Thursday, July 30, 2009

Four Things About Riding

Went to the barn to ride Johnny this afternoon. I meant to ride Emmy too, but I had to scurry off to pick mom up from work, so that had to get put on hold for another day. I think she is feeling neglected :(

John, however, was fabulous today! I put him back in his normal bit and rode him with a small jumping bat and he was so wonderful! He gave me lots of really nice stretchy trots and cantered right off on both leads. I set up a few jumps, a cross rail and two verticals and he didn't hesitate to any of them! We worked on cantering in to the verticals, because I think he's ready to start doing that more, and we only missed two distances :) I did however, realize that when I missed the distances, I was coming into the jump in a half seat...cantering in like I would on Emmy who perfers you not to sit on her back. I also wasn't riding any particular rhythm, I was just kind of riding and expecting John to work it out...which he is really too green to do. Basically, I wasn't riding the horse I had underneith me. Once again, I was riding Emmy, not John. So on our next approach, I sat down and gave my elbows instead of my shoulders, I felt the rhythm and POOF I saw the distance. Each time after that, we met the jump in perfect cadence.

And so, I have learned these four things today:

1) Johnny is VERY happy to respect his nice, smooth french link bit after being ridden once in Emmy's slow twist, which he needed because he was starting to be a bit of a bully with his mouth...
2) As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have to learn how to ride the horse that I am sitting on because John is basically the polar opposite of Emmy. I have to make a plan, and ride the plan because a) although he is nice enough to, he is not athletic enough to cover my ass over a bigger jump b) he is green and he needs a forward, confident ride and c) he doesn't have the mileage yet to fix a bad distance when it comes up...he just jumps anyway, and that isn't always a good thing.
3) Riding with a stick, even if I never use it, seems to work. Whether it's working on his psyche or mine, I don't know, but it works.
4) I can't get in a half seat and "hunter" Johnny to the jumps. I see my distances better when I sit down and ride his rhythm (probably because the rhythm isn't consistant yet.)and Johnny jumps better too.

Brecksville Horse show in 3 days!


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rainy Riding

I woke up before the alarm this morning to a familiar drumming on the roof and pushed aside the curtains to reveal mother nature's tears, which had been steadily falling all night. "Great" I thought, rolling out of bed and into a pair of clean jeans, "soggy ponies." A t-shirt, rain boots and a jacket later, I was scribbling out a tuition check and climbing into the car.

The rain was still falling when I got to the barn and I was not at all surprised to see the horses clumped together on the back hill of the pasture, dotted among the trees. I started water and threw down hay without so much as a knock at the back door (yes, the donkey knocks to come in). It wasnt until I was getting ready to mix feed that Emmy's face suddenly came through the window. She looked around and when she caught sight of me her eyes widdened and she let out a low throaty whinny. Of coarse I couldn't leave her like that, so in they came...a wet Emmy, Hokey and Johnny followed by the hoodlems Mike, Doug and Mandie. Breakfast was dished and I made sure that everyone had clean, dry stalls before I got back in the car, stripped my rain gear and headed out to look at a barn for Johnny to live at during the school year.

The barn was close to school, and after my tour I stopped by the college to pay my tuition, and then decided to head over to the school barn to see if anyone was hanging around. There were a few cars parked in the lot when I got there and I slipped into the arena to find A having a lunge lesson with C and my good friend S hacking around a pretty grey Oldenburg. "KATE!!!" they all yelled, and so it was hugs and hellos for a while. Needless to say, S's ride ended right about then hehe. I went with her back to the barn to untack Winny and poked my head into the tack room to find our school horse manager checking off and arranging school saddles. "Did you miss me?" I asked, to which she responded "Hey!!!" There was a really nasty training saddle sitting out, covered with mold and sporting just about the highest cantle I had ever seen. "Ooooo Camille..." I said pointing to it "where did you find that masterpiece?" "Burried in a trunk somewhere" She laughed. "It's supposed to be for saddlebreaking the training babies, but I think that I should maybe assign it to you for the semester." "Only under one condition" I told her, "I want the mold too!"

And so we all laughed and talked and caught up until M arrived to teach S's lesson on Skye, and which point we set up a gymnastic line and the whole talk, catch up, laugh thing stated again. We discussed some IHSA things, which makes me giddy a bit just thinking about it :)

And then I drove home in a monsoon.

