Monday, February 17, 2020

Jumpies!

Banner has been in a pretty weird funk for the last few weeks it seems. Our winter schedule is always a little lighter since I don't board anymore and therefore don't have an indoor arena. He's on a 2-4 day a week schedule depending on the weather, arena ride-ability & light. Our summer schedule is generally 5-7 days a week, so definitely a big difference! I'm not totally sure what's up with him, but I'm feeling a touch lost about it and a bit frustrated, so we are back to the mega basics for a few rides to see if I can get my happy lil pony back! I'm hoping he is just a little burned out on the tough stuff we have been working on & some light work will return him to his unicorn status. 


With the days getting longer though, I've found myself with a little extra time now that my rides with Banner have been short & sweet. Its been perfect timing for continuing to bring Charms back into work. I've been trying to hit a lesson with him for the last few weeks but the stars just haven't aligned for that to work out yet. I've managed to maintain a good 3 days a week with him for the last few weeks (although sometimes it's just been lunging instead of riding) and I'm pretty thrilled about how he's feeling. 


I'm working on having a soft connection with him so he maintains a softer mouth as I bring him back & so far its been working really well! We have established a solid walk/trot/canter again both ways (although hes definitely stiffer to the right, which unfortunately is my bad way too) & are getting some lovely moments in all the gaits. Bringing him back is reminding me of so many memories with him and I'm loving it. I'm not really sure how to describe it in a way that really makes sense, but getting back on Charmer always feels like "home". I just know his tack & his gaits & his quirks like they're a part of me. 


Yesterday I decided to step it up a notch and bring some jumps back into the mix! We started off with a pole obviously and he was comically bored by it. When we cantered the pole I had a moment where I expected him to do something dumb & stopped supporting him and he broke to the trot like the perfect child that he is. I get all in my head about jumping in general, but for some reason with Charmer its worse (probably partly because his bascule jumps me out of the tack 80% of the time). I finally laughed it off, got my head screwed on straight & jumped him like I know what I'm doing and he was a super good kiddo. 


We started off with a teeny crossrail and he was great! Slightly awkward over some of the jumps because we were trotting them and they were so little, but he was quiet and an appropriate amount of forward for the fences. Raised it to a slightly bigger crossrail and he was fantastic to the left, but got a bit more strung out/wild to the right. Our neighbors horse came over to observe & he was distracted (he could see her going right but not going left) and it is naturally already his worse direction (stiff in his right hip). Managed to settle him down enough for one final good jump after a few slightly extra excited ones going to the right, and ended on a lovely jump back to the left.

Large BOING for little crossrail

There is one more show of our winter series on March 14th & I'm tentatively hoping to bring both of the kids to that. I need to get Charmer back up to jumping about 2'3" in order to take him (that's the height that the morning classes start) & I need Banner to get out of his weird funk of just randomly being a jerk for no real reason at all. Both of those things are definitely feasible goals if I can get my life together enough to really pursue them. 


Hopefully I'll keep up on blogging (one of my goals for this year!) & keep you guys posted on if I get Charmer back up to height & Banner back to normal soon!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Undersaddle Again!

Charmer has been an absolute rockstar this last week or so as I've been slowly easing him back into work. I had to move my lesson from Tuesday last week to Thursday with Banner, and it was just pretty horrendous - think temper tantrums every 5 minutes. I left on Thursday feeling pretty frustrated and discouraged, plus being super exhausted after dealing with Banner's antics for the better part of an hour and a half.

After I got home, I wallowed in self pity for a few hours as I did some laundry and watched TV, and after an appropriate amount of time feeling sorry for myself about how miserable our lesson had been, I finally picked myself up and went outside to go play with Charmer. The day was lovely, nearly 50* and super sunny, so I felt guilty if I let the lovely weather pass me by. It was a pretty good thing it was so nice outside, or I would've probably passed up going out.


