Thursday, October 28, 2021

Majestic Oaks Jumper Schooling Show

If you're tired of hearing me gush about this horse, quit reading now!

He was PERFECT. It was the first cold (FL cold) morning and the horses (except Yoshi) were super nutty at home. Mr. GY came with on his OTTB and Ms. GY came with as support crew. This meant that Yoshi and his buddy were left in after breakfast and the other three were turned out. My trailer lives in the pasture so I often just unhook the non-electrified tape around it and load Yoshi up where it is parked. He hopped right on, but Mr. GY's horse understandably took exception to the three dingbats who were literally galloping circles around the trailer and standing up on their hind legs. We pulled into the barn yard and then he felt safe getting on. Totally understandable, but again, bragging on Yoshi, he is amazing and walks on even when there is chaos around him.

Cool as a cucumber 

The weekday schooling shows at Majestic are just perfect. They start at ground poles at 7:30 AM and go up to 3'6" (or higher if you request). On weekends they often run long compared to the planned height change schedule because of large groups, trainer holds, or people riding multiple horses in the same class. Weekdays though they are small enough they pretty much stick to the posted schedule. This meant that we hopped on, warmed up, and then basically got to go in. The course was fun, they have really exciting fillers and standards, and they threw in a skinny and a two stride. The skinny was present for all levels, which I thought was great, but the two stride just got added in at 2'6". JT had said she definitely wanted us to do 2'6" but we could start with 2'3" if we wanted. I worked until 2 AM Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, so arriving 30 minutes earlier to start at 2'3" was not appealing. I figured, correctly, Yoshi would be just fine heading in to the 2'6" with its fillers, especially because we had basically done the 2'3" for the entry level at the schooling show. 

The course started with an oxer headed away from the in gate. Then it was a left hand rollback to a vertical for #2. You could take one of several options around jumps to do the rollback. #3 was a two stride with palm tree standards and chunky box fillers after either a tight rollback or a fairly sweeping/smooth 180. Easy bending line right to #4 followed by another right hand turn, tight or wide, to the skinny #5. Left to #6, then a track left around the outside of the arena to #7, 8, 9, and 10. 

Our first trip through was a little bit messy. He got deep to #1, did a weird twist over #2, and then stuttered through the two stride at #3. 



I love the video because you can see the moment where he goes... uhmmmm... I'm not sure about that as he sizes up the combination. He responded really well to leg though and went forward. We trotted in, he considered exiting stage left, but not with very much conviction at all, and trotted out. It actually felt worse to me than it looks on video. I mean it looks a little rough for sure, but never like he wasn't going to go. I chased him a bit down the bending line, completely unnecessarily, and so we were flat for #4. JT told us to trot the skinny to make sure he saw it. He definitely saw it, but was underwhelmed and knocked it. About 50% of the horses did, so he was certainly not alone. 

From there he flowed easily over #6. We did the whole left hand loop of #7-10 on the right lead, but it was pretty wide turns since it was the outside of the arena so it didn't matter much. We got deep to #7 and he kinda rolled over his shoulder, but the rest rode pretty well. 

#8, forgive me for the butt shot (mine, not his)

The second trip through we cleaned up a bit. We still took #8-10 on the wrong lead, but other than that it felt really awesome. They only score the first trip, so between our rail, our wide turns, and trotting things, we did not come close to ribbons. Not at all important though, and people often don't even ask for their ribbons here because these are such a low key schooling experience. They do have them if you ask though, and I did, because I'm proud of my baby horse and like silly pieces of satin. Mr. GY did get 3rd in the 2'6"! 

Not a coincidence that my favorite video still came after my favorite canter... 

Hey, there's a bit of an uphill (okay, okay, level...) balance! 

And then he can jump so nicely! 

It was such a fun morning. Going with Mr and Ms GY and then meeting JT and two of her other students there was great. Her barn manager, who filmed the first round, and mom were also there. JT filmed the second round, and I just love hearing their commentary. The whole barn family is so positive and encouraging, it was absolutely lovely to be there all cheering each other on. Yoshi also met his polar opposite in one of JT's students OTTBs who over thinks literally everything. If anything changes he is pretty sure it is because the world is about to kill him. His owner has done an amazing job lining up his hamsters though and he is extremely talented, so it is fun to watch them together. 

