Monday, March 29, 2010

Wow, what a weekend!

Casey (the roomies horse) and Possum

Just have to share that Possum and I had one of the most amazing weekends in terms of schooling that I think we have ever had. Let me start from the beginning. Last week my roomate and I have been taking videos of some of your rides, just lines and approaches and stuff. One of the biggest things that stuck out at me was how busy I was about 4 strides from the jump or line. We would have a nice even canter going in and then all of a sudden I would micro manage everything, tweak things that didn't need to be messed with. I would use pulsing half halts with my reins, and sitting back. It's one thing to ride it with a million things on your mind, but it's another to be able to see it and critiqu and put everything into slow motion. SO I made the decision that I need to do LESS. Yup, you heard it right folks, I'm doing too much! I need to maintain that steady rhythmn and ride it to the base of the jumps. From looking at it ont he video, Possum has such a nice and rhythmical canter, almost rocking horse like, so why inthe hell am I trying to make it more than what it is???

So my next ride schooling I tried to simply do nothing, I know it sounds so weird to even say it, never mind do it. But it worked like magic. My horse didn't get keyed up cause I was fixing so much and we had nice smooth collected and perfect approach to jumps. It was like the lightbulb turned on in my head. Sometimes instead of always thinking I need to do more, I really need to do less. I need to rely on my horses training and ability and not think I need to do everything for him, not micro manage! His canter was easy and manageable, I could shorten and lengthen without any drastic measures, he was less hyper and took my relaxation as a cue for him to relax as well.

So yesterday the roomate and I decided to do some schooling in the indoor. Possum right from the start was soft and supple and relaxed, he felt like butter in my hands. There was no leaning on my hands, no gaping of the mouth, which is very typical of him at any kinds of annoyance, physical or mental. I actually even got compliments from people stopping to watch for a few minutes. I might also add that my roomates horse was incredibly well behaved that day as well and both equines seemed totally in tune with us riders. First we did the usual flat warm-up. Possum and I also briefly worked on some flying changes, but he was great and I didn't want him to get bored. Then we trotted some small fences and turned them into roll backs at the trot. Then we progressed to the canter and so on. By the time we were nearing the end of our ride we had worked up to full courses with some funky striding to really keep us on our toes. He was WONDERFUL and I have videos to prove it. Nothing was really over 2'6" except for a middle diagonal jump, but he was soft, had great rhythmn, was responsive and listening and the whole thing looked like a round of figure skating; graceful, smooth and easy, just like a hunter or eq round should look. I decided not to press him anymore and ended the ride with that. I wanted him to know that he did great and that just drilling him more would sour him to the whole process. I have to admit that I had a smile on my face the rest of the day and woke up with one this morning despite the heavy rains we're getting currently. I will post videos when I can figure out how haha, but until then your stuck with some goofy pics from the other day. We were taking turns riding the course so we were hanging out int he middle of the arena just fooling around. The one of Possum's ears is because he kept putting his ears back everytime we wanted a picture so I mad him put his ears forward lol. He's so good to put with with my nonsense.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

just some flatting pics

Please excuse the gaping mouth. Possum has a busy mouth and always has. He also just had his teeth floated two days prior.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

We've Come A Long Way Baby

Some pics that my friend at the barn took from this Friday. My roomie decided to set up a spread to work on her horses jumping form and I decided to take a stab at it. I was more than thrilled with Possum's jumping effort and form over this 4 and a half foot spread. I also think I don't look half bad myself, my lower leg looks a little weak and ofcourse my left leg is the weaker of the two, but it was nice to see some pictures on what I need to work on. Possum was a star and I was able to see my spots every single jumping effort. For those who may be new to my blog and not know the whole history of Possum, he was a rescue case that I acquired for the price of meat 6 years ago. He was starved, abused and was an unbroke 8yo when I got him. Due to finances I am not able to take regular lessons, in fact I have had only a handful since I graduated college over 5 years ago. All of the training has been on my own for the most part and it's been a long uphill battle with not having a regular trainer and help; other than the occasional person I can use for a pair of eyes on the ground. Sometimes it's nice to take a step back and see all that we have accomplished instead of always looking ahead and on what we havn't done yet. The progress has been slow with lots of steps backwards in the past 6 years, but there has been improvement. I'm really proud of my throw away appy that no one wanted to take a chance on other than to have him wind up on a plate at a fancy restaurant in Europe or Asia. He's my buddy and best friend and I wouldn't trade him for the world. Enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting Back To The Basics Bareback Style

Since I was kinda feeling down about our past poor performances undersaddle lately so I decided to take the saddle off and just have fun with my horse and see what happened. It was earlier last week that I didn't feel like getting all tacked up and decided to ride bareback in the indoor. Did our normal warm-up routine and my thighs were screaming at me. If there is one thing I hate about my horse it's his trot. It is teeth jarring and bouncy, a sure sign of a shoulder with a straight shoulder, curses to whoever decided to make him. But I bit the bullet and pushed on. There was a lesson going on so basically I was just putzing along. We moved up to the canter and my body was thankful for the nice big sweeping motion as opposed to the yucky trot. Then we set up a small 2ft vertical and trotted over it a few times. I was able to take it in stride and it felt great. After doing it a few times in both directions I upped it to about 2'6" and cantered from both directions. It was amazing how easy it was and how our timing and rhythmn were right on, much different from the past ride. I was feeling brave and upped it over 3ft and again no big deal. I was seriously consiering riding my next show bareback, that's how easy it felt and how comfortable it was. He didn't try and rush, his rhythmn was great and I could feel more of what was going on without the saddle. So I called it a day.

