Horse Bloggers Trail Ride Extravaganza Episode 2

The sky dawned clear blue with puffy white clouds on Sunday morning, with a warm sun and cool breeze. Birds were chirping, the air had a post-thunderstorm freshness to it, and I sprang out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Why? Because I got to meet up with Courtney from Vintage Virginia again!

This time we headed over to the Manassas Battlefield, which I highly recommend if you’re looking for a fun outing. The ground was a little soggy from the unrelenting rainstorms of recent days, but we had miles of beautiful trails to traipse through and enjoy. I was slightly more confident that neither of us was a murderer this time, so menfolk were left behind (much to their chagrin).

I was super excited to hop back on Vinny after we had such a blast last time, while she seemed less excited to carry this giant female who slammed around on her back like a potato. I gleefully scrambled on and ignored her sighs of protest. Just to add insult to injury, I carried a heavy backpack to make me heavier and throw off my balance. Sorry horse. But your mom and I needed the champagne and various snacks tucked away in that satchel. No drinks left behind, it’s the law or something.

After Courtney and I were mounted- me on Vintage and her on baby Berry- we decided that maps are for fools and we would just pick a path (side note: I found the map tucked down my pants about 2 hours into our ride). Fortunately we managed to pick the bridle path. And thus began our trek!

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Beautiful Berry butt

We stayed nice and cool because most of the trail took us through the woods and we stayed in the shade. We had some nice trot/canter sets moving through here, but we tried to be careful of the mud patches we ran into with some frequency. Courtney regaled me with tales of equine orienteering (which sounds totally hardcore awesome), we talked about her upcoming show, and I complimented her horses soundly, calling Vinny “a good soul” roughly 12 times in as many minutes. All accompanied by pink champagne, because we are classy females. Champagne makes everything classy.

And then there were some logs near the path. Yes, I was in a dressage saddle. Yes, my stirrups were long. Yes, I asked Courtney if I could torture her horse a little further by popping over. Yes, she agreed. Yes, it was a hot mess. Yes, IT WAS AWESOME I LOVE CROSS COUNTRY OMG.

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HOORAY FOR LOG!!!
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MY JUMPING POSITION IS PERFECT EVEN WHEN I’M DUCKING BRANCHES RITE LOL
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WEEEEEEE

This little mare was so point-and-shoot at everything. Didn’t blink at all as I threaded her through trees to approach logs, popped over them, and always came right back to a walk upon landing. She should totally be an eventing pony!

After partially coming down from that high, we continued on our way. We made it to a water crossing that took some finesse- by finesse I mean Courtney dismounted, led Vintage into the stream, and chased Berry with a stick. They were both totally fine once they realized it was just water, but the approach was rather steep so I can understand their hesitation. Hooray for Courtney’s waterproof boots!

After this the trail did pass through some nice fields with a gentle uphill and we decided that was a perfect opportunity for a little gallop. WHICH WAS SO MUCH FUN!!!! I really appreciated that Vinny has a fantastic set of brakes on her, so we were able to come right back and calm down after racing Berry up the hill.

We looped back around after this, and I got confused and ran us into a tree.

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Vintage was indifferent to my sufferings.

Courtney thought this was hilarious and whooped with glee as she took a picture of me futilely trying to get free without further damage. I was still finding pieces of tree in my clothing when I returned home.

After enjoying another delicious serving of the bubbly, we decided to turn towards home. We really lucked out with the weather- pleasantly warm but not a scorcher. We made it back through the water without incident, I insisted on popping back over the logs a couple more times, and then we mosied along. We were starting to get a little saddle sore, so Vinny put up with me pretending to me a fancy sidesaddle lady.

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Sidesaddle, no stirrups. Coulda totally jumped 4′ like this.
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This is my fancy face ad fancy hand on hip. Deal with it.

Somehow we made it back to the trailer without Vintage losing her patience with my shenanigans. In total we were in the saddle for over 3 hours! A little sweaty but nice and cool, the horses seemed happy to be done.

In case you’re looking for video evidence of the flailing I considered XC jumping, check out my Instagram. It’s beautiful.

