In Which I Piss Off My Horse Mightily

Jack and I had a CTJ lesson last week, and I think he has only now forgiven me since the occasion.

In that lesson, we were finally made to come to terms with his frame before the fence. This issue has come up a lot previously, because it’s Jack’s MO to lift his head and go hollow in front of the fence. As long as he approached the fence in a polite and steady manner, we tended to let it pass. But in coming back from his hiatus, Jack has been less predictable those last couple strides before the jump- either slowing down and losing power or racing towards the fence. And really the only thing consistent about it is his inconsistency. See the video below, where I try to keep him packaged but he runs through my aids as we get close to the jump.

It’s not all about where his head is before the fence, not just about how he looks and whether or not we make a pretty picture. It’s about him dropping his back before the fence when his head pops up, and as a result he can’t bascule over the fence as he should and can. If he can keep his back up all the way to take off, he will have a more effective jump and remain rideable through the entire approach. For these reasons, we need to install this basic concept in Jack – but I can tell it’s going to be hard won.

What’s difficult for me is that he is SO big and strong, and so wiggly. When I try to get him between my hand and legs before the fence, he escapes through a shoulder, or uses his neck against me – and no human is going to be strong enough to overpower and horse using their full strength in opposition.

So our lesson moved away from fences for the most part- instead making him stay low and soft over a ground pole, and let me tell you, this kicked off a battle of wills that Jack and I have not yet experiences with each other. We could be overbent but round and go over the pole, but if we were remotely straight the fight to stay soft became a war. He went sideways, he drew back to a jog, he threw his head from side to side, he tried to canter, or he went even more sideways.

When eventually we were able to ride the pole and stay consistent from front to back side of it, Holly let us try a small fence.

And guys, I have NEVER felt that before – he actually stayed soft right up until takeoff, and the bascule I felt under me was enlightening. I promptly dropped my reins and gave him all the pats and praises. And was just as promptly reminded to keep riding.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t repeat that success.

We spent the rest of the lesson riding the above pattern, and it was brutal. The fence was an 18″ crossrail, but you would have thought it was a Puissance fence the way he wanted to approach it. Let me tell you, my triceps were in agony by the end of the ride. We found an OK-ish place to stop and proceeded to have a long chat about next steps, all the while Jack standing with his head looking back at me with the biggest Fuck-you side eye I have ever seen from any horse. Even the carrot I gave him afterwards was eaten in ‘I wish this was your face’ stabbing angry bites. Ouch.

As it turns out, the above bit is our next step in the process. While I don’t like to rely on gadgets, I am simply not strong enough to ride through this. The hope is the gag action will stop him bracing against my hands, but we’ll still have the soft snaffle mouthpiece for all the moments when he’s a good boy.

Our next lesson is this weekend, so we’ll see how it goes!

 

Dressage Homework for the Winter

Since my trainer is spending the winter amongst the palm trees and fancy ponies of Florida for the next several weeks, she made sure to give Jack and I a good butt kicking before departing.

Kate, trainer’s working student who is also in Florida

I love a good butt kicking.

No, really. Those are the best lessons.

We started out working on the length of stride within his trot, using my seat aid to collect or allow the stride. Sitting deeply = collected trot. Sitting more lightly and following with my hips = a larger more natural stride. While I feel like a sack of potatoes as I try to get my riding fitness back, Jack still appreciates being ridden off of the seat first. And trainer’s main point was that most horses prefer to be ridden off the seat (vs hands or legs), and while it might take slightly longer to achieve the same result from seat alone, it has a more lasting effect and is a more useful tool in the long run.

From there, we moved into canter work.

The canter is one of Jack’s best gaits, but he also naturally has a huge stride, and that can cause some balance and engagement issues. So we are working to make his canter smaller with the end goal of engaging his hind end more without causing the stride to become even bigger.

One of the tools we are using to create this effect is the counter canter. We worked on the idea of going from haunches in to renvers on a circle for a little bit (which sort of melts my brain a bit to think about – see below video). Changing the bend like this on the circle, while keeping the hind end really active will also help with his straightness – an issue we run into in jumping as well. So despite it being hella hard, there’s an added bonus that makes it worth it. I think?

Other exercises that I have been asked to work on are more traditional counter canter exercises. Such as:

  • Pick up “wrong” lead on straight line and just canter down the long side of the arena then trot. After time start adding in corners (but not steep). Trainer thinks this will be easier for Jack
  • Pick up correct lead, change rein across diagonal then canter around short side on wrong lead.

The other part of the homework we’ve been given while she’s in Florida is to work on our walk-canter departs. Make them soft, small, and as boring as possible. Which is going to be hard, but hey, she’s gone for a long time so I’ll do my best!