My poor property is still mildly a swamp from having basically a week straight of rain, but the arena footing was reasonable enough to manage a lunge and possibly a ride. I was very grateful for hot water access near my barn when I pulled Charmer out, because his legs were so muddy that I had to hose them off. Once I got him cleaned up, we tacked up and headed out for a lunge. And of course, he decided that everything was suuuper scary on this lunge.


We had a bit more imitation porpoising and general flailing around than usual, but the work he was giving me in between all the leaping and snorting was solid. I'm not really sure why I decided that this was the perfect day to get on him for the first time in 2020, but it was. So I climbed aboard after our little 15 minute lunge, and wouldn't you know it? He was foot perfect. Just walk and trot, and general relearning each other in the tack, but he was fantastic!

Both kids got Friday off because I had too many other things going on to make time for them, but Saturday morning was pretty wide open! The sun went away on Saturday, so even though we had reasonable temperatures, it felt significantly colder, but I managed to convince myself to ride at least one pony anyways. Still feeling a pretty solidly bruised ego from Banner and his horrible behavior on Thursday, made me decide that I'd rather bring out Charmer.


I managed to even rope the husband into taking some photos for me on Saturday morning, which was extra awesome! We did a brief lunge session, but probably our shortest yet - just probably 5-7 minutes of quick w/t/c and making sure his brain was with me.

I climbed aboard, and he felt a bit more wired than he had on Thursday, but still fairly settled and reasonable. We got some good walk work, and I did some brake checks as well. He got a few moments where he remembered how to actually bend around my inside leg and soften a bit. We moved onto trot work, and even though he got a touch heavy on my hands, and we weren't pushing for a big, true working trot, we got some solid work in at the trot. Then, I decided to move on to the canter. He is always a touch explosive in his canter transitions, especially if he hasn't done it under saddle in a little bit, so I always try to do my best to set him up for success.


Sure enough, we got a mini explosion and a pretty dull/awkward transition when I first asked, but it was super mild for him. After a lap of canter, we regrouped and tried again. Much less sass the second time around and his transition was a bit sharper - felt less like I was trying to start a pull-to-start lawn mower. Again, we didn't get much work in a true working gait, but it was solid and quiet.


We repeated all of this work back the other direction and again he was a very good boy. A bigger explosion in our first canter, because we were going right this time (usually the way he has a bigger reaction), but it still felt really good.

All of the work I've been doing on my own riding in the last year has helped me to be more aware of my own body position when I'm riding Charmer. I think this is allowing me to bring him back better, and softer than before. I'm thrilled to see what 2020 has in store for me and my dragon child. Hopefully he will come back to full work and be better than ever!


Monday, January 27, 2020

Bringing Back the Big Man

Last year, I got a bit swept away with Banner about showing and lessons and moving up and improving my riding. Which don't get me wrong, I love that we improved so much and accomplished so much last year! But unfortunately time seemed to run away from me last year, and my sweet Charms was put on the back burner. It was really no fault of his own, but I needed to work through some of my riding baggage and Banner helped me do that.

I would pull Charmer out for a few days every so often to lunge or ride, and don't get me wrong, he got groomed and I stuffed him full of cookies every day or two. He wasn't ignored by any means, but we just didn't get much of anything done under saddle in 2019. Despite the fact that I know he didn't care about getting time off, I still felt (and feel) immensely guilty about it. He is very talented and I felt like I just let that go to waste for a year.


Starting in 2020, I feel like I have adjusted to have some slightly better time management skills for everything in my life, and I'm prioritizing trying to get both of the horses going this year. Now unfortunately, it is still January, and that means questionable weather for the rest of this month and probably the next two months at least as well. But I've managed to take advantage of every nice day we have had (that I haven't been dying of the plague) to do something with at least one, if not both of the horses. And I love it!

I've pulled out Charmer for a couple of lunges in the last week. And let me tell you, I am always blown away by him. He has a naturally beautiful movement and look about him that always gives me all the heart eyes. After so much time off, the fact that he still looks so fancy to me is amazing as well.