A thousand thank yous to Courtney again for letting me play with her awesome pony, for being a totally rad trail companion, and for being a super cool human being in general. I can’t wait to come play again soon!

icanshowyoutheworld
You are the hawk to my fish
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Show Progression

I’m loving that people are sharing their progress pics (thank you to Lauren for the awesome idea!), so here’s our (very) short progression of pics from our shows. We’ve only been in the ring since March and have only been to 5 shows, so there doesn’t seem to be a huge difference- but hey, I’ll take any excuse to share pictures of my beautiful girl.

prog_show1 March ’15- our very first show together. We did the 2’6″ and 2’9″ hunters, and Addy was so relaxed about everything. She was also very bored by the height and pretty much cantered over the jumps.

prog_show2Also March ’15- our second show. We did the 2’9″ and 3′ hunters, and Addy was less relaxed. No shenanigans, but this is when Firebreathing DragonMare made her appearance. Apparently jumping 3′ is VERY EXCITING. Our flat classes were a disaster, but she was such a packer for my first ever trips at 3′!

prog_show3April ’15- Third show, and first outdoor show. 2’9″ and 3′ hunters again. We got waaaaay too quick pretty much everywhere and I had a very hard time keeping her steady. Nothing dangerous, just a little out of control. Flat class was ridiculous again, but overall we had a really fun day!

prog_show4May ’15- Our first jumper show (at 2’9″ and 3′)!!! We had quite a few setbacks in terms of duck outs/refusals, but it was so much fun going into the jumper ring. This is probably my favorite picture of us ever, I just wish it was nice quality instead of a zoomed-in screenshot.

prog_show5June ’15- A triumphant return to the hunter ring with one warmup trip at 2’6″ and then the 3′ division. Definitely our best show to date in terms of how relaxed and calm Addy was. We tried out a pelham and had a very calm warmup, and that eased Beastly into the day nicely.

I can’t really see much improvement in me here, which is kinda meh. I know I’ve been working on strengthening my leg and it’s gotten tons better, but I seem to forget everything I know at these hunter shows and just chuck my hands at her face. That’s what hunters do, right? Sigh. Time to drop my stirrups again. Apologies for the terrible photo quality, hopefully soon I’ll have some better ones to share!

Friday Updates

  1. You guys know how I talk about my lesson/show/real life buddy D’Arcy all the freakin’ time?? She finally started her blog! She’s going to be asking all those questions that we all pretend to know the answer to, and sprinkling in some awesome anecdotes of her being a total badass. Head on over to The Clueless but Curious Rider and give her a warm welcome to blogland!
  2. Karley over at All In is having a super awesome contest, so you should absolutely check it out here if you haven’t already. She’s awesome, her horse is a total studly beast (and her baby horse is ridiculously adorable), and contests are fun 🙂
  3. My new tall boots came in!!!! I’m so glad I got the tall height, even now I’m a little nervous they might not be tall enough. I’ll show them to Trainer when she gets back from Lake Placid to see what she thinks. They’re a hair too tall right now, I just worry that they’ll drop and be too short. But they’re certainly tight enough- I had to have the girl zip me in to them because I couldn’t do it myself. So excited to wear them around the house and start breaking them in! Also very glad that Dover was able to snag them for me, they only had one pair of size 8-tall-slims in the warehouse so I was a little nervous. I will certainly be posting pics of them today or tomorrow, so check my Instagram for updates!
  4. This week in particular, I am extremely grateful for the community and love that exists here in blogland. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being such thoughtful, interesting, funny, smart, kind people.

An Ambidextrous Sport

I had a sore muscle in my arm the other day, and I got an interesting reaction from a coworker when I mentioned it. She said in quite certain terms that it was likely from riding because I’m right hand dominant.

No matter what I said, I could not convince her that riding is symmetrical(ish). That if I was holding more strongly with my right hand, we would be going in circles the whole time.

