Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2016 Goals

http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person/

 

I stumbled over this article while I was doing some research for work. It is amazing and, if you haven’t already, I would highly recommend that you read it. I started with this because during the second half of the year 2015 I had some big changes in my life. They were absolutely all for the better but did lead to me deciding to take a step back and work on self improvement. As the rest of the year went on I felt like I kept stumbling over puzzle pieces about how to make these changes and this article was one. I do, actually, happen to be one of the people that is told not to finish reading the article since it was fairly easy for me to name five things about my life that I’ve accomplished and that I’m very proud of but I’m always curious and a lifelong learner thanks to my mom so I read it anyway.

 

It’s sections #3 - #1 from this article that really made me think and made me reconsider how I structure my goals and what I find most important. Because of that I rewrote the goals that I was going to post for 2016 which is why this is especially relevant to this post.

 

Goals for Katai:

 

Master our canter transitions

            How to accomplish: Practice, practice, practice! I need to stop avoiding them because they are ugly and just do them many times so that we have a chance to figure them out together. I’m such a perfectionist that I tend to avoid what I can’t make perfect rather than just working to make it better. I need to stop that and just practice these as much as I can (with guidance from L of course J)

 


Perfect Leg Yield

            How to accomplish: Pretty much the same as above but with more guidance from L.

 

Practice riding through at least two Intro tests and at least two Training Level tests

            How to accomplish: Just do it! They may not be pretty but they will bring to light things that I need help with which I can then bring to L. I think, especially with how dressage is structured, that this would help me set some more specific goals about how to proceed.

 

Sign up for at least two clinics

            How to accomplish: Again, just do it! Stop talking about it and thinking about it and psyching myself out and just do it! L can be helpful in narrowing down who to clinic with but I need to ask sooner rather than later so that I can participate in the clinic(s) that would be most beneficial to us.

 

Go for a trail ride off farm property

            How to accomplish: Find someone that’s willing to trailer us out to a trail and then beg them to take us along ;-)

 

Attend at least two dressage shows

            How to accomplish: This one was tough for me. I’d like to do more shows but I also want to set a reasonable goal. I also want it (per the above article) not to be too out there but I think that attending the show is different than saying “win a blue ribbon at a dressage show” so I’m sticking with it.

 

Goals for Katlyn:

 

Continue with my own self improvement

            How to accomplish: Stay curious, ask questions, and keep searching for information and also continue with veganism.

 

Gain Strength

            How to accomplish: I’ve already started this process by participating in the 30 day Rider fitness Challenge. I didn’t get through all 30 days but I have been consistently doing the reps and sets in that program and can already tell a HUGE difference in my riding (side bridges are the worst and the best at the same time). I’d like to keep that up and add some cardio for 2016. Maybe start running again?

 

Blog more often

            How to accomplish: My goal is to average at least 15 blog posts per month. Mainly I just also need to sit down and do it. It’s not that I completely lack the time, just that I lack the motivation to do this in the small amount of time that I do have.

 

Better pictures and video both for blog posts and just for myself!

How to accomplish: I’ve always wanted better pictures but the other day when I was trying to find a picture for someone else who has horses I couldn’t even find one that wasn’t horribly blurry. I’d really, really like to get some professional or semiprofessional pictures of myself and Katai this year but may focus more on getting a better camera and taking more pictures myself first since, especially in the barn, my iPhone just isn’t cutting it!

 

Purchase a set of show clothes and tack

            How to accomplish: I think that I’ve narrowed down what I’m looking for and, thanks to Christmas, already have one big item (more on that in a different blog).

Finish building tack locker with my dad

            How to accomplish: This one shouldn’t be tough. I’m planning on going home the weekend following New Years and should be able to make some great progress then. I’ll try to get some in progress pictures of that and do a blog post soon!

No Lesson: Recap

Really enjoying my new photo editing app!
 
Since my trainer was out of town for the holidays I didn’t have a lesson this past Sunday. I had given Katai almost a week off both because I thought she needed a more extended vacation and because I did. I didn’t want it to start feeling like work for either of us and planned to start back with consistently riding 5 days per week after Christmas.

So, the past Sunday I had my lesson and then on Saturday, since she had just had 5 days off, I followed my own advice and just lunged. She went really, really well! She was letting me determine her trot speed and stride length on the lunge but was defaulting to a nice slow trot on the lunge line. It really gave me something to think about because that means that if she’s racing around under a rider but not on the lunge I’ likely doing something with my body as I’m riding to cause her that tension. I’m not completely ruling out that she just has a more negative association of being ridden (no thanks to J) but I also made some plans to be more self-aware the next time I rode.