At the beginning of last week, I pulled him out for what I would call his first "real" lunge of the year. I pulled out the surcingle (which was a workout to put on Mr. Chunky by the way) and while we spent most of the time not using side reins or anything, even just putting it on makes Charmer know that it is "work time". We spent this whole ride at just walk and trot, reminding him how to be a real horse and then we spent a few minutes each way at the end using one side rein on the outside and the lunge line as an inside rein to remind him that he knows what contact is. And he was an absolute rockstar for all of it!

We did our second lunge later in the week on Friday night. I felt horrible (yay for getting sick again), but I knew that it would be our last good day until probably this Thursday to get any work done with him. The weather forecast had us getting rain basically late Friday through Wednesday, which turns my poor arena into an absolute lake. Between already hating riding in the rain plus the fact that it tears up my footing, we basically won't do anything until this misery is behind us I think.


I actually tacked him up this time so he could readjust to all of that. When I sent him out on the lunge he had this beautiful marching walk with a great overstep. Warmed up like that for a bit and then I sent him off into a trot. And let me tell you it was the floaty-est trot I've ever seen from him. I of course didn't get that trot on video but I got some and even the bit I got I was very happy with! We played around in the canter a bit, and as I expected we had some fireworks, but he also gave me some beautiful strides as well. As his fitness improves I'm hoping the explosions will lessen and the beautiful moments will increase.


We played with all this same stuff the other direction and even though he was a bit tired we still got some absolutely incredible moments out of him. Poor guy was huffing and puffing a bit by the end of our 25 or so minute session, but that is to be expected when you are an out of shape wooly mammoth. As his fitness returns he should be less winded at the end of our sessions and I'm also considering clipping him if we are going to make work a regular appearance in his life again!

I couldn't be more happy with bringing him back and I'm excited and hopeful for our year together!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Back to the Grind

In late August/early September of 2018, Banner and I began weekly lessons with Trainer C, which has been such a game changer for my riding and for our partnership. Trainer C also has ridden him lots when he was still with his previous owner so she has a really good understanding of him. In the nearly year and a half we have been in weekly lessons, I have worked very hard to not take off too many weeks in a row. We've had a few times where it has been off - when she had a baby, when I got deathly ill last year, when I went on my honeymoon, or sometimes when my work schedule has prevented it. I try extremely hard not to miss more than 3 lessons in a row because it takes a tremendous toll on my motivation and my confidence.


Because of the holidays, my work schedule got all messed up for December and I ended up having to work on the 17th, so I cancelled that lesson, and then obviously the 24th & 31st were Christmas Eve & New Years Eve, respectively, so we opted out on those two lessons. I was feeling pretty okay about missing just the three in a row, but then unfortunately I caught the plague right around Christmas and it lasted forever. I even went and got checked for pneumonia because I was struggling so much. Luckily I didn't have pneumonia and did end up eventually getting better (after 2.5+ weeks of dying), but due to the fact that I couldn't hardly breathe without coughing, I had to cancel our lesson on the 7th as well. This probably put me out of lessons for longer than I've ever been out since I began weekly lessons again in 2018.


B was such a little firecracker but felt fantastic. Since he hadn't jumped a single thing in 5 weeks, I knew he was gonna be a spicy lil dude. We trotted over a pole on the ground a bit and he was convinced that he just had to jump it. Which I mean I giggled the whole time so it wasn't too bad but definitely a bit comical. I tried cantering over the pole after he settled a bit and he immediately bucked. And I laughed. After we warmed up more and spent a little more time settling his brain and warming up his muscles, he felt really fantastic. 

Since we had so much time off jumping, we spent this lesson working on the basics again. We just jumped one single jump, that probably never went over 2', but it was super productive! We worked on a circle each way for a while until he settled his psycho just a bit. Then we did some figure 8's over the jump, which got him pretty excited, but a manageable level of excited! Finally we did a bunch of halting in a line after the fence to get him to be slightly less exuberant over the fence. 