Who can blame her? Can you think of any other sport that is truly symmetric? Soccer players tend to kick with their dominant side, baseball players pitch and bat with their dominant side, track and field athletes run or throw or grip with a certain side. Even swimmers tend to breathe more from a certain side.

I’m not saying there are no exceptions to this (several popped into my head as I typed this), but it is exceptionally rare to find a sport in which there is no “dominant side.”

At least in theory.

I know that practice can be quite different- many of us have weaker left sides, or their right leg tends to float, or any number of bad habits that I certainly don’t have. But these are things that we’re all consistently working to correct (or should be).

We’re careful to lunge a horse the same number of circles in both directions. We want to sit directly in the center of the saddle so that we are prepared to ask for anything. A rollback to the right and a rollback to the left can easily be in the same course, so your legs better both be strong for that. You dressage folks are even more obsessed with straightness and balance than those of us in the H/J world, but we all should be!

I’ve read and re-read this article quoting George Morris probably 10-12 times now, and so much of it relates back to the ever-important straightness and balance. Straightness at all gaits, straightness to jumps, straightness for changes, straightness 4ever. Imagine how hard it is for the horse to be straight when we as riders aren’t straight! (Says the girl who collapses to the left, wiggles her inside leg, over-bends/counter-bends at random times, and then has the gall to ask “WHY WON’T SHE JUST GO IN A STRAIGHT LINE?!” Because you’re an idiot, Olivia. Because you’re an idiot.)

I had a really excellent school with Addy yesterday that brought this to the forefront- I lowered my stirrups by a hole to a more appropriate flatting length, put her snaffle bit back in, popped on some very gentle spurs, and declared it Equitation Day. She moved right up into the bridle almost immediately, was salivating out the wazoo, and gave me some really great effort. We did lateral movements, extensions, collections, transitions, and everything felt really calm and balanced. She wasn’t leaning on the bit to catch her balance, she was moving more upright and carried herself more. To say I was happy with how quickly she caught on would be an understatement. I started screaming for everyone to LOOK AT MY DRESSAGE PONY SHE’S SO FANCY.

However, our lack of ambidextrousness (is that a word? I’m assuming you’re all smart enough to know what I’m saying here) became more apparent once we moved into the canter. I was able to get a beautiful balanced canter to the left- she stayed nice and round, balanced and bent through her turns and around circles, and we could extend and collect without a fuss. It was one of the best quality canters I’ve ever gotten from her. But then going to the right, it wasn’t as nice. It wasn’t a hot mess by any means and she certainly was working hard for me, but required much more support around turns and when collecting.

I tested this out by counter-cantering, which historically has been pretty tough for us. She was able to hold when we were going left, but when she was unable to collapse in on the right she got very discombobulated. I didn’t want to drill this without a trainer present, but our short experiment confirmed what I thought- we need to build her muscle and balance more evenly. After all, it’s not fair to ask her to carry me around a course in all directions if I haven’t developed her capabilities in all directions.

I’m going to start building “Equitation Day” into our schedule much more often so that we can consciously work on that. Encouraging that correct round movement will likely be difficult for her at first, but with her work ethic and my fumbling attempts at support I think we’ll get there. Besides, she sure would look purty taking me around an Adult Medal class….

Does your horse have a stronger side? How do you address that? What are your favorite exercises for building self-carriage and balance?

Sandstone Show Videos

2’6″ Benefit Hunters: 1st out of 15ish. If I were to change one thing, I would hold out my corner a little more after the diagonal line. Other than that, I felt really great in this course!

3′ Working Hunters: 1st out of 2 womp womp. I chipped in to the near outside line and didn’t close my leg enough, so we took a flyer out of there. I wish I had also sat back a little sooner in the diagonal line, but I’m very glad she woahed and waited for the six with me.

Yesterday was super hot and Addy has been working very hard lately, so we just walked around for a while, went on a little trail ride, and then had a brief little gallop in the grass. Beastly loves to run. Our barn is in Lake Placid this week for the show so no lessons, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to report!

Chapter 5: A Triumphant Return to the Hunters

So when we last chatted, Addy and I had a fantastic lesson on Wednesday after her full week of vacation, and we had decided to tag along to the local hunter show over the weekend. I got the thumbs up from Owner Lady and started gathering my things.

