Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bridle Shopping

So, while waiting for Katai to gain some muscle and fill out and waiting to get some money together for my saddle I've been bridle shopping. 

Don't get me wrong, I love my pink lined bridle,

but it was never meant to be a permanent solution plus since I'm planning on a brown dressage saddle I'll need a bridle to match. 

With some googling I found some really great options so now I'm having a tough time deciding between them.

First option:

Micklem Competition Bridle - I've always liked the way these look and the science behind them plus Katai does always violently rub her head after I finish riding. I'd be interested to see what she thought of this since I don't use a flash. It could make her feel more claustrophobic or she could love it. This is probably my second favorite bridle at this point.

Second option:

Schockemoehle Sports Paris bridle - I really like this bridle but it doesn't look like the flash attachment is removable and I've heard mixed things about the quality. This is probably my third favorite at this point.

Third Option:
 

FlexiFit bridle - I think these are beautiful bridles plus you can order each piece in a separate size which is great since Katai's head is oddly between pony and cob sized. They also have different options for each piece with some really beautiful browbands and several options for nosebands including patent and white lining. Even better, they have a removable flash attachment so I could ride without if I chose but add it later if/when we need one. Right now this is my favorite bridle and my first choice.

There are several other options such as this bridle,

 
which is a little too odd for my taste and this bridle,


Which I love but is not legal for dressage.

Luckily I have some time to think about it since at the very earliest I would be getting my saddle at the end of June.

Which one would you pick?







Go!!

had my second lesson with L on Sunday and I’m just as impressed. She is wonderful, everything I was looking for in an instructor and it doesn’t hurt that she seems to really like my pony. She’s the calm voice of reason when things are getting a little crazy with my greenie and she’s great at seeing what I’m doing that I need to change and pointing it out without overwhelming me with too much info at once. I think my favorite thing though is that she is catering the lessons to me and Katai and what we need to work on at any given moment and not trying to force us into working on something that “all of her other students are having success with” like J would.

 

We were also multitasking since there was a desensitization clinic going on at the same time. I’m always struck by the different thought process between Dressage riders and trail riders or eventers. The latter just expect that their horses deal with things that could be scary such as tarps, bridges, flags etc. and the former seem to expect that there is no way in hell that their horses could ever handle such a thing. The western riders at the barn had set up a desensitization clinic on the Sunday so while I was riding in my lesson they were playing drums, riding over bridges, and waving flags around. The dressage riders at the barn didn't want to go near the arena. My feeling is that it is ultimately no different than what could be going on at a show so Katai would just have to deal and after a brief freakout when we first walked into the obstacle filled arena she was great! I expected her to behave and keep her mind on the dressage lesson and she did.

 

On Sunday we started where we had left off at our last lesson, getting Katai to not be as quick by slowing my posting. Right away she said it looked way better than last week and mentioned that Katai is very intelligent and is picking up on things quickly. She adjusted a few things I was doing and answered a few of my questions. Then we upped the difficulty and started to work on making sure that Katai wasn’t counterbending. This is why everyone needs an instructor because I had NO idea how counterbent she was. As soon as L started having me make some gentle corrections I could feel the difference in Katai’s entire body. Now I just have to be able to do this without eyes on the ground :-)

 

Next we added a few different patterns at the trot. First we did a 20 meter circle until she was moving correctly and then made a much smaller 10 meter, or so – sometimes I suck at steering – circle in the center of the bigger one. This exercise the pony got but I didn’t and I kept throwing her away when we went out and not supporting her. I eventually got my act together and then we went on to another exercise that L said should look like a YinYang where we changed directions in the middle of a 20 meter circle. This exercise I was better at but it made pony very, very fussy. She didn’t want to have to balance and is still green enough that it feels like I’m trying to drive a semi truck around a 10 foot circle rather than a small maneuverable pony around a 10 meter circle. We were both starting to get this figured out so we gave her a break. I’m always so happy to have new things to work on and I could feel how much better this made her and how she was carrying herself better after so I’m really looking forward to doing this exercise this week!