Pictured is our most recent setup for jumping. His Nathe bit with an instant gag rein on it. Its a different setup than most people are probably used to seeing but it is working for us. His Nathe bit encourages him to stretch and be forward into the bridle, which is great! But he also has realized he's a touch stronger than I am in this bit and likes to grab it and pull sometimes, especially after fences. So the instant gag rein on there allows me to have just a bit of extra strength when he goes to get a little wild. 

We've only used this particular setup twice, but its been working pretty well and I'm pretty excited to see how it continues working over time for us. Hopefully next week's lesson lets us get back into the swing of things and getting back to where we were when the warmth was still here.

Back to another lesson tomorrow! So hopefully we start getting back to doing a bit more challenging stuff!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Dressage-y

I'm making an effort to be a better, more consistent blogger this year, so here's my first post of 2020 to try and get off to a good start!

First off! I bought a dressage saddle!


It's a 17.5" (although rides more like a 17" IMO) Devoucoux Makila! I snagged it off of a local friend for a great deal a few weeks ago!

Not that I was necessarily looking for a dressage saddle at the time, but I saw her post and the saddle was about as perfect as I could ask for in a used saddle, plus this particular one was local so I could try it on!

It pretty much fits B like a glove which is great! Since his jump saddle is a Devoucoux I had a good feeling about it going in and I wasn't disappointed! The seat feels a touch tight for me but a lot of that I attribute to not being in dressage tack for so long.

I rode in it for the trial, and while I felt a bit out of place, I knew it would work for us! A few days later, I did our first at home ride in the saddle!


And I definitely looked (and felt) like a fish out of water. You could tell I'm a jump rider in dressage tack. We got a productive w/t/c ride but it was a bit awkward due to my ineffective aids adjusting to new tack.

I spent a few more days just doing the basics. Super light w/t rides, but for longer periods, mostly just getting my butt in the saddle longer in order to feel less awkward.


By the time I got another set of photos on the first of the year, it was definitely looking better. Still a bit awkward and I still was flopping around a bit (being sick didn't help either) but it was better. I was straighter in the saddle and my aids were actually being somewhat effective.

Yesterday, I was able to bribe ask Micaylah to help me out a bit by just being some eyes on the ground (and also convinced her to take some photos!).


I pretty much really needed her to tell me things I already knew. Somehow it's just so much easier to do things when people tell you, even if technically you know what you're doing wrong in the first place! The big three were: 1 - Hands Up! (Not in my lap and not piano hands!). 2 - Tuck your Hips! (Not getting into my natural jumper form). 3 - Stay upright in my shoulders! (I have a tendency to give here instead of at my elbows). 


It was so helpful to have those reminders! As my body would inevitably revert back to some of my natural bad habits, having someone remind me "Thumbs on top!" Or "Tuck your hips!" brought me back to a better position. 


And in the photos she took, I finally have a few brief moments where I don't totally look like I don't belong! It's still very few moments right now, but the moments are getting more frequent and lasting longer at least!

I still feel a bit like I'm "playing house" in a sense, but it was nice to hear some positive feedback at the end of my session with Micaylah, as I do really value her opinion on dressage stuff! I'm hoping to hit at least one of our local rated shows this summer with him, and of course we will keep working on our dressage stuff at the local events/derbies as well!

Friday, December 27, 2019

2010s Decade in Photos

What a cool BlogHop idea from May As Well Event! I've really enjoyed reading through everyone's blogs of this particular subject because it's so cool to see how much has changed in 10 years for everyone!

2010

I'd only been riding for about 3 years by this time. I was absolutely loving it, even though I pretty much only rode once a week in my lessons, or over the summer I would hitch rides out the barn as often as I could. I was the definition of a barn rat, climbing on anything they'd let me, or working all day for a 10 minute trail ride! The pony in the photo, Steel, taught me to have a sticky seat because he was a dirty stopper, and especially hated oxers. Despite the fact he was a bit of a brat, I loved him to death & appreciate all the lessons he taught me when I was young.

