Friday, June 23, 2017

Life Update

Trying to remember this on the daily
I also have a post about my lesson this week that I want to get typed up but I felt like I wanted to do this post first to catch up.

This has been a weird year for me in a couple of ways. The weather has been odd and it was a long, cold spring, then we had extreme (for us) heat. Now for the next 7-10 days it looks like our highs will be in the upper 60s with rain which is cold for us at this time of year. The weather has been so bipolar that it's tough to make plans or get in any sort of rhythm.

It's also been sort of a weird year for me personally. The weather certainly hasn't helped but on top of that I think I've felt a bit aimless. I've always had something like 7 big items on a list that I wanted to accomplish. For so long they felt so far away and I was constantly striving for them. Now I've got something like 5 of the seven checked off (and those are better than I imagined they'd be) but the two things left which haven't been prioritized to this point feel really important.

I'm struggling a bit with where to go from here since it feels like one of those things (a relationship) isn't something I can necessarily achieve with hard work and I suck at sitting back and letting things happen. It's also been really tough to still be alone and I've been struggling a lot with it recently especially as more of my friends fall off the map as they get more involved with kids and their spouses and have less time for doing things with friends.

The other thing is moving away from MN and it's always felt weirdly dependent on the relationship being accomplished first. Not sure why, maybe I want to have that support person before I leave home or maybe it's that it would be a lot easier financially. Either way, while I have a plan to accomplish this it's still a bit further out and the only thing I can do now is prioritize paying debt and figure out where I'll want to look for jobs when/if I decide to take action on my plan.
Both exciting and sad to think of leaving
this beautiful, green paradise.
Other little things have put me in a weird place as well. I love my job so much that I can't imagine leaving it to move (and yet don't want to spend the rest of my life living in MN), same with Jane and my current barn. However, Jane is going to likely be retiring from boarding at some time in the near future and while I hope she'd still teach lessons that's a bit up in the air. She's allowing some of her things (like her truck) to come to the end of their life and so while it's amazing that she's willing to trailer me places for shows I'm also really sensitive to the fact that every mile she trailers me is a mile she can't trailer her own horse to a clinic. I prioritized paying bills this year over buying a trailer but now I'm sort of in a place where I feel stuck and can't do as much as I'd like.

I was really looking forward to trailering to shows with my fellow boarder, K, but now very sadly and a bit suddenly she's needing to make a tough decision about retiring her horse. It's not my story to tell and I don't want to share the details but it's tough on everyone at the barn especially since her mare is the nicest, sweetest thing on the face of the earth. At the very least there isn't much hope or any plans for her to show with her again.

I'm certainly not posting this to complain, mainly it's a post about how everything is going so well (other than feeling a bit lonely haha) that I'm just feeling a little lost without all of my goals and wants. Also, things with Katai are going great! I'm slowly improving my riding and Katai is continuing to be more ridable. I can't believe the difference in her quiet, sweet, well behaved attitude recently. She tries so hard every. single. ride. and I never wonder what I'm going to get when I show up at the barn.

I'm also continuing to get healthier and fitter and still really loving being vegan. My job is great and I have a really fun (they aren't always but this one will be!) work trip at the end of July for a week that I'm looking forward to. I'm SO excited about going to Pony Cup again this year and can't believe that I'll be flying out two weeks from tomorrow. I'm also rapidly paying off debt and still managed a (well deserved) small shopping binge for things that I'd told myself I could get after my first successful show with Katai. I can't wait to get that stuff and will share it in a post soon!

Overall it's all so good but I've just been struggling a bit recently and since it's been reflected in how I feel about my rides and lessons and how much I'm blogging I figured I'd share.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

TBT

I don't typically do these but I was looking for a specific picture (which I haven't found yet) and stumbled over these.

