More Rain (AKA tour our arena)

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So, this weekend we tried for a lesson, and then a makeup lesson, both of which were cancelled thanks to rain. And as I look out the window at the gloomy rain clouds, I’m pretty sure tomorrow’s jump lesson will be cancelled as well. 4 attempts at lessons cancelled in one week. Bummer.

So instead, I would like to show you the fences that have been recently painted by the ladies I board with. We happen to have a wonderful leader in Ali, who took it upon herself to build the chevron, the brand new brick wall, and organize painting days to make the jumps all scary as crap bright and shiny!

The brand new brick wall!

The brand new brick wall!

I applaud the first person to go over this fence- the brick wall itself is 2’6″ and with rails it’s a cool 3’3″.

Probably my favorite, the stone wall

Probably my favorite, the stone wall

A classic big brown oxer

A classic big brown oxer

Swedish Oxer with 'Liverpool'

Swedish Oxer with ‘Liverpool’

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The first chevon, part of the two/three stride line

The above single chevron has been really great practice for a similar (albeit much less colorful version) at MacNair’s that seems to cause most horses problems. After riding this though, it was a piece of cake!

The scary chevron oxer

The scary chevron oxer

The golden gates gymnastics

The golden gates gymnastics

The idea with these jumps is that we can practice pretty much everything we might see at a show- and most of these jumps are way scarier! But because all of this is now second nature to our horses they (and we) have so much confidence entering the jump ring! Now we’ve just got to build up the courage to attack the new brick wall… Fingers crossed!

Foster the Jumper! And how the heck to measure strides?

Unfortunately my lesson on Wednesday had to cancelled as the rings were questionable whether or not they would be open. My lesson will now be next Tuesday, so in preparation I moved around some fences last night. The goal for the lesson is to put together more complicated (1 and 2 stride) combinations without getting rushed or discombobulated. So that’s what we practiced.

We set up a nice novice sized course (3′) including a fun Swedish Oxer at the liverpool and one training sized oxer (3’3″), plus a one-stride combination that was significantly lower (2′-2’3″?) and one two-stride line. Foster warmed up nicely and we popped over the novice sized fences without much fuss. I have really been wanting to see what he does at 3’6″, so after he took the training oxer a couple of times I hopped off and raised it up a notch. Standing next to it made it feel huge, but the approach really was nice. I just had to tell myself it was only one hole higher! Well, the first time he brought down the back rail (it was an ascending oxer). Hop off, set it up, and try again. The second time he made it over! Not necessarily over jumping, in fact we may have rubbed it just a tish, but I was so pleased! Foster’s got so much heart.

Update: Foster standing next to last night's oxer for scale

Update: Foster standing next to last night’s oxer for scale

Then we proceeded to the combinations. Let me just say how very difficult it is to find measurements on how to set up these combinations online! Or rather, how to set up these fences at a height smaller than 3’6″ and not have to ask for gallopy long strides. I followed the instructions from this Practical Horseman article and that’s what I had to ride. So that’s 24′ from base to base for 1 stride, and 36′ for 2 strides. (6′ for landing and takeoff, 12′ per stride)

The one stride was massive! Ali said she has never seen Foster stretch like he did to make it. Foster is not tiny (15.3, maybe 16 hands?) and really had to work to get one stride in there. Since he didn’t chip, and came right back to me, I decided I would play with the set up another day.

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How we felt in the one stride!

The two stride also rode massive. Longest strides ever, but he did it. I came back for a second pass and had a fly-by at the second fence. Nothing nasty, he just started drifting right and somehow missed the second obstacle. Oops. It didn’t help that the jumps involved were the ‘scariest’ fences out there (for now!), neon green and navy chevrons with matching poles on top. Not the mention the wings on the second fence, an oxer, were actually barrels. So I came back to it again, keeping him between leg and hand, and were successful. Good pony!

Then Ali suggested I ride through it again and see if I could get 3 strides. Because we have not done many combinations I was hesitant- this would be a real test to see if Foster was adjustable, and definitely a test to see how far he has come since the days of rushing. Could I collect him in between the fences and ride it as 3 instead of two strides? So I came back at it with a nice bouncy canter and three strides later came out of the combination with the biggest grin on my face! Definitely a good note to end on.