Yoshi is becoming the PERFECT horse show horse. He warmed up nice and easy, went in and got it done the first time in, napped by the ring while we waited to do our second trip, put in a solid second round, and then once we untacked and watched Mr. GY at the 2'9" he just grazed calmly beside me. He is definitely an advertisement for giving these war horses a chance at a second career even if they need some time (or incredibly expensive farrier work...). As JT's barn manager put it "he just doesn't understand what the big fuss is about, this is easy stuff".

Monday, October 25, 2021

Bounce bounce bounce

Yoshi and I flatted with JT on Thursday and then jumped Friday. Our flat lesson was primarily trot-canter transitions. Such a struggle bus, but we got a few really nice ones to the left and one decent one to the right. He's keeping his back up into them much more, but still does hollow and stiffen through the neck. 

Friday I tossed him back on the trailer, picked up our friend and her horse and headed back to JT's. Yoshi looked like he was willing it to not happen, full on eyes closed napping. Meanwhile at home everyone has been a bit... Spazzy lately. The ponies next door have been running around more prompting a lot of staring over the fence lines and grabbing a mouthful of grain to drop over the stall door as he stares in that direction. One of Mr. GY's horses escaped through the gate into the yard as I pulled the truck in to hook up the trailer. When I arrive home with the trailer everyone RUNS over to see who it is even though this happens one to two times a week. And Yoshi starts screaming from the trailer when they do this. All changes in the last couple of weeks. It's not that cool here, but I think they all know it is fall. But, I arrive at JT's and he goes to sleep?? Suspicious. 

I put him in the "barn bridle" (more on that at a later time) and headed out to the ring in spite of his not concealed feeling about work vs sleep that day. Walk and trot felt great, but then we had left lead canter struggles. Some part of him was bent right so I knew he was going to pick up the wrong lead, repeatedly. When he got it right I could tell it was only because he'd tried the other one and been corrected, not because I had managed to actually get him bent left. I couldn't verbalize it though and she couldn't see it. She was telling me to have more contact in the right rein and I was telling her there was more weight in the right than the left. Finally she got on to figure out what I was feeling/doing that she couldn't see. Turns out he was over bending incorrectly... Neck and head turned left, but subtly popping the right shoulder in a way she couldn't see from the center of the circle. She fixed it and I got back on and we mostly got it together. We did a few more left lead canter transitions and then just did two to the right since he was pretty fabulous that direction. 

It was really useful to have that struggle because it has happened kind of intermittently. Some days are fine, others the only way we get it is by him recognizing the pattern, not being correct. 

We warmed up over a cross rail and he was for once getting to the base of the jump and really jumping up and over well, cracking his back. She then sent us through a grid that eventually built up to 4 bounces to a 1 stride oxer. 

He kept wanting to drift right, so he got an interesting guide rail up to prevent that. It was a really great exercise for him though, he felt better and better each time through the grid. 

It was a great lesson and hopefully good prep for a schooling jumper show on Wednesday. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Happy 1 year Retirement Yosh!

A year ago this kid was doing this (well not actually this picture, he didn't win his last race and the win pictures are all I could find): 

Now he is out there doing this: 

Yoshi's last race was October 24, 2020 at Gulfstream Park West in Miami, Florida where he finished dead last. He retired after a 47 race career with a total of 3 wins. He had starts almost every month after his first race in April of 2017 as a 3 year old. He did earn $67,930 over his 47 races with the majority of that won in 2018. He was acquired by the woman I bought him from in November of 2020 and then started his second career. I bought him at the end of February 2021 after a month long trial. He then had March and April off due to his feet and we started back to light work in May. Going back through his race schedule just now makes me realize that his 60 days off was probably one of the best things I could have done for him. Kid really did not get a let down period after a pretty long, intense, race career. 