I started with a different blog about my Arab who was named Sora. I don't know that I've ever shared pictures of her on this blog although I know I've mentioned her a few times. She really was a once in a lifetime horse who, despite some pretty serious issues with spooking that made her a poor fit for me, I really loved. She unfortunately fell and broke her hip which was tragic. It was after that happened that I got Katai and switched over to this blog. As you can see, I've also changed a bit since these pictures were taken :)


That's my sister and her horse, Jackson, in the background
Also weird to see the barn still standing in the background of this one
She was an amazing horse and I miss her but Katai and I are much better together. Looking at these photos though it's tough not to wonder what we could have accomplished if not for her accident.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rhythm: Lesson Recap 6/18

My favorite view :)
First, as I was typing in the title to this I realized that we're nearly half way through the year. Where has it gone?!? It seems like just yesterday that it was December.

Anyway, back to the lesson recap. My lesson yesterday (which was rescheduled from last Tuesday because of the heat) was amazing! It was another one where all the hard work we've been doing paid off.

To start off we were unsure what Katai's mood would be like since apparently she'd been horrid for Jane that morning. Because of that we started off with an extended warmup with a few laps of the ring at the trot in either direction (after lots of walk) and then circles before we added in serpentines. It paid off and Katai's stride length was great and I was able to keep her really pushing from behind for the most part.


For this lesson Jane was talking about getting and keeping her "soft at the poll" rather than talking specifically about round or bend and it really helped me. I can feel when she get's tight but sometimes I don't do anything about it because everything else is going well. This lesson, by focusing on that feeling rather than some of the pieces that come from it I was able to keep her much softer and more through over her back. We even had some really nice transitions!

I think the tough thing is that I know it's leg before hand and that I need to always push her forward into the contact. The problem is that being a greenie myself when it comes to dressage means that sometimes I'm trying to do that when Katai is so tight through the poll that it doesn't do anything productive and that's when she starts to rush. Being tight through the poll is something that is so normal for Katai that I almost always need to get her to give first and then push her forward with MANY reminders to give along the way. It's not that I can't do that, it's that I didn't always know I was supposed to since to me that's hand/rein first and then pushing forward and that's certainly not what the books/clinicians/experts tell you. At least not in the black and white way that I was thinking about it :)

Next we worked on shoulder in again. It's been awhile since we tackled this (shows and back to basics) so I was pretty rusty. However, the skills I've gained in the meantime were extremely helpful and with some coaching from Jane I was able to much more effectively control the rhythm and be more correct with my rein aids. Well, at least to the right. To the left it was a hot mess that only got slightly better before we quit but we did identify some of what I was doing wrong which means that I know what to work on.

Hanging out with the Vegetable in the backyard
enjoying our now beautiful weather :)
Finally we went to canter. To the right Katai did fairly well and had a decently slow rhythm with long strides (this was her tougher side a month ago) but she was struggling to the left. In that direction it was all quick footfalls and rushing. She even got bolty on me once, then broke, and when I asked for canter again all I could get was a trot. Jane got really quiet and I thought I'd really messed up (typically she doesn't get quiet) but once we took a walk break (after I finally got some canter) we talked and apparently it was an AMAZING trot. Jane said that she couldn't believe that Katai could produce that with her tiny body and now if we could only get half that trot for her lengthenings :) At least we know it's in there somewhere!

It was great timing since one of my goals is to continue to practice the shoulder in (and other lateral work) and now I have more things to work on. It was also encouraging that Jane was really happy with my position (overall) and how effective I was with my seat. It wasn't that long ago that I would have been unable to control Katai's rhythm at the trot or canter and this lesson it felt easier and Jane said it looked much better and that she was happy with it. High praise coming from Jane!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Love

I've always kind of wondered if Katai likes me. Obviously it doesn't really matter but since she's my partner in this dressage journey I'd really like for her to enjoy her time with me. Often when I look at her she'll look a bit crabby so, while she whinnies to me as I drive up and walks up to me in the pasture, I've just assumed that she's not particularly fond of me.