Cute pony is cute
On Sunday I decided to start out with a nice slow trot and just stick with it until I got it in each direction. I reminded myself to keep it simple and if she felt like she was going to explode or escalate I was going to get something good and then quit. She ended up being really good and starting out at that nice slow trot again but with a bit more tension and head flinging. I did discover something though! As she was flinging her head I remembered that she hadn’t done that in side reins (which are much lower than my hands but still) so I focused on taking that firm but steady feeling with my hands but staying really relaxed and it worked! She settled right into good work which is making me think that part of her rushing is that I’m not supporting her enough which is causing her to lose her balance.
She was still fairly tense but I got one great canter transition to the right and then called it quits. Not something I’d normally do since we never did canter to the left but I sensed an impending blow up and decided to quit while I was ahead. I’ll be interested to see if this strategy is helpful or not but I’m hopeful that it will help her feel more confident and thus, less argumentative.
 
This week my riding schedule will be Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday which will get me to my five rides. I plan on doing ground poles, another lunge session, and hopefully drill team!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Everything but the Kitchen Sink: Lesson Recap 12/20

Katai got her second trainer ride on Sunday and it was amazing! I had mentioned that I was a little concerned because I hadn't been riding regularly last week but Katai actually did really well. She was tense and a little reactive at the beginning but didn't end up actually having a tantrum, she just threatened to have one :-)

At one point Katai was doing everything she possibly could to get L's weight to the outside but L, being a much more experienced rider than me, wasn't moving and Katai was getting frustrated. She literally was stumbling around like a drunk and L made the comment that Katai was throwing everything at her but the kitchen sink.

Eventually Katai realized that she was making choices that were making her life tougher and started to cooperate and then, once a few good moments happened L dismounted and handed her off to me.

I so love this little mare. Once I was on board she was so honest about what I was doing that was different than L. I again had an amazing lesson and where to put my body to keep everything that L had accomplished together. I got some really good trot by the end and we called it a day.

It's great to watch L ride and see how she handles Katai's various evasions. Unfortunately Katai never threw the stuff at L that she had at me on Saturday but I wouldn't be surprised if that's because L started out the ride in a different mental place than the one I was in on Saturday. At any rate it was an amazing lesson and again I was impressed by how lucky I am to have ended up with Katai.

A couple of take aways are that I need to be more stable with my hands. I noticed how bad I'd gotten in the video and was really careful with that during my lesson and of course it made a huge difference. It's not that I wasn't being soft before as much as that I just kept moving things around so Katai never had any stability. I also need to remember to use both legs. Baby horse just needed one leg, more advanced less babyish horse needs the support of both legs to do things right. I also need to be sure to more actively keep my weight to the inside. Finally, I need to work on teaching my body how to firm up my stomach muscles without firming up my butt. L pointed up that I tend to both simultaneously so instead of just lightly slowing Katai down I'm making her freeze up and get uncomfortable. Until she said that I didn't even realize that it was possible or necessary to do one or the other even though obviously I only use my abs when I'm doing crunches.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Holiday Slumps

"She's a pony and you're only human, of course you are going to lose your patience sometimes."
                                                                                                                         -My mom :-)

I adore the holidays but this is always when my riding seems to suffer and true to form I had a horrible ride today. It wasn't that Katai was that bad, it was that I was a total asshole to her. I was gritting my teeth and gave some half halts that were way firmer than I should be giving.

The worst thing is that I knew that she had a reason to be stubborn and full of energy because I hadn't ridden her enough this week and then when she carried through and was stiff and full of energy I got frustrated. Instead of pushing her when I knew that she was feeling up at the beginning of the ride I should have found a good note and quit.

I know that the important thing is to move on, learn from my mistake, and not do this again but all I want to do is go back in time and take it all back.

We have been getting better as a team. We used to get into arguments like this every time I rode, then it was once a week, then once a month, and finally now we're only arguing once every couple of months. This relationship between the two of us is why this blog is named Stubborn Together. My goal is that instead of being stubborn against each other, like we were today, we are able to both be stubborn together to accomplish something and most of the time that seems to be the case. Anymore days like today are the exception instead of the rule but I'm still frustrated with myself that I behaved the way that I did.


So I put together a plan since that's the best way for me to move on rather than just dwelling.