When I finally got home I went back to the barn and saddled Johnny for a ride. It had stopped raining and so we headed out for a hack on the trails. He was quite fresh after having the day off yesterday and I had him in Emmy's old show bit (just to see how he went in it) so he was lifting his back and actually being quite responsive. After our little hack we went into the field (the footing was surprisingly good) and worked on some flat work, like straightness and lifting his shoulder going to the right. I was being a little more demanding of him today, asking him to focus to my body cues and not just try to PREDICT what we were going to do (which he loves...) He got a little frustrated sometimes, but we ended with some beautiful canters and some really nice transitions. I'm hoping that tomorrow will be dry enough to jump a bit more.

Thats all for now :)


Monday, July 27, 2009

Photo Update!

Here are some of the video stills from last nights ride. I am in the process of uploading the video to YouTube and I will post the link when it is finished!!

This horse has come so far!!
**EDIT** Here is the YouTube link! Enjoy!
P.S. He makes a baby mistake and leaves SUPER long when we canter the cross-rail around to the vertical...don't judge lol. I just let him pull the reins right through my fingers and he doesn't seem to mind.


Just a quick update because it's quite late and I have to be up early in the morning to feed the horses.

I rode Johnny today and he was really good! Dad video taped me so that I can send some footage to E for her to see how he moves and such. More video coming from the horse show next sunday. As I expected, John was a little high after not being ridden all week, but his playful energy actually helped because he was more willing to throw his right lead :D Set up a few jumps, a cross rail flanked by flowers and then a simple four stride line of verticals. First few jumpers were alright...had a couple of stops simple out of my own poor riding, but once I just help my leg on then Johnny was jumping just fine. We cantered the 4 stride and actually got 4 strides which was really awesome, and the best part is that on video Johnny doesn't look half as bad as I thought he did. He wasn't stretching down as much as usual, but his jumps were decent (althought my eye was a little off and we had some missed distances...I just slip him the reins now when my release is off so that I never catch him in the face) and his knees were up and even. I will post the pictures (well, some blurry video stills) tomorrow and once I add the video to youtube I will be sure to post the link!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

An Adirondack Adventure

I've been out of town for the past week in the mountains of New York without internet, hence the reason for my lack of updating. I didn't forget about you guys don't worry!

After a 12 hour drive home, I still managed to make it up to the barn around 9:30pm to clean out Emmy and Johnny's stalls and sneak out into the pasture for a quick visit. T has been taking care of the horses all week for me, but other than a bit of a hack in the park on wednesday, I don't think that the weather has allowed for much riding. I'm counting on the fact that Johnny most likely will need to be lunged tomorrow to calm his brain down a bit before I can accomplish any real work with him. To be perfectly honest, I like him a little bit "high" to lunge because he tend to throw his right lead more consistantly.

Next sunday is the Kiwanis Horse Show, and Johnny and I have only a short amount of time to prep for it. Most of our work is going to be on the flat, working more on his lead, but I plan on jumping him at the beginning of the week so that he is fresh for the weekend. I don't like to jump horses a lot before a horse show. I think overworking them makes them sore and sour and just imposes a dislike for shows. I learned my lesson with the Chagrin Classic though. I am DEFINETLY going to ride better this time and John is DEFINETLY getting braided the morning of. Haha. I am NOT redoing the middle section of his mane four times in the morning because he rubbed between getting his hay and getting his grain. Grrr.... haha.

Speaking of braiding, I also managed to pick up some extra work this week braiding for an old friend who is taking her horse to the County Fair. I'm definetly not saying no to any extra jobs for the rest of the summer. I need to make as much money as possible if I want to take Johnny to school in August. My friend from California leased Emmy last year and this year is looking for something a little younger and a little "fresher." She saw Johnny's pictures on my facebook and asked if he was available. I told her that, of coarse he was available, but also warned that he is a Standardbred and is still green as a riding horse. She didn't seem to mind. The only problem is that she won't be back in Ohio until right before school starts, which of coarse is too late for me to book a stall anywhere if she likes him. Last year she leased Emmy almost sight unseen, and the pair ended up being a perfect match. She jumped her once around a course and signed the contract the next day, but Johnny is not as well trained, as broke, or as experienced as Emmy was. We came to the agreement that I would start shopping for a boarding barn (board at the school is much too expensive this year, even to split for a half lease) and then video Johnny next weekend at the horse show and send her the video, which of coarse, makes Johnny's and my performance even more crucial. We cannot have a repeat of the Classic.

But for now, I am heading off to bed after a long day of traveling. More tomorrow.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A glorious day at the farm!!!

Just wanted to let everyone know that


Both on the longe line and undersaddle!!! I almost peed myself I was so excited!!!