Then I watched this video that I took to show Katai's progress with the hose and the wash rack. I can see here how connected she is to me and how, while she is looking for peppermints she's also looking to me for reassurance. So fun to be able to see this and to know that maybe she is sort of fond of me :)


Friday, June 16, 2017

Riding Update

I haven't really done an update on my rides recently, partially because I didn't end up having a lesson this past week and the lesson before that I did briefly recap.

Since that lesson I've been working on getting the impulsion 100% of the time like Jane wants. At the first show Katai was slow and sticky because she wanted to quite like you saw in the video. At the second show she was really using it as an evasion and was working so differently than at home that I was really getting backwards in trying to get the bend. Jane wants this to be more established before we do anything else.



Until recently we couldn't ask for more without just getting lots of rushing footsteps but now that she's understanding the concept we just have to ask for it more of the time. Of course it's not like a switch just flips so she still gets rushy sometimes which means that I'm really having to remain solid in my core and keep my posting as consistent as possible. It's tough, and our rhythm is all over the place at times but we are getting more active steps with her hind legs.

The other thing we've been focused on is doing lots of canter and increasing the sit while getting it more rhythmic. Katai has been working really hard and getting tired but we're pressing on. Building muscles is tough sometimes.

I've also been trying to work on the other things on my list. I made a ton of progress with the spray bottle yesterday afternoon and we've been working with the hose and wash stall. I've also been working on riding more outside both in the grassy space outside the barn and down the road. We had our first solo road ride this year (or ever?) yesterday and it was fun but SOOOO mosquito-y that I'm pretty sure we both have malaria. At any rate it was beautiful and really nice to get out of the arena for awhile.



I've got a lesson scheduled tomorrow morning and I'm really looking forward to seeing what Jane thinks of our progress!

Yesterday I also got to go watch H ride in a lesson again. She had a great ride and she and her pony have made tons of progress since I was there last. They really looked great and it was fun to be able to talk horses with her. She's got a few busy weeks but I'll be looking forward to seeing her at Pony Cup!
Looking so good! Plus, her barn is so ritzy :)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Weather and Updates

This weather reallllllly sucks. One would think that the benefit of living in a part of the country where we deal with cold temps for 7 or so months of the year is that we would at least have really nice summer temperatures. That would be wrong.

You can sort of see the damage to my (grandparent's) roof
Around 3 weeks ago we were still in the 60s for highs and now in the last week we've had two days with a heat index in the 100s and more days in the upper 80s with high humidity. We've also had a few really bad thunder storms and some tornado warnings.

Hail from Sunday. This is what was
left over 4 hours after the storm so it was bigger
There is just no way that any of us (including the horses) can get used to that huge swing in temperature that quickly. Tonight, with a heat index of 102*, we decided to reschedule my lesson. Apparently the dew point was 73% which is extremely humid and it's like trying to breath underwater. We certainly aren't going to expect the pony to work in this soup so instead we're going to do my lesson early in the morning this weekend when it's a bit cooler.

Despite all of the weather stuff something really clicked a few weeks ago. I think that most of you are aware of the struggles I've had with riding consistently. It's both a lack of motivation and babying my pony and giving her more breaks then she really needs. I'm not sure what happened but I've been riding consistently and not using every little indication of Katai being tired to give her a day off.

Still not sure what happened but it's been so good to just go and ride and work on stuff and not worry about it or doubt myself all the time. Of course then the weather goes and does this and I need to take a couple days off and reschedule my lesson because of it...

I really like this picture :)
This is hotter than average for us at this point in the year and if it continues I may need to get creative with my riding schedule. Luckily Jane is fine with me being at the barn at any hour and has told me that she doesn't believe in having "hours" so that we can see our horses whenever we want :) However, if I ride early in the morning I'll be driving a good distance during rush hour and I'm already not leaving the house until nearly 7:30. If I leave closer to 8:30 it would be slightly cooler but I wouldn't get home until nearly midnight.