First, if I know that I can't ride 5 days per week (like during Christmas week next week) I'm going to lunge her and let her do some "proper" cantering but without me onboard to get frustrated with. That way she can burn off some steam, I can enforce what I need without being a jerk, and I'll still get the pony some exercise.

Second, I need to get back to riding 5 days per week on average. Katai does great at 5 days, ok at 4 days, and not good at 3 days. I can usually make 5 days work but I've been having a tough time being motivated to climb in the car in the dark and make the drive to the barn. I need to do this though for both of our mental health.

Third, if, when, I start getting frustrated I need to find something good to end on and just quit. Get off the pony and keep it positive. Letting her pick a fight with me is not doing anything good for either of us.

Fourth (the tough one), I need to forgive myself like my mom is telling me and move on. I'm not going to be perfect all the time and while I certainly wasn't nice to her it's not like I was beating her either. We will bounce back and be alright.

I'm looking forward to L riding her again tomorrow to see if she can provide me with further guidance about what to do when Katai is doing what she was today. Fingers crossed that it will go as well and I'll learn as much tomorrow as I did last week!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Trainer Ride: Lesson Recap 12/13

My sister drew this on our whiteboard for my birthday on Friday. In other news I need to change my bio from a 20 something to a 30 something.
 
Today L rode my pony and it was amazing!! So far L hadn’t ridden my pony for a couple of reasons. One was that Katai had been such a wild card that I don’t think either of us thought it would be especially helpful. She was so wild, resistant, stubborn, and just untrained that having L climb on just seemed like a waste of time and energy especially since I’ve been making good progress with her help from the ground. More recently though that’s been changing as Katai gets more broke and more rideable. She’s becoming more consistent both with the good and with the bad and L has been mentioning that she has wanted to put a ride(s) on her. I’ve sort of been waiting for L to say "Today is the day!" but based on an interaction with a different student last week I decided that I should set it up and ask her to ride instead. L is very collaborative and I think that if she thinks that I want to ride she’s not going to say anything. So instead I got to the barn a little early today so that I was there before L was in a lesson and asked if she’d like to ride. She agreed that it would be a good day and gathered her riding gear. I tacked up Katai in time for my lesson and then climbed up for a little to warm her up while the other person was riding. Then once she was done with that lesson L mounted up and started Katai at the walk.
I think that both of us were surprised at how differently Katai acted with L. She had a completely different reaction with her than she does with me and didn’t try to race off at all despite L riding with way more leg than I’ve ever been brave enough to try. However, because of that L found out that she’s insanely stiff to one side and just is not comfortable bending to the left. I’ve known she’s stiff but not that it’s an unusual amount so pony is going to be scheduled for some body work. She already has a chiro appointment at the beginning of January but now she’s going to get scheduled for a massage as well.
Both L and I also agreed that we were surprised that she didn’t have more of a tantrum. She had pretty much given them up but for the last few lessons she’s been throwing one at the beginning and then getting down to work. With L, although she was resistant, she didn’t do anything like that. L did work a lot on the walk, which is Katai’s least favorite gait, and then went to the trot. She was good enough at the trot that L didn’t do much and then it was my turn for the second half of the lesson. I couldn’t believe how good, and how different my pony was when I got on. This is why you have your trainer ride your pony! It was an amazing lesson just riding her for those first 10 minutes before Katai went back to more of the way that she goes with me. It was like riding a different horse, one that was in front of my leg, on my aids, balance, and listening to what I asked rather than just running through everything.
L said at the end of my lesson, during my ride I basically just tried to feel her out and not "ruin" anything which was a lesson in and of itself, that she wants to ride at the beginning of the next few lessons and I heartily agreed. I’m also planning on asking her to do a training ride or two in January while I’m in WA for work because I think that would be helpful.
Also, on a slightly unrelated note, remember how I said that one of my qualifications for an instructor was that they needed to be able to be small enough to ride my pony? I knew that L was shorter than me but we ended up shortening my stirrup irons three holes and she rides with a longer leg than I do. She and Katai made a really nice pair and it was so nice to see my pony being so well ridden. I really think Katai has got some talent for this dressage thing!!!
 
One of my friends got some video during my ride and that will be shared once she gets it posted :-)
 
Being able to ride outside on my birthday in December was amazing!


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Feeling Down

My pony has a great sense of humor

I'm not sure if anyone else has seen this article floating around but I read it a couple of weeks ago and it's been making me feel down ever since. I tend to doubt myself and always question if I'm doing the best that I can. That makes me successful at things but I also have to be aware of this tendency or I can tend to spiral and get more and more negative.