 

Finally, after a nice long walk break, we went to the canter. We started in her easier direction and again the focus was on not letting her counterbend her way around the 20 meter circle. L also had me work on getting her canter more forward which felt WAY better! This is another time where I was so thankful that I had someone telling me what I needed to work on because I’ve been happy with her slow, poky canter but now I know what a better canter feels like so I can work on it :) Then we switched to go in the opposite direction, Katai's tough side, and all hell broke loose. Of course it was an adorable pony sized hell but still. She was fussy and bouncy and wanted nothing to do with bending in the correct direction. I'm sure it was tough and we were asking her to use muscles that she'd not used before so I have no issue with it but it got a little rough and then suddenly I thought she'd bucked but L yelled "let her have a walk break!" and once I'd gotten her slowed down L told me that she'd just done a clean flying change. 


Think this -> 


Combined with this ->

I was thrilled! Obviously it wasn't correct and we wouldn't want to teach her that now but the fact that her answer to being upset about something wasn't to buck, bolt, or rear but to do a clean flying change made me really happy.

Then we went back to the canter and got her to do the bend correctly on the correct lead and I was even more thrilled :-)


Nice pony lipstick


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wait For It...

I've had a few meh rides lately. After reading about some other bloggers rides it sounds like I'm not alone. I rode last Saturday, this past Monday, and now tonight on Wednesday. Katai was ok on Sunday and felt a little off on Monday. I remembered tonight when I was at the barn that she had gotten her spring shots on Monday so that would explain things. 


I felt bad because normally I would have given her a couple of days off. If she had seemed more off I would have anyway but she just seemed a little stiff and with her new work schedule and being asked to use different muscles it didn't surprise me.

It's not that we haven't been accomplishing anything, it's just that it's slow process and there haven't been any awesome rides. It has, however, been so so nice to trust that what my instructor wants me to work on is what I need to work on. I trust L because I can see exactly what she is aiming for and I agree with her methods so even when things temporarily get rough I'm comfortable pushing through it. Now the only thing I think about/worry about is if I'm pushing her hard enough or too hard. She's been getting at least 48 hours between every ride to recover. I'm going to start to ride two days in a row over the next couple of weeks but I am trying to make sure she has enough recovery time to not dislike the work. Of course at the same time if I don't push her at all she will never get stronger. 

Then tonight's ride was amazing. She started off rough but it didn't take long and she was working through her back better than she has been and was more relaxed at the base of her neck where L points out she holds most of her tension. After a few circles at the trot in the indoor we moved to the outdoor based on an invitation from another rider. She spent a few minutes being tense and rushy but then I got as good of work as we did inside. 

         Shedding season in full swing

I just have to take a moment to say how incredible my pony is. She has such an amazing brain, is so brave, and so intelligent. She makes me look like an incredible trainer :) Tonight was the first time she set hoof in the outdoor arena and she never once spooked. There were plenty of things to look at and she did tip her ear in their direction a couple of times and then she went right into work mode. I'm also extremely proud to say that tonight, for the first time, she licked the bit out of my hand without me having to ask her to take it. This has been a long careful process to get to this point so to see her finally actually do this was amazing and it was just as wonderful as I thought it would be to have her reach down to take it right out of my hand. It's little things like this that make me feel like I'm on the right track with her :)

I could make a new pony, not that I'd want to :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ready, Set...


Anyone reading this blog knows that I had an issue with my previous instructor J but I have to admit that I've had a lot of personal doubt about if leaving her was the right decision. I was taught from a young age that instructors are always right and who am I, an intro level rider, to question such an accomplished rider and her methods. She had brought a few students up the levels too and that made me feel even more doubtful about leaving her.

Let me just say that after one lesson with my new trainer, L, I no longer doubt my choice.

In my lesson on Sunday it was like she was handing me puzzle pieces and with each one Katai improved in such a big way that it was like I was riding a different horse at the end of the lesson than the beginning. 

J always used to get both Katai and I worked up and both of us would get tense. After I decided to leave I noticed that every horse she works with and instructs turns into a fire breathing dragon in lessons because of the tension. This lesson with L was more like taking a yoga class. She was calm and still and other than reminders to me she stayed pretty quiet unless I was at a moment where I could take something in. She gave us both plenty of breaks and was just so reassuring that I never felt like anything was hard.

After working on trot in both directions she explained a bit more about her methods. She believes in praising the good and ignoring the bad. She said, "this will be hard for her, she'll want to break to a walk or get fussy but she's just trying to find the right answer. Just get her back into a trot or ignore the fussiness but don't punish her or make a big deal out of it."