I really can’t say how proud I am of my boy. Just in the last few months I can say he has shown me he can jump in a nice quiet (sometimes too quiet) rhythm, jump height without drama, and now be adjustable when I need him to be. I am positive that our lesson will be challenging, but that’s great. Excited does not begin to describe it!

I need to look more into how to set up these fences, especially before my lesson next Tuesday.  So if you have advice let me hear it! And if you have ideas as to why these measurements ride so big I would love to know! Thanks in advance!

XC Schooling

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Yesterday we headed out to a local cross-country course to get some schooling in. We haven’t been over any kind of terrain or solid fences since June and I felt it was really important to get out again to continue building our confidence and prepare for Novice this fall. While we have been schooling 3′-3’3″ showjumping fences at home (training level height) we have never been over anything larger than beginner novice cross-country. I wasn’t worried about the height as much as my (and therefore his) relaxation.

It was super hot so we kept it minimal, but what we did I was really pleased with! We had a slightly rough start due to me losing my stirrups over a couple fences- this is because I desperately needed to shorten them and had been hoping to do this in a show jumping school, but hadn’t done it yet. So we rolled my stirrups (somehow I have the longest stirrup leathers in the world- just look at the excess!) and proceeded. As a result I feel like my leg was much tighter but my upper body felt a bit unbalanced with the change. Looking at these photos I realize I could do with closing my hip angle and a couple other adjustments, but nothing we can’t fix!

Foster sailed over the Novice fences like a champ. We had one minor discussion about the ditch as a result of my jumping up his neck on his first attempt over it, but thanks to Ali’s egging me on we made it over again. I definitely came away with some great feedback (like MORE ENERGY!) and am super stoked about what this season will bring.

Next week we have a showjumping lesson with Holly Hudspeth and then a dressage lesson over the weekend at Eliza Sydnor’s (where I’ll get to ride in front of mirrors! yay!) We have plenty to work on and I’ll post recaps after. In the next couple weeks I want to get in a jumping photoshoot with my new camera and a bangin’ new brick arch jump I’m about to go paint with Ali! Stay posted!

Before shortening my stirrups! Yikes!

Before shortening my stirrups! Yikes!

 

Whee!

Whee!

Some eq work to be done still...

Some eq work to be done still…

Liebster Award

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So, about a month ago I was nominated for a Liebster Award by fellow equestrian blogger exechorselover. I came across her blog via a former eq club teammate’s blog and have enjoyed following the stories of her horses (including an Irish mare!) and other fun pets! So thanks, exechorseluver for the nomination!

The award is basically a way to acknowledge bloggers with readership under 200 and recognize new blogs to advance this as a form of social media. At the time of my nomination I had really just gotten into blogging (more than 1 post per month), but now that there are a *few* more people checking out my posts I’ve decided it’s time to act on my Liebster Award!

The rules: 

1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answer the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees.
3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
4. Display the Liebster award logo.
5. No tag backs.

Eleven facts about me:

1. I have minors in Italian and Psychology. They do me no good on a daily basis, but it gives me great pleasure to read Italian menus.

2. I have never had a bay or (true) chestnut horse.

3. When I was a kid I used to do Elvis impersonations for fun.

4. I can’t help but pronounce the ‘ia’ in miniature… “min-eeh-ah-chur”

5. Singing is my favorite. People who know me in the real world probably know this. Outside, maybe not. Although I do have lots of hits on a random Christmas song I auditioned with! (warning: it’s super awkward!!!)

6. The Redwood Forest is the next travel destination on my bucket list.

7. HGTV is my jam. Seriously. I love it.

8. I met my husband on a Spring Break cruise in the Bahamas.

9. I was a Girl Scout for 20 years. I have my Gold Award (Eagle award equivalent) and everything.

10. Lasagna is my favorite food. My friends called me Garfield as a kid because I ate it so often.

11. I have the best friends, family, and animals ever! Wouldn’t trade them for anything. ❤ !

Eleven questions to answer:

1.  What caused you to start blogging?
I really started blogging after being inspired by the blogs I was reading- it seemed a great tool for tracking memories and progress on various projects. In my case I thought it would be great to be able to track the evolution of our house from foreclosure to home, and to compare notes in Foster’s training!