Oh well, we'll adjust and get it figured out. It's just such a big thing to get used to a 50* difference in a matter of weeks.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Video!

I also got video of our Intro C test from the schooling show over Memorial Day weekend. Fun fact is that my co-worker who was there with friends is holding the video camera and you can see my photographer friend to her right and my Jane to the left. I have such amazing friends :)

I have a huge smile on my face both because I'm sort of stunned with how well the test is going and because for the first time I feel like I have a pony since she is tired and keeps trying to quit on me. Especially on the last center line you can really see her try to stop.


Despite the fact that she keeps trying to stop and interrupting the rhythm I'm really happy with the improvement to her gaits

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Learning From Media

Alternate title: We Do Actually Have 100 Problems

Back in April, Jen from Cob Jockey did another of her amazing posts about biomechanics . I almost always learn something from these posts and often really think about this stuff at my next ride. This time I read through it and basically thought, "we've got 99 problems but this isn't one" (pinching with my thighs).

Fast forward to a couple of days ago when I got media from the second show.

The first show media makes me happy. It clearly shows some rough moments and tension but overall there's some harmony between me and Katai and while she's a bit hollow mostly she's pretty good for a scary show environment.

Case in point
 However, when I got the media from the second show I was really disappointed. Partially I think that the photographer (a boarder from my previous barn) just happened to catch more of the rough moments than the good moments but between the few rough pictures from the first show and most of the photos from the second show I noticed something in my position that still isn't good. I don't see this as much at home (probably because we're less tense) but I still see it so it's clearly a pattern. It was also something that I couldn't identify just from a picture beyond being unhappy with how it looked haha.

An uncomfortable picture to share but there it is plus...

An example of a similar thing from the first show
At least here she looks pretty good
So, when I went to the barn on Friday evening I started messing around with position stuff. Jane had already started working on the pony and my position at the canter but I wanted to figure out what was going on at the trot. I've thought that it's coming from my hip flexors and core but as I messed around I just happened to do something that changed everything and that was to stop gripping with my thighs!!

There it was, this whole time and it's such a habit that I've been COMPLETELY unaware of it. I would imagine that probably 60-80% of my rides I'm carrying some amount of tension in my thighs which means that I post like Barbie haha. I have to rotate back from that point which leads to my legs coming forward and my seat going to the back of the saddle and my shoulders coming forward to balance and compensate. Plus, then as you can see above my hands to weird things so that I can still post. I'm not pulling per say but I am certainly unable to allow her to come forward in that moment.

As soon as I released that tension I was able to sit down around my pony and be more effective in practically every way. Katai didn't even know what was going on since it's a huge change but I'm really curious to see how it effects her as I get more consistent since there were brilliant moments where I felt her back come up more than is typical for her. My legs were so sore afterwards from using different muscles that this is clearly a big, important change for me to make and one that I'm excited to show Jane.

I'll end the post with my favorite picture from the rated show :)

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Misc.

I don't have media very often so I'm SLOWLY spreading
these out over my next few posts :)
Apparently it get's to be summer and I become a horrible blogger. It's only because I'm doing all the things instead of writing about all the things but I really need to try to make time to post so here goes.

The other reason that this post has taken me awhile is that I've been trying to figure out how to make a couple of concise posts that cover everything that I want to talk about but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. Instead you get this one slightly messy post but some of this stuff I really want to document so I wanted to find it some sort of place.

First off, Katai was MUCH better about the trailer for Spring Party (the second show) but there was still some drama. She loaded the way a horse is supposed to (after a decent amount of rearing and drama) by walking into the two horse straight load all the way so that we could get the butt bar up. In the morning she ran back into the butt bar twice but then stood without further incident. On the way home once we got her into the trailer (after a similar amount of drama) she let us put the butt bar up and didn't run back into it. Hopefully it was a good learning experience for her and she won't try running into the butt bar again as she certainly gave her butt muscles (at the top of her haunches since she's short) a good beating. Sometimes HULK PONY smashing doesn't actually work.