I have a theory that something needs to go wrong before we head to the show, and this time I forgot my show shirt and coat. Oops! Thankfully D’Arcy had an extra shirt in her car, and my trainer keeps roughly 20 coats in the trailer dressing room. So I got to fulfill my dream of wearing a green coat, albeit one that didn’t fit exaaactly right. Beggars can’t be choosers.

This show started at 8am instead of 9am like the other civilized shows in the area, so we wanted to get there with plenty of time to school in the ring. Which means I was up at 4:30am, at the barn at 5:15am, we left the barn before 6am, and we were mounted and warming up before 7am. I’m writing this recap a day later and I’m still recovering!

On the bright side, we were the first ones there so we had the ring to ourselves. Trainer had us warm ourselves up on the flat first and then pop over all the jumps at least once. It was like a mini-lesson without any of the chaos you usually encounter in the warmup ring. Addy was feeling very soft and relaxed over everything in our warmup, so she popped back on the trailer while I got us registered.

We were in the first class of the day- a 2’6″ benefit hunter class. This class had a 2′ and a 2’6″ option so it was pretty popular, but I just wanted to do one of these as a warmup before the 3′ division.

I wish this had been 3′! This was one of the nicest flowy courses I’ve had with Addy to date. She was quiet, soft to the jumps, relaxed, and had her focus on me the whole time. I even had to leg her up a little in one of the lines! She really looked so hunter-y in this trip, I walked out of the ring beaming (was also beaming because as we walked by the judge’s stand she called out that she wanted to take Addy home with her! So glad someone else appreciated the Beastly Unicorn).

We decided not to do the other O/F or the flat class since Addy clearly didn’t need more work in the ring. But we won that first class out of 15ish which was enough to tie us for reserve champion in the division! We lost the coin toss to see who got the actual ribbon, but Pretty Girl will always be 2’6″ Benefit Hunter Reserve Champion in my heart.

Time for the 3′. Again, there are practically 0 people who do 3′ at these local shows, so it was just me and D’Arcy in the Working Hunters again. We had a sticky spot in the same line during both O/F classes where I put 4 in a 5 stride, but other than that our courses went well. I just didn’t sit up enough in that line to ask her to pat the ground for the 5. We did have a couple long approaches that went extremely well though, so I was glad we didn’t charge at any jumps! I was also glad that they measured the jumps- a lot of these local shows put the jumps slightly lower than advertised, but these were true 3′ with some nice sizable oxers. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of sailing over a spread with the DragonMare, she’s such a fun ride 🙂

Our flat class actually went quite well! We got a little quick during the canter and I had to keep a stronger feel on her mouth than is traditionally hunter-y, but she stayed soft and listened well the entire time. It probably wouldn’t seem like a success to someone on a different horse, but I was very very happy with how Pretty Girl did!

We did end up pinning 1st in both O/F and 2nd under saddle (continuing our streak of last place in flat classes, I’m weirdly proud of that), which got us champion in the division. I’m a little torn about this.

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Addy isn’t torn. She’s thrilled to have her ribbons.

On the one hand, this was the first show that I felt truly represented our abilities. I was able to ride the way I do at home and not have her zooming around like a roller coaster off its tracks. Not perfect by any stretch, but the mistakes I made are mistakes that I’m conscious of and actively working on. So that’s a really really good thing, since in general I’m pleased with how we do at home.

On the other hand, I’ve mentioned that very few people do the 3′ on our local circuit and that was the case here. D’Arcy and I as well as our horses are very closely matched in ability, so we just seem to take turns winning. She got champion last time and I got reserve, and this time we swapped. Whoever is having the better day wins. This is a nice low-pressure way to put miles on Addy, but both D’Arcy and I would love to have some more competitors. We want to see how we’re doing against other people, not just against the person we ride with several times a week. We already know how we compare to each other, we swap training woes all the time!