We may pick up a lesson while she’s away with her trainer, who I’ve heard amazing things about. But that’s still up in the air. Until then, it’s canter bootcamp for Mr Yellow.

PS – if you want to follow along on my trainer’s Welly world adventures, you can follow her blog here!

Making Poor Life Choices: AKA my terrible RW hoard

So, one of the perks of being a Riding Warehouse ambassador is that I got a heads up on their Black Friday deals, which I get to share with all my lovely connections (AKA you guys!). But of course last night I went through their site and found items that I needed wanted.

At 25% off, and a $25 gift card already in my grabby hands, who could resist?

But I might have gone overboard.

A little. Actually, a lot.

All of these lovelies are mine, all mine! *insert cackle here*

Seriously though, at these deals… why not? Prices are rounded up to next dollar.

  • Roeckl Gloves (in this adorable yellow) $22
  • ECP Shaped Burgundy XC Pad (wanted one of these 4EVER) $34
  • Merino Wool Half Pad (mine is flat as a pancake and almost 2 decades old) $60
  • Eskadron Open Fronts in Chocolate (these puppies are $115 at Dover) FRONTS – $68
    • Eskadron Open Fronts HIND – $30
  • Dressage Whip in Navy (again, my current one is tatty as hell) – $7
  • WW Stable boots – $60 (Because pony does well with front stable boots and needs a hind pair)
  • Probios treats (just because) – $7
  • Bell boots x 2 – $5
  • Sound blocking ear bonnet – $21

OK, so a few of these are absolutely in the WANT category, but there’s plenty there that represents a well-overdue upgrade.

I’m afraid of what will happen if I see any more BF sales go on, so don’t mind me I’ll be over here like:

Though I totally encourage you to go check out the sale! RW will be announcing the sale officially at 1pm EST, so you get to see the deals before the rest of the world finds out!

First Jump Lesson Back!

Just so you know, I seriously contemplated calling this post “On Cloud 9 with a Turd Sandwich“. But that’s probably not the best SEO strategy in the world.

Thursday Jack and I headed over to the trainer’s, to finally jump some colored sticks after 6 months of being completely earthbound.

I expected the golden boy to come out in full spooky fashion, seeing as he hasn’t seen his shadow under lights in a long time, and you know, his tail is occasionally terrifying. But he wasn’t. Color me gobsmacked.

He was actually jumping so well, in fact that we moved past trotting 18″ and actually cantered fences and everything. See the below compilation of some of our finer moments:

And then the train started to come off the tracks. Jack got a little overambitious, dragging me to fences, one of which I wasn’t intending to jump. So, there’s that.

It took us some time to install brakes again and approach fences in a reasonable fashion, but luckily the video kept going:

We finished on a good note (not captured here as our videographer was cold and deserved to go home), and despite the naughtiness, I have to say:

I AM SO STUPID HAPPY.

It’s so nice to be back.

First lesson back!

OK, first of all, thank you to all who joined my pity party that was last week’s post. Much appreciated, and your comments honestly left me feeling so much better!

Hoping against hope, I scheduled a short dressage lesson for Tuesday, and lo and behold, the golden pony actually came through!

We did a lot of talking about how sound he looked (which was pretty good, huzzah!) and mostly spent the lesson just focusing on transitions and some of the basics. After 6 months (seriously WTF SIX MONTHS) since last having a lesson, that was A-OK by me.

Jack was fairly tense, which could be due to his longer break, it being dark, the scary saddlepad sitting by the ring, or any combination of those things. So we spent a decent amount of time just letting his brain relax (which can often be a theme even when he’s in full work) by doing boring trot circles until he released the tension in his back, occasionally incorporating leg yields to play with some lateral work.

I got nothin.

One other thing we focused on in the time available was the quality of Jack’s canter. In previous tests, he has been described as being downhill and behind the vertical. This comes from a habit of landing heavily on his front end on the ‘3’ beat of the canter, almost nodding with his head.

1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2,3

It’s my job then, to make the 1 beat (the active inside hind) the strongest beat by using my seat and upper body to support him. Ideally, he will start rocking back onto his haunches, in turn lifting his forehand, and making the landing gear come down with more of a pitter-patter than a thud.Tonight, I have dared sign up for my first jump lesson back (it’s a week for firsts!). Mostly I expect it to be jumping at shadows versus actually jumping, and anything we do make it over will likely be small. But it’s nice to dip our toes back in the water!

And hopefully as a result you’ll be hearing more from me on a regular basis!

Remember when I used to ride?

These days, this is me. Well… actually in all truth, maybe it’s more like this:

Werk.