I could have hugged her.

Then, at the end of the lesson (after we got to work on canter!) she told me that this would just take time. That I need to work on what she gave me for about 4-6 weeks to build Katai's strength and then we can start working on fun stuff!!

I could have hugged her again :)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The One Where H Visits*

* Title courtesy of watching too many episodes of Friends last night.

I had a horse filled weekend planned and so far the first day was incredible! H and I had decided to meet at the local tack shop since they were having an anniversary sale. We had a great time shopping and didn't buy much so my saddle budget is still intact :) Then we went out to lunch and had a great conversation, of course about horsie things, and finally went to my barn. 

H really liked everything and I think is even more anxious to move to her new barn. She had offered that if I wanted to ride she would take some video which was incredible! It's been so tough riding by myself all the time without eyes on the ground. I knew I was developing some bad habits again but just didn't have any great way to identify them and fix them. Now I not only get to watch myself ride but also have that lesson set up tomorrow. I can't wait :)

Here are some stills that I pulled from the video. Please ignore my extra short stirrups. I had cleaned my saddle and leathers and guess I put them back together wrong. I actually didn't notice it until I looked at these pictures!



Look at how she's lifting her back!




Downhill but my favorite picture.



A little canter :)



Little tense but my position is better.




Walk cool down.

I'm so proud of my pony :-)









Friday, March 6, 2015

Second Day at the Barn

I had another great day at the new barn! I am still incredibly impressed by the facilities and it is nice to finally have some of the things that I’ve always wanted in a boarding facility. The cross ties and space to groom are wonderful, they have expectations that things will be swept after so everything is always neat and tidy, unlike my last barn, and the arena is just so wonderful and large. Most of all though, it is just so nice and warm!!! It’s just so incredible to be able to spend time with my horse and not be miserably cold. The grooming area is probably around 50 degrees and the arena is closer to 45-40 which is perfect since when you’re moving around it’s so much easier to stay toasty warm and then the horses are less likely to overheat.



Katai was not as amazingly wonderful on Wednesday but I think she was a little stiff and sore from the two, fairly intense, rides on Saturday and Monday and just didn’t feel like working. I also found out that one of the horses in her pen was picking on her a bit and chasing her around. He’s been moved now but I’m sure that just made her more tired and ready to just not work very hard. She was less speedy and nervous about the arena but didn’t want to use her haunches for anything, just pull herself around by her front legs and was very on the forehand. She was also crazy about canter again and wanted to just skip the trot entirely.

I worked her through it and got a few nice moments with lots of walk breaks. She got yesterday off and got today off as well. I think it might be good to give her two days in a row off but then I plan on working her Saturday and know that I’ll ride on Sunday so I need to figure out my plan. When I was working with her consistently this summer I was riding Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun. That gave her four rides per week with a couple of breaks in between and seemed to work well. I was thinking about going back to that plan since it works best with my schedule but with the drive time doubled I may give her Wednesdays off as well, for now, and plan on riding three days per week.



On Wednesday I also met a few more people and was happy to be able to meet two other boarders that just got to the barn the day before I moved Katai. They both also have pasture boarded horses and are both dressage riders. They are also around my age which is cool because normally I haven't found fellow riders that meet that description. I also received another recommendation for both Y and another trainer that I'll call L. After hearing a few recommendations for her I decided to set up a lesson and am having my first lesson with her on Sunday! I'm so, so excited to be able to take lessons again. I'm really hoping to find an instructor that understands why I enjoy my pony and encourages me to improve and show, at least occasionally. I hope L is that person :-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

First Day at the New Barn

Let me just say this first,

 

THE NEW BARN ROCKS!!!!!

 

This was seriously the best decision I’ve made in a long time and I feel like I’ve found my forever barn. The people are wonderful, there are other dressage peeps, the arena is huge with great footing, and the facilities are top notch without feeling cold and formal.

 

I had a great ride. Katai was speedy to start out but I feel like I’m starting to change hats from trainer to partner. Instead of feeling like everything she does is wrong and everything I do is right, which is the place of a trainer, I’ve started to add some flexibility and am more willing to accommodate things that aren’t directly related to bad behavior. At first, when she was more green, when she was speedy I felt like it was my responsibility to teach her not to be so speedy. Now, I’m figuring out how she works best and how to keep her relaxed and working as an athlete and a partner and that means that if we’re in a new arena and the only sign that she’s stressed is that she needs to go FORWARD I accommodate while working on other things for a little while.