Regardless of who was or was not in any of our classes, I was so thrilled with Addy’s willingness to sit back and let me lead at this show. I think having the extra leverage from the pelham really helped keep her attention on me when she needed the reminder, and I was able to be soft with her mouth when she was giving me softness. Something else that made a huge difference was remembering to breathe. Every time I remembered to take a deep breath in and out on an approach, we got a beautiful distance. When I didn’t breathe consciously, we chipped or took a flyer. I think breathing also relaxed my body language, which in turn relaxed Addy.

It was a very relaxing confidence-building day overall for the Beast; she got tons of cookies and grazed for a couple hours while we waited for another rider, so she got to learn that showgrounds aren’t necessarily stressful places. It was fun to just sit in the grass and watch the ponies go around while my snuggly mare grazed next to me! She was having an especially affectionate day and kept standing right by me for scratches and ear rubs. We took leisurely walks around the grounds and even took a nap together on the trailer when we wanted some shade. I also think our relaxed warmup helped- she was able to ease into a new place without the distractions of other horses running her over.

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She was my puppy dog on a leash, just hangin’ out with me and mooching for treats.
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POV of my trailer nap. Shortly after this Addy drooped and took a little snooze with me.

I think that in general we are more suited to the jumpers, but I’m so glad we went back in the hunter ring! I learn something new during every excursion and I know that I can apply that to our next foray into the jumper ring. My goal for Addy and me is to build trust so that she will wait for me to tell her what we’re doing- jumpers, hunters, equitation, hacking out in a field, walking around bareback, you name it. She’s so smart, I think mixing things up and exposing her to different venues and styles will be very good for her and keep her entertained.

Now, I gotta start saving up for some rated shows so we can have a full 3′ division!

D’Arcy’s mom was lovely enough to get videos of 2 of our rounds as well as some pictures, so I should be able to share those tomorrow! Stay tuned to see the tamed DragonBeast.

Do you try out different disciplines with your horse? 

PS- I tried on tall boots, and I found a pair that fits me like custom! Does anyone have experience with the Mountain Horse Sovereign Field Boots? Or Mountain Horse in general? I tried these on a whim and they look like they were made for me. I did need to order to get the slim-tall in, but I’m so excited to pick them up!

A Warm Welcome Back to VA

UGH I LOVE THIS HORSE.

I may have mentioned it in passing once or twice or ninety kajillion times but seriously. She’s the bomb dot com (do people still say that? I vote yes.).

So I hadn’t ridden since my lesson last Wednesday because I jetted off to my home state of little Rhody. Three big things: bridal shower (elegant and gorgeous and classy and fantastic), bachelorette party (insanopants ridiculous fun and we’ll leave it at that), and MEETING MY NIECE!!!! She was such a perfect little bean, just wanted to snuggle and stare. Seriously, her eyes are gigantic and she’s a big one for prolonged eye contact. So curious about everything and happy and always hungry and loves her mom and dad so much. Basically she’s my mini-me. Leaving was incredibly hard, but at least I’ll be up in only 3 weeks for my brother’s wedding and I’ll see her then!

Anywho, I got back Tuesday night after my flight had been delayed a couple times. Wednesday was super cool at work (got a promotion that I totally wasn’t expecting!!), and then confirmed with Owner Lady that both of us had been out of town and Addy had gotten a nice little vacation.

I geared up for a rodeo.

I knew I’d be fine since Pretty Girl never pulls any shenanigans that are unsafe, but I was ready for a wrestling match to get us on the same page.

Nope. Whether she was feeling mellow from the mental break or the heat or whatever reason, she was perfect. A little fast at times, but sat right down and waited for me as soon as I asked. It helped that I was trying out a different bit- jointed pelham with double reins. I relied mostly on the snaffle rein, but that little leverage when I needed it was super helpful! She didn’t fuss about it at all, I was just able to reinforce my requests a little more strongly. It meant that I had to keep my leg on especially strongly to back it up, but I try to do that anyways. It will take a little getting used to since I haven’t had to manage double reins in almost 10 years, but throw me in the deep end! We’re using this at the show this weekend. Learn by doing, right?