I'm right back to practicing and I really want to get her self loading. I actually think this will take some of the fear out of it for her by turning it into more of a game. I started working on it last night and she was already walking 3/4 of the way in on her own. Of course that last 1/4 is the tough part but I'm really impressed that I got that far already!

Second, I really need to figure out braiding. I had her really adorably braided that morning (she seriously looked like a cute little European sport pony haha) but by the first class they were starting to get floppy and I had to pull them before the second. I'm going to try a few things including knotting them in better and/or using waxed thread instead of yarn. She has a tricky stiff and thick mane that doesn't have a lot of grip (even though I used copious amounts of hair jell) so I'm just going to need to experiment with what works.

Still not quite sure why I forgot to
take my hoodie off for this show 
Third, I've started to put some thoughts into what I want to do for shows for the rest of the year. It hasn't come up with Jane yet but I'm going to run this past her at some point and then it may change. However, my tentative plans include at least a couple of the following;

- 8/19 - NRF Schooling Show
- and/or 8/26 Northern Lights Rated Show
- 9/2 - Dog Days Schooling Show
- 9/16 - NRF Schooling Show
- 10/1 - Rocking R Farms Schooling Show

I chose these for several reasons including location since I'm relying on someone else (probably Jane) to trailer me. The other main reason is that I've decided not to invest in joining all of the organizations this year (for a couple of reasons) which leaves me with opportunity classes and schooling shows. Since opportunity classes don't "count towards" anything and are still more expensive, schooling shows are a great option for this year.

The main reason I don't have anything planned for the next couple of months is that I don't want to deal with the heat. Also, I'd like to really work on some of the things that I know I need to improve and since I'm not chasing awards it makes more sense to take a break and establish some of that first.

Also, at the beginning of the year I had planned a lot of rated shows since that's what my barn mate (who was going to trailer me) was doing. However, we haven't been able to get Katai in her trailer so Jane has been trailering me. Yep, we've had two trailers at both of these shows...

From last year's NDPC. Look at that sky!
Since schooling shows are at least $60-$70 cheaper than opportunity classes at rated shows and since I've found out that I have THREE friends/acquaintances going to National Dressage Pony Cup including Jen from Cob Jocky, Emilie from BecausePony, and my friend H with one of her instructor's baby GRPs I'm planning (at this point) to go as well! As a spectator of course :) My plan to not go originally was more because I wanted to do more shows this year but this way I can sort of have my cake and eat it too, plus I just can't miss watching three of my friends ride at NDPC!!

*The first two pictures are by my amazing friend M :) I still don't know how she got such amazing pictures in the indoor although her camera lens is at least a foot long lol

Monday, June 5, 2017

May Goals Review and June Goals - With Show Media!!

I love this one :) There aren't many from outside (this was warmup)
since my friend who took these wasn't available until we did our Intro C indoors.
I'll post more of those soon!

Goals Recap for May:

More Trailer Loading Practice: Success!! I took full advantage of having the ability to practice with Jane's trailer and loaded Katai at least once per week. We struggled a bit at the first show (but got her on both times) and then it was better at the second show.

More Consistency: Yes! If nothing else, with the show we were back to the basics and I really was able to focus on things like maintaining bend and roundness even when Katai had lots of reasons to not listen and not make it easy.

Have a Successful Show(s): This is a two parter for me. I'm also going to role both shows into this one even though one actually happened in June.

1. Success will mean Katai being more relaxed, less frantic, and thus the ability for us to have more fun. Meh, not especially. She was a bit more relaxed at the schooling show but less so at the rated show and she really wasn't relaxed at either.
2. My other goal this year is to win our Intro C class. Nope not our Intro C class but both Training classes at a rated show so I think I surpassed this one :)

And this one!