2011

2011 brought the coolest little pony into my life. He was a lesson horse that had carried many, many people through their C-3 Pony Club Ratings, first events, and just about anything else you could think of. His heart was pure gold through and through. I began riding Diamond at the beginning of this year and my confidence soared with him. To this day, I'm not sure if I've met a more honest horse. He carried me over my biggest fence (3'9") and I've only ever matched that height one time since. I think he was somewhere around 23(?) when this photo was taken.

2012

As Diamond aged, I moved into trying to learn to deal with "green horses" although the horse that I was told was "green" was actually trained and had jumped 3'. She was just hot and opinionated. I learned about groundwork and the importance it can play in your relationship with your horse though. Jusanna, this white mare, is the only mare I have ever consistently ridden or liked (I'm a Gelding Girl 100% of the time!). She was definitely frustrating for me but she taught me a lot.

2013

I kept working hard with this little mare to become a true partnership. Her naturally hot, forward personality was hard for me to adjust to, and I was struggling with not feeling pushed at the barn I was at. We tried jumping but never went past probably about 2'3" and I felt frustrated knowing she was more athletic than that and I felt I was holding her back.

2014

I truly began to trust Jusanna and I loved her SO very much. But this year I realized the only reason I was staying at the barn I began riding at was solely because of her. My feelings of being frustrated and held back finally broke through and I made the decision to leave the barn that had been my family for 7 years. I have fond memories of the barn and the people, and I still am connected to many of them, but this move was one of the best and most drastic changes in my riding.

2015

Late 2014, I met Pancho and began riding him in a free lease type situation. To kick off 2015, I bought him and he changed my world. ❤️ He made me so confident and being able to own my own horse for the first time was incredible! We jumped big fences together, rode tackless, and did my first lil Novice derby. This was also the year that Charmer entered my life, but 2015 was Pancho's year. Unfortunately at the end of this year was when I injured myself catch riding another horse and my newfound confidence took a beating.

2016

After nearly 2 years without lessons, I found my current barn family. ❤️ Charmer and I had our first lesson with Trainer S, and I was glad to be in a place that would help us both get better. My excuses about not being confident didn't work here, and they created a safe, nurturing environment for both of us while also pushing me to be the best rider I could be. It was definitely little jumps and basic exercises but it was exactly what I needed. Especially hearing the voice of someone very capable and qualified in my ear telling me I could do it, even when I didn't always feel like I could.

2017

This was Charmer's year you guys. Starting our journey with WSH in 2016 changed everything! We kept up with lessons over the winter and early spring, and I put Charmer into pro training for 2 months which was one of the best decisions of my life. ❤️ He excelled being ridden by the pros for a bit and I improved leaps and bounds as I continued lessons with him. We ran XC in August of 2017 together, two round of BN and it was hands down the most memorable experience of my life. I still remember every single footfall of that course. And the face-splitting smile that came across my face as we crossed the finish line. 🥰

2018

It was borderline impossible to choose just ONE photo from this year. So many things happened. Wonder came into my life, and also left this year. Charmer got into the most fit shape he had been since I'd owned him, but also ended up getting a well deserved winter off. Banner fell into my lap in the most wonderful way imaginable, in a time where I never would have even thought I'd own him. But the memory I had to choose as the best for this year was when we made it to the Karen O'Connor clinic in October 2018. A once in a lifetime experience for most people, and an absolute bucket list dream of mine. Banner proved to me this weekend over and over again that he was the partner I'd dreamed of having. Listening to Karen's harsh but wise words of wisdom as well as her kind, complimentary words for us both was absolutely everything I could have hoped for and more.