Anywho. After a great WTC warmup we started popping over a crossrail with a focus on waiting to the base and straightness after. This was very civilized. We then moved on to trotting in the crossrail in the other direction, and cantering out a broken line in either 3 or 4. I think you can guess what we got. I’m sure if I had wrestled we could’ve gotten the 4, but she was being nice and soft and not rushing through at all, so I didn’t feel the need to mess with her. It wasn’t a long or discombobulated 3 at all, so we were happy with it.

From there, we built up our course!

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As a special treat, I even managed to take a picture of the course in the ring so you can see what it actually looked like:

fullcourse

So. We had warmed up A-B, and we built from there: A-B-C-D-E-F. Broken to outside vertical, back over the stone wall, bending to the brush jump, then up the outside oxer. Lots of bending lines and long approaches.

The first 3 rode well again, and the long approach to the outside vertical went well on my second try- just had to remember to package up and hold my reins instead of letting her pick the pace. She came around to the stone wall nicely, and the bending to the brush went well. I was overriding pretty defensively since I expected her to get wiggly/try to duck out of some of these new jumps, but she was perfect! I was able to back off and get some more natural distances. The approach up the wall to the oxer went better on our second try when I held her straighter with my legs instead of letting her worm her way to it.

Then we built up the course a little more! A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H. Same thing as before, just adding the brick wall and turn to the rolltop at the end. I shall take you on my virtual course walk:

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Trotting into the basic crossrail
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Out the pink gate in 3
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Up the single outside vertical
stonewall
Roll back over the stone wall
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Bend out in 5 over the brush (which was low in height but SUPER wide. I’m pretty sure that’s a whole tree under there)
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Up the single outside oxer
brickwall
Down the brick wall
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Rollback up the rolltop/barrels.

And let me tell you why I love this horse so much: she jumped all of these jumps like she had seen them a million times. Granted, she’s seen most of them a LOT, but the brush and barrels were both new to her. She stayed super straight to the brick and stone walls, even though there were no standards, and she came around the turns waiting for my cue. Once I figured out my reins I was able to have her sit and wait for me instead of running to a long spot, and it meant I was able to move her up when I needed to. Packaged pony = adjustable pony.

We had to do the bending stone wall-brush over again to get that more comfortable- I rode it like I was asking for 6 strides, which made the 5 nice and flowing instead of coming up too much on the brush. That’s right. I have to ask for an extra stride when I don’t want her to leave one out. Goofy, but such is life.

All in all, I was tickled pink with our work yesterday. It was one of those rides where it felt like we were really on the same page and working for the same things. I’m feeling much more confident about our show this weekend! It will be a hunter show (we’ll do the 3′ working hunters) which isn’t ideal, but my goal is to get her out at least once a month and this is our only chance in June. I think exposure to a show environment in any form is better than none, and she still needs show miles. I’m pretty sure she’s only been to 6 shows ever, including the 4 I’ve taken her to, so my broke pony is still kinda green in the show ring! Luckily nothing seems to bother her.

Including me putting a bit in her mouth upside down.

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My trainer spotted this before I could hop on, laughed her head off, then snapped a picture and told me I needed to share this on my blog. So supportive.

What has your horse surprised you with lately? Do you have a showing “game plan?”

Wordless Wednesday- Bridal Shower

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On rare occasions I actually do non-horse related things! This was the bridal shower for my new almost-sister-in-law, who is absolutely glorious.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow! Had an absolutely insanely incredible time up in RI with family, but Addy hasn’t been ridden for a week and we’re heading to a hunter show this Saturday…because that seemed like a great idea. Stay tuned!

Grids and Gallivanting

So much riding this week!

Sunday and Monday were homework days, and then Tuesday and Wednesday were both supposed to be lesson days (ended up just being Tuesday). Owner Lady is out of town this week and I’m leaving to visit home tonight, so Addy will get a nice rest for a few days.

In my homework rides I kept the focus on working hard, not working long. Some more trot poles, getting our sitting trot nice and powerful, and asking her to round to the bit a little more. Similar to last week, just reinforcing those lessons.