We started back to real work in June, and since then Yoshi has taken EVERYTHING thrown at him in stride. Long solo trail rides away from home? No prob. Cross country schooling? Yep, got it. Big horse show environment with and without friends? No drama here. Cow runs at the pasture fence as we walk by on a dirt road? Turn around, try to canter off. Not allowed? Okay, got it, we can walk past it. 

This horse has the best mind. He is so quick to learn things and tries SO HARD to do what he is asked. He has already established the point and shoot mentality. He's learning how to do it athletically still, but no matter what angle we come at a jump from he goes to the other side. JT's "over, under, or through" for baby horses hardly even needed to be applied to him, he took that to heart from about a month into his summer work. On the flat he is getting better and better 

I may do the Thoroughbred Showcase at FHP in December. It is the weekend of a Majestic Oaks schooling show that I was eyeing, but I really do want to share how awesome OTTBs are. 

I can't wait to see where Year 2 of "retirement" takes us! 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Lessons without media

JT came out to my barn yesterday to teach Mr and Ms GY and me. They both had great lessons with her and are excited to ride with her more. I got the perk of two lessons in one week and only one trailer trip. Monday we flatted at her place. He was really, really good. Coming through and softening quickly and giving us some really lovely canter work "collecting" and "extending" (can't wait for the day those aren't in quotes anymore). She had me keeping my hands together, thumbs almost touching, at points during the canter to help with my left elbow that doesn't want to move much and my right hand that wants to pull. 

Our jump lesson yesterday was... messy again. We started out over the crossrail, back and forth like always, and he was wanting to pull and run in the direction towards the barn. I was pulling back and not softening before and over the fence, so he wasn't softening either. Once we got that sorted out we moved on to a little course and again he was being very quick back towards the barn. She had us solve this in stages - first setting a crossrail bounce headed towards the barn, then having me halt straight after. She doesn't drill things, so we halted once and the next time he was nice and polite so she had me go on. We hooked a left hand turn to a one stride. We kept missing the striding to the in and he semi-crashed it once. She explained that right now he can soften and jump athletically from the right spot and from the gappy spot, but he isn't yet there for the tight spot. So we did it a few more times, each time with a 90 degree turn right to a lattice with a barrel in the center of it after. He's never seen that jump before and my steering sucked so we were definitely angling it because I was turning late, but he never even thought about stopping or ducking out. Good boy. He is so freaking honest. After the lattice we turned left and headed back down the bounce to a 180 to a natural. That was a lesson in looking at the jump immediately after landing. When I did the turn was pretty easy because we were jumping in the giant field, so there was really all the time in the world, but when I didn't it really snuck up on me and was a pretty sharp turn the way I rode it. 

I really struggled with the long approach to an oxer we added in a different course. I've heard enough people talk about this I don't think I'm alone, but each time I thought I saw the distance but was wrong. It was weird because I have been at least seeing the distances really well even if I'm not getting us there at the right one. The other jumps this was still the case, I could tell we were going to get there tight but couldn't/didn't do a damn thing about it. Practice makes perfect though, so on we go. Mr GY has been gone for 2.5 months and he hadn't seen Yoshi go since he came back earlier this week. He was really impressed with the progress we'd made, so that was encouraging during a period where I'm feeling like I'm not riding well. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

WW: I swear I'm having fun!

Madren photography pro pic from Majestic Oaks show

Very happy with my position and him! But I look ANGRY about it. I'm pretty sure if I added "Smile!" to my list of things to do everything else would go out the window. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Messy Lessons and Restarting Clicker Training

Our jump lesson last week was... messy. It wasn't until then that I realized how "on" I've managed to be in most lessons with JT. Since this lesson over the summer where I repeatedly rode a 5 stride line the same dangerous way and got a bit of a stern talking to, I have been "doing something" pretty successfully in our lessons. But Friday... meh. I have a million excuses... upping the ante of the courses we're doing, pouring rain, some personal life stuff. In any event, I felt a bit overwhelmed and a bit like I was just riding by the seat of my pants, not in a good way. 