This week I decided to ride bareback again after a few flat rides under saddle. Basically I was kinda in a hurry and wanted to get down to the arena and ride with everyone else who were already in there. We did our warm-up the same and then cantered around and laughed and joked. Then we started popping over some small jumps and a one stride line. When we started cantering them Possum was great again. No rushing, and took each one in stride an even in the one stride he really half halted on the landing and made it a nice one stride. It was so warm in there that the horses were sweating already. My roomie decided to put one diagonal fence to about a 3'6" vertical. I have to admit that I kinda gulped hard but decided to go for it. How am I going to get any better if I'm not going to try new challenges. To mu suprise, I saw my spot about 4 strides out and we took the jump in style and it seemed almost effortless. I think everyone watching was a little suprised how easy it looked. SO I did it a couple more times with the same results. Then I decided to really challenge up and take it from the long approach, an approach that Possum is infamous for rushing. Because I was sucking back I made his canter stride too small and we didn't have enough impulsion and ended up getting a close spot and going up and over, not terrible by any means, but not that "perfect" take off. So I did it again and made myself relax more and trust myself to let his stride out. He was perfect and took it in stride. I was so proud of him, but it also made me really sit back and evaluate our rushing problems under saddle, will have to look more into that for sure.

Riding and jumping bareback did increase my confidence after a few lack luster performances which was good. I need to remember that not everyone can canter a 3'6" fence bareback and make it look so easy and also keep a good position, and give myself credit when credit is due. So tomorrow I will put the saddle back on, but try and have the same mind set and feeling as I did bareback and shoot for the same results. Wish I had some pics to show you, because it did look really nice and my position felt really strong as well, maybe next time.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Checking In

Hi all. Things have been going pretty good lately. I've been riding Possum on a consistent basis of about 3 days a week. We have almost no snow left up here in Maine which is just crazy, and the temps have been in the 40's!! It's like a heat wave for the end of February and the beginning of March so far. But this also means long periods of cooling out due to the horses sweating in the warmer air in their winter coats. I opted not to trace clip Possum this year because I didn't want to play the whole blanket guessing game,with a different blanket for different temps and also wanted to save a little money. But I've been second guessing that decision as I'm sitting in the barn for over 2 hrs after a ride to wait for him to dry off to throw him back out. Welcome to the early days of spring, but I'm not complaining.
Mine and Possum's progress has taken a slight step back. It's not horrible or anything, but had a pretty yucky ride the other afternoon when I set a jump to about 3'3" and he raced towards it with the speed and determination of a freight train. Every time we got to about 4 strides away he would throw his head up to avoid contact and hollow out his back and race pell mell towards the large vertical. He would clear it with no issue, but the fact that he wasn't listening to my half halts and just charged forward with no resregard for his rider was frustrating to say the least. SO I did what everyone tells you not to do, I halted before the jump. I felt like there was nothing else I could do to get his attention. I needed him to listen to me and I wanted to keep him guessing of what was going to happen next and not just take the reins, literally and charge forward. There is also no chance of Possum refusing, since he basically loves to attack the jumps. After halting a few times, and nearly crashing into it a couple times I felt him start to lighten and listen. So then I gulped back my fear and decided to trot the 3'3" vertical. If there's one thing I hate doing it's trotting large fences. I have a terrible time with my take off and timing with trotting fences and so doesn't my horse so it makes for an interestering round. But Possum was good and trotted right to the base of it and then pushed off nice and even and hopped right over the jump with snappy knees and a rounded back over the crest. But once again we would have a nice and even light canter coming to the jump where he was on the aids and rounding and light as a feather, and then he would get the jump locked in his sights and just charge forward. I decided the best I could hope for was a mediocre jump. So after a few more times we finally got one that was almost in stride so I decided to call it a day. He was razor sharp and keyed up and we were both sweating and wide eyed. I figured that was the best we could get for the day and resume later on in the week. So this weekend I want to go back to that 3'3" vertical with the long approach and take it in stride, we'll see what happens.
However, Possum is getting really fit, with only 3 rides a week. His topline is nice a strong and he's moving with more quality to his gaits (as best as can be expected for this appy). We've been working a lot on flat work, striding, lengthening, shortening, becoming sharper and more responsive to the aids and especially downward transitions. Possum loves to dump on his front end and lean his whole weight on my hands, and I have somehow been sucked into this little game without knowing it. So my job on the downwardsm especially canter walk or halts is to keep a strong core, chin up, elbows bent but keep contact with my legs and just pulse the reins so as not to give him something to brace against. It's really hard because he is built downhill to keep him lifted through the front and rocking back onto his hind end. It actually takes a lot of leg in the downwards to keep that motor going in his butt but only in reverse and not become stiff legged through the transitions. As always it's a work in progress, but it's coming along.
Now onto the guy side of thing :) Alaska is not going to happen right off. Because Steve and I hemmed and hawed our way through February he is not busy with Iditarod, Ulstraport and and Iron Dog through the middle of March, and the end of March is far too busy for me with work right now, so I'm thinking maybe April will be the next chance I get to go out there. I'm not really holding my breath or anything, but it still would be nice to take a vacation to such a beautiful state and meet a really great guy. Stay tuned.
Well I think that's about all that is going on lately. Just lots of work, and riding Possum and wishing I was in Alaska ;) Like I said the weather is getting nice and inviting and I want to spend as much time outside as I can.
On a side note, I realize that the picture that I posted above again has me helmetless. Again, I will say that I am an adult and make my own decisions and am fully aware of the risks of riding horses. So please refrain from commenting on that subject if you can. I posted it because I like how I'm getting stronger and my position is pretty good here. I realize it looks like I'm jumping slightly ahead, but it's also a weird spot in the jump, he is still on his way up so therefore it was right before I fold my hips at the apex of the arc. Anyways, I thought it was pretty good.