This time I caught myself and realized that I was feeling bad based on this article.

I've always been careful to give Katai lots of breaks. I've also read a lot of Jec Aristotle Ballou and she is an expert on muscles, muscle recovery, and how to properly condition your horse. However, it's been making me doubt myself and question everything I do.

It's also been giving me the odd thought that maybe this isn't good for Katai or maybe she's struggling when actually it's pretty clear to me that she's doing amazing and continuing to get stronger and fitter. She's maintained soundness, other than a hoof trimming thing, and her musculature is even, soft, and she's been healthy.

Yep, always with the tongue

Katai has been flexing her new muscles a little and has started kicking out (or bucking) when she disagrees with what I'm asking her to do but I don't think that it's anything out of line for an opinionated red head, who now has the strength to be athletic like that. Of course I wish that she were bopping around with perky ears but Katai isn't and won't ever be that horse. She's tricky, opinionated, a pony, and my perfect partner in so many ways.

The positive part of this is that it's been another good reminder to alternate dressage rides with other rides. I've been using the drill team rides for this but now I've also added cavaletti days, lunging days, and outdoor days (which ends up being on Saturday normally since that's the only time I can ride outside in the daylight).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

VCBH: What's in Your Show Tote

I really like this blog hop concept and so although I’ve only showed a handful of times my whole life (and only once in dressage) I thought I’d do a "What’s in your show tote: wish list edition" adaptation to this hop!

I tend to be a very mentally disorganized person, whatever the opposite of type A is (would that be type Z?) would pretty much describe my mental state most of the time. Whatever small ability I have to be mentally organized is used up during my job which leaves me with about nil during the rest of my week. However, I love to be physically organized. While I’ve never been able to keep any type of planner and just rely on my phone to tell me what to do, I do very carefully organize my space at home and that includes my horse equipment storage. I have a large wooden trunk that holds all the misc items that I don’t use on a regular basis that resides at home and my small tack cabinet at the barn is carefully organized with totes and color coordination. I’m especially excited for the tack locker that my dad and I will be building this winter and will share more information about that soon!

So, to start my wish list I would want something that I could carry all of my items in and that would provide me with some space so that I can organize everything inside for easy access. The items that I’d want to bring with would be fairly normal show items such as stain remover, safety pins, NSAIDs (of course), and extra grooming supplies. However the big things that I’ll need before I can show are below.

Braiding supplies (assuming this will be a rated show)

Some sort of braiding supplies and lots of practice will be needed.
 

Helmet (since mine is over 3 years old and is falling apart)

 
I have a small, oval shaped head and Uvex are some of the few helmets that seem to be comfortable for my head shape.

Dressage saddle show pad

 

 
For my small pony I'm thinking that the High Point cut out pad makes a lot of sense. I think I'll get it in Black.


Show Shirt

 
I really like this show shirt by f.o.a.l. and would like one in short sleeve and long sleeve ideally :-)

Jacket

 
I haven't done much shopping for jackets but I do really like this one from f.o.a.l.

Breeches

 
My favorite breeches are from Horze and I'm really liking these sparkles and all!
 
I've updated my Wish List page to include more of the items on my wish list so check that out as well as the updates to my Current Equipment page!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Saddle Pad Collection

I've always loved saddle pads, they're just my thing. I really like how they're both pretty and functional and there are so many choices between the different colors, patterns, trims, designs etc. For me the trifecta is a dressage saddle pad that's small enough for my pony, that's easy to care for, and that's not too pricy.

My max budget for most saddle pads is $30 but I'm willing to spend up to $40 for just the right pad. To be easy to care for I need to be able to just toss them in the washer and dryer. Especially now that I'm riding five days per week and pony is working hard enough to get sweaty I go through 2-3 pads per week and just don't have the time to mess with doing anything special to clean them. Size is the trickiest thing for me because measurements are almost never listed and I'm looking for something smaller than what most people are looking for. This is both because my saddle is quite small and because she's quite small. My ideal is close to 20x20 but my favorite dressage pad is actually smaller than that.

Of all of the places that I've looked and shopped for dressage pads Horze is my favorite because most of their pads in pony size fit all three of those things especially when they are doing one of their sales! For that reason I bought four new dressage pads at their Black Friday sale for my birthday present to myself.