Long spot from a rollback turn

Nothing to do but try again though. I think JT's systematic approach has really helped me be able to continue riding and thinking through almost all of our lessons. She doesn't tend to overwhelm her students and has this amazing ability to read what they need in that moment. The position fixes have been one example. Each thing has been introduced, reminded, reinforced, and solidified for the most part before moving on to the next thing. 

1) Eyes - look at the jump. I cannot tell you how life changing this is. I know if we're going to get a long or short spot. I know how to make the turn. It is amazing how well this works and I swear no one has ever told me this before. Surprisingly, it hasn't tipped my head/eye down over the fences either. I'm not sure what witchcraft that is because she says look at it until you're over it basically, but in pictures I'm almost always looking up/ahead. 

2) Stretch up - self evident what this means 

3) Hands to the jump - the difference in his relaxation is amazing when I'm soft and relaxed with hands to the jump the last few strides. I've also regained a release I last had many, many years ago. Often in pictures I can see I'm appropriately pressing my hands into his neck instead of this nasty, floating, not automatic but not crest release either, that I'd developed. That often led to pulling on the horse's face at some point over the jump, so this is a massive improvement. 

Focusing on these items one at a time has really kept me from feeling overwhelmed. But Friday was an anomaly in which I felt completely overwhelmed. Watching the video it was a mess, but not as much of a mess as it felt. I spent the rest of the day Friday dwelling on how it felt, but I think I've wrapped my head around it and am acknowledging it is okay to have an off day. 

In other news, I finally restarted clicker training Yosh. He blew me away with how quickly he learned the cell phone alarm on a day I was lunging him in equibands. I forgot my watch so set a 2 minute timer on my phone - 2 minutes walk left - timer - 2 minutes walk right - timer - 2 minutes trot left - timer - 2 minutes trot right. By the 3rd time the timer went off, he halted himself to wait for me to walk up to change the line. A few WEEKS later I was timing the equibands under saddle to not overdo it. When my phone went off in my pocket he went from trot to halt with no prompting from me. Okay, okay, you're super clever Yosh. Let's see if I can do something productive with that.

So we started head away click and treat yesterday. I hadn't done this well in the spring, and he had more aggressive/pushy tendencies then anyways, so I had given up clicker training. But it took all of a minute yesterday before he was very clear on keeping his head straight and in his own space in order to get the treat. I started in the cross ties so he was somewhat limited and couldn't fully mug me, but he figured it out really quickly. Clever, clever pony. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Majestic Oaks Schooling Show - Yoshi is still the best boy and I remember the courses

Our dressage this time was a bit worse, he was kind of spooky about the letters, the rails, and the tent. I'm learning that when he gets spooky or overwhelmed he doesn't get quick, he just gets a little sticky and a little behind my leg. It's not what I'm used to as far as spooking, but I guess as always, the solution is more leg (even for the ones that get quick). And also more time in the ring will make him less spooky about the sights there. 

He was also interested in the horse doing a test in the ring right next to him - especially during the free walk. Ms. GY has trained all of her horses to basically put their nose on the ground when she widens her hands and loosens the reins at the walk, I need to get her to show me how she does that! We also picked up the wrong lead and because the canter is all of 3/4 of a circle in intro C, that was basically it for that movement and the score for transitions. It was a bit disappointing after a stellar warm-up with JT, but this is his third show ever and our second one together, so I can't be too upset. We ended up with a fair 36.1.

Jumping he was absolutely perfect! The warm up was chaotic, including two people who would not get off the freaking rail to go left-shoulder to left-shoulder and were cantering rapidly around. I was tense, he was tense, he was doing a few little hops here and there when other horses got close, so we hopped the cross rail twice then oxer three times and then went in. He was SUCH A GOOD BOY for the whole course. He was very looky-loo as we went into the ring, there is a lot to see and the fillers are pretty exciting there. But once he saw the first jump he was all business. Just a little close of my leg and he stepped up to it. We got to 2 a little awkward and then I was pulling for the right hand turn 3 to 4, so he stumbled there, but other than that it was pretty smooth. He even threw in a flying change for me! Not something we've schooled, but something that he will do if we're out cantering in the hay field. 

