Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Lessons galore

Both to keep my mind occupied and because we're entered in our first N at the start of April at Rocking Horse, we're doing a decent number of lessons in the next two weeks. 

We went XC schooling at Majestic the day after I brought Yoshi to his new home. JT was riding a client's horse she is competing this weekend. Since she was riding and coaching, there is no video. So please excuse this rehash session with still photos from the schooling show. 

LH just gets better and better every time out. He was pretty much all business as we schooled the novice course. We warmed up with a trot and canter over the entire property and then started over a couple of logs that he and the horse JT was riding were finding pretty spooky. They were by the training level cut out coop that is painted black and white. He spooked pretty hard at that coop while doing the thing with the logs, but he still did the thing appropriately well.  

We moved on to the cut out tables next. The horse she was schooling was finding new and creative ways to jump the BN table each time. Not making good choices necessarily... So once he remembered he was a 4 legged creature, not a 2 legged creature, we headed up the N table and did the coffin and then came around to do the N cabin.

BN and N cut out tables

N cabin off on the far right

It was a busy Sunday so when we saw the water looking fairly empty we headed down there. Unfortunately we weren't the only group that spied the opening, so we kept it quick. LH does not seem to have a problem with water at all and happily did the N line of a log stack, canter into the water and then jump up the bank for the out. We added our corner friend again in the mix, a bit of a drift left lead to jumping the widest part, but y'know. And then we hopped tidily over a log on a table before going back into the water and jumping the training roll top 2 strides out from the edge.

We vacated the water and then headed over to the start of the course to pick up the N coop. I mistakenly jumped the BN the first time, the dang novice one looked large. LH picked up on my hesitation and tried to slide left. I corrected, but we ended up with a pretty crooked jump. From there it was a nice gallop to the trakheners. Really those are more about spooking the rider as far as I've seen and they're not that tall, so it was NBD. 

N coop tricking me into thinking it was the T one... 

We then did the up and down bank lines and headed from there over to the tires. They are in a line of BN - bush - N - bush - T LH was spooking at the tires and I didn't correct things fast enough. I ended up tapping him behind my left leg which lead to a slide to the right. This put him squarely in front of the T tires rather than the N tires and at that point he had decided I was serious, so hopped right over the ones in front of him. Probably not the way he had planned to execute that one!! We circled back around and did the N one appropriately. 

We headed back to the water so JT could hop the boat house one more time. This put us near the T cut out coop he had spooked at so much and I asked her if she thought we could do that. She told me to keep him straight and mean it, and I did and he pinged right over it, acting like he'd never even spooked at it earlier. Good boy! 

Monday was a dressage lesson. We spent some time walking and playing with a walk that kept his SI moving and flexing by letting him stretch a little bit down and then picking the reins back up but keeping the swing and relaxation. I still struggle with picking the reins up short enough the first time, but maintaining the relaxation; definitely a work in progress. After the swingy walk warm up, when we picked up the trot LH was right there and ready to WORK. He felt amazing: soft, supple, forward. I was able to stretch up and rebalance him. Our leg yields were right there as well. JT corrected my right shoulder rotating forward (while simultaneously pulling back with my right hand... talent...) on the leg yield left (off the right leg) and then he flowed right over with good crossing of the leg under and moving his barrel. The leg yield right (off the left leg) was great from the get go (imagine that, I ride him straight he moves straight!). 

Canter we worked on correcting any rushing and flatness and replacing it with straightness and lift UP. We struggled some to the left, I was having trouble maintaining the canter rhythm with my seat and so the half halts were leading to trot. NBD, we would just half halt at the trot and then pick up the canter again. Once we got it on the circle, we carried it on down the long sides, throwing in a 15m circle if we got a little flat. We took a walk break and then picked up the right lead. And OMG, he was right there. Just fantastic from the get go. I had to struggle a bit with straightness on the long sides, my body was pushing his haunches in, but once I got my hips straight he felt fantastic. So we called it a day and quit on that. Such a fantastic ride. 

He was adorable after, we were standing and talking and he kept craning his head around to stare at my foot basically. I was worried he was bothered by something, but his eye was really soft. Then I remembered I hadn't fed him all the treats in my pocket before the ride... I gave him one and he was quite happy and then thought he'd found a magic treat button and kept craning his head around to stare at me. Adorable pony! 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Farewell my friend

I brought Yoshi to his new home on Saturday. It was bittersweet for sure. His new owner met him two weeks ago and fell in love with him pretty quickly. It's really pretty easy to do, his great mind is really obvious from the get go. She met him the day after I moved him and was very impressed by how solid he was.

I listened to a podcast on the importance of play. It stated as a general rule that the animals that play more have more neuroplasticity. While they were speaking about differences between species, I couldn't help but think of Yoshi. He ALWAYS wants to play with the other horses. He also made one of the fastest adjustments to a  new career. He figured out the game of jumping really quickly and assessed in a way JT said UL horses do - taking a look 8-10 strides out and figuring out how he was going to have to navigate something. It breaks my heart that his body could not keep up with his mind though. So in his new home it won't be asked to. But he will have a job and he will have attention, two things he very much wants. 