2019

2019 has held it's fair share of ups and downs but learning and growing with Banner has been such a pleasure this year. Charmer got to enjoy life as a pasture pony for most of the year as I learned to grow more as a rider. His goofy faces and snuggles were all I really needed from him, although we did manage to hit a lesson and do some stuff as well! Banner gave me confidence beyond what I ever thought possible following my accident in 2015. It was all new territory to him and yet he was patient and kind to me as I fumbled my way along to remember how to ride the big jumps again. We managed to ride nearly the whole (local) season at Novice which is something I didn't even dream of doing in recent years since my lack of confidence.

All in all, it has been a decade full of ups and downs, and lots of different horses have come and gone and influenced my life so much. 10 years ago, I never would have dreamed I would be where I am now. I cannot wait for another 10 years, hopefully filled with both of my two perfect bay kiddos, and many more wonderful memories and experiences. ❤️

See ya later 2010s.
It's been real 👋

Friday, December 13, 2019

Straightness

Over the last few weeks, I've been trying really hard with Banner to stay on a semi-consistent schedule. The minimal daylight hours right now do not help with our situation, so keeping the same kind of schedule we were on in the summer is just not possible, but managing 3-4 rides a week is generally doable for me. Our #1 goal right now is straightness - and honestly its more for me than him right now!

Working on our bigger trot at home

About 6 weeks ago, I fell off in a lesson. Pretty insignificant fall for the most part, but it highlighted some issues that I am having with my own body & magnified them. Banner has always been a crooked horse, and somewhere over this last year I became a pretty crooked rider too. And unfortunately we became crooked the same way! I've put a fairly significant amount of money into Banner to keep him in line, but I have neglected that same care for myself (I'm sure all of you can relate!). I used to be really good about chiropractic care for myself, but when my last chiropractor left his practice a few years ago, I didn't really keep up on it because I didn't want to find a new chiropractor. 


The fall however made me realize how crooked I was riding. And then the next lesson I had highlighted it even more, when Trainer C made me canter for about 5 minutes constantly yelling "step in your right stirrup". At no point did I make an excuse to her because I know better than doing that kind of stuff - but I remember thinking in my head "I'm trying!". It took a massive amount of effort to get straight in the saddle and I was incredibly ineffective with my aids because I had to concentrate so hard on being even in the stirrups. 


The next week was my birthday & my dad graciously gifted me a prepaid chiropractor session with the new guy that he has been using. I explained my issues to him & told him that I knew I was pretty significantly crooked, putting a large amount more weight on my left side. There was probably a fair amount of skepticism from him as I told him how I knew this, but once he put me on the scales he believed me pretty quickly! I was putting 15lbs(!!) more weight on my left leg than my right leg. 


After a fair amount of massaging and some icy-hot type gel, we finally got my lower back to loosen up enough to adjust and WOW did it make a difference. I got back in the saddle and immediately noticed how much straighter I felt. I went back the next week and I was only 7lbs more in my left leg which was a big difference! After a couple more appointments, I am definitely getting much straighter in general, but I'm still working on transferring this newfound straightness into my riding. My muscle memory wants to pull me left but my brain is trying hard to help me stay straight!


In our lesson on Tuesday this week, Trainer C commented on how much straighter I looked, which was a fantastic compliment to hear! I'm thankful for Banner for being such a tattletale about when I get crooked too! His whole way of going changes when I'm straight, and he falls apart quickly when I start throwing him off balance.


His natural jump has a tendency to have a significant angle from left to right. We often land a good foot further to the right than where we took off. This issue is something we had almost solved in the late spring/early summer of this year, but it reared its ugly little head again in recent months. I'm sure it is heavily related to my own issues, but now its a problem for B again. 

All photos from an unrelated ride at home

We are using lots of guide rails to prevent him jumping to the right and I am working very hard on my own body position to help as much as I can. It is still a big struggle for us right now, but we are working on it! At least its the perfect time to work on these kind of problems as we head into the teeny indoor for the winter - lots of work on grids & straightness for a few months!