Cross Country was AWESOME!! It was so much fun, and he felt good the whole time. We did "two waters for the price of one" because I was a bit worried about him stopping, so we trotted through the unmarked water crossing and then looped back to trot through the flagged one. He did both just fine, so it just amounted to more schooling. He did awkwardly canter stride over a telephone pole sized log, but he just didn't feel like it was a real jump worthy of any effort. My friend rode along with the chaser so actually videoed the whole thing! I cut it down a little, but I could just watch him canter along between jumps all day long. He's so smooth and flowing out there, I love it. 

I know I just gushed on and on about him in my schooling post, but he is getting so good at his job, it is so cool to feel. He's locking on to the jumps and even when he is unsure about brightly colored fillers, standards, etc if I close my leg, he instantly goes "Yep, okay, got it" and gets it done. He also stood tied to the trailer all day with his fan and water and gave zero shits about anything going on around him.

So relaxed, napping after dressage

We moved up from our 3rd after dressage to end up 1st! 

Friday, October 1, 2021

September Wrap Up

Our FIRST show together! And he was perfect!!!! 

September we had: 
  • 21 rides
    • 2 at Rocking Horse - schooling/sight seeing the day before and then the show 
    • 1 ride-a-test turned into schooling at a dressage arena away from home - also on his best behavior 
    • 2 Cross Country schoolings - Barnstaple on our own then our AWESOME lesson at Majestic on Wednesday. 
    • 4 lessons with JT - continuing to work on softening and bending his body and lifting his withers. I discovered that my seatbones now both make ovals as he walks. I'd been puzzled before whey they didn't and thought I must have stiffened up since learning that feeling at a centered riding clinic as a teenager. Turns out it was that his back wasn't moving. 
  • We introduced Equibands with the idea that if this kept his back up and his hind leg engaged I might be able to unproductively fuss less 
    • 2 lunging sessions - he was fairly explosive in the canter with the bands. In hind sight I should have probably confirmed his lunging before introducing the bands to the mix. I hadn't done more than spin him in a few trot circles to check soundness since I got him. 
Hrmmm why am I halted square? 
    • 5 rides
      • Accidental canter in the third ride that was actually LOVELY and had a beautiful rocking horse motion to it. After that we cantered in the next two rides and it was just so flowing and through. 
      • One that he seemed very angry about the bands and even after I took them off was a bit of a twit bucking and running after jumps. Unclear what was going on, but his tail was ANGRY the whole ride. We quit after one nice soft cross rail. 
  • Some fun corrective exercises from Jec Aristotle Ballou's book
    • Small serpentine over ground poles - poles are in a straight line, tightly serpentine back and forth over them 
    • Figure 8 over cavaletti angling the cavaletti - definitely helped him move and loosen his shoulders
    • Very unsuccessful attempt at raised walk poles on a circle. I only had dressage ring pieces to set the poles on and they fell so often that I just quit resetting. 
    • Straddling a ground pole in hand - left feet on one side, right feet on the other. We had tried this when he was off in March or April. He completely barreled through me then and didn't understand at all. This time he actually was so relaxed he did it mostly with his eyes closed?? When we got the back feet to go on either side and I paused to praise, his eyes were fully closed like he was napping as he was doing it. Don't know if this was truly him "going internally" to process his proprioception of his feet over the pole or if I was there at his siesta time and he was just letting me move his body around. Either way pretty fun. 
  • Overall a good body condition. He's built a lot of muscle and is just slightly under where I want him weight wise. Combination of alfalfa every time we haul (at least once a week), lunch on the days we ride, and his fat supplement. 
  • A few bonding sessions with my husband. Yoshi didn't exactly make a great first (actually third or so time that he was around him) impression with his lunging at him over the stall door with mouth open, so he's had some ground to make up. We took him for an in hand walk around the neighborhood which he was pretty good for and then my husband helped me work on him with the massage gun and helped with the straddling the pole exercise. It was nice that he finally got to see the sweet, calm, soft side of Yoshi too.