The week before his move, a lot of coulda-woulda-shoulda ran through my mind. But in the end, Yoshi has found a home with someone who understands his quirks on the ground and loves his mind under saddle and who has riding goals that fit with his physical limitations and issues. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Majestic Oaks Schooling Show

 LH and I did Majestic Oaks HUGE Wednesday schooling show this week. There were 69 BN entries! The 2022 winter season in Florida has been INSANE. This was actually the second weekday schooling show Majestic Oaks did - one at the end of February they had to wait list people for and so they added this one. This show also ended up with a wait list. Craziness. 

I had a (mini) dressage lesson with JT on Tuesday. I'm figuring out riding a spookier horse - it really is like one dressage trainer told me "If they're through and they spook it just adds BRILLIANCE". In about 10 minutes JT made a HUGE difference to our run through of the test. 

Then my friend had a full lesson on her horse while I packed the trailer and bathed LH. After that we drove to Majestic and walked our courses together. 

#8 was an option, you could do the ditch or a blue/white cabin flagged the other direction. So you would have had to loop around to get to and then loop back around to keep going. Trying to add time if you took the "easier" option.

#15 was a rolltop with new fake brush in the top. My picture of it? My thumb and some grass. I texted my friend I hoped it wasn't an omen. 

I felt pretty good about the course. LH and I had schooled again at Majestic on Monday, so we had basically done the entire course then, minus #15. The schooling had gone much better, he and I are really getting the feel of each other. I'm getting used to riding him much more in a package than I could with Yoshi. 

Before schooling on Monday, he's so cute! 

Wednesday morning I woke up at 5. I had asked for early ride times because I wasn't sure if I could get someone to cover my 5-12 shift yesterday. And when there are that many entries, being first vs. last in the division makes a HUGE difference. The secretary was super accommodating, and I did dressage just before 9 and then jumped first out of all of BN, just before 2. After my early alarm, I packed coffee and snacks for me and LH and then headed down to (re)bathe him since it had rained overnight and he LOVES a good wallow. After putting him in his stall to eat breakfast and dry off, we loaded up. It's only a 15 minute drive to Majestic from JT's place, it is SO convenient for schooling and showing. She was back and forth all day, coaching me, my friend, and Ms. GY, and then shooting back over to her barn to ride training horses. 

Dressage warm up went well, JT reminded me to connect the parts of the horse. Unlike Yoshi who needed some pretty big, dramatic bends to warm up and then stay supple, LH will easily pretzel, wag his head, and fall behind my leg if I try to ride him in the exact same way. Shocking that different horses need different rides, yeah? Similar to jumping him, both legs into both hands creates a really nice picture. He is also really freaking even side to side which is pretty amazing to me. I am doing my best not to screw up. 

We laid down a very solid test, he is definitely a seasoned show horse, and the warm up we had was the test we had. The exciting part is there is plenty of finessing left to do here - the abrupt W/T transition, the slogging through the first part of the medium walk, all very much rider error that I can improve. 

25.9! Good enough for 2nd place after dressage

We then had 3 hours before jumping, so JT and I walked the XC course. She cautioned to half halt twice on the way up to the ditch to make sure he was aware there was a ditch there more than a couple of strides out. He has shown zero inclination to not do ditches. However, there was a good long gallop before it and she wanted to make sure he wasn't just cruising along and then surprised by it. The trakhener also warranted a half halt before it since the approach was pretty downhill before you turned on to the level ground. For SJ she reminded me that I needed the canter I thought I needed plus about 50%. The course itself was pretty straight forward without any big surprises. 

He hung out on the trailer happily, eating hay and sipping on some water. Not quite as much water as I would have liked to have him drink, but he was drinking some. He also found the "make cute face, insert treat" button really easily and every time I wandered back over to check on him would start begging. 

SJ warm up went well, he again was a true professional, and I was much more bothered by the warm up crowds than he was. In the ring, I rode a bit too forward and made him flat at times. Especially to the 2 stride, I was haunted a bit by memories of two strides in the one stride at home and chased him forward and flat to the in, so he took the front rail of the oxer. Then we were tight to the vertical that followed the combination, but he obliged and jumped up and over. JT said it was exactly the type of ride she wanted (erring too much forward vs. backing off to the fences), but again we (me... literally all me... he's fine) have a lot of finessing to do. Watching the video, I definitely got him tight to several, but he popped up and over them quite nicely, generously not knocking more than the one rail. 

EEK! Thanks for helping me out! 

XC warm up he was game on, and it was obvious he knew what we were about to go do. He came out of the start box like a pro and didn't question anything the whole course. There was some spooking over random prelim jumps scattered about, but once I got him focused on our fence he was good to go. The whole thing felt awesome, so much fun to be out there galloping around again! We were only about 10 seconds from speed fault time, so moving up to novice next time shouldn't be a problem speed-wise.  

We finished up in 4th place out of 15! Next on the agenda show wise is novice at the Rocking Horse Spring HT at the start of April. Can't wait for the schoolings and lessons between now and then! 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Getting it together!