I'm going to continue to longe him to help get him used to cantering on it and strengthen the muscles also.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Show plans and training updates!

Sorry I haven't had much time to update recently. I've been working my grooming job all week, which has left precious little time for riding, not to mention updating the blog.

Johnny has been fabulous all week. I've been warming him up with lots of dressage lateral work and it seems to be helping him. His trot and canter and stronger and smoother, he is stretching down more and more in his top line and today I distinctly noticed that his hind end felt strong trotting down hill. We weren't "falling" anymore into a running trot on downhill grades! Also, while sponging him off after tonights ride (and further failed attempt at getting his right lead) I noticed that the muscle of his inner thighs is bigger! I remember thinking how funny he looked from behind when I first got him, like a bit cavern had opened up between his hind legs (I know that sounds weird, but its true!) His hind leg muscles touch now from behind, and they are firm and strong!

Today I worked on lots of figure 8's at the trot, changing the bend and getting Johnny to move his rib cage over instead of just bending his neck. He did really fabulous with that, and wanted to stretch down into the bridle! After that I sent him over a cross rail set on a figure 8 too. We landed the bad leag several times, but he only cantered maybe a stride and then fell into a heap of a running trot. I could feel him getting frustrated so I finally just moved back up to the top of the field and jumped some fences on a straight line to let his head clear out. He landed the lead up there a few times too, and I let him canter into the jumps. I was having a crap time seeing my distances today (figures, after a whole week of being at a horse show and seeing everyone else's I miss on all of my own) we left super long a few times because I didnt feel like John was going to fit another stride, and leaving long actually made him land on the bad lead more (which turned out to be kind of a good thing) I REALLY missed once though and just let him pull the reins through my hands when I landed. Then I mentally kicked myself in the rear, put him back together and just cantered around for a bit. I want to work on some shortening and lengthening tomorrow...maybe setting some poles 5 strides apart and playing with the numbers. It will help to re-tune up my eye too. We finished off todays ride cantering over the fence again, and this time I actually saw a correct distance and John landed perfectly in canter on the backside. I let him canter up along the tree line and gently pull the reins through my fingers until he was on the buckle. He was very happy and willing to stretch down as long as I kept my leg on. After having a Thoroughbred mare my whole life, the concept of having to push a horse is very new to me!!

My farrier, S also came today to trim Emmy's feet and reset her shoes. I had him look at Johnny while he was here and we decided that if John ends up going to school with me, we are going to do some corrective shoeing on his front legs to help ease some of the concussion on his joints. His front legs are bad, with remnants of old injuries that must have surely ended his racing career. I told my mom once that I don't even want to see ultra sounds or xrays of them, because I don't even want to know whats wrong. They are very unclean, however they don't seem to bother him. I liniment him everyday and use cold therapy when they get wind puffy. I'm going to pick up a joint supplement for him too I think. Hopefully he will stay sound!!

C and I are planning on attending the Brecksville Kiwanis Show after I get back from New York, and then heading to Ellrick the next week! I'm going over prize lists and writing out entries as we speak!

Well, that's all for now. More updates tomorrow after riding!

P.S. I bought John a new breast collar the other day. It's one of the old fashion elastic ones that connects to the girth (very popular in eventing) but it works great! I had stopped riding with a breast collar some time ago and just accepted the fact that the way Johnny moves his shoulders makes all saddles slide back, because his old breast collar always seemed to be choking him, but this one keeps my saddle in place and never gets tight across his shoulders or his chest, which makes me very happy! Plus, the elastic doesn't restrict and shoulder movement. Yay!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just a quick update

Just wanted to drop a line with a quick update. I've been really busy this week grooming at the horse show and riding John in my spare time after work (which is quite a loing day!) Johnny has been super awesome lately! He's using his back more and his canter is getting better and better! Maybe getting some pictures soon....

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Johnny takes on the Chagrin Classic Horse Show!

So for weeks now after contemplating the decision of entering Johnny into the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic horse show I decided to enter him in just two of the three limit rider jumping classes. To enter the hack and the equitation would be a waste, since we are still having right canter lead problems, and I wasnt sure how he would handle the who rated horse show atmosphere, so I figured that one trip each direction would be enough for his brain to handle for one day.