 

Last night’s ride went like this.

 

I barely got my foot in the stirrup and Katai was off. I kept her walking on a loose rein, encouraging her to stretch down, but she was still rushy and fairly tight. After about 7-8 minutes passed I decided that rushy walk, even with lateral work, wasn’t having the intended effect and she was clearly warmed up enough that it was time to trot. I asked for a trot and got a big jump transition and then just held on for a couple of minutes. Usually, when we’re not in a new arena, as soon as she realizes that I’m not going to immediately go to the reins she slows and calms down a bit but she was frazzled last night in the new location (and of course mare went right into heat around the new horses). After a couple of minutes of FORWARD trot I started encouraging her to lower her head and stretch. After a little encouragement she would and then would blow out through her nose a couple of times before getting rushy again.

 

Wash, rinse, repeat (with a couple walk breaks that included a much better, stretchy relaxed walk).

 

Eventually, after a couple of changes of direction, she came back to herself enough to be more manageable and I got some really nice trot and walk. She was still a little fast but not as quick and she was relaxing into it with a nice stretch and more blowing as well as starting to listen to my seat. I walked her again for a few minutes so we could both get our breath back (I seriously need to start running again!) and then did some canter in each direction.

 

She usually does a great job cantering to the left and then swaps leads behind when we go to the right. She just has such a wonderful canter that as long as I get the correct leads in each direction I try not to drill especially with her lack of strength coming out of the last several weeks of light (ie nonexistent) work. I do need to start doing more canter and not just sticking to the 20 meter circle but I’ll increase that slowly as she gets stronger.

 

So, now that you know all about my ride here are pictures of the new facility! The cell phone pictures are from me and the professional ones were taken by the owners and borrowed by me from their Facebook page :-)



My space in the tack room. I saw on Facebook today that they're going to be putting in tack lockers! 


This is the pasture boarders tack room it's not fancy but I LOVE having the window. I'm interested to see if they are planning on putting tack lockers everywhere or just in the stall boarders tack room.


Pony!! I'm actually standing inside of the tack room to take this picture which makes taking up so convenient. She's not as butt high as she looks here, she's just showing off her booty :)


Why you no feed me carrots?

This is standing right in front of Katai. This is the old part of the barn and there are either 3 or 4 stalls here and then the rest are in the newer, fancier part of the barn. The sliding door to the right is the arena and the door at the end of the hallway goes into the bedding area, feed room, and then into the newer part of the barn.


Awesome arena!! I love the big windows and natural lighting.


From the other end of the arena. The door I'm standing next to is the one that leads to the cross ties that Katai was standing in.


The lounge. The arena viewing window is to the right and window outside to the left.


I didn't get pictures of the fancy stalls, grooming, or wash stall because the person that cleans stalls was there and I felt awkward walking around and taking pictures :)

More to come!





 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Last Ride at the Old Barn

I went out to the barn on Saturday to ride my pony before her world turned upside down. The weather was finally cooperating and it was a toasty 22 degrees. The last few times that I've taken her out to work her she's felt a little off. Either a little stiff, a little ouchy on her feet, or possibly just a little crabby. I've been concerned about her and actually have a chiro appointment set up for her but last night she came out of her stall raring to go.

She actually started off a little naughty. For the last three months while I've been at this barn she hasn't ever reverted to the behaviors that she was doing at the previous barn. I'm sure it's because of the lack of tension in me and in her and because I haven't been putting as much pressure on her.

I thought I started out Saturday night the same way and actually my only plan was to walk and work on lateral stuff but something must have been different because she wanted SO badly to just canter around. Stiffly and with her head in the air. 

We got into a little bit of a fight, both of us are headstrong females so that does happen sometimes. Eventually after several minutes I got my point across that she needed to either listen to the bit or, preferably, my seat and then she turned into soft, forward, butter pony. After that we had a REALLY productive night and had some really nice moments of lateral work at walk and trot as well as some really nice moments of canter.

Then we did a photo shoot.


Pony brat loves admiring her pretty self in the mirror.