2.  What was the hardest thing you have ever walked away from?
When I first entered the job market after graduating I was applying to both design positions as well as working student opportunities (as a dressage rider). I received an offer to work in the UK for a great dressage trainer right around the same time I was offered a full time graphic design position here in NC. I accepted the position at home because my then boyfriend and furbabies were here, but sometimes I wonder what my riding would be like if I had gone! Disclaimer: I do NOT regret staying here, and am so glad I did!

3.   What do you wish would change in your every day life?
I seriously wish I could find the motivation to work out every day! Or even a couple times a week! But unfortunately I like my horse and sleep a lot better than the gym.

4.   If you review your blogs, what are you most passionate about?
Oh that’s easy- horses. 🙂

5.  If you had to start a new blog on a total different subject, or a specific subject what would it be?
I guess I would keep the same blog but rename it something more equestrian related!

6.  What was the best moment of your life?
That’s a toughy. Getting married was pretty fantastic *g*. But I can think of one moment in particular when I was so overwhelmed with happiness that I can’t forget. When we were shopping for my first horse (after graduating from the Haflingers) my mum showed me a photo of a chestnut piebald mare showjumping in England. It was just one photo, and she never mentioned it again, but I was smitten- I memorized her markings and doodled her into every notebook I had daily. Then one morning, months later, we were checking out a new barn I would be training at. We were meandering through the stalls and my mum paused in front of one. I took a peak in the stall and recognized the face- it was the same mare! I asked my mum disbelievingly if it was the same horse and she whipped out a camera and said, “It is! Surprise!” I broke down into a melting gross puddle of happiness. That was Merry, and she was a very special horse to me!

7.  Where would you live if money and family were not an issue?
Europe. Likely England thanks to the dual citizenship or Italy to practice my Italian. That would be grand!

8.  If you could be a superior athlete, what would be your sport?
Oh I would definitely stay in the equestrian world. While I don’t think I have the guts to be a 4* eventer (Training level, maybe Preliminary, will be fine for me!), I could definitely enjoy dressage or showjumping at the highest levels.

9.  What is one trait you wish you had more of that you don’t?
It would be super convenient if I liked coffee. I unfortunately can’t stand the stuff, not even the smell. Would be much cheaper than my red bull addiction!

10.  What is one somewhat unique ability you have that most people don’t?
Can we call it ‘extreme multi-tasking?’ I have a serious GO button that means I am almost often whizzing around and wanting to complete 129,837,498 things at once. I’ve learned from living with different people that not many people are like this. And thank goodness too; I think if I had to chase around after me I would shoot myself!

Or how about being an eventer that truly ENJOYS dressage? That’s definitely unique! 😀

11.  If you had only five books to read (and re-read) for the rest of your life what would two of them be?
Maybe you haven’t read my post about how much I love the Outlander series 🙂
Nerd alert! I also like re-reading Harry Potter, though I haven’t since the last movie came out.
Otherwise I think I could be happy reading anything by Jane Austen. *adding re-read Pride & Prejudice to my list right now!*

Eleven questions for you:

1. A classic- what are two things you just can’t live without?

2. What types of blog posts do you enjoy reading most?

3. If you were a car, what would you be?

4. Name your personal idol and why you idolize them.

5. What is your dream job? Or if you are already in it, is it what you expected?

6. If you had one talent that you didn’t already have, what would it be?

7. What is your greatest accomplishment to date?

8. Chocolate or vanilla?

9. Do you prefer a team sport setting or individual athletics?

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

11. If you could step into someone’s shoes for a day, who would it be?

Blogs I nominate:

1. Schwooch Adventures
2. Marcey Madness
3. Live Laugh Love
4. From the Horse’s Mouth
5. Caroline Eventing
6. Alchemy Eventing
7. Capital Cowgirl
8. Miss Equestrian
9. Equestrian Bitch
10. Vet Gone Eventing
11. Redesigned by M

Thanks to everyone for reading! I hope as more and more people read they leave me comments so I can check in with everyone! It’s also nice to hear what people think about what I’m posting.  And I hope those I nominate will enjoy the Liebster award as much as I!