First of all, this was Johnny's first "real" show, and first jumping show ever, so last night, my best friend Crystal and I packed up our horses and headed down to the show grounds to school. As usually, Johnny was curious and yet a little nervous when he got off the trailer, whinnying to the 4 tents full of horses and dancing around. We saddled up and started to long walk to the ring, where Johnny encountered his first rated show "hunter thang"...the tack trunks and exquisite barn decorations along the fronts of the tents. There were flowers and mulch, tables, chairs, stones, banners, trunks. I think John's eyes about bugged out of his head. He walked forward as asked, but I could see his inside eyeball eyeing all of the gleaming brass, wondering if it might jump out and get him.

As the rings came into view, my first thought was "ohhhh boyyyy...." the jumps were DECKED with flowers, bright pink and red and yellow, plus brush and stone boxes, gates and bushes. I turned to Crystal and shot her a look that read something like "what was I thinking? there is no WAY Johnny is going to jump this stuff." Mind you, that in years past the decorations for the lower divisions, such as limit rider (Johnny doesnt jump oxers yet...) have been quite conservative and minimal...just a few brush and boxes, nothing that I thought Johnny couldn't handle, but this caught us completely off gaurd. Johnny had never seen anything like this before in his life, let alone jumped it, and I think we were both left pondering the question of his ability to accomplish this.

We got to the ring and started trotting. John felt great! He was lifting his shoulders and stretching down, not hopping at all like he sometimes tends to do when he is nervous or excited. I took my time weaving in and out of the colorful jumps, which he eyes warily, but marched starkly past. We started first over some crossrails with red and yellow flower pots. He jumped in lovely and cantered right down the line. After a few times over those both directions, we headed for the big stuff...the brush boxes and gates!

Would you believe that he never looked once at them? He jumped the line of bright pink flowers without a second glance, sailed over the white gate with pine boughs and bushes, and never batted an eye at the boxes painted like stone and flanked with bright yellow flowers. For the first time in my recollection, I was just picking fences and sailing over them...I was actually having fun without the worry of "will we make it over?" that always seemed to accompany Emmy's rides. As much as I love my first mare, she could be a dirty stopper when she chose not to jump, and I can attribute probably 99% of my total lifetime falls to her dislike of flowers. John on the other hand, is honest. You actually have to cluck to him three strides out, and once he hears the cluck, he's going! We finished up with a nice little coarse and headed home!

Today was not so great, mainly because of me. Johnny warmed up fabulous in the warm up ring, but we got stuck being the first to go in our division and my fears were realized when John entered the ring and trotted down the diaganol. The horse who had been so calm the night before was suddenly nervous and bunchy beneath me. He was alone in the ring for the first time, surrounded by stairing faces, blaring speakers and a second ring of jumpers going off right next to him. I could feel him hesitate all the way down to the first fence, but my big squeeze and a cluck sent him off the ground in (what is for Johnny) stellar form. "We can do this!" I thought, but as we rounded the turn to the pink flowered line he scooted sideways and I felt him hestiate again. As an Emmy reflex, I made the cardinal Johnny mistake...I tipped forward and pulled. John slammed on the brakes at the base of the jump. "If you arn't sure about it, then I'm not sure about it" he seemed to say. I had accidentally given him the Emmy ride, by taking away with the reins and then tipping to avoid catching him in the face, should he leave long, I had taken away his confidence in his ability to clear the fence. We were eliminated.

Back in the schooling ring, my trainer set up a fence. "You caused that" she told me, even thought I already knew. "ALLOW him to go forward...he's not like Emmy, he's not going to run away with you on the backside, just let him do his job." And so I did, another hesitation but we made it over the fence. "More! More!" She told me "Open your hip angle, sit in your seat and just be soft with your elbow." We came again, and suddenly I felt Johnny pick his canter pace up towards the jump. "Dont lean! Just let him find the fence" For the first time in a long time, I just sat still. I didn't try to micro manage to a distance, I didnt tip forward and pull when I didnt see the right strides. I just closed my leg and rode, and the distance came right up. We sailed over the jump in beautiful form and landed in a balanced 3 beat canter on the other side. For the first time ever, I actually felt the jump back him off. I could feel him think and rock back to find his perfect distance. Althought Emmy was more athletic than John will ever be, he is a much better thinker. As much as I adore my first hunter mare, I know that Emmy would have never backed off the fence by herself. She would have charged it, got in deep and leapt into the air like a deer. Her athletic ability was never quite balanced out with a quiet mind, and it was so amazing to feel Johnny respond like everyone always told me Emmy should, but never did.

So, despite our refusal on coarse, we had a fabulous schooling the night before, a great warm up and an even better follow up schooling. And best of all, I learned to stay out of his way, and what the consequences of "the Emmy ride" can be. I can't wait until we can school or show again. We are learning to trust each other :)