Tuesday’s lesson! There were just two of us in the ring (not my usual lesson buddy, but an adorable junior on her equally adorable greenie) so we got lots of attention. Plenty of no-stirrup work at the trot with big circles and lots of changes of rein. I was a little worried because the farrier had just been by and Addy’s left hind was slightly stocked up- which it does on occasion- but she didn’t take a single step wrong. Sturdy Girl is sturdy.

I focused really hard on pushing my inside leg to outside rein, and Addy responded by giving me that beautiful roundness and bend through her body. She’s started to build the muscles to carry herself in better balance, so I’m going to ask for that self-carriage more often. Her little nose sticking out is very cute, but I can get a much more sensitive response if I have her really tuned up on the bit. Also, medal classes.

Our canter work was nice and calm- I’ve started to have the tendency to collapse my right side a little no matter what direction I’m going, so I tried to sit up really straight and evenly. The consistent work lately meant that Pretty Pony was very happy to lope around and collect when asked. We even got some canter-trot transitions that weren’t super giraffe-like! She’s starting to realize that slowing down isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

For jumping, we did gymnastics again (yay!!). Started off with a little one-stride, then built it to a one-stride-one-stride, then added a bounce at the end. The second one-stride was a little short so we had to woah slightly through, but that’s nothing new for us. Addy was great about staying nice and straight through the whole thing, and staying straight to the end afterwards. We kept the jumps fairly low for the greenie, and my assignment was to work on keeping my shoulders straight and tall.

I did go through without stirrups again, and then my sneaky trainer set the oxer close to 3′ for the next time I went through. So now I can say I jumped 3′ without stirrups! Addy got lots of pats for taking care of me and staying between me and the ground.

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Then she got a nice bath and mooched a ton of treats. Such a sweet little mooch.

We had a great conversation about bits also, and I’ll share what she told me. I told her that our first course at shows usually requires a lot of leg as she’s peeking at the new jumps, but after that I lose my brakes. It doesn’t feel dangerous, but any adjustability goes right out the window. I can’t do a darn thing about her stride so it doesn’t even matter if I see a distance. We agreed that a harsher bit wasn’t the answer, because we don’t want her backing off the bit at all. Instead we’re going to try a couple different types of leverage bits. That way things can continue as usual until I need the extra strength, and then I can engage the second rein and get her attention. We’re also going to give the figure-8 bridle a try and see how that changes how she responds.

On to Wednesday! (Yes I am pretty tired from riding 4 days in a row. Addy is still going strong like the beast that she is.) Our barn is at the Loudoun Benefit Show at the Upperville show grounds all week, and yesterday ended up being super long for them. Instead of a lesson, D’Arcy and I took the girls out for a little trail ride around one of the bridle paths nearby.

Yes, I voluntarily went on a trail ride!

This was a really fun mental break for us to get out of the ring and mosey about. She’s been giving me such a good effort during the last few days and I don’t want her to get stale at all. We trotted and cantered a little bit, but it was mostly walked around on a loose rein and enjoyed the breeze. I asked her to round up a bit at the walk a couple times to keep her muscles engaged and she gave that to me very softly.

It was so funny, both of the mares really wanted to be in front. Addy is bigger than Gracie and naturally has a bigger step, so we tended to be walking faster, but then Gracie would come trotting up as if she was saying “wait for me!!” I’m glad that they’re horsey BFFs since it meant D’Arcy and I could ride right next to each other without worrying about the girls.

Sadly that was my last ride until next Wednesday. I’m flying home to RI tonight to go to my almost-sister’s bridal shower and bachelorette party, meet my beautiful niece, celebrate my brother’s birthday, and spend time with family. I’m ridiculously excited!

I’m hopefully going to finish up a post to share while I’m gone, but may be too distracted by pink fruity drinks and baby snuggles (not at the same time, obvi) to get that done. If that’s the case, I’ll touch base with you all next week! Hope you have an absolutely fantastic weekend!

What do you and your horse like to do for a mental break? Any thoughts on our bit experiments?