 
In the picture above the two navy blue, the pink, and the middle brown pad are the new ones. All of the pads except for the top brown one are from Horze. In this picture I'm only missing one, pink (Euos not Horze), pad that is currently in use. The grey is dirty and needs a wash and the others were just washed and are on their way back to the barn. It will be so nice to have 10 in rotation instead of 6!!
 

Veggie is indicating my two favorite pads just like Vanna White. He was unable to stretch to the black pad in the opposite corner which is my other favorite.

I'll try to remember to get a picture of Katai in her matching set of brown dressage boots and new brown dressage pad because she's going to be adorable :-)

The Weeknd: Lesson Recap 12/6

This weekend was amazing for me and my pony. I had, due to some unexpected changes last week, ended up with four rides in a row. I had ridden Thursday for drill team (short ride), Friday (dressage ride), Saturday (supposed to be a trail ride), and Sunday (for my lesson of course).

This whole week we've had unusually warm temperatures and the snow that we ended up had almost all melted. I had been hoping that this would mean that I could safely plan a trail ride on Saturday but I was warned by the BM that the slush and mud was making it slippery out so I went to the outdoor arena instead and was so glad that I did!

The arena had a thin coating of snow but with the warm temps the footing was still good and since pony was full of herself I was looking for any excuse to ask her to canter. She had to wait until I asked but once I did I had her canter pretty much until I could feel her tiring a little. Because of the snowy footing she had a great amount of jump in her canter and so I felt like I had wings.

It was amazing!

I really wish someone had been available to take pictures or video because she had her little pastel quarter sheet on and with the snowy background it would have been so cute.


Then for my lesson on Sunday we rode inside since the footing was getting a little mushy. Katai was a little tired and muscle sore from all her cantering the day before but in true pony fashion decided that trying to run away with me would be her best way to get out of work. Instead she got pushed forward in a canter and had to keep cantering until it was my idea for her to quit. Then, just because she's sassy she decided when we switched directions that it would be a good idea to try that again.

This all occurred during our warm up so by the time that L started our lesson pony was already pretty tuckered out and thought that she really shouldn't have to work. She was behind my leg pretty much the whole ride, until work started getting tough later on and then she decided to start running away again, but it was ok because we spent more time working on me.

The last couple of lessons Katai has been going well enough that we've been working on leg yields on the quarter lines. Today we added canter transitions once we hit the wall to help me figure out how to get my body placed right. We would do the leg yield, one canter circle, back to the trot and then back down the center line to do the whole thing again!

This got her pretty jazzed up so it was back to the races but after her tiring day on Saturday and the amount of canter she did to start we cut her some slack and just ended a little early after one last good transition.


Overall I learned a lot and it was a great lesson. I've been holding with my inside hand and when I'm doing the leg yield especially I grab it rather than releasing it. Great homework for me this week! Katai is really getting broke and I'm able to do so much to influence her direction/speed/bend etc. that it's just fun to ride even if things don't all go perfectly :-)

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Timeline

2012

Boarding Katai where I was renting in Northern WI.
 


 
Baby's first ride

2013

Moved Katai to her first boarding facility which was a pasture share with one other aged gelding.
Driving the trailer all by myself for the second time!
 


 

Fall 2013

Moved Katai to a facility with a covered arena so that I could ride during the winter. This is where she really became broke to ride. Any previous rides I had done lasted about 5 minutes at the longest and only consisted of walk.



 
 

Spring 2014

I moved Katai to a barn with a dressage instructor and a nicer indoor with MUCH better footing. Plus I was worried because Katai had lost a lot of weight at the previous barn which you can see from one of the photos. If it hadn't been for J I would have continued to board here and still really miss most of the people.
 
 
 
 

The above video is not indicative of how Katai had been going in lessons. This was after 1.5 months off lessons where all I did was ride her long and low. She was doing well unless I put any pressure on her and then she would go into full on panic/fight/flight mode.

 

Winter 2014

I moved Katai to a temporary barn because I had started to realize how brutal J's training techniques were and wasn't having fun anymore. Plus, Katai had started rearing and was moving worse and worse.
 




 

Spring 2015

I moved Katai to an amazing facility with at least three good dressage instructors and found L who has been the best for both Katai and I. Starting here I feel like we actually started to make progress!




 

Fall 2015

Unfortunately the owners turned out to be crazy so when I found that L's regular barn had an opening I jumped a it and moved for our final time.



 



Blair Witch Project pony doesn't like to have her fugly clip photographed. More photos soon!