Goals for June:

Practice More Lateral Work: I've been letting my perfectionist tendencies get in the way and not practicing this since I know we struggle. Instead we just need to practice more of it so that we actually improve. This is the same thing that happened with the canter and now I just need to make these movements as consistent as our canter has gotten.

Continue With Trailer Loading Practice: This was the largest point of stress for me about both shows (whether we'd get her back in the trailer and how much stress it would be). My future goal is to get Katai self loading so that at some point I'd be able to trailer her myself. We're a long way away from that but we're going to just keep right on practicing until we get there.

Practice Other Show Skills: Not that we don't need general riding practice but I have Jane to work with me on that. I want to work on/continue working on the other things that were stressful this weekend such as the hose and baths, riding outside, riding near the trailer, and putting any sort of "gunk" (show sheen, green spot remover, coat conditioner) on the pony without her freaking out. I also want to work on having a bridle number on her bridle so that I don't need to wear it on my boot next time.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Look What We Did!


All those baby steps paid off :)
Of course those ribbons don't tell the full story. Due to a scratch and an elimination my Training 1 opportunity class had only 1 other person in it. Training 2 opportunity was larger and had more experienced and even professional riders but with lots of baby horses and lots of "baby's first show" scenarios. I'm still proud though because I got great scores and was a nonprofessional that got my very difficult pony through her 3rd show in one piece!

However, my main goal was to have a rideable pony, outside, with the judges' "booth" at the end and I had that in both tests!

First I rode Training 1 for, what I later learned was, the "friendly" judge. The ring was off in a farm field and was quiet. There weren't many distractions and the judges were in a truck at one end instead of a horse trailer which I knew would go better. I felt really ready for this test and very confident even though, while Katai had loaded pretty well that morning, she was a fire breathing dragon pony when we got to the show grounds. She quieted down once we started warming up and I did LOTS of bending. We ended up being able to go a bit early and we took it. I had a really great ride with just a couple of bobbles and scored a 62.826%.


I can't believe that I got a 7 on position!!!
That would certainly not have been the case before Jane :)
I was SOOO happy and it was so unexpected, especially the blue ribbon which just made it that much sweeter. After the first test I found out that the judge I had for the next test was the "unfriendly" judge and heard some horror stories. Sounds like she'd had some pointed remarks about some of the other riders and my friend H who was there to watch my first test warned me not to feel bad or lose hope if I didn't score well for the second test. 

My first test was just after 10am and my second wasn't until just after 4pm so not only did I have a long day to wait but Katai's buddy left part way through so she was by herself. It was also SOOOOO hot and was forecast to get up to 89*! They waived jackets (probably MN is the only place where they waive coats at 76* ;) I know for many of you that wouldn't be that hot but last week we were still getting highs in the 60s so this was just such a huge swing for everyone to deal with. I don't handle heat well on the best of occasions and with some stress and the first hot day of the year I was really worried. I thought multiple times about just scratching my second test but I really wanted to get Katai some more show miles and this next arena was MUCH busier (right in the middle of everything) and had the trailer of DOOM so I wanted to try it out.

I am SOO glad I stuck it out! Besides a 4 on our halt (which wasn't even close to the center line and barely happened) we did SOOO well! The judge also had more great comments for us and we got another 1st with a score of 65.769%!!


This time I also got a 7 on effectiveness!!
I also can't believe that Katai got 6.5 on gaits in both and she was tight enough that they weren't even seeing her true gaits :) Plus I'm really happy with the improvement in her walk scores since that's the roughest part of the test for us right now. So happy!! I really can't believe that we did this well at my first rated show. I clearly understand that the firsts in both tests had more to do with the small classes than anything else but those scores make me SOOO happy! Of course the satin and glassware is pretty darn amazing too.

Another friend let me know that she got a few pictures so once I get those I'll share. I'm still waiting on the pictures from the last show but will share those as well and hopefully soon!