But still, all the relevant information you need to know is here:

Basically, I was on my way back from Chicago when I got the news that Jack had lost his shoe Friday. Amazingly my farrier came out and tacked it back on Saturday morning, but without the pour-in pad since homie was due to be reshod anyways. Sunday when I finally saw my pony and hopped aboard, it was evident that he was lame. Like ouchy at the trot. He needed a trim, and new shoes, badly, but since his oh-so-special shoes were not in we had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Because in that time (meaning Monday to Friday the following week) my A team had to agree on what direction to go with his special fairy dust shoes, and then order them. Even with them being overnighted, Jack didn’t get shod until Friday- a whole 6.5 weeks into the shoe cycle, when he’s meant to go 4. EFFFFF.

Of course when he finally got shod, his soles were bruised and he was short up front. Jack’s got himself some sensitive little tootsies, y’all.

Jack.

After a long diatribe to my vet about how even a week after being shod he still looks the teensiest bit short up front, I was told that it might take half a shoeing cycle to get back on track, since his going so long messed up all the mechanics of what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.

Jack’s super fancy shoes, and some mud.

So I might have just spent the equivalent of a clinic fee in farrier work, all for the pleasure of waiting for my horse’s feet to grow. Yes, first world problems, and yes, I’m whining about it. Judge me.

So that’s me. I’ve either been not here or not able to ride. My dreams of doing the Phillip Dutton clinic in December are likely crushed, and my hopes of jumping again are temporarily dashed.

At least there’s wine at the barn though… amirite?

Happy Friday!

Au Revoir Paris

 

A rare unpaid photo of the 2 of us

Now that life is [sort of, kinda] settling down, I can finally capture some of the memories from our Paris trip- the first big vacation for us since our honeymoon 5 years ago.

Enjoy the touristy photos of mostly my husband, like this one outside Versailles

Our trip started out exciting from a horsey perspective. On the flight over, it was apparent that we were surrounded by the French WEG showjumping team and their family. While I was fangirling pretty hard, the husband leaned over and told me that the guy next to him’s jacket had more than a whiff of horse to it. Luckily he’s fairly used to that by now, though I’m very very nosedeaf to barn smells, of course.

Our first day we decided to make it out to the Palace of Versailles, which is about a 40 minute train ride from central Paris. Most of the photos in this post are from Versailles, since it is so insanely huge and the gardens… well, the gardens likely speak for themselves. The husband and I had no problem doing the tourist thing and attentively listening to our audio guides as we passed through each room, and the photo below of him in the gallery might be one of my favorites from the trip.Once outside the palace, the grounds extend as far as the eye can see in every direction. Stunning fountains and sculptures decorate the carefully pruned and cared-for landscape, but to me the real draw was the florals.Everywhere you looked there was a feast for the eyes. We walked around and I scared people with my giant lens until we were literally hobbling from all the walking. (Desk jobs do not prepare you for long walking excursions). Before leaving the grounds though I insisted on seeing the Equestrian Center, which was directly outside of the palace gates. There we checked out the arena (roughly a 40m square, and the footing was unbelievable- but then again, it is a palace I guess), and stalked the museum of carriages next door.

The entrance to the Equestrian Center, which was sadly closed as they readied for a performance that night

Continuing the history-geek theme to our trip, the next day we headed to the Louvre, but not before getting some portraits made by what turned out to be a former Irish showjumper, now wedding tog in Paris. It was fairly frigid at the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, and we took turns wearing his coat my skin wouldn’t turn purple like my hair. All in all though, it was a fun experience and I definitely think this “Portraits in another place” may be a fun thing we do again some day.

Our day at the Louvre ended up being another somewhat exhausting day (seriously, going from 5k steps each day to 18k+ is hard on a gal!), but I ended up getting lots of fun photographic gems to bring home. If you’re ever in the Louvre, know this- the place is awesome. Seriously, beautiful, interesting, all the things- but make sure you know where the exit is when you start getting the slightest bit tired. It took us 20 minutes to find our way out once we decided we were done, and really, that was 20 minutes too long. Our mistake.

I make him do things I think are funny, and he amuses me.

While we did lots and lots of other things (climbed to the top of Notre Dame, cruised down the Seine, did a 4 hour bike tour – so fun -, etc etc), I won’t bore you all with the other details of the trip. But I do want to share the other fun horsey moment that happened the last night we were there.

He’s going to kill me for posting this

Our last night in Paris, we made reservations at a nice restaurant that was truly Parisian in many ways. We were stuffed into the place chockablock, and so it was inevitable that we overheard the conversations around us. Since neither of us spoke Mandarin, that namely ended up being the American couple to our right.As all the tables ended up getting friendly with each other, we quickly learned that this couple from Georgia were also into horses. Or I should say, she was, and he was obliging. (Isn’t that the way it mostly goes?) I thought I had picked up the word ‘Tryon’ before we started conversation, and as it turns out, they had often competed at TIEC. Cool.

