the dirt. All was fine and well until he, during his mosey-ing about, used his right hind to step on his right front shoe and off it came. The look on his face was priceless - very Steve Urkel "Did I do that?" Yes Ben, you did do that.

So with a front shoe missing, Ben had 1 light riding day in the soft arena, but had the rest of the time off. Rather than ride, I've been playing with him on the ground in the form of free longeing, but also just hanging out with him - something I admittedly don't do enough of. It has been fun to bond with him in this way.

 Here he is, playing with some of his favorite toys...

His shoe is scheduled to be tacked on on Wednesday, at which point, normal life will resume.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Hmmm Now Where Did I Put that Outside Rein? Dedication in the Cold

Oh man. Turns out taking almost 2 weeks off from riding and any other physical activity was not the best idea if I expected to be able to ride my horse well upon my return.

On Tuesday morning I decided to start the new year off right and visit my horse. Donning my winter weather attire, I headed out with the full intention of riding and sorting out Ben's feed. Well, once I got to the barn, I made the mistake of settling in and catching up with my barn buddies. Standing around chatting in 30 degree weather makes for 1 freezing rider. My feet were so frozen and completely numb. My fingers were going too-  but I was quickly turning into a brick of ice. So instead I sorted out the feed and decided to leave.

But dangit - once I got in the car I started to feel guilty. Not only did I not ride, I realized my next ride would be during my lesson, which was scheduled for Thursday. I really was hoping to get back in the saddle at least once before a lesson. As I drove away I was getting a little more depressed. Then I had a brilliant idea. I decided to go get some lunch and hot coffee, and sit in my car, with the heat blasting on my feet, while I ate. If I could reasonably thaw out my paws, I'd go back and ride. It worked. So back I went. I wasted no time to fetch Ben, get him ready, and to get on.

It was so weird being back in the saddle! Haha, I felt like I had no balance. Amazing how quickly those skills go. We had a short ride in which I attempted to walk, trot, and canter. Everything was okay, except for our canter to the left.  First of all he just wouldnt pick it up. and when he did I could tell he was very guarded and unhappy about it. I got what I thought was decent, and then decided to end it - not wanting an overly sweaty horse in very cold temps.

Fast forward to today- I was able to sneak in a morning lesson...which meant riding in 25 degree weather. Oh man it was cold. God, I'm such a whiner, LOL.  This time I rolled up to the barn and decided that no matter what, I was not going to stop moving. I tacked ben up, put on his quarter sheet, and then another fleece on top of that, and took him for a walk so he could stretch and pee (he is seriously like taking a dog out for a walk - must go out to pee). Then into our lesson we went.

All things considered, our ride was pretty nice! As it turns out, Ben's canter problem was my problem... Failure to Establish Outside Rein Connection. Dammit. So basically my whole lesson I rode on just the outside rein, and my seat/legs. And it worked.

Not only did I fix my canter issues, I also got some really nice canter work! He has clearly been working on this with the trainer. It just keeps getting nicer and nicer.

Tomorrow I have scheduled another lesson - hey, why not. I just need to get back into the swing of things, and I may as well be instructed along the way!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 in Review and New Goals for 2013

Happy New Year!

Wow- what a year! I'll admit, this time last year I was nervous. I had just made the decision that Ben needed to go into full training for a couple of months. I needed to figure out if he and I were going to jive, and to do that we needed professional help. While I was excited at the prospect of a future partnership, I was also scared that I'd find out that I'd never be able to ride him comfortably.

A few months before training in which I realize I need help:

11 Months into training:

The whole year went by quite quickly, but it was not without its struggles.  Ben and I had many experiences together, but there were a few points where I felt like we were a hopeless pair. On the 4th of July, after a pretty decent week of riding, I was unexpectedly launched via a naughty buck. My already shakey confidence took a hit, but with the help of my trainer, all was well, and we kept going.

And go we did. 4 schooling shows, 1 beach trip, and a few outings to the local fairgrounds. In dressage land,    for better or worse, we rode training level tests. Our scores varied widely between mid 50's at our worst and mid 60's at our best. Despite the scores, the comments were consistent: uneven, inconsistent contact, trailing hind legs, behind the aids, incorrect bend, pacey canter. These are all things we struggled with at home, so it was no surprise to see them mentioned on the score sheets.

Despite being a green as grass 4 yr old, Ben's behavior was generally quite remarkable. Yes, he did have his green horse moments. He spooked at the judges booth. He balked. He bucked. He even reared once. At the beach he got very excited and wanted to take off. He tried that same trick a few months later at Donida, too. But over all- he was never truly dangerous, and never got out of hand. Yes, it was frustrating in the moment, but it wasn't scary.

We survived. And here we are, on the first day of the new year, ready to post new goals. Without further ado:

  • Continue monthly training. This has been a lifesaver for us.
  • Raise our Training level scores, consistently. Of course I want to earn the highest score possible, and will always try my hardest to do so. But I will be quite pleased if we can get consistent scores in the low to mid 60's.
  • Dressage Stretch Goal: Attempt a 1st Level test, preferably at a schooling show and not at home. This is going to take a TON of work to get to, but hey, I have 12 months :)
  • Start Ben over low fences. He'll be 5 in April, and for cross training purposes, I think it would be a nice, fun change to do something different once a week.
  • Outings: go on trail rides, go to schooling shows, get OUT.
  • Outing Stretch Goal: attend a rated dressage show.
  • Ride bareback. This one is an odd one, but I'll admit, I never, ever do this. I want to be able to just hop on my horse, if even to dink around at a walk.

I do not think these are incredibly lofty goals. They look kind of boring, actually. But the amount of work they are going to take makes my stomach a bit queasy.

What are your 2013 goals? Did you accomplish your 2012 goals? I'd love to know! I hope 2013 treats you and your equines well. Stay fit, healthy, and happy!