LH and I had our fourth jump lesson Thursday. We started out much better, braver, and bolder than we had been. At the same time I was thinking I had remembered how to jump, JT commented that LH was getting his groove back. I was seeing distances and riding him to them and getting used to the amount of leg needed (hint, more than Yoshi!). Hands forward to the jump, leg on. We then did a course that started with a bending line, left hand turn to a 2 stride, 5 stride bending line to a 1 stride including his murder butterfly jump and the liver pool. Then it was a right hand turn to a single vertical, 6 strides to a 2 stride. Another right hand turn to another vertical, 5 strides to an oxer. 

The bending line was fine every time we did it. The first two stride I didn't have enough forward, but we fumbled through, but then he backed way off to the butterflies and popped two strides into the one and so stopped at the liverpool, just no way he was going to manage that. We circled back around and slugged over it again. He considered stopping, but then he went and took a really awkward jump over the liver pool. I landed way up on his neck but fought my way back into the saddle, barely. So we came around again and finally got something passable if not pretty. He is so compressible and adjustable and if I am not there to support, will definitely compress to a 9-10 foot stride that makes all the lines bleck. 

We resumed the course then and got around the whole thing pretty well. Thinking hands together, towards the jump, and BOTH legs on seemed to work the best for me to mentally get it together. Once I was actually asking him to move forward he easily waltzed down the lines, getting tight to the out a couple of times. 

Definitely all still a work in progress, he's a very different ride from Yoshi. 

Fabio hair FTW 

In other versions of getting my shit together... I planned a heck of a day for myself Thursday. The day started with the above lesson with JT, then I took LH to his vet appointment that ended up running long. Then I took the trailer with and bought all of Yoshi's grain/hay for the next month. I buy hay at Larsen's and they sell by weight. So his 5 bales of 3 string alfalfa - total of 630#... The guys there who work the loaders are AMAZING and he got it all nicely into the trailer so I could shut the ramp, but... I needed to put Yoshi in there the next day, so once I got to the GY's, I got to wrestle human sized bales of alfalfa into the one stall so Yoshi could fit in the other. I also had to rearrange the 5 - 50# bags of grain (no one but myself to blame, should've had them put them in the tack room to start, not the horse part). 

Then I flatted Yoshi. He felt okay mostly. Wednesday we took a hand walk because my helmet was at JT's. He has become SO GOOD at that and we walked and trotted together. At one point I was watching him do a really nice trot lengthening (? probably? hard to tell from the ground while running next to him in paddock boots) and then he started CANTERING! He was still being polite, but I definitely did not trust the process or my sprinting ability on sand in boots, so we stopped. Thursday we just hacked around in the pasture, the first time I had ridden him in there in a while. He trailed around after me while I dragged the giant water wheel out of the dressage arena, very carefully stepping in and out of the arena with me, good boy. The canter he wanted to be a bit quick and stiff, but ended up softening, and we quit on a good note. 

I had decided that rather than unhook the truck/trailer, I would just run home. So I did, at the very end of the daylight. What is usually a pretty easy jog was pretty tiring by that time! 

Friday morning I (reluctantly) ran back over and cleaned tack for a while. LH got his own bridle so I could stop moving that back and forth between barns and stop adjusting it up/down 1-2 holes. After oiling both bridles and a girth, I loaded up ALL the things. I had accumulated much more stuff at the GY's than I realized. I divided, somewhat successfully, into limited things going with Yoshi to his new place, stuff LH could use (ie Equiderma), and stuff LH does not need (ie polo wraps). Then I loaded Yoshi. He definitely thought about stopping halfway on to eat the alfalfa in the stall beside him, but was thrilled to discover there was alfalfa in his hay bag too. 

We stopped briefly at my house to collect my coffee and breakfast I couldn't run over with

Then headed about 45 minutes away - I have a serious love-hate relationship with this road. It is lime rock with a lot of places of wash board so pretty unpleasant to drive, but it is SO pretty. 

Checking out his new set up - the shelter is one of those built across a fence line so he can hang in the shade "with" the horse in the adjacent pasture

He was the actual best boy and walked the lane between pastures so politely while other horses tried to greet him

He hung out in the field while we unloaded the hay/grain with the aid of a tractor. Then I brought him in and tacked him up. He was SO GOOD. The horses near where I was riding were running around a bit, there was a tractor doing some work within eyesight, and the neighbors were occasionally firing off a shot gun. And he was perfect. Afterwards I tied him up near where they're constructing an enclosed feed room and he stood so politely while I bathed him. 

Then obviously had a good roll

Those legs belong to his fence line friend

Each field is a full acre and for early March they already have pretty good grass. The barn owner is the same one who took care of Zing for 5 years while I was in school, so I know and trust her. This is good because the drive time + lime rock road means that I'll see him once a week. I think he'll be happier out there with friends much closer than before. He has two mares across the lane to make eyes at and then an older gelding to share the fence line with.

Came out Saturday and found them napping/cheesing like this. Yosh said Hi to me and then I sat down nearby to read. His friend kept begging, but Yosh settled down to nap next to him. I had never seen him nap in his solo pasture at the GY's. This makes my heart so happy.