More Versailles

Then we got talking about specifics in the horse world of NC, and as it turns out, they were interested in buying a horse that I happened to know. In fact, she used to occupy the stall caddy-corner to Foster. Guys, the horse world is so small sometimes. How on earth do random people know the same horse all the way across the ocean? How bizarre, how bizarre.

And so ended our Parisian trip. We came home, satiated on good food and French wine, and I picked up a bug on the way home that I lovingly shared with the husband, as noted in a previous post. Au revoir Paris, until next time!

Brand Ambassadorship

So one of the things about traveling and having great friends to watch your pony is getting little updates along the way, including snoot pics, shoe pics, and just general texts saying that he’s been a good boy. Yay.

Meanwhile, I was off to the Adobe conference for creatives, learning about running creative teams, making animated unicorns and the like. And then off to Chicago, where I got to photograph…

This!

This is one of my childhood besties, and her sweet guy called me to see if during our couples shoot (that was already planned for fun) if I wouldn’t mind shooting the moment he popped the question. Let’s all say it together,

Awwwwwwwwwwwww.

The other exciting news of late is my partnering with Riding Warehouse. I learned of this stellar company through Amanda a couple years ago and haven’t gone back to SmartPak since. So when they announced that they were looking for Adult Ammy brand ambassadors, of course I had to throw my hat in the ring. And bam!

Just like that. Mmmmm Yorkshire pud. 

Pretty freaking stoked about that. And yes, I have the most random fun fact of all the ambassadors. #proud? Can’t say enough about how great the communication has been with them, and I hope to help convert other horse peeps for them in return. (Free shipping over $50 and Free returns for a year- uh sold!)

If you need to buy any goodies, be sure to get 10% off using the code RWA10 !

Jack update coming soon!!!!

 

 

Warnderlust Woes

I have been traveling a lot recently. Like, it seems that every other week I am out of town on some adventure.

This would be even better in equestrian garb.

Which is great- obviously. Except for the germs. Man, airplanes are nasty.

Yeah, that’s basically your fold-down table right there.

The other unfortunate downside to travel (besides picking up some stranger’s cold- #notcool) is that it of course takes me away from a certain blonde pony.

Not this one, though mine may be just as spazzy.

In terms of his rehab schedule, we should have been jumping again by now. Time away and weather are cramping our style, though, and it looks like now it will be another 2 weeks before we approach elevated poles again.

Otherwise, he’s been feeling fairly good- we are fully walk/trot/canter and trying to fine tune those gaits and transitions like we are actually working towards something (versus just mosying around). All the lateral work at the walk has really improved since starting him back, and his canter transitions are becoming on point. Maybe a little too on point even, because it takes just a scoop of my seat to get the aid, and occasionally that means cantering when we didn’t mean to. So maybe less on point than I thought.

I’m lucky to have great friends to ride him while I’m away that are willing to deal with his spookiness and work him through any tension without melting down themselves. Which I fully appreciate, since I head out of of town again on Sunday.

Here’s hoping when I return we’ll have colored sticks in the very near future!

Thoughts on WEG – part 2

Wow, guys. I got totally derelict about this post. My bad.

Her smile. Her boots. LOVE

Hopefully these thoughts are still relevant- I haven’t been around to see what the interwebs is saying, so please, fill me in!

His face- that squirrel should be scared!

In general, I thought Mark Phillip’s course was a great XC test for modern eventing. Its use of terrain, the balance of technical questions with big galloping fences, and that Heartbreak Hill all were poised to sort the men from the boys without causing any major catastrophies. There were some tumbles, and some very tired horses coming in at the end, but the success rate (in terms of completions) was higher than any previous WEG.

Now, could this be due in part to the downgrade to a 3*? Probably- especially when many of the horses from strong eventing countries are generally 4* veterans. But that is where the fitness test came in- particularly in that the huge upward climb at the end of the course made for many a tired pair who then still had to showjump 2 days later. It was obvious who had done their homework in the cardio area just by judging the horses coming into the arena at the finish line- some were loping, 4 beaty, messy looking- others were full of fire with a lot more gas left in the tank.

From a spectator’s point of view, Tryon delivered. The paths were wide, and there were few obstructions in place around key areas like the water complexes. Somehow, when I took the above photo, I managed to squeeze into a position and chat with a fine lady who turned out to be Z’s owner (and Phillip’s mother in law) – and if that’s not an indication of how good the action was, I don’t know what is!

Admittedly, it would have been nice if there were more food options spread around the course (though that’s generally the case at every event), and even nicer if we would have been allowed to bring more beverages (ahem, mimosas and XC anyone?) into the venue, but alas, you can’t have it all.

What we did get was a great day of sport, cheering on incredible riders from around the world, proving that even with the 3* distinction that WEG was no dressage show.