She is still seriously shedding as you can see by the pile underneath her. I did spend some time shortening and thinning her mane after this picture and its probably a little too short now but it'll grow out and it looks adorable :-)

Yesterday the move went really, really well! I didn't get my traditional pony in trailer picture because I led the way. This new barn seriously feels kind of like Area 51 or something. No one knows where it is and there's a secret Facebook group that I'm now a part of! Katai loaded on the first try with no balkiness and stepped off the trailer like she owned the place. We put her in with two other calm, nice horses and they proceeded to walk around ignoring eachother and grabbing bites of hay. I dropped my stuff off in the tack room and went home since she really just needed some time to settle in.

The owner sent me this picture later.


I took the whole day off today because I wanted a three day weekend and it seemed like a great way to celebrate being at the new barn. I'm planning on going out early in the afternoon to organize my stuff, that I just left in a pile yesterday, and ride.

It'll be interesting to see how she adjusts to the new barn. She was a wreck two barns ago and then at the last barn she was calm and quiet but of course she also spent all night every night in that barn so that's not too surprising. I'll have my fingers crossed that she settles right in on the crossties and I don't have to deal with bouncy naughty pony tonight.

More pictures to come!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

End of February Analysis


Here goes!

I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with how many of these are crossed off so far. Of course many of the ones that aren't are more involved but at least I'm making progress.

I do think that once I have my first lesson, or two, that I'll be adding or clarifying some of these goals.   At least I hope I'll get some more things to work on!

Goals for Katai:

1. Increase fitness/strength/flexibility

- get chiropractic done at least three times in 2015 – Scheduled one for April 3rd
- get at least three massages in 2015
- start serious fitness training as soon as it's not slippery out to include canter sets
- cross train - add cavaletti by February and small jumps by the end of summer
- add more structured lunging - at least 3-4 times per month

2. Show Pony

- practice with show environments by trailering off property at least five times this year
- show in three dressage schooling shows with at least one at training level
- continue with clipper desensitization
- perfect trailer loading On this last barn move she hopped right in despite the wind blowing and the trailer being completely different than she's ever ridden in so I'm pretty confident in her trailering skills.
- ride in one two clinics - can be any discipline
- perfect standing tied to the trailer
- get used to riding around other horses and busy warm up areasStill gets a little nervous when a horse goes past quickly but really does pretty well.

3. Dressage Skillz

- nicer canter transitions (no more ear pinning and less choppy trotting) by the end of March
- better bend at all gaits to the left
- more understanding of whip cues - not over react or ignore - by the middle of the year
- listen to outside leg cues – 50% there in February
- get a halt that regularly lasts at least 20 seconds by the end of February
- understand all three intro tests by the end of April
- begin trying our hoof at training level tests by the end of May

4. Miscellaneous

- stay still for mounting – This has actually gone downhill
- gain trail riding experience both by ourselves and with others - get outside and ride trails at least 3-4 times per month


Goals for Me:

1. Increase fitness/strength/flexibility

- find a good yoga class and go at least twice per month
- get regular massages to help with physical things
- run in at least one 5K by the end of April (providing I can find one and the weather isn't too horrible), one 10K by the end of June, and Ragnar (total of about 13 miles) again in the late summer
- lose 15 - 20 more pounds

2. Riding Goals

- learn to weight each seat bone as needed - default to even (I sit much more on the right)
- find someone to take regular lessons with by the end of February
- take regular lessons - at least once per month
- learn to keep my lower leg back on a regular basis
- practice a more proper arm position
- gain miles in the saddle
- ride different horses
- renew my subscription to Dressage Today and read every article –Subscribed but haven't received any yet

3. Show Human

- put together at least one set of show clothes (schooling show appropriate) including a pair of tall boots
- determine which schooling shows to attend and get signed up
- memorize intro tests by the end of May
- find transportation to shows

4. Miscellaneous

- get a new job and move to a metro location (more on this in a future post)
- save up and purchase a saddle that fits both of us better – Picked one out and saved about half!!
- Order the saddle by the end of June
- take more and better pictures and videos
- read and review a horse book every month – February Success!
- do a better job of journaling my riding in my blog
- make good turnout a habit (pretend I'm getting ready to ride for George Morris everyday lol)
- update the name of this blog (I promise it will be the last time)

I'm going to follow up on goals at the end of every month and be ready to adjust at that point, either add more or take some away.