Finding Dressage Zen: An Update

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An old photo… looking at my boots makes me so glad I bought new ones!

A couple weeks ago we had a lesson with a trainer who emphasized relaxation in our dressage work. Since then I have been working to build the trust back into our riding, in hopes that he can relax and not be worried about every little transition we do.

I won’t say it’s been less demanding, because as a rider it has forced me to tune into every idiosyncrasy and be very finessed and finite in my aids. We’ve been doing more stretchy work and transitions from left to right bend in hoping that he will stay connected over his back more consistently. I have also been extremely aware of his tempo, after our lesson pointed out that he tends to surge forward (or get behind my leg) occasionally and it’s up to me to give him the responsibility of maintaing a steady rhythm.

While it is definitely still a work in progress, we are definitely moving forward. Last night I really started feeling the impulsion I’ve been seeking for months, and maintained relaxation with minimal bracing for most of our 45 minute ride. His right lead canter depart is finally becoming automatic again, and while I haven’t been able to convince him not to use his neck in the departs, I am confident that will come too. We were even able to do some nice straight leg yields. Ok, so maybe they were almost a western jog, but they’re getting there!

The biggest accomplishment laterally is that he in no longer traveling crooked and I can put those haunches where I want them! I am excited to really start correct shoulder in’s, haunches in, and all the other fun stuff that goes with it.

Give us a year (or 10) and we'll look just like Jim and Art Deco here!

Give us a year (or 10) and we’ll look just like Jim and Art Deco here!

Sorry for the long, winding dressage post! I’m hoping to look back on this in a month and be able to mark even more progress. Things are coming along though. Practice (and zen) makes perfect!

Jumping new fences

Some of the ladies out at the farm got together over my beach weekend and repainted fences, and boy do they look classy! Since this has been kind of a down horsey week, Ali and I tried our boys over them for some fun.

I’m noticing that if I’ve got him together I’m starting to get better with my shoulders, but man I have GOT to fix my lower leg! Nonetheless a tired Foster was a good boy over everything.

Check out my buddy Ali and her handsome OTTB Baron here!

Finding dressage ‘zen’

As a classic over achiever, I am constantly getting excited about the next project or goal. Last Saturday I had a lesson with a trainer where my vet could be present to discuss some of the straightness issues we’ve been experiencing. The trainer reminded me that as an over achiever and a perfectionist, it can be easy to want to do more, but for now it would be best to take the time to revisit some basics before asking for anything else. 

While I am a firm believer in the basics, and not preceding to the next level before accomplishing the one before, what is most challenging is that word revisit. We’ve done more, and if I’m honest, I was ready to move to the next level and am having a hard time because I am expecting Foster to pick up exactly where he left off.

Part of what I think is going on is this: Foster tweaked himself somehow in the field, we made adjustments and treated and now he is getting back to normal. But now he has some mental and physical baggage. Physical because he is still building strength back in his hock and mental because I imagine he needs the confidence back to know he can use it and be comfortable. Time and patience will help both. 

In my lesson, I learned that I need to not fixate on his crooked haunches and instead give him a ‘zen’ ride to help him be confident in his abilities. Transitions in particular, especially the right lead canter, get him anxious now, if only for a few steps before he comes back to normal. My job for the next while will be to help him relax through those transitions instead of making things happen at an exact moment in time. 

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Those lips are a good indicator of the relaxation we had before

This is hard for me, because I have been feeling that at this stage in our training he should be able to transition between gaits at the letter. Relinquishing some of that control will be difficult, but I can do it. And when he has learned that he can be relaxed and happy through transitions, the rest will come back, plus some.

wine being poured into glass

Maybe one of these before schooling dressage will help me find ‘zen’

So really, I am still excited about the future and think my goals of moving to Novice by the end of the year are reasonable. I just need to add zen to my everyday approach to getting there. And who knows, maybe a glass of wine before a ride wouldn’t hurt 😉